Science & Faith: A Conference

2015 Westminster Conference on Science and Faith!

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I recently had the pleasure of attending the 6’th annual Westminster Conference on Science and Faith held in the Philadelphia area.

Some world-class thinkers, writers and scientists spoke at this conference, and I would like to  share them with you.  First the speaker line up:

  • “The Wonders of Creation and Its Creator” (Vern Poythress) A New Testament Professor at Westminster.
    • “Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis” (Michael Denton) –  Breakout session *
    • “The Importance of Creation” (Scott Oliphint)-  Breakout session
    • “Why Is Science Possible?” (Vern Poythress)-  Breakout session
  • “The Nature of Science and the Nature of Nature” (John Lennox)
  • “The Mystery of the Beginning of the Universe” (John Lennox)
  • “The Place of Life and Man in the Cosmos: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis” (Michael Denton)
    • “Counting to God: A Personal Journey through Science to Belief” (Douglas Ell)-  Breakout session
    • “The New Rise of ‘Totalitarian’ Science” (John West) –  Breakout session
    • “Apologetics: Principles for Presenting Your Faith” (Scott Oliphint) –  Breakout session  *
  • “Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s False Narrative about Science, Past and Present” (Casey Luskin)

 

A few short videos (~10 minutes) may interest you: these are snippets of debates between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins – Dawkins is one of the most prominent and outspoken atheists living today.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=dawkins+lennox+debate&FORM=VIRE2#view=detail&mid=A02D156F54AAC5F54920A02D156F54AAC5F54920

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=dawkins+lennox+debate&FORM=VIRE12#view=detail&mid=5F0C1F124E368E519A855F0C1F124E368E519A85

 

The following are full length presentations of lectures and debates.

Dr. John Lennox

A long but very good lecture by Dr. John Lennox

Is God a Delusion? John Lennox – March 14th 2015

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPaBXf0gXNg&feature=youtu.be

A Debate: Richard Dawkins vs. John Lennox  – both of Oxford. A long debate, but well worth the time

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=dawkins+lennox+debate&FORM=VIRE2#view=detail&mid=A545AE818A76CEE0CAF5A545AE818A76CEE0CAF5

Dr. Michael Denton

Privileged Species with Geneticist Michael Denton Gets Its Online Premiere; See It Now!

An Interview with Michael J. Denton

Coming Downfall of Mechanistic View in Cell Biology – Michael Denton, PhD

 

Casey Luskin

Articles by Casey can be found here http://www.discovery.org/p/188

Casey is quite a prolific writer at Discovery.org, a Seattle based Intelligent Design organization. I’ve met Casey on several occasions and enjoy him very much. 

 

At the conference I had occasion for a bit of personal times with these folks – I bummed rides with them to and from the hotel to the conference.  

 

Don Johnson – March 2015

Interesting People I Have Met: Cubic Defense Systems

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Edited (3/23/2015): Added Judy Rees
Edited: Added – Wayne Newton, Don Knight, Tom Pekar, Sam Whitt, Bill Norris  – at the request of Wayne Newton … thanks Wayne.

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In retrospect, some of the most interesting people I have met are the folks I worked with for 30+ years at Cubic Defense Systems and at the Tactical Air Ranges Integration Facility (TARIF) at China Lake, CA.

I say this because of the remarkable system these folks built which has been the premier on-line training system for US and allied combat air-crews since 1973. Some of us call it the B-52 of training systems because of its longevity and adaptability for continual growth in terms of capability.

The first video below shows the system and the technology as it was when I began my career with ACMR/I on March 1, 1976.  In the film you will see state of the art real-time graphics as it existed in those days. You will also see large  trailers;  but what the film doesn’t show are the 3 large Xerox Sigma-9 mini-computers that made up what was called the Computation and Control Subsystem (CCS). The software of the CCS was originally developed by Systems Development Corporation (SDC) under sub-contract to Cubic, the prime contractor.

My first job in 1976 was to double the number of missile simulations from 4 to 8 within the Display and Debriefing System (DDS), a seemingly simple and straightforward task. This graphics system was built by a Boston company called Adage, and the software was developed primarily by a Mr. Bob Fullford.  Chuck Whitney and I were hired on to Cubic as part of a team of young programmers who were to bring all of the software in-house to Cubic and establish full cognizance and responsibility for the complete system under one roof in San Diego.   The success of that Cubic management decision has been borne out over the many following years as the videos below illustrate.

A key component of the DDS then and now was the Large Screen Displays (LSDs). These were necessary for the post mission debriefs in a theater environment. You may wonder why we just didn’t go down to Costco and get a couple of those 90” TVs. Well  …there was no Costco back then, and there were no 90” screens either … so Cubic had to build custom and very expensive and hard to maintain LSDs because that was what was needed to debrief groups of fighter pilots in a theater venue.

In the first video a program called ACEVAL/AIMVAL is mentioned. That was my first project, and as mentioned above my specific task was to double the missile simulations. Accompanying my relatively modest task was a much more significant task in the CCS. To double the missile systems capability of the CCS, a duplicate of the CCS was built with its own set of 3 Xerox Sigma 9 computers housed in an additional large van parked next to the CCS van. You see in those days, with the technology available, it was very expensive to do what in todays world can be quickly done with a trip to Best Buy and a few hundred dollars.   A few years latter, a project I had at Yuma Arizona required the doubling of the memory in the DDS. Though not as dramatic as the earlier expansion of the CCS, we Cubic were the first customer of an Adage memory expansion that did not work out of the box and required much additional hardware and software work to make it functional.

A couple of interesting and humorous side stories of that graphics memory  expansion come to mind:

Hugh Kohnen, one of our program managers/marketers – a sometimes gruff ex Marine and his equally no-nonsense NavAir counterpart Ray Shriner got into a somewhat heated discussion about this memory that didn’t work. You see, the program under which the memory was purchased really did not technically need the extra memory for the success of the applicable project. So as the story is told, Hugh and Ray are sitting across the table from one another when Hugh states “show me in the contract where it says its gotta work!”  Wow … now understand that Hugh and Ray actually had a good working relationship, so Ray calmly replies “OK Hugh, but we both know what’s coming next at Yuma where the memory will be needed … and guess who’s going to have to fix it and on whose nickel!”  Wow again …

And up next at Yuma was my project which indeed did need the extra memory. This brings up the next interesting side story. You see in those days we had trouble keeping display programmers, and especially those supporting Yuma because that was a tough and arduous task requiring much travel to Yuma and long hours after the flight day was done. The current programmer told me he would quit before going back to Yuma. I took him at his word and started looking at resumes and hired a young San Diego State graduate named Curt Bryan. What I didn’t tell Curt was that he was faced with an impossible task – helping to fix the memory as well as the requirements of the project at Yuma. Well … Curt didn’t know the job was impossible since this was his first real job … and he just went ahead and did the job in an exemplary fashion. Curt and a few other folks in later years went on to start their own software company.

Ault Report – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The “Ault Report”, or more formally the Air-to-Air Missile System Capability Review, was a sweeping study of US Navy air-to-air missile performance during the period of 1965 to 1968, conducted by Navy Captain Frank Ault. The study was initiated at the behest of Admiral Tom Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations, who had taken office in August 1967. He was disturbed by the dismal performance of Navy air-to-air missiles in engagements with North Vietnamese fighter jets. Admiral Moorer tasked the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIRSYSCOM) to conduct “an in-depth examination of the entire process by which Air-to-Air missile systems are acquired and employed” and further directed that Ault be placed in charge of the effort.

Air Combat Maneuvering Range

One of the critical findings of the Ault Report was that many of the missile failures were due to out of envelope firings due to unfamiliarity of the aircrews with the dynamically changing launch acceptability regions (LAR). Ault proposed to create an instrumented range to help aircrews become familiar with the complexities of firing their air-to-air missiles. This led to development of the Air Combat Maneuvering Range (ACMR) at MCAS Yuma for use by aircraft flying out of NAS Miramar. The Air Force was faced with the same problem and also began development of a similar Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) range at Nellis AFB

Let me back track to the beginnings of the ACMR/I in the early 1970s.  I was not there at the beginning so all I can do here is describe the original system, since I did see it in action and actually worked on it for a few days. This is the system, and those who developed it were the giants on whose shoulders I and many others were fortunate in standing upon. I wish I had been more diligent in the years I was at Cubic to learn more of these early pioneers – who they were and what were there credentials and accomplishments.

The original system deployed on line in 1973 at MCAS Yuma and NAS Miramar boasted these characteristics:

  • 4 high activity aircraft
  • 2 missile simulations
  • 30 mile training range
  • CCS was 3 Xerox Sigma 5 computers
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  • CCS software developed by Systems Development Corporation
  • DDS was Adage
  • DDS software developed by Adage

Now with that background, enjoy this interesting video narrated by Wally Schirra

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=air+combat+maneuvering+range&FORM=VIRE2#view=detail&mid=73B4DC456041D947CC0873B4DC456041D947CC08image

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Between the system you have just seen in the previous video and the following videos representing todays capabilities (2014), there were a number of significant upgrades as follows:

http://www.cubic.com/Blog/Articles/ID/1098/Pitch-Black–Australias-Largest-and-Most-Complex-Air-Training-Exercise

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http://www.cubic.com/Blog/Articles/ID/761/Innovations-in-Air-Combat-Training

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What stands out in the record of this amazing system is its close correlation and tracking of its capabilities with the advancement of technology  over the years and decades – this being computer technology and the GPS tracking systems.

