Tag Archives: Reasons to Believe

J.W. Wartick’s summary of the debate between Michael Ruse and Fazale Rana

Details of the debate:

The Origin of Life: The Great God Debate
Fuz Rana vs. Michael Ruse

Michael Ruse and Fuz Rana square off to debate the question “Are natural processes sufficient to explain the origin and the complexity of the cell?” The debate will be moderated by Craig Hazen. Sponsored by The Well Christian Club at UCR, Come Reason Ministries, and Biola University.

Format of the debate:

  • Opening Arguments: 20 minutes each
  • 1st Cross-Examination: 6 minutes each side
  • Rebuttals: 10 minutes each
  • 2nd Cross-Examination: 6 minutes each side
  • Concluding Arguments: 5 minutes each
  • Q &A: 40 minutes (Questions can come from Twitter and SMS)

Here on J.W. Wartick’s blog, I found a summary of the debate (video above).


Michael Ruse Opening

Michael Ruse was careful to note that he is not keen on saying design is not possible. Rather, his claim is that naturalism is the most plausible explanation for the origins of life.

Ruse’s argued that design is implausible. Specifically, he noted that if design is the hypothesis put forward, there are any number of ways that one might consider that hypothesis. Is the designer a natural being within the universe or a supernatural being like God? Is there only one designer, or was there a group of designers (and he notes that a group of designers seems more plausible because automobiles require many designers to bring them about)? Finally, he raised the issue of bad design choices. He asked why, if there were a “hands-on” designer, would that designer not grant immunity to HIV and the like.

Ruse also argued that one can fall into the fallacy of selective attention- if one focuses upon only one example in isolation, then one might come to a conclusion that certain laws/theories may not be correct. But placing these same problems in context shows that they can be explained against “the background of our knowledge.”

Finally, Ruse ended with a number of examples for how problems which were seemingly insoluble were explained by naturalistic means. He also argued that one of the popular arguments for design, the flagellum, has so many different varieties (and is sometimes found to be a vestigial organ), and so cannot be shown to be designed.

Fazale Rana Opening

The problems which must be accounted for within an origins of life model are numerous. One must account for self-replication, the emergence of metabolism, the formation of protocells, the synthesis of prebiotic materials, the formation of life’s building blocks, and more.

Rana then turned to some primary models used by researchers to explain origin of life (hereafter OOL). First, there was the replicator-first model, which was problematic because in order for a molecule to be a self-replicator, it must be a homopolymer. But the complexity of the chemical environment on early earth rendered the generation of a homopolymer on the early earth essentially impossible. Next, the metabolism-first model runs into problem due to the chemical networks which have to be in place for metabolism. But the mineral surfaces proposed for the catalytic systems for these proto-metabolic systems cannot serve as such; Leslie Orgel held that this would have to be a “near miracle” and Rana argues that it is virtually impossible. Finally, the membrane-first model requires different steps with exacting conditions such that the model is self-defeating.

Rana argued positively that OOL requires an intelligent agent in order to occur. The reason is because the only way that any of these models can be generated is through the work on OOL in a lab. Thus, they can only be shown to be proof-of-principle and the chemistry breaks down when applied to the early earth. The fact that information is found in the cell is another evidence Rana presented for design. The systems found in enzymes with DNA function as, effectively, Turing machines. Moreover, the way that DNA finds and eliminates mistakes is machine-like as well. The fact that the needed component for success in lab experiments was intelligence hinted, according to Rana, at positive evidence for design.

Finally, Rana argued that due to the “fundamental intractable problems” with naturalistic models for the OOL and the fact that the conditions needed for the OOL and the processes required to bring it about have only been demonstrated as in-principle possible with intelligent agents manipulating the process.

He’s got a summary of each of the speeches, and it rings true with what I saw when I watched the debate.

