LANCASTER – An evolutionist professor from Antelope Valley College on Wednesday conceded the strong probability of intelligent design in life’s earliest forms.
The announcement came at the end of a 3-hour presentation at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center by scientists from Reasons to Believe, a Christian ministry that creates and tests scientific models based on the Bible.
Matthew Rainbow, a biology professor with a Ph.D. in molecular biology and biochemistry, told a crowd of several hundred that he had been persuaded to change his view of the origins of life about six months earlier, after reading books by the evening’s two Reasons to Believe presenters, Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana.
Rainbow helped organize Wednesday’s event in connection with a local Reasons to Believe chapter.
The professor described himself as a “flag-waving and card-carrying evolutionist and, about half the time, an atheist,” but said evolutionary theory has not explained how the first living cells came into being.
“I now believe with about 60% certainty that the first living things were intelligently designed by a creator,” Rainbow said.
“For 50 years, the best scientific minds on the planet have tried to show where the first cells came from and we failed miserably to demonstrate that. … If you try hard for 50 years and fail to show something, that’s pretty strong evidence – the old theory of a prebiotic soup now appears to be kaput.”
He referred to what many would know as the “primordial ooze,” which some evolutionary theorists described as the birthplace of the earliest and simplest forms of life, leading to the evolution of all other forms.
Ross and Rana, and now Rainbow, contend that no such “soup” existed, primarily because no chemical evidence of it can be found, even in the oldest rock formations that bear evidence of early organic life.
“If life originates from a prebiotic soup, it should leave behind a chemical signature,” Rana said. “At this juncture, nobody has any evidence of a prebiotic soup whatsoever.”
Rainbow said his change of heart has limitations.
“About 40% of me still has guarded hope that we will still be able to show how life evolved spontaneously according to the laws of normal physics and chemistry,” he said. “I still believe, even though God appears to have specially created the first life, I still believe that I can powerfully defend … that pretty much all the rest of life still evolved.”
This limited shift came in the context of Ross’ and Rana’s broader contention that the existence of a creator, or “transcendent agent,” can be tested to high levels of probability using science.
After reading their work, Rainbow said he concluded that “the laws of physics and chemistry can certainly be interpreted as powerful evidence for intelligent design.”
Rana and Ross spent three hours Wednesday night summarizing the research their group has done since 1986.
Ross, the founder of Reasons to Believe, laid out the cosmic groundwork of his organization’s “Creation model.”
He has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Toronto.
The creation model stands apart from the “intelligent design” movement, which rightly has been assessed to be nonscientific, he said.
“Intelligent design is not testable because the intelligent design movement does not offer, as yet, any model to explain the origin of history and the details of its life,” Ross said. “We have a model. We had a model even before the intelligent design movement existed.”
Ross stressed that his work never would prove God’s existence with 100% certainty.
“Science is incapable of offering absolute proof of anything. Science cannot offer absolute proof of the existence of any entity,” he said, but it can offer “measurable probability.”
“When I married my wife 31 years ago, I told her I was marrying her without proof of her existence. All I had was a high probability,” he said.
“I’ve been married to her for 31 years and performed a variety of experiments. I can tell you today that the probability is higher.”
Scientific method even can be applied to the existence of an entity that transcends time and space, he said, and specifically to the God of the Bible bearing the traits described in the Old and New Testaments.
“The Bible contains about 10 times as much content about the origin and structure of the universe than all the rest of the holy books of the world’s major religions combined,” Ross said. (He knows because he checked, he said.) “Because it is so specific, this gives an opportunity to put it scientifically to the test.”
A creation model derived from the Bible would include a universe that emerges from a “singularity beginning” – that is, a moment when space, time, matter and energy come into being where none previously existed.
“What is unique about the Bible (among creation stories) is that it speaks about God acting independent of space and time,” Ross said.
That universe then would be expected to continually expand and cool over time, he said, adding that all three of those elements describe the universe as observed and explained by modern scientific exploration.