An incident stands out in my mind illustrates this remarkable transition:

In about 2005, a colleague and I traveled to Eglin AFB  to install and test a latest generation of the system. We had rented a pickup truck for the trip, and stopped by our very small company office to pick up several of the systems and took them out to the base. On the way I turned to my colleague in surprise and said something like this:

“I started my career with this system in 1977  when we had 5 ocean towers in the Gulf of Mexico, a computer system in Carrabelle, about 100 miles to the east, and a complex of large trailers three of which were filled with computers … now – today – we have four systems right here in this pickup, two of which are laptops!”

While working at China Lake, we supported all versions of the Navy and Air Force systems fielded at the time (the decade of the 1990s). They all ran on very expensive multi-processor  mini-computers. At China Lake I often gave tours of the room we referred to as the “museum.” One particular subsystem, the Control & Computation Subsystem (CCS) ,  that we had in that room was a replica of the Nellis AFB  Red Flag system which supported the very large scale missions conducted in the desert North of Las Vegas. The CCS computer system was a 20 computer – shared memory system with something on the order of 20  large refrigerator sized cabinets.  The cost, as I recall, for this system was on the order of $2.5 million dollars, and that did not include the display systems that were scattered throughout the building, another $1 million each.

Now, as we drove onto the base at Eglin, with the back of our pickup truck loaded with 4 systems, we had in each of these laptop and desktop computers … much more user capability and compute power at the cost of perhaps $1,500 each.

And finally but certainly not least: The following are just some of the many people who have contributed to this fine system as I can remember them, going back into the early 1970s – Since I was a software developer on these systems since 1976, most of the names will be from that arena. However, there are so many other names from other areas such as hardware, and I would encourage some of the old timers to add their names as well.
Undoubtedly I will leave off some names, and I apologize and invite someone to add more names to this list.

So let’s begin:
Walter Zable (Founder and lifelong President & CEO of Cubic), Cronkhite, Minton B (Bruce), Bob Fulford; Ed Legerton; Dave Danell; Tom Reese; Fred Small, Steve Sampson, John Beckstom, Roland VanDruff, Dick  Koch, Walt Davis; Rob Law; Don Jacobs; Sally Poor; Chuck Whitney; Don Johnson; Karen Griglac; John Thomas, Rich Smith; Jim Parsons; Larry Williams; Tom Bain; Darrell Smith; Gordon Ritchie; Tom Markle; Ted Clowes; Theresa Clowes; Val Carr; Randy Smith; Mike Dayton; Rusty Dawes; John Phillips; John Hill; Frank (The Wizard) Oswald, Gene Snodgrass; Mike Ilku; Chuck Boornazian; Dave Bansack; Ron VanderGriend; Rick Vandergriend; Jackie Vandergriend; Judy Rees, Barry Moore; Blake Etem; John Towers; Jesse Dolan; Doug Lee; Lou Lopez; Mike Brindley; Dave Lee; Mary Jane Pack; Eric Loos; Al Gramp; John Dill; Bruce Jones; Tim Cockerham; Matt Evans; Lisa Evans; Earl Furman; Naomi Norris; Bob Moore;  Jim Dossette; TR Swartz; Fred Lord, Wayne Newton,  Don Knight, Tom Pekar, Sam Whitt, Bill Norris
… My heavens, my brain hurts and I must take a break, but feel free to jump in and add names.

And don’t forget the many industrial partners who invented the technologies used to develop this remarkable system … not the least of these is Bill Gates and Microsoft whose operating systems we ultimately  settled on.

Hope you enjoyed this travel down technologies memory lane.

Don Johnson – March 2015

What Design Looks Like: An NCSE Document – with comments by Don Johnson

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In my year long back and forth with the folks at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) I have been made aware of an NCSE document titled “What Design Looks Like.” I have taken a look at this document and offer below my critique of it. Before reading my critique, however, I recommend you read the original at the link just below. 

Original document at: What Design Looks Like | NCSE by Mark Isaak

Keep in mind, that the NCSE document was written by an author with a Naturalist/Materialist world view.  It also seems difficult to find Mr. Isaak’s credentials, so I don’t know anything about the man other that what he writes here:

Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all phenomena, including mental phenomena and consciousness, are the result of material interactions.

Naturalism is “the philosophical belief that everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.”[1] Adherents of naturalism (i.e., naturalists) assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural universe, that the changing universe at every stage is a product of these laws.

In other words:

Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[3][4][5] Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist.[4][5][6][7] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[8][9] which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

The Old Testament writer of Ecclesiastes might phrase it as follows:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.
(Chapter 1 Verses 1-4):

So let us commence with the critique.

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[Comments below by Don Johnson DLJ Sept/Oct/Nov 2014]

You know, people think it must all be very easy, creating.
They think you just have to move on the face of the waters and wave your hands a bit. It’s not like that at all. —Terry Pratchett, Eric

“Life looks designed” is a common refrain among a variety of creationists. The claim is intuitively appealing because we have experience with design. For most people, that is the only way they know for making a functional machine. Since design is the only explanation they can imagine, they naturally consider it the best explanation. To this extent, “looks designed” is just an argument from ignorance. But many creationists further claim that this appearance of design is objective, can be (and, some say, has been) demonstrated scientifically, and therefore is suitable for teaching in public schools (for example, Dembski 2001a). The little evidence they present, though, is maddeningly vague. In most cases, the supposed evidence for design consists simply of pointing to various examples from natural history and saying, “Look, can’t you see it?” Typically, this is accompanied by the usual creationist attacks on evolution and the claim, implicit or explicit, that design is the only alternative. Often there are vague analogies with human artifacts such as watches or writing, but never with objective standards of comparison. In design theory, “looks designed” has been left to the imagination of the believer.
When done properly, though, the “looks designed” method, or the method of analogy, is an effective method for detecting design. In fact, it is almost always how we recognize design in our daily lives. We learn through direct experience that some things are designed — by seeing the things made — or through testimony of the designers themselves. Most artifacts, though, we recognize as designed because they look like things that we already know are designed.
Analogy is used in science, especially in fields such as archaeology and forensics, to distinguish design from non-design. For example, archaeologists can tell whether a flint was broken deliberately or naturally because flints known to be worked by humans differ from naturally broken flints in features such as fracture angle (Cole and others 1978). SETI researchers, in searching for non-human design, use analogy by assuming human-like properties of extraterrestrials — namely, an interest in communicating and a desire to do so efficiently. And analogy is explicitly accepted, even promoted, by some creationists as a valid method of determining design (Moreland 1994; Thaxton 2001). Analogy to known design should be one way to detect design that evolutionists and creationists can agree upon.
Of course, the analogy method can only provide comparisons with designs produced by humans, since those are the only designs with which we have significant experience.

[DLJ: Then why not give this universal experience a weighted advantage going into the research/investigation – i.e. the benefit of the doubt?]

Other design arguments suffer a fatal weakness: Without knowing anything about a designer, we cannot say anything about what to expect from one (Hume 1779; Sober 2003).

[DLJ: Yet the evolutionist will claim much about a designer which they, by definition can never know anything about … i.e. deep time and natural selection. Further, and again by analogy, I don’t know anything about the designers of my Jeep Liberty, but can easily infer design without such knowledge. Knowing “about” a designer may be very helpful in determining certain aspects of a design, but is irrelevant to discovering and understanding the design in question … software developers charged with making modifications to existing software designs are well aware of this.]

Detecting a certain pattern does not indicate a designer until it can be demonstrated that the designer produces such a pattern, and this task would seem to be impossible when dealing with potentially supernatural designers.

[DLJ: And natural selection can produce such a pattern? Evolution, by definition, is undirected and purposeless  … thus incapable of producing the pattern the evolutionist insists the design advocate produce.]

By assuming at least some commonality between humans and the unknown designer, we can avoid that problem. The analogy argument, despite the weakness of its assumption of human-like designs, is one design argument which leads somewhere other than in circles. To use this method, though, we must first say what design looks like.

[DLJ: This idea of having to know the designer and what to expect of such a designer is quite strange … quite an unnecessary line of argument … and quite wrong. In my career of close to 40 years of software development, often times I was dumped into the midst of a complex design and tasked to make modifications. Whether the modifications were simple or extensive, the first order of business was to learn enough of the design such that the modifications could be made. Even what seemed like a simple change often was quite extensive depending on the underlying design of the code.

On some occasions I knew the designers and actually had some interface and tutelage from them. Other times – the common experience, I had little or no knowledge of the designers and only had the code to guide me. On one occasion, I knew of the designer … by name … but little else. My colleague and I were tasked with making some significant upgrades with only the code base and the computer itself to begin with – this was in 1976, and my colleague and I actually replaced the original designer. We didn’t even know much beyond how to start the computer and run the application, but in fairly short order figured it out, came up to speed on the software base and completed the modifications under budget and ahead of schedule. Again, that was in 1976 and at the time I knew the designer only as a passing acquaintance and received absolutely no help from him. I still know that man and on occasion we talk on the telephone. Knowing Bob then and all these years since had absolutely no bearing one way or another on what was accomplished then and in subsequent years with further modifications and upgrades. The mantra of our boss at the time was “the programs were designed and written by humans … and could be understood by other humans.”

