The Professor of Engineering Design

Everybody knows that creationists rely on the God of the gaps, about which Wikipedia says: “God of the gaps is a type of theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence.”

As Albert Einstein said in Science and Religion:

To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with the natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.

It seems that creationists are getting tired of always hearing about God of the gaps. But aside from denying that they use it — to the extent they can — what else can they do? We have a surprising response from the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG), the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.

This amazing essay appears at the AIG website: Evolution (Not Creation) Is a God of the Gaps. BWAHAHAHAHAHA! They don’t use God of the gaps; we do!

It was written by Stuart Burgess, who they say is a professor of engineering design at the University of Bristol in the UK. We checked. Yes, he’s on their faculty. Here are some excerpts from his AIG article, with bold font added by us, and scripture references omitted:

Atheists have often accused Christians of invoking God to fill in a gap in scientific knowledge. Even the great scientist Isaac Newton has been accused by atheists of using a god-of-the-gaps explanation when he said that the universe reveals evidence of design. But creationists like Newton do not believe in a god of gaps, but a God of absolute necessity. Newton recognized that the universe could not exist without the supernatural creative power of an almighty Creator.

Oh, it’s okay if a gap is plugged by “a God of absolute necessity.” Then he says:

Newton and most of the other founding fathers of science could see that the universe can only be fully explained with a combination of natural and supernatural explanations. Creationists only invoke God in origins when a supernatural action is necessary according to the laws of science. For example, according to the conservation of matter and energy (the first law of thermodynamics), it is impossible for a universe to come into existence without the supernatural intervention of an all-powerful being.

See? It’s okay to “invoke God in origins when a supernatural action is necessary according to the laws of science.” But of course, that shouldn’t be done merely for theological convenience — it requires a clear and convincing demonstration of necessity. Here’s the professor’s demonstration of that necessity:

The Bible is scientifically correct when it states that divine supernatural power is required to create the universe and life and different kinds of creatures. The Bible is also scientifically accurate that divine supernatural power is required to uphold all things. Rather than being accused of superstition, the Bible should be commended for correctly identifying the areas of origins where a supernatural Creator is necessary.

Convinced yet? No problem. Let’s read on:

Creationists are sometimes accused of ignoring scientific evidence and being anti-science. But belief in God in no way diminishes zeal for how life works. … Biblical creationists are always eager to learn from real scientific discoveries in every area of science. I personally have designed rockets and spacecraft for the European Space Agency and NASA using the latest scientific knowledge in physics and engineering. … The only “science” that creationists do not use is the speculative science of evolution that has nothing to do with useful operational science. Evolutionary ideas like “monkey-to-man charts” that supposedly chart human evolution are based on pure speculation and not useful to science and technology in any way.

Creationists also reject geology, but as with evolution, you don’t need geology to build spacecraft. They reject lots of astronomy too — everything that tells us how old the universe is — but you can build a rocket that goes to the Moon without knowing old the Moon is or where it came from. Nevertheless, it’s troubling to think that spacecraft are being designed by creationists. The professor of engineering design continues:

Ironically, it is actually evolution that is blatantly guilty of god-of-the-gaps explanations. [BWAHAHAHAHAHA!] When secular biology books attempt to explain why creatures or plants have a certain design, the answer is almost always “evolution did it” or “natural selection did it” without any explanation as to how the design feature could evolve by chance.

Uh huh. No explanation. Ever. On the other hand, creationists are always exquisitely precise in detailing every little step involved in divine creation. Here’s more:

Ironically, it is evolutionists, not creationists, who are guilty of ignoring scientific evidence. Over the last 70 years there have been many thousands of experiments with sophisticated equipment trying to create life in the laboratory from dead matter and energy. However, all of these experiments have clearly demonstrated that life cannot come about by chance. Evolutionists have a choice. Either they accept the laboratory experiments or ignore them and put faith in the god of evolution. They have chosen to ignore the evidence and exercise blind faith in chance.

Aaaargh!! Yes, life hasn’t been created in the lab — not yet. But only creationists imagine that it can’t be done — and they somehow “knew” that from the beginning, no lab work required. Moving along:

Evolutionary philosophy holds back scientific progress by seeking false evolutionary explanations of origins. If you refuse to believe that a jumbo jet was designed, it will affect the way you investigate the complexity of the aircraft.

