Does the Cumulative Case for Design Point to a Divine Designer?

Much has been written about the evidence for design in biological organisms. In fact, the appearance of design is largely uncontroversial. Even famed atheist and evolutionist, Richard Dawkins has written, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” But what, precisely, are the attributes of design most of us believe (either consciously or unconsciously) are most reasonably explained by an intelligent designer? In my new book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for A Divinely Created Universe, I make a case for Intelligent Design based on the contributions of many great scientists and thinkers, my own experience as a designer (my education and training is in design and architecture) and my professional investigative career as a detective. The result: a cumulative case approach to the appearance of design and the reasonable inference of an Intelligent Designer. I believe there are eight attributes of design we employ when reasonably inferring the existence of a Designer. To make them easier to remember, I’ve assembled them in an acronym (DESIGNED):

D- Dubious Probability (Given Chance)
Is random chance an insufficient explanation for the formation and assembly of the object we are examining?

E -Echoes of Familiarity
Does the object resemble other structures we know (with certainty) were designed by intelligent designers?

S- Sophistication and Intricacy
Does the object display specificity, sophistication and intricacy consistent with the involvement of an intelligent agent?

I - Informational Dependency
Is there any evidence the object was directed and created by way of instructional information?

G - Goal Direction (and Intentionality)
Does the form and assembly process of the object process to be goal-directed?

N - Natural Inexplicability (Given Laws of Physics or Chemistry)
Are the laws of physics and chemistry insufficient to account for the form and function of the object?

E - Efficiency / Irreducible Complexity
Does the object display efficient, irreducible complexity reflecting the involvement of an intelligent designer?

D - Decision / Choice Reflection
Does the object display evidence of conscious choices indicative of an intelligent designer?

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What We Mean When We Say, “God Created Everything From Nothing”

Even as an atheist, I understood the challenge offered by the “Standard Cosmological Model” (the Big Bang Theory) when examined from my naturalistic worldview. This model infers a “cosmological singularity” in which all space, time and matter came into existence at a point in the distant past. In others words, “everything” came from “nothing”. I knew this presented a problem for me as a naturalist; if the universe had a beginning, the “principle of causality” inclined me to believe there must have been a cause. But, what could cause something as vast as the universe? Could it have caused itself to come into existence, or must the first cause of all space, time and matter be non-spatial, atemporal and immaterial? How could “everything” come from “nothing”?
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Upstate New York

Most people are busy. That's what we say to each other. 

"Hey, Fred, how are things? Are you keeping busy," asks Barney.

"Yep, looking forward to a break," says Fred.

And they pass each other thinking that that is good, normal, and productive. Keeping busy has become an expectation. We expect to be pulled in different directions and we expect others to also go from one activity to the next. And we hardly give such things a second thought.

But busyness is not a sign of good work or productivity. Busyness, in fact, may be a form of lazyness. It may be a way to avoid setting priorities and it may be a way to numb out and it may be something that is simply not good.

Traveling recently to upstate New York to get away, I found a sense of rhythm again. Unforced and unrehearsed. And guess what? I was still productive. I still managed to get some things done.

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Why We Know Our Universe, And Everything In It, Had A Beginning (Free Bible Insert)

My career as a Cold Case Detective was built on being evidentially certain about the suspects I brought to trial. There are times when my certainty was established and confirmed by the cumulative and diverse nature of the evidence. Let me give you an example. It’s great when a witness sees the crime and identifies the suspect, but it’s even better if we have DNA evidence placing the suspect at the scene. If the behavior of the suspect (before and after the time of the crime) also betrays his involvement, and if his statements when interviewed are equally incriminating, the case is even better. Cases such as these become more and more reasonable as they grow both in depth and diversity. It’s not just that we now have four different evidences pointing to the same conclusion, it’s that these evidences are from four different categories. Eyewitness testimony, forensic DNA, behaviors and admissions all point to the same reasonable inference. When we have a cumulative, diverse case such as this, our inferences become more reasonable and harder to deny. Why did I take the time to describe this evidential approach to reasonable conclusions? Because a similar methodology can be used to determine whether everything in the universe (all space, time and matter) came from nothing. We have good reason to believe our universe had a beginning, and this inference is established by a cumulative, diverse evidential case:

Philosophical Evidence (from the Impossibility of Infinite Regress)
Imagine a linear race track with a start and finish line. Now imagine you’re a new police recruit and I’ve asked you to put on your track shoes and step into the starting blocks for a physical training (PT) test. The finish line is one hundred yards away. As you place your feet in the blocks and prepare to run, I raise the starting pistol. Just before I fire it, however, I stop and tell you to move the start line and blocks back six inches. You reluctantly do that. Again I raise the pistol to the sky—only to command you, once again, to move the line back six inches. You grudgingly comply. Imagine this continues. Question: Will you ever reach the finish line? No. Unless there is a beginning, you’ll never get to the finish. In a similar way, time also requires a beginning in order for any of us to reach a finish; unless time has a beginning, we cannot arrive at the finish line we call “today.”

