Finding God in the Genome

Finding God in the Genome October 30, 2015

GOD in the genome

This image from Pictoral Theology illustrates nicely a number of things about the approach many conservative Christians take to science and nature. Seeing “GOD” in DNA involves (1) treating one’s English language as normative, (2) selectively leaving out and adding things and fixating on the ones which provide meaning, and (3) reading significance that just isn’t there into the result of doing (1) and (2).

If you can’t see God at work in the world the way it really is, then your theology is a failure to begin with and needs to be scrapped. If the only way to maintain and promote your worldview is to twist and ignore inconvenient evidence, then you’re already acknowledging (to others if not to yourself) that you haven’t got it all figured out.

For others of us, God embraces the sum of all we know, and goes beyond into the mystery of all we do not.


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  • John MacDonald

    There is no difference in finding God in DNA, and finding God in the ineffable. Both are examples of attributing agency in cases where there is no reason to.

  • It’s pretty clearly William Lane Craig pictured here. “Reading significance that just isn’t there into the result” is a good characterization of his Kalam Cosmological Argument. Ignoring the physics of quantum mechanics, he espouses Aristotelian cause and effect to propose that an infinite regression of causes is impossible. Therefore, he argues, all causes are contingent, except for the first one … and that must be God!

    That’s it. if there is noncontingent cause for everything, it must be God. Nevermind the possibility that the universe could be noncontingent, or that a larger multiverse could be noncontingent, or that a subatomic particle at the heart of the big bang could be noncontingent (especially since the rules of quantum mechanics predicts noncontingency at the subatomic level).

    No. Noncontingency must be God. Because that’s how WLC defines it.

    • John MacDonald

      The question is: how did the material that made up The Big Bang get there in the first place? Some cosmologists and physicists do attempt to investigate what could have occurred before the Big Bang, using such scenarios as the collision of membranes to give a cause for the Big Bang. But then the question becomes “how did the membranes get there?”

      • Get WHERE in the first place? And what is the meaning of FIRST PLACE? Space and Time begin at the the Big Bang (at least for our universe).

        • John MacDonald

          So you’re saying the material that made up the big bang was eternal? Did the singularity that exploded have dimensions?

          • No. Time is a property of the universe. Without time, what is the meaning of eternal?

            A singularity does not have dimensions. That is part of the definition of a singularity.

          • John MacDonald

            If you are talking about something (a) with no dimensions that (b) hasn’t existed for any length of time, it sounds like you are talking about “nothing.”

          • Actually, I’m talking about a singularity. Look it up.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m not sure how your singularity can have any qualities if it is in no way extended and doesn’t endure.

          • It isn’t my singularity; it’s the singularity that factors into the cosmology of virtually every physicist in the field. Again, endurance is meaningless without time.

          • John MacDonald

            Sounds silly to me to propose that something, a singularity, can have physical qualities without having dimensions or persisting, but then again what do I know. I’ll defer to the consensus. lol

          • Well, if you think it sounds silly, I don’t know what to tell you. Physicists must be silly?

            Persisting, by the way, is another concept that is tied to a human concept of time.

            One of the common quandaries of physics is that phenomena at the cosmological scale and the subatomic scale (such as time and dimension), do not conform to the expectations of phenomena at the human scale.

          • John MacDonald

            I know persistence has to do with time. In my comments I tried to look at physical realities from the point of view of space and time. I don’t know what it would mean for a physical reality like a singularity to have qualities if it is not spatio-temporal. Such qualities would be present in something, the singularity, that has no magnitude. I don’t know of any analogy which would aid in the conceptualizing of such a thing.

          • John MacDonald

            And space and time are so basic. A thing has to be extended to bear qualities. And it is of the essence of a substance to persist over time: e.g., I can only be me if I am conceptually one and the same person “from one moment to the next.” That’s what “substance,” the “hupokeimenon,” means: that which persists and underlies all change. There literally is nothing left over if we bracket out special/temporal material qualities of something. The singularity seems to be a meaningless, quality-less postulate.

          • Classical analogies don’t work well in quantum mechanics. Most of our expectations of what makes a “thing” break down at the subatomic level; and intervals of time below the Planck scale are not definable in any classical sense.


            Regardless of whether the concept of a singularity is meaningless to you, it is fundamental in modern physics.

          • John MacDonald

            Maybe the emperor has no clothes. lol

          • It’s not very likely that the entire international community of cosmological and particle physicists is naked.

