from Does God Exist? March/April 2013
ORIGIN OF LIFE STUDIES. Two scientists have proposed that the whole approach of science to the question of how life came into existence is misguided. Dr. Paul Davies and Dr. Sara Walker have released a study titled “The Algorithmic Origins of Life” (available in the December 12, 2012 issue of the Royal Society Journal Interface.) The authors argue that working on the chemical basis of life's origins gets bogged down in the early chemical stages. They suggest “the transition from non-life to life is unique and definable … by its distinctive and active use of information.” Using a computer analogy they suggest life will not form without a program and data, suggesting that the distinction between non-life and life is “the way that living organisms manage the information flowing through the system.” For many years we have suggested that the complexity of DNA shows an intelligence programmed the system to achieve the ultimate result of life itself. The more science studies the way living things function, the more the incredible design that allows life to exist becomes obvious. For more on this subject go to http://www.scientificcomputing.com/news-DA-The-Algorithmic-Origins-of-Life-121412.aspx.
A COMMENT ON THE NEWTOWN MASSACRE. One of the things that always happens when something tragic takes place, is that everybody wants to weigh in and give an explanation for why it happened and who should be blamed. The tragic murder of innocent children cannot be brushed aside, but the ultimate cause is Satan, and the tools he uses are far more complex than one simple explanation can give. Christian author and commentator William J. Murray blames the church saying that the failure of ministers to preach the reality of hell is the cause. Many are blaming shooter Adam Lanza's mother and the divorce that separated him from his father and brother. The NRA blames the lack of guns in the hands of people who run the schools. Some want to blame the NRA and guns as a whole. Lanza's preoccupation and saturation with violent video games and violent movies needs to be explored, and might be a warning to parents. Everyone recognizes there is a real problem with mental illness and our failure to meet the needs of people like Adam Lanza. Many of us know someone who is mentally unstable and who might be capable of performing an act as horrible as this one, but how can we see that they get help before this happens? When the time came for the ringing of bells to remember the children and their teachers, the question of how many bells to ring came up — 26 for the victims or 28 for the victims and their killer and his mother. Dr. Greg Sterling, who is dean of the Yale Divinity School and who has been a mentor and advisor to this author for many years, came up with a meaningful suggestion. He rang the bell 26 times for the victims, said a prayer with the people in Newtown and then rang the bell two more times and prayed for the Lanzas. Christians need to work together at all levels of need in our culture, no matter how horrific Satan’s attacks on us might be.
ARSENIC-BASED LIFE DEBUNKED. Two years ago it was claimed that scientists had found a bacterium that could live on arsenic in place of phosphorus. It has now been shown that the bacterium can tolerate more arsenic than other forms of life, but cannot live on it. Those who have maintained that life can exist on other chemical systems will have to back up on their claims. Apparently life needs phosphorous as well as carbon and oxygen to exist. Source: Science News, December 29, 2012, page 31.
COMET COMING. At the end of this year we may all be marveling at a comet that could be as luminous as the moon and one of the brightest ever seen. Comet Ison which is now between Jupiter and Saturn should be visible in December 2013. You can be sure there will be those tying this comet to the end of the world or to alien visits like Marshall Applewhite who convinced followers to commit suicide in late March 1997. But this is a normal part of our solar system and not something to fear or tie to extraterrestrials. It will be a beautiful reminder of the complexity and nature of space and the creation around us.
STEM CELLS NOT AN ISSUE. The medical uses of stem cells to treat disease has moved forward by leaps and bounds in the past five years. Because the embryonic stem cells are harvested from human embryos which were destroyed in the process, there have been ethical concerns about stem cells and their use. In 2006 Dr. Shinya Yamanaka received a Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering a way to generate stem cells from skin cells, but the method was slow and not very efficient. Researchers at Stanford University and the University of Auckland, New Zealand, have now found a way to produce stem cells efficiently and in large numbers without the use of human embryos. Ethical issues always have other options than simply plowing ahead without regard for what is moral and right. We need Christian young people training to do this work and do it in a way that does not violate the value and sanctity of human life. Source: Popular Science, January 2013, page 35.
