Dr. Aaron Sholders

LiFT podcast featuring Dr. Aaron Sholders (audio link)

For the Apple iTunes inclined: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/leaders-in-free-thought/id426025086

Today we have my old biochemistry prof (who happens to be a devout Christian) on the podcast and we discuss theology and Christianity. After recording he sent me an email which I have reproduced below.

Hey Seth

So I enjoyed the opportunity to sit down with you and Jeff and have an interesting conversation.  As I have replayed the conversation in my mind a couple of thoughts have come to my mind.  Obviously these won’t make it on the podcast but I wanted to share them with you.

First, I believe I misused the term “brute fact”.  The term I was actually looking for was “properly basic belief”.  The fact that an observable physical world exists is a “properly basic belief”.  I don’t know if the idea of a necessary being would fall into the category of a “properly basic belief” but Alvin Plantiga (a very successful philosopher from Notre Dame) has made this argument (or at least the argument that belief in God is properly basic) and published it in a 3 part series through Oxford Press.  He is not what you would call an evidentalist, William Lane Craig would be closer to an evidentalist although he does appear to have leanings similar to Plantiga in some ways.  So I feel I misused the term “brute fact” sorry for my ignorance of philosophy, it is not my realm of expertise that is for certain (although I do enjoy it!).

Second, I wanted to let you know that I do feel that it is important for Christians to come to a correct interpretation of Genesis and the bible as a whole.  This is in regards to our discussion about creation, evolution, design etc.  I did state that I believe that God created in a single manner but we may not know what that was.  Having said that I do feel it is important, for the Christian, to seek the truth in this very important realm of science, philosophy and theology.   I myself have not embarked fully on this study BUT I hope to.  I do have strong leanings toward ID as I see this as having great explanatory power at the molecular level, in particular the information stored in the genome.  What I haven’t done is really formalize this argument in my mind nor have I taken significant steps toward an argument against evolution as a whole.  So this is closer to my area of expertise and again we find some ignorance but we are all in different stages of learning :).  I can say this, I feel fairly confident that evolution has a much more difficult time explaining:

1. The origins of Information bearing molecules capable of self-replication.
2. The origins of complex macromolecules such as proteins.
3. The origins of the first cell and the complexiities that it would entail.
4. The flexibility that would have to exist within a genome to allow the origins of new species.
a. Mutation has not been demonstrated to confer this type of flexibility other than by inference.

Of course one could argue that science has yet to show how these things can be explained BUT we want to avoid “God-of-the-Gaps” argumentation.  And in a sense the way I have put these statements would be invoking “God-of-the-Gaps” argumentation.  I use these examples not as a formal argument but rather as “clues” that may indicate that evolution is not as powerful of an explanation at the molecular level (so this would be an argument against evolution but not an argument for intelligence).  Having said this, the design argument, when properly stated is not invoking “God-of-the-Gaps” argumentation.  The reason is that the design theorist is attempting to demonstrate that the physical world demonstrates marks of intelligence.  William Dembeski’s work is by far the best example of this in that he demonstrates that intelligence can be detected via “specified complexity”.  I, as a biochemist, feel that the genome demonstrates marks of “specified complexity” and thus marks of intelligence.  Notice here that the argument is not stating that “evolution can’t explain xyz therefore God did it.”  The argument is saying that: “This is how we detect intelligence (eg specified complexity), the natural world exhibits specified complexity, therefore intelligence was used to bring it about.”

Finally, I have yet to see how complex chemistry can bring about true and objective meaning.  When a biochemist sets up the following reaction in a beaker: Glucose + ATP –> G6P + ADP the beaker does not have “meaning”.  Now extend this into a multicellular organism such as you and I.  At the molecular level there is much more complicated chemistry going on HOWEVER it is still just chemistry.  Why does this level of complexity all of a sudden bring about meaning?  This is a hard argument to grasp onto for the reductionist because they naturally feel “meaningful”.  I agree that the reductionist does have meaning but does not have a worldview to support their belief in a meaningful existence.

Again glad I got to talk to both you and Jeff I enjoyed the experience.  Finally, I think it is only fair to tell you that I am praying for you, Jeff and Jeric.  I know this is “meaningless” to you but still wanted to let you know.

Aaron

I mentioned Shannon Deaver at the top of the podcast. She does all our logo work, including the one at the top of this page and the icons for our upcoming iPhone app. Here is her website.

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