And consider the science fiction idea of a primitive civilization having the same intellectual capacity and curiosity as us humans, but had never been exposed to any modern technology – say a Neanderthal tribe or a tribe living on an exo-planet in a non-existent multi-verse. One day while hunting and gathering, this tribe happens on a display of John Deere farm equipment, some skins filled with seeds and a bunch of Jerry Cans filled with gasoline. There are absolutely no markings of any kind on any of this array of equipment that would indicate where the machines, seeds and gas came from, or who might have made it, or how it was made.

Being of the curious type, some of these primitives started pushing buttons and pulling levers, and lo and behold strange noises came from the machine and it started to move about. But it quickly stopped, and they wondered why. Someone noticed a covered enclosure, and noticed that it smelled just like the Jerry cans … they also noticed that the enclosure was empty. They quickly deduced the aspect of this design confronting them and filled the tank and with a few more button pushes and lever pulls the thing started moving again.

Since the things were at the edge of an empty field, they began experimenting with some of the other things and actually hooked them to the main thing and saw they could make furrows easily and plant the seeds into the ground. Later in the season they noticed that edible food was growing at the ends of these new plants. This led to some more experimentation, and soon they found a thing that would actually pick the food from the plants.

This process eventually led to an exponential growth in the population and great cities and farms formed as a result. Language and writing came about as these primitives desired to preserve their findings for posterity. And all this without any knowledge of who left those machines behind, or how they were made.

Unfortunately, a much larger group of these primitives scoffed at the curious bunch, threatened them and even destroyed some of the progress of the more curious primitives, but over time the scoffers mostly slithered into the wilderness where they faced a continued future of subsistence living and starvation.

These two scenarios, one real and the other fiction, serve to show that knowing a designer is not essential to investigating and understanding the design of an unknown and unseen designer.] 

Determining what design looks like is no trivial matter. A communications satellite, a drainage ditch, OPEC, a mathematical proof, a jelly bean, false teeth, a limerick, the controlled burn of a forest, and shampoo have little in common, but all are designed. Probably no single criterion can ever describe them all. Still, design does have some properties that are fairly general. I examine some of these properties below and consider how they compare with what we see in life. I also consider other properties that creationists claim as indications of design. There are some similarities and some differences between life and design, but as we shall see, even the similarities argue against design as a scientific theory.

[DLJ: Follow the evidence wherever it may lead: This fundamental axiom of discovery is violated in the above introduction to this essay. The author starts out by immediately (a-priori) assuming that what looks like design is, in fact not design; an a-priori position not (yet) supported by any facts or evidence. The author ignores the first evidence he is confronted with – that the  ‘something’  before him appears to be designed. Good practice would seem to say that if something looks designed then it should be approached from that first-principle aspect until shown otherwise. The author has the perhaps designed cart well in front of the designed horse. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it would be good practice to treat it as if it were a duck until you can show it is a horse.]

Structure

Probably the most obvious aspect of designed things is an intermediate level of structural order. Unfortunately, this sort of structure is difficult to characterize quantitatively, but its quality is apparent. Almost all designs have an arrangement that is neither very regular nor very random, but instead is between those extremes. There are exceptions, of course; a brick wall is highly ordered, and a stew is very disordered. Most designs, however, are neither uniform nor random, neither regular nor chaotic. Such an intermediate level of structure arises as a consequence of design. Objects that are too highly ordered are limited in their applications by their simplicity. Objects that are too chaotic are generally more expensive to produce, or their disorder keeps them from fitting and functioning well with other designs.
An intermediate level of structure plainly exists also in life. It is probably the most important characteristic people have in mind when they say that life looks designed. It is related to concepts of information, so it may have inspired some creationist arguments about information theory. Since there is no commonly accepted word for this property, and since it is hard to characterize, it is not surprising that creationist claims about design are vague and ill-formed.

[DLJ: Wow … after reading the preceding paragraph several times, I find it to be  quite vague and ill-formed. It’s not clear if the author is talking here about Structure or Information. I will assume from the context he is talking about information. If so, then I would point out that information is clearly seen in the millions of books in millions of libraries around the world, and that the information recently discovered in DNA as a set of multiple languages, qualifies as a legitimate analogy to the human designed languages.]

Despite the lack of rigorous description, though, we can be fairly confident that having an intermediate level of structure is an important quality shared by both design and life.
This is not enough to conclude that life looks designed, though, because an intermediate level of structure can arise naturally, too. Such structure can be found in molecules, cave formations, the Northern Lights, and Jupiter’s atmosphere, to give just a few examples. Structure arises spontaneously from a variety of processes; in fact, it takes only a couple of seconds for structure to appear in a candle flame. With regard to life, there is evidence that structure not only can arise naturally from ordinary processes, but perhaps should be expected from it (Kauffman 1993; Adami and others 2000).

 [DLJ: The author here ignores the idea of functional specificity in which the suspected design exhibits purposeful design and engineering; for example the capability to play a violin or execute a double play in baseball – or to dive from great heights to capture a fish beneath the water whose actual location is distorted due to the parallax induced at the air-water boundary. Furthermore, the author implies here, and even states … “there is evidence that structure not only can arise naturally from ordinary processes … “ If so, then where is the documentary evidence that life itself; its very beginning, the simplest cells, the multi-cell life forms, the various machines operating within the cells have derived from these ordinary processes?]

Simplicity

An underappreciated aspect of design is simplicity. Although many people associate design with complexity, almost all designs aim for maximum simplicity. (Complexity is another concept whose exact meaning is hard to pin down. As I use it here, greater complexity indicates that something is generally harder to understand; simplicity, of course, is the opposite.) Simplicity is important in design because simple designs are easier to invent, easier to implement, easier to modify, and usually easier to use. A good design is a simple design.

[DLJ: Close, but not quite true … some things, human designed things, are by their very nature complex. For example, a computer operating system, a distributed real-time application such as the Tactical Aircrew Training System (TACTS), a chemical plant, a nuclear aircraft carrier or a telecommunications switching system. A good design can be characterized as one being as simple as practical and allowed by the surrounding complex circumstances.]

Of course, most designs require a certain amount of complexity. A home computer, for example, would not be able to do much if it consisted of nothing more than a solid block of silicon. (Although an advanced civilization could reputedly do a lot with a rectangular black obelisk.) It is in such seemingly complex designs, though, that the principle of simplicity is most important. A computer is actually a fairly simple arrangement of components — CPU, memory, various peripherals, and wires connecting them — with fairly simple interfaces among the components. Each of the components, in turn, is a simple arrangement of sub-components, which may themselves consist of smaller sub-components, and so on until the simplest level is reached. In this way, each component, at whatever level, can be treated as a separate, almost independent unit, making it relatively easy to understand

[DLJ: Makes me wonder if the author has experienced any long term immersive experience in complex design, or do his ideas derive mainly from book learning.].

Without such a simply-connected modular structure, each piece would have the potential to affect any other piece, and considering all the possible interactions would be impractical to say the least.
Simplicity is not what we see in life. Although most life has modular structure — that is, organisms made up of organs made up of cells made up of organelles — the complexity of life is far greater than we see in [DLJ: human caused] design. The individual parts are still very complex, the interfaces between parts are very complex, and individual parts can usually directly affect a large number of other parts. This complexity is compounded by the fact that organisms change a great deal over their lifetimes. After decades of work, biologists have scarcely begun to understand how a human body works, much less how all the various organisms in an ecosystem work and interact

[DLJ , and yet “evolutionists” are ready to pronounce unequivocally that life is not designed? ] .

A good illustration of the complexity of life is the difficulty of designing a drug with no unwanted side-effects. But I need not elaborate; creationists themselves cite complexity as one of the hallmarks of life. Notwithstanding disagreement over its source and significance, the complexity of life is another things that evolutionists and creationists can agree upon.
Although simplicity is a goal, complexity can still enter into design in some ways. One way that complexity enters into design is through the process of modification. If a change is made that renders part of a system obsolete, it is often easier to leave in some or all of the old parts, which then add unnecessary complexity to the design

[DLJ: Very true indeed from my own experience in creating such messes … has the author had such personal experiences?]

Modification also adds complexity when changes are jury-rigged onto the existing structure rather than incorporated into the fundamental design. For example, some fixes to the Y2K bug involved checking the 2-digit year and trying to determine which century was intended, rather than the simpler and more correct, but much harder to do retroactively, fix of using 4-digit years. Such complexity is not necessarily bad design, either, since a frequent requirement of design is to get a working product out quickly, even if it is not as elegant as possible

[DLJ: Again very true indeed from my own experience in creating such messes.]

Such complexity seems to appear in life, too, in the form of vestigial and jury-rigged features such as the appendix and the panda’s thumb. Evolutionists cite these as examples of poor design, which they may be from the standpoint of an omnipotent creator, but they are traits that life shares in common with our experience of design.
In summary, although creationists frequently cite complexity as evidence of design, simplicity would be the real evidence. Complexity can enter design through careless modification, but again such complexity can often be recognized as such, as with jury-rigged or vestigial parts. Besides, such complexity is what we expect from evolution.

