A bimonthly newsletter of the Creation Research Society.
God of the Gaps
Book Review: Three Views on Creation and Evolution
Mars Global Surveyor Confirms Creation!
Letters: Men and Women of Mathematics and of God
Editors note: This article is condensed from that which first appeared in Genesis (Number 3, 1990), the magazine of the Swedish creation organization, Foreningen GENESIS.
Until the middle of the 18th century great scientists such as Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, Wilhelm von Leibniz, Carl von Linné, etc., were all of the opinion that they, through their scientific discoveries, understood more and more how the Creator had thought and acted when he created the universe. When Kepler after many years of hard work had discovered his three laws, describing the planetary orbits around the sun, he bent his knees to God and thanked the LORD for allowing him to understand some of the beauty and harmony of the creation.
Newton, who besides being a scientist par excellence was also a man of God, did not maintain that the discovery of, for example, the law of gravitation in any sense reduced God or made Him less necessary or important. On the contrary! He asked:
His own answer to this was God!
However, at the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the next century a shift in perspective slowly took place. More and more thinkers and philosophers began to cherish the opinion that progress in science meant a real and serious reduction of Gods power, and that such a progress might even threaten His very existence. This eventually led to what we today often call God of the gaps. The meaning of this concept is that reality is divided into two mutually exclusive areas:
All that could be explained rationally and scientifically was assigned to the area of reason and logic. When this area rapidly grew during the latter half of the 18th century, many philosophers concluded that Gods area simultaneously decreased. The scientific explanation of the mechanisms governing the universe was supposed to intrude upon the Christian explanation of the meaning of the creation. When science at the end of the 19th century seemed to be able to explain almost everything observable, a majority of scientists felt that it was no longer necessary to believe in or assume the existence of anything supernatural or divine.1
Let us give an example. The old Vikings believed that thunder and lightning was caused by one of their gods Thor when he was fighting with the giants and threw his hammer, Mjolner. A god was used to explain what at that time could not be explained rationally. Today we can give a scientific explanation of thunder, which is mainly an electrical phenomenon. As thunder today can be explained by physical, rational laws without alluding to anything outside the closed physical world, there is no longer any need for assuming divine power behind it.
According to this way of reasoning, there is only room for God as long as there are gaps in our rational knowledge. God is more and more pushed out and eventually he will hang on his fingertips on the windowsill outside the window. If and when science someday in the future is able to answer the final question, it will be as if somebody had stepped on Gods fingers. He will loose his last, desperate hold on mankind and fall into the abyss and disappear for good. This was, for example, what Karl Marx was convinced eventually would happen. How wrong he was! If anything was going to disappear, it was Marxs own teachings.
Characteristic of that time was the famous mathematician Pierre Simon de Laplace (1749-1827) who had formulated, using Newtons laws as a basis, the mathematical equations for the orbits of the celestial bodies. When Napoleon asked him why God wasnt mentioned in his works, Laplace replied, I have no need for that hypothesis.
It is not difficult to understand why this way of reasoning was popular among zealous atheists. Unfortunately a majority of Christians swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker and started to defend their faith from this new position. Instead of criticizing this erroneous argument proposed by the God of the gaps proselytes, they accepted it. The accepted way of thinking became: This cannot be explained scientifically so God is still needed; or If we want to believe in a great God, science must not be allowed to explain too much. Many Christians thus tacitly accepted that if science were one day able to explain all that is observable, there would be no God or at least no need for God a way of reasoning totally alien to Kepler, Newton and many of the other pioneers of science. Kepler himself once said:
A very good illustration of the God of the gaps is found in the debate that took place among chemists at the beginning of the last century. The issue at stake was whether it was possible to make organic compounds out of inorganic. Nobody had yet managed to do so. Christians and many others insisted that organic compounds contained some kind of a nonmaterial, supernatural life substance. This theory, called vitalism, was used as an argument from the Christian side to prove that it was impossible to explain the world without considering God. However, in 1828 the German chemist Friedrich Wöhler managed to synthesize urea2 from inorganic compounds. God once again had to retreat one step further out on the windowsill, and many Christians presumably felt their faith waver. Not because Wöhlers discovery as such threatened the Christian faith, but because these Christians had fallen into the trap of the God of the gaps.