          • John MacDonald

            What? Are you saying a random, amateur, internet-based agnostic bible enthusiast posting on a religion blog may not have a better understanding of cosmology than the entire academic community of physicists and cosmologists.? lmao

          • … or maybe I’m just turned off by the frightening prospect of all those bookish old physicists hobbling around their chalkboards in the nude …

          • John MacDonald

            Well, since it is of the essence of philosophers to make “distinctions,” at least we were being amateur philosophers by attempting some DEFINITIONS:
            1. THE BIG BANG QUANTUM SINGULARITY: That which “somehow” has qualities, despite utterly lacking dimension, or even persisting as a self-same substance over time.
            2. NOTHING: That which has no qualities, lacking in dimension and not persisting as a self-same substance over time.
            For our next blog thread we will describe how “Moral Relativism” is the most useful descriptor for the foundation of ethics, because it best describes why things like (a) cultural-based cannibalism and (b) The Romans feeding the Christians to the lions in the arena for the exciting sport of the crowd, could occur.

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            A singularity is a kind of fiction. It’s what you get if you pursue the implications of General Relativity to their logical conclusion. However, an infinitely small point is a point whose dimensions are known with infinite precision, and this violates the principle of quantum uncertainty. Therefore, a singularity is not compatible with quantum physics.

            All our attempts to model reality break down at some stage. Consider the atoning death of Christ. If you try to push this metaphor too far, you end up with a Jesus who has to “carry his blood” up to the heavenly sanctuary.

  • Skeptic

    Wow this blog post is terrible.

    It extends the unfortunate intellectual decline in skeptical critiques of theism into progressive Christianity.

    Let’s look at the problems with it.

    James doesn’t set up a clear target, but a vague, undefined boogeyman.

    In typical fashion, you can guess who the boogeymen are before reading the first sentence (“many Conservative Christians”).

    So we have a vague, undefined boogeyman, and in predictable fashion, they are “conservatives”, in this case “conservative Christians”.

    James doesn’t outline a real problem. We have no idea who these people are, and to what extent they claim to see God in DNA?

    Don’t get me wrong, I disagree completely with this whole project of “seeing God in Guanine, Oxygen, and Deoxyribose.”

    But how do we know they are anything more than an excuse, a figment of James’ imagination? A convenient fictional foil to give him an excuse to bash the other side, instead of educate them?

    Assuming these people do exist, and they are doing what they are doing, how does James’ response help, exactly?

    What in the world does “not seeing God at work in the world the way it really is” follow from the Guanine, Oyxgen, Deoxyribose nonsense?

    This isn’t even a coherent refutation of the strawman he set up earlier!

    Here’s the bottom line: What I REALLY think is going on is that James has a problem with conservatives, and is looking for a premise, any premise, no matter how flimsy, to attack them.

    But in the process, he’s made a complete mess, concocting fiction upon fiction to make a barely comprehensible argument.

    James, stop with these posts, they’re making progressives look bad. How about a little more substance?

    • Is there some reason you felt the need to leave this comment twice?

      Are you familiar with Giglio’s appeal to the cross-shaped molecule Laminin in an infamous sermon?

      That’s the sort of thing I had in mind, and which I presume the maker of the cartoon had in mind. That you may not be as familiar with the kinds of things that people sometimes do, appealing to what they perceive as scientific support for their faith, does not seem to justify your rude comment being left once, much less twice. Kindly use one commenting system or the other in the future.

      (I will repeat this comment on The World Table and will let you choose which comment system you prefer to use to continue the conversation).

      • Skeptic

        Hi James

        Sorry about the double-comment. It seemed like the previous comment was on a different commenting section, and wasn’t used all that much.

        Keep in mind I’m on your side here. I am completely against improper appeals to science as evidence for theism. We’re together, on the same team. I’m also familiar with Giglio’s appeal and I’m with you- I think it’s completely mistaken.

        But the real question is this: Is the content of your critique something that encourages these mistaken people to change their views? Are you approaching them as misguided friends and brothers? Not at all, from the reader’s perspective. Your tone is clearly hostile and oddly personal. You’ve made them out to be your enemies.

        There’s something deeply misguided about that. The hostility of your approach seems troubling.

        I suppose the rudeness of my comment was an unconscious mirroring of the tone you took, and that was a mistake on my part, and for that I sincerely apologize. I should have maintained a dispassionate attitude.

        But all the same, I’m sure you are aware that your critiques here don’t count as constructive, and not being constructive, will not solve any of these problems plaguing conservative Christians, and their impact on society.

        Your critiques seem more cathartic. More designed to express negative feelings, and that too, on the bully pulpit of this blog.

        I’m sure you can see the problem I’m highlighting here- the fact that change is more achievable with honey than with vinegar, and the fact that you’re using vinegar is indicative that the purpose of this blog post is not to encourage a solution, but to give a voice to your contempt and disdain.

        • Being on sabbatical, I left a lot of comment notifications in my inbox, intending to return to them. I apologize that it took me so long to do so. At this stage, there is probably nothing left to say that I appreciate your call for me to make sure I don’t simply insult those with views I once held, but engage in respectful, meaningful, substantive critique. I hope that you will allow me the occasional joke or bit of satire, and will continue to call me out if I move the direction of offering nothing but that.

  • Skeptic