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Saturday, 9 July 2016

"How" - Yes; But No "Why".

One of our church Elders sat across the table at a Starbucks coffee bar adjoining our nearest superstore to my home. As I sipped through a Cappuccino Grande, we enjoyed a hearty conversation over various church issues, perhaps also wondering whether to thank the Americans for allowing us to sample their culture here in the UK, or to rebuke our cousins across the Atlantic for stealing an Italian recipe and making it their own. It was probably midway through the conversation when he came up with a statement which made me consider whether on this blog page I demonstrate a dislike for educated men, or of education itself. On the contrary I have a strong respect for educated people, or else I would never visit my GP, or that matter, submit myself to the knowledge and experience of the cardiac surgeon and his team that morning last year I had open heart surgery.

But much has to do with the the academic's attitude, especially towards us "commoners" or "plebs" which makes up a large percentage of the population. Here, in this part of the world, traditional manufacturing industry has been replaced over the years by high-tech offices, where production is centred around computer programming, various services, and administration. The grease stained boiler suit has become as rare as an oasis in the desert, replaced by the business suit - although ironical, the tie looks to be heading the same way as the boiler suit. Living within a geographical strip roughly located between the A3 and the A4 motorways, the British equivalent of the Silicon Valley, I can't help noticing a high proportion of well educated people, particularly in the churches. For someone who has struggled at school back in the sixties, living in such a modern environment can test one's self-esteem. One of the benefits of being in a local church is to experience a society free from any social, academic, and ethnic barriers, and for everyone to be seen as equals in God's eyes and the eyes of the fellowship.

One of the men I have come to admire is Professor Brian Cox, at present on a series of weekly BBC programmes Forces of Nature. I think it's the way he presents himself that has drawn out my attraction towards him. Always appearing casually dressed in front of the camera. So far I have not seen him wearing a shirt-and-tie throughout any of his scientific presentations. Rather he tends to be drawn towards wearing a crew-neck tee shirt. To me that says something. In fact, I believe it says a lot. That is, he prefers to identify himself as one of us rather than way up there in a cliquey "them-and-us" sphere of attitude. This along with how he explains his theories. Easy to understand without any patronising.

Brian Cox at the Grand Canyon.

On one of his previous presentations, he explained the meaning of entropy. In one visual demonstration, he was at a semi-desert environment near an abandoned mining town, with derelict buildings slowly filling with sand blown in through shattered windows. He crouched down and started to sift the dry sand making up a sand mound. He explained that the natural mound was high in entropy, since despite his rough handling, it retains its natural shape. Then he picked up a sandcastle mould and slapped it on the ground. When lifted, a castle consisting of damp sand remains standing, like on any sandy beach. This has low entropy, because, as he explains, this ordered structure can only become disordered through time. Even if he does not touch the castle and spoil it, the wind will blow away the sand grains until the castle disappears altogether. 

This is school-level education which unfortunately, the staff at my school considered the whole class too slow-learning to understand. Or to put it bluntly, too stupid. So it was never taught. Only the brightest students had the privilege to learn the meaning of entropy and its mathematical relation with the second law of thermodynamics. An easy explanation delivered without the need to wear uniform - no school jacket, no school badge, and no school tie. Just good knowledge delivered over the airwaves in a way the uninitiated would understand.

Like the explanation of why a snowflake always have six sides yet each looks different from each other, and why a larger heavenly body is always spherical. The first is to do with the structure of the water molecule, and the flake's unique journey to the ground from the clouds, and the second from the forces of gravitation at work within the formation of the star, planet or moon respectively. Thanks, Brian.

The scientist is intrigued with the vast complexity of the Universe as well as with natural wonders here on Earth. But with an apparent obsession with entropy, he gives a large segment of his presentation to the end of the world, the end of the Solar System, and the end of the Universe as a whole. Since everything starts off in an orderly state, then gradually decline toward disorder, he was apologetic for delivering a dire prophecy that trillions upon trillions of years into the future, not only our own Sun will be long gone, having burned all its hydrogen fuel into helium and then exploding into space as a Nebula, but the time will come when every single star will cease to exist, leaving the entire Universe as a dark, cold empty void, with all atoms gone forever. A very dire prophecy indeed, which he delivers with absolute certainty.

Which to me, leaves me to ask: If everything in the Universe was orderly, then how did it all begin? Cox advocates the Big Bang theory. But the energy needed to start off the explosion, along with all the gases, clouds, and other substances that will eventually form stars, planets, and smaller pieces of rock - how was this energy activated in the first place? I don't think the physicist has an answer, for practically nothing was said about what was already in place prior to the explosion. But to give him credit, he along with other scientists when confronted with a problem of such nature, he will admit that Science cannot explain everything without further research, and they are happy to wait until such appropriate evidence emerges. As an atheist's point of view, Science remains open to research and debate, while they see the theist having everything explained cut-and-dried, and therefore evidence supporting their theories must, sooner or later, emerge.

Then on September 28th 1969, a meteorite fell to Earth near the Australian town of Murchison, Victoria. Examination of the surviving fragment has revealed the presence of amino acid within the rock structure. This came at a time when the theory of evolution was under scrutiny by various academics, including geneticists, along with individuals such as Michael Behe and Fred Hoyle. It was Hoyle, atheist, astronomer and mathematician, who calculated the mathematical impossibility of just the enzymes to have evolved by chance. The enzymes is just part of the protein chain found in the nucleus of every cell in the body. Yet the probability of just the enzymes evolving naturally stands at one chance out of a number consisting of one, followed by forty thousand zeroes, which is considerably more than all the electrons existing in the entire Universe!

