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Return to July/August 2016 articles.

News and Notes for July/August 2016
from Does God Exist? July/August 2016

THE SECOND LAW STILL WORKS.  The second law of thermodynamics, sometimes called the entropy law, has been a thorn in the side of many atheists for a long time. The law says that in a closed system the disorder (entropy) always increases toward a maximum value. The problem this poses for atheists is that it excludes any possibility of matter/energy being eternal. This law predicts that there was a beginning to the creation in which there was no entropy, and available energy was at a maximum. It also predicts heat death — an end to the creation. Stephen Hawking in his popular book A Brief History of Time attempted to avoid the problem by proposing virtual time. That un-testable guess was not a good answer to the dilemma the second law presents. In modern times, it has been proposed that quantum mechanics could violate the second law, but recent studies have shown that heat management in quantum mechanics obeys the second law. The “new physics” of the twenty-first century cannot discard facts and laws of the past although sometimes they have to be modified and expanded. Source: Science News, March 19, 2016, page 18.

SUPREME COURT WRESTLES WITH LESBIAN ADOPTIONS. On March 7, 2016, the Supreme Court reversed Alabama's refusal to recognize same-sex adoption saying that same-sex couples cannot be denied adoption rights. The case in question also was complicated because it dealt with a couple who adopted in another state and moved to Alabama. The National Center for Lesbian Rights was the primary backer of this case, and it will have nationwide implications. As an adoptive father and as a teacher who has worked extensively with adopted kids in my public school teaching career, my concern about this ruling is that the welfare of the kids is not being addressed. The selfish interest of the lesbian adult is being held as primary, and the fact that children need the influence of a father as well as a mother is ignored. Interestingly enough, the lesbian couple that precipitated the suit have now broken up and three children are involved. The needs and welfare of children seem to be secondary in this decision, but then again that was the case in Roe v. Wade. Source: USA Today, March 8, 2016, page 3B.

GIANT CROSS BRINGS ATHEIST SUIT. As we have traveled from lectureship to lectureship, we have seen large crosses erected by denominational churches near the interstates. I have wondered how long it would be before an atheist would find a way to sue to get rid of the crosses. In Corpus Christi (that name means “Body of Christ”), a 230-foot tall cross is being erected on property owned by The Abundant Life Fellowship along Interstate 37. The cross is so tall that a beacon had to be installed on the top of it. When construction of the cross was begun, the mayor of Corpus Christi and other city leaders attended the dedication. That action by the city officials triggered a lawsuit by Patrick Greene, a local atheist, against the mayor and city council members. We have apparently reached a point where public officials are going to be sued if they attend a worship service. Source: foxnews.com, 3/16/16 by Todd Starnes.

ALIEN SPACESHIP FOUND? UFO buffs are excited by a discovery of irregular light signals coming from a star known as KIC 8462852. Some have claimed that these signals are irregular because a huge alien space ship surrounding the star is periodically blocking parts of the star’s light. SETI scientists have done a detailed study of the light curves and have concluded they are not from any intelligently designed and constructed structure. It is interesting that the public gets excited when a news report suggests life in space, but it has no relevance to the question of God’s existence. The Bible never says that earth is the only place where God has created life. This star is 1,500 light years from earth, so what is being seen is what happened 1,500 years ago. We do not know what is there today. Finding intelligent life in space would be amazing. It would be much more amazing if their relationship with God included Jesus Christ. Source: Discover, June 2016.

MARIJUANA SPECIATION BECOMING AN ISSUE.A sign that says, MARIJUANA--Drugs Ruin Lives The reckless legalization of marijuana as a recreational drug continues to produce damaging results and useless conflict. A recently published fact about marijuana is that there are three different species, and each has its own set of characteristics producing different effects on humans. The species commonly recognized by botanists are Cannabis sativa (the prized species for mind-altering effects), Cannabis indica (which acts more as a sedative), and Cannabis ruderalis (which does not do either). Cannabis indica has higher amounts of CBD (cannabidiol), an anti-inflammatory that has therapeutic use. The justification of making marijuana legal for medical purposes ignored the facts and is just one more indication of how our culture is bent on destroying itself as it worships pleasure above everything else. Source: Discover, June 2016, page 74.

