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from Does God Exist? January/February 2014

ATHEISTS FIGHT CHURCH TAX EXEMPTION. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has a large ad in Scientific American (November 2013, page 20) asking for donations to its legal fund to support three federal lawsuits against church tax-exempt status. What people do not think about in this type of action is what the consequences would be of taxing church property and church facilities. If you force all homeless shelters, food kitchens, counseling centers, medical facilities, women's shelters, day care centers, elderly care centers, and church schools to pay taxes, you will cause a majority of them to close. Atheists do not run homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc., so what will be the result of such actions? I have been told that welfare started when police in New York began addressing homeless Man sleepingimmigrants because churches quit doing it. If atheists force churches to close these facilities, will we increase the debacle of tax-supported public welfare? In a related item, Christianity Today (October 2013, page 17) reports that the Justice Department has said that atheist leaders would qualify as ministers getting the same tax breaks as ministers if they apply.

MORE ON CLOSING CHURCH FOOD KITCHENS. Christian Service Center in Lake City, Florida, has been distributing free food to needy people in their area for many years. On the wall of the church distribution center is a portrait of Christ, the Ten Commandments, and a banner that says “Jesus is Lord.” The Center also gives free Bibles and prays with needy folks who request prayer. One of the sources of the free food was the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which the center used to get government cheese. The USDA's Florida official has ordered the center to take down all the pictures, banners, and signs and stop the praying and Bible distribution or give up the USDA food. The center has given up the government food. Fox News said it had to “Choose God or government cheese” and it chose to trust God to provide. Source: Citizen magazine, November 2013, page 8.

SKULL SUPPORTS BIBLICAL CLAIM. Skull 5 discovered in the village of Dmanisi in the nation of Georgia has been hailed as significant because of the completeness of the fossil. Now analysis has also created a stir because the researchers have concluded that skull 5 shows that there was only one lineage of early humans. The Bible indicates that all humans have a common ancestry in Eve and Adam, and genetic studies have supported that view. Now there is fossil evidence to further support it. Source: The Week, November 1, 2013, page 17, and USA Today, October 18, 2012.

ANOTHER BLOW TO ANAEROBIC LIFE CLAIMS. Those promoting a spontaneous start to life have been pretty much universal in assuming that there was no oxygen in the early earth. The problem is that oxygen would oxidize any carbon-based life that might be forming and thus destroy it. Experiments like the famous Miller-Urey synthesis of amino acids used an apparatus that excluded oxygen from the experiment. Scientists studying sediment in South Africa thought to be a billion years old have found evidence of atmospheric oxygen using the new Chromium 52/53 method of detecting oxygen. This discovery is significant because it will throw out a huge number of theories of how life started. The question of how life began on earth is an important mystery of design. This discovery adds to the evidence that chance is not the operative cause of life on earth. Source: Science News, October 19, 2013, page 12.

SPACE TRAVEL AND RADIATION DANGERS. In connection with solar activity, NASA has new data on the radiation hazards involved in going to the moon and Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory delivered the Curiosity rover by traveling to Mars for 253 days. The first radiation detector to make the trip was on the spacecraft. Because the solar activity was low, scientists thought that radiation levels would not be prohibitively high. Even with these ideal conditions, a human going to Mars would get so much radiation that it would be like having a whole-body CT scan every five or six days. It would be like a Hiroshima survivor experiencing that event two dozen times. The dosage would be 66,240 mrem (millirems), which is what the average person on earth gets in 184 years. This amount of radiation would increase a fatal cancer risk by 3 or 4 percent. We fail to realize how much shielding is built into the earth's design by the atmosphere and the earth's magnetic field. Source: Astronomy, December 2013, page 12.

BABIES LEARN SPEECH WHILE IN THE WOMB. Baby in the womb A study published in the August 26, 2013, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science describes an experiment that proves conclusively that babies start learning language long before they are born. The babies had a fake word “tatata” blasted at them five to seven times a week during their third trimester. When the babies heard the word five days after birth they all had a neural, jolt which is called a mismatch response associated with a recognized sound. Babies that had not heard the word during the mother's pregnancy did not make a response of any kind in hearing the word again after they were born.

