News & Notes

MARS ROVER PROVIDES INTERESTING DATA. The roving field geology vehicle Sojourner has given a great deal of spectral data about rocks on Mars, and the station's weather instruments have filled us in on what conditions on the planet are like. The rocks on Mars so far appear to be typical volcanic rocks like those on Earth. Because the rocks are believed to have been carried from considerable distances to the space station's landing site by torrents of water, it was believed that some of the rocks might be sedimentary and thus might even have life remains in them. So far the rocks have all been like the andesites and basalts we see on Earth--typical volcanic rocks. We have known for a very long time that there were volcanoes on Mars, so nothing new is seen in this data. The rocks do not seem to have been modified in any significant way by heating and cooling or weathering processes, and that again tells us that water activity on Mars has been very limited.

The weather conditions on Mars have turned out to be much more extreme than expected. When the temperature on the surface reaches a comfortable 40° Fahrenheit, the air temperature six feet up can be 40° below zero. If you were standing on Mars, your feet might be warm at the same time your head froze. Dust is becoming a problem for the vehicle as the dry, low pressure environment allows fine material to be kicked into the air by the slightest wind.

All and all, it appears that conditions on Mars are even more hostile than we imagined, and all of these negative features are due to one thing--the size of the planet. Mars is slightly smaller than Earth. This makes it have less gravity with which to pull on its atmosphere. This allows water to evaporate easier and allows wild fluctuations in temperature. The more we see of how harsh and inhospitable Mars is, the more we realize how special Earth is.

NEANDERTHALS DNA. DNA from a Neanderthal arm bone considered to be less than 100,000 years old by those analyzing the DNA has turned out to be different in more ways than anyone would have guessed. If you were to analyze the DNA from different races of mankind on the earth today you would find that no race varies by more than eight variations in genetic material from any other race. The Neanderthal DNA, on the other hand, varies from modern human DNA in 27 places. The Neanderthal DNA was extracted from the mitochondrion and should not be easily changed by environmental factors or the extraction process. This does not mean that Neanderthals were a different species, but it does mean that they were significantly different than the racial variations you see in the human population today. Humans who are older than the Neanderthals like Homo Erectus and Rhodesian Man may have been much more varied in physical characteristics than you might be led to believe by most reconstructions seen in textbooks and popular charts like the Time-Life series. Having a broader racial variation among humans than was previously thought possible may seriously challenge the usual evolution of man portrayals of National Geographic, Time-Life, and other popularizers of man's evolution.--U.S. News and World Report, July 21, 1997, page 9, and Science News, July 19, 1997, page 37

ACLU GOES AFTER AA. Unquestionably the most successful program in the world for bringing alcoholics out of their addiction and restoring them to useful and meaningful lives has been Alcoholics Anonymous. The third step of the twelve step program says:"We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him." This is actually watered down from what the program presented years ago when it specifically made reference to Jesus Christ as the source of strength to defeat alcohol addiction. "God as we understand him" is pretty broad and could include almost anything. In fact, we would suggest that AA weakened its program by condescending to this change. None-the-less, the ACLU still finds this to be grounds for a lawsuit.

Joan Englund, the legal director for the ACLU in Ohio, has vowed to take judges who refer alcoholics to AA to court for forcing religion on people by the state. Since many other programs dealing with other problems have copied the AA format, we assume that the ACLU will go after them too--the Betty Ford Clinic, Gambler's Anonymous, etc. To attempt to skuttle a 60-year-old program that has solved more problems than most of us can comprehend demonstrates the irrationality and militant atheism of the ACLU. The only possible way to stop this insanity is public outrage and a clear view of how far out the ACLU is. --Scripps Howard News Service, July, 1997

CALF CLONED. A followup on the cloning of the sheep Dolly has taken place with the cloning of a black and white Holstein named Gene--actually Gene 1, 2, and 3 because three clones have been done. ABS Global Inc., a biotechnology company invested $15 million and over 150 attempts before they had success. The cells used for the cloning came from a 30-day-old fetus, and the company says their goal is to produce more and better food and medicine. We have said for some 30 years that the question is not whether this kind of thing will be done, but rather who will do it and what use it will be put to. It would be our hope that Christians will be making the decisions about how to use these discoveries and processes so that things will be done to solve the problems of humans and bring relief to the suffering that is in the world. If people who do not have a concern for helping others are in control of this technology, it can be used to produce things of war and control of humans.

