Episode 118 - There's Too Much Information for Evolution to Be True

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There's too much information for evolution to be true.

Now you might be thinking, "Aren't there tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of studies that show that evolution is true?" Well that all depends on several things. The first might be what you mean by evolution.

Anytime we talk about this topic we need to define our terms here. I was just having a conversation this last Sunday after small group with a PhD student that's in my small group. We were talking about evolution and we actually disagree on some things, but some of that is just related to the fact that we use the term in different ways at points. Many people do today. In fact this guy and I, we have pretty much the same perspective on the issue, the same biblical worldview, and yet we use the term differently at points. It's the same way with Christians and non-Christians.

We need to define our terms because evolution, at least one usage of the term, just simply means change over time. Then we could take that a little further, and sometimes people will use it to refer to small successive changes over time, and we might call that micro-evolution. Then others will use it, and what they're referring to is a mechanism that's able to generate a change in kinds over time. We would call that macro-evolution. That's pretty much the most common usage of the term today: this idea that life came about from a single celled organism, that over time reproduced more, and more, and more, and became sufficiently more and more complicated through the twin mechanism of natural selection and mutation.

As the genetic code is copied more and more as organisms reproduce, mutations occur—changes in that genetic code that are unintentional; they are a natural byproduct of this reproductive process. The changes that help the organism survive get “selected for,” and those organisms survive more, so they're more likely to pass on those helpful genetic changes. That's natural selection. This pair of processes has also been called the neo-Darwinian Synthesis—the ideas of Darwin that have kind of been improved on, and changed, over time.

That's the most common usage, but there are some usages even in between these, where some people might believe that evolution fits with an idea that God created life. Not that he used evolution to do it even, but that he used evolution to provide for the diversity of life within kinds after he created. That's not the view that's most common in secular institutions today, but that is a view of evolution. It is a valid usage of that term, but all of this goes to show that we need to define our terms.

Now when I talk about evolution, by and large, and in the rest of this episode, I'm going to be referring to that totally naturalistic, unguided process that you're most likely to hear about in a university biology department, the neo-Darwinian Synthesis. That life started as single cell organism and over time through random mutation and natural selection, became as complicated as it is today, with human beings, and the great diversity we see.

Now I started out this episode by saying there's too much information for evolution to be true. Here's what I mean by that. I don't mean that there are studies or aren't studies, what I mean is: our DNA, our genetic code is actually information. Information is the product of a mind. Information is what's conveyed by a certain structure or sequence of data, or things. That's actually what genetic code is.

Genetic code is information. It's a structured sequence that actually codes for the things it produces. Here's the kicker, information is the product of a mind. For instance, if you were just walking through the woods, and you saw a bunch of pine cones on each other, and they're not structured, and anything like that. It just looks like they fell out of a tree, that's not information, but if on the other hand you see one pine cone, and then two pine cones, and then three pine cones, and a group of four pine cones, and then a group of five pine cones, what you have seen is a structured sort of thing. It's information. That's the product of a mind. The chances of you walking through the wilderness and finding a progressively stacked numbers of pine cones together, is incredibly rare. It is much more likely that that's a product of a mind.

We actually see that same type of thing with the natural world. In fact, Richard Dawkins, in his book The Blind Watchmaker, starts out by saying that the natural world gives the impression of having been designed for a purpose. Then he's going to go on and tell us why that's not the case. An interesting facet of this argument to me is that he's saying “our intuitions make it seem like we were designed for a purpose, but I'm going to use my intuitions to tell you that that's not true.” We kind of have a battle of intuitions here. (We're really close to another argument against evolution, which we might talk on about another day.)

DNA Contains Information

All of that to say, DNA is information. Information is the product of a mind. Information does not come about randomly. In the same way that if you walked into the kitchen and saw spelled on the dinning room table in Cheerios, "Hello mom," you're not going to think that happened randomly and without a purpose. You are going to rightfully understand that your child, instead of eating her food, spelled words with it. Which depending on her age might be impressive and something you would celebrate. All of that to say, that's information. That arrangement of Cheerios conveys something that's intelligible and achieves its purpose. It's a structured sort of thing and in an intentional way. That's information. (That example came from Koukl, to give attribution there.)

Just to make the broader point, that's exactly what DNA is. We have chunks of DNA that we understand code for the creation of the eye and that same chunk of DNA, every time, produces an eye when it's read and interpreted by the other natural processes and structures in the body. That's what's contained in that DNA.

We've heard of genetics, right? That you have this genetic code, and it codes for the creation of things, that's exactly what we've been talking about. There's actually something called epigenetics. What this talks about is how our genetic code actually gets expressed differently in different situations and in different environments.

The same genetic code in one environment may actually create something a certain way, but in another environment may create it differently. That's still coming from information. I also think there's a beauty here we have to appreciate. That some how, that it just knows what to do in this other environment. What would we call something that just knew what to do in different circumstances and made the best choice in either one? That sounds like an intelligent sort of thing. Now I'm not saying DNA is intelligent. What I am saying is it's the result of intelligence.

When something responds accordingly in different situations, well that's an intelligent type of thing. It's the product of a mind. More than that, some of the DNA that we use to think didn't do anything and was considered “junk DNA” actually seems to behave differently in different circumstances and environments. That's where epigenetics come into play.

