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We detect design in a number of ways: the purposeful arrangement of parts, specified complexity, and irreducible complexity. All of these features are present in the biological world, and thus it is reasonable to conclude that life was designed by some intelligence. The most likely candidate for such an intelligence is God. If you are an atheist, this option is not open to you. So you have to explain how life could arise through purely natural processes without the aid of a mind.

This is a tall order. To see why, just consider what it would take to form just a single, small protein consisting of 150 amino acids by chance alone. The odds of such a protein forming by chance alone is 1 in 10164. That means you would only get one functional protein for every 100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion attempts (assuming that each attempt tries a unique combination of amino acids). Written out, that is 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 attempts. What are the chances of this happening?

The actual conditions on the early earth make this very unlikely due to the low numbers of amino acids and harmful contaminants. So let’s increase the chances by stocking the oceans to capacity with amino acids (all atoms on earth including carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur so that there is enough materials to form 1041 complete sets of amino acids used to build proteins) and altering the laws of nature to protect these building blocks from harmful ultraviolet light and chemical contamination. And let’s say it only takes 1 second to form each protein chain attempt, resulting in 6,000 million billion trillion trillion combination attempts every minute. After 4.6 billion years (the estimated age of Earth), there would have been 1058 attempts made to build a functional protein. While that’s a lot, it is nowhere near the 10164 needed.

How much time would be needed, then? Imagine an amoeba that travels round trip across the entire length of the universe (90 billion light years in diameter) at a pace of one foot per year. It would take 10 billion billion billion years for him to make the round trip (1,000 million trillion miles), and yet, no functional protein would form by the time he returned. To make things interesting, on the next trip the amoeba transports a single atom to the other side of the universe, drops it off, and returns to his starting point. Would a protein have formed during this second trip? No. So the amoeba transports more atoms, one by one. The amoeba would be able to transport every atom in the entire universe (100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion atoms, and hence, 100 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trips) – not just once, but 56,000,000 times over the course of 56 million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years before chance would finally produce one small functional protein.[1] And yet, even after all that time and effort, there would still be no life because the simplest life requires at least 1500 proteins (among many other biological parts). The amoeba would have to transport 84 billion universes atom-by-atom before all 1500 proteins would form to create the simplest living organism (84 billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years).

This is why chance cannot explain the origin of life. Life is based on highly specified information. Functional proteins are extremely rare. To create all of the proteins necessary for life requires an intelligence who knows how to arrange the chemicals in a functional manner without having to try every possible combination. It’s similar to writing a book. If we had to rely on chance to create Moby Dick it would take countless eons, but an intelligent mind can arrange the letters in the precise order needed in months or even weeks. Likewise, chance alone cannot account for the origin of life in such a short period of time. The only known cause of information is mind. Only personal, intelligent agents are capable of producing highly specified information such as we find in the biological world, and thus it stands to reason that a personal, intelligent agent created life.

 

See also:

Signature in the Cell, Part 4: Assessing the Chance Hypothesis for the Origin of Life

The origin of life is not a lottery

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[1]Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth. Video, Illustra Media, 2016. Excerpted from 21:30 – 28:07. The illustration was adapted from the work of Dr. James F. Coppedge in Evolution: Possible or Impossible?.

Yoda smoking potMore Americans favor the legalization of marijuana than not.  40% of Americans think recreational marijuana should be legal whereas only 32% disagree.  The shift in public opinion is clearly ideological and generational as support for legalizing marijuana is supported mainly by the non-religious, the liberal, and the young.

Jesus Only WayWhy is Jesus the only way to God/heaven?
 
Alan Shlemon has answered that question in the space of a tweet: “There’s only one way to Heaven because there’s only one God that exists who’s made only one offer of forgiveness through His only one Son.”
 
Well put. He unpacks the statement as well in a short article.
See also:

eric_walshGeorgia’s Department of Public Health hired a distinguished California doctor, Eric Walsh (Walsh served on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS under Bush and Obama), as a district health doctor.  Georgia officials heard about some controversy over comments Walsh made regarding human sexuality, Islam, and evolution in messages he had preached over the years. They tasked government workers with listening to his sermons, and then decided to fire him because they did not like what he had to say. One official called Walsh and told him “you can’t preach that and work in the field of public health.”[1]  Here’s a well-qualified man who is fired for his personal religious beliefs expressed in a private setting on his own time.  Just remember, gay rights and same-sex marriage won’t affect anyone.