This research, conducted in Finland at the University of Helsinki, has many implications. Can babies be taught words before birth? It is also a reminder that an unborn baby is not an extension of the mother's body, but a unique individual. This brings us again to ask if abortion is really infanticide and the destruction of a human being with potential. Source: Science News, October 5, 2013, page 15.

ADAM AND EVE CHROMOSOME DATA. As the human genome gets analyzed and refined, some interesting facts are emerging. Women's genetic heritage has been traced through mitochondrial DNA. For many years geneticist have agreed that there was a single female ancestor to all humans on this planet, referred to as “Mitochondrial Eve.” The male genetic line is more difficult to trace because the Y chromosome is very complicated. However, a study published in the August 2, 2013, issue of Science magazine reports on work by Carlos Bustamante of Stanford. He says that evidence indicates a single male ancestor for all humans, referred to as “Y Chromosome Adam.” The authors are careful to say that they do not support the two being a single couple, but their research shows the time when Y Chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve lived is basically the same — suggesting 120,000 to 156,000 years ago. An evolutionary biologist at the University of Hawaii is quoted in the article as saying, “People tied themselves in knots to come up with an explanation.” It is interesting that as more and more data becomes available both scientifically and biblically, the credibility of the account of Adam and Eve seems to gain ground. Source: Science News, September 7, 2013, page 14.

MORE NESSIE NONSENSE. A widely used hoax that dominates our television is the Loch Ness monster. When we were in Scotland, I found it interesting that people did not believe in God, but did believe in Nessie. However, those we met who live in the Loch Ness area had a very negative view of the claims of a monster in the Loch. In the October 25, 2013, issue of The Week (page 40), there is a wonderful summary of the history and foolishness of the claims since 1822, when Loch Ness became part of a shipping channel.

LATEST MARTIAN DATA REDUCES CHANCES OF LIFE ON MARS. On earth, most bacteria release methane as a by-product of their biological functions. Scientists looking for life on Mars have been looking to verify the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. However, the Curiosity rover, which was equipped to precisely measure the amount of methane on Mars, found virtually no methane at all. Even though there are bacteria that do not produce methane, this find greatly reduces the chances of active bacteria on the red planet. We want to say again that finding life on Mars has no biblical significance. However, it seems that claims of abundant and pervasive life in the cosmos have been shown to be exaggerated at best. Source: The Week, October 11, 2013, page 22.

DINOSAUR FIGHT PRESERVED IN STONE. Two dinosaurs that were fighting with each other and died in the midst of the fight are now on display and for sale at Bonhams in New York. One is a carnivore named Nanotyrannus who had attacked a herbivorous dinosaur named Triceratops. The carnivore has a cracked skull, and 26 of its teeth have been found imbedded in the body of the triceratops. Those who claim that all dinosaurs were vegetarians and that carnivores did not exist in early times do not have the evidence on their side. It is clear in this case that one dinosaur was trying to eat the other. By the way, the asking price for the two fossils is $9 million. Source: Popular Science, November 2013, page 30.

CHIMP AND HUMAN DIFFERENCES. Educational Research Analysts Newsletter (October 2013, page 4) says that claims of chimp and human DNA sequences being 95 – 99% identical are in error for the following reasons:

  1. Rank Cherry-Picking: Low complexity sequence masking excludes many non-aligning DNA segments.
  2. Statistical Slant: Focusing only on the most similar portions of chimp and human genomes exaggerates their total actual harmony.
  3. Overrated Sync: The longer the DNA sequence segments are compared, the lower we find the percentage of match-ups between portions of chimp and human genomes.
  4. High Discrepancy: Twenty-three percent of chimp and human sequences show no similarity. Chimp and human Y-chromosome DNA sequences differ by over 30%, or about as much as human and chicken autosomes (chromosomes whose genes are not sex-linked). Eighty-three percent of amino acid sequences in chimp chromosome 22 differ from those in the human chromosome 21 counterpart.
  5. Conflicting Descents: Biochemical phylogenies of chimps, humans, gorillas, and orangutans contradict their standard anatomical phylogeny 40% of the time.
  6. Bloated Percentage: Counting the gaps between closely aligning strands of chimp and human DNA sequences deflates the overall identity ratio between their respective genomes to 70 – 87%.
  7. Risky Snap Judgment: Any assured correspondence between the two genomes is premature and arbitrary. Unacknowledged functions of now-omitted, non-aligning DNA sequence sections may revolutionize comparisons.

