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)

The Faith of a World’s leading Evolutionary Anthropologist

Recently, evolutionary anthropologist Richard Leakey, famous for being the son of Louis and Mary Leakey, and for discovering the Turkana boy hominin fossil, had gave a revealing interview. Here is an excerpt.
“In an interview with the Associated Press (AP), Richard Leakey, a 67-year-old, Kenyan-born Stony Brook University professor, paleoanthropologist, and avowed atheist, said that he believed scientific discoveries over the next 15 to 30 years will have reached the point that “even the skeptics” will be able to accept the theory put forth by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book Origin of Species.”

The Faith of Richard Leakey

Leakey here touches on a point that I find curious. He ‘believes’ future discoveries (and rather far in the future) will prove to be so convincing that people will have to accept non-design explanations. But is he saying this as a scientist? Observation is the cornerstone of the scientific method. But how can we ‘know’ what we will observe in the future? In point of fact, there is no scientific way to know what we will observe in the future. The scientific method is inherently limited to observations that can only be made in the present. So what is the basis by which Leakey makes his predictions for future observations? It is by faith pure and simple.
When Richard Leakey says this, he is not speaking as a scientist, but as a believer. This shows that everybody, secularists and atheists included, has faith in something that cannot be proven by observations made today. Leakey may be right and perhaps observations will be made in the future, but that belief cannot be proved or disproved today – it can only be believed or not believed.

University Evolution Text summarizes most compelling evidence for Evolution

But we can, using reason and logic from observations we have on hand today make judgments. So let’s continue where we started in the last post to look at similarities in architecture across the biological world. The quote below is taken from a university text entitled Evolution and from the chapter entitled ‘Evidence for Evolution’. In going to this source we drill down to the nub of the matter to look at the foundational evidence on-hand today.
Patterns of Relationship provide the Most Powerful Evidence for Evolution
Although direct observation and the fossil record each provides powerful support, the most compelling evidence for evolution comes from the patterns of similarity between present-day organisms, which reveal features that are shared across all organisms: a nested pattern of groups within groups, consistent across many different traits, and a correspondence between biological relationship, geological history, and geographical distribution
Universally Shared Features [subcaption]
The full extent of this similarity [of biological life] was revealed when the universal principles of molecular biology were discovered in the middle of the last century. Almost all organisms use DNA to encode their genetic information, which is transcribed into RNA and then translated by a single universal genetic code into protein sequence. … Indeed the basic machinery of replication, transcription and translation is conserved across all living organisms. The success of molecular biology lies in the essential universality of its mechanism….  Any code that maps the 64 triplet codons onto the 20 amino acids would work and could be implemented just as easily by an appropriate set of tRNAs. Evolution 2007 by N.H. Barton, D. Briggs, J. Eisen, D. Goldstein, N. Patel.  p66-67
In other words, this textbook is saying that if we want to get directly to the most compelling hands-down evidence that we have observed in the last 100 years for evolution it would be that there is the same DNA code across all organisms, that there is a secondary (and also universal) code in the RNA to transfer the information stored in the DNA to the protein assembly, and that this code universally maps ‘triplet codons’ (i.e. 64 sets of three DNA/RNA instructions) to the 20 different amino acids (which are like the ‘letters’ used to build the long protein string out of which we are made).

Bioinformatics Text: Human Designed Information System Architecture

In my previous Post I introduced the textbook on Bioinformatics – the science of mapping and storing genetic information on computers worldwide so that this information can be analyzed by scientists. Here is how this science is described.
As mentioned primary databases are central repositories and distributors of raw sequence and structure information. They support nearly all other types of biological databases … therefore in the biological community there is a frequent need for the 2ndary and specialized databases to connect to the primary databases and to keep uploading sequence information… All these create a demand for linking different databases. The main barrier to linking different biological databases is format incompatibility as current biological databases utilize all three types of database structures. Essential Bioinformatics. 2006.  Jin Xiong. p16-17
In other words, biological information scientists, in order to design a robust and efficient genetic information storage, retrieval and processing system to conduct their research with have: 1) primary databases, 2) secondary databases connected to this primary database to process specific information, and 3) a major problem is that there are different database structures that are not compatible.
Let’s make a comparison between the genetic architecture of information in living organisms and that designed by information scientists by putting these quotes side-by-side
The ‘most compelling evidence for evolution’ quoted in evolutionary text
Information science quoted in Bioinformatics
“…all organisms use DNA to encode their genetic info”…
“…primary databases are central repositories and distributors of raw information…”
“which is transcribed into RNA and then translated by a single universal genetic code into protein sequence.”
“…in the biological community there is a need for the 2ndary databases to connect to the primary databases…”
“…Indeed the basic machinery of replication, transcription and translation is conserved across all living organisms…”
“… All these create a demand for linking different databases.”
“The success of molecular biology lies in the universality of its mechanism….”
“…The main barrier to linking is format incompatibility as current databases utilize 3 types of structures…”
When placed side-by-side, we can see that the architecture of both systems are described very similarly. In both there is a primary database (the DNA in organisms) housing the raw information, secondary databases (RNA in organisms) to transfer this information to processing sites, and finally the processing sites (protein assembly in organisms). The only real difference is that the human engineered system is NOT universal and this creates problems in the implementation of the human designed system. In other words, if the human system had a universal structure, like the information system in nature, it would be better designed and more efficient.
The reason that there are different structures in the human systems is that there were different researchers that began this work in different parts of the world. If they had coordinated their efforts from the beginning they would have adopted one universal system. However, since bioinformatics is an architecture designed by intelligent agents the obvious parallel to the genetic information system in nature is that of being designed by a Mind. The fact that we observe (today!) one universal genetic system that stores, retrieves, utilizes and duplicates information at an efficiency, speed and fidelity that information scientists are still striving to achieve, speaks volumes to the inference that there is One Design Mind behind it all.
In fact, if chance and random processes has produced the one natural information system that we do observe, and this same chance and random processes have been in operation through all time why do we find no evidence in organisms today, or from those of the past, that there has ever been another information system architecture that has also arisen by these same natural processes? If there were several different systems out there we could deduce either that there were several designers out there (like the Greek Gods of old) or that indeed there is a natural process that spontaneously develops information system architectures.
This is why Leakey must appeal to the unobservable future, and base his appeal on faith, pure and simple, because the fact of the matter is that the ‘most compelling evidence’ we do observe today actually infers a Design cause much more naturally than a mindless natural cause. But though it may be more logical and reasonable from the observations we make today, it is far less popular. Therefore world-leading evolutionary scientists, like Leakey, by faith “are sure of what they hope for and certain of what they do not see”
Why should we form beliefs simply from world opinion shapers when theirs is simply faith anyways?  Why not investigate for ourselves?  Here is a good place to start on a biblical theme and here is a good intro on human evolution – Leakey’s specialty.