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"Science Is Not Your Ememy", Steven Pinker

09/24/2013 05:24 EDT | Updated 11/22/2013 05:12 EST

Here is a link to Harvard University Psychology Professor Steven Pinker's now "infamous" essay in the New Republic titled "Science Is Not Your Enemy."

"Geeze, who in their right mind would think that science is their enemy?" Memo to self, "Write an essay some day called 'The Christian faith is not your enemy.'"

I used to think that no one could be more arrogant than Richard Dawkins, but this quote from Steven Pinker, takes the cake.

Pinker writes:

"To begin with, the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world's traditional religions and cultures--their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies--are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers--though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today."

Let me add a few more "we knows" that Steven Pinker did not mention.

We know that everything is not the result of natural causes. And the best example of this, is computer programming code. Programming code is the result of an intelligent design. And we know it would be arrogant to assume that human intelligence is the only source of intelligence in the universe. And we know that if computer programming is an act of intelligent design then the use of computer programming methods is evidence of intelligent design.

And we now know, that the genome uses many computer programming methods and constructs. For example, as I mentioned in previous blogs, a gene in biology is similar in function to a code object in computer programming, both are designed as the instructions for one specific task and are designed in such a way as to make them reusable in different programs / species.

For example you can take the gene that codes for insulin and insert it into bacteria and the bacteria will now produce insulin. And this is indeed, how the world gets it supply of insulin today.

For example you can take the computer code object to put a window on the screen, and use this same code object in many different "apps".

If you compare the programming code of any two iphone apps the code will probably be over 90% exactly the same because these apps contain many of the same code objects to handle the routine tasks of any program. Similarly, the similarity of the genome between species, is probably not evidence for evolution or common descent, rather it is probably evidence for a style of programming, we use ourselves, object oriented programming, and that's evidence for intelligent design.

And both genes and computer code lose information when they are copied incorrectly (mutations). When a bacteria mutates and looses information (say the shape of the cell wall changes slightly) this mutation, although it probably makes the bacteria weaker, as most copying errors do, may also have a "beneficial" side effect as causing resistance to a particular antibiotic. However, it is a "bit of a stretch" for evolutionary biologists to call this "watching evolution in real time."

And all of these computer programming methods, evidenced in the genome, together represent real scientific evidence, new to our generation, that the genome has been designed by an intelligence, at least "beyond our pay scale."

And there is still one computer programming method, evidenced in the genome, that I have not mentioned yet, in any previous blog. (Geez, I feel like "Wiki leaks.")

In computer science it is called EDAC (Error Detection And Correction) and in biology it is called DNA Repair. Here is a quote and a link from the online textbook "Genomes" courtesy of the National Institute of Health in the US.

"All cells possess DNA-repair enzymes that attempt to minimize the number of mutations that occur (Section 14.2). These enzymes work in two ways. Some are pre-replicative and search the DNA for nucleotides with unusual structures, these being replaced before replication occurs; others are post-replicative and check newly synthesized DNA for errors, correcting any errors that they find (Figure 14.1B). A possible definition of mutation is therefore "a deficiency in DNA repair".

In information theory and computer science, EDAC (Error Detection And Correction) is used to accurately maintain the information content of the data (code-gene) being copied or transmitted. And so here is another computer programming method evidenced in the genome. We have built in EDAC for the copying of genes as if the gene had a check digit in its code similar to a social insurance number, so that it will not be accepted by the cell (computer) if it is copied incorrectly.

I will not mention how much more difficult the existence of EDAC / DNA Repair must make it for evolution to generate the new information necessary for say, sight, flight, consciousness and hormonal feedback mechanisms, because Richard Dawkins will just say all this complexity is just the appearance of design. And it is my personal incredulity that prevents me from seeing this.

But I will mention that, even if the genome was simple, the fact the genome evidences the use of computer programming design methods, (including EDAC and "check digits"), is good scientific evidence that the genome was designed.

We know that everything is not the result of natural causes. We know that genomes and computer programming code are part of this everything; a part of intelligent design evidenced in the universe, where snowflakes and crystals are not. And we know that science should cover everything.

And we know a science that does not cover the evidence for intelligent design is a science that cripples itself as Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins propose.

Not only is Steven Pinker wrong when he teaches that all rational people should reject any faith in God, in his essay he also inexplicably diminishes the great achievements of Christian statesmen like Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce in overturning discrimination and slavery.

