‘A big purple frog behind the moon’
An interview with physical chemist Dr Donald Chittick
Dr Donald Chittick received his PhD in physical chemistry from Oregon State University. He was Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Puget Sound and Professor and Head of Natural Sciences at George Fox College. He has been awarded recognition in Outstanding Educators of America, and is listed in American Men and Women of Science. He runs his own creation lecturing ministry in the United States.
CW: Dr Chittick, you were a professor of science for years—involved in the 'hard' observational sciences. Can you tell me, is there evidence from physics and chemistry of any tendency for simple chemicals to become progressively more complicated, to evolve upwards?
DC: The short answer is 'no'. A subject area that I have taught for many years is the area of thermodynamics. One of the things that impressed me very much (in fact it was one of the questions that got me started realizing that creation is the correct model) was a question posed to me by a graduate student one day. 'Does evolution go against the Second Law of Thermodynamics?' I wrestled with that idea, and the more I thought about it the more I realized that it does. What we see in nature is that every time we have an open system with energy going into it, the system always randomizes and goes downhill unless there is intelligent design.
There's a question that evolutionists often ask—what about a crystal going from the liquid state to the solid state, isn't that an increase in order? Doesn't that seem to go against the Second Law of Thermodynamics?
Yes, but what about the flow of energy in this case? Energy must be removed from the system for a crystal to form, whereas in living systems we are putting energy into the system—energy flows into it so that the order increases. And that happens only where intelligent design has been involved.
Do people ask you about a seedling growing up into a big plant, doesn't that show that things can get more complicated in an open system with energy flowing in?
Yes, not only for a seedling growing up into a plant, but a baby growing up into an adult. In physical chemistry we have to be very precise in our terms. We have two entities that we discuss, what we call 'intensive properties' and 'extensive properties'. Entropy (a measure of the degree of disorder, if you like) that we are talking about here now is entropy per codon or entropy per individual cell. And when we have a plant growing up we are simply making multiple copies of the original information in the first cell of the plant or animal. We are making an extension of that code. The entropy of the whole plant is thus an extensive property, however our concern here is about an individual cell's entropy. The individual code information per cell, or per codon, does not increase—it can only decrease as the plant ages. So it's the intensive state, the entropy per codon that we are talking about.
Can you clarify that a little for readers?
It's like a Xerox(R) copy. There is a message on a page, and if you make two pages you don't have more story, you have the same story repeated twice, that's 'extensive'. And so when a cell divides it doesn't make more order in the cell, it just makes a copy.
And when a person builds a house from a pile of bricks?
When a person builds a house from a pile of bricks, the bricks don't spontaneously jump into the ordered arrangement. They have been already 'worked out' by the blueprint, the prior design. And so when cells build a plant, the blueprint or program is already there.
Summing up in layman's language, would it be fair to say that you've got to have some sort of a program, even in an open system, for things to get more complicated?
And it's true to say, isn't it, that when, say, a salt crystal forms or an ice crystal, the blueprint is there too, in a sense, in the properties of the molecules that make it up?
That's exactly right. And the atomic forces are already there, they have been designed at creation, and that's where the atoms go together in a predetermined fashion. But even to get that to happen we have to remove energy from the system, whereas to get simple molecules to evolve into the complex machinery of life—energy must not only be added but there must also be a blueprint. In evolution there's no program or blueprint to make that happen, so the Second Law overwhelmingly says it won't.
I remember reading recently in Time magazine about the whole issue of evolution and God and so on. And they called the Second Law of Thermodynamics 'famously depressing' (in relation to evolution).
That's correct. That is why Ilya Prigogine, the Belgian physical chemist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in physical chemistry for a study of this contradiction. The laws of science show us energy flows into an open system to decrease the order, but the theory of evolution—evolutionism, the belief that spontaneous order comes out of chaos—is contradictory to our laws of science. So in spite of Prigogine's Nobel Prize for merely studying the contradiction, it is still a contradiction.
Yes, it's interesting that the same Time article said that most scientists nowadays, looking at the origin of life, are finding it harder and harder to believe that it could have come by random shuffling from chemicals, so they believe there must be an as-yet-undiscovered 'law of creativity'.
Yes, when all else fails, go into a blind leap of faith! But our question to those people who take that approach is, 'Have you ever seen that?' Science is strictly based on observation. One may say there is a big purple frog behind the moon, go up there and look for him. However when no purple frog is seen, it is possible to say 'well he moved around to the other side'. It's always possible to invent an explanation, but with science we have to stick with reality.
