Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Three Scientific Evidences that point to a designed universe by Dr. Walter L. Bradley

The following is copied from http://winteryknight.com/2013/12/10/walter-bradley-three-scientific-evidences-that-point-to-a-designed-universe/. I copied it instead of just linking against possible changes to the links.  There are a few links within the article as well; they may stop working at some point.
Dr. Walter L. Bradley is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor.
Here’s a bio:
Walter Bradley (B.S., Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin) is Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor. He comes to Baylor from Texas A&M University where he helped develop a nationally recognized program in polymeric composite materials. At Texas A&M, he served as director of the Polymer Technology Center for 10 years and as Department Head of Mechanical Engineering, a department of 67 professors that was ranked as high as 12th nationally during his tenure. Bradley has authored over 150 refereed research publications including book chapters, articles in archival journals such as the Journal of Material Science, Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites, Mechanics of Time-Dependent Materials, Journal of Composites Technology and Research, Composite Science and Technology, Journal of Metals, Polymer Engineering and Science, and Journal of Materials Science, and refereed conference proceedings.
Dr. Bradley has secured over $5.0 million in research funding from NSF grants (15 yrs.), AFOSR (10 years), NASA grants (10 years), and DOE (3 years). He has also received research grants or contracts from many Fortune 500 companies, including Alcoa, Dow Chemical, DuPont, 3M, Shell, Exxon, Boeing, and Phillips.

He co-authored The Mystery of Life Origin: Reassessing Current Theories and has written 10 book chapters dealing with various faith science issues, a topic on which he speaks widely.
He has received 5 research awards at Texas A&M University and 1 national research award. He has also received two teaching awards. He is an Elected Fellow of the American Society for Materials and the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), the largest organization of Christians in Science and Technology in the world. He is President elect of the ASA and will serve his term in 2008.
You can read more about his recent research in this article from Science Daily.
Below, I analyze a lecture entitled “Is There Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer?”. Dr. Bradley explains how the progress of science has made the idea of a Creator and Designer of the universe more acceptable than ever before.
Evidence #1: The design of the universe
1. The correspondence of natural phenomena to mathematical law
  • All observations of physical phenomena in the universe, such as throwing a ball up in the air, are described by a few simple, elegant mathematical equations.
2. The fine-tuning of physical constants and rations between constants in order to provide a life-permitting universe
  • Life has certain minimal requirements; long-term stable source of energy, a large number of different chemical elements, an element that can serve as a hub for joining together other elements into compounds, etc.
  • In order to meet these minimal requirements, the physical constants, (such as the gravitational constant), and the ratios between physical constants, need to be withing a narrow range of values in order to support the minimal requirements for life of any kind.
  • Slight changes to any of the physical constants, or to the rations between the constants, will result in a universe inhospitable to life.
  • The range of possible ranges over 70 orders of magnitude.
  • Although each individual selection of constants and ratios is as unlikely as any other selection, the vast majority of these possibilities do not support the minimal requirements of life of any kind. (In the same way as any hand of 5 cards that is dealt is as likely as any other, but you are overwhelmingly likely NOT to get a royal flush. In our case, a royal flush is a life-permitting universe).
Examples of finely-tuned constants and ratios: (there are more examples in the lecture)
a) The strong force: (the force that binds nucleons (= protons and neutrons) together in nucleus, by means of meson exchange)
  • if the strong force constant were 2% stronger, there would be no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no hydrogen containing compounds. This is because the single proton in hydrogen would want to stick to something else so badly that there would be no hydrogen left!
  • if the strong force constant were 5% weaker, there would be no stable stars, few (if any) elements besides hydrogen. This is because you would NOT be able to build up the nuclei of the heavier elements, which contain more than 1 proton.
  • So, whether you adjust the strong force up or down, you lose stars than can serve as long-term sources of stable energy, or you lose chemical diversity, which is necessary to make beings that can perform the minimal requirements of living beings. (see below)
b) The conversion of beryllium to carbon, and carbon to oxygen
  • Life requires carbon in order to serve as the hub for complex molecules, but it also requires oxygen in order to create water.
  • Carbon is like the hub wheel in a tinker toy set: you can bind other elements together to more complicated molecules (e.g. – “carbon-based life), but the bonds are not so tight that they can’t be broken down again later to make something else.
  • The carbon resonance level is determined by two constants: the strong force and electromagnetic force.
  • If you mess with these forces even slightly, you either lose the carbon or the oxygen.
    3. Fine-tuning to allow a habitable planet
    • A number of factors must be fine-tuned in order to have a planet that supports life
    • Initial estimates predicted abundant life in the universe, but revised estimates now predict that life is almost certainly unique in the galaxy, and probably unique in the universe.
    • Even though there are lots of stars in the universe, the odds are against any of them supporting complex life.
    • Here are just a few of the minimal requirements for habitability: must be a single star solar system, in order to support stable planetary orbits, the planet must be the right distance from the sun in order to have liquid water at the surface, the planet must sufficient mass in order to retain an atmosphere, etc.
    The best non-theistic response to this argument is to postulate a multiverse, but that is very speculative and there is no experimental evidence that supports it.
    Evidence #2: The origin of the universe
    1. The progress of science has shown that the entire physical universe came into being out of nothing (= “the big bang”). It also shows that the cause of this creation event is non-physical and non-temporal. The cause is supernatural.
    • Atheism prefers an eternal universe, to get around the problem of a Creator having to create the universe.
    • Discovery #1: Observations of galaxies moving away from one another confirms that the universe expanded from a single point.
    • Discovery #2: Measurements of the cosmic background radiation confirms that the universe exploding into being.
    • Discovery #3: Predictions of elemental abundances prove that the universe is not eternal.
    • Discovery #4:The atheism-friendly steady-state model and oscillating model were both falsified by the evidence.
    • And there were other discoveries as well, mentioned in the lecture.
    The best non-theistic response to this argument is to postulate a hyper-universe outside of ours, but that is very speculative and there is no experimental evidence that supports it.
    Evidence #3: The origin of life
1. The progress of science has shown that the simplest living organism contains huge amounts of biological information, similar to the Java code I write all day at work. This is a problem for atheists, because the sequence of instructions in a living system has to come together all at once, it cannot have evolved by mutation and selection – because there was no replication in place prior to the formation of that first living system!
  • Living systems must support certain minimum life functions: processing energy, storing information, and replicating.
  • There needs to be a certain amount of complexity in the living system that can perform these minimum functions.
  • But on atheism, the living system needs to be simple enough to form by accident in a pre-biotic soup, and in a reasonable amount of time.
  • The minimal functionality in a living system is a achieved by DNA, RNA and enzymes. DNA and RNA are composed of sequences of proteins, which are in turn composed of sequences of amino acids.
Consider the problems of building a chain of 100 amino acids
  • The amino acids must be left-handed only, but left and right kinds are equally abundant in nature. How do you sort out the right-handed ones?
  • The amino acids must be bound together using peptide bonds. How do you prevent other types of bonds?
  • Each link of the amino acid chain needs to be carefully chosen such that the completed chain with fold up into a protein. How do you choose the correct amino acid for each link from the pool of 20 different kinds found in living systems?
  • In every case, a human or other intelligence could solve these problems by doing what intelligent agents do best: making choices.
  • But who is there to make the choices on atheism?
The best current non-theistic response to this is to speculate that aliens may have seeded the Earth with life at some point in the past.
The problem of the origin of life is not a problem of chemistry, it is a problem of engineering. Every part of car functionality can be understood and described using the laws of physics and chemistry. But an intelligence is still needed in order to assemble the components into a system that has the minimal requirements for a functioning vehicle.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Praying For Those Who Mean Me Harm

