News & Notes
New Planets Support Design Argument for Earth. With the use of the Hubble telescope and modern methods of refining images, astronomers have discovered at least nine different planets orbiting stars in our galaxy. These stars are so far away that theonly planets that can be detected are very large planets orbiting at distances that are very close to their suns.
By studying the way in which these massive planets affect the light coming from their suns, it is possible to determine what the orbits of these planets are like. Astronomers have been surprised to find out that the orbits are highly elliptical. An ellipse is a flattened circle like the one shown in the figure to the right. You can make an ellipse by putting two pins (called foci) in a sheet of paper, placing a loop of string over the pins, and then putting a pencil in the string pulling it tight and moving the pencil as you would in drawing a circle. When a planet orbits a star, it always does so with the star being one of the foci.
Measurements of the orbits of the recently discovered planets turn out to be highly eccentric ellipses. In our own solar system the orbits of our planets are very circular (with the exception of Pluto). It is earth's very circular orbit that prevents massive swings in temperature. We get a relatively constant amount of energy from the sun.
As astronomers create computer models of how solar systems form, they find that highly eccentric elliptical orbits are much more likely than circular orbits. Their models also confirm what the Hubble telescope has found, that massive planets orbiting close to their parent star are very likely.
All of this presents a major argument against those who would maintain that earthlike planets are very common in the cosmos. Here are some of the problems:
1. Planets with highly elliptical orbits produce radical temperature variations between their closest and furthest (pergee and apogee) approach to their sun producing conditions life could not survive.
2. Massive planets close to the sun offer huge variations in gravity that would greatly alter the orbit of an earthlike planet. 3. The presence of massive planets makes it highly likely that smaller planets will be pulled into highly elliptical orbits, producing conditions unsuited for life.
It appears that the mechanical environment necessary to allow most stars to have circularly orbiting planets is not present.
New Data on Sun. One strong evidence that the Creation is not a product of chance is the enormous number of variables that have to be exactly right for life to exist. As time has gone by and knowledge about the earth has improved, the number of things known to be critical for life to exist has gone up logarithmically. Two new properties of our sun have now been identified which are critical to the existence of any kind of life.
Dr. Bradley Schaefer of Yale has been studying flares on several nearby stars which closely resemble our sun. What he has seen are flares running from 100 to 10 million times larger than the biggest star flares ever seen. Flares of that magnitude would destroy a planet more than a billion miles away. One possible cause could be a giant planet like Jupiter located very close to the star whose magnetic field triggers the flares. If Jupiter were as close to the sun as Mercury, we could have similar flare activity on the sun to what Schaefer has observed. Such activity would make quick work of all of the inner planets (Discover, April, 1999, page 19).
The other discovery is reported in New Scientist (January 5, 1999, page 15) in an article titled "Thank Our Lucky Star" by Charles Seife. Seife's studies involve coronal mass ejections of other stars in our galaxy. His studies show that most stars blast out a super flare of ionized gases about every 100 years. If our sun engaged in this process, it would produce massive instability in our atmosphere, destroy the ozone layer, and render the earth sterile. The article goes on to say that no one knows why our sun is so stable, but this writer would challenge the statement that it is a matter of luck. There are simply too many of these kinds of ideal structures with our planet and its neighbors to attribute them to blind luck.
New Dinosaur Metabolism Evidence. The fact that dinosaurs lived in the past is incontestable, but how they lived is a huge mystery. How did brontosaurus pump blood into a head that could shift from a level below its chest to a point 70 feet up in the air without the animal losing consciousness or suffering a break in its blood vessels? Even such a basic question as how dinosaurs breathed is an area of great controversy.
New reports by Dr. John Ruben of Oregon State University may offer an answer. Studying an Italian fossil called Scipionyx samniticus, Ruben and his co-workers have found evidence of internal organs and muscles that suggest that the liver was connected to a diaphragm that separated the lungs from the viscera. Like modern crocodiles, muscles pulled the diaphragm back and forth, sucking air into the lungs. Ruben believes his specimen had two methods of getting air because rib based respiration would also have been present. This may explain why dinosaurs could be so active and yet have features of cold-blooded animals.
