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Return to May/June 2016 articles.

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from Does God Exist? May/June 2016

FETAL TISSUE. A human fetus at 24 weeksSince the 1930s, fetal tissue has been used to make progress in medicine. Fetal kidney cells were used to develop the polio vaccine, but formal legalization was not until 1968. Even then a five-year moratorium was imposed on fetal cell research. Recently several videos by a group known as “The Center for Medical Progress” was circulated showing Planned Parenthood blithely discussing selling fetal tissues and describing how their physicians worked to keep the fetal tissue intact for sale. There is big money involved here. A vial of fetal liver cells can bring $24,000. From a moral standpoint, it is very difficult to argue that the baby sacrificed to get the fetal cells is “just an extension of the mother's body.” There are other alternatives than to take the fetal cells from aborted babies. With new stem cell technology, adult cells can now be reprogrammed into “blank check cells.” If we put more emphasis on new stem cell technologies, the need for stem cells from aborted babies could be gone. For more see The Week, October 30, 2015, page 11.

CHINESE BATTLE FAKE FOSSILS. Pingyi, China is home to the largest collection of complete dinosaur fossils in the world. The Tianyu Museum of Nature in Pingyi is the biggest dinosaur museum on earth. It houses 1,100 fossilized dinosaurs along with 2,300 early bird specimens and a fossilized tree trunk that is 125 feet long. The area has had lakes and volcanoes in the past which provided ideal habitat for the dinosaurs. Farmers in the area discovered they could make a lot of money by selling to scientists the fossils they found in their fields. The result was that forgeries became commonplace. National Geographic got taken in 1999 when they acclaimed a fossil as a missing link between dinosaurs and birds. It later turned out to be a hoax. Chinese paleontologists have estimated that more than 80% of marine reptiles displayed in China's museums have been forged or altered in some way. It is important to be careful when drawing conclusions about any kind of fossils. Source: Austin American-Statesman, December 6, 2015, page A19.

EDIT OF HUMAN GENOME APPROVED. When the human genome was made known, there were concerns as to whether people would decide to try and improve the human species by altering human DNA. On February 1, 2016, approval was given to do just that. A genetic tool known as CRISPR-Cas9 has been successfully used as an editor for DNA in experiments with many animal species. The United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryological Authority approved the use in humans stipulating that the embryos should be destroyed after seven days. The rationale for allowing this work is that some diseases like sickle cell anemia could be cured by this method. Already proposals to change DNA to facilitate weight loss have been proposed. The issue of abortion and the possible science-fiction type of nightmare are all concerns that many have about humans playing God in this way. One is reminded of Einstein's famous statement “Religion without science is lame, but science without religion is blind.” Source: Scientific American, February 15, 2016, page 9.

SUICIDE NUMBERS GOING UP. Probably every reader of this column has known someone who has taken his own life in the past year. In Colorado, suicides increased 24% in 2014. In some U.S. cities, the number is over 25 suicides for every 100,000 people. Las Vegas is the top with 34.5. In 2013, 22 United States veterans committed suicide every day. The predictions are that by 2018 the global rate will be a suicide every 30 seconds. This information comes from Carole L. May, who has written a book from a Christian perspective about suicide. The book is designed to help people who are wrestling with suicide either personally or in a loved one. The book is titled Learning the Truth About Me and is available from amazon.com.

WHY NO ALIENS? A large amount of money has been spent looking for a life-bearing planet. Many prominent scientists are saying that the universe is probably full of habitable planets and thus teeming with aliens. The problem is that their basis for a planet being called “habitable” has been whether conditions would allow water to exist in a liquid state. Planetary scientists in Australia have now pointed out “most theoretically inhabitable planets have unstable environments.” In our material on the design of places for life to exist, we have identified some of these factors. Forty-seven requirements for a habitable planet are listed in a booklet titled “Evidence for Design in the Universe.” If you send a postage-paid envelope to us, we will be glad to mail one to you, or go to http://www.doesgodexist.org/Charts/EvidenceForDesignInTheUniverse.html. There have also been many articles on this in popular science magazines (see Science News, January 23, 2016, page 8; Astronomy, February 2016, page 25; and The Week, February 12, 2016, page 19).