Aaaargh!! Another excerpt:

When Darwin published his Origin of Species more than 150 years ago, one of the problems with his theory was that there was a missing link between man and apes. That missing link is still missing today despite extensive searches for fossil evidence of evolution all over the world. … As with every other aspect of evolution, the evolutionist ignores the gaps and encourages everyone to put their faith in the god of evolution.

The missing link! Aaaargh!! Skipping an ark-load we find this:

In modern society, a scientist is not allowed to say “God did it” for any aspect of creation, whether it is ultimate origins or the origin of any detailed design feature. The phrase “God did it” is seen as anti-scientific. But if God is the author of creation, then He deserves acknowledgement and credit for His work. And if God is the author of creation, then scientific investigation can only be helped by recognizing God as Creator.

Hey — he’s got a point. If God actually did it, then it’s no fallacy to say so.

We’re quitting here, but had to leave out a lot. Go ahead and read it all. It’s possible that you’ll end up agreeing with the professor of engineering design.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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32 responses to “The Professor of Engineering Design

  1. “For example, according to the conservation of matter and energy (the first law of thermodynamics), it is impossible for a universe to come into existence without the supernatural intervention of an all-powerful being.”
    Talk to Lawrence Krauss or Stephen Hawking – their explanations may be difficult to understand but I believe physicists of their stature over any creationist.

  2. Well, he has a point, if some god did it. However, the problem with his rant is, there’s no evidence that Ganesha or any other god had anything to do with the creation of the universe, the solar system, prokaryotes, eukaryotes, and humans. But there’s tons of evidence from archaeology, palaeontology, geology, and genetics and other areas that supports evolution.

  3. Let it be granted that God did it, and that God is necessary.
    That is not enough to explain it.
    If I ask why the Mona Lisa has a smile, it is no explanation to point to the fact that the painting was intelligently designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

    For one thing, design is not enough. There must also be implementation of the design. Leonardo did not only design the painting, he painted it according to his design.

    But even granted that Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa according to his design, that alone does not tell us why a smile. He could have painted her with a blank look, or with a pensive look, or hiding behind a fan.

  4. TomS, you somehow got caught in the spam filter. It’s a mystery.

  5. “The Bible is scientifically correct when it states that divine supernatural power is required to create the universe and life and different kinds of creatures.” Where does this assertion occur literally in the text of their mystical manifesto?

    Oh it’s Literal Embellishment, Like the washing machines and dinosaur tales presented as literal interpretations instead of the literal embellishments that they actually are. So it’s not lying, it’s adding some polish, you know…

    Is there a non-sociopathic personality type that would gain any gratification from writing such shoddy and misleading material?


  6. @Dean
    If one carefully reads the first few verses of Genesis, one sees that God’s creation works on a pre-existing chaos of water. There is no concept of creation from nothing.

  7. Diogenes' Lamp

    Karl Rove strategy: accuse your opponent of your own greatest weakness. As I’ve pointed out many times, when you argue with a Klansman, the *first* thing out of his mouth is that *he* will accuse *you* of racism: “Yur racist aginst whaht peepul!” he’ll say.

    Many times we have pointed out that creationism is based on magic and God of the Gaps thinking. That argument really stings and they know it’s an effective argument.

    So they put our most effective arguments through that broken transporter on that episode of Star Trek– you know the one where they go to a parallel universe with evil Spock with the Lenin goatee– and our words comes out on the other side as “observed natural processes are supernatural magic” and “evolution of the Gaps.”

    You can’t understand creationism unless you think of it as an evil reflection of science, duplicating all the trappings of science, but they’re all a little bit off: they wear white lab coats, but *not* when dealing with caustic chemicals– they pose for videos in front of “laboratories” but the test tubes are the theatrical type and obviously full of food coloring– they use science jargon, but they don’t know what it means– they write “peer-reviewed” science articles, but the “peers” who do the reviewing know nothing little or nothing about the relevant topics, and only “review” for Biblical correctness– their articles use superscripts and end notes to reference other articles, but the articles referenced are either $%&* by other creationists, or else real scientific papers whose observations and conclusions are falsely portrayed as the total opposite of what those authors actually observed and concluded. And so on; every feature, institution, and external trapping of science is duplicated and twisted, except the business of doing experiments and making observations to test hypotheses. Creationism is science with an evil Spock goatee, and the experiments removed.

