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Return to May/June 2013 articles.

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from Does God Exist? May/June 2013

Comet-like asteroidASTEROIDS AND METEORS. We have been reminded of how carefully God has designed the earth when astronomical incidents occur such as the meteor explosion over Russia on February 15, 2013, the same day that an asteroid made a near-pass of earth. In late 2013, a comet will make a major appearance in the night sky and this will start the publicity of astronomical collisions all over again. These objects are all debris left over from the formation of the solar system and changes that have happened within it. The huge magnitude of these forces was emphasized when the shock wave of the meteor caused massive glass breakage in Russia which injured people. The meteor was just a chunk of rock measured in feet, not an asteroid measured in miles. Most asteroids are between Mars and Jupiter, and our atmosphere burns up virtually all of the objects that are near us. The still larger objects like comets coming from outer space are swept away from us by the gravity of our large planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus. Life on earth is special and tenuous, and without the careful design of our solar system and the earth within it, we could not survive.

THE COMET IS COMING! A newly discovered comet named C/2012 S1 (ISON) (commonly know as ISON) will swing by the earth in November 2013. This appears to be brighter than any comet that has been seen since 1680, being as bright as a full moon. The last time we had a bright comet was when Marshall Applewhite led his Heaven's Gate cult group to commit mass suicide in 1997 — supposedly so they could catch a ride on it. A comet is simply debris left over from the production of the solar system. What will be unique about this one is its brightness, but an ignorant public is likely to attach all kinds of weirdness to its appearance. Source: The Week, January 25, 2013.

PLANET COUNT UP TO 2,740. Using the Kepler telescope, astronomers now have evidence that 2,740 planet-like objects orbit other stars in our galaxy. Only a small section of the sky has been surveyed, but the ratio seems to be that one sixth of the stars we can see have planets in orbit around them. That number will certainly be reduced as new analysis is done, but the fact remains that the process that produced the galaxy produced a variety of planets around many stars. It is possible that life could exist on some of them, if God saw fit to create life there. The Bible does not say that this is the only place God created life. Like most of science, this is an interesting and practical area of research that may influence our future, but it is not a concern to those interested in the existence of God or the validity of the Christian system. Source: The Week, January 25, 2013, page 17.

LAMARCK VS. DARWIN, AGAIN. In the 18th century a French naturalist named Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that organisms could pass along biological traits they had acquired during their lifetimes. At the start of the 20th century an experiment was done that involved cutting off the tails of mice to show that their offspring were not tailless as Lamarck suggested. Larmarckian evolution was pretty much discarded. Now a new field called epigenetics is being developed which is the study of how individual genes may be activated or deactivated by life experiences and how one percent of these changes get passed on to offspring. This is a far cry from Lamarck’s theory, but it has significance in understanding cancer, autism, and diabetes. In a related report a project titled “Encode” has 442 scientists studying the genetic activity in 147 different types of human cells to provide a comprehensive look at the roles played by genes not involved in protein building. Project leader Ewan Birney says “I think it's going to take this century to fill in all the details.” The complexity built into the genetic make-up of life is astounding, and we have so much more to learn about its design and function that one has to marvel at the Intelligence that structured it to begin with. Source: Discover — The Year in Science 2012 and The Week, January 25, 2013, page 9.

HUMAN EVOLUTION COMPLEXITY. Scientists trying to put together a workable model of the physical evolution of man are starting “to question whether it will ever be possible to identify our last common ancestor.” (Scientific American, February 2013, page 42). In the same issue is a chart titled “Our Tangled Family Tree” (page 46) which shows all the problems involved in the fossils that have been found and how they are interpreted. When you assume a naturalistic origin to man, you automatically put yourself in the position of having to consider the implications of every fossil that is found, and new fossils are found every day. If you study the chart, the individuals listed are apes with characteristics suited for their habitat at the time. The author (Katherine Harmon) says “This jumble of fossil features emphasizes that evolution is a messy business.” In contrast to this highly complex puzzle of how physical features may have changed, the Bible identifies what really makes us human, which is not how we look physically, but our having been created in the image of God.

