Man's origins disputed. The media would have you believe that man originated in Africa and that no one questions that. Researchers in England and the Netherlands are offering data that suggests that this assumption exists only because of a lack of study of fossils in Asia. The Bible identifies man's origins in the fertile crescent and many have thought this refers only to the start of modern culture. It may be that the origins question will show that man in fact originated in the fertile crescent area as more and more data becomes available.  --Reference: Discover, April, 2006, page 13.

Missing Link Flap. The media has been full of articles about a find in Canada called Tiktaalik. The main concept has been that somehow this is a defeat for the Intelligent Design movement and a victory for evolution. The specimen is known scientifically as a part of a series of specimens beginning with Eusthenopteron which was a lobe-finned fish like the Coelacanth. Tiktaalik has an elbow and wrist structure that is more advanced and closer to Ichthyostega which is an ancient amphibian. The claim is that this proves that amphibians evolved from fish. The problem is that the Bible does not present its groupings in this way. 1 Corinthians 15:39 and Genesis 1 define kinds as "the flesh of fish, the flesh of birds, the flesh of beasts, and the flesh of man." The Hebrew word "kind" is min which is a very broad word. All of us know of fish like the bowfin or walking catfish of Florida that can crawl out of the water and on land for a period of time. A link between fish and mammals would be significant, but this find is not.  --Reference: Newsweek, April 17, 2006, page 8.

Gospel of Judas. Another major story has been the finding of "The Gospel of Judas," which goes back to the year 180. National Geographic has now published the document which they translated from a copy that was written in Coptic, circa 300. This was found in 1970 and is 13 pages long. Skeptics and biblical minimalists have been having a field day with the document, and it is now fashionable to portray Judas as the hero not the villain in the story of the death of Jesus. The fact is that this is a Gnostic Gospel. The Gnostics were a group that opposed the early Church during the first two centuries of its existence. Much of it is Greek philosophy written to oppose the teachings of the Church, and it is logical that trying to revise thinking about Judas would be a part of their teaching. Colossians 2:8-23 seems to have been an attempt to repel Gnostic ideas that were circulating at the time, and this latest attempt should be dealt with in the same way.  --Reference: Newsweek, April 17, 2006, page 48.

Evolution Sunday. In January 2006, Scotty McLennan the minister of Stanford University's Memorial Church and the minister in Doonesbury by Gary Trudeau spent his sermon bashing Intelligent Design. The Clergy Letter Project picked up McLennan's sermon and five weeks later 10,300 other ministers presented some version of his sermon in what was called "Evolution Sunday." The idea of this program is to present a view of faith and evolution that brings the two into agreement. The concern that we have with this project is that no one is defining what they mean by evolution, and judging from what we see in the writings of these groups, there is poor understanding of the subject. Most people opposing Intelligent Design are objecting to anything other than naturalism--that everything that exists can be explained in terms of biology. That is a far cry from recognizing that there are design features in living things that allow change and the production of life that can survive on a changing earth. The ignorance portrayed in all of this is incredible. It is vital to distinguish between the fact of evolution and the theories of naturalism, Darwinianism, punctuated equilibrium, and cladistic drift. Christians desperately need to start teaching in an accurate way where there is agreement and where there is disagreement. Our children are the victims when this is not done.  --Reference: Science and Theology News, April 2006, page 13.

Teachers bear brunt of Islam extremism. As a retired public school teacher, I reacted to a story that recently appeared in the news over a teacher in Bauchi, Nigeria, who was teaching a class and a student was ignoring her and reading from a Koran. What does a teacher do when a kid is not paying attention and reading something that has no connection to the lesson? You confiscate the literature! I had a box of smutty magazines, driver manuals, self help books and religious books that students were reading instead of paying attention. If a kid asked for it back after class we would have a talk and I would return it. In this case, Florence Chuckwu--a teacher at Government Day Secondary School--took the Koran from the student. Muslim students jumped on the desk and began to throw books at the teacher screaming "Infidel, you've defiled the Qur'an." Army personnel rescued Chucku, but she has not been seen since the incident. Trying to teach in a climate like this is almost impossible, and it is becoming increasingly common world-wide. When the French tried to ban all clothing that suggested religious beliefs in an attempt to defuse conflicts between Moslem and Christian groups, Muslims responded with violent protests. The need for the separation of Church and State will become more obvious as this kind of experience goes on. Jesus' teachings of "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" becomes more wise with every passing day.  --Reference: Michiana Christian News, April 2006, page 6.