This trend was to have a disastrous influence on the Christian church. One of the worst consequences of the God of the gaps, liberal theology, originated during the last century and was (and is) perhaps the most dangerous attack on the true Gospel since the Gnostic threat about 1900 years earlier. According to liberal theology, everything supernatural and miraculous in the Scriptures is denied, and the Christian faith is reduced to a social and powerless message with hardly anything at all in common with the Biblical revelation.
Mechanism vs. meaning
The weak point in the God of the gaps way of reasoning is that reality is reduced to nothing but physical mechanisms. The obvious fact from the human standpoint that every aspect of reality can be looked upon from two different viewpoints, mechanism and meaning, is disregarded. The Nobel prize winner Ilya Prigogine talks about this tendency to deny everything that cannot be expressed in scientific terms in his book From Being to Becoming.
To deny the existence of meaning is to deny everything that is important to us as human beings! Einstein once said, about scientists denying the miraculous order of the universe, Dont listen to their words, fix your attention on their deeds. I think this principle could also be applied to philosophers who deny the existence and importance of meaning and purpose. Besides demanding that a worldview should be consistent and agree with observations, it must also be livable i.e., it must be possible to live consistently according to this worldview. Those who deny the existence of meaning, permanently 24 hours a day deny their own words with their deeds. According to John Murray, reason is the capacity to behave in terms of the nature of the object.4 To deny the existence of meaning and the limitations of science is to actually maintain that, the nature of the object ought to conform to my definition of reason.
All important human questions are connected mainly with meaning and very little, if at all, with mechanism. Or, as the Christian physicist John Polkinghorne writes:
Science solely explains the mechanisms behind material objects and their interactions. The arena in which these objects and interactions dwell and happen is the so-called space-time (i.e., the physical universe). The advances of science occur on the level of mechanism. Thus, the progress of science does not in any sense affect the level of meaning. Mechanism and meaning are two different levels of explanation, not reducible to one another, but both necessary to get a full understanding of the world in which we are living. God, who is the originator of meaning (and mechanism), is therefore not less necessary just because science partly can explain the mechanisms behind the creation. Science and faith are not mutually exclusive, but are in fact complementary. Charles Alfred Coulson, professor in mathematics in Oxford, expresses this in the following way:
The God of the Bible has created everything, both meaning and mechanism! He is not banished to the esoteric heights of the upper level, while the lower level of physical phenomena is totally independent of Him.
As mechanisms are rational and operate in the physical realm, they can, however, unlike meaning, be studied and exhaustively analyzed by human reason, assisted by the tools of the scientific method. The mechanism by no means gives us the whole truth. Even if the explanation of the mechanism behind a phenomenon is true, it is a greater lie than a truth, because of what it does not consider.
Suppose that we want to study a particularly beautiful painting. We want to answer the question, Why do people find it so beautiful? We might first ask a physicist to study the painting and to give us a complete, physical description. After having done a lot of experiments he gives us his conclusion. Accordingly, we are told that certain areas of the painting absorb certain wavelengths of the incoming light. We also get a detailed description of the molecular arrangements and interactions in the paint, etc. If we ask the artist whether he thinks that this description is complete, he looks very offended. From his point of view the physical description is totally uninteresting.
We then ask a chemist to give us a description from her perspective. She starts to talk about the different chemical compounds in the different colors, etc. Neither does this description give us any idea of the true nature and purpose of the painting.
Not even the analysis made by an expert in art satisfies the artist. The expert makes a statement that the style of the painting is expressionistic, and that the technique used for mixing colors is typical of some professor in Paris. This may be true, but nothing of this deals with the internal or implicit message of the painting the why?
