Foundations of society

My what changes in the values of people have happened in my lifetime! There has been various forms of social decay and corruption of People’s view of themselves, their denial of truth, right & wrong, and so much that fragments the family. It can be very discouraging. In some communities, people are literally living day to day in fear of violence and vandalism in the streets, in cities that when I was young, didn’t have these problems. In Psalm 11:3 (NIV 1984), it says “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” What are the foundations of society, and what happens when they are breaking or at least under great strain? Much that makes for a stable society comes out of the Judeo-Christian world-view. The foundations of society are built from certain categories of issues that you could think of as building blocks.

What are those building blocks? The Family, the government, the economy, a healthcare system, and education might be considered starting points. These are very general categories and you might think that since there are various forms of each of them, then multiple forms of each of them may be acceptable or what you might call livable for people. But all possible systems do not give the same results or the same degree of livability for people. I would say that it is when they are built on and implemented by principles flowing out of a Judeo-Christian world-view that they are more livable for people. The person living in the society actually does not necessarily have to be aware of how the building blocks came out of Christian principles. But people who are leaders leading others to tear down the building blocks and restructure society are often aware of the connection to Judeo-Christian principles.

I will start with education, but I’m going to define “education” to include public primary and secondary schools, and public universities. I will also include the media and the internet in education since we all get so much information from the media and the internet. There are many ways of communicating and providing information, but what matters for my purpose here is the world-view or philosophy behind the presentation of the information. In science education, there is a philosophy that has often been called secular humanism, where man makes his own rules and depends on his own intellect and ingenuity. Science, historically, back in the 1600’s and 1700’s started explaining many things about the world and about life using scientific methods. The scientific method was so successful that science came to be treated in society as having authority. Sometimes that authority was seen as extending beyond just scientific questions. This happens for example if someone claims that evolution cannot be questioned because there is so much science backing it up. Science never has authority to tell people they can’t question a theory about our origins. But some think science can do this because of all the ways we have benefitted from it or because of what they believe about the science. This sense of “authority” where science makes claims about what everyone should believe, is sometimes called Modernism. Modernism makes claims about what’s true, and it also claims to be an authority for society to depend on. So the implication is that you cannot question certain ideas because they come from well-established ideas in science. We do depend on science in ways and science has indeed accomplished a lot that we benefit from. But many people would agree that science should not claim authority outside of science, such as in morals and beliefs.

Biblical Creation and its implications, compared to atheistic evolution

A contrary view to Modernism came along that is referred to as Postmodernism. Postmodernism says that no one has the right to claim to have the absolute truth. By the same token no one can claim to be an absolute authority over all people. So Postmodernism reacts against claims of “finding the truth” or being an authority for society. This also goes against religious claims. In Postmodernism, you are never really going out “finding the truth”, instead you are “choosing a narrative” to believe or to promote. So what happens in society is that individuals views are determined by the groups or cultural background around them. Postmodernism always downplays the choices of the individual because it tends to treat it almost as if our choices are not real choices. We are just being influenced by the pressures and influences around us. The large mainstream media organizations very much seem to take a postmodernist approach very often. The arguments made do not emphasize facts too much in Postmodernism. It is more a matter of which cultural group wins the competition between ideas.

I would also say that Postmodernism does not deal well with the concept of law or with what is involved in forensic science. Laws must be enforced in order to be useful in society. If there is a fire that burns down a building, the investigators don’t care what kind of “narrative” people believe who were affected by the fire. Some people would suffer financial losses or maybe physical harm due to the fire. If the fire was due to arson, the beliefs of the guilty party do not matter. It is the evidence that matters. It is not a “narrative” that someone is guilty of a crime, it is a legal definition. Legal definitions of crimes have to be based on facts and behavior or they are not enforceable. A Postmodernist person tends to not understand the significance of facts. The beauty of facts is that they pierce through human biases and possibly false interpretations and point to the truth. We often do not have perfect knowledge of all the facts, but legal due process in the courts is intended to handle this fairly. Following the law is not a competition between groups with different narratives. There must be the authority of law so that proper standards can be enforced fairly. Law has its basis in morality, and morality has its basis in the existence of a Creator-God who made us with purpose.

