A Scientific Basis for Creation: The Principle of Uniformity

Creation Evolution Journal
Title: 
A Scientific Basis for Creation: The Principle of Uniformity
Author(s): 
Norman L. Geisler
Volume: 
4
Number: 
3
Quarter: 
Summer
Page(s): 
1–6
Year: 
1983

In crossing a valley, suppose I come upon a round stratified stone and were asked how it came to be such. I might plausibly answer that it was once laid down by water in layers which later solidified by chemical action. One day it broke from a larger section of rock and was subsequently rounded by the natural processes of tumbling and water. Suppose then, upon walking further, I come upon Mount Rushmore where four human faces appear on a granite cliff.1 Even if I knew nothing about the origin of the faces, would I not come immediately to believe it was an intelligent production and not the result of natural processes of erosion?

Yet why should a natural cause serve for the stone but not for the faces? For this reason, namely, that when we come to inspect the faces on the rock we perceive—what we could not discover in the stone—that they manifest intelligent contrivance, that they convey information. The stone has redundant patterns or strata easily explainable by the observed natural process of sedimentation. The faces, however, have specially formed features, not merely repeated lines. The stone has rounded features like those we observe to result from natural erosion. The faces, on the other hand, have sharply formed features contrary to those made by erosion. In fact, the faces resemble things known to be made by intelligent artisans. These differences being observed, the stone face requires intelligence as its cause. Hence, we would rightly conclude, there must have existed at some time and at some place or other some intelligence that formed them.

Nor would it, I apprehend, weaken the conclusion if we had never seen such a face being chiseled in granite, that we had never known an artisan capable of making one, or that we were wholly incapable of executing such a piece of workmanship ourselves. All this is no more than what is true of some lost art or of some of the more curious productions of modern technology.

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Neither, secondly, would it invalidate our conclusion that upon closer examination of the faces they turn out to be imperfectly formed. It is not necessary that a representation be perfect in order to show it was designed.

Nor, thirdly, would it bring any uncertainty in the argument if we were not able to recognize the identity of the faces. Even if we had never known of any such person portrayed, we would still conclude it took intelligence to produce them.

Nor, fourthly, would any man in his senses think the existence of the faces on the rock were accounted for by being told that they were one out of many possible combinations or forms rocks may take, and that this configuration might be exhibited as well as a different structure.

Nor, fifthly, would it yield our inquiry more satisfaction to be answered that there exists in granite a law or principle of order which had disposed it toward facial forms. We never knew a sculpture made by such a principle of order, nor can we even form an idea of what is meant by such a principle of order distinct from intelligence.

Sixthly, we would be surprised to hear that configurations like this on a mountain side were no proof of intelligent creation but were only to induce the mind to think so.

Seventhly, we would be not less surprised to be informed that the faces resulted simply from the natural processes of wind and water erosion.

Nor, eighthly, would it change our conclusion were we to discover that certain natural objects or powers were utilized in producing the faces. Still the managing of these forces, the pointing and directing them to form the faces, demands intelligence.

Neither, ninthly, would it make the slightest difference in our conclusion were we to discover these natural laws were set up by some intelligent being. For nothing is added to the power of natural laws by positing an original designer for them. Designed or not, the natural powers of wind and rain erosion never produce a human face in granite .2

Nor, tenthly, would it change the matter were we to discover that behind the forehead of a stone face was a computer capable of reproducing other faces on nearby cliffs by laser beams. This would only enhance our respect for the intelligence which designed such a computer.

And, furthermore, were we to find that this computer was designed by another computer we would still not give up our belief in an intelligent cause. In fact, we would have an even greater admiration for the intelligence it takes to create computers which can also create.

Further, would we not consider it strange if anyone suggested there was no need for an intelligent cause because there might be an infinite regress of computers designing computers? We know that increasing the number of computers in the series does not diminish the need for intelligence to program the whole series.

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Neither would we allow any limitation on our conclusion (that it takes intelligence to create such information) by the claim that this principle applies only to events of the near past but not the most remote past. For what is remote to us is near to those remote from us.

And would we not consider it arbitrary for anyone to insist that the word "science" applies to our reasoning only if we assume the face had a natural cause, such as erosion, but not if we conclude it had an intelligent source? For who would insist that an archaeologist is scientific only if he posits a non-intelligent natural cause of ancient pottery and tools?

Neither, lastly, would we be driven from our conclusion or from confidence in it by being told we knew nothing at all about how the faces were produced. We know enough to conclude it took intelligence to produce them. The consciousness of knowing little need not beget a distrust of that which we do know. And we do know that natural forces never produce those kinds of effects. We know that the faces on the rock manifest a form such as is produced by intelligence. For "wherever we see marks of contrivance, we are led for its cause to an intelligent author. And this transition of the understanding is found upon uniform experience."3

Now in like manner, suppose in exploring a cave we come upon a beautifully formed crystal. Would the order of its redundant patterns and the beauty of its symmetry lead us naturally to conclude it was formed by a creator? Not necessarily. Purely natural processes regularly produce such redundant order as is found in crystals.

Suppose, on the other hand, in studying the genetic structure of a living organism, we discover that the DNA of each cell has a highly complicated and unique information code. Further, suppose we find that the information in even a single-celled organism is equal to that of one volume of an Encyclopedia. Suppose, also, we discover that the information in living cells follows the same pattern as do combinations of letters used by intelligent beings to convey information.4 Suppose, further, we find that the information content of non-living proteins is nearly random and that "nothing which even vaguely resembles a code [of life] exists in the physio-chemical world."5 Noting all this, would we not conclude that it took intelligence to produce a living organism? And would we not arrive at this position with the same degree of confidence with which we concluded that it took intelligence to inform the rock to take the shape of a face?