We have long maintained that the dinosaurs had a uniqueness which separates them from modern animals as well as from animals in Moses' day. The biblical record contains no record of these animals for obvious reasons when you look at their role and unique makeup. --Reference: Science News, February 2, 1999, page 127
AIDS Origins--Back to Where We Started. The origin of AIDS is a question that has all kinds of interesting implications. I have heard scientists who suggested that the origin of the virus is a natural breakdown in the genetic structure of molecules in the body. I have heard extremists in the religious camp claim it is God's retribution for sinful acts on the part of man. Both of these explanations seriously miss the mark, although there may be some elements of truth in both. The spread of the AIDS virus certainly is the result of lifestyle choices. With a single life time sexual partner your only sexual experience, you have no risk of AIDS. It is promiscuous lifestyles and risky sexual practices that are at the root of the spread of the AIDS virus.
Many years ago there were researchers who suggested that the AIDS virus was transmitted to humans from apes or monkeys. Using monkeys for deviant sexual practices has been observed by these researchers, and they suggested that is how the virus jumped to humans.
In the first week of February, 1999, Nature and Newsweek both reported a study by Dr. Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama confirming that the type of AIDS virus (HIV-1) that causes 99% of human AIDS cases comes from a subspecies of the chimpanzee called Pan troglodytes troglodytes. Chimps can have the virus and not develop AIDS, but if humans contract the virus either by hunting the chimps for food or by sexual activity, they do develop AIDS.
The notion that AIDS is a vindictive act of God or a fault in the design of man's body is misdirected. The only sure way to avoid AIDS and other STDs is to follow God's rules for sexual conduct.
Prostate Cancer and the Papilloma Virus. Discussions of why God allows diseases like cancer always end up with the question of the source of the disease being a key issue. If man causes the disease or calamity, most people are rational enough to realize that God cannot be held accountable. It is irrational to believe that God should run around correcting all the stupid things we do; and, in fact, it would turn us from humans to puppets if God were to do that.
Most cancer is man-caused. Between our irresponsible use of chemicals, nuclear energy, and poor diets, we are the cause of much of what happens. It is now becoming apparent that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also a major player in chronic human diseases. It has been known for a long time that women who contract the human papilloma virus have a high risk of cervical cancer. There is now considerable evidence that this same virus can cause prostate cancer in men. STDs are a major health problem in the world today, and all STDs can be controlled if people would simply follow God's directive for sexual relationships. --Science News, Vol. 155, February 22, 1999, page 135
Circumcision Issue Rises Again. The Old Testament ordinance of circumcision has been a target of atheists and skeptics for several centuries at least. On Monday, March 1, 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics made the following statement: "The weight of the evidence would have to be significant for the Academy to recommend an elective surgical procedure on every newborn male, and the evidence is not sufficient for us to make such a recommendation." The first point that needs to be made is that, in spite of the above statement, the Academy did admit that there are some benefits. They admit that uncircumcised boys are 12 times more likely to get urinary tract infections and that penile cancer is more prevalent in uncircumcised males. The Academy does not feel such numbers warrant performing the surgery.
Most groups fighting circumcision do so on the basis of it being painful--which is something doctors can address. The major point, however, is that whether this process is advisable in the twentyfirst century has very little to do with whether it was advisable 2,000 or 5,000 years ago. In the ancient world, cleanliness was a different issue. Properly washing oneself in a germ-killing solution was an impossibility. Whatever the decision is that parents of baby boys wish to make today has nothing to do with the advisability of it when the command was given to Moses. (Reference: "Pediatricians: Few Benefits to Circumcision," by Eric Fidler, South Bend Tribune, March 2, 1999.)
More Atheist Rhetoric. One of the more vocal atheists in the world today is Richard Dawkins of England. In an article in The Humanist, vol. 57 (January/February, 1997, page 26), Dawkins says "I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate." It is important not to underestimate the lengths that opponents of faith will go to in order to promote their agenda.
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