What does a Biblical view tell us? First, in the Biblical view human beings are fallen or corrupted by a sinful nature that affects everything we think and do. As a result, our moral judgment and reason are flawed. We have a great tendancy to disobey God. But the Creator-God who made us has revealed truth in the Bible and he does not treat us as unredeemable, even though we cannot overcome our sin problem on our own. From a Biblical perspective, science works in discovering order in the world because the Creator put the order there and made us to be capable of discovering it. We are intended to discover it so that we can put it to practical use and learn meaningful things from it. Biblically, there is an absolute authority, but we cannot be that authority because we are flawed. It is the God of the Bible. From a Biblical perspective we are indeed influenced by the culture around us but that does not mean we are slaves to it. We have choice. God has given us the power of choice. He also makes us responsible for our own behavior and our choices. There are eternal consequences of the moral choices we make. So a person can grow up in a certain culture or with a particular world-view and totally change to a different belief if they choose to.

Back to public education. In science education, I would say the emphasis is still the secular humanist view, which you could also call Modernism and Atheism. Not that every teacher is of these views, but the philosophy behind the typical textbook content is of this perspective. Thus in science, it is still emphasized that man is just a smart animal and there is no basis for a morality that applies to everyone the same. If there is no unchanging basis for morality from being accountable to a Creator, then there would be no basis for unchanging laws either. This also leads to the conclusion that there is no certain knowledge and on issues like the nature of marriage, this is something we humans can redefine if we see fit.

However, in other topic areas, such as in social studies, what students are exposed to today may be more like Postmodernism or it may be a mix of ideas. Today there is less emphasis on logically or critically evaluating ideas. Sometimes it is not considered desirable to learn about multiple points of view so you can make up your own mind what to believe on an issue. This used to be the goal of education in many areas, to be informed so you could then make up your own mind. There used to be more of an emphasis on teaching students critical thinking so that they can come to their own conclusions about beliefs and values. But today often the emphasis in education is more on using social pressures to work toward getting conformity to certain ideas among the students, without students questioning the accepted ideas. The goal sometimes may be more to make students feel a certain way about an issue, not to make them able to understand or explain it. This is very unhealthy in education. There is a growing that parents are finding other kinds of education options as a result of the problems with public education, including private schools, home schooling, and other options. In college, private colleges may have financial challenges but they provide badly needed alternatives. Christian colleges counter these problems about public education but they vary a great deal in how they apply the Bible to education. Sometimes colleges that call themselves Christian really are not very Christian in practice or in doctrine.

What about government? Are there connections between Christianity and the American form of government. This should be clear but it is something students are not really taught much, sadly. Our government has three branches, the Executive, the Congress, and the Judicial. These three make change harder. This came out of the Biblical concept that since people have a fallen sinful nature, political leaders tend to be corrupted and oppressive by being in positions of power. The way congress is structured and the electoral system balances the influences of the states. So there is accountability to the people with no one branch having all the power. But much depends on the character of the leaders who are elected. An important thing about America is that it is ultimately the American people who are sovereign, not the federal government. This does not seem so to the average person, and political leaders lose sight of it too. America is what the American people make it. We have stark contrasts happening today between some cities and other cities in terms of how the Mayors and other leaders manage the local laws and public policy. Today anyone paying attention should be able to see the difference between good leaders and corrupt leaders. There are drastically different ideals and values being implemented in different states and cities today.

In a Biblical view, society is built around the nuclear family, though this does not mean there cannot be single individuals. But there are moral principles around sex that protect both the individual and society from problems caused by abandoning Biblical morality. Thus God’s design is actually for the good of both the individual and the society, properly understood. The difficulties of Biblical morality to people today are because of unhealthy attitudes and ideas that have been learned and too easily accepted in modern society. For many hundreds of years, most people did not question the basic goodness of the nuclear family, or Biblical morality about sex. So living by Biblical morality is not impossible, people did it for a long time in history, in spite of some people falling short of it.