[DLJ: This is simply not true! Design, whether human or natural origin, is of necessity complex, but with at least a nod to simplicity. Complexity is introduced by several factors; constraints imposed by the surrounding environment, functional requirements imposed on the objects(s) under investigation, modifications (either careless or otherwise) and other factors such as system security and built in redundancies, diagnostic and/or repair capabilities. To say simplicity would be the real evidence of design indicates the author has minimal real-world – in the trenches – experience in design, engineering and manufacturing. Aspects of complexity in a design must be examined in enough detail before pronouncing them to be “jury-rigged” or vestigial. A good example is the design of the eye, where it has been pronounced by top evolutionist thinkers to have been built backwards with the retina pointing away from the incoming light source. Recent studies have shown that frequency tuned “wave guides” filter and direct specific frequency band slices to the retina. This supposed backwards design thus allows optimal utility of the visual system to operate in the various ambient conditions of light and dark.]

Finally, design can become complex through evolutionary algorithms, which use repeated cycles of reproduction of initially random designs, selection from among them, and slight modifications and recombinations of the results (Davidson 1997). Such a design procedure does not need to minimize complexity because it always treats the design as a whole. The final design is extremely difficult to understand, but there is no need to understand it. The use of such a design method by humans is still in its infancy, but if it becomes widespread, we may then be justified in saying that life’s complexity looks designed. Of course, at that point “designed” and “evolved” become synonyms.

[DLJ: Perhaps better terms and concepts here would be “optimal” and “optimize.” Optimization recognizes that designed things are of necessity complex, and seeks to reduce and simplify the complexity through processes of optimization. Optimization has long been a staple in software development, especially in the earlier days when compute resources were minimal and were fiercely guarded against extravagant and wasteful design and programming – if it didn’t fit, in the space allotted or the time allotted,  you scrambled to find ways to get rid of wasteful/inefficient code or find other means such as overlay partitions in memory that took on multiple roles as needed by the executing program. Computer vendors constantly strive to provide the most efficient optimizing compilers to help guard against overstepping the sometimes very rare memory, disk and time boundaries. Those of us who programmed in the micro-processor, mainframe or mini-computer days understand well these issues. Ironically, with the huge advances in computer technology, these boundaries have largely disappeared, thus opening the door to sloppy and inefficient designs and coding.]

Reproduction

One of the defining features of life is that life reproduces itself. This is very different from [DLJ: human] designed things, which, with very few exceptions, are designed so that their production is separate from their other functions. A separate manufacturing process offers extreme benefits of efficiency for the simple reason that a manufacturing plant does not need to be built into each artifact. The few designed things that do reproduce themselves, such as computer viruses, can do so only because the production process and necessary resources are trivially cheap. And even the self-replicating human designs differ from life in that they do not go through the growth and development that living things experience before they can reproduce.
Let us suppose, along with Paley (1802, ch 2), that someone on a heath found a watch that “possessed the unexpected property of producing, in the course of its movement, another watch like itself.” Paley said, “The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver.” But would it? Such a watch, even with today’s technology, would be far too large to wear. Even if it were small enough, it would still be far larger than necessary. What’s more, the watch would need some way of obtaining raw materials, which would mean either the watch leaves its owner from time to time, or it manipulates its owner to bring it and the materials together. We could certainly admire the consummate skill of the contriver, but our admiration of the contrivance would be severely mitigated by the unnecessary impositions that reproduction would require. Reproduction may find some uses in design; for example, a self-reproducing factory for ordinary watches could conceivably produce an endless supply of useful watches with little requirement for labor. However, there is also a demand for non-reproductive manufacturing of designed items. Almost all designs that people are familiar with today would be useless if they had to include the capability of reproduction.
Repair of designed objects also has to come from the outside. The same economies that keep reproduction out of design also prohibit self-repair. Life forms, in contrast, include the ability to repair minor and in some cases extreme damage. This difference between life and design is so familiar that I need not go into further detail.

[DLJ: This discussion on reproduction seems a bit off target and largely irrelevant – perhaps a straw man. For example, the hen producing eggs and thus food and more chickens for the frying pan seems quite efficient and indeed very compact and portable. The author seems to be looking for a problem where none exists. And, our own self-healing skin is very compact, efficient, self-reproducing and portable. Simply because humans have not yet discovered how to duplicate natures ability for reproduction says very little about design one way or another.

There is no basis to assume that reproduction either can or cannot proceed from either inside or outside of the design under investigation.]

Form and Function

Another aspect of design is that form tends to follow function. A designer looking for a component to perform a particular function will, when possible, use an existing design rather than inventing a new one. When a useful innovation is introduced, it quickly gets applied to a wide variety of uses. This leads to the property that similar parts fulfill a common function even on very different products. For example, zippers of essentially the same design are found on clothing, tents, luggage, and other things. The same basic engine design can be found on motorcycles, motor boats, and lawnmowers. Some parts, such as screws, resistors, and software libraries, are even standardized so as to make it easy to use them in a wide variety of applications.
Life, in contrast, shows much less connection between form and function.

[DLJ: Beg to differ here. Life may show ‘much less connection between form and function’, but it does indeed show form following function … so the ‘in contrast’ assertion is greatly overstated. “Form follows function” means that the form of a body part or structure is related to its function. The form or shape of a structure within an organism is correlated to the purpose or function of that structure. For example, a bird’s wing and a human arm are homologous structures and have the same bones, yet are differently modified to serve different functions.”   In the preceding snippet, the presumed function is flight vs. the various functions of the arm such as throwing a baseball; however, if we look at ‘function’ a bit differently such as the function of providing ‘leverage’  and ‘propulsion’ to a downstream end-function such as flying or playing the violin, or flying an airplane, we see that the common design between an human arm and a birds wing accomplish the same function. The phrase ‘form follows function’ seems to have originated in the design world of architecture, so it’s use here to undergird Darwinian evolution has the appearance of smokescreen or straw man argumentation …  adds little but confusion to the discussion of design. The argument of the Creationist of ‘common design’ fits much more nicely in such discussion of form and function. ]

Different taxa achieve similar functions with very different forms. For example, bats, birds, insects, and pterosaurs all have quite different wing anatomies. In different groups of insects, various forms of hearing organs are found in at least 11 different places on the body (Yack and Fullard 1993; Hoy and Robert 1996). And similar forms in life do not imply similar function. A human hand, a bat’s wing, a mole’s paw, a dog’s paw, and a whale’s flipper all have the same basic bone structure, despite their different functions of grasping, flying, digging, running, and swimming.

[DLJ:  See my comment immediately above.]

This difference between life and design is most apparent in the fact that life arranges naturally into a nested hierarchy, but design does not. With life forms, taxa defined by major features fall either entirely inside or entirely outside other taxa. This property led to the familiar hierarchical classification begun by Linnaeus. The hierarchy is not perfect, but it is a natural hierarchy in that there are enough common traits to make most of the groupings obvious. With designed things, on the other hand, overlap is the norm. Although it is possible to form a nested hierarchy of designed things (indeed, it is possible to arrange any set of different objects in a nested hierarchy), there is no natural nested hierarchy. Consider sports, for example. There are lots of different features one could consider in classifying various sports: team sports, sports played on a rectangular field, sports played with a ball, and so on. However one classifies them, though, the groups overlap. The category of sports itself overlaps with other categories such as combat, art, and fitness. No obvious classification scheme presents itself. In fact, the only classification scheme that is commonly used with designed things generally is alphabetical order.

Trial and Error

Creationists seem to think of design as a single event that is done quickly and is over with. Even those creationists who see creation spread over time seem to envision many individual creation events. Real design, however, is a process. Designs are rarely completed in one attempt. They must be tested and modified to account for unforeseen consequences. Testing is done at many stages, from the first conception to field tests of the final product. Entire industries are devoted to the testing of structures, vehicles, computer systems, and other designs. All of these tests (if they are effective) result in information that guides the subsequent design. Furthermore, designers draw upon the experience of previous designers. When an architect designs a simple bridge or building, the process may seem straightforward, but that design is based on an education that comes from literally centuries of trial and error by earlier architects and builders (Petroski 1982).
This last point raises another observable property of design. Because designs are so often built upon previous designs, designs evolve over time, with new designs appearing as modifications of previous ones. This, of course, is also a property of life, as the fossil record shows. However, because people can intelligently combine a wide variety of innovations and other features, designs can change rapidly over time. Very few human designs have been around for more than a few thousand years, and most do not last nearly that long. Furthermore, the more complex designs are generally the shorter-lived. Although life changes over time, it does not do so nearly as fast as we see in human-driven modifications in design.

[DLJ: It is here in these paragraphs that we reach the heart of the matter, and it is here that I also will invoke, as Mr. Isaak does …  theology. In this section on Trial and Error, Mr. Isaak actually does a very good job in describing design- what he calls ‘real design.’  However, the design methodologies and activities he describes, although accurate, reflect design activities of human designed systems only, and do not necessarily reflect what the design methodologies of a transcendent designer (e.g. the God of the Bible) might be.  You may object, and claim Materialism/Naturalism/Atheism is not a theological stance, but given the very ideological faith positions I point out at the beginning of this critique,  the positions taken by Mr. Isaak appear to be very theistic and stake out a strong position that no such thing as a designer (i.e. the God of the Bible) exists. The arguments given take great pains to assure that ‘a divine foot not get in the door.’