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[1]http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434297/eric-walsh-georgia-public-health-doctor-fired-christian-belief

The power to tax is the power to enslave. That’s not to say taxation itself is immoral. All of us can agree to a reasonable amount of taxes to pay for a functional government and basic social resources like funding the military, paving roads, and the like. But the bigger the government gets, the more taxes it needs, and the more money it takes. If the government taxed an individual 100% of their income, they will have effectively enslaved them because they are working entirely for the government and not benefiting from their own work. If the individual was allowed to keep 10% of their earnings, they are little better than a slave. It’s just a matter of degree. As this entitlement culture demands more and more, the government will continue to take more and more in taxes, enslaving us degree by degree. If you want freedom, keep our government small.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” – Mark 1:1

…these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20:31

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” – Acts 8:35

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3

This is my first post, and I’m so glad to join Jason here. He graciously introduced me, like forever ago, but here I am just now. Very sorry for the delay, much going on personally, like a new job. So, nevertheless, here it finally be, my inaugural post on this auspicious blog amongst esteemed colleagues. But seriously, I hold Jason in the highest regard, a great friend, and a deep thinker and good writer, many thanks to him! I’ve got other posts on deck, but I wanted to start with this, so that you know what I care about most deeply.

I’m listening to the great book by the Nobel prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow. This is a fascinating book with many takeaways on human behavior, learning, thinking, and the way the mind works. There is good reason for professionals of every kind to read it. There are lessons and nuggets for marketing, economics, leadership, teaching, and studying. Anyone engaged in leading, communicating or influencing might find it not only interesting, but helpful. The useful observations come about a page a minute, and have the effect of immediately sounding like common sense once you hear them explained, and yet you wouldn’t have come to the conclusions on your own.

Here’s one: haloing. Haloing is a term to describe the way in which human judgment is influenced by the sequence in which words, images, or experiences are presented, particularly the greater influence of those which are first.  For instance, if I describe to you a person that I know but you’ve never met with these words: good guy, hard worker, outgoing, sports crazy, but some anger issues. You will believe I’m describing a generally good person with redeemable qualities but with a few problems just like you. But let’s switch the order: some anger issues, sports crazy, outgoing, hard worker, but a good guy. Same descriptive words, with merely a reversed sequence, and you would react with a differing judgment. The first words “halo” what follows.

Here’s another one: anchoring. Anchoring is a term to describe the way in which the first bit of data given influences answers to a question. For instance, if persons are asked a question such as, “did Mahatma Gandhi die before or after age 9?”, their answers are pulled toward the given information, in this case, age 9. If the given age is changed, then the grouping of the answers shifts toward it. The given piece of data provides a fixed point to the mind and influences the answers the mind responds with. Similar to haloing, anchoring points to the cognitive bias humans make towards the first pieces of information which are presented. So, the general truth about the power of first impressions.

What’s this all got to do with Jesus?  Simple.  I believe that we Christians vastly underestimate the ease with which we, the Church, may overshadow Jesus of Nazareth and His Gospel. I suggest to you that a sermon, a song, or a service, even one chock full of orthodox content and Bible verses, can swing easily wide of the Gospel center. And it is common to do so.

In particular, I’m thinking of these things: the way in which a song can sound and feel good but ultimately be about us and not Christ; the manner in which a sermon’s opening illustration can dominate; the overwhelming effect of style over substance; the importance of excellence and relevance of presentation as a virtue today; the lure of spontaneous exhortation in preaching; and the given themes repeated in exhortations and sermons week by week. We could go on.

Haloing and anchoring and similar patterns of human judgment are not things you can overcome with tricks or techniques, no, they are things you must take into account. We all tend to reason in these and other similar ways. In the moment as we hear and listen and experience, our minds are directed in these similar paths, and over time, we are slowly shaped and formed not only by what we hear, but how we hear it, by the repetition, the sequence, and the tone.

This general truth about human judgment and reasoning is exactly why, I think, Paul was so unflinchingly focused upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. I think it is also a good reason why God inspired not one, but four Gospel accounts of the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. And to think, we still struggle to get the point.

There are practical things we can do. We can make sure that we stay centered on the text when we preach and teach. We can try to preach biblical topics in proportion to their representation in Scripture: death and resurrection get mentioned always, the grace of God constantly, life in the Spirit often, the millenium sometimes, and the rapture, like never. We could take our sermon or lesson notes before each Sunday and put a Sharpie to good use and mark out every side note, soap box, rant, illustration, quote, poem, or story which otherwise does not highlight, exalt, or point to Jesus as worthy, awesome, and completely satisfying. We could decide to talk about Jesus and the meaning of His life and death and resurrection more by volume by a hundred-to-one of anything else we talk about.

Yes, we need to take this Gospel truth and sing it, explain it, illustrate it, and expound it, but we need to constantly be centered, and this takes regular recalibration. The only way I know to do this is to, as much as possible, not only halo and anchor, but surround and submerge what we do with the person and work of Jesus: start with Jesus, fill it up with Jesus, and end with Jesus. Easier said than done, but strive, we must. Pointing always to Jesus.

So, that’s my big thought of the day. What’s your response? What are ways in which we can keep Jesus, in the worship and work of the Church, front and center?