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Return to November/December 2010 articles.

News and Notes for November/December 2010
from Does God Exist? November/December 2010

SINGER'S HONESTY. One of the leading atheists in the world is Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. Singer has consistently maintained that the unfit in human society should be eradicated. In his view the mentally disadvantaged, physically handicapped, and mentally ill should be humanely put to death so they do not drain the resources of those who are fit. In an article he wrote in The New York Times (opinionator.blog.nytimes.com, June 6, 2010) he asks the question, “How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world?” He answers his own question by stating, “We spend most of our lives with unfulfilled desires, and the occasional satisfactions that are all most of us can achieve are insufficient to outweigh these prolonged negative states. … If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone.”

A reader by the name of Andy Williams made this excellent comment regarding Singer's honesty, “… unlike many thinkers who refuse to take atheism to its logical conclusions, Peter Singer shows integrity and consistency in his work — which drives him to such radical, wrong conclusions. It is frustrating to try to get atheists to follow their world view to many of its logical conclusions — they would prefer half truth, bashing theists (most notably Christians) and asserting why they can have the same values as theists without any need for God or religion. But, Singer does not hide or equivocate. He does not dance around unpopular issues or try to dress up the bad ideas springing from an atheistic world view. We should pray for him but also be grateful that he's willing to be honest.” Source: Christianity Today, August 2010, page 44, and www.christianitytoday.com.

ATHEIST HUMAN MORALITY CLAIMS HIT. For the past several years Harvard University's Dr. Marc Hauser has claimed that studies of cotton-top tamarin monkeys show all of the characteristics previously thought to be unique to humans. Hauser's goal was to explain morality in purely evolutionary terms, and he was considered by many to be a leader in the field of evolutionary psychology. Hauser claimed to have documented kindness, caring for others, and a moral code in the tamarins he studied. In August 2010, Harvard's Standing Committee on Professional Conduct found Hauser guilty of “scientific misconduct.” Eric Felten writing in The Wall Street Journal says that Hauser cooked the books and, in the process, has brought the entire field into disrepute. Christopher Ryan writing in TodayPsychology says, “Many of the most prominent voices in the field of evolutionary psychology are less scientists than political philosophers.” Man's unique make-up as a being created in the image of God continues to have a wealth of support as far as evidence is concerned.

OF APES AND PERSONHOOD. If man evolved from an ape-like ancestor, or if you believe man is just another species of ape, then apes have the same rights that humans have. Spain has adopted this position using “The Great Ape Project” which, interestingly enough, is run by Peter Singer mentioned earlier in this column. Apes have been banned from scientific research in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, and Austria. When you throw out the biblical view of man as a being specially created in the image of God, then human value goes out the window as well. If you re-read the article in this section about Peter Singer you can see the connections between atheism and this view of man as being of no value. Singer says “I feel we should extend rights to a wide range of nonhuman animals. All creatures that can feel pain should have a basic moral status.” Let us emphasize that we do not support any living thing being exposed to pain, but the denial that humans have any special worth is a violation of the Bible, the evidence, and of common sense. Source: Seed magazine, December 2008, page 12.

RADIOMETRIC DATING CONTROVERSY. It is always interesting to see how a scientific discovery is interpreted by different groups. New data has shown that radioactive decay for some nuclei is not always the same. This has come from neutrino emissions from transmutation processes, and it shows that radiations vary with the time of the year. In the past, high voltages have been shown to affect nuclear decay. Some have suggested this invalidates radiometric dating, but the changes are much too small to suggest that. Since radiometric dating is only one of some 600 plus methods of dating it has no real relevance to the age of things. This is a sectarian issue based on denominational traditions and has nothing to do with science or the Bible, so it is not something that general readers need to be concerned about. However, saying that radiometric dating has been proven wrong is a vast overstatement. Source: Science News, November 22, 2008, has some discussion of this if you are interested.

JUPITER COLLISION WAS AN ASTEROID. One of the interesting discoveries about the solar system is that the Earth's stability is in part caused by the outer planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These planets have very large gravitational fields and are strategically placed so that objects such as comets coming in along the ecliptic plane are caught and absorbed by these large planets. The Shoemaker-Levy Comet in 1994 was the first example science saw of this arrangement, but on July 23, 2009, another impact was observed with debris clearly visible through the month of August. Since no one saw it coming, there was speculation about what hit Jupiter. Researchers studying Hubble Space Telescope pictures of the impact have decided it was an asteroid strike, and not a comet. The bottom line is that the design of the solar system that allows life to exist on Earth is far more complex than anyone realized even a few years ago. Source: Science News, July 3, 2010, page 10.

CIRCUMCISION AND HIV. Critics of the Bible have long picked on the circumcision command as a myth and a vestige of cruel, impractical pagan cultures that was just regurgitated by the Bible writers. They said it was just further proof that the Bible was only the work of man. In Science News (January 3, 2009, page 14) there is a comparison made between areas of Africa where 100 percent of the males have been circumcised and those places where the percentages are smaller, going down to near zero percent. Those comparisons are made with HIV infection rates, and the results are startling. Scientists on the scene say that circumcision reduces the chances of getting HIV by at least 50 percent. Following God’s rules for sexual conduct would reduce those chances to zero percent, but the advantages of circumcision are very clear. God had a medical reason for the circumcision covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 as well as the spiritual covenant.

