A biochemist explains his faith

by OneEyedJoe 3 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • OneEyedJoe

    After Venting's recent thread on the article on JW.org about the expirimental physicist who became a JW, I figured I'd post up my analysis/rebuttal of another similar article. When I was going through the process of cleaning out the last bits of doubt from myself, I read a few of these and wrote down my thoughts just because it felt good to actually express it all somehow. Maybe some here (maybe even a lurker or two going through early doubts) will find some value in it.

    Link to origonal article: http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/g201310/davey-loos-science-researcher-explains-faith

    First off, his answer when questioned if he believed in God (the context was discussing his starting out in college):

    I did when I was a little boy. But later, while I was studying at the Catholic University of Leuven, I was taught that living things owe their designs to natural processes. The professors made some of these processes sound quite complicated. They were experienced scientists, so I believed what they said. Eventually, I found it difficult to accept the existence of God.

    As many have pointed out here, the WTS never misses an oppurtunity to bash the Catholic church, despite the many similarities between the two. The thrust of this paragraph is to imply that these professors spoke with an authority they did not posess (which is probably false, since they were teaching the accepted scientific understanding). There's also a gentle attempt to cast these professors (and, indeed, the entire university) in a negative light, making it easier to ascribe evil intentions to them. The assumption of evil intent is the last assumption that people make when someone disagrees with you (the first is ignorance, the second is idiocy. When shown that the person with an opposing view has all the same information that you do, and that they're intelligent, the tendency is to assume their evil, i.e. question their motives.) The WTS writer knows that these professors are obviously intelligent and well-informed, so he's giving a gentle push to the reader to get them to question the professors' motives. Lastly, this poor soul is finding it difficult to accept the existence of god. What a way to cast the triumph of critical thinking as a negative thing.

    Continuing on, after a shameless plug for one of the publishing company's books he says this:

    I began to wonder if evolution really did explain the designs seen in nature.

    Here, they're using loaded language. The use of the word "designs" will imediately call to the reader's mind the idea of a designer. The "design requires a designer" argument is a favorite of creationists, and has been refuted time and again, so I won't go any further on that topic.

    My work as a biochemist involved studying the design of certain molecules found in ocean-dwelling cyanobacteria, which are microorganisms that don’t depend on other living things for food. Some researchers think that these organisms were the first living things on our planet.

    Again, the design requires a designer argument is implied. Skipping over that, the statement at the end is patently false. No one thinks that cyanobacteria "were the first living things on our planet." Some think that today's cyanobacteria are the most similar organisms to the first living things on the planet. EVERY living thing on the planet, however, is the product of 4 Billion years of evolution. As such, even the simplest organisms that are most similar to the first life will have been changed by the competition for resources. Even if, by some crazy coincidence, a population of that first living cell had been able to continue reproducing without mutation for 4 Billion years, they would be so tremendously disadvantaged in comparison to those organisms that had evolved, that the population would be comparitivly miniscule and the odds of us ever finding it would be essentially zero. It is important to understand the distinction that he's glossing over, because the idea that today's cyanobacteria look exactly like what you'd find 4 Billion years ago is the foundation for a later assertion.

    Continuing on, he presents us with the beginnings of an argument from incredulity:

    Using energy from sunlight, the microbes use an extremely complex chemical process, which is still not fully understood, to convert water and carbon dioxide into food. I was also amazed at how cyanobacteria can harvest light with incredible efficiency.

    It shouldn't be that amazing that incremental improvements over 4 Billion years would result in some pretty complex and efficient processes. Now for good part:

    The deeper you go in the sea, the less light you find. So the cyanobacteria that live there must capture every scrap of light energy that comes their way, and they do this by means of highly sophisticated antennae. The collected energy is transmitted to food-producing centers with nearly 100 percent efficiency. The design of this light-harvesting machinery has even attracted the interest of solar-panel manufacturers. Of course, manufactured solar cells are nowhere near as efficient as the systems found in bacteria.

    Here's why I stressed the distinction earlier about cyanobacteria being the most like the origonal life, instead of actually being the origonal life form. Obviously, it's inconcievable that this organism, as we see it today, sprung into existence out of nothing (which is what they're implying evolution/abiogenesis asserts). However, it does make sense that something using some rudamentary process that's slightly similar to today's cyanobacteria could have gradually formed (indeed, examples of metabolism have been found outside the confines of a cell, which is one of the 'missing links' often cited by creationists as an impossible leap). After the actual first organism formed, it mutated gradually, and the offspring posessing incremental improvements in their ability to harvest energy were the ones that had greater reproductive success, and eventually the offspring that didn't have these improvements couldn't compete any longer. Clearly the environment he describes is a hostile one, so it's not far-fetched that small improvements would lead to a huge advantage. Now, after 4 Billion years of the best equiped critters starving off the lesser equiped ones, the only ones that can survive are the ones that have reached near 100% efficiency. It is little wonder, then, that the product of this extremely lengthy process would be of interest to people that'd like to have efficient solar panels a little before 4 Billion years from now.

