Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “science

Using history and science to investigate ancient times

Forescic scienceWhen history trumps science

What happened?

Crime investigation often involves eyewitnesses and forensic science. But when these conflict, which gets precedence? Forensic science uses the evidence to infer what happened in the past and so deduce who committed the crime. Eyewitnesses report what they saw happen and who actually committed the crime. More importance is usually given to a reliable eyewitness than to forensic science, but forensic science can help explain an eyewitness account.

History and science are two main ways to investigate events that occurred in the past. History is like an eyewitness and science is like forensic science. In this article, we use the term “ancient forensic science” to refer to the use of science to investigate ancient times. Let’s look at the relationship between history and ancient forensic science.

How history works

History is the study of past events. Its accuracy depends on the accuracy of the information available to the historian, which is also related to the amount of time between the events studied and the historical investigation. Obviously, all other things being equal, the greater this time gap, the greater the uncertainty in the investigation.

History is more accurate when there are written records available than when these are absent. History can also use other evidence such as oral records and archaeological findings.

As a result of historical research, the historian produces a written account of past events and attempts to put them in chronological order.

How ancient forensic science works

Ancient forensic science uses the scientific method to investigate ancient times. This approach has been used in astronomy, archaeology, biology, chemistry and geology to investigate ancient times. Because it relates to past events that were not observed and the evidence is thousands of years old, ancient forensic science is based on more assumptions than most science. Many assumptions need to be made to interpret the evidence. An example of an assumption made by modern forensic science in that “everyone’s fingerprint is unique”. The assumptions of ancient forensic science include extrapolation from present conditions backwards in time assuming uniformity of scientific laws. If an assumption is incorrect, then the findings of the forensic investigation can be unreliable.

By the way, science can only address situations that are described by scientific laws. This means it can’t address questions such as the ultimate origin of matter and energy in the universe.

As a result of ancient forensic scientific research, the scientist also produces a written account of past events and attempts to put them in chronological order.

The historical record

The Bible is the best record of ancient history we have today. It contains documentary evidence from eyewitnesses which has been accurately preserved over the years. The authors were either eyewitnesses themselves or they spoke with eyewitnesses. In the case of the original creation, the account was given to Moses by God, who was the Creator. God asked Job, “Where were you?” when this happened (Job 8:4-7)! He hadn’t been born yet! Therefore, it is an eyewitness account! Likewise, the question for us today is “Were you there?”. Obviously the answer is “no”! We can only look back thousands of years towards this event.

The Bible says that God created the universe rapidly in six days and that people have existed since the sixth day of creation. The creation was mature and fully functional from the beginning. It didn’t need to develop gradually over time from simple to more complex. This means that at the beginning, the apparent age of things didn’t match the actual age. The Bible also says that Adam lived about 6,000 years ago and the global flood was about 4,500 years ago.

The ancient forensic scientific explanation

Ancient forensic science says that the universe developed slowly over billions of years. During this time, things developed gradually from simple to more complex. First there were stars, then planets, then single-celled organisms, then multi-celled organisms, followed by fish, plants, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and finally human beings.

Much of this explanation relies on the “big bang” theory and the idea of evolution. However,  ancient forensic science is unable to answer questions like:

  • How did the first life originate?
  • Why was there a “big-bang”?
  • What happened before the “big-bang”
  • How did something come from nothing?

This conflicts with the biblical record as the dates are significantly older, all things developed gradually from simple to more complex instead of being complex from the beginning, and people appear after billions of years of evolution.

How can we resolve this conflict?

Huge extrapolation

Scientists use mathematical methods to make predictions. These mathematical methods (which are called “models”) are developed from measurements (observations) that have been made over a certain period of time and under a certain range of conditions. The predictions are most accurate for circumstances that lie within those under which the model was developed. Predictions made outside these circumstances are less reliable as they are extrapolations outside the realm that was measured and observed.

The ancient forensic scientific explanation of ancient history uses theories and observations made in the past few hundred years to make statements about what happened millions and billions of years ago. In science it is well known that the accuracy of a prediction decreases as it extends outside the region of measurement and observation.

Orders of magnitude are used to compare very large differences between numbers. It this case the difference is expressed as the power of 10. For example, 1,000 is one order of magnitude greater than 100, two orders of magnitude greater than 10, and three orders of magnitude greater than 1.