    Hence, they emit “natural investigation is based on supernatural magic” and “Evolution of the gaps”, these being the through-the-broken-transporter bizarro versions of what we say. Our creatonist friend Stuart Burgess is just the through-the-broken-transporter version of the Curmudgeon, our Curmudgeon with an evil Spock goatee.

    The right wing in America in general is determined to destroy the institutions upon which America was founded, because those institutions slightly slow down the rate at which the gap between the rich and the poor grows ever wider, no deceleration being permitted. The intellectual right wing seeks to destroy America’s intellectual foundations by creating a duplicate of academia– like the way the right wing think tanks like the Discovery Institute simulate academic “research” by putting out theory papers and “analyses” heavy with intellectualoid jargon, epistemic relativism and “clever” postmodern logic reversals. The creationists, as a branch of the intellectual right wing, seek to destroy science by first creating a twisted evil duplicate of every feature and institution of science– and then getting Republican politicians like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson to tell the revenant army that the duplicate is the real thing.

  8. docbill1351

    Burgess is a well-known cuckoo bird Young Earth Creationist who also believes the universe was created to look old because God is a tricky little devil!

  9. Stephen Kennedy

    Cynic wrote:
    “Talk to Lawrence Krauss or Stephen Hawking – their explanations may be difficult to understand but I believe physicists of their stature over any creationist.”

    Basically, what they are saying is that the Universe has kinetic and mass energy which is positive in sign and gravitational and vacuum energy which are negative in sign. If the Universe contains exactly as much negative energy as positive energy, the net total energy of the Universe will be exactly equal to zero.

    Zero net energy for the Universe would mean there is no violation of the law of mass/energy conservation in a quantum fluctuation that produced the Big Bang.

    How can we tell if the Universe has zero net energy? The space time geometry of such a Universe would be flat. Actual observations with the Hubble Space Telescope and the largest ground based telescopes all show a flat geometry for the Universe for as far as they can see (about 12 billion light years in every direction.)

    Creationists have not challenged these theories and findings, probably hoping that their flock will not comprehend them but will dismiss any theories from professors Hawkins and Kraus on the basis they are atheists.

  10. Dave Luckett

    I’m more interested in why an engineer says things like this. I think this old story might have something to do with it:

    The Huns were approaching, and the King gathered his council to ask them what measures should be taken to prepare the city for a siege.

    The head of the Masons’ Guild said that the walls must be strengthened and repaired, and proposed that his members should be commissioned to do the work, and would offer special prices.

    The Guildmaster of the Blacksmiths proposed turning out enough pikeheads to arm all the citizens, and the Head Carpenter agreed, saying that the pikestaffs would not add much more expense.

    The Chief of the Tinkers said that it was obvious that spouts and conduits should be made, so that fiery oil could be rained down on the horde; while the Master Cook advocated preparing food in advance, so that it would keep. The Convenor of the Clerks’ Association said that of course it was clear that a record must be made of all assets in the city, so that they could be used most effectively. His members stood ready to do the work, on very fair terms. The Goldsmiths’ President remarked that all the gold in the city should be melted down to pay for all this; his members would do the work with great reluctance, for no more than the skimmings from their crucibles.

    So it went around the table, until they came to the Head of the Cobblers’ Guild, who thought for a moment, and then said, brightly, “Well, there’s nothing like leather!”

    If you do something for a living, you get to think that it has some unique status.

    Engineers design systems. Some moiety of them think all systems are designed, but they know they didn’t design this one. Therefore God.

  11. Diogenes’ Lamp,

    You win the internet for that comment.

  12. Burgess has form. Here’s some rather old material (but then Burgess is rather old) about his antics:

  13. SK’s explanation why Burgess even got his thermodynamics wrong is spot on. No Krauss or Hawking necessary.

    The link provided by PB is well worth reading. Burgess is quite a character, confirmed here:

    “not many scientists will publicly declare their interests [ie IDiocy – MNb] because they know they may become the victim of internet trolls who run abusive web sites.”
    Yup, my dear SC, that’s you he’s talking about. You scare off honest, fragile scientists!

  14. mnb0 says: “Yup, my dear SC, that’s you he’s talking about. You scare off honest, fragile scientists!

    Not lately. I’ve reached a truce with the through-the-broken-transporter Curmudgeon with an evil Spock goatee.

