By: Regis Nicoll|Published: August 14, 2009 3:10 PM
Evidences of the Creator
It is said that if you really want to know an artist, don’t read his biography, study his art. Whether it is a painting, drawing, or sculpture artwork says something not only about its subject, but its creator as well.
In a recent episode of Antiques Roadshow, a furniture expert was presented a rather unexceptional-looking table. I’m no carpenter, much less an accomplished woodworker, but the table struck me as something I could put together in an afternoon in my workshop.
The piece was unimpressively simple with no decorative embellishments and no maker’s mark; yet the expert identified it, on the spot, as the work of George Nakashima, an innovative furniture maker of the last century. Cradled in that unadorned, unmarked piece of wood was information sufficient to identify the craftsman with the certainty of a DNA analysis. I was duly impressed.
The universe is also a crafted work and, as scientists have plumbed its depths and probed its expanse, they have marveled at its information-richness.
From the eerie behavior of subatomic particles, communicating instantly over galactic distances, to the biological software of cellular machinery, to the host of delicately balanced parameters that govern the cosmos, information, as scientists are coming to learn, is the fundamental ingredient of the universe. Physicist John Archibald Wheeler once put it this way, “Every physical quantity derives its ultimate significance from bits, binary yes-or-no indications.” In computer-ese, that’s information.
Paradoxically, the fundamental ingredient of the material world is not material. While its transmission depends on material means—sound waves, electromagnetic signals, ink and paper, photographic images, and the like—information itself neither consists, nor is a product of, matter.
Consider the cells of our body. During the course of a normal life span, every cell in the body, including the brain, is replaced many times over. The molecules that make up our bodies are undergoing constant change and, yet, those changes have no commensurate effect on the instructions that govern cell activity, or our personal library of knowledge, memories, beliefs and aspirations.
The existence of information is evidence that reality is more than matter moving under the influence of physical forces. At the root of nature is order, an order we neither invented nor imposed. So where did it come from?
In the beginning
When John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word,” he was revealing something elementary about the Creator and his creation: God is a communicator whose handiwork, like the Nakashima table, contains no artist stamp, but teems with information made intelligible through words.
We think in terms of words. We process our feelings with words. Words are information carriers that, when governed by rules of vocabulary and grammar, form language, the organizing structure of information. Words and language are in-built into creation itself. As the Psalmist writes,
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hand. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all of the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
The logocentric creation reflects its logocentric Creator who, with three words, “Let there be,” filled the void and turned chaos into cosmos, giving form and order to what was formless, making it intelligible. He is no ADD-afflicted deity who begets and forgets as He moves on to other divine amusements. Instead, with three more words, “Let us make,” He fashions a pair of intelligent beings to tend His creation and enjoy fellowship with Him.
Like the rest of creation, the proto-couple come factory-equipped with language. No sooner are they formed from the dust of the earth, than Adam and Eve are given instructions and, from the get-go, they get it! Not only do they understand God's utterances, they understand how those utterances relate to their earthly home and their moral duties—they recognize and make sense of relationships. More on that in a moment.
Adam proceeds to apply his inboard lexicon in naming the flora and fauna, as Eve uses her language skills in the epic tete-a-tete with the Serpent. All this, mind you, without ever having had to diagram a sentence, memorize a vocab list, or endure a course in earth science.
The story of Genesis opens with the Creator creating an intelligible world with intelligent beings endowed with a tool, language, enabling them to apprehend, communicate and use information.
Language presupposes relationships—true and knowable correlations between objects and subjects, causes and effects, sensory inputs and human perceptions, man and his environment, matter and energy, forces and the objects they affect. The arresting successes of science and the practical utility of mathematics confirm that there is congruence between what is, and what can be known. Real and cognizable relationships make our universe comprehensible.
That realization has provoked comments from the palace guard of scientism that would peg-out any “baloney detector” within shouting distance. Consider this from Princeton physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."
Comprehensibility suggests point-less-ness? To the contrary; comprehensibility is evidence of point-ed-ness—purpose, goals, ends. For example, gravitational effects point to the purpose of objects to follow the contours of spacetime, quantum behaviors point to the purpose of matter stability, and DNA coding instructions point to the purpose of cell manufacturing and repair. Teleology forms the warp and woof of the universe.
Dr. Weinberg is flummoxed to explain how all this teleology came about from a non-intelligent process; so it is “pointless.” This is an uneasy Article of Faith that he has to accept if he’s to keep divine fingers off the machine.
A divine gift
The pre-eminent relationship presupposed by language is that between creation and Creator. As intelligent design theorist William Dembski writes, “Human language is a divine gift for helping us to understand the world and by understanding the world to understand God himself.”
Language enables intelligent beings to say intelligent things about the intelligible world they inhabit; it points to an immaterial reality, and a Source of intelligence who desires to be known. Human knowledge is not confined to the Kantian sensible world; humans can know and say meaningful things about the super-sensible world, as well. In this unified schema of reality, the knowledge-building power of language is immense, as was evident at the dawn of civilization.
From language to tongues
Within a few generations of the Flood, a universal language enabled the descendents of Noah to build the World Trade Center of Babylonia. Aiming to “make a name” for themselves, they laid the foundations of a skyscrapered-megalopolis in the plain of Shinar. The enterprise was a double affront to God. Not only were they shirking God’s command to “fill the earth,” their monolithic tower was a bid to achieve divine-like status through human effort.
The divine response was quick and effective. The language God had given Adam and Eve was atomized into a multitude of “tongues,” thwarting communication and putting an end to the ambitious urban project. Thus began a deepening of the alienation man had experienced with the Fall.
With no common language, mankind was forced into tongue-centered enclaves. Enclaves became cultures that, over time, became increasingly isolated from each other with their own set of social customs, conventions, and values. Within each culture, language, which had created culture, was being changed by culture. Still under the conviction that truth existed and could be apprehended through language, new words, and new meanings to old words, were introduced reflecting changes in cultural needs, attitudes and beliefs.
But the malleability of language and the relativization of truth gradually led to the denial of language as a carrier of meaning. According to the late deconstructionist Jacques Derrida, a linguistic expression is nothing more than a string of characters with no fixed truth content or relevance. Ironically, Derrida, and his fellow deconstructionists, spent decades writing libraries of books and essays, filled with, uh, language, to educate the logocentric masses with the “truth content” of their philosophy.
From Eden to the philosophy wing of modern universities, language is a gift that ever points to the Giver. The Lord of Hosts is also the Lord of language, whose gift is given that we may have fellowship with Him and, in fellowship, know Him.
Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Chuck Colson or Prison Fellowship. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.