Finally, we let a person who loves art7 look at the painting. He is moved to tears by the beauty he finds. He might not be able to express what he feels in words, but his tears tell us enough. The artist is at last satisfied. The painting has fulfilled its purpose, to talk to another human being in a meaningful way.
The first three descriptions from the physical, the chemical and the science of art perspective are of course, as already pointed out, true; but they are only different descriptions of the mechanisms. Science cannot, and will never be able to, explain and describe the meaning or purpose of what we observe. Science answers the question, how?, while meaning is always associated with the question, why? Meaning can never be reduced to mechanism. Logical reasoning the foundation of modern science formulates conceptions, which are manipulated according to the laws of logic. As the meaning of the painting includes the human experience, this meaning can neither be described by logic nor by words. It can only be felt within our hearts!
This does not mean that the aspect of meaning is less valuable or important than the aspect of mechanism, but is rather a consequence of the limitations of rational thought. Logic does not give us access to the entire reality. If that were the case, the painting could be completely replaced with a logical description. Instead of going to an art museum to look upon Wheatfield with Crows by Van Gogh, you could just send for a complete logical description of the mechanisms behind this painting and get exactly the same experience.
Not even the meaning of a novel or a poem can be expressed by words. This might sound a little bit strange, as the tools of an author are words and nothing but words. Artists, authors, composers, etc., however, often try to express what cannot be communicated by words the unspeakable. What a poet tries to tell us, is for that reason more frequently found between the words and the lines, than in the words themselves.
The laws of Nature give us a closed-world, cause-effect description of the interactions between material objects. Science does not and cannot explain the origin or the nature of the physical laws or how something originated out of nothing. This is one of the limitations of the scientific method. The law of gravitation, for instance, explains exactly how the moon is orbiting around the earth. An explanation why this law is as it is cannot, however, be given by science. The Christian answer is found in many places in the Bible, among others Genesis 1 and in Psalm 148.
God has created the laws of Nature to support His creation, so that Man can exist. God has created the phenomenon called gravitation. The nature of gravitation is described by Newtons law of gravitation. This law gives us a complete description of the moons orbit from the mechanistic, causal point of view. Science is however only concerned with this closed-world, mechanistic causality, while God is the originator of all the creation, meaning as well as mechanism.
In Genesis 1 we read about the creation of light:
God created light because light is something good. He only creates what is in accord with His own character. The Biblical account gives us the meaning behind the creation of light. The other perspective, the mechanism of light, is given by Maxwells famous equations8:
These equations describe the nature of light and more generally all types of electromagnetic radiation. They are used in optics, when constructing radios, computers, etc., and are regarded as some of the most important physical relations.
There is no contradiction between the perspective of Genesis and that of Maxwells equations. When God spoke, these equations were exactly what He said. That Man has been able to find out what God said does not lessen the Creator, but is rather a proof that we indeed are created in His image!
One common misunderstanding is that the laws of science have a governing or controlling function. This is wrong! The physical laws do not tell Nature how to behave, but are consequences of the properties of the fundamental building blocks of the universe. Their character is describing. They describe and summarize from our limited perspective the observed regularities of the physical world.9 If this means that every single atom is controlled by the almighty Creator, or if this is taken care of by the inherent mechanisms of the laws of Nature, is not clear, nor does it matter.
The rational behavior of matter and energy is from this point of view a consequence of the Creators logical nature and of His fidelity. Miracles i.e., the irrational10 behavior of matter and energy are similarly a consequence of the Creators love!
Christian faith and science
We are in a very vulnerable position if our faith depends upon whether science can explain certain observed phenomena or not. This is to accept the false God of the gaps way of reasoning. If our faith is threatened by every new evolutionary or cosmological model, we end up in an untenable position. We then have to choose between two alternatives; to give up our faith right now or to keep continuous track of the latest developments in evolutionary biology and cosmology to be able to find counter arguments. If no such arguments can be found, faith must accordingly be abandoned.
