In the Image of God

In the last few posts I looked at ‘signs’ in some landmark passages from the Old Testament that allude to Jesus.  I did so primarily because they are clues that point to a Divine Mind revealing Himself through these remarkable allusions. But they are also clues to help us understand ourselves.  And to continue with that I want to consider implications of what the Bible says about the origins of mankind.  Using the Bible to understand our beginnings is considered the height of folly in many modern circles.  However, at the very least, an open-minded recognition of the bankruptcy of ‘scientific’ evolutionary theories shown here, and the recently confirmed genetic fact of interbreeding between homo sapiens and neanderthals – predicted from the Biblical narrative – should allow anyone, believer and unbeliever alike, to have the freedom to consider what the Bible says about our beginnings, and to think about what it means.

So, in this spirit of considering, I want to chart an understanding of what the Bible teaches about us by looking at a passage from the creation account.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

“In the Image of God”

Now what does it mean that mankind was created ‘in the image of God’?  It does not mean that God is a physical being with two arms, a head, etc.  Rather at a deeper level it is saying that basic characteristics of people are derived from similar characteristics of God.  So for example, both God (in the Bible) and people (from observation) have intellect, emotions and will.  In the Bible God is sometimes portrayed as sad, hurt, angry or joyful – the same range of emotions that we humans experience.   We make choices and decisions on a daily basis.  God similarly in the Bible is described as making choices and coming to decisions.  Our ability to reason and think abstractly comes from God.  We have the capacities of intellect, emotion and will because God has them and we are made in his image.

At a more fundamental level when we consider these aspects of ourselves we see that we are sentient beings, self-aware and conscious of ‘I’ and ‘you’.  We are not impersonal ‘its’.  We are like this because God is this way.  In this fundamental perspective, the God of the Bible is not portrayed as a pantheistic impersonality as understood in Eastern religions, or like the ‘Force’ in Star Wars.  And because we are made in His image, neither are we.

Why we are Aesthetic

We also appreciate art and drama.  Consider how we so naturally appreciate and even need beauty.  This goes beyond just visual beauty to include music and literature.  Think about how important music is to us – even how natural it is for us to dance.  Music so enriches our lives.  We love good stories, whether in novels or plays, or more commonly today, in movies.  Stories have heroes, villains, drama, and the great stories sear these heroes, villains and drama into our imaginations.  It is so natural for us to use and appreciate art in its many forms to entertain, reinvigorate and rejuvenate ourselves because God is an Artist and we are in his image.  It is a question worth asking.  Why are we so innately aesthetic, whether in art, drama, music, dance, or literature?  Daniel Dennett, an outspoken atheist and an authority on understanding cognitive processes, answers from a materialistic perspective:

“But most of this research still takes music for granted.  It seldom asks:  Why does music exist?  There is a short answer, and it is true, so far as it goes: it exists because we love it and hence we keep bringing more of it into existence.  But why do we love it?  Because we find that it is beautiful.  But why is it beautiful to us?  This is a perfectly good biological question, but it does not yet have a good answer.”[1]

Why indeed if everything about us as humans must be explained based solely on survival fitness and differential reproductive rates is art, in all its forms, so important to us?  Dennett, probably the world’s leading thinker on this question from the materialistic evolutionary perspective, tells us that we just do not know.  From the Biblical perspective it is because God is artistic and aesthetic.  He made things beautiful and enjoys beauty.  We, made in His image, are the same.

Why we are Moral

In addition, being ‘made in God’s image’ explains the innate moral grammar or Tao we looked at in Session Two.  Because we are made in God’s image and morality is intrinsic to His nature, like a compass aligned to magnetic North, our alignment to ‘fair’, ‘good’, ‘right’ is because this is the way He is.  It is not just religious people who are made in this way – everyone is.  Not recognizing this can give rise to misunderstandings.  Take for example this challenge from Sam Harris.

“If you are right to believe that religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than believers.”[2]

Harris is dead wrong here.  Biblically speaking, our sense of morality comes from being made in God’s image, not from being religious.  And that is why atheists, like all the rest of us, have this moral sense and can act morally.  The difficulty with atheism is to account for this objective basis of our morality –  but all of us have it hard-wired into us (as Dawkins says) because we are in His image.  Dawkins’ speculations about the cause of our innate morality from a materialistic perspective are less than compelling.  Being made in God’s moral image is a far simpler and straightforward explanation.