We will now estimate the degree of extrapolation that is made by ancient forensic science. In order to be conservative, we will assume that the scientific theories and observations have been developed from measurements and observations made in the past 1,000 years. So any prediction that applies greater than 1,000 years ago is an extrapolation outside the range of measurement and observation. Therefore, a prediction of an event 10,000 years ago represents an extrapolation of one order of magnitude. Using the dates taught in the Big History Project, we see that the extrapolations are at least 2 to 7 orders of magnitude. As the degree of uncertainty usually increases with the size of the extrapolation, these enormous extrapolations indicate a huge uncertainty in these predictions. In normal science such extrapolations would be viewed as being speculative guesses.

Proposed Event Extrapolation – Orders of magnitude
Big bang 7 (a factor of 107 )
Earth and solar system formed 6 (a factor of 106)
First life on earth 6 (a factor of 106)
First humans 2 (a factor of 102)

Resolving the conflict

As eyewitnesses trump forensic science in criminal investigations, we need to see what implications the historical record has for the ancient forensic scientific explanation. The most obvious implication is that it is wrong to extrapolate backwards in time past about 6,000 years because this was when the universe was “stretched out” by God (Jer. 10:12). The creative week was a unique time that can’t be explained by the laws of science. Scientists would call it a “boundary condition” or an “initial condition”. The assumption of the uniformity of scientific laws only applies since this time. Extrapolation backwards past this time is invalid because the current scientific laws may not apply when God was creating the universe.

This means that most of the apparent billions of years in the ancient forensic scientific explanation represent what God did in less than a week. This was the miracle of creation. So the billions of years is related to how far God stretched out the universe, not the age of the universe.

Because it is wrong to extrapolate backwards in time past about 6,000 years, the millions of years of evolution are also incorrect.

So when the ancient forensic scientific explanation is corrected by imposing historical eyewitness boundary conditions, we see that the assumptions behind the “big-bang” theory and the theory of evolution are obviously incorrect.

Does it matter?

Why can’t we accept both ancient forensic science and the Bible? Because the ancient forensic scientific explanation destroys the gospel message in the Bible. It destroys the source of sin and death, removes the need for a Savior, and ruins the possibility of future restoration of the earth when Christ reigns (Acts 3:21). This means removing creation, the Garden of Eden and the fall into sin as real events in real places.

It also moves the source of sin, disease, decay and death away from Adam and Eve’s disobedience. It makes them a normal part of our world. They are not viewed as being abnormal. It puts death before sin, not after it. It means that the created world, which God said was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), was marred by disease and death from the beginning. It takes away the fact that the original sin affected all of God’s creation (Rom. 8:19-23). It takes away the promise that all creation will be liberated from its “bondage to decay” when Christ returns to rule over it.

Conclusion

As a reliable eyewitness is superior to forensic science in the investigation of crime, so reliable history is better than ancient forensic science in investigating ancient times. So history trumps science when dealing with the past.

“history trumps science when dealing with the past”

Let’s follow the reliable history of the Bible, instead of the erroneous assumptions and extrapolations of ancient forensic science.

Written, October 2013

Also see – Big history or little history?
   – Big history


How the universe is held together

Recently the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva in Switzerland has been used to discover a new sub-atomic particle. The collider directs streams of protons around a 27 km circular tunnel so they collide head-on and records the sub-atomic debris that results.

A researcher reported, “Our new measurements are a great way to test theoretical calculations of the forces that act on fundamental particles, and will move us a step closer to understanding how the universe is held together”. So scientists are seeking to understand how the universe is held together. According to the Bible, what they discover will be secondary causes and not primary ones.

Primary and secondary causes

The Bible says that everything in the universe is held together by the powerful word of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is “sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3) and “in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1 :17). God’s divine power sustains the mass, energy, space and time of our universe. It the primary reason the universe is held together.

The Bible also teaches that God spoke the universe into existence.

  • “the universe was formed at God’s command” (Heb. 11:3).
  •  “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth … Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:6-9).
  • With regard to the whole universe (visible and invisible, living and inanimate); “at His command they were created” (Ps. 148:5)
  • “God said” is mentioned ten times in the description of the creation of the universe (Gen 1:1-31).

The orderly mechanisms and models of science reflect God’s nature. These mechanisms and models are secondary causes which describe how the universe operates. They are part of the creation over which God has dominion (Job 25:2; 38:33). The eternal omnipotent God who has massive intelligence is the original and ultimate cause because He determined how the universe operates.

Summary

God not only designed and created the universe, He continues to sustain it by His divine powerful word. He is both a Creator and a Sustainer.

Written, December 2011

Also see: Complex creation


The awe of God

The heavens declare the glory of God!

