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Return to November/December 2015 articles.

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from Does God Exist? November/December 2015

THE ASSISTED SUICIDE ISSUE HEATS UP. On November 1, 2014, Brittany Maynard killed herself to avoid the prolonged pain of terminal brain cancer. Several other brain cancer victims have made the news since that time with a broad range of issues coming to light. In 2008, two Oregon patients were about to try a promising new therapy designed to save their lives. They were stopped from treatment because the state Medicaid program refused to fund it. The Medicaid program offered to underwrite suicide for each of them. There are many helpful websites related to this difficult area of concern. Here are two of them: patientsrightscouncil.org and notdeadyet.org.

COSMOPOLITAN = PORN? Victoria Hearst, who is the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, has started a campaign to get the magazine labeled “adult material.” The problem is that Cosmopolitan is in most grocery checkout lines and the content of the magazine has drifted to explicit sexual material. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has supported Hearst in this matter and the battle cry is that we need to “keep pornography out of the hands of children.” Source: Citizen, August 2015, page 9.

DEFAMING CHRIST. Atheists and skeptics are claiming that the hidden message of the life and teachings of Christ has been discovered. One called The Real Gospel of St. Thomas claims to contain 114 sayings of Jesus. Another document called The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is an account of periods in the childhood of Jesus. These writings have gotten attention because complete copies have been found in Egypt and are in the Coptic Museum in Cairo. The messages of these documents contradict the Bible at about every turn. Scholars know that these documents are Gnostic writings. The word Gnostic comes from the Greek gnostikos, meaning “learned.” Gnostics believed in hidden meanings called “secret wisdom” which led to a oneness of God by personal poverty and deprivation. They taught that all matter is evil. Early Christians knew about Gnosticism and fought against it. There is no evidence that “The Real Thomas” had any part in writing the Gospel of Thomas. Source: Biblical Archeology Review, July/August 2015, page 50.

PROVE THERE'S A GOD! Atheists are fond of claiming God cannot be proven, but what they are insisting on is empirical proof. Douglas Jacoby in his July 15, 2015, blog gave an excellent summary of why such a demand is unreasonable:

  • The axioms of logic, as of geometry, must be assumed. They cannot be proven. Using logic to prove logic would be circular. Some element of faith is therefore at the fundamental level.
  • Numbers, whether integers or fractions or those special numbers like e and i and pi, are well known to all of us. Mathematics is the “language” of physics (formulas, ratios, coefficients …), and numbers make up the “words.” Yet, though useful to scientists, their existence cannot be proven by them.
  • Justice and love are real — and all of us demand or seek them, yet they cannot be quantified. Whoever heard of 2 kg of justice, or 12 cc of love?
  • Aesthetics, whether artistic or musical, speaks powerfully to every person. Even though we cannot always define beauty, we experience it as real.
  • Like logic, science is not self-verifying. There are always assumptions. Thus we see that many things in our world are real, even though they cannot be proved empirically.

Doug has a wealth of material, and you can read much of it on douglasjacoby.com.

a mosquitoSAVE THE MOSQUITOES. In May 2015 Discover magazine ran an article about efforts to genetically engineer mosquitoes to eliminate the diseases they carry. There have been some interesting responses from scientists who work with mosquitoes. Their basic message is that mosquitoes are an important part of the food chain, and that eliminating them would also eliminate bats, some amphibians, and threaten other species who depend on the mosquito and their larvae for food. Source: Discover, September 2015, page 15.

AARP BLASTED FOR ARTICLE ON PRAYER. In the February/March 2015 issue of AARP The Magazine, there was an article titled “The Paradox of Prayer” in which it was suggested that many older Americans are prayerful and what implications that has for seniors. The editors have received a number of letters from nonbelievers chastising the magazine for running such an article and demanding it not do so again. It appears that freedom of the press is no longer acceptable in America.

GAY MARRIAGE OPENS THE DOOR. Now that the biblical definition of marriage has been voided, the door is open for a variety of new definitions, all of which seem to be equally valid. In Helena, Montana, Nathan Collier went to the Yellowstone County Courthouse to seek a second marriage to his new partner Christine. Collier quoted Chief Justice John Roberts “the gay marriage ruling would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.” In Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, city officials have told Christian pastors in their community that they will go to jail if they refuse to marry homosexuals. Christian colleges are threatened with losing their accreditation as well as their tax exempt status if they teach biblical material about marriage. It will be interesting to see how this whole question works out, because the implications of the Supreme Court ruling go far beyond the simple question of gay marriage. Source: The Week, July 17, 2015, pages 16, 17, 32.