TEACHER FIRED FOR GIVING STUDENT A BIBLE. In Phillipsburg, New Jersey, a teacher named Walter Tutka made an off-hand comment to a student leaving his classroom in which he said, “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” The student asked where the statement came from, and later asked again so Tutka showed him the statement in his personal Bible. The student said he did not own a Bible, so Tutka gave him his. The school district says that Tutka violated a rule that prohibits employees from distributing religious literature on school grounds, and also violated a rule saying teachers must remain neutral while discussing religious materials. The school system fired Tutka. The story has been on the web in several places. We saw it on www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/walter-tutka-new-jersey-t_n_2481643.html. Apparently Tutka was a substitute teacher, and there might be other issues involved but the message this sends is all too common.

ATHEISTS GO TO COURT TO CHALLENGE TAX EXEMPTIONS FOR RELIGIOUS GROUPS. David Silverman has announced in a public letter to members of the American Atheists (dated December 21,2012), that his group has filed a lawsuit “challenging the preferential treatment of religious nonprofit organizations by the United States Tax Code.” Claiming that churches being tax exempt violates the first and 14th Amendments. Silverman says they plan to make churches lose tax exemption status. We expect this to be successful sooner or later, and when it happens and churches have to start paying taxes on their income and their property, it will make huge changes in this country. Religious groups are the ones that handle the homeless shelters, relief agencies, food pantries and kitchens, counseling services, nursing homes, hospitals, care facilities, and transportation services. Imagine the domino effect of religious groups having to close all of their services. Atheists are not the ones who do this work. We would suggest that Silverman and his ilk have not thought this out very well.

In a related issue the Center for Inquiry which publishes the magazine Skeptical Inquirer has complained about President Obama's failure “to reform the federal government's faith-based funding programs as he promised in 2008, but he has actually increased the money being expended on such programs.” (From a public letter by Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO, dated 12/11/2012.)

ALCOHOLISM IN WOMEN INCREASES. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say their data shows that one in eight women in the U.S. drinks excessively. Because women tend to be smaller and therefore are more susceptible to the harm of alcohol, their data defines excessive as more than three drinks daily or seven per week, less than the accepted value for men. The CDC reports that 23,000 women die every year from causes related to the use of alcohol. We continue to maintain that alcohol is the most destructive recreational drug on the planet, and that the use of alcohol as such violates the biblical concept of viewing the body as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 – 17 and 6:15 – 17.) Source: The Week, January 25, 2013, page 17.

Gac fruit“SUPERFRUIT” AND HUNGER. One of the unnecessary tragedies of planet earth right now is the number of people who go to bed hungry every night. It is unnecessary because the food is available. Not only do we waste a huge amount of food, but we fail to use foods that are available. In Time magazine (January 11, 2013, page 20) is a discussion of exotic fruits that have greater nutritional value than what we tend to use. The gac fruit of Southeast Asia for example, has 70 times as much lycopene (an antioxidant good for heart health) as a tomato. The golden berry of South America has two grams of protein per serving. The mangosteen of Indonesia is high in vitamins A and C. The foods are there, but we have to use what is available and avoid wasting what we have been given.

FASTEST GROWING RELIGION IS “NONE.” The Pew Research Center reports that between 1972 and 1989 seven percent of Americans identified themselves as having no religious affiliation. Between 1990 and 2012 that figure jumped to 19.6 percent and among people under the age of 30 that figure jumped to just over 30 percent. This does not mean that all of these are atheists, but it does mean that a growing number of people are not impressed with what churches are doing. In Houston a former “pastor” named Mike Aus has started an atheist church called The Houston Oasis. The group says “We are a secular alternative to traditional churches, where people can find that same sense of community and involvement without requiring anyone to believe in supernatural concepts or entities.” The need for people to see the evidence for God's existence and the validity of the Christian system continues to grow.