USEFUL CHART. Smithsonian magazine has a chart in their January/February 2016 issue showing archaeological finds useful in understanding biblical events. It also gives a comparison of the life of Jesus and world events that took place during that time period. The archeological finds listed include: (1) The 1968 discovery of the heel of a crucified Jew with the seven-inch nail still in it. (2) A Menorah stone carving from 2000 years ago discovered in 2011. (3) A fishing boat made for 12 people from the time of Christ discovered in 1986. (4) An inscription of Pontius Pilate verifying his title and authority discovered in 1961. (5) A private home found in Nazareth, which would have been the kind of place where Jesus lived, discovered in 2009. (6) The Magdala stone bearing carvings of the temple's menorah, probably an altar in a first-century synagogue where Jesus may have preached. These are just a few examples as more and more archaeological data is being found verifying much of the biblical record.

FEW HAPPY LOTTERY WINNERS. a lottery winnerWe hear about people winning the lottery and suddenly having massive amounts of money. However, winning the lottery was not a long-term positive experience in most cases. Happiness is not found in money. With taxes taking 40% of the money, relatives demanding gifts, financial advisors offering bad investments, and greed tearing up relationships, the aftermath of winning the lottery is pretty negative. The Week magazine (February 12, 2016, page 11) reports that lottery winners are disproportionately likely to wind up bankrupt. One winner is quoted as saying, “I wish we had torn the ticket up.” The lottery itself is defined as “a shell game” and “a tax on stupidity” as the money from the lottery is not spent on education, but to prop up badly conceived political budgets. Christians need to realize that there is a reason we should not support any sin industry. There are too many good things to do with our resources that ultimately bring greater joy and satisfaction.

RENTBOY FINALLY SHUT DOWN. Another sin industry is prostitution. For 20 years the gay escort service Rentboy.com functioned with no government interference. In September 2015, the Department of Homeland Security suddenly shut down the service and arrested its CEO and six employees. The reason for action by Homeland Security was not clear. The promoters of prostitution claim that making prostitution legal allows it to be controlled and that since it is consensual, no one is being exploited. Rachel Lloyd, who worked in Germany's legal sex industry, has responded to these claims saying that a vast majority of sex workers are young women and men who sell their bodies out of desperation. She goes on to say that most of the sex workers in Germany had a history of trauma and abuse, answered to pimps, and used copious amounts of alcohol and drugs to get through each night. It is disturbing to hear Christians defending legalization of sin industries, because in places where they have been legalized the result has been disastrous. If we are going to change the world and save the lost, we must study Ephesians 5:1 – 14 carefully and obey it. Source: The Week, September 11, 2015, page 19.

SEX ATTACKS BY MIGRANTS AND ISLAM. Germany and Sweden have taken in large numbers of Islamic refugees. They also found themselves involved over last New Year's Eve with mobs of foreign men who circled women and molested over 200 of them. Melanie Phillips writing in The Times pointed out, “These men come from societies where women are deemed inferior, and nonbelievers despised.” In Sweden, the rape rate has skyrocketed. We want to state very clearly, that not all Muslims endorse this, but it is a natural consequence of Islamic teaching in the Middle East. Many people do not understand the unique teaching of Jesus Christ and the early church about women. Practices like polygamy and the control of women seen in the Koran are very different from what Jesus taught (see Suras 4:2 – 4; 4:24, 34; 33:49 – 52; 70:22 – 29). Quotations from the Koran are available in our handout on Islam. Send a postage paid envelope or go to Appendix A and B on our website (www.doesgodexist.org/INDEX-Folders/Charts.html). Source: The Week, January 22, 2016, page 14.

“SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST” BEING RE-WRITTEN. In elementary biology we were told that “survival of the fittest” is the force behind nature. In Greg Graffin's book Population Wars: A New Perspective on Competition and Coexistence he calls “survival of the fittest” a sham. This has opened a discussion among scientists which changes our perspective on God's design for living things. In our bodies, microbial cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1. These microbes help us digest food, build our immune systems, and affect our DNA. Instead of viewing microbes in a negative way, science is now suggesting that cooperation, not war between organisms, is the key to biology. It would make sense that God designed these organisms for positive roles, not competition. Managing the coexistence of our cells and microbes may be the ticket to solving the tough health issues that we are facing today. Source: Time, August 31, 2015.

NUCLEAR DATA ON CHERNOBYL IS ALARMING. a panoramic picture of a cenral square in Pripyat, Chernobyl zoneThe problem of human suffering has many dimensions to it. One of the least heard is how much of human suffering is due to human mismanagement of the environment. The 1986 nuclear accident in the Ukraine at Chernobyl has had a lasting effect on everything in the area. Plants are mangled and warped without central stems. Barn swallows have malformed beaks and deformed feathers. The brains of 48 species of birds around Chernobyl have been found to be 5% smaller due to radiation-caused oxidative stress. Twenty-nine percent of reindeer meat in Sweden's Sami lands downwind from Chernobyl had over 1500 becquerels of radiation and was deemed unsafe and was destroyed. It is easy to blame God for things that bring pain and death to living organisms, but humans are one of the leading causes of these tragedies because of selfishness, stupidity, and greed. Source: Discover magazine, March 2015, page 74.

THE “PUBLISH OR PERISH” PROBLEM OF SCIENCE. Those of us who have gotten grants to do research, or have applied for a position at a college or university have run into the “publish or perish” mentality. College jobs and the awarding of grants have become intertwined with getting something published. A Chinese company has advertised that they will get you a published article on cancer for $14,800. If you get a grant, you need to show positive results, or you will lose the grant. To do that there have been scientists who fabricated data, and significant efforts are being made to root out fraudulent scientific papers. Time magazine (August 31, 2015, page 19) had an interesting article reporting that in 2011 there were 400 papers withdrawn from acceptance because of irregularities in the report review process. There is a website RetractionWatch.com, which reports this. With 1.8 million papers published each year it is easy for bad information to get to the media, so we need to be careful about accepting any report we see in the media. It would be good if a scam-detecting process like this could be a part of the handling of religious and biblical claims. The bottom line is, be careful not to accept claims of a scientific or religious nature until they are verified.

THE GREAT ELK MURDER CONSPIRACY SOLVED. a bull elk in the fallThe tabloids continue to give the impression that unexplainable events are happening with regularity on earth, and they attribute these events to aliens, Satanists, animal mutilations, vampires, and even fracking. In 1776 German philosopher Adam Weishaupt founded a group called Illuminati claiming that God gave them special knowledge and powers. A modern-day cult calling themselves the Illuminati has claimed responsibility for elk deaths. Another group called Earth Justice has claimed that fracking chemicals caused elk deaths. The event referred to is a great elk “murder” that took place on August 27, 2013, near Las Vegas, New Mexico. A hunter found over 100 elk lying on the ground with no damage to their bodies. Tissue from the dead elk has been analyzed by several laboratories, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has released the findings of the analysis. The conclusion is that the elk were poisoned by a neurotoxin that is produced by a naturally occurring blue-green algae called Anabaena. Cattle are sometimes killed when Anabaena gets into their water tanks. It has been said that when people do not believe in something, they will believe anything. Suggesting that aliens would kill 100 elk and leave their bodies lying in a group, or that somehow fracking could kill animals in a group on the surface of the earth is believing anything. Be careful not to give credence to this type of claim or to the magazines that promote claims like this. God has told us to look at his creation and learn from it. That means it cannot be a creation full of anomalies that have no explanation (see Romans 1:18 – 23). Source: Skeptical Briefs, Winter 2015/16, page 1.

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