MAYAN APOCALYPSE AND POLITICS. It is pretty obvious that the world did not end on December 21, 2012. What escaped the media was that scientists working at a Maya site called La Corona knew what the calendar prediction was all about. An inscription was written in 696 by a ruler, known as Jaguar Paw, of a nearby Maya city. In a battle in 695 Jaguar Paw left inscriptions linking himself to a distant date when the calendar cycle would end — December 21, 2012. This was a political move to prove that the ruler would be in control for a very long time and had no connection to the end of time at all. Source: Science News, December 29, 2012, page 32.
10,000 MICROBE SPECIES ON YOUR BODY. The government’s Human Microbiome Project announced on June 13, 2012, that they have identified more than 10,000 different species of microbes on the human body. This is a $173 million project believed to be a stepping stone to understanding what happens when we get sick. What it shows us is that your skin, your intestines and all other parts of your body teem with organisms that have to be dealt with or used in some positive way. The complexity of what our bodies are made of and how they function is incredible. Source: Associated Press in the Times Record News, Wichita Falls, Tex., June 14, 2012.
ANCIENT ARTISTS AND ANIMATION. French researchers studying the art work in Chauvet Cave have found drawings superimposed on each other to show a bison running, tossing its head, and shaking its tail. They have also found drawings of a pride of lions shown in a way that gives depth-perception to the lions as they approach a fleeing bison. Another find has animals engraved on disks that when spun rapidly made the creatures appear to move — a form of animation. These drawings are of great age, and what they show is incredible artistic ability and great aesthetic concerns for what the artist was representing. Artistic ability did not evolve, it was present in man from his earliest creation in the image of God. Source: Science News, December 29, 2012, page 29.
KELLOGG EXPERIMENT AGAIN. When I was in college in the 1950s and 60s there was great attention given to an experiment done by an Indiana University professor named Dr. Kellogg in which a chimpanzee (Gua) was raised in a human family environment alongside Dr. Winthrop Kellogg's son Donald (Clayton, The Source, Does God Exist? 2011, page 227). The idea was to see if all that makes us human is the way we are raised. That experiment has been tried over and over including a program called “Project Nim.” In 2011 a documentary on this project was produced which won several awards, and it was shown on HBO in December 2012. One of the problems in this kind of exercise is what you will accept as being human characteristics. In Project Nim, the emphasis was on language and signing was taught with the chimp learning dozens of signs. Other experiments have involved tool making or ability to solve puzzles. From a biblical standpoint, what defines a human is being created in the image of God — meaning his capacity to create art and music, to worship, to feel guilt, to be sympathetic, to have compassion, etc. In Nim's case the experiment ended when the animal became abusive and dangerous. It is hard not to anthropomorphize an experiment in this area, but we would suggest man's nature has little to do with what scientists tend to measure. The soul cannot be weighed or photographed, but is revealed in behavior that is indeed unique to humans. Humans can act like animals, but animals cannot act like humans. Source: The Week, December 21, 2012, page 24.
MORE GENETIC DATA ON NEANDERTHALS. We have resisted attempts to suggest that there have been many species of humans. Some religionists and some scientists have maintained that there were humanoids present in the past that were different from Adam and Eve (modern humans) to such an extent that they were a new species. Neanderthals have sometimes been selected as the alternative species. As more and more DNA samples have become available, it is becoming increasingly obvious that all of us have Neanderthal DNA in our genetic make up. In an article in Science News (December 29, 2012, page 26) data is given which suggest that European’s DNA is 2.5 percent Neanderthal; and 3 percent of Chinese DNA is from a Neanderthal source. We are all related, no matter how physically different we look. A pygmy and a Swede might not look as though they are the same species, but the fact is they are. The Bible indicates a common origin to all humans, and scientific evidence supports that view.
