All Around Us

Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

You Knew it Was Bad, But…

That the modern media is permeated with sex is known to any who pay any attention to this. Movies, television, videos, and now especially the Internet present this corruption in an uninterrupted stream. One is especially impressed with the seriousness of all of this when writers in the secular press speak out against the shocking prevalency of it. In an article in the Grand Rapids Press, February 7, 2001, Valerie Kuklenski, writing originally in the Los Angeles Daily News, presents some of the shocking figures.

A survey released Tuesday found that three out of four prime-time programs have sexual content and one in 10 shows overall depicts or “strongly implies” intercourse. Sitcoms showed the greatest growth in innuendo since the last survey, two seasons ago….

…Even with the outcry from some political leaders it’s unlikely the industry will make any changes….

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, watched all but newscasts, sports and children’s shows.

The foundation defined sexual content as “both talk about sex and depictions of sexual behavior,” excluding scenes in which the emphasis on sex was “minor or inconsequential.”

Movies, at 89 percent, were most likely to have sexual content, followed by 84 percent of sitcoms and 80 percent of soap operas. Reality shows were the least likely at only 27 percent, but that was before “Temptation Island”….

Add to this the corruption presented by so many of the songs which are popular with the youth of the land. And there is the terrible filth available on the Internet. We live in a world of almost unmentionable filth. Nor ought we to think that this affects only the “world.” Our young people can be tempted to check out this filth. It can be seen in our living rooms. It can be viewed in public institutions. Some young people doubtlessly look at this sort of thing. But fathers and mothers have been known to do this too. The devil, it seems, has available vast numbers of “tools” today to seduce the members of the church.

Under the guise of “freedom of speech” the government allows this sort of corruption to flourish. There appears to be no stopping of this anymore. The moral decay also of our society becomes increasingly evident as a result of all of this.

Meanwhile, the Christian must be aware how easily he can become addicted to this sort of rot. Often, like the drunkard who began with a few drinks, it begins with a few “glances.” One just wants to “check it out.” But what begins with mere curiosity soon becomes full-blown addiction. Young people and even young children are being affected—our young people. Families are being destroyed through this corruption—our families.

How necessary is the stern warning of Scripture to “touch not the unclean thing” (II Cor. 6:17). Striking, is it not, that we are not to touch the unclean thing. The touch seems to be such a little thing. Yet the danger is there: the touch soon leads to more. Often the Christian is tempted to come as close as he can to the edge of the precipice. He ought rather to move as far from that as possible.

How far have we also slipped in this regard?

Intelligent Design—Again

Some months ago I quoted an article concerning opposition to the very idea of “intelligent design” in creation. A reader from New York kindly sent additional materials on the subject. These are quotes taken from The American Spectator, November 2000. The article was titled: “Lynching Bill Dembski.” Bill Dembski is a mathematician who taught at Baylor University (a Baptist institution in Waco, Texas). He headed a research center at the university which studied the possibility of intelligent design of creation. But that created a furor of controversy. In a vote (26 to 2) of the faculty senate at Baylor University, a recommendation was adopted that Dembski’s research center be dismantled. Some of Dembski’s fellow-professors even wrote Congress about the dangers of Dembski’s project. The article states:

So you’re wondering: What kind of new and evil science is William Dembski practicing? Is he cloning half-humans without souls to create cheap labor? Several Baylor students interviewed for this article couldn’t pinpoint the exact deed, but knew it was immoral because they heard that it had something to do with an evil use of the human genome project.

What does Bill Dembski think of all this? A mild-mannered mathematician more at home with probability theory than politics, he shakes his head in disbelief. “I’ve found that when people get to know me one-on-one, they think what I’m doing is legitimate, or, at least worth pursuing. But when they start listening to the siren call of the Internet, things get out of control.”

What Dembski has actually done hardly seems nefarious. As a scientist with twin Ph.D’s in mathematics and philosophy, Dembski has set about developing mathematical methods for detecting intelligent design, should it be discernible, in nature. That’s all. What’s more, he has submitted his work to the scientific scrutiny of his peers. So why are all these professors so hysterical?

Since the 1980’s, critics have charged that the intelligent design concept is really just “a disguised form of creationism.” According to Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education: “They’re really saying God does it, but they’re not as honest as the Biblical creationists. The intelligence is really spelled in three letters: G-O-D.”

The article continues by explaining the difficulties which Dembski faced in Baylor University. Other faculty members opposed his work. Others throughout the country from different universities expressed their shock and disappointment at Dembski’s teachings. The article continues by explaining some of Dembski’s work:

What is intelligent design? ID depends upon a concept known as specified complexity.

Say you’re out raking leaves in the backyard. If you were to find little piles of leaves, equally spaced apart in a long line, the arrangement would be an example of specificity; but it could be explained by what fell out of a rolling barrel. Each time the barrel made a revolution, another clump fell out, each spaced apart by about the same distance. The pattern is specified, but not complex.