I am an infrequent user of an app called PrayerMate. You enter a list of people or things you want to pray for or about (it coaches you and suggests categories), and each time you access it, it picks from those in a round robin fashion so that you will have prayed about everything and everyone in your list over a period of time. I have it set up with all our family, friends old and new, organizations and causes I admire, etc. I mean to get serious about using it every day, and I'm going to add a category: people who mean me harm.

Who would that be?  Who means me harm?  Thinking about it, I have to say I don't know of anyone who wishes me personally any harm.  And why would they? I'm not a person of any significance that would provoke anyone's anger. If I were to say something offensive, I doubt anyone is listening. I'm not in authority over others so I can't enforce my will over them against theirs.

But I know there are people who are actively working for political and social causes that will, eventually, bring Christians into conflict with them, mostly because they will insist that we approve of them.  It will not be enough that some things which are currently illegal will now be legal. It will not be enough that some of these things will be granted the status of rights.  It will not be enough that we are prevented, by law, from speaking out against these things. No, we will be required to call these things good. And since we know these things are evil, we cannot do that.

God tells us that we aren't in a war with people, but rather evil spiritual forces, so I should not, I cannot pray harm on those who would harm me. I need to pray for their good, that their families are happy, their health is good, their jobs are secure, that they are blessed by God. Because their greatest good, their greatest blessings can only come if they are in a relationship with God, I will need to pray something that will seem to them to be harm, but in the end can only be good.

I will be praying that God will open their eyes to the evil in these causes so they see the truth. I will pray that God open their eyes about the evil things in their lifestyles, in their beliefs, in their politics. For their family cannot really be happy unless it is living according to God's will.  Their health will suffer if they continue in practices God has forbidden.  Their work will be blessed in proportion to how much it is furthering God's kingdom. And because this is exactly the sort of prayer God loves, I might get to see this happen, to see the truth set people free. I know that many people will continue as they have been even when they see the truth, because that's what people do most often. Their pride will not let them admit they are wrong, even though they know it. I've done the same thing myself, and that leads me to what I really wanted to write about.

