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from Does God Exist? 2nd Quarter 2018

STAY UP-TO-DATE ON NEWS AND NOTES. The stories in News and Notes are condensed from articles previously published on our website www.DoesGodExist.today. You can use the links (Does God Exist? today) with each of these article to see the original posts for more details and references. There are also many other interesting and informative articles on that website each day. We encourage you to follow us daily on “Does God Exist? Today.” On that website you can also subscribe to our free weekly e-mail update. We call it “The Best of the Week from DOES GOD EXIST?” It contains links to the most popular of our posts on DGE? Today and our Facebook page (Facebook.com/evidence4god).

CLONED MONKEYS — HUMANS NEXT? The Chinese Academy of Sciences has solved the technical problems of cloning higher life forms. Mu-ming Poo announced that two long-tailed macaques named Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong were produced using somatic cell nuclear transfer in which transferred DNA was taken from fetal monkey cells and put into cells from which they had removed the DNA. By stimulating these eggs, they developed into embryos which were implanted in female surrogates and two live births of cloned monkeys resulted.

The question remains whether scientists will clone humans. Since scientists at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland cloned “Dolly” the sheep in 1996, others have cloned 22 mammal species including cows, dogs, horses, and rabbits. Now the Chinese researchers have broken the primate barrier with cloned monkeys.

In cloning the macaques, 127 eggs resulted in 79 embryos which led to only six pregnancies and two live births. The ethics of such an inefficient process with humans raises a whole new set of abortion questions and Frankenstein-type scientific, moral issues. Scientists will address the physical issues with future improvements in techniques, but someone must address the moral issues before they attempt human cloning. Source: Science News, January 24, 2018. (Does God Exist? today)

VOODOO IN MASSACHUSETTS? In the newspapers on February 4, 2018, there was a story from East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, about a five-year-old girl who was permanently disfigured by a voodoo ritual. Two sisters tied her down and engaged in a ritual intended to rid her of a demon. The sisters say that they perform “cleansing baths” for family and friends and the children sometimes get burned as spirits leave their bodies. Voodoo rituals like that are practiced in Haiti, the home country of the sisters.

The Bible makes it clear that God forbids anything associated with witchcraft, voodoo, evil spirits, or sorcery. The Old Testament law said that a person who performed this type of activity should be put to death (Exodus 22:18). Any activity of that type was forbidden (Deuteronomy 18:10;  2 Kings 9:22; Micah 5:12). We might think that is extreme, but these things can and do result in human sacrifice. That is serious.

We should never underestimate the power of evil, but God has given us tools far superior to anything evil can produce. James tells us, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). (Does God Exist? today)

SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLES. At one time many scientists thought black holes were a joke. I had a physics professor back in my undergraduate days who taught us the basic principles behind the formation of a black hole. Then he proceeded to ridicule the idea as pure fantasy.

It certainly seemed like fantasy in the middle of the twentieth century. The basic idea was that there are two forces at work in stars. One was the electrical force that repels charged matter pushing it away from the stellar center. A second force is gravity.

Illustration of a black hole

The question is what would happen if you had a star that was so massive that the gravitational force exceeded the electrical force? The answer was, of course, that the star would collapse. The amount of mass needed to do that would be astronomical, but it is possible. Einstein showed that huge masses could actually warp space. If a huge mass warped space, it might create a situation where even light could not escape. The result would be a black hole — a point in space where matter collapsed upon itself. That hole would continue to absorb anything that came near it, so it would just continue to grow in mass.

Astronomers have now observed black holes in many places in space. It might be more accurate to say that they have seen the holes produced by black holes. We now know that most if not all galaxies have black holes at their cores. We have seen black holes collide, and the resulting shock waves allowed scientists to detect gravity waves.

Now scientists are concerned about new finds of supermassive black holes. Apparently, these new black holes were formed at the beginning of the creation perhaps by the collapse of huge clouds of gas and dust that were not a part of a galaxy. These strange supermassive black holes are around 1,000 times bigger than normal black holes and may be remnants of the creation of the cosmos itself. This is a new area of study, but it should be supported by observations from a new telescope scheduled to go into orbit in 2019. Source: Scientific American, February 2018, page 26. (Does God Exist? today)

GENE EDITING AND BETTER BABIES. A major debate is in the works as scientists experiment with gene editing using CRISPR/Cas9 to fix mutations that cause heart and blood disorders. CRISPR/Cas9 acts as molecular scissors to alter human DNA. The technology is advancing so rapidly that scientists and ethicists are holding conferences to discuss how the technology should be used.

Hand is replacing part of a DNA molecule.

The Hastings Center, which is a bioethics research institute, is sponsoring discussions among experts attempting to give some guidelines for the proper use of gene editing. A panel of ethicists convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has said that gene editing should be used to correct diseases, but not to create characteristics that do not have to do with health.

The Center for Genetics and Society has pointed out that people who are taller and fair-skinned tend to make more money than the general population. The question of whether parents should edit the genes of their children to give those characteristics is an extreme example of how gene editing might be misused.

The moral conviction of the people making these decisions becomes the critical factor. Rather than decry advances in science, we need to join the search to find answers to disease and suffering. Since gene editing is the future, let us encourage the best minds in the Christian community to use their God-given talents and abilities to find solutions and direct the use of our knowledge and technology. Source: Science News, January 20, 2018, page 4. (Does God Exist? today)

LIFE ADAPTS TO A SEALED, POISON CAVE. In southeastern Romania near the Black Sea scientists discovered a cave that had been cut off from the outside world throughout history. Yet, even in a sealed, poison cave, life adapts.

