The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself? Part 7

Part 7 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 6 is found here.

Origin of Life

In the chapter titled “Light and Life,” Carroll discusses the meaning of what life is and the origin of life itself. He makes a passing comment that at least bacterial life may be found on another planet. He mentions, as a fact, that Europa, which is one of the natural satellites or moons of Jupiter, “… has more liquid water than all the oceans on Earth” (p.238).

But that has only been conjectured if there are liquid oceans underneath Europa’s frozen surface ice. The oceans are thought to begin 20 to 50 kms (12 to 30 miles) below the surface. Thus it may be sometime before the conjecture can be confirmed or denied. If there is anything we can learn from this, it is that Carroll is not phased at presenting as fact something he hopes to be true. To my knowledge, as of writing this, no oceans have been definitely discovered on Europa.

He asks the question, in regards to looking for life in space, will we know it is life when we see it?

“What is life anyway? Nobody knows. There is not a single agreed-upon definition that clearly separates things that are ‘alive’ from those that are not.” (p.238)

He gives NASA’s definition as “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution.” (p.238) He claims that the ‘correct’ definition of life doesn’t exist. Yet he offers the following.

“Life as we know it moves (internally if not externally), metabolizes, interacts, reproduces, and evolves, all in hierarchical, interconnected ways.” (p.238)

Edwin Schrödinger, who helped formulate quantum mechanics, believed it was one of balance, balance between change and maintenance of structure and integrity. His definition is as follows.

“When is a piece of matter said to be alive? When it goes on ‘doing something,’ exchanging material with its environment, and so forth, and that for a much longer period than we would expect an inanimate piece of matter to ‘keep going’ under similar circumstances.” (p.239)

This focuses on the ‘self-sustaining’ part of NASA’s definition. Continue reading

The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself? Part 1

Part 1 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, and an outspoken atheist (not to be confused with Sean B. Carroll, an evolutionary biologist). The book was the winner of the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.

Front cover of book. Published by Oneworld Publications, London, 2016, 470 pages.

On the inside book cover these questions are written:

Where are we? Who are we? Do our beliefs, hopes and dreams mean anything out there in the void? Can human purpose and meaning ever fit into a scientific worldview?

Carroll’s message in this book is that there is no ultimate purpose, we are only the product of matter and material forces, there is no meaning to life, there is no afterlife and meaning and purpose do not fit into any scientific worldview. But the author tries to dress it up saying that it’s what you put into your life that counts. Beauty is found in the observer. But he cannot escape his own bondage because his worldview ultimately does not allow for intrinsic meaning or purpose. He is just dead in the end.

There is nothing new in this book but a lot of atheistic philosophy stemming from Enlightenment philosopher David Hume. The author uses circular reasoning and begging the question. By assuming there is no Creator because He is not needed in the universe, to cause it or operate within it, and by assuming everything in the past evolution of the universe and life in it is explained by man’s current knowledge (Darwinian evolution by mutation and natural selection) then everything can be explained how it came to be. The Universe needs no reason to exist. It simply is. Life needs no reason, it simply is. There was nothing before time began in the big bang so no question can be asked what was before? There is no First Cause because either the universe came into the existence with the beginning of time itself, or, time is fundamental and always existed so from it and the laws of physics the universe spontaneously arose from some quantum fluctuation. Now that we are smarter we have come to understand this true fact.

He talks of methodological empiricism as the correct way to learn the truth about the universe but he offers no direct empirical evidence for the origin of the universe in a big bang, or for the initial alleged low entropy state it started in, or for the spontaneous origin of life by random chance, or for the alleged Darwinian evolution of living organisms by natural selection over eons of history. We are essentially asked to just believe these as given facts as much as the author seems to. Only he offers up stories to justify his beliefs. As a book alleged to give the Big Picture of the Universe and all life in it, it fails on the very premise the author sets out to use—direct observation of the world to discover the truth. Continue reading

The cosmos might be mostly devoid of life

That is the headline of an articlewritten by the British-Australian theoretical physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies in the September 2016 Issue of the Scientific American magazine. Wow! Finally the evolutionists are waking up. This is what biblical creationists have been saying for decades. What an admission from probably the most popular level ‘science’ magazine and a leading promoter of the evolutionary paradigm.

SCIAM 2016 Sept Issue image

Image from Paul Davies article in SCIAM 2016 September Issue. The image represents the search of mankind in the cosmos for other sources of life. Credit: Tim Bower

Davies article is subtitled “We still have no idea how easy it is for life to arise—and it may be incredibly difficult.” Actually the Creator told us a long time ago, in the Bible, how it was done and it took a Creator God to do it so we might reasonably infer that it is not easy to do. Since then mankind has discovered the science of genetics and we now know it is incredibly complex (that is an understatement from a non-specialist). Just look through all the peer-reviewed journals on the origin of first life on Earth 3.8 billion years ago. Yeah right! — that’s the problem, there aren’t any!

On the alleged evolution of life Charles Darwin was clueless thinking it was like mixing paint; just add blue and yellow and you’ll get green. His notion was that simple organisms could add new information as the need arose, just add the right pre-biotic soup ingredients and hey presto! But genetics has now told us that it is just not that simple. And that does not even touch on the problem of the first life–the origin of living organisms from lifeless chemistry.2

Paul Davies thus writes that when he

“… was a student in the 1960s, almost all scientists believed we are alone in the universe. The search for intelligent life beyond Earth was ridiculed; one might as well have professed an interest in looking for fairies.”

And that the origin of life that gave rise to all organisms on Earth

“… was widely assumed to have been a chemical fluke of such incredibly low probability it would never have happened twice.”

