“Mindless” Meanderings

How to Help People Navigate the Question of Ultimate Origins

by Calvin Smith on June 28, 2021
Featured in Calvin Smith
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Where did everything come from?

I specifically remember as a young child looking up at the stars, trying to think through the complexities and the big picture of life. Where did all of this come from, and where does it stop? I recall thinking, “OK, I’m here in Ontario. And Ontario is in Canada. Canada is on the earth. And the earth is in space, and the moon is farther away from us. And the sun even farther away, and there are more stars and planets even further away than that.”

“But what’s after those? And what’s after whatever is after that?! Where does it end? How can it end? There must be something beyond that!!!” And then my brain would shut down, and I would console myself by assuming that was something “big people” must know, and they’d tell me when I was older and could understand.

But no one ever could.

You’re Not Alone

Having had three of my own children, along with 10 grandchildren since then, I realize I wasn’t unique in my pondering. And I’ve not only had time to think these things through myself but have also been exposed to a myriad of opinions of various calibers on the subject, brought to me through books, videos, and deep conversations from philosophers and thinkers of all stripes.

But ultimately, after my conversion to Christianity, my conclusions were shaped by the final authority on all subjects: the Word of God. As amazingly brilliant and wise as some people can be, the state we find ourselves in as finite human beings is humbling as we realize there are some things we can know and some we’ll likely never know. As Scripture says,

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Something Eternal

When discussing the question of ultimate origins (which is a great way to open up gospel conversations), people can sometimes get bogged down by the seemingly overwhelming number of possibilities they’ve been exposed to. But thinking it through, taking just a few things into account, it’s really not as difficult as the local philosophy professor often makes it out to be.

For example, the answer to “Where did everything come from?” when boiled down, only has two possible answers.

  1. Matter has eternally existed and can create (has creative properties).1
  2. God has eternally existed and has created.

Why something eternal? Because the challenge of “infinite regress” demands it. The answer to the question, “Where did that come from?” always results in some sort of answer involving “From this/that.” However, one cannot simply keep asking, “Where did that come from?” and receiving an answer involving “from that” forever. Intellectually we understand that sooner or later we will run out of “this or that” to answer the question. Intuitively we know there must be either something or someone that was always, eternally, there. It’s as Ecclesiastes 3:11 says,

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Matter over Mind?

Of course, in an atheistic, evolutionary worldview, there is no mind that created, just properties inherent in matter that brought about everything we see through random processes. There are serious challenges to that, however, exacerbated by what observational scientific discoveries demonstrate.

For example, the modern story of evolution touts living things are basically the result of genetic mutations guided by natural selection. The problem is that genetic mutation is the result of spelling mistakes within an already existing and replicating genetic code. And rather than being the evolutionary “superpower,” as it is often portrayed as being in evolutionary literature, natural selection can only “select” from genetic information (preferential to specific environments) from within the pre-existing biological system of the creature in question.

Neither of these processes can account for the origin of the biggest challenge to the naturalistic worldview itself—the symbolic, coded-language system embedded within all living things: DNA.

Underhanded Examples

In an effort to indoctrinate children into a naturalistic worldview, evolutionists have sometimes used the fallacious example of using randomly distributed letters in classrooms as an example of how information can arise from random processes. By arbitrarily handing out letters printed on cardboard sheets face-down to students and having them flip them over to see if they can find a word spelled out here and there, they attempt to convince young minds that random selection can produce “information.” So, if Johnny, Mary, and Susie have the letters c, a, and t all in a row—voila! Cat! We’ve produced a word without an intelligent agent behind it.

Of course, this process is dependent upon capitalizing on the inexperience of children, who often don’t take the time to ponder and ask questions such as the following. Where do the letters come from in the first place? Why do these letters mean anything? Who assigned the meaning of the letters originally? Does the meaning of the letters come from the ink or their shape? Do these letters mean anything to all people on the planet or only to those who understand (written) English? Do the letters require a translation device to comprehend? Who gets to decide what order the letters should be read in class (linear, horizontal, backwards/forwards)? Who gets to decide at which letter to start and stop to derive meaning?

Mind over Matter

The fact is, from all scientific observations, coded-language systems are completely arbitrary in the sense that it doesn’t matter what they are composed of. For example, if you ask the average person whether twigs on trees contain information content, most would say no. But of course, if you arrange them on the ground in the shape of the word H E L P, they would then contain information (but only to someone that already possessed the decoding ability for written English).