So at this point I will bring into the discussion a few scriptural references from the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible (note that the Christian Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible are the same, but differ in the order of the books of the cannons used in each collection.)

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.   (Ecclesiastes  1 Verses 1-4)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”   (Isaiah 55Verses 8-9)

These verses are among others that set the stage for a world view that allows for a duality of domains: a domain ‘under the sun’ and another beyond that boundary of ‘under the sun.’

These verses do not, and are not used, to prove or disprove anything ‘under the sun’ (i.e. science), but serve to establish the playing field upon which discovery can proceed and science practiced. It is on this expanded playing field that the great founders of modern science played … a field they believed was created as an ordered, rational and discoverable world and a universe in which they could pursue the designs and creations of a designer, namely the God as described in the pages of the Bible.

So this is the theological basis and foundation of a world view that stands in marked contrast with the theological (i.e. religious) world view of Mr. Isaak and others of his persuasion.

But there is a logical horn to this dilemma as well … a dilemma that ultimately pushes each position into a corner of faith. There is a corner where people of Biblical faith line up behind “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … “  On the other hand  … the other faith corner where Mr. Isaak resides is a corner of great faith where he must rely on unsubstantiated statements of faith such as:

“tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars, and ultimately human life emerged” Stephen Hawking

“”The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”  Carl Sagan

Statements such as Sagan’s and other Atheists exhibit a great deal of intentional arrogance, and indeed place him in that place where only someone who is indeed beyond time and space and can see the entire picture … from beginning to end … from top to bottom … from inside to outside … can occupy.  To usurp that place is nothing more than an act of of arrogance that no human can rightfully occupy and claim to be rational. So Mr. Isaak’s descriptions of design when it comes to natural systems and machines are without merit or logical basis when he ventures beyond his domain ‘under the sun’ … it boils down to a faith issue same as mine.

Faith as it applies to Darwinian evolution often gets boiled down to the idea of “deep time” plus natural selection:

To understand evolution, humans must think in much larger units of time than those we use to define our lives. After all, evolutionary change isn’t apparent in days, months, or years. Instead, it’s documented in layers and layers of rock deposited over 4.6 billion years.

The stretch of geologic history is commonly referred to as “deep time,” and it’s a concept perhaps as difficult to conceive as deep space. Can humans measure deep time? Yes. Will we ever truly comprehend such immensity of time? Probably not. But to develop a better understanding of evolutionary change in its proper historical context, we must try. This timeline provides a framework for doing so.

Earth has been significantly altered over its 4.6-billion-year history by climate swings, volcanism, drifting continents, [DLJ: extensive flooding … ] and more. These dynamic conditions, in turn, have influenced every living thing that has inhabited the planet. Clearly, Earth is more than just an inanimate, unchanging ball of rock.

As much as evolution is about life and its many forms, biology alone cannot fully explain it. By integrating the physical sciences, which include geology, chemistry, and physics, into our study of life on Earth, we can better understand the conditions in which life has evolved.”

So the key to evolution then is ‘deep time’ the idea that given enough time and enough opportunities, anything, and especially evolution can happen.

So this is the faith of the evolutionist … hidden in deep time, an exotic sounding phrase yet signifying nothing. Defining the age of the earth in years, centuries, millions, billions or even trillions of years has little to do with the rise of life, its development  and its diversity. We can measure the length and breadth of the football or soccer field, but that tells us nothing of the grass growing within its boundaries or the multitudes of insects, worms, bacteria and other life contained therein – where did they come from and how do they survive and replicate within the boundaries of the field? Two separate issues that by definition must be contorted and conflated together (but then I am redundant) in order to explain evolution. DLJ: end] 

Purpose and Function

Creationists often claim that purpose indicates design. But purpose is hard to specify without knowing the designer, and it is often conflated with function. Purpose, as I use it here, is what someone intends a thing to be used for; function is what the thing actually does. The intent is useless for determining design, because it can be whatever anyone proposes, and the same object can, and often does, have different purposes for different people. Purposes often conflict. For example, a lynx’s purpose for a rabbit is likely quite different from that of the rabbit itself. Undesigned things often have purpose. For example, a stone need not be designed for people to give it a purpose as a pounding stone. The designer of an object can design a purpose into it, but others can find their own uses, as any MacGyver rerun shows.
Function also fails to indicate design for many of the same reasons. People can find functions other than what the designer intended. And functions can change in a heartbeat, as when the muscles of the fleeing rabbit become food for the lynx. Most importantly, undesigned things can have function — in fact, we expect function to evolve (see below). In short, purpose and function are too variable and subjective, and do not discriminate designed items from undesigned items.

[DLJ: “People can find functions other than what the designer intended. Could it be that the intention of the designer is to allow a wide range of function? Functions such as an arm that can – play a violin – throw a football – cradle a baby – pen a musical or literary masterpiece – train a telescope towards a distant planet – scratch an itch – repair a failed heart? The author here demonstrates a shallow and superficial “2 bit” attempt to counter actual design in nature … a quarter of a mile wide and a quarter of an inch deep.]

Complexity-Specification

Dembski proposes to recognize some design through a property he calls complexity-specification. If a pattern is highly improbable and yet matches a specification that was given beforehand, then that pattern has complexity-specification and, he says, must have been designed (Dembski 1999). For example, if I deal a hand of 13 cards that exactly matches an example bridge hand you saw in the newspaper that morning, you can be confident the deal was designed to come out that way. To detect this sort of design, Dembski proposes an “explanatory filter” which, if it rules out regularity (natural law) and chance, finds design as the only alternative (Dembski 1998). But because complexity-specification is defined simply as the lack of known causes, it is nothing more than an argument from ignorance given formal mathematical form. It does not say a thing about the properties of design.
However, it is instructive to consider complexity-specification at greater length anyway. Specification means matching something that was given elsewhere. Complexity (in Dembski’s unorthodox usage) simply means unlikelihood of occurring by chance in its observed configuration. By these definitions, patterns of complex specification can be produced naturally, too, with chance providing complexity and regularity acting selectively to reduce it. Evolution proceeds in large part by random mutations causing variation and natural selection winnowing that variation according to constraints of the environment. The mutations produce a form of complexity, and natural selection acts as a specifier. Since evolution includes complexity (mutations) plus specification (selection), it is only to be expected that evolution would produce complexity-specification in evolved life.
[DLJ: I may be reading this wrong, but the author here seems to be describing how evolution has produced complicated and specified life forms … a convoluted description, but at least an attempt at describing/defining the natural design process. But what I see here is a form of backfilling that substitutes imaginations and wishful thinking for an actual documented and proven process.]
It is because Dembski’s filter fails to consider this combination of regularity and chance acting together that it will inevitably group together the products of evolution with design. Dembski claims that natural selection cannot create complexity-specification, but he only argues against the straw-man of creating it de novo. Even he admits that natural selection can bring the specification in from the environment (Dembski 2001b). And this, after all, is what natural selection is all about.
Actually detecting the results of specification, though, can be a tricky business. Ideally, we conclude specification when an observation matches a complex pattern that was given earlier. This does not work, though, when the observation comes before we know what we are supposed to match it with. In such cases, the “specification” comes from finding a pattern in part of the object and seeing the same pattern carry through the rest of the object. (This is the general procedure that Dembski suggests. To the best of my knowledge, he has never provided a way of detecting complexity-specification in life that is objective and practical enough for two people to get the same results.) In other words, complexity-specification implies, in practice, some amount of regularity, but not so much that the word “complex” no longer applies. This just describes the intermediate level of structure discussed in a previous section. And since this property originates via both natural processes and design, it cannot be used to distinguish between them.

[DLJ: I find it curious that all of this supposed design process attributed to evolution seems to be hidden in “deep time.” Somewhere – sometime – somehow, the first life came from non-life … somewhere – sometime – some how,  the first single cell life emerged with all of its necessary complexity and function  … somewhere – sometime – somehow, the first multi-cellular life was formed … somewhere – sometime – somehow, the first functionally complete and viable fish was formed … somewhere – sometime – somehow, the first land dwelling mammal was formed …  somewhere – sometime – somehow, the first DNA molecule was formed … somewhere – sometime – somehow, the first cellular motors such as the Kinesin  Motor were formed …  somewhere – sometime – somehow, the common ancestor to humans was formed, although we are not presented with an abundance of credible physical evidence to show that ancestor.

On the other hand, in all of recorded history (say 6000 years) we would be hard pressed to fine any credible and documented evidence of the various movements of nature on the earth – volcanoes, earthquakes, mud slides, rock slides, floods, fires, meteor landings etc. – events that certainly produce plenty of random changes to the environment … none of these event, taken singularly or in total has ever produced even a simple structure such as a dog house.  It just hasn’t happened … nor do we expect it will.]