  15. @ Dave Luckett: A lovely cautionary tale, many thanks for that.

    My own version: I once was foolish enough to make a batch of chilli con carne using the recipe given on the tin of chilli powder.

    Well, I had never made this dish before, though it did seem that the 3 heaping cups of chilli powder seemed rather a lot relative to the modest quantities of other ingredients.

    The result was inedible, though was a serviceable paint-stripping solvent…

  16. Our Curmudgeon reports

    I’ve reached a truce with the through-the-broken-transporter Curmudgeon with an evil Spock goatee.

    Presumably, that evil-Spock-goateed Curmudgeon in the alternate universe is a raving Creationist who furiously blogs for the evil-Spock-goateed Bill Nye’s Answers in Genesis online ministry.

  17. From the British Centre for Science Education:

    “Burgess is also both a hard-line fundamentalist and a very active creationist. We judge that he is a leading member of the tiny hard-core group of activist creationists in British academia. He’s a big fish in other words. And very opinionated as you will find out in this article about his science.

    Of all the creationists in the UK, Burgess is the one that actually frightens the author of this article most (and by a long margin). It’s his personality that is so scary. If anything, it was seeing him being interviewed on BBC regional TV where he claimed that he told children they would go to hell if they believed the theory of evolution, that swung the verdict (heavily).”

  18. Garnetstar

    That there have been thousands of experiments trying to “create life” in labs isn’t true. For more than thirty years now, grant money has been scarce and it’s difficult to get any for projects that don’t have a more immediate application. Not that they have to be only utilitarian, not basic science, but you’ve got to be able to cite some future practical benefit to society. Purely basic science is tough to get funded.

    You really have to be a senior scientist at a rich institution who already has a Nobel prize (Jack Szotack) to work in this area. And so, not many scientists do.

  19. Diogenes' Lamp

    Our brilliant designer Burgess seems to have trouble designing a webpage with 1990’s era HTML.

  20. all of these experiments have clearly demonstrated that life cannot come about by chance.
    I would think that experimenters would have tried to design things, rather than let things happen by chance.
    Has there been any reason to think that design can produce life?

  21. I am not a scientist, but may I suggest the question of the energy of the universe and the 1st law of thermodynamics can be treated as an issue of the change of energy, not the absolute value (if, indeed, that is meaningful).
    The first moments of the universe do not involve a change in energy from a prior state, for there is no prior state. Therefore there is no violation of the 1st law.

  22. We don’t know that, TomS, if there was no prior state.

  23. OK, let that be worded as: We do not know that there was a change in energy – we do not know that there was a violation of the 1st law of thermo.

  24. It pains me to point this out, but–unlike our own universe–in the through-the-broken-transporter alternate universe, the consort of the evil-Spock-goateed Curmudgeon is indeed Olivia.

    The evil-Spock-goateed Olivia, that is…

  25. The alternate-universe version of Megalonyx is identical to our own Megalonyx.

  26. michaelfugate

    As someone once pointed out if YECs like Burgess are correct about the age of the earth then the rest of us are off by a factor of about 770,000. Looking at it another way, it is as if 5.5m (18′) is thought to be the distance from San Francisco to New York.

  27. Or that I am about 0.00009 inches tall.

  28. @michaelfugate-
    As if a multibillionaire has less than $10,000.

  29. There is an “Evil Twin of The Bicycling Guitarist” on Facebook. Since I have a beard, my evil twin does not (or maybe *I* am the evil one, mwah ha ha).

  30. For example, according to the conservation of matter and energy (the first law of thermodynamics), it is impossible for a universe to come into existence without the supernatural intervention of an all-powerful being.

    Do I really have to point out that the laws of conservation say no such thing? At most, they suggest that the universe has always existed in some form, matter, energy and all. And modern quantum interpretations of those laws do allow for the creation of matter and energy “from nothing” under the right circumstances, which don’t happen to occur under familiar conditions on Earth.

  31. Why would a god – any god – create something from nothing, then invent a physical law that forbids creating something from nothing?

  32. @Dave
    That is one of the many internal conflicts in the arguments of creationism.
    It is akin to the conflict between the Anthropic Principle (that the parameters of nature are tine tuned for life) and the Improbability Argument (that life is highly improbable, given the laws of nature).