Why are we so Relational

Thus Biblically, the starting point to understanding ourselves is to recognize that we are made in God’s image.  Because of this, as we gain insight into either God (through what is revealed about him in the Bible) or people (through observation and reflection) we can also gain insight into the other.  So, for example, it is not hard to notice the prominence  we place on relationships.  It is OK to see a good movie, but it is a much better experience to see it with a friend.  We naturally seek out friends to share experiences with.  Meaningful friendships and family relationships are key to our sense of well-being.  Conversely, loneliness and/or fractured family relationships and breakdowns in friendships stress us.  We are not neutral and unmoved by the state of relationships we have with others.  Now, if we are in God’s image, then we would expect to find this same relational tilt with God, and in fact we do.  The Bible says that “God is Love…” (1 John 4:8).  Much is written in the Bible about the importance that God places on our love for him and for others – they are in fact called by Jesus the two most important commands in the Bible.  When you think about it, Love must be relational since to function it requires a person who loves (the lover) and a person who is the object of this love – the beloved.

Thus we should think of God as a lover.  If we only think of Him as the ‘Prime Mover’, the ‘First Cause’, the ‘Omniscient Deity’ or perhaps as the ‘Benevolent Being’ we are not thinking of the Biblical God – rather we have made up a god in our minds.  Though He is these, He is also portrayed as almost recklessly passionate in relationship.  He does not ‘have’ love.  He ‘is’ love.  The two most prominent Biblical metaphors of God’s relationship with people are that of a father to his children and a husband to his wife.  Those are not dispassionately philosophical ‘first cause’ analogies but those of the deepest and most intimate of human relationships.

So here is the foundation we have laid so far.  People are made in God’s image comprised of mind, emotions and will.  We are sentient and self-aware.  We are moral beings with our ‘Moral grammar’ giving us an innate orientation of ‘right’ and ‘fair’, and what is not.  We have instinctive capacity to develop and appreciate beauty, drama, art and story in all its forms.  And we will innately and naturally seek out and develop relationships and friendships with others.  We are all this because God is all this and we are made in God’s image.  All these deductions are at least consistent with what we observe about ourselves as we laid this foundation.  We continue in the next post to look at some difficulties.


[1] Daniel Dennett.  Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.  p. 43

[2] Sam Harris. 2005. Letter to a Christian Nation p.38-39

System upgrades shows hopelessness of Darwinian evolution

In my Part 1 post I asked the question if it is really possible to ‘modify a machine while it is running’ like the evolution story maintains and also requires for it to be even plausible.  I used the troubled upgrade and shutdown of considerthegospel.org to raise the question.

Irreducible complexity & evolution of the Giraffe neck

To continue along this line, think for a minute about the well-known tale of the evolution of the long giraffe neck – a rather trivial ‘modification’ when compared others that must have occurred if this story is true.  The popularized idea is that in times of drought the giraffe ‘ancestors’ (something like a horse) with longer necks could reach leaves higher up in trees, and with this selective pressure, over numerous generations successive giraffes developed longer and longer necks.  The  image below illustrates this account.

Darwin's evolution of giraffe
This illustrates the standard ‘story’ of giraffe evolution whereby with selective pressure the longer necks were more adaptable in times of drought.

It seemed so intuitively obvious that it has become a persuasive icon for the evolution story in the popular culture.  But look again at this story with some scientific skepticism.  The long neck and limbs of the giraffe must work in conjunction with the circulatory system that brings blood to the head.  Because the head is about 2 meters above the heart, the blood pressure produced by the heart is about 2x that of a mammal of comparable weight.  That is just a matter of the physics of fluids.  But if the blood pressure is to be that high then the artery walls must also be stronger or the giraffe will die of internal bleeding.   The neck length, heart pressure and arterial wall strength must all be balanced.  But now think for a moment what happens to the giraffe when he suddenly drops his head to the ground to drink.  Instantaneously the head goes from 2m above the heart to about 2m below the heart.  And now the extra blood pressure of the heart is a liability because the increased pressure in its head would blow its brains out.  The reason that this does not happen is that the giraffe has a special organ in his head, unique to giraffes, called the rete mirabile, that regulates the surge in blood pressure.  Without that organ all the other component adjustments of heart and veins would be useless – it would die every time it lowered its head to drink.
And then when the giraffe raises his head again after his drink it should faint from the blood loss from the brain.  When we stand up suddenly we can sometimes feel dizzy.  This is because as we stand up the blood drains from the brain.  Consider the blood drain on the brain when the head goes rapidly through a 4m elevation change.  What keeps giraffes from regularly fainting after they drink is that they have a unique set of one-way valves that regulates blood drain from the brain.  Without these valves, having all of the rete mirabile, the stronger heart, and the stronger vein walls would all be useless because the giraffe would still regularly faint after his drink.