“For thousands of years the Bible was the only text out there speaking of a continually expanding universe,” he said.
Based on astronomical observation and calculations employing Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, such a universe has existed for roughly 14 billion years, Ross said.
His model predicts that future scientific study will produce the following results:
Evidence for a single beginning will increase.
Evidence that time is finite will increase.
Evidence that general relativity reliably describes cosmic dynamics will grow.
Space-time theorems will strengthen.
The case for a transcendent causal agent will gain strength.
Evidence for other miraculous events will be found.
“That’s what a model is supposed to do, not just explain, but predict,” Ross said.
A subset of his model addresses a concept Ross calls the “fine tuning” of the universe. Simply put, it says that the conditions necessary for supporting human life are so precise that the mathematical probability that any one of them would occur randomly becomes effectively nil.
Such variables affect the sun, the moon, Jupiter, the Milky Way, the Earth, the galaxy neighborhood and dozens of other elements of our planet’s situation, he said, concluding that when they are combined, such an improbable occurrence only can be explained by the act of a creator.
His model predicts that if a creator exists, the evidence for such fine-tuning will increase. In the past 20 years, Ross said, that is the trend science has produced.
When Ross finished, Rainbow asked him a few questions. His main question was not scientific but theological.
“I don’t really disagree with a single thing that you said, Dr. Ross,” he said. But, “one of your central theses of your book is that the Judeo-Christian Scriptures reveal an astonishing amount about what we could call technical information about the cosmos. … It seems to me that if God exists and he’s really as interested in revealing technical information as you assert, then he could have done a lot better job in the Bible – there are so many things that God could have said to make it simpler to understand. How come he didn’t?”
Rana said the Bible was limited in its scope in order to reach a broad audience with an efficient message.
“This is a book that is communicating to hundreds of generations,” Rana said. “The Bible only uses vocabulary that can communicate to whatever generation is reading it. That would limit the degree of scientific content,” especially if God meant it to fit in one volume.
Rana, vice president for science apologetics for Reasons to Believe, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Ohio University, applied a similar process to the life sciences – mainly biology and anthropology.
The creation model for the beginning of life and the history of life begins with skepticism about evolution from one species to another, he said.
That does not preclude adaptation within a species through natural of sexual selection or a degradation of a species through the loss of a limb or other attribute not essential for life.
Basically, he said, his organization is skeptical of the idea that evolution has the power to create. Its biblical study produced theories about the beginnings of life – as lauded by Rainbow – as well as the history of animals and the emergence of man.
The latter offers an interesting example of the success they claim.
Rana’s model for the emergence of human beings predicts that they would be traceable to a single man and woman in a single location in the Middle East between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago. Also, it predicts that other hominids, such as Neanderthals, would be found to be distinct enough to preclude their becoming modern humans.
Rana offered several scientific studies in genetic diversity that have emerged in the last few years which track human development to a single man and woman in a certain area of East Africa between 50,0000 and 200,000 years ago.
The same pattern was discovered when scientists tracked mitochondrial DNA patterns through the maternal line, Y chromosome patterns through the paternal line and the dispersion of human parasites, Rana said.
In reference to hominids, he said genetic research has allowed a number of samples to be mapped and compared with the human genome – including Neanderthals and the famous “Lucy.” All were found to diverge too far from human DNA to allow the conclusion that one led to the other.
“It’s interesting that these major figures that are part of the human evolutionary drama and are portrayed in as such in biological textbooks have been rendered as side branches,” he said.
Rana’s model also predicted divisions in the behavior of humans and early hominids. He cited descriptions of such a break in the work of anthropological archaeologists, including “explosive advances” in tools, manufacturing processes, language, social structures, art, music and religion.
“It’s an explosive appearance of sophisticated behavior that I think reflects the image of God and is the type of pattern that you would expect if in fact humans are created in the image of God,” Rana said. “Earlier hominids did not display these elements.”