News & Notes

1999 Does God Exist? Summer Seminar. If you are interested in attending this program in Lebanon, Tennessee, June 21-25, we need to hear from you. Pre-registration is requested. We must have adequate materials made up and the logistics of meals set up, etc. To do so requires us to know how many will be there. Contact John Clayton, 1555 Echo Valley Dr., Niles, MI 49120 if you are interested, and we will be happy to send you an information packet with a registration form included.

Missing Day Study Revived. One of the bad things about the World Wide Web is that any kook can get on it and print something that sounds credible to those who have no way of evaluating what is being said. The result is that stories get shot out in attachments to thousands of other people and a story that is totally bogus can be circulated as Truth. Religious writers are as guilty as anyone of doing this, and one of the oldest hoaxes to come around has found new life. We recently received a tract in the mail titled The Heavens Declare the Glory of God distributed by Gospel Tract Society, Inc., P. O. Box 1118, Independence, MO 64051.

In the late 1960s, there was a book written by a man named Harold Hill titled How To Be a King's Kid. This book was a collections of stories about miraculous acts of God in the 20th century. Written for a charismatic Pentecostal audience, the book contained all kinds of claims that could not be verified and which were, for the most part, the product of a very large imagination.

One of the stories in this book was a story about some researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) who were working with one of their satellites and discovered that there was a day missing out of their data Totally unable to explain this missing day, they supposedly turned to one of their technicians who was a student of the Bible and were amazed to find that the Bible talked about a missing day in Joshua 10. Unfortunately, this story was picked up and circulated in thousands of church bulletin in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Those of us who have some background in science worked hard at that time to try to get people to understand that the story was not true--and got considerable flack for doing so. Cooler heads eventually prevailed and the story finally got buried. Now this story has been revived and is now being circulated as a proof of the accuracy of the Bible.

There are so many things wrong with this story that it is hard to know where to start. Here are a few basic points:

  1. NASA has no record of any such discussion or problem.
  2. Harold Hill has admitted that there is no scientific basis to the story and no evidence it ever happened.
  3. Computers cannot do what is described. The Y2K problem demonstrates the problem if it does not do anything else. To go back to the time of Joshua with computers that cannot handle the year 2000 is an obvious impossibility.
  4. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII dropped 10 days out of the calendar to get the solstice lined up with the religious holidays the churches at that time held sacred. People went to bed on Thursday, the 4th and woke up on Friday, the 15th. There were riots in Frankfort by people convinced that the Pope had stolen 10 days out of their lives. All of Europe was in chaos as landlords tried to collect rent for a month that was 10 days short, and interest on savings was cut due to the shortened number of days. (For a detailed account of all of this, see Smithsonian, March, 1999, page 48.) The point is that for someone to find a missing day when 10 days were dropped out of the calendar (and actually there have been other adjustments like this) is ludicrous.

The problem is that people do not think about what they read in print. The more imaginative it is, the more likely it is that people are going to accept it--especially if it supports something they already believe. There have been a lot of stories similar to this, including stories about atheists getting the FCC to outlaw religion from radio and television. There are also stories circulated among atheists that also have no basis but are designed to reflect negatively on religious organizations or individuals. Education is the answer to this kind of foolishness, and responsible people on all sides of the various issues need to make sure that incorrect information is not propagated whether it supports their views or not.

Madalyn O'Hair Story Continues. In September, 1995, Madalyn O'Hair, one of her sons, and a granddaughter disappeared from her home in Austin, Texas, with $629,500 from the treasury of her atheist organization. Atheist groups would like to believe she was kidnapped and the money was either stolen or used as a ransom. Many of us who know by experience that our atheistic viewpoint would have promoted ourselves as #1 to the ignoring of morals or ethics believe that some or all of Madalyn's family simply fled the country with the money. The response of my atheist friends to this is "Don't judge others by yourself," but it obviously is at least a possibility.

