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Return to July/August 2015 articles.

News and Notes for July/August 2015
from Does God Exist? July/August 2015

ATHEISTS INITIATE TV CHANNEL. There is now a TV channel that features programming created by and for atheists. It is AtheistTV and is available on the Roku streaming network as well as the American Atheists website. Its goal is “to give a yet-unavailable broadcast voice to an already strong but growing atheist community.” Its slogan is “Atheism Everywhere.” As more and more atheist arguments are given to the public, it will become increasingly important for us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

ATHEISTS EXCLUDED FROM PUBLIC OFFICE. Did you know that seven states have constitutions that do not allow an atheist to hold public office? Obviously, such laws are ignored and will eventually be changed. However, they show that the original writers of those state constitutions did not think that someone who does not believe in God could be moral or self-sacrificing and thus would be unfit for public office. Obviously, there have been politicians who were very religious and very dishonest at the same time, and all an atheist has to do is lie to get elected if the laws remain. By the way, the states where this is still in the state constitutions are Maryland, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Source: Austin American-Statesman, December 14, 2014, page A15 (originally in the New York Times.)

GENETIC ANALYSIS SUPPORTS BIRD TREE OF EVOLUTION. Genetics is a useful tool in a variety of modern studies. We are making great strides in understanding medical problems humans face that have a genetic origin. We are also finding that genetics aids in our understanding of the history of life on earth. However, like the medical applications, the study is so complex it will certainly be revised and expanded in the future. In our discussions of evolution, we have pointed out that the Bible indicates multiple starts for the various groupings of life on the earth. First Corinthians 15:39 states that there are four kinds of flesh — fish, men, mammals, and birds, and that grouping is used consistently in Genesis 1 and in the flood account. Recent genetic studies have supported the bird family tree, with 48 bird species related to one another through their DNA. The complexity of this is seen in the fact that there are more than 10,000 species of birds, and only 48 have been cataloged, and that took 200 scientists seven years to complete. The more we know of the creation, the more evidence we see of God's wisdom and design in his creation and the integrity of the biblical record. Source: Science News, January 10, 2015, page 6.

MORE OR FEWER TORNADOES? Doom-sayers on all sides try to convince us that earthquakes and horrendous storms are happening with increasing frequency as we approach the destruction of the earth. The fact is that all of these things are cyclic in nature, and we now are in a low-frequency part of the cycle. In National Geographic (February 2015, page 15) there is a report from the NOAA Prediction Center showing that the number of tornadoes in the United States each year has dropped from 526 in 1954 to 485 in 2013. The number of tornado days has dropped from 157 to 100.

a picture of space and planetsWHY SO MANY PLANETS? As scientists study planets orbiting other stars, new understandings are coming forward. One of those is the question of the shape of planetary orbits and how that impacts life's existence. Many extrasolar planets have very eccentric orbits — meaning they swing very close to their parent star and then swing very far away. For life to exist, there has to be a steady distance to the parent star to avoid climatic extremes that would extinguish life. Earth's orbit has an eccentricity of 1.7% which is very close to a perfect circle. Pluto has the most eccentric orbit in our system, being 25%. Some extrasolar planets have been observed with orbits of 80% eccentricity. A study reported in Scientific American (March 2015, page 18) correlates the number of planets in a planetary system with the shape of the orbits of the planets. The gravitational interaction helps keep the orbit circular which gives the stability necessary to allow life to exist. This is one more variable in the long list of things that have to be right to allow life to exist.

WHAT CAUSES HUNGER? God has given us the capacity to produce more than enough food for every man, woman, and child on this planet. Why is it then that 805 million people do not have enough to eat? The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) identifies the causes as (1) civil war, (2) poor infrastructure, (3) restrictive leaders, (4) natural disasters and erratic weather, and (5) economic swings. An interesting website on this subject is cargill.com/foodsecureworld. Some amazing work is being done by Christian organizations to address hunger. We have the tools, but selfishness, greed, and control issues prevent real answers from getting to all people.

HOW ARE WE USING GOD'S MONEY? The 2015 federal discretionary budget request sent to Congress in March of 2014 shows interesting numbers — 2% of the budget went for food and agriculture, 2% for transportation, 2% for science, 3% for energy and environment, 3% international affairs, 5% labor, 5% health, 5% housing, 6% government, 6% veterans benefits, and 6% education. If you add that up you get 45% The rest of the budget — all 55% of our money goes to the department of defense. That's $653,110,000,000 or $1.2 million per minute. How much suffering on earth could be eliminated with one minute's worth of our national defense? Skeptics blame God for the horror and pain we see all around us, but God has provided the resources for us if all mankind would just follow the teachings of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5 – 7.

ISLAMIC LEADERS CALL FOR REFORM. My Muslim friends here in Michigan are as appalled as the rest of us at the violence and massive killing being carried on in the name of Muhammad. Recently the president of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, made a call for Islam to reform the faith that has “made the Muslim world a source of destruction, and pitted it against the rest of the world.” One would have to hope that this is the beginning of a change in how the Muslim world treats those with whom they differ. The problem that our Muslim friends face is the clear statements in the Koran to kill and destroy those who are not Muslims (see Sura 47:3 – 7; 2:178 and 216; 8:37 – 41; 9:4 – 7 and 122 – 125). Source: Associated Press 1/10/15 and 1/11/15 available in South Bend Tribune on those dates.