Even the famous Nobel laureate who co-discovered the DNA helix Sir Francis Crick is quoted as saying back then:

“The origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle” … “so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”

Continue reading

Israel Trip 2016: Biblical creation lectures

On Saturday 4th June we returned from our 2½ week tour of Israel where my wife, Christina and I teamed up with 14 others from Australia, USA, NZ, Japan and Finland. The trip combined a biblical creation ministry with a 10 day tour of the sites around Israel, with a focus of relevant Bible history and creation science teaching. Our tour guide was a professional archeologist and Christian. The tour was sponsored by a Finish Christian outreach ministry. We were also supported by Israeli Messianic congregations and an Israeli Messianic conference ministry.

Biblical creation lectures, “8 Reasons Why Evolution is Foolish” (JGH), “The Heavens Declare…” (JGH), “Evidence for a Young Universe” (RH), “Cosmic Magnets” (RH) and “Flood Geology” (JB), “A Linguistic Argument” (JB) and others were delivered all over the country. They were given at:

  • a student conference (about 40, mostly Arab Christians,18-25 years old)
  • a youth conference (270 Jewish children, between 13-20 years old)
  • about 8 Messianic congregations (Tiberias, Jerusalem, Modi’in, Beer Sheva, Tel Aviv and other cities)
  • Hotel presentations: 3 different talks, in 2 cities
  • Total of 24 talks presented over 12 days by 3 speakers: myself (Dr John Gideon Hartnett), Dr Russ Humphreys and Dr John Baumgardner

The talks were translated into Hebrew and video recorded. Eventually we hope they will be available on YouTube.

For highlights of the guided archeological tour watch this 6 minute video (Powerpoint presentation) Archeological tour. (Sound only in two places)

Album of some meetings


Dr J. Gideon Hartnett speaking to students at the student conference

Continue reading

God, science & miracles: as conversations go

—A biblical creationist in the skeptics lion’s den

by John H.1 (this is not me, John Gideon Hartnett, see footnote)

Daniel in the lion’s den is an event I can vaguely relate to. Some years ago I attended a movie screening held by the NSW Humanists in Sydney. I was the lone Christian and Biblical creationist at a meeting attended by scientists, atheists, Skeptics and hard-core Darwinians. I had attended the meeting to secure a public debate between a visiting leading American Christian Apologist, Dr John Warwick Montgomery, and the then President of the Australian Skeptics, Mark Plummer, both lawyers. The subsequent debate was well attended and reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.


Daniel in the Lion’s Den by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. Credit : Wikipedia

After the screening that night, I engaged in a lively conversation with the head of the science department of a major Sydney university. We both enjoyed the conversation. He gave me a draft copy of his forthcoming book on evolution, and invited me to be his guest at the post screening dinner to continue our discussion.

During the meal I asked him whether he was an atheist or otherwise. He said he was probably an atheist. So, the following exchange took place:

John H: Do you regard yourself as a hard-boiled atheist, or a soft-boiled atheist?

Scientist 1: What’s the difference?

John H: Well! The hard-core atheist says that God doesn’t exist.

Scientist 1: Yes that’s probably my position.

John H: Einstein said he had less that 1% of all available knowledge. How would you compare yourself to Einstein? Would you have more or less knowledge?

Scientist 1:
I would have to say less.

John H: So, how can you say with any certainty that God doesn’t exist when you have less than 1% of knowledge? You would need 100% knowledge of all that exists to affirm that no God exists. You can’t substantiate that, can you? Continue reading

Wow! Communications from little green men?

Several years ago (2010) I met an astronomer from Jodrell Banks radio telescope (one of the first big ones operated by the UK) and she told me the story of a signal being detected, which was thought to be from some intelligent alien source in the cosmos.

The signal was detected at 10.30 am every time. After some investigation, it turned out to be the microwave oven used to heat the muffins for morning tea. It was from an intelligent source after all, but not from space. Her anecdote sounds very similar to what was proven to have been the source of some anomalous signals at the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.

Perytons at Parkes

Figure 1: The Parkes radio telescope Credit: Diceman Stephen West (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Figure 1: The Parkes radio telescope
Credit: Diceman Stephen West (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

According to Simon Johnston, head of astrophysics at CSIRO, in 1998 the Parkes radio telescope began detecting some fast radio bursts and related signals named perytons once or twice a year. It was theorised that these may have been signals from another galaxy, or emissions from neutron stars becoming black holes, or just interference from lightning strikes. But in 2015 it was determined that perytons were detected by the Parkes telescope when staff opened the door of the microwave oven at the facility to heat their lunch.1

“ … 1 January [2015] they installed a new receiver which monitored interference, and detected strong signals at 2.4 GHz, the signature of a microwave oven.”1

Immediate testing of the facility microwave oven did not show up any perytons. Until, that is, they opened the oven door before it had finished heating. “If you set it to heat and pull it open to have a look, it generates interference,” Johnston said.

Problem solved! No signal there from ‘little green men’ either! Continue reading

Why is it so hard for many to understand God’s truth?

Adam-and-EveIn the beginning God created two people who were perfect in all ways. They were Adam and Eve, made in the image of God. Then they rebelled against the living God by disobeying the one commandment he had given them—eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I don’t think the fruit was poisonous, since there was nothing in the creation that was, but this was a test of their obedience to the Creator. For without a choice Adam and Eve would have been just ‘robots’.

As a result of their action they were cursed, as was the whole creation (Romans 8). One result of the Curse (the Fall) was degeneration in humans. This would have included errors in the genetic code, not corrected for when copies were made every time cells are replaced in our bodies. (Before the Curse God sustaining power would have corrected any thermodynamically induced copying errors.) As a result the offspring of Adam and Eve, of which there were many, would have in many ways been less than perfect, physically and mentally. They then passed these inferior traits down to all their offspring, which includes all the human race, to us.
Continue reading