When you come across thousands of piles of leaves in no particular pattern, that’s complex, and it may take billions of overturned barrels to produce another pattern just like it. But it’s not specified. No intelligent design is required to explain it.

But let’s say you come across a thousand leaves arranged as letters spelling meaningful words, sentences, paragraphs, even a whole story—that’s specified complexity. Specified complexity creates information and meaning, and that requires intelligent design.

Many scientific disciplines already use such logic to distinguish between phenomena produced by an intelligence from those that are not. The cryptologist, when breaking a code, looks for patterns that create meaning and are not due to chance. SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) does the same in its search for signals of intelligence from space (think Jodie Foster in Contact). Even Quincy’s forensic science was all about trying to determine whether a death was due to an accident, natural causes, or the design of an intelligence.

William Dembski puts it this way: “Specified complexity powerfully extends the usual mathematical theory of information, known as Shannon information. Shannon’s theory dealt only with complexity, which can be due to random processes as well as to intelligent design. The addition of specification to complexity, however, is like a vise that grabs only things due to intelligence. Indeed, all the empirical evidence confirms that the only known cause of specified complexity is intelligence.”

Thus when Dembski observes this specified complexity in DNA messages and protein coding, he infers intelligent design. These patterns give real information in the form of meaningful instructions, precisely analogous to language with words, sentences, punctuation marks, and grammatical rules.

The old “scientific creationism” based itself upon two tenets: a supernatural agent created all things, and the Bible gives us an accurate account of what happened. In contrast, according to Dembski, intelligent design is built upon three very different tenets:

1.Specified complexity is well defined and empirically detectable.

2.Undirected natural causes are incapable of explaining specified complexity.

3.Intelligent causation best explains specified complexity.

What was the outcome of the furor? Dembski has a four-year contract remaining at Baylor University. He was fired from his position of director of the study center. There is no room, so it appears, for anyone who proposes anything which seems to contradict the idea of evolution. But that’s hardly scientific.

Once again we ought to be reminded that “intelligent design” which does not recognize the infallible testimony of Holy Scripture itself lacks the essential element of “faith.” It is by faith that one understands that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. “Intelligent design” confirms the testimony of Romans 1 that creation itself gives evidence of God’s power and Godhead. Those who see that are also without excuse in the day of judgment. How much worse will it be for those who see these very things—but deny their reality?

“Survival of the Fakest”

The same American Spectator, December 2000/January 2001, presents some of the “faked” evidence for evolution. “Evidence” which has been proven inaccurate or completely wrong continues to appear in science textbooks as proof of evolution. The author, Jonathan Wells, points to one:

It was only when I was finishing my Ph.D. in cell and development biology, however, that I noticed what at first I took to be a strange anomaly. The textbook I was using prominently featured drawings of vertebrate embryos—fish, chickens, humans, etc.—where similarities were presented as evidence for descent from a common ancestor. Indeed, the drawings did appear very similar. But I’d been studying embryos for some time, looking at them under a microscope. And I knew that the drawings were just plain wrong.

I re-checked all my other textbooks. They all had similar drawings, and they were all obviously wrong. Not only did they distort the embryos they pictured; they omitted earlier stages in which the embryos look very different from one another.

Like most other science students, like most scientists themselves, I let it pass. It didn’t immediately affect my work, and I assumed that while the texts had somehow gotten this particular issue wrong, it was the exception to the rule. In 1997, however, my interest in the embryo drawings was revived when British embryologist Michael Richardson and his colleagues published the result of their study comparing the textbook drawings with actual embryos. As Richardson himself was quoted in the prestigious journal Science: “It looks like it’s turning out to be one of the most famous fakes in biology.”

Worse, this was no recent fraud. Nor was its discovery recent. The embryo drawings that appear in most every high school and college textbook are either reproductions of, or based on, a famous series of drawings by the 19th century German biologist and fervent Darwinian, Ernst Haeckel, and they have been known to scholars of Darwin and evolutionary theory to be forgeries for over a hundred years. But none of them, apparently, have seen fit to correct this almost ubiquitous misinformation.

Still thinking this an exceptional circumstance, I became curious to see if I could find other mistakes in the standard biology texts dealing with evolution. My search revealed a startling fact however: Far from being exceptions, such blatant misrepresentations are more often the rule….

The article continues by pointing out several other instances of deception in connection with the “proofs” for evolution. All of this indicates that “science” is not all it claims to be. Not only are there many who would seek to silence all that contradicts evolution, but false “proof’ is used to convince the uninformed of the “truth” of evolution.

The Christian has the testimony of Scripture. There is found the testimony both of who created, but also how He created. By faith we believe that.