Along these lines, the Philips corporation has announced that it will begin the sales of "Hot Badges" in Europe in late 1997. These badges are worn on the lapel and light up when someone with the same interests that you have comes within in few feet of you. What happens is that your interests, beliefs, and desires are put on a chip which is hooked to a microtransmitter/receiver. When someone matching your chip comes within a few feet of you both your receiver and their's activate a LED that lights up. The gay community has already hailed the Hot Badge as a great social tool, and everyone from prison guards to school teachers have thought up ways to use them to control others. To us, it has the negative feel of George Orwell's book 1984, where technology was used to control and dehumanize human beings. The capacity of people to change feelings and beliefs could not be considered in the Hot Badge setup.

--Popular Science, August, 1997, page 53

ANOTHER UFO CHAPTER. Just when you hoped the UFO nonsense might die down, a new catalyst jumps up to resurrect the whole operation. This time it is the CIA and the Air Force who have publically admitted that they covered up relevant UFO information. During the cold war years, the government went to great lengths to try not to give the enemy any advantage. Now the Air Force and CIA are admitting that people did see strange aircraft in different places around the United States, but they were test aircraft, U-2s or other spy planes or dummies tossed out of planes to test military drop problems. All of this is after over 40 years of denying that people saw anything or trying to explain what they saw by weather phenomena. While we do not deny the CIA or Air Force explanations, one has to wonder why they waited until now to reveal this information. UFO proponents will have no trouble turning this revelation into a strong support for their case, because the integrity of the government has taken another severe blow.--AP release, August 4, 1997, and Popular Science, September, 1997, page 34

JESUS SEMINAR TURNS EVANGELISTIC. For the past 12 years, we have had articles in this journal about news releases made by a group of people who call themselves "The Jesus Seminar." In 1985, the group began what it called "A quest for the historical Jesus." The group went through the New Testament and analyzed each verse deciding whether that verse could be logically believed or not. Operating on a vote system in which professors used colored beads to vote on each passage, the Jesus Seminar essentially gutted the New Testament of any meaning. The Lord's Prayer, the virgin birth, virtually all miracles, as well as the resurrection were voted out because they were too illogical to believe.

A miracle, by definition, is too hard to believe or it would not be a miracle. Anything spiritual is denied by this type of thinking; and, in fact, Robert Funk who is now traveling the country trying to promote the Jesus Seminar's teachings says that they want to emphasize Jesus the teacher rather than Jesus the devine. The seminar also wishes to get people to "replace the Lord's Supper with a common meal, emphasize forgiveness and freedom instead of punishment and piety and endorse protected recreational sex among consenting adults." We are sure that Playboy and Penthouse and their supporters will welcome this dilution of Christianity to nothing, but it is our hope that this movement has gone so far that no one will take it seriously.

--U.S. News and World Report, August 4, 1997, page 55-56

PREACHER SUED FOR CLAIMS ABOUT ARK. Dr. Ian Plimer, head of Earth Science at the University of Melbourne, has sued creationist Allen Roberts over claims Roberts has made in lectures and in video tapes that he sells about finding Noah's Ark at Akyayla, Turkey. Plimer claims that Roberts has violated a law on the books in Australia preventing traders from making false or unproven claims. There have been large numbers of claims about the finding of Noah's Ark over the years, and we have not seen any claim that we feel is well supported by the evidence with a number of the claims being clearly erroneous. We do not know whether Roberts is using any of the claims we have seen because Robert's support group called Ark Search Associated, Inc. went into liquidation just prior to the trial. Roberts is suing Plimer for defamation. We have not heard anything official about how the trial turned out at this time.

--Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August, 1997, page 22

INTERNET MONKEYS. "We have all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters would eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true," Robert Silensky, University of California said. That is only one way we know it is not true, but the point is well made.

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