Theoretical Evidence (from Mathematics and Physics)
Albert Einstein’s calculations related to the general theory of relativity 1916 indicated the universe was dynamic (either expanding or contracting). The notion of a static universe was so common at the time, however, that Einstein applied a mathematical “constant” to his calculations to maintain the unchanging, uniform nature of the universe he hoped for (he later referred to this effort as “the biggest blunder he ever made in his life” ). Einstein’s calculations suggested the universe was not eternally old and unchanging. Alexander Friedmann, a Russian mathematician working with Einstein’s theories in the 1920’s, developed a mathematical model predicting an expanding universe. This conclusion inferred the universe must have had a beginning from which it was expanding.

Observational Evidence (from Astronomical Data)
Vesto Slipher, an American astronomer working at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, spent nearly ten years perfecting his understanding of spectrograph readings. His observations revealed something remarkable. If a distant object was moving toward Earth, its observable spectrograph colors shifted toward the blue end of the spectrum. If a distant object was moving away from Earth, its colors shifted toward the red end of the spectrum. Slipher identified several “nebulae” and observed a “redshift” in their spectrographic colors. If these “nebulae” were moving away from our galaxy (and one another) as Slipher observed, they must have once been tightly clustered together. By 1929, Astronomer Edwin Hubble published findings of his own, verifying Slipher’s observations and demonstrating the speed at which a star or galaxy moves away from us increases with its distance from the earth. This once again confirmed the expansion of the universe.

Thermal Evidence (from the Second Law of Thermodynamics)
Imagine walking into a room and observing a wind-up toy police car. The longer you watch it roll, the slower it moves. You realize the car is winding down—that is, the amount of usable energy is decreasing. It’s reasonable to infer the car was recently wound up prior to your entry into the room. The fact the toy car is not yet completely unwound indicates it was wound up recently. If the car had been wound much earlier, we would expect it to be motionless by the time we entered the room. In a similar way, the fact our universe still exhibits useful energy—even though the Second Law of Thermodynamics dictates we are on our way to a cosmic “heat death”—indicates a beginning. Otherwise, and if the universe were infinitely old, our cosmos should have run out of usable energy by now. We can reasonably infer it was once tightly wound and full of energy.

Quantitative Evidence (from the Abundance of Helium)
As Astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle studied the way elements are created within stars, he was able to calculate the amount of helium created if the universe came into being from nothing. Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe (Hydrogen is the first), but in order to form helium by nuclear fusion, temperatures must be incredibly high and conditions must be exceedingly dense. These would have been the conditions if the universe came into being from nothing. Hoyle’s calculations related to the formation of helium happen to coincide with our measurements of helium in the universe today. This, of course, is consistent with the universe having a moment of beginning.

Residual Evidence (from the Cosmic Background Radiation)
In 1964, two American physicists and radio astronomers, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected what is now referred to as “echo radiation”, winning a Nobel Prize for their discovery in 1978. Numerous additional experiments and observations have since established the existence of cosmic background radiation, including data from the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite launched in 1989, and the Planck space observatory launched in 2009. For many scientists, this discovery alone solidified their belief the universe had a beginning. If the universe leapt into existence, expanding from a state of tremendous heat, density and expansion, we should expect find this kind of cosmic background radiation.

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God's Not Dead 2

(Los Angeles, CA) Pure Flix, the largest independent faith film studio, just wrapped production for God’s Not Dead 2: He’s Surely Alive. This film is the highly anticipated follow-up to the immensely successful God’s Not Dead, which grossed over $60 million last year at the box office. God’s Not Dead 2 features a star-studded cast that includes: Melissa Joan Hart (Melissa & Joey), Jesse Metcalfe (Dallas), David A. R. White (God’s Not Dead), Hayley Orrantia (The Goldbergs), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters), Sadie Robertson (Duck Dynasty), Robin Givens (Head of The Class), Fred Thompson (Law & Order), Maria Canals-Barrera (Cristela), with Pat Boone and Ray Wise (Robocop).