DETAILS ON CHAPLAIN REPORTS. We have had several articles in this column on the dilemma that chaplains in the military face. In the March 2016 issue of Citizen magazine there was an article about the struggles of Chaplain Wes Modder with the U.S. Navy. Modder is 49 years old and a career serviceman with numerous deployments in war zones. In 1998 Modder became a chaplain and served until 2014 when he was recommended for promotion to commander. In February, he was given “detachment for cause” (a pink slip) because he was “intolerant and unable to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment” of the U.S. Navy. It turned out that in intimate and private conversations with a seaman, Modder gave a biblical position on premarital sex and homosexuality, and that was the cause of his dismissal. Modder has been reinstated thanks to intervention by a two-star admiral at Navy Personnel Command. Modder got legal help to fight for his right to be a chaplain according to his beliefs as a Christian. The question of how chaplains can function if they are not allowed to have their own belief system remains unanswered.

LOCATION OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN. There has been much speculation and many articles written about the “Garden of Eden.” Much of it is theological speculation about whether the story is a myth to teach a lesson. The fact is that there is evidence for the literal location of the garden. In Biblical Archeology Review (March/April 2016, page 16) there is an article titled “Garden of Eden: Preserved for Posterity.” The article says that there is an area in the Persian Gulf where the Tigris, Euphrates, and Karus rivers converge which is called the “Garden of Eden.” It has been set aside by the government of Iraq as an area to be protected. This is the same area the Bible describes and certainly lends credence to the idea that this was a literal place God planted for Adam and Eve to live.

GRAVITY WAVES AND GOD. One of the most significant discoveries in physics in modern times took place early in 2016 when an unmistakable gravitational wave signal was detected from the collision of two black holes. Einstein had predicted this about 100 years ago when he viewed gravity as a product of space/time and not an intrinsic property of mass. Knowing that gravity is a wave has all kinds of scientific implications. Waves can do things such as interference and Doppler shifting and imaging. Dr. David Reitze says, “We're opening a window on the universe — a window of gravitational-wave astronomy.” This window will show us more of how God has created the cosmos, with gravity being one of his most frequently used tools. Sources: The Week, February 26, 2016, page 25, and Smithsonian, April 2016, page 25.

MAGNETIC REVERSAL NOT IMMINENT.The magnetic field surrounding our planet Earth. One of the long-term catastrophic changes the earth has sustained in the past is what is called a magnetic reversal. In a reversal, earth's magnetic field collapses, and then it is re-established with the north and south poles being flipped. In such a reversal, the charged particles that the magnetic field pushes away would get to the earth causing changes in living things, disrupting power grids, and disabling satellites. There have been claims in religious periodicals that this happens quickly and that we are about to endure a new flip in the poles in the near future. Studies using paleomagnetism show that earth's field today is stronger than it has been in the past and that its change is very, very small. The shielding the magnetic field gives us is vital, and it is strongly established and not likely to fail in the near future. Source: Science News, December 26, 2015, page 13.

SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE PERPETUATES SCIENCE/BIBLE CONFLICT MYTH. The basic premise of this ministry is that science and faith and belief in the Bible as God's Word are not enemies, but friends. It is an uphill battle because many religious people demonize science and many supporters of science demonize religion. The April 2016 issue of Smithsonian magazine does the latter in an article that explores the history of Dayton, Tennessee, where the Scopes trial was held. “You can believe the Bible, or you can believe evolution, but you can’t believe both” is embraced as fact and promoted in the article (page 80). Unfortunately, many preachers in the church today would agree with that belief. Nowhere does the magazine point out what “evolution” means, or the fact that the Bible talks about evolution in its discussion of what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks, or what the word “kind” means and that it is not the same as “species.” Naturalism is used synonymously with evolution, and Bible believers are portrayed as ignorant people who oppose scientific progress. The need to educate people about these issues is huge, but many leaders in the church continue to embrace denominational traditions rather than take the Bible literally and deal with science factually. We have an uphill battle ahead of us, starting with the church.