MARRIAGE LONGEVITY. One of the interesting spin-offs of the same-sex marriage controversy has been the studies by sociologists of how long unions of all kinds last. It is hard to get good data, because the belief system of researchers can affect what they observe. If you sample very young couples your data is going to be different than if you sample very old couples. Even geography has an effect with people living in North Dakota having different numbers than those living in the urban areas of the Northeast. However, the numbers available at this time are astounding. The number of cohabiting heterosexual couples in the U.S. has grown from 500,000 in 1970 to 7.5 million in 2010. The rate of break-up in these people is huge with some 25 percent of the relationships dissolving during the two-year study compared to under 3 percent of married couples. The population of same-sex couples is too small to be statistically significant, but married same-sex couples tend to stay together at a rate similar to heterosexual couples. The break-up of unmarried homosexual couples seems to be somewhat higher than heterosexual couples. The percent of births to unmarried women has risen from 5 percent in 1960 to 40 percent in 2008. The median age of men when they get married in 1960 was 22.8 and is now 28.7 while women’s median age has risen from 20.3 to 26.5. We maintain that God’s plan for marriage works, and that alternatives do not. However, serving our communities means taking people where we find them and helping them achieve the kind of relationship God wants for them which will bring them the greatest happiness. Being aware of these numbers is critical to such an effort. Source: Science News, December 15, 2012, page 16.
ROBERT BALLARD JOINS ARK QUEST. Robert Ballard is best known for finding the Titanic and the Bismarck. He has been sponsored by National Geographic and uses advanced robotic technology to do most of his research. Recently he had an interview with ABC's Christiane Amanpour in which he stated that he had found evidence to support the work of William Ryan and Walter Pitman who in the 1990s claimed that they had found evidence of a major flood in Turkey that happened some 7,500 years ago. Ballard's work involves finding a submerged ancient shoreline which would indicate a massive local flooding. He plans to go back to Turkey to continue his study this coming summer. Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/evidence-noahs-flood-ark-real-robert-ballard-archeologist-titanic_n_2273143.html?1355183096
THE ARK. In related news, there are two arks being built to duplicate what Noah did. One is in Dordrecht, Netherlands, where Johan Huibers has built an ark 450 feet long — longer than a football field. Earlier he had built an ark (picture to the left) half that size. This time he wanted to make it the size of Noah's ark. Mr. Huibers is a Christian and says he did it to make people think about their purpose on earth and perhaps find salvation. The other ark being built in Kentucky will be 510 feet long and cost $21 million. It will be part of a theme park operated by “Answers in Genesis” which owns the Creation Museum near Cincinnati. This ark is designed to support dispensational millennialism and a young earth view. The theme park will also have a Tower of Babel and other tourist attractions associated with it. The craftsmen doing the work are Amish builders from Indiana. The Kentucky ark project is being built on an 800-acre plot of land in Williamstown, Kentucky, 40 miles south of Cincinnati. This is all big business and even has received tax breaks from the state of Kentucky. We would wonder if the money being used to promote a westernized denominational view of the flood account could not be better spent in relieving hunger in Africa. Sources: The Atlantic. December 2012, page 21 and The Winnipeg Free Press, December 11, 2012, page A-12.
ANIMALS SUE FOR RIGHTS. A group calling themselves “The Nonhuman Rights Project” plans to sue the United States to “procure freedoms like protection from captivity previously granted only to humans.” The group specifically lists dolphins, chimpanzees, elephants, and parrots which they claim show capabilities uniquely human including “language-like communication, complex problem solving, and seeming self awareness.” There are so many problems with such an effort that it is difficult to know where to start. Can you imagine the results of making it illegal to confine elephants? The biggest losers in such a situation would be the elephants themselves, but the fundamental problem is the devaluing of humans. If you do not believe that humans are created in God’s image, then all animals are of equal value. That means that a human and a cockroach are equal and should be protected in the same way. When such vague descriptions as “seeming self awareness” are used, there are some humans who do not fit. God's command to “take care of the garden” and to “have dominion” meaning to take care of all of God's creation is what needs to be followed. It is wrong to make an animal suffer, but it is equally wrong not to manage their situation so that they are not endangered individually and collectively. Source: Popular Science, January 2013, page 37.