Jesus walked on what? I have heard biblical minimalists use just about everything to explain how Jesus walked on water--from water skies to rocks placed under the surface. The latest lunacy is reported in an AP release on April 6, 2006, in which Doron Nof, a Florida State professor of oceanography who says that Jesus walked on ice. The claim is that there were patches of ice floating around in the Sea of Galilee and Jesus walked on them. There are all kinds of logical problems with this proposal. Jesus cannot walk from shore on an ice floe, and Peter's sinking was not because he stepped off the floe according to the passage. A more fundamental problem is to realize that there are things presented in the Bible as miracles, and if something is a miracle then you do not explain it. If God does exist and the Bible is His word then we expect to read of things that God does that are not explainable. You either accept them or you reject them on a faith basis--but you do not explain them. The virgin birth, the resurrection, and the walking on the water are not things you explain. There are many things you can check out in the Bible, but miracles are not one of them.

Prayer study formally debunked. We have mentioned from time to time various studies that have tried to show that people who have prayers heal better than those who do not. Our attention to this has been negative because there are too many unknowns and things that cannot be checked. A group prayer may not be more effective than an individual prayer, and you have no way of knowing who is praying, how much they are praying, and what their relationship to God is. The American Heart Journal on April 4, 2006, has a study of 1,800 bypass surgery patients done by the John Templeton Foundation at a cost of 2.4 million dollars. Catholic groups and Protestant groups were solicited to pray using the patient's first name and first initial of their last name and prayers went on for fourteen days with patients not knowing whether they were in the prayer group or the control group. The control and prayer groups had exactly the same rate of complications, and when patients knew they were being prayed for the rate went up 7%--perhaps due to stress. I suspect a lot of readers are smiling and shaking their heads on this one. Prayer is not a prescription for physical well-being. It is a prescription for spiritual well-being and for being able to deal with the adversity that physical problems bring.

STD Vaccinations. A new choice for parents that involves moral decisions is coming out. A vaccination for the human papilloma virus is expected to be available in late 2006 from Merck & Company. The problem is that when this virus called HPV gets into humans it causes genital warts and cervical cancer. It can also be passed on to babies and can cause life threatening problems for the babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics is pushing for a nation wide vaccination program to fight the virus. Any vaccination has some risk attached to it, and the problem here is that we are vaccinating against immorality in teenagers. It would seem that someone ought to be able to think of another alternative that would be a risk-free preventative of the spread of the disease (if you detect some sarcasm there you are right).  --Reference: Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005.

Biblically Correct Tours of museums. Denominational creationists have a new program they are running at various museums around the country. For a fee, you can tour museums like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with a guide who will explain everything you see in the museum in a way that conforms to what their denomination teaches. Dinosaurs are explained in terms of the "behemoth" and "leviathan" of Job 40-41 and the time lines are explained in terms of the "Rapture" and "Great Tribulation." A giant lobster is labeled "Bubba the Leviathan" in the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium. We have discussed these misconceptions in this journal, and they are covered in our booklet titled God's Revelation in His Rocks and His Word, but many parents may feel these tours are credible, and they are not.  --Reference: Biblical Archeology Review, March/April 2006, page 20.

New problems from drinking. The most destructive recreational drug on earth is alcohol. Now in addition to all of the other problems known to be associated with alcohol there is new data that shows that the skin's permeability is significantly reduced when a person is drinking. Researchers at Northwestern University report that when a person is drunk two to five times as much toxic material can penetrate through the skin as when a person is sober. The studies have involved paraquat, atrazine and 2,4-D which are found in herbicides and DEET. It may be that there is an indirect link to cancer and allergies that had not been recognized before.  --Reference: Science News, March 25, 2006, page 190.

Dogs and humans linked. Harvard and MIT have succeeded in sequencing the entire genome of the domesticated dog, and much to their surprise it turned out to be amazingly similar to humans. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh of Harvard who led the project says "...every gene in the dog genome is the same as it is in the human genome, with similar function." Anthropologist Brian Hare of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology reports that dogs are much better than chimpanzees as reading human communication signals. The bottom line is that genetics are not the whole answer to man's humanness, and similarities in genetics offer only a very small amount of the explanation of why we are what we are. We would suggest that man's spiritual makeup as a being in the image of God is a major part of man's uniqueness.  --Reference: Brainwork Newsletter, March-April 2006, page 3.

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