One of Madalyn's associates was a man named Danny Ray Fry who disappeared the same weekend as the O'Hair family. Fry worked for David Waters who was a former office manager for the O'Hairs. Waters was convicted of stealing $54,000 from O'Hair's organization in 1995. He had invited Fry to Texas several weeks before the O'Hairs disappeared, and Fry had sent money home to Florida that he had earned from Waters. On October 2, 1995, Fry's body was found but DNA testing was only done recently to establish identity. He had been murdered and his head and hands removed by a sharp instrument.

Madalyn's Bible, diary, and other personal items have been auctioned off to pay back taxes. No startling revelations have come from these items--only a pathetic picture of an unhappy and unfulfilled woman. Under its new president Ellen Johnson and Editor Frank Zindler The American Atheist organization has moved to Parsippany, New Jersey, and is growing. We have probably not heard the last of all this, and if anything factual comes up, we will let you know. Recent articles on this subject have appeared in the Corpus Christi Caller Times, February 1, 1999, page A-1, San Antonio Express News, January 8, 1999, and Christianity Today, March 1, 1999, page 24.

Where are Ethics Leaders Taking Us? The Clinton/Lewinski situation has been a barometer of how far America has sunk in its moral consciousness, but it is not the only indicator. Princeton University announced recently that it has selected Peter Singer to be the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at the University Center for Human Values. Singer has had considerable attention for his belief that infants are not humans until they are at least one month old. According to the Washington Post, he believes that since infants "are not rational and self-aware," the parents of a baby born with spina bifida, for instance, could justifiably ask a doctor to give the baby a lethal injection. It is bad enough to have that belief, but to have a man with that belief recognized as an authority on bioethics at a major university seems to this writer to be a major step by our culture toward Hitler's idea of exterminating those you define as undesirable. (Pulpit Helps, January, 1999, page 26)

Bigfoot Scam Finally Exposed. We have contended in this journal and in our public lectures for 30 years that the 1967 film on Bigfoot running through an area in the Cascades near the Oregon border was a human in a monkey suit. The basis of our skepticism was interviews with people living in the area and people who knew Roger Patterson who took the pictures of Bigfoot.

Cliff Crook and Chris Murphy are two researchers who have been studying the film with computer-enhanced images. They report that the fasteners on the monkey suit are clearly visible in the enhancement. Those who promote Sasquatch as real are not going to turn loose of their claims, but when you add it all up, it seems clear that there is no ape/man living in the Cascades. (U.S. News and World Report, January 25, 1999, page 61)

Great Carbon Mystery Turns Out to be Design Feature. We have mentioned previously in our News and Notes the fact that there was a huge disparity between carbon dioxide emissions in the world and what could be measured to be the amount actually present in the atmosphere. Many millions of tons of carbon dioxide seem to be missing.

Natural History, March, 1999, page 96, contains an article by William Laurance title "Gaia's Lungs" which gives a good answer to most of this question. The article summarizes several studies of forests with over 100,000 trees over the past 30 years. During that time, the total mass of living trees per acre in the rainforest has increased by 37,000 pounds. This means that trees absorb over a billion tons of carbon dioxide each year in the Amazon basin alone. Apparently, as the CO2 in the air increases, rainforests grow bigger, faster, and fuller, absorbing more CO2 and keeping things in balance. The importance of the rainforest is obvious, but we would suggest that design features built into the forest allow the earth as a whole to survive sudden changes in critical greenhouse gases. Design features demand a Designer.

Who Started the AIDS Virus? There have been a wide range of explanations of how the AIDS virus got into the human population. There have been those who have said that the virus was God's way of punishing man for violating God's laws. On the other extreme we have had evolutionary explanations that suggest that the virus is a natural product of mutation and natural selection. We have suggested previously in this journal that AIDS was a natural product of human sexual interaction with animals.

Genetic studies have now proven that the virus did in fact come to humans from chimps. It has been known for some time that chimps carry the virus and are not affected by it, but the genetic evidence is overwhelming that the virus made the jump from chimps to humans and that is its genesis in man. Whether it got into man by sexual interaction (which is practiced in some parts of the world) or some other method can not be answered, but we would suggest sexual interaction is very likely. (Science News, February 6, 1999, page 84)

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