MISLEADING ALCOHOL CLAIMS. There has been a number of articles in a variety of newspapers and magazines suggesting that moderate drinking causes a lower risk for myocardial infarction (coronary disease) and related issues. In an article published in the Journal Watch General Medicine (December 18, 2008) Dr. Richard Saitz points out that the benefits cited do not apply to the general public. They are confined to people with “unhealthful behaviors” which include smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, etc. There are so many health hazards associated with alcohol, that encouraging people to drink for health reasons is ludicrous. The flavonoids in the wine, not the alcohol, provide the benefits. Eating grapes or drinking unfermented grape juice would give more healthful benefits. We suspect the distillers are the source of the myth that drinking will improve your health.

GLOBAL WARMING — ON MARS. Data on Mars has come from the Viking orbiters of the late 1970s, the Mars Global Surveyor of the 1999 – 2000 period, and recent probes to Mars. Air temperatures have increased as much as 40°C at the south pole of Mars, but there is a general warming taking place with average temperatures increasing nearly a degree during the observation period. Changes in Mars' albedo (light reflected from the surface) of as much as 10 percent have been recorded. This change is probably due to dust storms. Solar changes are also a possible cause. The major point here is that global warming is not just human caused, and the natural causes are highly complex. Mankind certainly is a catalyst in all of this, but oversimplifications on all sides make the picture fuzzy at best. Source: Science News, April 7, 2007, page 214 and NASA News on their website.

ARTIFICIAL LIFE CREATED? Dr. Craig Venter claims that he has made artificial life. Venter has been called “the world's greatest scientific provocateur” and he has had his own company which was involved in mapping the human genome. What Venter did was to take the DNA of a bacteria that infects goats called Mycoplasma mycoides and put fragments of its DNA into yeast which makes a synthetic copy of the original DNA. This artificial DNA is then put into a bacterium which grows and divides creating two daughter cells one of which has the artificial DNA. The other bacterium are killed allowing the one with the synthetic DNA to multiply. This is claimed to be artificial life. It is not the creation of life. Actually it is like taking various parts of cars from different models and assembling them into a new car and saying we created a car. We did not create anything, we just re-arranged the parts. The process is actually quite dangerous, because you have no idea of what the new life form will be able to do. It is not creation of life in any sense of the word. Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1279988/Artificial-life-created-Craig-Venter--wipe-humanity.html.

MORMON HISTORY. In the May 2010 issue of Salt Lake City Messenger there is an excellent article by Sandra Tanner titled “Joseph Smith — The Early Years.” This heavily documented review of the life of Joseph Smith is very helpful for those who have family members who are being approached by Mormons. It outlines three areas of influence that helped to shape Joseph Smith's teachings: his religious environment, the Smith family and magic, and contemporary attitudes about the American Indians. You can get a copy from Utah Lighthouse Ministry, P.O. Box 1884, Salt Lake City, UT 84110-1884, phone 801-485-0312, or e-mail newsletter@utlm.org. You can also read it on their website www.utlm.org/newsletters/no114.htm.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS HAS CANCER by Roland Earnst.¬†Christopher Hitchens, the radical atheist and author of The New York Times bestselling book God is Not Great, has terminal cancer. Hitchens is not only an unbeliever, but he has stated very bluntly that “religion poisons everything.” He does not just believe that faith in God is foolish, but he believes it is one of the greatest evils and dangers to mankind.

An Associated Press news release of August 14, 2010, said, “Christopher Hitchens tells The Atlantic he knows he is dying from cancer of the esophagus, but that has not changed his view that all religion is pure fiction. ‘Religion is manmade,’ he declares. ‘All gods found so far have been manmade.’ ” The news release went on to say further that, “Several groups have organized a day of prayer for Hitchens, which is something he says he is okay with, as long as the contributors abide by one condition: ‘I take it kindly on the assumption that people are praying for my recovery,’ he adds.”

My first thought, as a Christian, was to pray for Hitchens to come to faith in God and accept Christ as his Savior. I thought it was interesting that he thinks it is okay for people to pray for his recovery, but not to pray that he would come to faith in God. After all, if there is no God, what good would it do to pray to God for his healing? Then I realized he is probably thinking that Christians would be praying for him to die. If that’s the case, it just goes to show how little he understands about true Christians.

The thought of praying for him to die should not occur to any Christian who has the true attitude of Christ. It is disturbing to find that there are people who are supposedly Christians posting death wishes for Hitchens in written and video form on the internet. True Christians would be praying for Hitchens' life to be lengthened so that he might have an opportunity to come to faith in God and accept and obey Jesus. True Christians would pray for his physical healing, of course, but even more we would pray for his spiritual healing and wholeness, because that is infinitely more important than physical healing. Nothing brings more joy to a Christian than seeing a person who has rejected God repent and surrender to the God who loves him. In fact, the Bible tells us that nothing brings more joy to God and the angels in heaven than a sinner who comes to repentance (Luke 15:7).

As Christians, we are all sinners saved by grace, the favor God has bestowed upon us and that we did not deserve. God's grace is not limited. He has enough to extend to all who will accept the grace He has to give them. It is not possible to know whether Christopher Hitchens will still be alive by the time this publication reaches you. However, we hope that you will always follow the instructions and example of Jesus who said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Picture credits:
© Michael Shake. Image from BigStockPhoto.com