Live stream: Dr. Fazale Rana debates Dr. Michael Ruse on evolution vs design

UPDATE: Video posted:

A debate on origins happening TODAY! (May 16th)

Details here. There is a free live stream!

The Origin of Life: The Great God Debate
Fuz Rana vs. Michael Ruse

Michael Ruse and Fuz Rana square off to debate the question “Are natural processes sufficient to explain the origin and the complexity of the cell?” The debate will be moderated by Craig Hazen. Sponsored by The Well Christian Club at UCR, Come Reason Ministries, and Biola University.

May 16, 2013

Thursday Night
Time: 7:00 pm, PDT
Cost: $10 ($5 with student ID)
Parking $5
Live Stream: FREE

Event Registration Information Here!

Live Stream Information Here!


University of California Riverside Campus
900 University Ave,
Riverside, CA 92507

Format of the debate:

  • Opening Arguments: 20 minutes each
  • 1st Cross-Examination: 6 minutes each side
  • Rebuttals: 10 minutes each
  • 2nd Cross-Examination: 6 minutes each side
  • Concluding Arguments: 5 minutes each
  • Q &A: 40 minutes (Questions can come from Twitter and SMS)

Dr. Fazale Rana has written a number of books on intelligent design, and is a biochemist by trade. Dr. Ruse is a philosopher.

Dr. Rana will also be doing a lecture on the origin of life tomorrow evening. Details here.

New study on tidal heating strengthens stellar habitability argument

Circumstellar Habitable Zone
Circumstellar Habitable Zone

Note: If you need a refresher on the habitability argument, click here.

Here’s an article entitled “Tidal heating shrinks the ‘goldilocks zone’: Overlooked factor suggests fewer habitable planets than thought”. It appeared in Nature, the most prestigious peer-reviewed science journal.

The gist of it is that tidal forces can alter orbits so that planets don’t spend all of their orbit in the habitable zone. If planets go outside the habitable zone, it damages their supply of liquid water, and any life chemistry going on in there is disrupted.


A previously little-considered heating effect could shrink estimates of the habitable zone of the Milky Way’s most numerous class of stars — ‘M’ or red dwarfs — by up to one half, says Rory Barnes, an astrobiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. That factor — gravitational heating via tides — suggests a menagerie of previously undreamt-of planets, on which tidal heating is a major source of internal heat. Barnes presented the work yesterday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division on Dynamical Astronomy in Timberline Lodge, Oregon.

The habitable zone is the orbital region close enough to a star for a planet to have liquid water, but not so close that all of the water evaporates. For our Sun, the zone extends roughly from the inner edge of the orbit of Mars to the outer edge of that of Venus. For smaller, cooler stars, such as M-class dwarfs, the zone can be considerably closer to the star than Mercury is to the Sun. And because close-in planets are easier to spot than more distant ones, such stars have been a major target for planet hunters seeking Earth-like worlds.

There’s just one problem with finding habitable planets around such stars, says Barnes. Because tidal forces vary dramatically with the distance between a planet and its star, closer orbits also result in massively larger tidal forces.

Since planets do not have perfectly circular orbits, these tidal forces cause the planet to flex and unflex each time it moves closer to or further from its star; kneading its interior to produce massive quantities of frictional heat. Substantial heat can be produced, he added, with even slight deviations from a perfectly circular orbit. And, Barnes notes, other factors — such as the rate of the planet’s rotation and its axial tilt — can also influence heat production.

A similar tidal process makes Jupiter’s moon Io the most volcanic body in the Solar System. “I’m just scaling that Io–Jupiter system up by a factor of 1,000 in mass,” Barnes said at the meeting. “It’s the same process, on steroids.”

So, stars that are smaller and cooler will have a habitable zone that is closer to the star, exposing them to more tidal forces. More tidal forces makes their orbits less likely to stay circular – within the habitable zone around the star. These variations cause an increase in heat production on the planet. Too much heat means that the planet is unable to support liquid water on the surface, making it inhospitable for life. Therefore, solar systems with less massive stars can be ruled out as possible sites for life, because of these tidal forces.