Living things are loaded with information. Evolution teaches that this information originally came from non-information, and has progressively increased over millions of years. As a physical scientist, have you ever seen real information arising spontaneously by natural law?
No, that's a very good question. One of the things I ask these people who challenge us is—'Have you ever seen one single example, any example, of where information spontaneously arises?' In fact, I was at a conference one weekend and a graduate student in science came up and challenged me. He said, 'Well, there are examples where inflow of energy causes increase in information'. He said, 'There has to be'. And so my response to him was, 'Show me one!' He said, 'All right, I'll go find one'. That was on a Thursday afternoon, and he disappeared, and he was gone for about 24 hours. The next day he came back with red eyes and very tired looking. He said, 'I have been to the library studying, and you're right, there are no cases'.
Yes, we reported some time ago on an article in a US newspaper in which it said that a group of NASA scientists had been awarded a research grant to try to find the laws which would enable simple molecules to organize themselves into the complex molecules of life.
It is distressing to me to see how government money is wasted on projects that the laws of science show us have no capability of fulfilment. We would never get a grant to try to invent a perpetual motion machine because those same laws say that can't happen. So why grant it to look for that in the area of life?
In your seminars and lectures across the United States is the largest percentage of your audience Christians?
It depends on the audience, if we are at a church that's probably true. If we are at a secular university, or at a public high school (for which we get quite frequent opportunities), that is not the case. In fact we were at a public high school recently and the overwhelming majority of students were not Christians, but they sat on the edges of their chairs listening. And one atheist student wrote an assessment of the presentation. He said, 'I'm an atheist, I never even knew the other side existed. I think we ought to do this type of lecture again.'
Where do you find your biggest opposition comes from?
My biggest opposition, by far, is from 'Christians' who have accepted theistic evolution as a compromise—'Christian' colleges and seminaries.
And yet they would be aware that your ministry is bearing much fruit?
We are seeing people won to Christ. I can give you example after example of universities, secular universities, where they have had us in, even paying us to come in and present creation. Overwhelmingly the audiences are large. We were at one university and a longhaired, hippie-looking young man who asked very intense questions, just 'spat' his questions out. And he came up afterwards, and with tears in his eyes pushed his way through the audience right up to the front. When I was finished, he said, 'Nobody, but nobody, has ever told me about a Creator before: thank you for coming!'
There are some people who also say they are talking about a creator and science, but they get very angry with ministries like yours and that of the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Science Foundation because of our strong uncompromising stand on issues like the recency of creation, the world-wide Flood and so on.
Yes—in fact there are some allegedly evangelical ministries like that of Hugh Ross which claim to use science to point to the Creator, but they accept totally the evolutionists' viewpoint of billions of years, cosmic and stellar evolution, ape-men before Adam, long ages of death and bloodshed before man and so on.
Yes, it is very sad, and can be confusing to Christians who do not have the full picture. The argument they sometimes use is that by taking a stand as we do on the truth of the Bible (as we would claim) one risks 'putting people off' the Gospel. Do you find that this is so?
I find the exact opposite to be true. Incidentally, on the university campuses they may not agree with us, but they expect us to take the Bible literally as true. And I found out that the secular world has very little patience for people who try to fit the Bible into the evolutionary model. They say if the evolutionary model explains everything, why add on the unnecessary hypothesis of God? You should either take a naturalistic explanation or go supernatural, but you can't have both, so they have very little respect for the compromise position.
So what is your view then, on those few who actively promote the 'compromise' positions as a ministry to the unconverted?
Regretfully, I have to say I have found that they generate enormous confusion out there, and that the net result is that they scatter the seed that is sown by creation evidences which honour the Word of God.
Dr Chittick, I find that there seems to be a very strong resistance to one point in Genesis—even stronger than the resistance to the idea of a young earth as such, or a global Flood, or a direct creation of man from dust. Can you guess what I'm referring to?
Without doubt you are referring to the length of the creation days.
Yes, I am.
Were they literal 'normal, ordinary days, solar days'? Or were the days some other length of time? That question is probably the one that has a greater emotional response among Christians than any other question that could be asked, even though the answer (ordinary days) is so clear and obvious.
Dr Chittick, thank you very much.
See also Dr Chittick's Biography.