    I thought about engineers trying to imitate the marvelous mechanisms found in living things, and I came to the conclusion that life must have been designed by God.

    Now that's a leap! As I hope that I've demonstrated, engineers are trying to imitate the mechanisms that were developed by 4 Billion years of competition and mutation. Just because something is of interest to an inteligent life form, doesn't mean that it was created by some other inteligence. This is nothing more than an argument from incredulity (i.e. "I can't imagine how that could be true, so it must be false")

    But my faith was not based solely on what I studied in science. It was also based on a careful study of the Bible.

    I'd assert that his faith was not based AT ALL on what he studied in science. I guess the WTS writer felt that they'd worked in enough misleading information and falacious reasoning on scientific topics, so now they're going to move to something a little more open to interpretation: the Bible.

    One of the many things that convinced me was the detailed fulfillment of Bible prophecies. For example, centuries in advance Isaiah described in abundant detail the death and burial of Jesus. We know this prophecy was written before Jesus’ death because the Isaiah Scroll, found at Qumran, was copied about a hundred years before Jesus was born.

    Ahh, bible prophecy. Now this is convincing! You're telling me that there's an ancient book that made predictions about one of it's charecters, then later on in the book the predictions came true?!? It must be the inerrant word of god then! It couldn't possibly be that the gospel was 'adjusted' slightly to fit prophecy. It also would be pretty crazy to think that Jesus (who, according to the bible was VERY familiar with the writings of the prophets) might adjust his behavior in an attempt to fulfill prophecy. (this was all sarcasm, btw) Luckily he obliges us with a further look at the prophecy he's refering to:

    That prophecy says: “He will make his burial place even with the wicked ones, and with the rich class in his death.” ( Isaiah 53:9, 12 ) Remarkably, Jesus was executed with criminals but was buried in the tomb of a wealthy family.

    It's interesting that he chose this prophecy. If I were to make a prediction of what would have to happen to fulfill this prophecy, without knowing any details of Jesus' life and death, I would say that the fulfillment would come from someone who was burried either alongside both criminals and wealthy people alike, or he would be burried along side wealthy people who were criminals. This was clearly not what happened. If you want to interpret this prophecy as talking seperately about the circumstances of Jesus' death and burial, it's pretty clear, then that Jesus would have been killed along side wealthy people, but burried along side criminals - which is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what actually happened. This is a terrific example of how prophecy is often re-interpreted after an event with the purpose of stating that the prophecy has been fulfilled.

    This is just one example of the many fulfilled prophecies that convinced me that the Bible is inspired of God.

    If there were so many fulfilled prophecies that convinced him, it's hillarious to me that he chose one that clearly was not fulfilled.

    In time, I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    What he doesn't mention is that he probably underwent some emotionally charged event that made him susceptible to the pull of an organization that promised to provide imediate fellowship in a new "family." This is the most typical story that you'll find when examinging why an otherwise intelligent person joins a cult.

    After all this he apparently felt pretty confident in the case he made:

    Our faith is not blind faith that ignores the facts of science.

  • Billy the Ex-Bethelite
    Billy the Ex-Bethelite

    "Our faith is not blind faith that ignores the facts of science."

    Based on the reasoning that something complex needs an intelligent designer, where did that designer come from? Nowhere? Nothing? A fish needs a designer, but god doesn't? It's the equivalent of someone reasoning that a watch requires a designer, but a watch factory with a trained and experienced staff did not require design, training, or experience. It becomes infinite regression. And they're breaking their own rule requiring intelligent design when they dismissingly say, "Oh, gawd is different because he's always existed, like time and space." Really? This super-intelligent, all-powerful creator just "always existed"? So really, complexity can indeed come from absolutely nothing based on their explanation.

    By contrast, evolution becomes much less complex and evidence of evolution can be easily found. I need to look up the exact statistic... As a dude, I have 99.5% the same DNA as a male chimp. However, I have only 97.5% the same DNA as a woman. Explains why men act like apes sometimes, eh ladies?

  • OneEyedJoe


    Yeah, that was probably one of the first questions I asked my parents on the topic of god when they told me that he created us all. I was definitely pre-teen and probably closer to 7 or 8 at the time. It continued to be a huge source of cognitive dissonance for years after I got the answer that god always existed and we as humans just cant understand. Nowadays, I almost feel like I'm cheating if I bring up such obvious flaws as that and prefer to defeat the false reasoning further down the line (i.e. even assuming you're right about x, that leads to y, which is demonstrably false). Even giving the benefit of the (enourmous) doubt, you can demonstrate that their beliefs are deeply flawed.

    I think the whole creator of the creator thing is something that just about everyone who believes in creation has come up with some personal way of dismissing it, and they now view that argument as somehow invalid (but can't provide any explanation) so it doesn't seem to get you anywhere.

  • prologos

    I cope with the need of a 'mother of all creators' question by simply looking at time.

    I f you consider time as stationary and us as moving, rather than time passing you by, fleeing,

    then there is no need for a sequence before the universes' beginning.

    time just being a placid fact of existence, us only moving since the beginning.

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