Archeology videos available in DVD. One of our coworkers in the Does God Exist? program for most of the 35 years we have been doing this work is a man named Harvey Porter. We lost Harvey not too long ago, but his work in archeology has been a major part of our program over the years. Harvey held a Ph.D. in archeology, had a wife who is a professional photographer, knew the curator of the London Museum personally, and was a personal friend of the man who discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. All of this made his presentations marvelous adventures which we attempted to capture on video (6 lessons). We have had these videos put into DVDs, and they are now available. They can be borrowed or purchased at our cost, which is $30 ppd. Our revised Does God Exist? videos are available in DVDs for $60 and both of these sets are available in VCR format.

History books in error. The Mel Gabler's Educational Research Analysts Newsletter constantly produce challenges to textbooks used in America. Much of their attack has to do with evolution, but in their November 2002 report they announce 249 factual errors they have found in high school history books. These are major textbooks, and the factual errors seem to be incontestable. The importance of getting kids to realize that just because it is in the book does not make it right cannot be overemphasized. I used to give my students extra credit for finding factual errors in our earth science textbook, and they always found lots of them. If you are interested, the Gabler's address is PO Box 7518, Longview, TX 75607-7518.

Chinese skull shakes evolutionary assumptions again. If you read National Geographic or Discover magazine, you probably have gotten the feeling that man originated in Africa and that this is an incontestable fact. Chinese discoveries of specimens that are as old as any found in Africa are giving some serious challenges to this assumption. Known as Liujiang County fossils, the Chinese forms are in sediment dated to as much as 153,000 years ago which is even older than African Homo sapiens fossils. The Bible indicates that the birthplace of modern man was in the fertile crescent, but no date is given nor can it be determined indirectly. This is not a biblically significant find, but it may complicate the human origins debate a great deal. --Reference: Science News, December 21 & 28, 2002, page 387.

Another new developement involves Neanderthal finds reported in Science News, November 23, 2002, page 238. Specimens have been found in Croatia and France with injuries and disease problems that would have required care from other individuals beyond what animals can do. We have maintained that the Neanderthals were a race of man and not an advanced ape, and this evidence supports that very well.

Mice and humans are 99% identical. That is true only if you rely on just chosen genetic traits. Like humans, mice have around 30,000 genes and 99% of these "have close human counterparts" according to recent studies. What makes humans and mice different is not just our genes, but what orchestrates the genes and whether they will function or not. The complexity of this issue just gets greater and greater, and we would suggest that the more complicated it gets, the less likely it is that chance can be the cause of what we see.

--Reference: US News and World Report, December 16, 2002, page 58.

Cloning of human claims continue. As we write this column, there have been two claims that a human has been cloned. We have pointed out previously in this column that it is highly unlikely that this is true, as cloning experiments with animals have turned out to be very unsuccessful. What is interesting to this writer is that there has been universal objection to this being done on moral grounds. On January 2, 2003, the Vatican, Muslim clerics, and Jewish rabbis all raised objections to cloning of humans being attempted. By the time you read this, the whole issue may have faded from memory, but we would like to continually put several points before our readers on this issue: (1) what defines man biblically is his soul, not his body; (2) the method of reproduction of a human being has no relationship to his or her spiritual makeup. No one would suggest that a child conceived as a result of in vitro fertilization is not human, and a cloned human would be a spiritual being as well. (3) Cloning itself can bring great benefits to man--freedom from disease, non-rejectable organ transplants, superior food sources, and the like. The fact that someone misuses cloning does not mean that cloning per se is wrong. Humans can misuse anything. If a viable human is produced by cloning, they will still be created in God's image because what makes us human is our spiritual likeness to God, not our physical likeness.

ACLU membership surging. One of the spin offs of the September 11, 2001, tragedy is that atheists' programs have been benefitted by overreactions to the crisis. Historically the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been opposed to anyone who believes in God or who has morals that are biblically based. Interpretations of the United States constitution by the ACLU have consistently vilified and denigrated religion and defended pornography, abortion, sexual permissiveness, and drug use. As the government has reacted and perhaps sometimes overreacted to terrorism, the ACLU has been there fighting to protect individual rights with no regard for what the consequences are for others in allowing privacy protection for those participating in terrorism. ACLU membership has grown by 50,000 members since September 11, and there is a new aggressive membership drive in operation to inflate those numbers. The problem is that, when the current crisis settles, it is likely that the ACLU will resume its attacks on abstinence programs, freedom of religious expression, and attempts to stop pornography.

--Reference: AP, December 2, 2002.