Another important principle from the Bible has profound implications for the value of human beings. It is the doctrine that human beings are uniquely created in the image of God. You could say this includes abilities we have such as having spoken and written languages, our intelligence (compared to animals), our ability to make moral judgments, and our creativity. I like to think that being made in God’s image means we imitate in a finite or limited way qualities that God does in an unlimited way. I would say our personal responsibility comes out of being made in God’s image also. Animals are not moral creatures as we are, from a Biblical view. Also, being made in God’s image means we are of special worth in God’s sight because we are designed to live in a relationship with Him. This relationship is broken until we restore it through faith in Christ. Our being in God’s image also includes our sexual natures. The Bible treats men and women as equals, though we are different. Biblically our goal should be for men and women to treat each other with respect as equals, not that men and women would be treated as if there are no differences. There are created differences that have a good purpose in God’s design for human beings. The traditional nuclear family comes out of God’s design for us and morality. God defines right and wrong, not human beings. Human beings are fallen and we have a tendancy to distort God’s original good design. When families were stable, society was more stable. When families are breaking, society is breaking. This has been a sad thing for me to see in the course of my life.

The matter of being made in God’s image also has many consequences for society. It is part of the reason that many hospitals in America were started partly from funding from churches. There are many hospitals that have “Methodist” in the name for example. Thus, in American history, the Christian view influenced the health care system I think. Why? Because in Christianity, every human individual is of equal worth and is a life worth saving. Science also came out of a Christian worldview historically and so a Christian view influenced many scientific discoveries that have helped us have modern medical knowledge. In economics the worth of the individual as well as the responsibilty of the individual comes to play. Why should people earn a living by working? Because the Bible teaches it is right for us as fallen people living in a fallen world. Working for a living begins in Genesis chapter 3 for Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. The New Testament says, “If a man shall not work, he shall not eat.” This comes from 2 Thessalonians 3:10. It was actually the Apostle Paul explaining how he was trying to live in a manner that set an example for people in the churches that he was planting. So this was a principle for anyone joining the church and coming to faith. Paul lived it even while doing ministry by working making tents to sell. Another important aspect of working for a living is that work is about serving someone else, not just serving yourself. Fallen people like us need to learn the value of serving others.t

Comets, Meteorites, & the origin of life

If you do not accept the Biblical account of the beginning of Earth and how life started on our planet, naturalistic science is turned to by many for answers. There are many technical details in the secular theories about the origin of Earth and of life. Earth is generally thought by most scientists to be about 4.56 billion years old and the origin of life, though debated, is put at more than 3 billion years ago. So without a Creator-God to bring about life on our planet, how would it start? Evolutionary biology theories will not help answer this question, because there cannot be evolution till after life exists! The question is more about how the first simplest life forms could form from chemicals and survive on Earth. If life could start, there is a large presumption that biological evolution could proceed from then forward. Many scientists would also take this logic to the next step and say that if life could form on Earth from nonliving chemicals that the same could happen on extrasolar planets orbiting other stars. In the secular scenario for our planet, Earth began very hot and was bombarded for a long time with objects from space. These impacts provided the raw materials. Only after the impacts slowed down and the Earth’s surface cooled off could life have had a chance to get started and survive. Life as we know it requires organic chemicals. So scientists have proposed that at least some of the chemical compounds necessary for life could have come from space. The composition of comets and asteroids have been studied by astronomers, and meteorites found on Earth have been studied similarly. So this brings us to the questions about life starting on our planet. Could comets or meteorites help explain the origin of life?

The term “organic” used to mean substances that only came from living things. But as scientists learned more about chemistry they learned how to make organic compounds, like those that are in living things, but make them from basic constituents like water, gases in our atmosphere, and other compounds that are considered “inorganic.” Organic compounds are carbon compounds, that usually have four elements in them, including carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. Organic compounds in a living cell have a three-dimensional arrangement that is important to the functions of molecules in the cell. There are often multiple forms of many organic compounds. Amino acids make up proteins and enzymes in living cells. But in living things, out of the many amino acids that are possible, only 22 of them are used to make proteins, and there is another very special requirement. Only the left-handed forms of these amino acids can be used in living things.

This “handedness” in organic molecules is very analogous to our hands. Both of our hands have the same parts, but because of the different arrangement of the parts of our left and right hands, they are mirror images of each other. The atoms in an organic molecule work the same way. This property of “handedness” is referred to with the technical terms “chirality” or “stereoisomerism,” and a few other terms. Sugars are also needed by living things and living cells require only the right-handed sugars. The terms “right-handed” and “left-handed” has to do with the order and three-dimensional arrangement of the atoms in the molecule. Amino acids are relatively small organic molecules with generally around 3 to 11 carbon atoms. But, proteins can be made up of a sequence of several hundred or more amino acids. In a real living cell, the organic compounds are often much larger molecules and they are much more complex. DNA contains a complex information code. So do a number of other molecules in the cell.

