News & Notes

Evolution and National Geographic. Over the years, National Geographic has amazed all of us with its gorgeous pictures of beautiful things that surround us in our physical world. The marvelous photographs and well written stories have given this magazine a reputation as well as a huge circulation.

During the past decade, National Geographic has moved away from reporting the natural world to interpreting it. In fact, much of the magazine's content has been reduced to promoting certain theories. A recent event demonstrates this very clearly and shows the hazard involved. The embarrassment caused the magazine is totally a product of what is sometimes called "the universal rule of graduate work." The rule says, "Be sure your data conforms to your conclusions." National Geographic has carried on a campaign for many years to attempt to convince its readers that dinosaurs still live today as birds. In its July, 1998, and November, 1999, issues, beautiful art work and bold titles are followed by statements like "We can now say that birds are therapsids [fast bipedal meat eaters, including the 50' long Tyrannosaurus Rex] just as confidently as we say humans are mammals."

Most of us are not qualified to evaluate a claim like this. Popular publications like National Geographic become our main source of information. As technical papers have come into print during the past two years, it has become increasingly obvious that National Geographic has engaged in a heavy dose of the universal rule of graduate work.

It turns out that the original whistle blowing occurred in early December when Storrs Olson, curator of birds for the National Museum of National History at the Smithsonian. Olson accused National Geographic of presenting theory as fact. Olson pointed out the protofeathers [as described by National Geographic] exist only as a theoretical construct, so that their internal structure is even more hypothetical. After Olson's warning, people began to look more carefully at Archaeopteryx liaoningensis. It became obvious that the specimen was from two different animals. The body is an ancient bird and has apparently been superimposed on the tail of another animal.

Whether this situation is the result of an honest mistake or a deliberate hoax cannot be answered. The point is that in its eagerness to promote a theory it agrees with, National Geographic promoted its fossil before peer review had checked out primary evidence to see if it had credibility or not. We would suggest that similar problems are very likely to exist in its promotion of a model of the evolution of man. -See Science News, January 15, 2000, page 38; U.S. News & World Report, February 14, 2000, page 53; USA Today, January 25, 2000, Section D; The Report, December 6, 1999, page 38.

Columbine Continues. The attempts of the media to downplay the anti-Christian feelings of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold got blown sky high with the transcriptions of video tapes the two killers at Columbine made immediately before the massacre. In the videos, repeated statements are made of hatred for Christ, Christians in general, and for the values of the people who were singled out to be shot. Christianity Today (February 7, 2000, page 21) has a section on this, but the videos will be available to the public soon, and all doubt about the bigotry of the killers will be removed. The tragedies of the affects of the attack go on with two more people shot for reasons that are not known at the time of this writing.

Verification of Paul. Biblical Archeology Review, January/February, 2000, page 14, reports that a marble plaque has been found in Paphos that apparently refers to Paul the Apostle. Paul's trip to Cyprus has not had archeological verification of the Biblical account previously, but this seems to offer not only evidence of the visit, but insight into the conditions and beliefs of people in the area at the time Paul was there.

Black Hole Evidence Explodes. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, a telescope launched last July has begun providing data to astronomers. One significant find is that space is full of black holes. Astronomers have known for a long time that stars have the potential to accumulate so much mass that the internal forces within the star cannot stand up against the force of gravity due to their large masses. The problem has been trying to observe a black object against the black background of outer space. As black holes pull in matter, radiation in the form of X-rays should be given off. The Chandra telescope has found scores of places where this is happening.

There are a number of significant things about this discovery. First of all it explains where much of the missing mass in the cosmos is located. For galaxies to hold together with their high velocities and numerous stars, some kind of gravitational glue had to be there. All kinds of proposals had been made to explain where this missing mass was. That question seems to be answered to a great extent. The other point is that life in space must be even rarer than previously believed by anyone, because no life supporting solar system could survive in the vicinity of a black hole. The more we learn of the cosmos, the more evidence we see that God has designed and planned the environment of planet Earth very carefully. (Another reference is a Knight Ridder article by Robert Boyd, January 14, 2000, titled "X-Ray Telescope Uncovers 100 million Black Holes").

"Uprooting the Tree of Life." That is the title of an article in Scientific American, February, 2000, pages 90-95. In the past, evolutionists have had models of how modern life-forms evolved that revolved around what they think went on during the period before fossils were produced. In the article, W. Ford Doolittle points out how new discoveries of the biochemical changes that have taken place in living things are much too complex to be able to be explained by the old traditional evolutionary theories. The complexities of biochemical change are enormous, and the author concludes the article by saying "The data show the model to be so simple" referring to the traditional evolutionary theory. Someone has said "If man ever created life, all it will show is that it took intelligence to do it in the beginning." Other articles like this one have a similar message.

Vegetarian Diet Not Always Good. The Bible clearly indicates that God gave man all forms of life to be eaten. Animal rights people and many skeptics have attacked the Bible on the basis of the eating of animals being inhumane and unnecessary. We have argued that the Biblical concept that man is to be a wise and kind manager of the natural world makes logical sense. In Discover, February, 2000, pages 31-32, is an article by Leslie Bernstein about a mental illness that comes from dietary inadequacy caused by long term vegetarian habits. We suggest that everything God told man to do was for man's benefit, and the dietary laws and instructions are included in that statement.

FCC Gets Into Religious Squabble. Associated Press , January 11, 2000, has opened an old hoax by reporting a new attempt by the FCC to control religious broadcasting. For several decades there was a false story circulated about Madalyn O'Hair trying to shut down religious broadcasting by an FCC petition. In December the FCC opened a pandora's box by passing a rule that not all religious broadcasting could qualify as educational. This means the FCC could deny a license if the government decided a particular broadcast or station was transmitting something that they felt was not instructional. There are 373 stations nationwide that hold educational reserve licenses that fall under this decision. Many other religious stations operate on a commercial band and are not affected by the decision. PBS is in the middle of this one, and it may get ugly. We'll keep you posted.

When Did Writing Start? The question of when written communication began almost always raises a lot of questions. A new discovery of Egyptian hieroglyphics may push the date back. Dating to 1800 BC, it makes the dawn of writing a little older than previously thought. Obviously Biblical writings are very ancient and relate to these finds in an indirect way. 

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