Return to November/December 2016 articles.
from Does God Exist? November/December 2016
ATLANTIS BUILT BY MICROBES? For many decades there have been stories about a city built by aliens or advanced civilizations in the Mediterranean. In 2013 archaeologists found what appeared to be ancient stonework off of the coast of Zakynthos, a Greek island. Recent studies by geochemists have shown that the structures were formed by microbes which take in methane and excrete carbonate minerals that form hollow structures and columns. There is no evidence of alien visitation to Earth, and attempts to explain away the biblical stories on that basis have no factual support. Source: Science News, August 6, 2016, page 5.
THE ACUPUNCTURE MYTH. Acupuncture is based on the concept of “qi,” a life-force that advocates say flows through the body along 20 distinct meridians. Blocked meridians are said to cause disease and pain. Putting a needle at specific points along the meridians are said to clear the blockages. Hundreds of thousands of Americans undergo acupuncture every year, and the U.S. government has poured over 100 million dollars into acupuncture programs since 2008. Acupuncture was identified as a superstition in the 1600s and abandoned by Chinese scholars in the 1800s. Mao Zedong revived it in the 1950s, and it has since been incorporated into many eastern religions. Several new scientific studies are reported in Scientific American, August 2016, page 24. Their conclusion is that there “is no evidence that acupuncture is anything more than a theatrical placebo.” Eastern religions and medical treatments may be interesting, but they are not good alternatives to modern American medicine.
NEW CANDLE USEFUL TO ASTRONOMERS. Measuring huge distances in space is a difficult business. The triangulation methods we are all familiar with do not work because the triangle of galaxies far out in space is so narrow that the angles cannot be measured. For many years a method of measuring distance was used that depended on brightness. The farther away you get from a light source, the dimmer it becomes. The illumination an object gives is equal to its brightness divided by the distance squared. If you measure the illumination and know the brightness, you can calculate the distance. Astronomers now know that when a Type 1a supernova is produced by the explosion of a white dwarf star, the amount of energy produced is always the same. This gives a method of measuring distances vastly greater than what was possible by triangulation. Using this technique it has now been proven that the cosmos is accelerating in its expansion. That tells us that the cosmos had a specific beginning, and it will never collapse back into itself. It also tells us that when we witnessed what we call Supernova 1987A we saw an event that happened 168,000 years ago and the light from that event finally reached Earth in 1987. This information has significant value in discussions about God and the creation of space/time and matter/energy. Source: Astronomy, September 2016, page 63.
NOAH'S ARK EXHIBIT OFF AND RUNNING. July 7, 2016, was the opening day of Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky. The replica of Noah’s Ark is billed as “the largest timber frame structure in the world.” It is 51 feet tall and longer than a football field (actually 1½ fields). The cost of building this structure was 102 million dollars, but the state of Kentucky granted a fourth of that in sales tax rebates. Admission to the ark costs $28.00 for children and $40.00 for adults, but some of the money is coming from a forced two-percent tax on employees gross wages. The creator of this project is Ken Ham who built the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky in 2007. Ham and his associates are promoters of dispensationalism, and the museum and the replica strongly promote their denominational views. Humans and dinosaurs are shown living together 6,000 years ago. Many of the claims of young-earth creationists are promoted. During the first six days, the Ark Encounter had about 30,000 visitors and expects to have two-million visitors during the first year. Ham has plans to build a Tower of Babel next. The denominational foundation of this exhibit causes a lot of bad theology and a great deal of bad science to be pushed on visitors. Taking youth groups to such a project raises some real questions about whether kids are being given information that will ultimately damage their faith in God and in the Bible as his Word. Source: NBC News broadcast by Erik Ortiz, July 16, 2016, at 6:27 PM.
UPDATE ON KOKO. In our presentation on the evidence that humans have a soul and were created in the image of God (Program 10 in our DVD series available free on doesgodexist.tv), we have a discussion of comparisons made between humans and a gorilla named Koko. In 1972, Koko learned sign language from a researcher named Penny Patterson. Patterson and animal rights groups have maintained that Koko communicates thoughts and feelings and thus is essentially human. In an article by Erin Wayman in Science News (July 23, 2016, page 32), Patterson is said to have “morphed from researcher and study subject to mother and child.” Many have noted that Koko mimics to receive rewards and no evidence exists that the things Koko says are spontaneous behavioral characteristics. Wayman says that all of this shows “our infinite capacity for empathy.” Human uniqueness as the only beings created in the image of God is not compromised by experiments of this type.
ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE. We maintain that humans are unique because we were created in the image of God. No other living things can claim such a distinction. We see human uniqueness displayed in our capacity to worship, to create artistically, and in emotional responses such as guilt, sympathy, and compassion. One characteristic we do not claim for humans is superior intelligence. Humans are not necessarily intelligent, and some animals are. Some sources have repeated the story of “Inky,” an octopus who escaped his tank at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Inky demonstrated great intelligence in his escape. Late one night Inky squeezed through a narrow gap at the top of the tank, flopped to the floor and scooted across the room to the opening of a drain pipe. He got into the pipe and dropped 164 feet to where the pipe entered the sea where he escaped his captors. There are many stories about octopuses opening jars and using tools. Intelligence is not peculiar to humans, and not all humans demonstrate intelligence. Source: One of many reports is in The Week, April 29, 2016, page 17.
HARVARD AND ATHEIST MORALITY. One of the hottest debate topics between believers and atheists is whether atheism promotes immorality and Christianity opposes immorality. Atheists claim academic reasons to be moral and point out that people who claim to be Christians are frequently immoral. Harvard University has been at the center of this controversy because of its reputation and its emphasis on secularism and naturalism. Starting with the class of 2021 Harvard will deny students leadership positions and the right to apply for Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships if they are members of single-sex fraternities or sororities. Harvard has semisecret societies called “final clubs.” Final club parties are “lavish affairs in which alcohol, cocaine, and freshman girls are brought in for the entertainment of privileged male members.” Harvard has been held up as an intellectual haven for free thinkers, but the morality demonstrated by the institution belies its claims. Source: The Week, May 27, 2016, page 19.
SKEPTICS CHILDREN'S CAMP CANCELLED. Several years ago the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) began a summer camp for children to “have children walk away applying critical thinking skills.” The camp was considered by many skeptics to be an alternative to Christian camps, and a significant amount of energy was spent bashing religion. This past summer the camp was canceled because it was losing money and CSI considered it to be “no longer sustainable.” Those of us who have worked in summer camps know how difficult and demanding the camps are. It is no surprise that atheists and skeptics have found it to be more than they can tolerate, both in work and in finances.
WHEN YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD, YOU WILL BELIEVE ANYTHING. The “2015 Chapman University Survey of American Fears” reports that 41.4% of all Americans believe that places can be haunted by spirits, 26.5% believe the living and the dead can communicate with each other, 20.3% believe in alien visitation, and 13.9% believe that astrologers, fortune tellers, and psychics can foresee the future. When God is removed from people's thinking, their realization that they do not have a moral or secure guide in their lives leads them to accept alternatives that can be enormously destructive. This is why God warns his people to avoid these things (see Exodus 22:18; Galatians 5:20).
HOMESCHOOL MATERIAL. One of the problems with homeschool science material is that the market is dominated by dispensational teachings and the bad science that goes with it. We have discussed this problem frequently in this journal. Some other science writers who are believers have written material that is free of this bias. If you are interested, take a look at Kevin Nelstead's earth science textbook which is available on http://novarescienceandmath.com/catalog/es/es/.
RTB SUGGESTION. A program that we have found to be quite useful and accurate is called Reasons to Believe (RTB) directed by Dr. Hugh Ross. Ross aims his work at mostly well-educated readers. He is an astrophysicist, and his science material is quite useful. Recently in their weekly digest, RTB made three suggestions for Christians dealing with atheists who propose what atheists call “non-empirical arguments.” (1) Question assumptions — if you assume the right properties of something, you can prove about anything. (2) Focus on practical proof. Absolute proof of anything is beyond us. (3) Do an absurdity test. Many atheist and creationist claims are too absurd to consider.
SO WHAT ARE THE REAL ODDS? Our DNA contains instructions for building proteins out of sequences of amino acids. There are 500 or so known amino acids, but life uses only 23. The average protein in a cell is about 450 amino acids long so there are 23 450 or 10 613 different proteins our DNA might construct. Life uses about 10 million proteins. If we took those 10 613 possible proteins and split them into planet-proportioned groups of 10 million each, there would be 10 606 groups. Astronomers tell us there are 10 23 habitable planets at a maximum in the creation, so you could spread those groups of proteins over the planets in 10 583 universes without having a single duplication of a single protein on any two planets. These numbers come from an interesting article by Dr. Jeff Hester in Astronomy magazine (September 2016, page 10). Planet Earth and the life on it is special, unique, and not an accident. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).
NO FOOD PROBLEM. We have made the statement in this journal that starvation in the world is unnecessary and inexcusable. It is not just the massive amount of resources spent on military actions caused by human refusal to live as Christ called us to live. An even easier solution to the food problem is to cut the waste. An article in Scientific American (August 2016, page 22), says cutting food waste would enable us to feed the projected world population of nine billion people in 2050 with no changes in agricultural productivity. Research in Germany shows that the average amount of food wasted by each person each day in 2010 was 510 kilocalories and by 2050 that number would be 850 kilocalories — enough to feed another person. God gave us plenty to eat. Our problem is waste and war.
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