Now, I am not a geneticist, I am not a biologist, I'm kind of an amateur in these things. I'm trying to keep things simple for our purposes today. What I hope you see is DNA is information, information comes from minds. Epigenetics is actually a way where that same information gets expressed differently in different contexts. That kind of contextual awareness, once again, seems to be the product of a mind, it makes more sense that it was designed that way than if it just randomly happened to do the right thing all the time in the right circumstances. That doesn't make as much sense.

How We Interpret Evidence

Now, this is an example of a type of situation where some people are going to say that the evidence is compelling and others are going to say there's no evidence, or the evidence is not compelling. Really what it comes down to is not is there evidence or is there not evidence, but what do my presuppositions dictate about how I will interpret the evidence?

Some people are not going to agree with my conclusions here. That, for instance, epigenetics is the type of thing that's more explainable by the creation of a mind. They're going to say that because they think naturalistic processes can account for that type of different genetic expression. They're going to probably believe that because of their pre-commitment to naturalism, to this idea that there is not a supernatural, that there is not a creator.

Some people will say evolution is true, and you'll ask, "Why?" They'll say, "Because naturalistic processes can totally explain how things came about." You ask, “But what about this idea that information is the creation of minds." They say, "Well, I don't think there is such a thing as a mind, or there's not a divine mind, so it had to be naturalistic." What you'll often find is that people are reasoning, from the conclusion that there isn't a creator, and using the evidence to support that.

Now I do think it's fair to point out, Christians do the same thing in reverse, oftentimes. We reason from the biblical worldview perspective that there is a creator, and that influences interpret the evidence. I don't think we should reason differently than that. God has given us a worldview, a set of presuppositions. In 1 Peter 3:15, we're told to do apologetics, defending the faith under the lordship of Christ. That includes reasoning from a Christ centered worldview.

However, when we're talking with a non-Christian, let's put all the facts on the table, and ask the question, "Does your worldview make this seem more reasonable, or does my worldview? Which makes the evidence seem more probably and plausible? Which is the best explanation? Which set of presuppositions?"

I certainly think that it makes more sense that this very complicated process that has created a diversity and beauty of life is the result of a mind. Because, in part, information comes from minds. More than that, I see nothing that on its own gets more complicated without the infusion of information.

An Infusion of Information

What we see in the fossil record is this period called the Cambrian explosion, where the majority of the types of organisms that exist today, all came into existence within about a 50 million year period, which is remarkably short of a period for evolution to be true. In fact this is a great argument against evolution, that there was such a new diversity and explosion of life, which is why we call it the Cambrian explosion, that this couldn't be accounted for by small successive changes over time.

We see there is an infusion of information. In the Cambrian explosion there was a large infusion of new genetic information, and that's why we see new types of organisms. The organisms are a product of the information that coded for them, which is the creation of a mind. That's compelling to me because of reasoning from a biblical worldview. You have a much harder time explaining that from a non-biblical worldview. This is a place where the biblical worldview and explanation makes much more sense of the evidence.

To wrap this up, we've looked at a lot, and we've looked at it briefly, but I just kind of want to plant some seeds so you're thinking about these types of ideas. Remember, information is the product of a mind; genetic material/DNA, is information. It's a structured sort of thing. It's a particularly ordered type of thing that creates something else. It's information. T

That information is even expressed and interpreted differently in different circumstances via this process of epigenetics, such that some things we use to think were junk DNA actually aren't. More than that, when we talk about these types of things, like the Cambrian explosion, and this genetic explosion of information on to the scene, non-Christians aren't necessarily going to find that to be compelling on its own, or on the face of it. That has to do with their presuppositions.

We need to be comfortable with that type of reaction and anticipate it, and not think, well, did I do it wrong? Worse yet, some people will actually respond to that by saying, "Well I guess there isn't evidence that God created everything." No, the issue is that we interpret the evidence differently. We need to encourage the non-Christianto step into our shoes, to look at the evidence through our worldview, with our set of assumptions and presuppositions, and say, "Does that make more sense of it?" It does. Every example of this type of situation we can come up with, when we're looking at the evidence from a non-Christian point of view or a Christian point of view, the Christian point of view has more explanatory power and makes more sense.

Now yes, it often requires adopting other beliefs and practices that people don't like, that confronts their sense of autonomy. Nonetheless, that doesn't make it not true. What we should encourage people to do is to be intellectually honest enough to look at the facts, reason from them, and follow the conclusion wherever it takes them.

Now some people are very aware that if you start looking at the evidence this way, and you go with the most reasonable conclusion, which is that God exists and created everything, that that has overtones and conclusions they don't like. Some scientists have even said, "We can't allow God to get a divine foot in the door.” Because if they admit that the best explanation is that God created everything, well that's probably going to mess with how they live.

Following Jesus is going to affect your life. It's going to be inconvenient to say the least. It's going to require a total orientation change, of taking up your cross and following him. All of that to say, we should encourage the non-Christan to take the evidence, consider it from a Christian point of view, and from their point of view, and say, "Which is the best account for the evidence?" Follow it wherever it leads and be intellectually honest enough with yourself, and with me, to not just reject what seems to be the explanation that makes the most sense, because you don't like where it leads. Christians shouldn't do that either. Oftentimes we come to conclusions because we like them, or reject conclusions because don't like them, and neither should be acceptable for, well, anyone, but especially to Christian.