There are many historical examples of Christians who have declared, This problem can never be solved by science, only to be proved wrong a few years later amidst roars of laughter.11 If I remember rightly, an English bishop at the end of the last century claimed that he had proved the impossibility of building an airplane by the argument, If God had meant that we should fly, He would had given us wings.
How difficult it is to predict what science and technology can achieve is shown by the following episode. In 1956, when I went to junior high school, I once had a fist fight with a classmate about whether space travel one day would be possible or not. My own opinion was that Man probably would land on the moon within two hundred years or so, while my classmate maintained that this never would happen. Who could have guessed that Neil Armstrong should take his first hesitating footsteps on the surface of that very celestial body only twelve years later.
In my book12 Faith and Science, Two Ways to a Worldview, I criticized the common view that fundamental Christianity is always in opposition to modern science. I claimed, instead, that modern science is a consequence of the Judeo-Christian worldview. The philosopher and mathematician Alfred N Whitehead (1861-1947) said in 1925, when he lectured at Harvard University under the title Science and the Modern World:
The belief in a rational God gave the first scientists an unshakable faith that each event can be linked together with a cause in an exact and distinct way. In that manner you can discover general principles in nature. Without this belief the indefatigable labor of the scientists would be in vain. The philosopher N. Maxwell says in the same spirit:
An atheistic scientist has no foundation for such a statement. If there is no intelligent Creator, there is no reason to conjecture that there is an inherent order in nature. Albert Einstein once remarked concerning this issue:
In another context he said:
Thus it was no coincidence that modern science was born under the influence of the Judeo-Christian culture. True Christianity is not hostile to science, but a condition for modern science.
In the worldviews of the East, the starting point is that all observations are of an illusionary character. A Hindu considers that the western (Judeo-Christian) division of reality into opposite poles as true-false, good-evil, etc., is a sign of an immense immaturity. The Hindu philosophers regard our conceptions as empty of content. Conceptions as true, false, good, evil are to them Maya; i.e., void and illusion. However, the Eastern way of thinking which also includes the view that something simultaneously can be true and false, does not work when we study physical reality. Two-valued logic, i.e., the assumption that a proposition is either true or false, is one of the foundation stones of modern science.
It is therefore not difficult to understand why science neither was born in India nor in China.14 The prevailing worldviews in these countries effectively prevented that.
1 The reason for this was that many people by now had lost their belief in a personal God. They had no living faith, had never met God personally, only used Him for "explaining" the unexplainable.
2 Soluble colorless crystalline compound contained especially in urine of mammals.
3 W.H. Freeman and Co (1980), page 3.
4 Torrance, T.F. (1969), Theological Science, Oxford University Press, page 12.
5 Science and Creation, by John Polkinghorne, New Science Library, 1989, page 90.
6 Christianity in an Age of Science, Oxford University Press, London 1953.
7 Of course the physicist, the chemist or the art expert can, besides being professionals in their own subjects, also simultaneously be lovers of art.
8 Here the equations for vacuum are given.
9 Which means that exceptions from these regularities miracles fall outside the scientific area of competence.
10 Irrational from the scientific point of view.
11 As Christians we should not be afraid of being laughed at. "Rather a fool in the eyes of the world for the sake of God, than honored and admired by the world." But we shall not be fools for the sake of our own inventions and ideas, but for the sake of God! We must not be the reason why people laugh at God!
12 Published at Libris, 1989 (only in Swedish).
13 "The Rationality of Scientific Discovery," Philosophy of Science (1974) 41, page 124.
14 Science in this context means the systematic striving to fully and completely explain mechanisms and origins of all observable phenomena in the physical world. Eastern "science" is perhaps better described as "engineering science." According to the Eastern worldview, logic can never give man access to the ultimately true nature of the world. A successful Hindu scientist therefore has to think according to the Western way as long as he is working in his laboratory.