Structure of giraffe showing what it takes for it to be able to take a drink
The interrelated system of features, organs and modifications that are required just for the giraffe to do a simple thing like take a drink.
From Davis & Kenyon. Of Pandas and People. 1993 p.70

These structures are illustrated in this diagram.  When actually looking ‘under the hood’ at what is required even for a relatively simple modification like the elongation of a neck the evolutionary story rapidly goes from an obvious icon to one that raises lots of questions.  The problem is that very few have bothered to look under the hood.  They preferred a sure-sell story.

Stephen J Gould on the Giraffe Neck

The late Stephen J Gould, well-known Harvard paleontologist had this to say about the giraffe neck story in an article in Natural History. (The Tallest Tale, Natural History v105 p18-23+, 196)

I made a survey of all major high-school textbooks in biology. Every single one — no exceptions — began its chapter on evolution by first discussing Lamarck’s theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, and then presenting Darwin’s theory of natural selection as a preferable alternative. All texts then use the same example to illustrate Darwinian superiority — the giraffe’s neck.

In the realm of giraffes, current use of maximal mammalian height for browsing leaves does not prove that the neck evolved for such a function…Why then have we been bamboozled into accepting the usual tale without questioning?

He concludes:

Darwinian evolution may be both true and powerful, but if we continue to illustrate our conviction with an indefensible, unsupported, entirely speculative, and basically rather silly story, then we are clothing a thing of beauty in rags—and we should be ashamed,

So it turns out that the giraffe account, when finally analyzed has turned out to be nothing more than a ‘tale’ that has ‘bamboozled’ us and is ‘indefensible, unsupported, entirely speculative and basically rather silly’ – and this from a world’s leading scientific supporter of evolution.  Thus, when the cold light of reality shines on this story that it really turns out to be nothing more than a propaganda piece – meant to bamboozle us.  That should make us step back and ask some larger, more fundamental questions.

Biological systems are irreducibly complex

How do irreducibly complex systems evolve slowly and gradually when all the component parts need to be there from the beginning for the system to work at all?  Think now beyond the giraffe neck to the supposed evolution of the fish to amphibian/reptile and then to mammal.  This would have required the two-chambered heart of the fish becoming three in the amphibian and the circulation of the blood change from heart->gills/lungs -> body to a dual cycle of heart-> lungs -> heart -> body.  And then on to four chambered hearts in mammals. How does the heart ‘work’ while it is in-between chambers?  When the circulation system has left the single cycle of the fish but not yet arrived at the double cycle – how does the transitional organism (never found in the fossil record mind you) even survive?  Think about how when we want to ‘just’ adjust valves on our hearts we get the best-trained surgeons, shut the heart down and thus bypass the heart.  With the best of our intelligence we can’t modify the machine ‘while it is running’.  If we can’t make minor adjustments to valves without shutting the machine down and bypassing it how would random chance do any better in changing complete circulation paths and developing heart chambers?  How does something live in the ‘middle’?

Darwin’s Challenge to Darwinism

These examples highlight a fatal problem with the Darwinian story.  Darwin himself stated the seriousness of it:

“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organism existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down”
C. Darwin Origin of Species 6th ed. 1988 p. 154

Yet instead of honestly and directly addressing these challenges textbooks take the approach of developing scenarios in story form.  As my university invertebrate textbook describes the process:

Almost any kind of scenario can be concocted to explain how one group of organisms might have arisen from another.  … narratives are often based on a priori assumptions about hypothetical ancestors. … virtually any complicated evolutionary transition can be described on paper, given enough imagination …
Richard C. Brusca & Gary J. Brusca. Invertebrates   1990. p880

…any number of evolutionary pathways can be .. made to appear convincing on paper by imagining .. hypothetical ancestors or intermediates, but one must always ask whether these hypothetical creatures would have worked?” (ibid. p. 120)

That makes good scientific sense!  Let us ask whether these hypothetical creatures ‘would have worked’!  When we do that, when we observe how interconnected systems need all the components in order to function at all, when we recognize that for all machines and systems (like my website) non-trivial modifications require that the machine be shut off until are the components properly integrated then we can see the difficulty of the Darwinian claim.