These notes were prepared for a presentation to be shown to High School students in New South Wales, Australia.

Academic qualifications

I have a Bachelor of Science with first class honours (BSc Hons) in Physics from the University of Sydney, and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Environmental Science from Macquarie University.

What is the meaning of the word “creation”?

According to the Macquarie Dictionary, the word “creation” is a noun meaning “that which is created”; or more specifically “the world”; or “the universe”. It describes something that has been created or made or an original work. In this presentation, we will use the word “creation” to describe “nature” or “the world” or “the universe”.

The word “creation” was used in the Bible by Paul to mean the universe: “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:20-22NLT).

We live in a creative world. People are very creative. For example, artists create works of art, architects create buildings, inventors create inventions, engineers create machines, and authors create novels. Here the creations are works of art, buildings, machines, and novels. Even animals are creative. They make sounds to communicate with each other and make homes such as nests and holes in the ground.

The creative process involves two nouns and one verb:

  • The creator – someone or something who creates
  • The creation – what has been brought into existence. It’s something new. Something that had a beginning.
  • To create – is the action to bring something into existence.

In this process, the creator is the cause and the creation is the effect. Did you know that we live in a cause and effect universe? For every effect there is a cause. Likewise, for every creation there is a creator. The creation begins in the mind of the creator. As illustrated by the examples given above, the creator is always more intelligent than the creation (except in the case of biological offspring, where God is the real creator of a person’s DNA).

Why is it important to study creation?

As mentioned above, “creation” is “nature” or “the world” or “the universe”. We rely on creation for much of our health and well being. It is our life support system It provides the resources we use for: supplying food and water, which are essential for life; supplying energy; making buildings and transport systems, and supplying raw materials for the things we manufacture.

These resources include: animals on the land and in the water; plants, including forests; soils; and minerals and fossil fuels. We would die if all our plants and animals became extinct.

As we didn’t create any of these raw materials, we don’t know everything about them. Researchers study creation in order to understand how it works. They also study our bodies in order to keep healthy and treat injury and disease.

I hope the students watching this presentation learn more about creation in their studies. Maybe in future they can improve the knowledge of creation through research and investigations and apply it to the benefit of humanity.

As the pinnacle of God’s creation, people are given the responsibility to care for the rest of creation – the first man was told to:

  • “Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground” (Gen 1:26), and
  • “to tend and watch over” the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15).

This involves the management of earth’s resources for the benefit of everyone.

Couldn’t the universe have been created by chance?

Could Windows7 have been created by chance? Obviously no! As the universe is more complex than Windows7, it couldn’t have been created by chance either.

Everything which has a beginning has a cause. As the universe has a beginning, it has a cause. As the universe is a creation, it has a creator. What sort of creator is required? Could it have been due to chance such as a random event or random process?

Our world is made up of physical and non-physical components. The physical components (matter and energy) cannot produce the non-physical components. For example, information, such as the code stored in the DNA and RNA of all forms of life, is a non-physical message. The only source of such information is an intelligent creator. How much intelligence is required?

For the following reasons, the creator of the universe is more intelligent than modern scientists!

  • Plants make food and oxygen from sunlight and water in the process of photosynthesis. But scientists are unable to do this (Sarfati, p. 125). So the creator of plant life is more intelligent than modern scientists!
  • The information in the human genome is wonderfully complex. The DNA sequence in each cell of our bodies is made up of about 3 billion pairs of molecules. Scientists certainly can’t make life. They can’t even manufacture a single living cell such as an amoeba. That’s why they use stem cells in their research. So the Creator of life on earth is more intelligent than modern scientists!

The complex design of our world requires a Designer. The information in the genetic code requires a source. Complex creation, design and information can’t occur by chance. That would be like a computer that occurred by chance and we all know that doesn’t happen. Instead what happens is that computers break down, they devolve. Likewise instead of getting more complex with time, the natural world is devolving, extinction is evident, not evolution. Did you now that most mutations involve a loss or corruption of genetic information? They are malfunctions that can cause illness such as cystic fibrosis.

This means the answer to the question is “no”, the universe could not have been created by chance. Chance cannot produce the complexity of our world. By the way, nothing can create itself, because that would mean that it existed before it came into existence, which is nonsense!

So the creation demonstrates that there must be a powerful creator, who we call God. David knew this 3,000 years ago when he sang, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” (Ps. 19:1). This means that God’s existence can be inferred from nature, which is His creation.

How would you describe the creativity of God in creation?