What Chemicals are in Comets?

Comets are made up of water ice, dust, and some rock. The ice in a comet is not only water ice but can include frozen organic compounds. As a comet gets near the Sun, it will form a tail. The ices in a comet are easily driven away and vaporized into space, unless trapped inside the object. In recent years there have been multiple missions to comets (and some to asteroids) by robotic spacecraft to get samples of the materials coming from a comet. Some chemical compounds detected in comets are listed below. The significance of these chemicals is in how they can take part in organic chemical reactions that form other organic molecules more important for life.

Carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), ethane (C2H6), methanol (CH3OH), glycine (the simplest amino acid), formaldehyde (H2CO), Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN), Ammonia (NH3), also sulfur dioxide and sulfur monoxide

Organic chemicals have also been found in some meteorites. An example would be the Murchison meteorite, from Australia. It was observed to fall in Sept 28, 1969. It broke up into multiple fragments totaling 220 lbs. The Murchison meteorite was like a carbonaceous chondrite asteroid and contained a variety of carbon compounds, including both left and right-handed amino acids. It contained these four amino acids found in living things: glycine, alanine, glutamic acid, and isovaline. A total of 80 or more different amino acids have been found in this meteorite and scientists believe many organic compounds could possibly be in such an object. Carbon compounds with up to 9 carbons have been identified in the Murchison meteorite. There have been other meteorites with organic materials in them also but the Murchison meteorite is one of the most well known and most studied. An important point to understand is this. Even if amino acids found in living things are found in a meteorite or a comet, that does not mean that it came from living things in the comet or meteorite. There are known processes that can form these molecules in space.

How do organic chemicals get into comets?

Carbon is an amazing element because it allows so many kinds of bonds to make a virtually endless variety of organic molecules. When hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen are present then simple organic molecules can form but it depends on the conditions. It usually requires an energy source to drive or enable the reaction that forms an organic molecule. In space there is not usually much heat but ultraviolet light is often present and it can drive reactions that form organic chemicals. Saturn’s moon Titan contains many organic compounds, but they are pretty simple molecules. Titan actually rains methane and ethane in much the same the way Earth rains water. Guess which kinds of organic compounds are not in Titan’s atmosphere–amino acids and other bio-relevant compounds are absent. Some amino acids can be formed in space, such as especially glycine. What about the left and right-handed molecules? Outside a living cell, in inorganic reactions, handed molecules normally are found in a 50-50 mix, which is called a racemic mixture. If a chemist wants to create some L-alanine (left-handed) that has no right-handed molecules (the “D” form) in it, they can but it is not a simple process. Chemical reactions happening in nature would not normally give you more L forms than D forms of the molecule.

This is why scientists have searched for processes in nature, especially in space, that can cause an “excess” of either the L or the D form. There is at least one effect than can do this, which is what’s called circularly polarized light (CPL). Without explaining exactly what this is, it can be in the radiation from some stars. So if there is a nebula in space with amino acids that start as a racemic mixture, exposure to this polarized light can destroy more of one amino acid form than the other and you could get slightly more L amino acids than D amino acids, for example. If this happened in space, then the amino acids could later get trapped into a comet or other object when the nebula collapses into a solar system object. But the “excess” measured in these nebulas, for the L or D form of the molecule is typically only around 1%. The actual truth is that no one saw the comets or the asteroids form in the beginning, so it makes many assumptions to think that the organic compounds in a comet were once in a nebula in space. However, for the sake of the argument let’s assume this scenario is correct, that organic compounds from a nebula found their way into a comet or a meteorite that fell on the Earth about 3 billion years ago.

What happens to chemicals in comets or meteorites?