SPEAKING OF FAITH. In the same magazine there is an interesting statement about what enables humans to walk on two feet. Consider this statement (page 20): “A chimpanzee's toes are long and splayed, and its big toe equivalent pulls away from the other digits like a thumb: a prehensile foot designed for quick climbing. By contrast, in the human foot, the sole is enlarged while the bone of the big toe is thickened and aligned with the other, now-foreshortened toes: This is a sturdy platform, able to support an upright load in motion.” So now we know how our feet with their 52 bones are different from a chimp's feet. What we do not know is how such a change could happen by accident, and the article says the feet are DESIGNED to do what they do. Knowing how our feet are different from a chimp’s is an achievement of science. Guessing as to how it might have happened by accident is not science. Believing that God designed each foot to do what it does is much simpler than trying to guess as to how such differences happened accidentally.

MORE BAD NEWS FOR LIFE IN SPACE. We have repeatedly pointed out that if life is found in space, it will have no negative implications for the Bible because the Bible does not claim that there is no life in space. If life is found in outer space, all it will show is that God has created life elsewhere as well as on the earth. However, as we learn more about what it takes to produce and support life, it becomes less likely that life does exist, at least anywhere near us. Red dwarfs had been considered to be good places for life to exist because of their lower temperature allowing a large habitable zone where water could exist as a liquid. Recent discoveries of red dwarfs have now shown that they have regular flares 10,000 times brighter and ten times stronger than the Sun's most violent outbursts. Since a planet revolving around a red dwarf would necessarily be closer to the star than we are to the Sun, it is highly unlikely that life can exist around a red dwarf star. Source: Astronomy, March 2016, page 13.

MODERN VIEWS OF PORN WITH AND WITHOUT FAITH. Two research groups, the Josh McDowell Ministry and the Barna Group, have released a study of views of pornography much of which is reported in Christianity Today, April 2016, page 24. We recently released a video series on pornography and sexual abuse in the church by Jimmy Hinton who gave us a special interest in this Barna study. Our attention was drawn to the data on non-Christians as compared to practicing Christians. Seventy-two percent of non-Christian males ages 13 – 24 seek out porn regularly as opposed to forty-one percent of practicing Christians (defined as having attended a church service in the past month). Seventy-three percent of non-Christians are comfortable with their use of porn as opposed to thirty-nine percent of Christians. When this group of young people was asked whether watching pornographic images was immoral, the vast majority felt it was not as immoral as stealing, adultery, lying, not recycling, thinking negatively about someone else, overeating, or wasting electricity or water. What you believe does make a difference. The fact that Jesus talked more about moral issues than anything else seems to escape many of us.

PLAYING GOD WITH CRISPR. The media has had dozens of articles about a new technique of modifying DNA called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). This technique makes altering our DNA faster and easier. The media has emphasized the possible positive impact of this technique. We now know that there are many diseases that are genetic in nature, including sickle-cell anemia, Huntington's and muscular dystrophy. The Week magazine (March 14, 2016) calls it “genetic research nearing a breakthrough that could transform the world.” The problem is that with some 25,000 genes involved and the fact that genes interact, the possible negative consequences of making permanent changes in the DNA are very high.

SHERMER LASHES OUT AGAINST BELIEF IN GOD. Michael Shermer is probably the most vocal atheist in America. Shermer started out attending Pepperdine University to prepare himself to be a preacher in the Church of Christ. Somewhere along the line he became a committed atheist and has devoted himself to atheistic pursuits. He is the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, the editor of two atheist magazines. The Skeptic and The Skeptical Inquirer, and has a regular column in Scientific American titled “The Skeptical View.” A widely circulated fundraising advertisement by Shermer is titled “The Ten Weirdest Things Countdown.” Shermer lists those things he feels are the most weird: putting denial of the Holocaust, belief in UFOs and Aliens in the list with belief in God being the most weird of all. Belief in the soul and an afterlife is number two. He devotes two pages to attacking belief in God and one page to each of the others. Shermer is very good at what he does, and this ad will be used by atheists in schools and colleges. Knowing how to answer his challenges will become increasingly important.

Picture credits:
© Natart076. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
© Thufir. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.