Other returning cast favorites include: Trisha LaFache (Amy Ryan), Benjamin Onyango (Reverend Jude), Paul Kwo (Martin Yip), and Newsboys (Michael Tait, Duncan Phillips, Jeff Frankenstein, and Jody Davis).
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Learning to Pray for my Son

Recently I read Mark Batterson’s Praying Circles around the Lives of Your Children. In the book, Batterson shares some personal stories of praying for his family, specifically each of his children. He shares some helpful suggestions of ways all parents, regardless of life stage the children are in, can pray for their kids.

 

The 7 prayer tools he suggests are:

 

·         Praying the promises of God

·         Making prayer lists

·         Creating prayer mantras

·         Praying a hedge of protection

·         Forming prayer circles

·         Praying through the bible

·         Passing on blessings

Batterson believes prayers function as prophesies. Praying parents have the opportunity and privilege of scripting the future of their children with their prayers. I find this absolutely incredible. And weighty. And exciting. And daunting. And even more exciting.

I took away a few learning’s from the book that I’ve quickly adapted into my daily routine. For starters, Justice wakes every morning with a song of thanksgiving for the day that the Lord has made and we clap and say “yay” and rejoice in it together.
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Moses and the Tent of Meeting

The third and final post in the series on Moses’ supernatural encounters with God is a personal favorite in scripture.

Dubai: Reflections on Modern Change

On the way to Africa a few years back, I stopped in Dubai. It's like Phoenix, with way more money. The airport is impressive and the clash between what's modern and what's tradition and what's western and what's eastern is both dazzling and dizzying.

If you've seen the MIssion Impossible: Ghost Protocol film, you'll note that Dubai is prominent as the heroes navigate tall buildings and sandstorms. Dubai encapsulates modernity's rise in a centuries old desert. Os Guinness notes in his book The Last Christian on Earth that "Christians have always shown a curious inability to consider things from a long-term perspective." The latest isn't always the greatest.

How, then, do we hold on to ancient wisdom in an era of restlessness? What happens to long-term or longview leadership in an age of start-ups?

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Why the Case for Christianity Is More Important Than Ever

Much has been written and discussed about this year’s Pew Research Center poll, America’s Changing Religious Landscape, and I’ve also weighed in on the findings. The percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. When statistics like these are released, it’s tempting to panic and respond without properly examining the trends. The devil is always in the details, however, and a careful analysis of the data ought to energize rather than discourage us. Opportunities abound, and the case for Christianity is more important than ever.

While more and more people say they no longer identify as Christians, the ranks of atheists and agnostics are not growing in equal percentages. During the same seven year span, as Christian affiliation dropped by 7.8%, those claiming an atheist affiliation only grew by 1.5%. So where did all the Christians go? They went to the ranks of those claiming no affiliation with any established Christian denomination or belief system (a category affectionately called, “the nones”). Importantly, those who no longer claim a Christian attachment, have not yet jumped in with the atheists or agnostics. They haven’t even jumped in with other religious groups (such as Jewish, Muslim or other believers). This is an important reality for all of us who seek to make the case for Christianity. We sometimes mistakenly think our culture is becoming more and more atheistic. It isn’t. Instead, it’s simply becoming less and less Christian.

People are not nearly as resistant to the existence of God as the more liberal, atheistic media would like us to believe. In fact, 92.9% of the country rejects atheism and is open to the existence of God in one form or another. We are a country of theists, even though we might be divided on which form of theism (or deism) is true. That’s why the case for Christianity is more important than ever.

Those who believe in the existence of God, yet reject Christianity, can still be reached for Christ. I sometimes think this group of “nones” has rejected their experience in the Church rather than their belief in Jesus. That may simply be a reflection of the sad, non-evidential nature of the Church rather than a reflection of the strong evidential nature of Christianity. Some of those who have left our ranks may never have heard anything about the evidence supporting the Christian worldview in all the years they were attending church with us. My own anecdotal experience, as I speak at churches around the country, supports this uncomfortable hypothesis. Most churches are still uninterested in making the case for Christianity, while more and more Christians want to know why Christianity is true.

Now is the time to make the case for the reliability of the New Testament, the historicity ad Deity of Jesus and the reasonable inference of the Resurrection. People are still hovering in the “nones” category, open to the existence of God, but skeptical of their past experience in Christianity. Now is the time to show them a new way forward and a reasonable path to belief. The reasonable, evidential case for Christianity is more important than ever.

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Moses and God Upon Mount Sinai

In the last post, and first of a series of 3 on Moses and the supernatural encounters he had with God, we looked at the story of the burning bush.

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