A comet near Earth in space would usually already have a comet tail due to its nearness to the Sun. So the organic chemicals in it, would tend to come out even before it got to the Earth’s atmosphere. So these organic chemicals would scatter across space but they could fall onto Earth’s atmosphere. Once in Earth’s atmosphere, they may just float around in Earth’s atmosphere, or they may eventually drift to the surface in a few years time. If the comet (or a meteor) made it to Earth’s atmosphere without all the organics being driven out, then the comet or meteor object would be strongly heated as it falls through Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. So this heat would also drive out organics and would probably change them. They would tend to be decomposed into smaller molecules from the heat, unless they were protected inside it. But, even if some of these organic chemicals were not destroyed as the object fell through the atmosphere, one comet or meteorite would not put a lot of chemicals on the surface of the Earth. So it would require many many comets and meteorites. This is the story modern science is telling, that there were millions of years of impacts that made organics accumulate. After it reaches the surface (or the ocean) rain and other processes would tend to wash the organics out of the object or scatter them on Earth.

So on Earth organic chemicals would get naturally diluted in many ways. Ultraviolet light from the Sun tends to destroy organic chemicals on the Earth, even if they are in shallow bodies of water. In order for simple organic chemicals from a comet or meteorite to form some molecule larger and more important for life, the organic compounds have to get concentrated somehow and there has to be a source of energy to drive the chemical reactions. There may be heat available in certain places on Earth. But when you mix a variety of organic chemicals together, they have a tendency to break each other down, or they form something that is not related to what’s needed for life. If there is nothing to control the process, what you get from the chemical reactions is not something more like a cell but is more like useless chemical junk. The chemicals used by living things have very specific requirements that make them difficult or impossible to form under natural conditions. If a chemist were forming a compound relevant to life, such as a protein made up of left-handed amino acids, they would have to follow very specific steps and it would be very challenging. Many of the molecules in living cells are something even very accomplished chemists would not know how to make in a lab. Chemists have never made anything remotely approaching the complexity of a real living cell. Science related nontechnical articles written for the public often make a lot of exaggerated claims about what scientists have actually done related to the origin of life. So the organic chemicals in a comet or meteorite can form some other organic chemicals under the right conditions, but they are a long way from being like the molecular structures that make up a cell.

The Jump from Chemicals to Life

All the above is to make the point that it is very unlikely for biologically relevant molecules to form even if the raw organic materials did come from space. However, for the sake of the argument, let’s skip this problem and assume that the important biomolecules did accumulate and somehow get concentrated together under conditions conducive to life on the early Earth. There is still a huge problem, which is the information and organization in living things. Even if you had all the right molecules, how can they form in the right sequence? Proteins are a good example. Proteins in living things are formed from many amino acids combining in a certain sequence. The sequence makes a complex code, similar to a language. If you have many of the exact same molecule placed end-to-end this is referred to as a polymer. But in a polymer, there is little information content because the individual units are all alike and they don’t have to be in a particular order. Pop beads are similar to a polymer because all the beads are alike and they go together the same way. But a protein molecule is different. First, out of the many amino acids that exist, only 22 different amino acids make up the proteins in living things. Also, right-handed amino acids won’t work, they must all be left-handed amino acids. Chemical reactions do not normally naturally form only left-handed molecules exclusively like this. Also in a protein, the sequence of the amino acids will determine the three-dimensional shape of the molecule. Organic molecules often fold, and the shape of the molecule after it folds will determine what it can be used for in the cell. If the sequence is wrong, the shape is wrong and then it may be useless in the cell, or it can even be destructive.


If the sequence for so many molecules in a cell is so specific, where does the information for the sequence come from? Science cannot answer this kind of question. It requires a great intelligence, like an infinite Creator-God. The laws of chemistry and physics cannot provide a source for the how-to-make-it information. The information in DNA is vastly complex beyond human understanding. Scientists have mapped the raw sequence of human DNA, but that does not mean the information in it all is totally understood. In living cells, DNA has multiple types of codes, not just one. The cell also mechanisms to detect if the DNA code is incorrect and then correct it. This is fantastically complex.

So if organic chemicals came to Earth on comets and meteorites (or asteroid impacts long ago), does this explain how life formed on Earth? No. We should be honest about what science cannot do. Biblically the raw materials for life on Earth do not really have to come from far away in space. God created the Earth before other solar system objects, so if Genesis 1 is true, how could life on Earth come from space? In the creation week in Genesis, plant life was created before the Sun, Moon, and stars. But animals were formed after the Sun, Moon, and stars. When Earth was formed (Day 1 of creation week), there were no comets or asteroids yet, apparently. The first life came from God by miraculous creation, not from natural processes over billions of years.

Christianity and Reasons for Faith – by Wayne R. Spencer