Living together unwise, according to data. Cohabitation is growing and marriage is becoming obsolete if you believe what the media says. There is no question that premarital sex continues to grow in incidence. The recent numbers show that by the ninth grade 34% of all teens have had sexual intercourse, and that number grows to 60% by 12th grade, 56% of teens having sexual intercourse have their first experience at home or the home of their partner (Child Trends report, December 2002). In US News and World Report (December 16, 2002, page 470) John Leo describes how the media, the courts, and society in general are working to eliminate marriage in America. If you do not marry, then living together is logical and data shows it is growing. People who lived together in the 1970s married within three years in 67% of the cases. In the 2000s that number has dropped to 50%, and one of four women living with a man say they do not ever intend to marry him. We would suggest that this is just another symptom of a culture that shuns responsibility and commitment.

--Reference: Newsweek December 2, 2002, page 9.

The earth's orbit is critical to life. Most people realize that how far we are from the sun determines how hot or cold we are here on the earth, which in turn determines whether water can exist as a liquid on the planet's surface. What a lot of people do not realize is that the shape of the earth's orbit is also important. If the earth's orbit was perfectly circular, there would be an accumulation of heat that would threaten the existence of life, and if the orbit were too elliptical there would not be enough heat to allow life to survive. In Discover, November, 2002, pages 42-47 is an article titled "Circles of Life" that goes through this and shows computer predictions of how the shape of a planet's orbit affects whether life can survive or not. This is just another case of the amazing number of parameters that have to be carefully controlled for a stable planet that can have life to exist on it. Chance is a very weak response to explaining the existence of a life-supporting Planet Earth.

Moon landing a hoax? One of the major problems we face in getting people to look logically at evidence for the existence of God is the fact that there is a constant stream of books and articles making claims that appear to attack the scientific establishment in the name of religion. It is not just the evolution issue we are dealing with. I have had people come up to me in a lectureship and say something, like "You don't really think we have landed on the moon, do you?" Usually this is asked as if it is a religious issue of some kind.

Now we have people writing books raising the same questions. What a lot of people do not understand is that, when the moon landings were made, there were a lot of us watching what went on from Earth. My physics students did some of the laser measurements in which laser beams could be bounced off reflectors left on the moon and measurements made to tell how far away it is. Astronomy clubs were able to detect space vehicles doing the things that NASA predicted. Most of the astronauts in the Apollo program were fundamental believers in God, and in fact Genesis 1 was read to the whole world as the first vehicle circled the moon, and beautiful pictures were returned that we could all see. These are not the kind of people who would be involved in a hoax. There are simple explanations for the claims being made by the nay sayers. For example, the claim that the flag was blowing in the wind, which would be impossible on the moon, is simply a flag fastened in a waving position by NASA to give it a natural look. Those of us trying to bring Christian solutions to struggling people need to distance ourselves from this kind of nonsense. It is like those who claim that Madalyn O'Hair has a petition or that human and dinosaur tracks have been found together in the same rocks--a religious tabloid mentality that thrives on ignorance and sensationalism.

Is pot good for you ? Along those same lines is a push for the legalization of marijuana by claiming it has positive medical uses. There has been a lot of research on this drug, and there is no doubt about its damaging effects. There are some benefits that can come from eliminating pain or nausea and reducing spasms, but these are best achieved by a method other than smoking marijuana. It also reduces intraocular pressure which can help glaucoma victims. On the negative side, marijuana has 50% more tar than tobacco and is very irritating to lungs and air passages. It causes lung, head, and neck cancer, decreases blood flow to limbs, stresses the heart, alters brain chemistry by hindering critical nervous system signals, impairs perception, reduces sperm counts in men and damages their mobility. It would seem the claims that marijuana offers major medical helps to people is an exaggeration at best. It is a recreational drug that thinking people will not use, and certainly Christians need to oppose.

--Reference: Time, November 4, 2002.

Latter-Day Saints (LDS) vs. Baptist battle goes to court. A Baptist minister named Kurt Van Gorden has been evangelizing Mormons at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. Part of his ministry has been passing out literature on the sidewalks surrounding the temple. Security guards for the LDS called police and had Van Gorden put into jail and the city tried to press charges. The mayor of Salt Lake City is a Mormon, and the case went to court and Van Gorden won. The point that is of interest here in our opinion is that this case shows the wisdom of separating church and state. When one religious group gets control of city laws, it is likely that they are going to push their own agenda. This is precisely the problem with having mandatory prayers in public schools. The dominant religion in every town will get its prayer said, and everyone else will be silenced. Jesus talked about rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. The more you see of the affairs of organized religion, the more you see the wisdom of that teaching.

--Reference: Christianity Today, January 2002, page 21.

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