Fragment of Murchison Meteorite.

The Murchison Meteorite must have been a vital lifeline thrown to Darwin's theory of evolution just in time, otherwise before suffering its final throes which would have led to it's impending death. At present, the idea of some form of basis of life embedded in a meteorite as it fell into the primeval ocean is now the accepted possibility. I have seen a bizarre cartoon appearing in a national newspaper promoting the idea that we are originally from outer space, a theory I understand to be embraced by Brian Cox.

I enjoy watching Brian Cox and his scientific presentations. I love his informal casual dress and appearance. I love the way he identifies with one of us rather than one of the aloof elite. There are lots of things I could learn and understand without struggling to comprehend. Entropy is one of them. So is the unique structure of the snowflake. And gravity, with its effects on why our planet is spherical. But he always remains within the sphere on how all these things come about. He stays clear of the inter-relating sphere on why. This, I think, is because why will involve religion. And Cox, along with Hoyle, is an atheist. They both reject the Scriptural record of Divine Creation by an intelligence greater than themselves.

Cox's delusion with religion most likely originated in his teenage years as he attended Hulme Grammar School in Oldham, Greater Manchester. Most likely at morning assembly, where worship was conducted under Church of England liturgy. This was something I remember quite clearly at my own school back in the sixties. Church of England liturgy. And on the staff platform stood the deputy head. He did not lead the assembly himself, but this man was the most feared by all the pupils. Nearly every day he dispatched a hapless boy to wait for him at his office. When he arrived, the student received a caning. Just for talking briefly when he should have been listening. This caused my own perception of God to be very bad, and I ended up hating him, and my only source of consolation was to deny his existence, and stay well away from any church building. I even recall my first day at college. At the front of the main hall stood what looked like a pulpit. I felt my spine shiver at the thought of the possibility of another morning assembly. Furthermore, I wasn't alone at school. I recall a number of boys who went down the same road towards atheism as well.

I can't say whether Brian Cox had a similar experience at school or not. But I wouldn't rule it out.

A popular Atheist's Poster

At present, how I would love to sit at table with Brian Cox. But not to discuss the origins of the Universe or the origins of life. Brian would run rings around me in an instant! But instead to ask him:
What is your thoughts on the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

I would keep the conversation solely on Jesus Christ. His death by crucifixion, his burial, and on his resurrection. His Resurrection. That one event in the whole of cosmic and human history which is defiant of all scientific reasoning (together with his miraculous conception, that is, to have conceived without fertilization from a male sperm.) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ sets this faith apart from all other religions. If Cox were to ask me to prove his existence and his resurrection as factual, which would be the likeliest direction he would take, then I would ask him to check and verify his knowledge of human history. For example, in 1555 Bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were burnt alive at the stake outside Balliol College in Oxford, with their strong conviction that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and rose again physically from the dead. These two preferred to give their lives than deny the truth.

But if Cox was to push the idea that the disciples, or even the Pharisees, had stolen the body of Jesus from the tomb, such reasoning would not stand the light of day. The Pharisees would have quenched the growing movement instantly by producing the body for all to see. But as with the disciples, of the twelve, eleven had willingly given themselves to martyrdom, along with the apostle Paul, and many others, including Stephen, who allowed himself to be stoned to death by the Sanhedrin, for testifying that this Jesus of Nazareth had indeed risen from the dead. If, on the other hand, Jesus did not die at all whilst on the cross, but merely passed out, then assuming he recovered on the third day and disappeared to some unknown location - a theory once advocated by The Sun newspaper around 1980 - then the martyrdom of so many would be based on a lie, as with the other two theories. Surely nobody would ever give his life to something he knew to be untrue.

Multiple thousands have given their lives to the truth of Christ's Resurrection throughout history. Churches grew, even divisions occurred, and the Reformation happened. Churches exist to this day - all advocating the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth as a historical fact.

This is very important to someone such as Brian Cox. He needs to believe in the truthfulness of Jesus Christ - his supernatural birth, his existence, his death, burial and resurrection, and to trust him for his wonderful gift of eternal life. Only then will his brilliant knowledge of scientific origins of the Universe will fall into its proper place.


  1. Dear Frank,
    I pray that one day you would have an opportunity to have such a discussion as you describe with Brian Cox, or any other atheist, and that their mind would finally be won over to the truth. But sadly, even atheists have "faith," albeit misplaced faith in evolution despite the ridiculously astronomical odds against it occurring, and the total lack of proof. There can be no viable atheist explanation of the origin of the universe, because something cannot come from nothing, and for complexity to emerge from chaos defies the second law of thermodynamics.
    Thanks for the great post and God bless,

  2. Hi Frank,
    I have always liked the way Brian Cox presents his program, not that I have listened to that many. He appears to be quite a humble person in nature. I think what we as believers can do is pray for him, that he will come to the knowledge of salvation through Christ Jesus. God knows the time of His calling a person to Jesus, and I feel that reading your post has motivated me to want to pray for Brian. All things appear to work together in adding to the church, and maybe it is close to the time of Brian's new birth. I am glad I read this today and definitely feel led to pray for Brian as I am sure you do.
    God bless you and Alex.