Sean Pitman, M.D.
Medical Doctor – Hematopathology, Clinical Pathology & Anatomic Pathology
Loma Linda University School of Medicine (1993-1997)
United States Army (1997-2001)
Loma Linda University Medical Center (2001-2005)
Hematology, City of Hope National Medical Center (2005-2006)
If I had one piece of advice…
I guess I could go for the usual, like, "Be true to yourself" or "Always live by the Golden Rule" or "Make God first in your life."
While these are good, they aren't exactly pieces of advice that most people haven't heard a hundred times. What wasn't exactly obvious for most of my life, and what took me some time to figure out, is that life isn't much fun or worth living, without something permanent or eternal to look forward to.
If you know your future is bright, each day of your life is a bit brighter because of this knowledge. However, if you are unsure of your future or if you know your future is dark, each day of your life will be drearier and perhaps even desperate because of this knowledge.
Of course, this begs the question – What if your future is in fact hopelessly dark or mysterious? – not at all hopeful and bright? Well, it seems to me that everyone has at least the potential of a bright future and that this reality can be known here and now.
There is very good evidence to believe that many who never knew about their bright future will in fact realize it as a big surprise one day. Wouldn't it be nicer though, if your future was in fact amazingly bright beyond your wildest dreams, to have some sort of knowledge of this reality here and now?
Of course! – right?!
The question is, how can this be known? – for everyone?
It might take a bit of diligent looking and exploration, but the evidence of a bright and glorious future is all around us. It is based, for me anyway, on a very simple idea that some might call the "turtles all the way up" idea – a slight, but important, modification to a story told by Stephen Hawking in his 1988 book A Brief History of Time.
Hawking's version goes like this:
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.
At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
Of course, this illustration is used as an argument about the concept of a "first cause". The vast majority of scientists and modern intellectuals of all types have trouble with the concept of a "first" or "ultimate" cause. This is because most of those who are scientifically inclined believe in this "turtles all the way down" idea. In other words, they believe that higher levels of functionality and complexity can arise or evolve from lower levels over time.
Ultimately, many scientists and other modern intellectuals believe that everything came from absolutely nothing. In other words, nothing really was the "first cause" – really!
Nothing caused everything! Talk about a leap of faith! – right?
Yet, there are many, especially among physicists, who don't buy this "turtles all the way down" idea. For example, Paul Davies, a well-known Australian astrophysicist and a former self-styled agnostic writes:
The temptation to believe that the Universe is the product of some sort of design, a manifestation of subtle aesthetic and mathematical judgment, is overwhelming. The belief that there is "something behind it all" is one that I personally share with, I suspect, a majority of physicists…
The force of gravity must be fine-tuned to allow the universe to expand at precisely the right rate. The fact that the force of gravity just happens to be the right number with stunning accuracy is surely one of the great mysteries of cosmology…
The equations of physics have in them incredible simplicity, elegance and beauty. That in itself is sufficient to prove to me that there must be a God who is responsible for these laws and responsible for the universe.1
Note that Davies argues that he isn't the only one to have come to this conclusion through his study of the universe. He argues that perhaps the majority of physicists feel the same way – even if they will not always admit as much in public. But, there are many who do and who have.
Another well-known example is the late Sir Fredrick Hoyle, famous British astronomer who early on (1951) argued that the coincidences were just that, coincidences. But, by 1953 he had evidently changed his mind and wrote:
Such properties seem to run through the fabric of the natural world like a thread of happy coincidences. But there are so many odd coincidences essential to life that some explanation seems required to account for them… A super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.2
There are many more who have publicly admitted that they not only doubt the "turtles all the way down" idea, but actually believe in a God or at least some sort of God-like Creator or super intelligent and creative power.
Although less often identified by biologists for some reason (as compared to physicists), these same restraints and evidences of fine tuning and deliberate manipulation are even more evident in living things than in the inanimate universe.
I've been trained as an anatomic and clinical pathologist with a subspecialty in hematopathology. I've also read and studied a great deal about the workings of biochemistry and genetics in my line of work. The more I've read and studied, the more I come to the conclusion that everything in nature is turtles all the way… up… not down. In other words, everything that one studies is indebted to pre-existing information on a higher level or scale of functional complexity.
Functional systems simply don't develop or evolve from simpler to more complex systems over time without the input of pre-existing higher level outside information – at least not beyond very low levels of functional complexity. The reason for this has to do with what I call informational entropy (related to, but distinct from the concept of thermodynamic entropy).
As many physicists have begun to realize, the extreme degree of fine tuning of our universe needed to support life simply requires the input of pre-existing high level outside information. The very same thing is true of the ordered structure of living things – to an even greater degree than that found in the fine tuning of the universe.
So, where does this turtles all the way up idea leave us?
Well, it leaves me with the inescapable idea that there is, ultimately, a God or a God-like power behind it all. It also leaves me with the desire to learn more about this God, if possible, and why he made the universe and me along with it. What are his plans for this universe? – and for me? And, big question, why is there evil here? even within my own heart? – and will it always be here?
For me, the answers to who God is and what His plans are for our universe and for me, are best answered in the pages of the Bible. Why the Bible and not some other religious book? – like the Book of Mormon or the Qur'an?
Well, the Bible has the support of verifiable historical accounts, an accurate portrayal of both the physical and spiritual state of this world over time, and the signature of God himself in the form of amazingly accurate, even stunning, prophecies which were fulfilled to the letter and which can be verified as having been written far before their literal fulfillment in actual history. As with the fine-tuning of the universe, such knowledge bespeaks the need or requirement for a God or God-like source of knowledge.
Beyond this, the Bible explains the origin of evil and what God plans to do about it – a plan which promises a very, very bright future for all who wish to take part in this plan. The Bible also explains that God does in fact love us, he even likes us, and wants to take all of us, ultimately, to a much, much better place.
Because I recognize the evidence in support of the validity or trustworthiness, some might even call it the "predictive power" or "science," behind these promises, my days are brighter, the dark clouds really do have a silver lining, the flowers are even more beautiful, the songs of the birds are sweater, and even death, though still painful indeed, is no longer hopeless.
In short, my life is now exciting and full of meaning because I've been given a solid hope in a bright and glorious future – the same hope that each one of you can have as well, if you can find what I have found… and you can!
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Sean Pitman, M.D.
1. Davies, Paul C.W. [Physicist and Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Adelaide],"The Christian perspective of a scientist," Review of "The way the world is," by John Polkinghorne, New Scientist, Vol. 98, No. 1354, pp.638-639, 2 June 1983, p.638 http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1572643.htm
2. Hoyle, Fred. "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections," in Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20. (1982), p.16. http://www.leaderu.com/offices/bradley/docs/universe.html.
Turtles All the Way Down – Questions on Origins
Author: Sean Pitman
Paperback: 210 pages
Publisher: Pitman Publishing; First edition (May 10, 2010)
List Price: $19.95