Functional Integration

Another property that has been taken to indicate design is functional integration, or multiple parts working together to produce a particular function or end (Lumsden, quoted in Alters 1995). This property seems intuitively appealing because much design consists of assembling parts to create a particular function. But functional integration may be claimed even when origins are known to be natural. For example, the climate of the Mississippi Basin is determined by the Rocky Mountains, the Gulf of Mexico, trade winds, and other factors. Since the climate is a functional end (it allows an ecology suitable for certain organisms) produced by multiple factors, it fits the definition of functional integration. And in fact this example was used as an argument for design by the 19th-century creationist George Taylor (Morton 2001). Obviously, though, any arrangement of physical factors, whether designed or not, is going to create some kind of climate. Since functional integration arises from non-design, it cannot reliably indicate design.
It may still be argued that functional integration that arises naturally is not necessarily very functional (the inland Antarctic climate is not terribly hospitable) or very integrated (we do not often think of trade winds, mountains, and a gulf as a single unit). Again, however, functional integration is a quality of evolution as well as of design. Evolution cannot proceed without units to reproduce. “Unit” already implies some integration, and reproduction is itself a function. Furthermore, survival entails many additional functions such as finding food and escaping predators. Natural selection would ensure that such functionality and integration are maintained. So functional integration indicates evolution at least as much as it indicates design.

[DLJ: So how did a fully functional and integrated Derek Jeter, Michael Jordon or Richard Dawkins come to be?]

Fine Tuning

Although it applies not to life but to the universe around it, the fine-tuning argument for design deserves some consideration here. This argument claims that many physical constants and other features of the universe fall in the only narrow range that would allow life to be possible — so many features, in fact, that the combination could not be explained by chance and must be designed (Barrow and Tipler 1986; Ross 1994). Others have shown the problems with this argument (Le Poidevin 1996; Stenger 1997). Of interest here is a prior question, namely whether fine-tuning indicates design in the first place.
Fine-tuning is an aspect of design, of course; the term even comes from engineering. Designing components to mesh well with other components or with the outside environment is a common necessity. However, designers are not entirely stupid. When they fine-tune, they tune the parts that are easy to change. If parts are added later that have not been built yet, they fit the new parts to the existing design, making the fine-tuning of the new parts part of designing them. Fine-tuning is done to malleable parts and parts that come later.
This is very different from the fine-tuning argument from “intelligent design theorists”. The physical constants of the universe, to all appearances, are not easily changeable, if they are changeable at all. Life, on the other hand, is extremely adaptable. Furthermore, life appeared much later than the universe and exists in only a minuscule fraction of it. The universe we see is compatible with a universe designed in fine detail to support life as we know it (design theory is compatible with anything), but an argument based on analogy to design would claim that life is fine-tuned to the universe, not vice versa. The claim that the universe was fine-tuned for life is the very opposite of a design argument.

Conclusions

Table 1 ( p 34) shows a summary of the similarities and differences between life and design. Although there are a number of similarities, the differences are large and important. In particular, life’s growth and reproduction alone are enough, it seems to me, to place life and design in quite separate categories. Life’s complexity and its nested hierarchy of traits are also highly significant differences. The overall conclusion is clear: life looks undesigned.

It bears repeating that the properties of design that I have considered are properties of human design, and they do not necessarily apply to a supernatural designer. However, human design is the only model of design we have by which to tell what design looks like, to the extent that design can be said to look like anything. If it does not look like this, it does not look designed.
The reader has probably realized by now that most of the aspects evidences of life that look designed may also be are also illusions of evidence of its evolution. In the cases of evidence of careless modification and change over time, the connection is explicit.

[DLJ: Here I am going to have to turn a favorite phrase of evolutionists back at them – “Evolution is the study of complicated things that, among other things, give the appearance or illusion of careless modification, thereby negating any concept of design” Thus, like a Richard Dawkins, we can a-priori begin with the premise that appearances can be deceiving and that with further examination we may find that what looks like careless modification, in actuality is an efficient, even elegant design (e.g. the backwards design of the eye).] ,

An intermediate level of structural complexity probably arises from the selection and recombination inherent in evolution, but note that “probably arises … “ is a far cry from established irrefutable fact, and is simply wishful thinking. Functional integration is not necessarily evidence for evolution but is an essential aspect of it. Modular structure is the only other aspect that design has in common with life that is not also evidence for evolution, but it is at least consistent with evolution. Even fine-tuning argues for life’s changing to fit the environment.
To the extent that life looks designed, life looks evolved. This should not come as a great surprise, because the process of design and the process of evolution share some important commonalities (see also Shanks and Joplin 2000). Both processes build upon what has gone before, and both processes select the “good” features and discard what does not work. There are also important differences, to be sure, but the similarities in process should not be overlooked.
Creationists have been criticized for their misrepresentations of biology and other sciences. Their representation of design is no less faulty. They consider complexity to be a hallmark of design, while simplicity is typically the designer’s aim. They believe that design and chance are mutually exclusive, whereas trial and error is sometimes used in design and, in the long run, is an inevitable and invaluable part of it. Finally, they treat design as an event, when in fact it is a process — a process that itself can be designed. Such misconceptions not only make for flawed theology, they cannot be good for engineering practices, either.
In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that “intelligent design theory” is not about design at all. Since most of the people who espouse it seem to view the design as a sudden all-at-once event, their model (not surprisingly) seems to be that of the fiat creation described in the Bible and Koran, not the extended process that familiar design entails. If creationists want to describe a different mechanism than design, they should use a different label for it. I suggest “decree”, which has the advantage of fitting the theological position that underlies their ideas.
In both science and engineering, precise specifications are important. Two hundred years have passed since Paley popularized “intelligent design theory” (Paley 1802), and creationists have not yet satisfactorily clarified what they mean by “design”, much less suggested useful tests for detecting it. At best, “intelligent design theory” is undefined and thus wholly useless. At worst, taking the phrase “looks designed” at face value as indicating analogy to human design, “intelligent design theory” is contradicted by the evidence.

[DLJ: “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” (Dawkins 1986, 6).I’ve long believed that a required part of obtaining a PhD in Evolutionary Biology is for the candidate to have spent at least two years totally and personally immersed in the maintenance, not design,  of a very complicated system such as a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, with its associated aircraft; a large chemical plant; or a complex, real-time and distributed software based system. In this way, the newly created PhD will have a hands on appreciation of what design really is.  I’m afraid too many such as Dawkins spend a lifetime, and a career drinking their own bathwater … and worse, they pass it on to future generations. They are provided with a cover story as Dawkins states above, and they smother any dissention from the party line, most commonly with ridicule and name calling … and career ending ‘tow the line or else’ threatenings.

This NCSE study of “design” has all the earmarks of having been written in an academic  vacuum with little real-world design experience exhibited.  ]

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About the Author(s): 

Mark Isaak
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley, CA 94709-0477

Don Johnson – March 2015

Halsey’s Typhoon

I’ve just finished reading two remarkable books about the tragic WW-II encounter of the US Navy 3’rd fleet with the Pacific Typhoon Cobra. The fleet was operating in support of the US Army liberation of the Philippines, and was on its way back in  for further action against the Japanese defenses when it encountered this huge and destructive storm. In those days, there were precious few warnings of such storms in the vast open spaces of the Pacific Ocean, and the fleet was for the most part blindsided by the storm.  

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/down-to-the-sea-bruce-henderson/1101911799?ean=9780061173172

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/halseys-typhoon-bob-drury/1100378215?ean=9780802143372

 

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I was prompted to read about this episode when I met a fellow at the VA hospital  the other day – wish I could remember his name, but he was on the USS Langley, pictured above, one of the many ships of Admiral Halsey’s 3’rd Fleet who found themselves in the midst of the huge and ferocious  typhoon Cobra east of the Philippines in December 1944. This fellow was a spry 90 years old and related to me some of his remembrances of that time … this sailor was an aviation support crew member and talked of how they lashed all the planes down as best they could and made it through the storm with no loss of aircraft. Other carriers were not so fortunate and many planes were lost as they broke loose in the hanger decks and caused much aircraft and ship damage.

          ______________________________

 

Below are some graphics on the path of the storm and a radar picture of Cobra.

29813d1344954341-destroyers-fletcher-class-typhoon_cobra_mapthyphoon Cobra

 

Three ships were lost to the sea, and 792 sailors on those ships never returned home.

USS Spence typhoon Cobra

USS Hull USS Hull

USS Monaghan USS Monaghan

 

Another small ship the USS Tabberer (pictured below), badly damaged and having lost its mast and thus all communication capability, nevertheless rescued  55 officers and men from both the Hull and Spence … and this in the midst of Cobra. In total 92 men were rescued  by other ships of the fleet. USS Tabberer

Below are additional pictures of ships in foul weather:

25Halsey-Powell-1958-Cruise-Book-Page-33-wavesRefueling 

Some of those rescued:

Rescued Hull saiilorsTyphoon rescue

And the message mom and dad dreaded receiving: Telegram

I personally know some of the sailors that were part of that ill-fated 3’rd fleet on board the USS Porterfield DD-682, the ship I served on in 1965-66. You can see them by clicking on the link to my book below.

http://www.blurb.com/b/5883759-i-didn-t-want-to-worry-you-mom?class=book-title

I talked to one of those sailors the other day … Gene Beckstrom …  who remembers quite well his time in that storm and his concern that the ship was going over and down. Gene, along with Sam Thomas and the others, worked down below in the fire rooms and engine rooms and doubtless would have gone down with the ship had it capsized as did the three others.