And were we in addition to discover that the human brain contains more genetic information than the world's largest libraries, would we not reject without further reflection any suggestion that the vast "library" of the brain might have emerged naturally from a more simple one "volume" organism without intelligent intervention?6

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Neither, I believe, would we be dissuaded from our conclusion of the need for intelligent creation of the human mind by the fact that there are many other "books" in the library of living things with similar but less complex information. For experience indicates that similar information in different books never transfers from one to another, either in the printing and shipping process, or as they come in contact on library shelves.

And it is doubtful whether any sensible person would change his conviction on these matters were it known that print is sometimes changed by natural processes (aging, damage). Nor would our view change if we heard that occasionally words leap inexplicably from one book to another. Still we are confident that such changes and transfers of print would take intelligent guidance to result in real information, not confusion. Common sense reveals that information is never transformed from lower to higher forms except by intelligent intervention. For we know that even though all the words of Hamlet are in the Oxford Dictionary, nonetheless it takes intelligence to produce Hamlet out of a dictionary.

Whence comes this assurance that information is caused by intelligence and that information transformation to higher codes takes intelligent manipulation? Is it not the "uniform experience" of all rational men? For has anyone ever observed an encyclopedia result from a fan blowing on alphabet cereal? Does making random mistakes in copying "Mary had a little lamb . . ." over long periods of time ever result in a Milton's Paradise Lost? Do we ever observe either the origin or improvements in complex information except by intelligent intervention?

Further, so firmly is the principle of uniformity established in our belief that we would be greatly surprised to hear that someone has put monkeys at typewriters, expecting them to produce a work of Shakespeare.7 Or that someone is dropping marbles on a computer keyboard in the expectation of producing a superior program for it.

So certain are we that only minds convey information that when ancient inscriptions in unknown languages are discovered we do not hesitate to conclude some intelligent being inscribed them. And were astronomers to receive a decodable message from outer space there would be no reason to conclude that it emanated from anything but an intelligent sources

What is the basis of this confidence that it takes intelligence to originate such information? Is it not our uniform experience? And is it not true, to quote David Hume, that "a uniform experience amounts to a proof, [so that] there is here a direct and full proof from the nature of the fact. . . ."9

In short, is not our belief in the need for intelligence to produce the various information codes of living things based on the scientific principle of uniformity—"the present is the key to the past"? And since we did not observe the origin of living things, does it not follow that our speculations about these past events are entirely dependent on the trustworthiness of the principle of uniformity? But in view of the fact that our experience uniformly indicates the need for intelligence to create such information, is not the belief in a non-intelligent natural cause of living things contrary to the principle of uniformity on which scientific understanding of the past depends?

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References

1. 1 am indebted for this illustration to Dr. Charles Thaxton of Richardson, Texas.

2. Even the principle of "natural selection" is never observed producing an entirely new form of life. Natural selection is a principle known to be helpful in the conservation of existing organisms, but not in the production of totally new ones. Darwinians admit that the famous peppered moth "experiments beautifully demonstrate natural selection-or survival of the fittest-in action. But they do not show evolution in progress. For however the populations may alter in their content of light, intermediate, or dark forms, all the moths remain from beginning to end biston betularia." L. Harrison Matthews, "Introduction" to Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, London: Dent, 1971, p. XI.

3. See William Paley, Natural Theology, ed. by Frederick Ferre, New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1963 (first published 1802), p. 37.

4. Recently this interesting fact was brought to light by an American scientist who wrote: "The statistical structure of any printed language ranges through letter frequencies, diagrams, trigrams, word frequencies, etc., spelling rules, grammar and so forth and therefore can be represented by a Markov process given the states of the system. . . ." He adds, this same "sequence hypothesis applies directly to the protein and genetic text as well as to written language and therefore the treatment is mathematically identical." See Hubert P. Yockey, "Self Organization Origin of Life Scenarios and Information Theory" in Journal of Theoretical Biology (1981), 91.

5. Yockey shows that "the information content of modern proteins reflects a complexity nearly that of a random sequence. . . ." He adds, "The order in the naturally formed amino acid polymers is therefore an impediment and not a means of 'self organization' which leads to informational biomolecules and from thence to a genome." Ibid., p. 26.

6. One scientist wrote,

The information content of the human brain expressed in bits is probably comparable to the total number of connections among the neurons-about a hundred trillion, 1014, bits. If written out in English that information would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the world's largest libraries.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos. New York: Random House, 1980, p. 278.

7. The famous British astronomer, Sir Fred Hoyle, recently concluded:

No matter how large the environment one considers, life cannot have had a random beginning. Troops of monkeys thundering away at random on typewriters could not produce the works of Shakespeare, for the practical reason that the whole observable universe is not large enough to contain the necessary monkey hordes, the necessary typewriters, and certainly the waste paper baskets required for the deposition of wrong attempts. The same is true for living material.

Sir Fred Hoyle and N. C. Wickramasinghe, Evolution from Space, London: Dent, 1981,p.148.

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8. One famous astronomer wrote: "The receipt of a single message from space would show [earth dwellers] that it is possible to live through such technological adolescence [as we are now in]: the transmitting civilization, after all, has survived." See Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain, New York: Random House, 1979, p. 275 (emphasis added).

9. See David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1955 (first published 1748), p. 123 (no emphasis added).

About the Author(s): 
Dr. Geisler teaches in the Department of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, has written twenty-two books on theological subjects, and testified in support of the Arkansas creationism law in 1981.
© Copyright 1983 by Norman L. Geisler
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.