Earth from spaceEARTH-LIKE PLANETS AND REALITY. The newspapers and pop science magazines are full of statements about how many earth-like planets are in our galaxy. The main criteria is that the planet must be in a possible “Goldilocks Zone.” That is a position relative to the star the planet is orbiting that would allow water to exist in a liquid state. The problem with all of this is that there are a host of other parameters that also have to be carefully designed. Kathryn Volk and Brett Gladman have shown that if multiple earth-sized planets formed reasonably close to their stars, they would destroy each other. Studies have also shown that the internal make-up of a planet is critical for the formation of life. Carbon cycling, magnetic field production, and maintenance of oceans by mantle movement are also critical. There may be another planet somewhere that is enough like our earth to support life, but the claims of thousands of such planets within our own galaxy is misleading. Sources: Discover magazine, September 2015, pages 38, Science News, March 21, 2015, page 14.

At the opening of the Clayton Museum of Ancient History we see Foster Stanback, John Clayton and Steve Eckman, President of York CollegeTHE CLAYTON MUSEUM OF ANCIENT HISTORY OPENS! A new museum has opened on the campus of York College in York, Nebraska. It features the Foster Stanback collection of rare artifacts from New Testament times. There are many items depicting the history of ancient Rome. Mr. Stanback chose to donate his valuable collection to York College and name the museum in honor of his mentor, John Clayton. We will have much more information about this historical and biblical museum in our next issue. You can call the college at 402-363-5640.

NEW FOSSIL BACKS UP BIBLE'S ORIGIN OF BIRDS. One of the many places where the Genesis account and the fossil evidence agree is in the discussion of the emergence of the birds. Genesis 1:20a indicates that birds began as flying creatures, and tells us the birds came after marine life and before the appearance of the “beasts of the earth, cattle …” and also before man. Evolutionary models have typically maintained that walking birds came first and that flight gradually evolved as natural selection removed birds that could not fly. A new find in China named Archaeornithura meemannae is significant because it is built like modern birds. Smithsonian magazine (July/August 2015, page 10) has a good picture of the specimen and a list of six of its characteristics which are found in modern birds.

MARIJUANA BENEFITS OVERBLOWN? Drs. Deepak Cyril D'Souza and Mohini Ranganathan of Yale University have reported that after studying 6,500 cases they could find no reliable evidence that marijuana could help treat depression, anxiety, glaucoma, post chemotherapy nausea, or symptoms of Tourette's syndrome. According to their study the claims that marijuana could help all of these things was based on “low quality scientific evidence” anecdotal reports, and public opinion. Medical marijuana has yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and this may be part of the reason. Sources: Los Angeles Times and The Week, July 10, 2015, page 19.

DEADLIEST DRUGS ARE LEGAL. The two deadliest drugs in America are tobacco and alcohol, and both are legal. Tobacco kills 500,000 Americans a year and alcohol is linked to 88,000 deaths a year. In addition more than 4.6 million emergency room visits are linked to alcohol. Source: Vox.com and The Week, June 26, 2015, page 14.

“ ‘MULTIVERSE’ NEEDS TO BE RETIRED.” Those are the words of Dr. Paul Steinhardt, Princeton University's Albert Einstein Professor in Science. We have pointed out in this journal for a long time that many of the creative theories being batted around in cosmology and astronomy are not falsifiable. Since they cannot be tested, they are not useful. Bob Berman writing in Astronomy magazine raises the question of “why the multiverse idea always seems exempt from science's normally strict standards and is allowed to tiptoe along the shorelines of mere conjecture.” He concludes his article by saying “we’ve got to toss the multiverse if we care about physics.” Source: Astronomy magazine, September 2015, page 28.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD DEFECTOR. Unethical practices of Planned Parenthood have been in the news recently. The Alliance Defending Freedom has published an article by Sue Thayer who worked as an office manager for Planned Parenthood for 17 years. Thayer details abuses and ethical issues she saw in her work with the organization. This article is available at www.adflegal.org/detailspages/faith-and-justice-details/why-i-left-planned-parenthood.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE — A THREAT? Some big names like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have recently warned that artificial intelligence (AI) is a greater threat to humanity than nuclear war. They say super-intelligent machines will outsmart and enslave people and eventually slaughter them. People who work with AI say that Hawking, Musk, and others like them just do not have a good understanding of AI. It is easy to fall into specious assumptions drawn more from science fiction than from the real world. AI can do calculations beyond the reach of humans in much shorter time, but there are many kinds of intelligence, such as creativity and emotions, that machines will never even attempt. Dileep George, cofounder of Vicarious, a prominent AI firm says, “As researchers we have an obligation to educate the public about the difference between Hollywood and reality.” Our creation in the image of God will never be attempted by any machine, and that is what really makes us human. Source: Popular Science, March 2015, page 36.

Picture credits:
© Kletr. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
© titoOnz. Image from BigStockPhoto.com.
Photo: Roland Earnst.