Hot Fuzz and Intelligent Design

When Hot Fuzz was on the TV recently, it got me thinking about the intelligent design vs atheism debate.

Sometimes, those of us who believe the universe was created by an intelligent designer feel a bit like Sgt Nicholas Angel.

Like Nicholas, (and like most people) we think it’s a good idea to consider evidence with an open mind before settling on a conclusion.

Certain atheists often seem more comparable to other members of the Sandford police, who always start off with the assumption that things must’ve happened by accident, eg Sgt Tony Fisher: “Hang about, hang about… you’re saying this wasn’t an accident?” and as a result of their unreasonably stubborn refusal to relinquish this assumption, the narratives they come up with to explain occurrences in the village do not reflect reality (No Sgt Fisher, Leslie Tiller did not fall on her own shears).

As a result of an atheistic worldview, many scientists restrict themselves to explanations of the origins of the universe that exclude the possibility that it was planned by an intelligent designer.

In some ways it’s understandable that scientists limit their investigations to observing occurrences that conform to the laws of nature (the way things normally work in this universe we inhabit), because if the creation of the universe was “supernatural”, then scientists would eventually reach a point where they have to concede that they have reached the limits of what they are able to explain, and to end up just saying “God did it” seems a bit of a cop-out.

However, if you have an open mind, you will have to admit that it’s impossible to be sure that at no point in history has there ever been an event anywhere in the universe that didn’t conform to our observations of the way nature normally works, and if you automatically reject any explanation for the origins of the universe that doesn’t fit in with our observations of the way the universe normally works, you may find yourself rejecting the explanation that happens to be true.

Personally, I think the evidence I’ve observed seems to point overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the creation of the universe was premeditated by an intelligent mind.

If you’re interested in reading the viewpoint of someone who takes science seriously, and believes that the universe was created by God, I recommend this blog.

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Do We Have Free Will To Think About Jennifer Aniston?

In The Secret You (available on iPlayer until 27/11/09), Professor Marcus du Sautoy (a mathematician) goes in search of answers to one of science’s greatest mysteries: how do we know who we are?

It’s basically about the search for a natural explanation for our consciousness. Are our thoughts just neurons firing? or is there something more going on?

In one experiment, where Marcus decided whether to press the button in his left or right hand, the scan of his brain apparently indicated which side he was going to choose 6 seconds before he even knew himself.

Obviously scientists like things to have a natural cause, and this seems to indicate that our thoughts are predictable, and hence that our concept of free will is a bit messed up. I began to wonder if a criminal could argue that he wasn’t in control of his actions based on this, but the guy did insist that our subconscious is obedient to our conscious wishes.

In other experiments, people were shown a load of pictures, and the response of a certain neuron detected. With one patient, out of 100 pictures, it only responded to the 6 pictures of Jennifer Aniston, and only when she was photographed on her own, it didn’t respond to a picture of her with Brad Pitt.

There was other stuff in there like sticking spots to babies’ faces and giving Marcus an “out of body experience”, and I found it very interesting, but in conclusion, there’s still plenty we don’t understand.

All Animals Are Equal, But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

First, if you don’t recognise the title, you need to read Animal Farm. Not that this post is really anything to do with the book, you just should read it.

It's only available 'til 8pm Thursday, so get watching
It's only available 'til 8pm Thursday, so get watching

I watched Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Born Equal? the other day.

How many times have you heard that religion is clearly evil because of all the wars it’s caused?

As if the Theory of Evolution is harmless.

Yes, people have done some seriously bad things in the name of religion, but I think you’ll find in most cases (certainly in the Christian ones) those people were twisting their religion to justify their own ambitions. Hence, a Christian will tell you to look not at Christians for an example of how to live, but to Jesus.

Meanwhile, whether Darwin would have approved or not (I’m sure he wouldn’t, but), the goals of the Nazis actually made some sense in relation to the Theory of Evolution.

I’m thinking that’s quite a controversial statement.

Of course, perceived evil doesn’t have any bearing on whether a religious belief or atheism is true or false. It’s not a valid argument either way.*

I do wonder why we should think anything “evil” though. You know, if there’s no such thing as right and wrong.

*I know, I know, evolution and religion aren’t mutually exclusive, but this is a comparison of evolutionary thinking with religious belief. I’m thinking of atheistic evolution, let’s ignore the theistic evolutionists for now, their views are too confusing.