So, information is dependent upon the order in which you arrange the matter and/or energy conveying the information and whether there is a decoding device that understands that specific code. Whether spoken, written, or signaled, the meaning is not inherently dependent on the matter and/or energy it is conveyed upon.

For example, Native Americans used smoke signals to communicate a variety of messages, but the meanings of the messages contained in the signals weren’t derived from the charred ash suspended in the air that transmitted the content. “Help” can be conveyed using stones on a beach, twigs in the sand, smoke signals, or shouted soundwaves, but none of those entities are themselves uniquely critical to the creation of the message. And neither are the physical properties of DNA—the “language of life.” Is it only creationists saying that?

Here’s a snippet from an online blog from The Oxford University Press explaining how the physical properties that constitute DNA aren’t unique:

There is nothing that special about the atoms found in a molecule of DNA: they are no different from the atoms found in the thousands of other molecules from which the human body is made.

They openly admit that just as the information in a book isn’t the product of the ink molecules themselves, information in the DNA of living things is not the product of the chemistry of the DNA.

The biological information stored in a DNA molecule depends upon the order of its building blocks—that is, its sequence. If a DNA sequence changes, so too does the information it contains. On reflection, this concept—that the order in which a selection of items appears in a linear sequence affects the information stored in that sequence—may not be as alien to us as it might first seem. Indeed, it is the concept on which written communication is based: each sentence in this blog post is composed of a selection of items—the letters of the alphabet—appearing in different sequences. These different sequences of letters spell out different words, which convey different information to the reader.2

What Does This All Mean?

Simply put, in all of our observational experience (which is what science is primarily based upon), it takes an intelligent mind to determine meaning, especially when it comes to a coded-language system. Even when looking at examples like computer software programs for instance, when tracing back to the origin of the information, we always find an intelligent mind as the source. Computers can be programmed with “if X, then Y”-type programming and responses, but all of the data was the result of input from an intelligent mind.

Evolutionary Tales Contradict Themselves

Ultimately, contradictions indicate falsehoods. And because it is false, the story of evolution is often contradictory. Take the classic ape-to-man diagram we see everywhere from T-shirts to textbooks. It promotes the tall tale that humans were once brutish beings shambling around making primitive “ugh-ugh” sounds that began without speech. And not simply because they didn’t have the physical capacity (the “hardware”), but because they were simply too dumb (lacking the “software”).

After a while, supposedly, our ape-like ancestors evolved to become bright enough to communicate via some kind of semi-sophisticated language, and eventually evolved true, sophisticated speech.

But that means it must take intelligence to produce language, and all languages are arbitrarily symbolic coded information systems. So the conclusion is that it takes very intelligent minds to create sophisticated, coded symbolic-language systems.

Yet DNA is the most sophisticated coded-language system we have ever seen, truly mind-blowing in capacity and capability. And where do evolutionists tell us this came from ultimately? Mindless matter!

So, Where Did Everything Come From?

So, to come full circle to the question “Where did everything come from?” ask people to consider the two options we mentioned earlier. Which makes more sense considering what we see around us?

  1. Matter has eternally existed and has produced everything we observe, or
  2. God has eternally existed and has created everything we observe.

Think it through. God has a mind, and matter does not! When materialists insist “science” supports the idea that naturalism is the best explanation of where life came from, do they really have an intellectual leg to stand on? The answer is an emphatic no.

The “Language of Life” Reveals the Life-Giver

DNA is the most efficient, compact, and versatile communication tool yet discovered, with research continuing to reveal deeper layers of information within it every year. Logically the most sophisticated code must have come from the most sophisticated mind we can imagine: God. All the more reason to believe the truth of God’s Word can be seen all around us as per Romans 1:20.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Footnotes

  1. This article is meant for the popular level reader. Contrary to what most people believe or understand, the majority of physicists now posit an idea even more supernatural to most laypersons than the idea of an eternal, creator God or the existence of eternal matter. This is the concept that our universe is the result of a singularity that literally came from . . . nothing! Explanations as to how that could possibly be vary, but queries as to “What happened before that?” or “Where did the initial energy come from?” all end with that declaration. Literally nothing.
  2. Jonathan Crowe, “What is DNA and what does it do?,” Oxford University Press BLOG (OUPBlog), February 28, 2011, https://blog.oup.com/2011/02/dna.

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