MASKING ATHEIST TERRORISM. Most of us were disturbed by the killing of three Muslim students in North Carolina in February. The media reported that the murders were motivated by a parking dispute. It turns out that Craig Hicks, who is accused of the murders, is a white atheist who is well known in North Carolina for his anti-religion and anti-Islam rhetoric. Foreign newspapers have revealed Hicks' history as a white atheist and they claimed that if a U.S. Muslim had executed three white atheists it would have automatically resulted in the use of the word “terror” in American papers. Source: The Week, February 27, 2015, page 15.

AMERICAN SNIPER. Overseas papers have also jumped on the film American Sniper describing it as “a film based on the life of a bigoted liar who relished killing Arabs.” That film was a top grossing film in the U.S. Source: The Week, February 27, 2015, page 15.

NASA cutaway drawing of Van Allen BeltsNEW SURPRISES IN VAN ALLEN BELTS. The earth's magnetic field protects us from charged particles coming from the sun and other radiation sources in space. Gravity pulls the particles in, but the magnetic field pushes them out, and they end up in belts starting around 600 miles above the earth and stretch out as far as 25,000 miles. Astronomers announced in November 2014 that they have found another barrier some 7,200 miles above the earth forming an impenetrable barrier to high energy electrons coming from the sun that are not stopped by the other belts because of their energy. Dr. Daniel Baker, who did much of the work, says the barrier is a force field somewhat like the force fields on Star Trek, but what is causing this phenomenon is unknown. It just adds one more factor to the long list of carefully designed features that allow us to be able to live on earth. Source: Astronomy, April 2015, page 18.

OKLAHOMA QUAKES HUMAN CAUSED? In 2014, there were nearly 300 times as many earthquakes in Oklahoma as in 2008, and more than the previous 30 years combined. In 2014 there were 584 quakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater. Before 2008 there were fewer than five a year. The cause seems to be injection wells that bury waste water from fracking and other oil and gas operations. Years ago sewage disposal in Colorado was linked to earthquakes, so this would not be a first. As time goes by we see more and more evidence that what God created was good and safe, but man's mismanagement can cause tragedy and then skeptics attack God's poor design. Source: USGS, Oklahoma Geological Survey, and National Geographic.

chickens feedingOUR CHEMICAL FOOD SUPPLY. Since 1950, farmers have fed antibiotic growth promoters to livestock. Eighty percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to poultry and other livestock according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013 budget report). In 1960 it took 63 days to grow a 3.4-pound broiler chicken, and in 2011 it took 47 days to grow a 5.4-pound one. The problem is that this heavy use can produce superbugs that are resistant to drugs, and the government says that the cost of all this to the U.S. Health system in 2013 was in excess of $21 billion. Like many things that threaten us, greed and mismanagement of what God has given us bring pain and heartbreak to many people. God told man “to work it and take care of it” in Genesis 2:15. Like the earthquake issue in Oklahoma, we need to look at what we are doing and learn from the mistakes of the past. Source: National Geographic.

CAGE FIGHTING CHRISTIANS? We have all heard of church league basketball and softball leagues, but now we have teams of church groups engaging in cage fighting. This is a copy of UFC cage fights in which kicking and punching goes on until one fighter gives up in submission. Fights are posted on the organization's website and fighters are shown in action. Biblical Archaeology Review in their May/June 2015 issue (page 26) describes the “scene as pornographic … it looks like rape.” We would suggest that the world's values and attitudes have been used to get attention and that such activity flies in the face of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS' WIFE. In September 2012, Dr. Karen King, who is a professor at the Harvard Divinity School presented a discovery of a document that she called “The Gospel of Jesus' Wife.” There has been considerable debate about whether her claims were justified, and whether Jesus was in fact married. A Coptic scholar named Christian Ashland has been studying Gnostic literature and particularly the Gnostic Gospel of John. Ashland has shown that the Gnostic Gospel of John was a forgery and that the Jesus' wife fragment was by the same forger. There is no doubt in most scholars' minds that the claim that Jesus had a wife based on King's find is not supported by the evidence. Source: Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2015, pages 54.

PRAYER FOR SICK LANDS CHRISTIANS IN JAIL. A Laotian provincial court put five Christians in jail who prayed for a woman who later died. The woman asked for prayer from local Christian leaders after unsuccessful treatments from healers and doctors. After the Christians prayed for the woman, she died, and the Christians were arrested. The continued persecution of Christians all over the world is glossed over by the media but continues to be an issue. Source: Christianity Today, April 2015, page 17.

FIRE CHIEF FIRED FOR BIBLE BELIEFS. Kevin Cochran has been a fireman for 30 years and was also the fire chief in Atlanta. Cochran is also a strong believer in Christ and the moral principles taught by Jesus. He wrote a book about how good biblical moral standards are, and has been fired for giving copies of the book to coworkers. Advocates for Cochran have raised the question, “What could be more intolerant and exclusionary than ending a public servant's 30 years of distinguished service for his religious beliefs?” Source: New York Times, January 12, 2015 quote in Citizen, March 2015, page 9.

a man taking some medicineTASTE IS NOT ALWAYS A GOOD THING. It has always been somewhat of a mystery as to why some animals can eat things that are incredibly bitter, sour, or just plain unpleasant. Penguins, dolphins, sea lions, and whales all seem to be able to eat things that are pretty disgusting in taste. Recent research shows that these animals lack the ability to taste. Taste depends on proteins called umami receptors in the outer membrane of taste bud cells. These animals are missing the gene that allows umami receptors to exist. It seems to be a design feature for these animals so that they can eat things that normally would only go to waste because of their flavor, or lack of it. Sometimes the inability to taste can be a blessing. Source: Science News, March 21, 2015, page 8.

Picture credits:
© Keith Tarrier. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© dragang. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© aliced. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.