Students may find these comments useful as they study and evaluate the genome comparisons in their biology classes.

EXORCISM FIASCO AND HARRY POTTER SPELLS. One advantage that atheists have going for them is the continued irresponsibility of people who claim to be Christians but engage in practices to make themselves wealthy by exploiting the weak, uneducated, or sick. Three American teenage girls are traveling the world casting out evil spirits and “sexually transmitted demons.” Brynne Larson (daughter of Bob Larson, the television demon exorcist) and Tess and Savannah Scherkenback have been attracting large crowds in London. Their methods involve using holy water and reciting spells from Harry Potter books. The BBC has produced a documentary titled Teen Exorcists. This will only contribute to the growth of atheism in the United Kingdom, Europe, and America. We had a feature story on exorcism in the May/June 2011 issue and our video series programs 13 – 16 deal with this subject. The videos are available on DVDs or free online at doesgodexist.tv. Past Does God Exist? journals can be found online at doesgodexist.org.

NEW MAMMOTH FIND REVIVES FROZEN SPECIMEN INTEREST. A new find of a frozen mammoth in the Lyakhovsky Islands off the Siberian coast has accelerated the studies of these incredible animals who lived over 10,000 years ago. This specimen had liquid blood and perfect muscle tissue. How it was preserved, how the animals lived, and why they became extinct are all questions that scientists hope will be revealed as the specimens are studied. The animals stood up to 13 feet tall and weighed up to 10 tons. Man's role and changes on the earth in the past (such as past global warming) should become better understood through finds such as this. Source: Dallas Morning News, May 31, 2013, page 10A.

MILITARY OATHS ATTACKED BY ATHEISTS. We have mentioned the Military Religious Freedom Foundation before in this journal. This is a group of atheists who is trying to remove any reference to God from military oaths and chaplaincies. The Air Force Academy has had “So help me God” at the end of its honor oath. As of October 25, 2013, that has been removed. There already is no religious component in the pledges at Annapolis or West Point. Source: Time, November 11, 2013, page 13.

SUN ACTIVITY AT A LOW. Every 11 years or so, the Sun has a period of maximum activity, measured in terms of the number of sunspots that are observed. In April 2000, the 23rd solar cycle produced 121 sunspots, and a variety of effects were observed on earth due to that activity on the Sun. The expected peak in solar activity in the current cycle was to occur in February of 2012. That peak turned out to be very weak, producing only 67 sunspots. The magnetic field strength of the Sun and the polarity of the field on the Sun varies widely in these periods of solar activity. Space travel, weather, and a variety of electronic considerations are affected by Sun activity. We are still learning about the Sun and how these cycles function. Those who try to use solar activity and magnetism to calculate the age of the Sun are not doing very good science because this process is cyclic and not a one-time thing. Source: Science News, November 2, 2013, page 24.

2013 YEAR-END REPORT. This journal is expensive to produce, print, and mail, but we send it free to all who request it. Our very small staff provides this publication, websites, video, audio, and printed materials. We do not solicit funds, and we have no sponsoring group to cover expenses. It is only because many individuals voluntarily send financial support that we are able to continue providing these resources. At the end of every calendar year we prepare a report on the Does God Exist? ministry. In it we share what has been accomplished and what work is being done, and we give a financial report for the year. Even though we have not solicited funds, we have ended 2013 once again in the black thanks to the help of many of our readers. If you would like to receive a copy of our report for 2013, just contact us and we will send it by mail or by e-mail. (Contact information can be found inside the front cover of this issue.)

Picture credits:
© Steven Frame. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© krishnacreations. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.