Well, you say that

I wrote previously about parts 1 & 2 of Adam Rutherford’s The Cell. I just watched part 3 (the final part) and the confusion continues.

The main point of this episode was to tell us how life first started on Earth through spontaneous generation. As I noted before, this seemed rather odd since the first episode told how Louis Pasteur showed the idea to be ridiculous. Basically, scientists have changed the rules since Pasteur’s time (note: I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to do this, if there’s good reason).

Louis showed that organisms did not form spontaneously in his mixture of useful chemicals.

These days, scientists just have to show that certain chemicals that are important parts of living organisms can form in the right conditions. Rutherford kept talking about what early Earth was like, but as far as I can see, the only reason people believe Earth was ever like that is because it needed to be for life to have the slightest chance of starting spontaneously. He gave a few examples of experiments producing important chemicals, but never tried to explain how they could have come together in exactly the right way to form the first living cell. If I remember rightly, there were 161 different structures, all immensely complicated, necessary for life.

It was admitted that this sort of science is actually just intelligent guesswork. “We can’t go back there so we have to come up with reasonable sounding ideas.” This really puts it into perspective. Even if life could have started like they suggest, that doesn’t mean it did.

A few statements made in the show:

All cells come from other cells. Over the three episodes the Doc repeatedly emphasised this as a basic bedrock fact of science. I don’t have any problem accepting this. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for spotaneous generation though.

All organisms on Earth came from one cell at the beginning. Hang on, assuming for a second that spontaneous generation could have happened, why did it only happen once? If the right conditions were present, why didn’t it happen repeatedly?

DNA makes RNA makes proteins. A scientific “dogma”. Interesting. People who have tried to explain spontaneous generation to me before have suggested that DNA evolved from RNA, from proteins, from amino acids.

Parts of this animation were used in the show:

I know it’s only a computer animation, but presumably it is based on reality, and I think it’s awesome. Personally, it puts me in awe of the designer of this incredible machine. I’m all in favour of studying it more and more deeply, but don’t try and explain how it evolved from nothing all by itself, you just sound bonkers.

Astro-biology. Seriously? Us theists are always told we’re just pushing the question of why there’s something rather than nothing further back, by suggesting God created matter. To be fair, Rutherford didn’t just suggest that “life came to Earth from space”, he spoke to someone who found some important molecule on a meteorite.

Thankfully the whole hour wasn’t spent speculating on how life might have started on Earth, he also looked a bit at where genetic engineering could go in the future. I found this bit really interesting, and some of the possibiblities are really exciting, but there are some questions about where lines should be drawn. I think I’m less against playing around with this stuff than some Christians, but there are points where playing God could go too far. Producing a synthetic organism to kill cancer would obviously have great benefits, but I can see some scientist in the future trying to mess with the human genes themselves, probably not to make a glow-in-the-dark person, but there could be all sorts of problems. The concept of designer babies isn’t exactly brand new, but if it means selecting an embryo with the right properties and destroying the others then (like abortion) it’s definitely wrong.

Atheism Gets Pasteurised (+Science Outdoes Hollywood)

I just watched The Hidden Kingdom and The Chemistry of Life, parts 1 & 2 of 3 part series The Cell.

It looks like these are only available to watch til the 2nd September.

There was a lot of good stuff in them.

Louis Pasteur is a legend, he showed that life does not generate spontaneously from non-living matter, whether we’re talking making mice by mixing wheat and sweat, or simple bacteria forming in an environment that would suit them, it just doesn’t happen. The presenter made it sound properly ridiculous and mocked the scientists who held onto the medieval belief for so long.

Yet atheists today still hold onto this medieval belief to explain how the first living cells arose from non-living matter.

But funny things start to happen in part 2, the fact that injecting a mouse’s eye DNA into fruit fly embryos produces extra eyes shows that, despite the eyes themselves having very different structures, the two creatures are made up of very similar genes. He claimed this was evidence of evolution from a common ancestor, but surely that’s going too far? I would think it’s evidence of a designer using basically the same materials to make all living beings.

I will have to wait ’til Wednesday to see part 3, but it looks like he’s going to explain how the first life could have spontaneously generated. This seems odd to me after he so emphatically mocked the idea in episode 1, so I await with interest.