Pinker writes:

"If one were to list the proudest accomplishments of our species (setting aside the removal of obstacles we set in our own path, such as the abolition of slavery and the defeat of fascism), many would be gifts bestowed by science."

Perhaps Steven Pinker could not bring himself to mention that Winston Churchill himself defined WW2 as the quest to preserve Christian civilization from the Nazi's thousand years of darkness and eugenics. And here is a link to a short essay on the real story of slavery, crediting William Wilberforce with one of the grandest Christian achievements of all time; spending 20 million pounds sterling to buy the freedom of the slaves, throughout the British empire, in 1833.

There is one point I can agree with Steven Pinker on, though. I agree with Pinker, but with additional reasons, that the great paleontologist Steven Jay Gould was a "bit off" in his view of the separation of science and the humanities / faith. Pinker writes: "(According to Gould) science and religion belong to "non-overlapping magisteria." Science gets the empirical universe; religion gets the questions of moral meaning and value."

Here I passionately believe as Pinker does that science can help us choose the safest options. (For example science can prove that both tobacco and marijuana smoke are carcinogenic.)

But I also want passionately for my generation and gen x and gen y and the millennials to see that there is much scientific evidence pointing to the fact that this is an intelligent universe. And that we can rationally expect as Dr. David Menton would say

"that the designer of hearing can hear and the designer of sight, can see", and that even Dawkins' and Pinker's science, properly understood, can take us this far.

Steven Pinker talks about "Science is not our enemy." I know that. Everyone knows that. Our enemy is the potential for selfishness and cruelty deep within each and every one of us. Here is the short list: enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, substance abuse, and the grinding poverty and hopelessness that leads families in India to sell their daughters into sex slavery, girl fetuses to be targeted for abortion in India and China and North America, and the sex "tourism" that abuses both girls and boys throughout the world, and the bullying of children by children in the public schools, and the real abuse in marriage leading to divorce, and the harsh words spoken inadvertently in marriage "irrevocably" hurting your best friend leading to divorce and the economic and other pressures to elective abortion that can be overwhelming and the pornography everywhere that corrupts love and the modesty of family values. These are our enemies. These are a part of the problems, hurting most, the children of the world.

Yes, throw everything we have at it, science, game theory, big data, cognitive strategies. But by all means, "throw at it" as well the highest ideals of the Biblical text: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control and forgiveness and homestead rights and the modesty of family values. These are the good teachings that have helped people of peaceful good faith, both religious and secular, throughout the world. And they are needed today, as much as ever.

We know our enemy, but we should know our friend as well. Our friend is that which builds us up and encourages each and every one of us to do the right thing, and never lets us go, even when we fall.

Pope Francis has recently courageously and rightly called for less emphasis on abortion and contraception and homosexuality and divorce, and more emphasis on mercy and love and welcoming all people into the church. And this is the same message of the Protestant churches as well. As @nickygumbel of the Alpha Course would say, "Churches are not museums that display perfect people. They are hospitals where the wounded, hurt, injured and broken find healing."

With regard to that negative list mentioned above, all of us have the potential to be all of the above and probably were at one time, all of the above, and now... Now what?

Recruit both religious and secular people, of peaceful good faith, like the Christian statesmen Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce did, to help solve the problems of the world, and this will be a better world.

P.S. I hope the majority of bureaucrats who have been given "carte blanch" to write the public school curriculum in Canada, have a more nuanced view of prayer in public schools than Steven Pinker or Richard Dawkins. Otherwise, the reason that the Protestant kids do not pray in public school would not be "secularism", but because of Pinker's and Dawkins' view that "prayer to a scientifically proven nonexistent God", "would be stupid." And, I don't know about you, but I do not think that such an absolutist view bodes well for the public school curriculum treating fairly the great achievements and high ideals of the Christian or any faith, unless there is reasonable oversight by all stakeholders. In Canada, we are blessed with the only publicly funded Catholic and Christian schools in North America, and I suspect that the people lobbying so hard to do away with this, hold the same "anti-faith" absolutist views as Dawkins and Pinker. And even if Dawkins and Pinker never concede the evidence for design in the genome, I hope at least one day they will empathize with the Christian view, "In God, whose word we praise, in God we trust."