I’ve been in some pretty rough seas on the Porterfield, and later on the reserve ship USS Shields DD-596, but never in my wildest imaginations had I ever considered how much worse it could have been. I considered the rough seas exhilarating and exciting  … little did I know how close to the end of a good life I might have been.

An interesting fact is that future US President Gerald Ford, a pilot, was on one of those 3’rd fleet carriers, the USS Monterey,  and came very close to being washed overboard.   Ford is the jumper on the left. 330px-Gerald_Ford_playing_basketball_on_USS_Monterey_06-1944-Darkened_Larger

Don Johnson – March 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu–The Speech

Watch/listen to “The Speech” here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRf1cdw4IAY

My first reactions to “The Speech”

  • It was the speech that should have been given by an American president … and I believe most previous presidents would have given such a speech.
  • An American president should have been present  … seated with the Speaker of the House in place of the Vice President. Again, I believe most previous presidents would have been there.
  • Before “The Speech” I thought …  this will turn out to be one of the most important events of this century – for good or ill, and I hope for good. After”The Speech” that thought was confirmed in my mind.
  • Why should any American (this American in particular) have any doubts as to where the American President stands … with Israel or with Iran? I do have those doubts, based on his actions and words towards Iran and towards Israel.

Then I read the transcript of the Rush Limbaugh program “Netanyahu Is Everything Obama Is Not” at: http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2015/03/03/netanyahu_is_everything_obama_is_not and read these words

“ … Nothing focuses the mind and heart like moral, ethical, and legal clarity.  And today in the House of Representatives chamber at the United States Capitol, the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave an historically important speech. A speech that any previous American president could have and maybe would have made, a speech to rally and save Western civilization.  … “ (emphasis mine)

 

Don Johnson – March 2015

HITLER': Finds Out About Brian Williams

 

http://clashdaily.com/2015/02/hitler-finds-brian-williams/

image

Presidential Trust

When I was growing up … and I assume many of you have similar recollections … honesty and integrity were an emphasis in our education. I am speaking here of honesty and integrity at the highest levels of our government – namely the President. I remember the stories of “Honest Abe” and George Washington of “ I cannot tell a lie.” This was in the 1950s and early 1960s. These Presidents, our most respected and revered at the time, were noted for their honesty and integrity. Being human, they undoubtedly fell short of the praise heaped on them … but the emphasis being passed on to students of that day was that honesty and integrity were very important. Funny how I remember this even now, and even though I was not a stellar student.

Times have changed … and times have changed radically since those days of the 50s and early 60s. Times have changed and now we have a significant portion of our nation who no longer value honesty and integrity. Our voters have twice elected a man to the Presidency who is profoundly dishonest (dictionary definition is: “deeply or extremely”) – and we elect people like Nancy Pelosi who support that dishonesty and in fact practice it themselves. The many lies of Barack Hussein Obama, on so many occasions and on so many issues, leads me to believe that speaking the lie is his native language.

Much damage is done to a civilization when leadership acts in this manner. The greatest damage is to trust. We have a President (and a major political party) who simply cannot be trusted. This damage to trust covers a wide swath:

– on the foreign policy scene, the US loses the trust of allies who no longer can count on the word or actions of the US.  Enemies cannot be faced with the certainty of an America standing up against  whatever mischief or aggression thrust against it or its allies. A classic case in point is Israel and Iran. Israel is and has been a trusted ally in a very dangerous part of the world. On many occasions (I believe the number is 6)  the surrounding  Arab/Muslim nations have gone to wars of total annihilation against Israel – this following the Nazi genocide of the 30s and 40s which killed 6 million Jews and resulted in the formation of the modern nation of Israel. Now we have Iran, with the active encouragement/appeasement of our President, developing deliverable nuclear weapons which, according to their own words will be used to complete the genocide of the Jews. The trust of the US on the part of our ally Israel is being squandered and destroyed, all under an umbrella of  lies emanating from our President. The confidence of an enemy at the same time is being built up by those same lies … confidence that the US will do nothing to prevent the destruction of Israel.

Then there is the troubling case of Yemen. This past September – that would be just prior to the following November elections – President Obama held up Yemen as a poster child of his “successful” counter terrorism strategy. And as seen in recent weeks, Iranian backed rebels, otherwise known as Islamic terrorist Houthis toppled the government and reportedly took over diplomatic vehicles as American personnel fled the country.

In southern Yemen, al Qaeda fighters took over a Yemeni government military base. Yemeni military officials say al-Qaida militants have seized control of an important army base in the south following clashes with soldiers. The officials say at least four troops and four militants died in the fighting and that at least 15 soldiers were taken hostage. The base is home to Yemen’s 19th Infantry Brigade and is located in the Baihan area in southern Shabwa province.

My mind goes back to reports that the the President has skipped about half of his daily Intelligent Briefings on both his first and second terms.  Here’s where the issue of Presidential Trust come into play … if these reports reflect reality, can this Commander in Chief be trusted to know what in the world is going on around him? Can he be trusted to make informed decisions? Is his continual mode of non-stop campaigning and spending inordinate amounts of time on Air Force 1 to and from Presidential appearances …  is it fair to assume that he is spending precious little time on important national defense issues? Is this a priority of his …  and does he care?

– On the domestic scene we have the massive and continual lies of the “Affordable Care Act” as the primary witness to the profound dishonesty and lack of integrity of Barack Hussein Obama – speaking in his native language. “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor …” – “If you like your health care plan you can keep your plan …” “The average American will save $2,500 per year in health care … .”

The many serial scandals (IRS, VA, Secret Service, GSA, Fast & Furious, Benghazi,  etc. …. etc.) across the administration seals the indictment in my view. Trust is simply not there … integrity is gone.

We had a serious economic meltdown in 2008 when the many hollow sub-prime mortgages came home to haunt banks, and when companies like Lehman Brothers failed. And why did they fail?  Unsustainable debt in the form of those sub-prime mortgages. And what was the national debt in those heady days of 2008?  … $9-$10 trillion dollars as I recall. What is it now?  On the order of $18 trillion. Our government … headed by Barack Obama has done nothing to address this out of control national debt … nor has Congress. If the huge debt held by bankers and mortgage lenders precipitated an economic collapse in 2008, what makes you think a soon to be national debt of $20 trillion dollars will not cause a much more sever collapse at some point in the future (try September 11, 2015 as a prediction for such a collapse … the Shemitah.)

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said on many occasions that our national debt was the most serious national security threat we face as a nation. Why is this true? Because just when we need it most, as in the case of a serious national security crisis (war such as may be caused when Iran gains deliverable nuclear weapons), our economy will not be able to ramp up the resources to counter such a threat.

Our national debt is what it is because of a betrayal of fiscal and economic trust on the part of our federal leadership.

What happens to a civilization when trust and integrity are no longer factors in leadership … when trust and integrity is no longer factors in citizens selecting leadership?

Why does the air pressure in a football cause us to question the honesty of a football team? … why is the honesty of an NBC news anchor all of a sudden a big issue? …  but the moral vacuum of a president earns just a yawn as we reach for that next beer and handful of chips?

Rush Limbaugh frames it well when he asks – Why Do We Demand More Integrity from the News Anchor Than the People He Reports On? (Search for this in http://www.Rushlimbaugh.com archives of Feb 11,2015)

Is there a George Washington or Abraham Lincoln on the American leadership horizon?

And what goes on in that big beautiful Presidential jet?

Don Johnson – February 2015

The Crusades and Todays Islamic Push for Domination

I ran across this article the other day about the Crusades, and was astounded by what it said.

http://www.clayjones.net/2014/04/the-truth-about-the-crusades/

Read this snippet from 11’th Century Pope Urban II written in 1095 which authorized the First Crusade:

invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; it has led away a part of the captives into its own country, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures; it has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion. They destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanness. They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake; then with flogging they lead the victim around until the viscera having gushed forth the victim falls prostrate upon the ground. Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent. The kingdom of the Greeks is now dismembered by them and deprived of territory so vast in extent that it can not be traversed in a march of two months. On whom therefore is the labor of avenging these wrongs and of recovering this territory incumbent, if not upon you? You, upon whom above other nations God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great courage, bodily activity, and strength to humble the hairy scalp of those who resist you.

Reading these words from 1095 is very much like reading the pages of todays news. The parallels are astounding … and indeed frightening.

Current American leadership is unable and unwilling  to speak the truths that prompted Pope Urban II to action against the then existential threat of Islam as it spread its evil throughout the Middle east and North Africa and into Spain and the Balkans, and was threatening the core of Europe and what was then called Christendom – the basis of Western Civilization.  And no, I don’t qualify Islam with the prefix “radical”  – as Atheistic Communism and Fascism was the plague of the 20th  century – Islam is … as it was in Urban’s day …  the plague of the 21’st Century.