THE DRUG ISSUE IN MENTAL ILLNESS. Every day in the United States 850 adults and 250 children are added to the federal government's disability-benefit rolls because of mental illness. That is 365,000 per year. Ten percent of American kids are now taking psychiatric drugs. Between 1985 and 2007 spending on antidepressants and antipsychotics alone multiplied some 50 times, going from $503 million to more than 24 billion. This data and material is from the blue book of the American Psychiatric Association titled: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness 5, Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker, and Mad Science: The Disorders of American Psychiatry by Stuart Kirk. There are all kinds of explanations for this, but the main problem is that our society tends to create disorders by its diagnostic techniques and definitions. The instability produced by our failure as a people to live as God has called us to live has multiple side effects. An interesting article on this subject is in the November 2012 issue of Citizen magazine (page 19).

Chimpanzee and computerODDS AND NUMBERS. In the Astronomy magazine (January 2013, page 11) there is an interesting article by Bob Berman on numbers and probability. Berman starts out with the old question of how long it would take for a million monkeys pounding on a million typewriters to type the phrase from Moby Dick, “Call Me Ishmael.” Berman comes up with 2,100 trillion years or roughly 150,000 times longer than the most liberal estimate of the age of the universe. He also gives the number of atoms in the entire visible universe as ten to the 80th power. Our point is that when you look at the calculations of chance producing the things we see in the cosmos the numbers are always vastly beyond ten to the 80th power. The nature of chance and statistics says we are not the product of chance, but of an Intelligence that had a reason for creating the creation.

CONFIRMATION OF THE SPEED OF LIGHT. In September of 2011 an experiment on the Swiss-French border seemed to indicate that neutrinos were traveling faster than the speed of light. There was a lot of media attention to this announcement, and we even had some detractors send us some pointed messages since we have used Einstein's work in many of our presentations. It has now been confirmed that last February physicists found a faulty cable that has produced mistimed measurements, and the speed of light has not been exceeded. Had the speed of light been exceeded, the question would have been, “What do we learn from this, and how does it change our understandings?” It seems that Einstein was right after all. Source: Discover, January 2, 2013, page 51.

EXODUS FROM EXODUS. For the past 37 years or more Exodus International has led in the struggle between Christianity and homosexuality. Members of Exodus, at least in the beginning, were former homosexuals and the program attempted to help people who were gay become straight. One of the ways this was done was by “reparative therapy” in which people were told that by following a particular program they could change their sexual orientation. Professional psychiatric organizations have opposed all reparative therapy claiming it does not work and can do damage. Alan Chambers who is the president of Exodus International disavowed reparative therapy at the annual Gay Christian Network Conference in January of 2012 claiming to focus on discipleship rather than change. This has caused a large number of supporters of Exodus International to leave. John Warren who has been a supporter of Exodus says that this has changed Exodus to have an ambiguous message. There has been some abuse involved in reparative therapy, and while there are many different versions of it, none has been consistently effective. This is a complex issue, and there is a difference between living a destructive gay lifestyle and choosing to use one’s energy constructively outside of any sexual relationship. Source: Christianity Today, December 2012, page 17.

A READER COMMENTS ABOUT BIG BANG ARTICLE. The following was received from reader Calvin Hoggard. “Reading your article titled ‘God and the Big Bang’ (May/June 2012) brought to mind something I have thought about for many years. I started my engineering career operating satellite tracking stations for the Physical Science Laboratory of New Mexico State under contract to the U.S. Navy. Timing was critical to accurate, quality data. We used atomic clocks to calibrate our double oven crystal oscillator frequency generators. The atomic clocks were ultimately timed by the stars. As I understand it, physics tells us that explosions from a lady finger firecracker to a hydrogen bomb create chaos, not order.

“So the big bang theory wants us to believe that the largest explosion in history eventually organized itself (without outside influence) into order so precise that we can adjust our most accurate time-keeping devices using its order. FANTASTIC!”

Picture credits:
© HST: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)
© morganlstudios. Image from BigStockPhoto.com