The creativity shown in creation is enormous. Think of:

  • The vastness of the galaxies.
  • The grandeur of mountains
  • The structure of the atom
  • The enormous range in types of animals and plants.
  • The enormous diversity within each type of animal and plant.
  • The complexity of the design of each animal and plant
  • The range of the behaviour of each plant and animal
  • The range of ecological habitats across the world
  • The coordination between the plants and animals in every habitat
  • The complexity of a single living cell
  • The coordination between all the organs of the body
  • The beauty of a flower
  • Even the range of colours.

Creation is loaded with creativity. The Creator is a supreme architect, engineer and computer programmer in one being.

God is so creative that inventors copy things they see in creation. For example:

  • Aircraft were developed by copying the flight of birds.
  • The design of the human eye has been copied in the design of the optics of cameras (Sarfati, p. 31).
  • The iridescent blues in butterflies & birds are due to a natural diffraction grating, which has been copied to design for brighter and deeper colours (Sarfati, p. 53).

However, we need to realise that the creation has been corrupted since it was created. We can learn about this from the Bible which has been given to us by God who told its authors what to write. The Bible says that the original creation was perfect (“very good”), but this was spoilt when people rebelled against God. At this time, suffering, crime, disease, death and tragedy were introduced. When people say, “how could a loving God create such a world?”, they show their ignorance of the history of our world. He didn’t create it that way in the beginning.

So although God’s creativity is still evident, creation is marred by natural disasters, mismanagement, pollution and extinction.

Does religion fear science?

Christians believe that God the Creator has revealed Himself to us in the words of the Bible. The bible contains the history and destiny of humanity. It is a unique book.

As Christianity inspired and fostered the development of science, it does not fear true science. During the Reformation people interpreted Scripture in a historical-grammatical fashion. They believed that a rational God ruled the universe and realised that Adam had been told to “tend” or “take care” of creation (Gen. 2:15), which lead to scientific research, exploration and discovery.

Operational science studies the creation in order to understand how it works. If science stays within the bounds of the experimental method, there is no conflict with Scripture. However, if scientists extrapolate outside the range of their observations, their predictions become more speculative. Such predictions are not robust. For example, when scientists make statements about the origin of life many years ago, these cannot be proved because they are in the area of history, not operational science. How can you do an experiment about something that cannot be observed?

The facts of science do not change, but the theories proposed to explain these do change. This is because human knowledge is not perfect. In this sense, scientific theories are tentative.

Each year scientists reveal more detail about creation; but each discovery just leads to more questions and things to investigate. So science can reveal more about God’s creativity. As the existence of God is revealed in a general way in creation, by studying the wonders of creation, science can help to demonstrate His immense intelligence and power.

However, Christians do not agree with the philosophy of materialism/naturalism (that nature is all there is). Note, information is not material. This belief is contrary to Scripture – it ignores the Creator: “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created (creation) instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!” (Rom. 1:25).

Does creation reveal God’s perfect love for humanity?

As people care about what happens to their creations, so God cares for His creation. For example:

  • He has provided all the resources we need for survival. Creation is our life support system.
  • He saw that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). The original creation showed God’s perfect love for humanity.
  • He continues to sustain the creation: “You care for people and animals alike, O Lord” (Ps. 36:6). He cares for people, animals, birds and fish.

Furthermore:

  • “He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Mt. 5:45).
  • “He sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts”  (Acts 14:17).
  • “All the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine” (Ps. 50:10-11).
  • “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Mt. 10:29-31). The God cares for the sparrows, and He cares more for people.

So the powerful, loving and personal Creator God is engaged with His creation.

However, we also need to take into account the fact that creation has been impacted by people’s rebellion against God. Creation can be cruel. Balance the perfect and the corrupted. “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:20-22). In this passage Creation is personified. Like a pregnant mother, it looks forward to being delivered from suffering, disease and death.

Does God take pleasure in His creation?  And if so, why does He?

As people take pleasure in their creations, so God takes pleasure in His creation.

During the week of creation God paused five times and noted that “it was good” (Gen. 1:4, 12, 18, 21, 25). Then when it was finished: “God looked over all He had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Gen. 1:31). It sounds like He was pleased with what He had made.

Psalm 104 is about the God of creation. It says, “The Lord takes pleasure in all He has made!” (Ps. 104:31). A reason for being pleased is that the creation shows God’s power and wisdom: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship” (Ps. 19:1).

Reference

Jonathan Sarfati (2008) “By Design – Evidence of nature’s Intelligent Designer – the God of the Bible”, Creation Book Publishers.

Written, November 2009