Krister Renard is the author of a Swedish textbook in modern physics, The Fundamentals of Modern Physics from Microcosmos to Macrocosmos. He has taught electronics at the Merchant Marine Academy in Stockholm, and mathematics at the Royal Institute of Technology. During his years at the latter institution he wrote a book on faith and science entitled Science and Faith, Two Roads to a World View (1989). Currently, he teaches mathematics, physics and philosophy at a Christian High School in Sweden. Since 1978, when he converted from atheism to Christianity, Krister has been busy teaching, lecturing and preaching in various churches, schools, universities and other institutions, mainly on the subjects of faith vs. science and creation vs. evolution.
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999) by J. P. Moreland (Ed.), John Mark Reynolds (Ed.), Paul Nelson. 144 pages, $17.99
At first glance this may not seem like a particularly noteworthy accomplishment. To many insects the pine tree is a virtual no-mans land. Its resins and oils, which may smell sweet to us humans, are highly toxic but not to the sawfly larva! This little critter not only can tolerate pine oil and resins, but it even knows how to chew them up without being poisoned.
The sawfly is aided in its curious dietary habits by a unique digestive system which allows it to regurgitate the poisonous oils and resins found in these leaves. While munching on its staple diet of pine needles, the larva separates the poisonous oils and resins from the digestible pulp, and stores them in two goiter-like sacs located at the sides of its oral cavity. If provoked, it instantly turns its head toward its aggressor and secretes a drop of its stored liquid. This foul-smelling brew is usually enough to discourage would-be predators such as spiders, ants, and birds.
How does the sawfly accomplish this phenomenal feat? Exactly how the separation takes place i.e., how the larva is able to let all resinous bits disappear into the sacks during the chewing process while the other components enter the rest of the digestive tract is still a puzzle, but one which may eventually be understood. One sawfly expert believes the powerful muscles of the sacs somehow aid in this separation of ingredients. A chitinous membrane protects the storage sacs from the effects of the acidic resins.
The sawflys digestive system is more than just an oddity. It presents a number of thorny questions regarding its origin. The unique digestive ability of the Neodiprion could not have evolved step by step. Let me explain. First, try to imagine the difficulties some ancient variety of sawfly larva would have encountered had it tried to switch from a normal leafy diet to one of pine needles. Think about it. According to evolutionary theory, the changes necessary to enable it to digest the pine needles could only have occurred through small mutations in a step-by-step fashion. But in the case of the sawfly larva, such piecemeal transitions become totally impractical, and one is immediately confronted with one of evolutions basic problems of logic.
The sawfly larvas diet could not consist of pine needles until the mechanism for separating the poisonous from nonpoisonous components was fully developed and working with perfect reliability. But such a mechanism, if it came gradually into existence by small mutations, would have developed only if the food already consisted of pine needles. Yet any intermediate transitional larva with an incompletely developed digestive system would clearly have been unable to adequately cope with the poisonous effects of the pine needles.
On the other hand, if there were no pine needles around for the larva to feed on, there would be no reason for it to develop any mechanism for digestive separation and protection. In any event, there would have been no evolutionary progress.
No matter how intelligently the theory of evolution may present the reasons for the step-by-step development of already existing organs or parts of the body, the difficulties in trying to explain how certain independent anatomical-physiological systems could originate by evolution seem insurmountable.
(1) The German Weekly, Die Zeit, #33, Translated by Werner G.
Gerlach (Aug. 9, 1974)
(2) Lyons, L. A., The European pine sawfly, Neodiprion sertifer (Geoffr.) (Hymenoptera: Diprionidae). A review with emphasis on studies in Ontario. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Ont. 94:5-37 (1964)
(3) Pschorn-Walcher, H., Unterord. Symphyta, Pflanzenwespen. In: Die Forstschadlinge Europas (ed: W. Schwenke). Parey, Hamburg & Berlin. Vol. 4:4-234 (1982)
(4) Borror, D. J. and R. E. White, A Field Guide to the Insects. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. p.316 (1970)
(5) Bland, R. G. and H. E. Jaques, How to Know the Insects, 3rd ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Co. 409p., page 372 (1978)
(6) Borror, D. J., C. A. Tripplehorn, and N. F. Johnson, An Introduction to the Study of Insects, 6th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing. 875 p. Page 702 (1989)
(7) Daly, H. V., J. T. Doyen, and A. H. Purcell III, Introduction to Insect Biology and Diversity, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press. 680p. Pages 579-583 (1998)
A spacecraft orbiting Mars, the Mars Global Surveyor, has confirmed yet another prediction of Humphreys' crazy theory of planetary magnetic field origins!