But it seems like the whole educational and academic enterprise rather prefers to push misleading ‘stories’ in the name of science.  When one sees how stories are ‘concocted’ with ‘imagination’ to ‘bamboozle’ us we may want to ask – Does the emperor really have any clothes?

Maybe it is worth a more thorough investigation.  Perhaps a good place to start is a university debate I participated in (link here), and a critique of human evolution I did in a university anthropology class (link here)

ConsidertheGospel System upgrade shows hopelessness of Darwinian evolution (Part 1)

Two days ago I finally was able to complete a ‘system upgrade’ for considerthegospel – this website which is powered by WordPress. You can loosely think of using WordPress to write website content similar to how MS Word is used to write content on your computer. However, because it is hosted on a website, WordPress is supported ‘behind the scenes’ by a database (MySQL) that stores all the information and an HTML scripting language (PHP) that handles all pageview requests. In other words, WordPress works in conjunction with MySQL and PHP and all the server hardware in an integrated system to dynamically produce the webpages of considerthegospel.

Soon after launching considerthegospel I found that my web-hosting provider was limited to older versions of MySQL and PHP – meaning that I also could not use the newer releases of WordPress. I had tried to just upgrade WordPress and with the problem with PHP and MySQL compatibility was unable to edit content. I needed to call in an expert to go back to the old version of WordPress. With his help I got it going but I was stuck in a version of WordPress that was rapidly becoming obsolete.

So I had been looking to move considerthegospel to another web hosting provider and obtained an account, and copied the considerthegospel content there. But there can only be one unique URL (www.considerthegospel.org) at a time so I applied to transfer the ‘considerthegospel’ address but it took time to go through. Unfortunately the transfer happened the day we left on a long trip and I could not set it up on the new account. So while we were travelling the content was stored in a temporary subdirectory. This was the reason I was unable to upload new posts for the last month, because I had lost my domain with my old provider, but had not setup with my new provider. Two days ago, I took the website down and configured the address with the new hosting provider and uploaded the content. Considerthegospel is now on another server, with a new web-hosting provider, and it is running the latest versions of MySQL, PHP and WordPress which brings with it several functional increases (like the ability to run multiple versions).

This rather tortuous upgrading process of a system made up of interdependent components (web-hosting provider, address, PHP, MySQL, WordPress, etc.) each of which is required for the whole system to function, and each of which must be compatible with all the other components for the system to function at all, reveals the shear wishful thinking behind the Darwinian evolution story. This story purports to explain the origin of a myriad of biological systems, each with numerous inter-connected components – all of which are necessary for the system to function – as a result of random and successive changes of the various component parts. And on each step along the way in the process the transitional creature must function since it must survive. Note the great faith taken by this textbook in ascribing almost godlike powers to evolution.

“Evolution is like modifying a machine while it is running” Campbell and Reece. Biology 6th Ed.  2002 p. 477

But can we humans really modify our cars, computers and other interconnected systems while they are running?  I had to take my web system down to configure it. My computer is off when I replace the motherboard. And my car is in the shop now – with everything shut down – while repairs are made to it. If you view that statement not as an article of faith, but recognize that is exactly what the Darwinian evolution story must explain for every biological system – and you then try to do that with a few examples you will realize the extent of the problem.

Take birds for example. In the Darwinian story they evolved step-by-step from reptiles. Now reptiles have a lung system, like mammals, where the air is brought in-and-out of the lung to alveoli though bronchi tubes. Birds however have a totally different lung structure. Air passes through the parabronchi of the lung in one direction only (kind of like how air passes through a vacuum cleaner – straight through). This difference is illustrated in the following figures.

Structure of reptile lung
Reptile Lungs: Air passes in and out bi-directionally

 

Structure of Bird Lung
Bird Lungs. Air passes straight through uni-directionally

How is the hypothetical half-reptile and half-bird going to breathe while its lung structure is step-by-step being rearranged? Is it possible for a lung to work at all if it is part-way between the bi-directional structure of reptiles and the uni-directional structure of birds? Not only is being half-way between these two lung designs NOT better for survival, but the intermediate animal would not be able to breathe – it would die in minutes. I have read countless evolutionary texts and articles and have not come across even one attempt to explain how this would work.  This is just one example out of the myriad that exist.  We continue in the next post with a couple more and insight from the well-known late paleontologist Stephen J Gould.