AMERICAN ATHEISTS AND 2012 BILLBOARDS. In Times Square every year for several years now, the American Atheists have had billboards ridiculing Christianity and promoting atheist secularism. This year there was a billboard that had a huge picture of Santa Claus with the label “Keep the Merry,” and under it a huge picture of Jesus on the cross with the label “Dump the Myth.” Another billboard read “37 million Americans know Myths when they see them … What myths do you see?” and with it were pictures of Jesus, Santa, Poseidon, and the Devil. Equating Christ to Santa is a rather ignorant position, but the main thing these ads do is to allow Christians to explain why we believe what we believe to a public that is basically ignorant of the whole issue. David Silverman who is the current president of American Atheists said “We know that a large population of Christians are actually atheists who feel trapped in their family's religion,” and for some people that observation may be true. Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/american-atheists-christmas-billboard-times-square_n_2273314.html
ACLU AT IT AGAIN. It is hard to believe the nature of the causes that the American Civil Liberties Union embraces. So many times they bring a stop to things that meet needs rather than work to bring equity to the situations involved. Recently in Cranston, Rhode Island, the ACLU managed to stop a father-daughter social function because a mother complained that since she was a single mom her daughter had no one to take her to the dance with. The ACLU took on her case and succeeded in canceling not only the father/daughter dance, but also was able to cancel the mother-son baseball outing. One would wonder if “Big Brother Big Sister” programs will face the same fate. Source: Citizen, December 2012, page 9.
BOURBON STREET BANS BIBLE. In November 2012, we spent several days in New Orleans in and around the French Quarter. New Orleans continues to be a city with enormous problems. The workers in the hotel where we stayed warned us about not being in certain areas of the French Quarter after dark because of the probability of robbery and assault. When you walk around that area you can see just about anything. Voodoo is still a rage in New Orleans, and any notion that prostitution, drugs, and pornography are controlled in any way is misguided. In 2011 New Orleans city officials passed a law banning religious speech on Bourbon Street. Several street preachers have been arrested since the law was passed. This is a law that is sure to be challenged in court on constitutional grounds. In the meantime it seems that the areas that need to hear about Jesus the most are the same areas where politicians work to try to keep away those who have real help and answers.
PRISON PROBLEMS CONTINUE. In that same vein, we are finding more and more obstructionism in prisons. We have some 10,000 men and women studying with us through the mail. A large percentage of these are in Texas and Oklahoma. Prison officials there recognize the value of teaching prisoners how we know there is a God, and what we should do to establish a relationship with him to get our lives on track. In many prisons in other states we find prison officials opposing teaching of any kind from those outside the prison. Arizona has been especially difficult. We provide all materials and pay the postage both ways, but in some Arizona prisons they will only allow post cards. In several states they will not even allow metered postal return envelopes, making physical contact with prisoners in follow- up difficult. We are working with Buck Griffith, James Curry, and Don Umphrey to correct all of this, but it is an uphill battle. The one thing that can truly change a man or a woman in prison is being denied because of political and legal maneuvering.
ATHEISTS JUMP ON TRINKET BANDWAGON. One thing that atheists have always complained about is that religion tends to be a money-making enterprise and that no one does anything in religion unless they can make money at it. That generalization is frequently true, but now it turns out that atheists are doing the same thing. Amy Roth, a Los Angeles atheist, makes ceramic pendants designed by Josh Timonen, and the pattern is now being sold in earrings, rings, necklaces and T-shirts. It has a red letter “A” and is called “The Scarlet Letter” after Nathaniel Hawthorne's book about an adulteress in the Puritan days of America. In 1992 two Colorado atheists took the Christian symbol of a fish with the name “Jesus” in the center (called the Jesus fish), and replaced the word Jesus with the word “Evolve” and attached legs to the fish. Now they have a company called “EvolveFish” which has had $500,000 in annual sales and employs six people. Bloomberg Businessweek has referred to this as the “godless market.” It is justified by atheists who say, “It's nice to have a small amulet of sorts that one can carry with them that represents who they are and makes them feel part of a larger rational community.” Source: Houston Chronicle, September 28, 2012, section F6 page 9.
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