Two astrophysicists dialog: Hugh Ross and Paul Davies on Unbelievable

Here’s the description from the Unbelievable page:

Hugh Ross is an astronomer and founder of Reasons To Believe, an apologetics organisation aiming to show why modern science confirms and supports the Christian worldview. Paul Davies is a British astrophysicist and popular science author currently based at Arizona State University. An agnostic, much of his writing has focussed on the extraordinary “fine tuning” of the Universe that allows life to exist and why the universe’s order and intelligibility defy a purely naturalistic explanation. Hugh and Paul discuss whether the properties of our Universe may be the result of a creator God, competing hypotheses such as the multiverse, whether science can be used to test the Biblical worldview… and Hugh explains why he wants NASA to look for fossils on the moon.

The MP3 file is here.

Paul Davies is one of the scientists that William Lane Craig often quotes in his debates.

Like this quote for the cosmological argument:

The evidence for the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe points to the creation of the universe out of nothing.  Not just matter and energy, but physical space and time themselves come into existence at the Big Bang.  In the words of the British physicist P. C. W. Davies, ‘the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself.’

Or this quote for the fine-tuning argument :

British physicist P. C. W. Davies has calculated that the odds against the initial conditions being suitable for later star formation (without which planets could not exist) is one followed by a thousand billion billion zeroes, at least.  He also estimates that a change in the strength of gravity or of the weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe.

It’s interesting that Craig chooses non-theistic scientists as sources to support his premises.

By the way, did you know that Unbelievable is having a conference later this month? Click here to find out about it, especially if you like science apologetics.

Brian Auten interviews astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink about the multiverse

Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 has a new interview with Jeff Zweerink on the multiverse.

Brian’s summary:

Today’s interview is with astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink. Jeff is a research scholar with Reasons to Believe, and serves part-time on the physics and astronomy research faculty at UCLA. He is author of Who’s Afraid of the Multiverse?, the main topic of our interview today. He talks about his background and how he got into astrophysics, scientific evidences pointing to God, the role of natural theology, the strongest (and weakest) arguments from science, the multiverse, the various types of multiverses, why scientists postulate the multiverse, various objections to the multiverse, should Christians, how to be well-informed in scientific evidences, advice for apologists, and more.

Full Interview MP3 Audio here (55 min)

Krista Bontrager writes this about Jeff’s book:

Reasons To Believe has a new booklet out. It addresses the multiverse controversy: Who’s Afraid of the Multiverse? (And when I say “booklet” it would really be more accurate to call it a short book. It’s a “good-sized” short treatment.)

RTB’s newest research scholar, physicist, Dr. Jeff Zweerink, explores the multiverse idea and its implications for biblical creation models. He addresses such questions as:

  • Does the multiverse pose problems for the Christian worldview?
  • Does the multiverse offer atheists an escape-hatch, one that is capable of explaining away design of the universe?

Zweerink’s answers to these questions may surprise some readers. He believes it is quite possible that particular types of multiverses to exist. (Whereas I think it would be fair to characterize Hugh Ross as being a little more cautious about this issue.)

Zweerink does a good job of explaining the appeal of the multiverse approach for some athetists. In fact, he is so fair and even-handed that, at times, the reader may wonder whether he’s defending the multiverse in all of its forms.

I am not aware of any other treatment of this quality by a Christian physicist. If you have a teenager who is planning on a career in science, especially in astronomy or physics, Who’s Afraid of the Multiverse? is a must-read. It would probably also be of interest to those who are curious about the topic.

It sounds like Jeff actually is open to the multiverse. BOOOO! James Sinclair’s essay in Contending With Christianity’s Critics also seemed to give the idea a fair treatment. Oh well, I have to be open to being proven wrong, so here is the podcast and let’s see the evidence!