The number one thing I expect to happen when I start to pray that others see the light is that God will make sure I am one of the first ones He enlightens. I am sure there are positions I hold on political, social and theological issues that are wrong, and I expect God will show me the truth about these.  When He has done this in the past, He has been fairly gentle with me.  There have been no grossly public humiliations--I'm no politician or megachurch pastor so nobody is watching!  But I know I'm not likely to learn or change unless there's a sting I can really feel. God will bless me by making me wiser--which really means less foolish.  And the same things I will pray for my enemies are the things God will do for me: bless my family, my health, my job, my everything. In addition to, not instead of, what He does for them.

But this is how it works with God: He blesses us when we bless others. We cannot ever out-give God, but I think He is pleased when we try.  If I want God to bless me and my family, I need to focus on blessing others. And I don't mean this in a prosperity gospel sort of way - I don't expect to win the lottery. It is not the blessings themselves that are the best part of this, it is the changes in my heart that God makes when I am in working with Him that make me more able to be blessed.  In other words, He will make the field more fertile so the increase in the harvest will be greater than the increase, if any, in the seed that is sown. A greater harvest of blessing, to be shared with my family, friends, and even those who mean me harm.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

What is God like?

It seems that many criticisms of God, or arguments against His existence, are based on the misbehavior of His followers. If He did exist, or was truly good and all powerful as some claim, His followers would never kill or hate or do anything bad in His name. This presupposes that He would control us like robots or puppets.
If this were so, there wouldn't be anybody who wasn't a Christian, and nobody would be raising this objection. It's kind of funny to me how these critics would wish themselves out of existence. Since they think of themselves as free thinkers, unencumbered by religion and dogma, wouldn't they find such an existence, to be completely in the control of Someone else, intolerable? Could they call such a being good or loving? Wouldn't He be the kind of tyrannical, freedom-hating despot they profess to hate above all things?
No, they wouldn't mind. They'd be programmed not to.
I can't fault that argument as far as it goes: I too have never seen any evidence that such a controlling God exists.
So instead of a micromanaging deity, what if God allows us to make our own decisions? What if He allowed us even the freedom to act as if He didn't exist? Isn't that the kind of God such people would approve of? Almost. If God were like that, they'd have to shut up.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Are the Unborn Alive?

To be established: elective abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being.

Premise #1: intentionally killing an innocent human being is morally wrong

Premise #2: elective abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being

Conclusion: therefore, elective abortion is morally wrong

Note - we are talking about morally wrong, absolutely wrong. Wrong yesterday, wrong today, wrong tomorrow.  Not just in my opinion, If you don't accept premise #1 above, you can stop reading now. Nothing that follows will make any sense.  Elective abortion means we are excluding those circumstances where the physical life of the mother is threatened, such as an ectopic pregnancy.

So, the central question is, is the baby in the womb a human being?  If it is not, no justification for elective abortion is necessary, but if it is, no justification is adequate.

From a scientific point of view, we can conclude: yes, the unborn baby is human.  It has all the characteristics of a human being: 1) it is complete, all the information necessary is present (unlike in the case of the sperm or egg). 2) it is unique, genetically distinct from its mother. 3) it is living, growing, developing, responding to stimuli. 4) "taxonomic-ally", it is human; living things always produce after their kind, so humans beget humans.

Note that these things are all true the moment an egg is fertilized.

How it the unborn different?  It is smaller than born humans,  It is less developed. It is in a different environment. It is more dependent on its mother than the born human.  But none of these disqualify it from being human; a toddler is also smaller, less developed and more dependent, but nobody would say a toddler is not human.

So from a scientific point of view, the unborn is human.

How about from a historical perspective?  History tell us that there are terrible consequences when we separate humanity from personhood. The reasons are inevitably used for nefarious purposes.  We have, at various times and in various places, dictated that blacks, Indians, women, and Jews are not persons.

From a human rights perspective: if you believe in universal human rights, then you believe all humans have them inherently.  The Declaration of Independence called that "self-evident". They are not granted to them by man, by law, by governments. If the preborn is human, it has these rights.

These are the reasons why I say elective abortion is morally wrong.

This raises the question: but what about the rights of the mother?  And this is a question we can't just set aside,  Though it takes male and female to create a baby, the burden of pregnancy falls completely on the female. We might ask, is this fair?  "Fair" does not enter into a situation like this. It is "the way things are", the nature of our species and how we reproduce.  This is not because of privilege or social constructs; it is biology.  Is it fair that men cannot bear children? Is it fair that birds can fly and humans can't?  We recognize these are silly questions just in the asking of them.

The pro-life position therefore necessitates the placing of an enormous burden on the woman who finds herself pregnant against her desires (possibly against her will).  Of course, many laws place burdens on us: we are required to pay our taxes, restrict our speed, comply with community standards regarding dress, alcohol consumption, etc.  If we were to construct a scale to represent how much of a burden we bear, the pregnant women's score would be very high compared to others: set a value of 100 or 1000 or 1000000 to it, and recognize it is a great burden. But the burden of the child killed through elective abortion must be scored higher yet. It has been deprived of life itself. No matter the desperation of the mother's situation, it is less than that of her child.  Even in cases of rape or incest, the child's life should not be taken.  It is an innocent party in the matter.  And, let's be honest. Rape or incest applies to a very small percentage of elective abortions.