The Islamic attacks on American embassies in Africa – the attack on the USS Cole – the genocidal Islamic Arab/Muslim wars against Israel and the Jews – the September 11,2001 attacks on the US homeland prompted a courageous American President George W. Bush to react much as did Urban II did in 1095. Bush’s reaction took the battle to a part of the source of the evil – to Afghanistan and Iraq. Eleventh century Europe was threatened by the invading and conquering armies of Islam … Western and American civilization post 9/11 was, and is, threatened by Islamic nations such as Iran and non-nationalist terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and now ISIS. Each of these groups has the potential of acquiring and using Weapons of Mass Destruction, with Iran frightenly close to fielding  deliverable nuclear weapons … and with the active assistance and appeasement of US President Barack Hussein Obama.

And like Urban II and the Crusaders of old, President Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney have been vilified as the root cause of all of the problems in that vast swath of land from Pakistan to Tunisia.

Again, a snippet from the article I reference above:

Of all the kinds of historical hypocrisy that is attributed to the Christian, none looms as large as the crusades. Thomas Madden, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University, sums up the popular conception:

“The crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins.”

President Bush and Vice President Cheney join Pope Urban II in having been painted with the same broad brush of hypocrisy.

As it says in the Old Testament book of  Ecclesiastes:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

And finally, does all this not show us that there is no appeasement to be had with this latest Islamic movement?

 

Don Johnson – January 2015

More Evidence for Intelligent Design

In the Darin debate, Casey Luskin of Discover Institute offers the following very informative article —

In the Darwin Debate, How Long Before the Tide Turns in Favor of Intelligent Design?

 

Don Johnson – January 2015

Islam–Jihad … and the Ten Commandments

Exodus 20

And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

____________________________

The Islamic terror attacks in Paris … and elsewhere including 9/11/2001, have caused me to reach back to the Ten Commandments. It is in these passages I am  finding wisdom and admonition from the words of God to the Israelites … and to all of humanity if we would only pay attention.

As in the very first words of Genesis, “In the beginning God …  “ – there is the plain statement with no extensive supporting intellectual, philosophical or theological argument – “In the beginning God …  “ and in Exodus – “I am the Lord your God …  .“  The scriptures here, and elsewhere, simply declare God to be who he is.

Let me put this into a context that gives substance to such an assertion that says basically: “God is!” Thanks here to Pastor Jeff Keegan of Trinity Evangelical Free Church of Woodbridge, CT and his excellent overview class on the Pentateuch – the first 5 books of the Bible.

God does not offer the Israelites an intellectual apologetic to justify these words given to Moses and the Israelites – rather, He has shown them who He is by the actions He has taken on behalf of the people … actions that they will witness with their own eyes and experiences, beginning with deliverance from the harsh slavery under the Egyptians:

  • “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
  • The Israelites, then haven been released by the Egyptians, are faced with Pharaoh changing his mind and are trapped between the Red Sea and the advancing Egyptian army … God provides  a miraculous escape through the parted waters of the Red Sea. 
  • Then after they have escaped from the Egyptian slavery and find themselves in the desert running out of food and water, God provides both for them:
    • 22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.[f]) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

      25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

    • The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

      4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

  • And during the early days of the escape from Egypt, the Israelites were attacked by the formidable army of the Amalekites. Again God provided deliverance from this crisis:

    • The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
    • 10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

So leading up to those words in the Ten Commandments, the Israelites had ample and personal demonstration of the reality and power of the God who had chosen them to be His people. 

Now let me unpack the words of Exodus 20 as I see them in the light of the current events of terrorism, and my reading of history.

 “I am the Lord your God …  .“  Here God is declaring himself as the one true god among the many that have been created, and will be created, by man at all times and in all places.

 “You shall have no other gods before me. These words are a prophetic warning of the consequences of man creating any manner of false gods. From the false gods of the Egyptian pharaohs to the golden calf created by the wandering Israelites to the false man-made god Allah  of Mohammad, Islam and the modern day radical Islamic terrorists be they called Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah and others. And then we come to the New Testament apostle Paul as he passes through Athens where he states:

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.  “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;  nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; Acts 17:22-25

So the Bible and the Bible writers are not strangers to the idea of gods being the creation of men as opposed to the idea that man was created by God. Modern day atheists often camp on this idea of man creating god as substantial support for their world view … and they are absolutely correct in this view of history  – but not quite!  You see, the UNKNOWN GOD which Paul spoke of is the God of Genesis and the God of Exodus, and the God spoken of throughout the books of the Bible. The fact that man has and does create gods in no way proves that man made the God spoken of in Genesis through Revelation – the God of the Bible is unique among all other gods, a fact which can be discovered by by each of us who diligently seeks the truth of the matter – many good studies have shown this to be the case.

Why would God declare “You shall have no other gods before me”

To answer this requires a two pronged visit to history and to current events. As I said earlier, the atheist is correct in claiming that man has created gods and not the other way around. Further, the atheist is correct in claiming that religion has caused more death and suffering than any other cause in human history … but ah …  wait a minute here – that is perhaps correct up until the time the atheist got his turn at the seat of power and became the high priest of the atheist brand of religion. I speak here of the twentieth century and the rise of Communism with Atheism as one of its principle pillars of ‘truth.’  It is estimated that some 100,000,000 – that is 100 million – people died during the horrific 70+ year run of Communism throughout the world.  Some historians have estimated that this body count laid at the feet of Atheistic Communism is on the order of 7 to 10 times that of all of the wars that can legitimately be laid at the feet of Christianity – and factor in the 70 years of Communism vs. 2000 years of Christianity. And the Jews during these past 2000 years? Primarily scattered and mercilessly  persecuted  throughout the world and thus not a factor in the abuses of religion – except as victims.

What the Bible is describing, anticipating and warning of, in the sense of “other gods” takes on flesh in the form of those of history who would set themselves up as gods, or the emissaries of the gods they have set up. The mindset of such (typically) men have cause untold havoc, death and suffering over the centuries. Men such as the Pharaohs of Egypt, the kings of Babylon, the Khans, the Caesars, Mohammed, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot … the multi-generational Jong clan of North Korea come to mind. Though many of this ilk operate as cults of personality rather than a more formalized ‘religious’ structure,  they nevertheless demand the obedience and adoration required of gods. This is the calamity and havoc which Exodus 20  warns of.

And all of us, no matter where or when we live, are susceptible to committing the crimes of the tyrants I have pointed out. Given the right circumstances, monsters emerge from everyday people as seen in the biographies of many of  the monsters of history. Monsters emerge when constraints on human behavior are removed or significantly weakened. As much as many of us point with pride at American history and the heroes of that history – heroes that have stood up to and faced down monsters such as Hitler; even here the temptation for excess is just below the service. An American example of one having extraordinary reputation, popular following and power, yet falling prey to the swelled head of self aggrandizement and an attitude of “I am always right” would be General Douglas MacArthur in the latter days of his career and his war time handling of the Korean War. MacArthur, following World War II, set about restructuring the Japanese political system and instituted/imposed  a representative-constitutionally based system of government.   We can be grateful to this day for his successes in Japan, and we now have a valued ally and responsible nation where once we, and the world at large, had a virulent and dangerous enemy.

But MacArthur, in effect the new Empower of Japan,  lost touch with the reality of Korea and China, thought himself as superior and above the US military chain of command (and thus the Constitution). His storied clash with President Harry Truman resulted in his firing, but not before his mishandling of Korea resulted  in much loss of American lives in the frozen mountains of North Korea, and additionally risking  and actually pursuing a much larger war with Communist China and possibly the Soviet Union – read about the Korean episode, and General MacArthur  in The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War

Did MacArthur rise to the level of monster? No – not even close – but my point here is that even such a well respected and much honored man apparently fell prey to a false god of self worship.

Two other American leaders of the past come to mind in the sense of men who would elevate themselves to exaltation – General George B. McClellan and Aaron Burr.

Another American leader who bears watching is our current President Barack Obama, lest he lead the US into the chaos of a cult of personality brand of leadership.  His statement “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America” – his distain of the Constitutional separation of powers – his threats to act without Congress – indeed his contempt for the Constitution –  his demonization of many, especially the rich – and perhaps  the most telling of all … his profound dishonesty.  This is a man worth paying careful attention to lest he lead us into darkness.

Does Obama rise to the level of monster? No – not even close – but my point here is that any leader, even in America, may very well fall prey to a false god of self worship.

We would be wise to heed this command of God.

____________________________

The last six Commandments

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The remaining 6 commandments advise and direct us in ways that we should conduct ourselves as fellow citizens of  civilized nations and communities– as family members – as brothers and sisters – as leaders – as subjects to leaders. The commandments also provide hope and comfort that we are to be treated as sacred creations of God with unalienable rights as individuals – rights granted to each of us – not by governments – but by our Creator.

The Commandments show the respect of, and towards, the individual that each of us should endeavor to live out in our everyday lives. They apply to all mankind– including, and perhaps especially, governments. The commandments flow down down from a transcendent God and form the basis for a good and civilized community at all levels, from family to governments of many peoples.

The commandments also recognize the rights of individuals to acquire and maintain private property – the basis for a free market economic system.

In short, the Ten Commandments are God’s “Bill of Rights”-  aimed towards each and every one of us in order to protect us from the natural inclination of mankind towards evil to one another.

So I ask you to pause and ponder over these 10 Commandments of God … I ask you to individually strive to live up to them, as well as corporately as citizens of this great nation … to seek out leaders that will lead this nation under the admonition of these words in Exodus 20.

 

Don Johnson – January 2015