Scientists estimate that the cave was sealed off 5.5 million years ago, and its air is low in oxygen (10%) and high in carbon dioxide (3%). That is almost one-third the amount of oxygen and 100 times more carbon dioxide as the air we breathe. The air and water in the cave also contain high levels of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. The cave is named Movile Cave, and it is full of life. Biologists have identified 48 species, and 33 of them are found nowhere else.

Very sad looking very old Labrador retriever

The food chain in the cave is based on chemosynthesis using sulfur instead of photosynthesis which requires sunlight. Bacteria which oxidize sulfur and methane release nutrients used by other bacteria and fungi. They, in turn, create microbial mats on the cave wall. Those mats are grazed by herbivorous creatures which are consumed by carnivorous creatures such as spiders, leeches, and water scorpions. Contrary to what the media has reported, life did not start in the cave. Instead, life has adapted to the cave environment.

Scientists have found life around thermal vents deep in the ocean and under the Arctic ice. We find it amazing that life adapts to hostile environments. We also believe this is a demonstration of the wisdom involved in life's design. And in spite of what the media have reported, this is not necessarily an argument in favor of life under the crust oceans of Europa and Ganymede, the moons of Jupiter. Source: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150904-the-bizarre-beasts-living-in-romanias-poison-cave. (Does God Exist? today)

ANTHROPOMORPHISM EXTREME. According to Wikipedia anthropomorphism is, “the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.” When your dog cowers after you scold it for doing something, is the dog indicating guilt or remorse? It may look that way, but it may be that the dog has learned that by showing that behavior it will receive less scolding.

There has been an upsurge of scientific material suggesting that humans are not unique in their expressions of grief, guilt, patriotism, devotion, love, hate, etc. Several books have been written promoting the view that no human emotion is missing from members of the animal kingdom. How Animals Grieve by Barbara King and Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina are two examples. There have also been numerous articles in scientific journals promoting anthropomorphism. A recent magazine has pictures and discussions of giraffes, whales, dolphins, elephants, gorillas, baboons, chimps, and zebras seeming to grieve at the death of an offspring or a mate for periods of days. Source: National Wildlife magazine, February/March 2018, page 30.

The question is whether this is an evolutionary trait of all life and humans are just more highly evolved, or whether we are anthropomorphizing the behavior we see. The biblical definition of humans is that we are the life-form created in the image of God. We see that image reflected in the things that humans do that are not physical in nature. We worship. We create art and music and express our emotions in art and music. We feel sympathy and experience guilt. We have an agape type of love that is unrelated to reproduction or survival. We can be taught to think. These properties are made possible by our spiritual nature. We can debate whether all of these characteristics are really unique to humans or whether they have survival value, but our uniqueness as a species is not a function of our intelligence or any physical characteristic.

There is no question that animals think and that they have emotions, but we should avoid excessive anthropomorphism. Animal emotions are tied into their instinctive drives — not to political or religious values. We suggest that those instincts are part of the design of these animals which provides them with the greatest probability of survival.

When Jesus taught us to love our enemy and to do good to those who do evil to us, he was calling us to express that which makes us human — our spiritual nature created in the image of God. (Does God Exist? today)

EARTH'S ATMOSPHERIC SHIELD. In 2013 an asteroid 60 feet (20 m) in diameter and weighing 10,000 tons entered the Earth's atmospheric shield and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The explosion occurred 18 miles (29 km) above the earth emitting a shock wave equivalent to 10 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

The meteorite flies to the ground.

A team led by Dr. Jay Melosh of Purdue University has extensively studied what controls how much damage a rock from space can cause. Dr. Melosh's research was funded by NASA's Office of Planetary Defense, and some interesting facts have come from the research. According to the study, Hollywood disaster movies are not even close to being realistic. Dr. Melosh says “Realistic stuff doesn't make a good story. Hollywood usually manages to get it wrong.”

Meteoroids are hunks of rock that come in all shapes and sizes and with different amounts of porousness. As a rock enters the atmosphere, air pressure builds up in front of it, and a vacuum develops behind it. For most porous rocks, the air will rush into the rock and blow off pieces, like an air hose blowing in a bucket of sand. The design of the earth's atmosphere is what causes the breakup of the meteoroids. It is only if they are too big to blow apart that they hit the earth leaving a crater such as Meteor Crater in Arizona.

The article about Dr. Melosh's work in the Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Indiana, January 6, 2018) says that Earth's atmospheric shield is better than we thought. Modern astronomy continues to find design features of the universe and the earth that allow life to exist on this planet. This is another example of a design feature that makes it so that we do not have to walk around looking up to dodge an incoming celestial missile. (Does God Exist? today)

Ancient pottery from the British Museum

EARTH'S MAGNETIC REVERSALS. Archaeologist Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University has led studies of the history of magnetic changes on the earth. Ancient pottery has tiny magnetic minerals that were aligned with the earth's magnetic field when the pottery was fired in the kiln. The stronger the magnetic field, the greater the alignment of the magnetic particles. From the late eighth to the second century B.C., ceramic jars bearing the impressions of royal stamps were manufactured in and around Jerusalem. Scientists have studied handles from 67 pieces of pottery, and they have found that the magnetic field of the earth has gone through periodic rises and falls throughout history. The mapping of the magnetic fields gives a record of history, with small changes producing a pattern that improves dating techniques by a huge factor.

What causes the earth's magnetic field is still not completely understood, and the magnetic reversals are even more of a mystery. By measuring the magnetic particles in the pottery, scientists can date the pottery very accurately. This dating method can answer many questions about ancient kings and kingdoms including the major figures in the history of Israel. (Does God Exist? today)

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