In the conclusion (page 147) of my December 1984 CRSQ article,1 I went out on a limb and made several predictions on the basis of my theory. Prediction number 3 [and the parts below equations (30) and (31)] concerned the strengths of the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune, which Voyager II later confirmed.2,3
However, I made other rash predictions in that 1984 article. Prediction 2, requiring a remeasurement of Mercurys field to detect its few percent decay, hasnt yet been attempted. Prediction 1 was:
Older igneous rocks from Mercury or Mars should have natural remanent magnetization, as the Moon's rocks do.
Natural remanent magnetization means rock magnetization caused by Mars formerly strong (and now non-existent) planetary magnetic field. I was expecting to have to wait for a manned expedition to bring back rock samples for laboratory testing. But the Mars Global Surveyor did it way ahead of time! As the spacecraft orbited low over Mars' surface, its magnetometers recorded strong magnetization in Mars crustal rocks. In fact, the magnetized rocks were in stripes of alternating magnetic polarity, strikingly reminiscent of the magnetic stripes on earths seafloors.4
The reason the prediction is important is that my theory required evidence of a strong field formerly on Mars. The evolutionary dynamo theorists were uncertain as to whether their theory would require a former field on Mars, strong or not, so they made no such predictions, as far as I know. But there was no way around it in my theory. Thus, if my theory were correct, rocks cooling down within a few centuries after creation would have to record a strong field. It looks like they did.
Three cheers for NASA; they've spent at least some of our taxes to further confirm a creationist view of origins!
1 Humphreys, D.R. 1984. The creation of planetary magnetic fields. Creation Research Society Quarterly 21(3):140-149. http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/21_3.html
2 Humphreys, D.R. 1990. Good news from Neptune: the Voyager II magnetic measurements. Creation Research Society Quarterly 27(1):15-17.
3 See also ICR Impact No. 203, May 1990. http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-203.htm
4 Connerney, J.E.P., et al. 1994. Magnetic lineations in the ancient crust of Mars. Science 284(5415):794-798. See also Signs of plate tectonics on an infant Mars by R.A. Kerr on p. 719 of the same issue.
Dr. Humphreys, a Senior Physicist at Sandia National Laboratories, is a board member of the Creation Research Society, and a leader in the Creation Science Fellowship of Albuquerque.
In a letter regarding the above-named article (Creation Matters, Volume 4, No. 2), Craig M. Szwed presented an interpretation of Revelation 17:1-9 that the Catholic Institution is the ...whore that sits on the seven hills.... Is Creation Matters an appropriate forum for a sectarian argument, especially one as divisive as calling someone else's church a whore?
I believe the mission of the Creation Research Society will die if we go down that road. Im certain Mr. Szweds is not a majority view, and I hope Catholics who read his letter will realize this. In fact I would prefer to see Catholics, Jews and even Moslems stand with us on issues where we agree. I am not advocating removal of the name of Jesus Christ from our Societys creed, nor do I believe there is salvation in any other name. I simply believe that our Societys purpose (the conduct and publication of sound scientific research) and sectarian arguments belong in different forums.
Wouldn't it be better to leave the space in Creation Matters for creation matters?
John L. Estes email@example.com
Mr. Estes raises an important point. The main thrust of Mr. Szweds letter was that some of the mathematicians mentioned in Dr. DeYoungs article were not clearly identifiable as born-again Christians. However, the specific sectarian comments by Mr. Szwed should not have been included in the published version. We shall try to be more circumspect in the future.
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