Thursday, 30 July 2015
How can a planet that is assumed to be 4.5 billion years old still be geologically active? This is the question confronting NASA scientists after the recent Pluto flypast by the New Horizons spacecraft:
“Close-up images of the edges of nearby fractured plains called Sputnik Planum reveal nitrogen glaciers that reach into a rugged, cratered terrain to the north. At Pluto's frigid temperatures — about −235 °C, 38 degrees above absolute zero — water ice is too brittle to flow. But nitrogen ice could, if it is roughly a kilometre thick and heated by radioactive decay leaking from Pluto's interior, says William McKinnon, a New Horizons team member and a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.”
The obvious answer is that Pluto is much younger. And it’s not the only dwarf planet that looks younger than expected.
Witze, Alexandra. 2015. Nitrogen glaciers flow on Pluto. Nature News (24 July).
Tuesday, 28 July 2015
Jesus predicted that His followers would be hated and persecuted. Even the secular media are noticing that this is exactly what is happening around us.
Christians are confronted with a very disturbing trend: Globally, more of us are facing persecution, discrimination, ostracism and perhaps even death for just one reason – following Jesus.
Recently, The Guardian published a longish article on the plight of Christians. For a Christian, the Middle East is the least safe place. Pope Francis has described the plight of Jesus’ followers in the area near Christianity’s birth “as a form of genocide.”
While ISIS is the main culprit, it is by no means the only one.
The Guardian quotes David Alton as saying that perhaps “as many as 200 million Christians in over 60 countries around the world face some degree of restriction, discrimination or outright persecution.”
He goes on to say:
“Whatever the real figures the scale is enormous. From Syria, Iraq, Iran and Egypt to North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos, from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, from Cuba, Colombia and Mexico to Eritrea, Nigeria and Sudan, Christians face serious violations of religious freedom.”
In some cases, campaigns by fellow-Christians and human rights organisations have brought relief from persecution and even freedom, for instance, for Sudanese doctor Meriam Yahia Ibrahim and Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
However, thousands of others remain behind bars. Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini and Pakistani mother Asia Bibi have been imprisoned on very spurious charges.
In some places, Bibles are being burnt.
Even in the west, Christians are increasingly being ostracised and discriminated against because of their biblical views on marriage and morals, for instance.
Lyons, Kate. 2015. Dying for Christianity: millions at risk amid rise in persecution across the globe. The Guardian (27 July).
Sunday, 26 July 2015
When it comes to dwarf planets, Ceres is rather big, with a diameter of 950 kilometres (590 miles).
It also has a big surprise. In 2014, researchers working with data from the Herschel Space Observatory reported seeing water vapour spraying off the planet.
Now, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft that is approaching Ceres has observed “a haze that appears occasionally in a crater above some of its mysterious white spots.” Ceres might even have an atmosphere of sorts.
Anyhow, the new data seem to provide some more puzzles for those believing in billions of years.
Pluto was a surprise, as it looked too young to be 4.5 billion years old. So did its moon Charon.
Previously, Jupiter’s moons Europa and Io have also displayed signs of youth.
With each passing day, Genesis is becoming increasingly relevant.
Witze, Alexandra. 2015. Mystery haze appears above Ceres’s bright spots. Nature News. (21 July).
Friday, 24 July 2015
In recent years, NASA has been busy looking for alien life. Every now and then it has announced the discovery of something very spectacular.
In 2010 it was the discovery of a bacterium that was supposed to thrive on arsenic. It was a false alarm.
NASA has a rather suspicious record of “firsts”. Two of its life-friendly exoplanets (Gliese 581d and Gliese 581g) might not even exist though this hasn’t kept artists from imagining what they might look like.
It reminds me of the hype that often follows the discovery of a fossil that is supposed to belong to one of our long-lost ancestors. However, once more facts start coming in, the discovery turns out to be a disappointment. Ida was presented as our grand aunt, but it soon became obvious that she was something entirely different.
This time NASA announced the discovery of Kepler 452b that orbits its sun in the constellation Cygnus some 1400 light years away. Assumed to be a rocky planet, its diameter is 60 per cent larger than the Earth's.
With a year lasting 385 days, it seems to resemble an oversized Earth. However, we know next to nothing about what the planet is really like. Life needs a lot more than a place in a potentially habitable zone.
After all, Venus and Mars are in the Sun’s habitable zone and look how habitable they are.
Obviously, much more is needed, such as a big moon to keep the oceans alive. The Earth is fine-tuned for life in every way.
In contrast, many exoplanets are weird. They are not at all like Earth.
Earth was made to be habitable. As we know, life only comes from life. It does not pop into existence by chance from non-life anywhere in the cosmos.
We should thus probably remain sceptical of NASA’s latest Earth’s cousin announcement.
Sokol, Joshua. Earth-like alien world looms into view through Kepler telescope. New Scientist (23 July).
Wednesday, 22 July 2015
Was the Garden of Eden in Iraq? That is the impression one gets from a recent web article in New Scientist. This view is probably based on the mention of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates in Genesis 2:14.
But Genesis 2 also mentions two other rivers – Pishon and Gihon – that do not exist in the area known as Mesopotamia (from the Greek word Μεσοποταμία, ‘between rivers’).
There is a logical explanation for this apparent contradiction.
The Bible clearly states that the flood of Noah’s day was global. It would most probably have resurfaced the Earth.
It is indeed logical to assume that it destroyed Eden together with its four rivers.
There is nothing in the Bible that suggests that the flood was a local inundation.
Massive graveyards, some with millions of fossils, and spectacular geological features remind us of the dire judgement that destroyed the early world.
When Noah’s descendants landed on dry ground after the devastating flood, they probably wanted something that would remind them of their past. For the same reason, early European settlers gave familiar names to places in America and even Australia.
Thus, they named the two big Mesopotamian rivers Tigris and Euphrates to remind them of their roots.
Genesis does not disclose where the Garden of Eden was. It merely indicates that the Ark came to rest in the mountains of Ararat. (There actually is a city called Ararat in Australia named after the geographical area mentioned in the Bible.)
Pearce, Fred. 2015. Garden of Eden dries as ISIS, Turkey and Iraq fight over water. New Scientist (21 July).
Monday, 20 July 2015
When society turns its back on Christian values, it usually opens the door to morally questionable issues, such as a disregard for human dignity and even human life.
It will ultimately lead to a culture of death.
This lesson was brought home by a video in which Dr. Deborah Nucatola, a senior executive at Planned Parenthood, discussed the prices of baby parts over lunch with two actors who were pretending to be buyers.
Unaware of being filmed, Dr. Nucatola explained how one could get body parts from aborted babies without wrecking them.
The video has caused outrage and rightly so. However, some newspapers have tried to play down the issue. What they have failed to see is that too many unborn humans have no human rights at all.
Fortunately, even among a culture that celebrates death, there are voices, such as abortion survivor Gianna Jessen, who would rather celebrate life as a gift from God than to succumb to the culture of death.
Smietana, Bob. 2015. Abortion Video Leads to Claims of Modern Day Grave Robbing. Christianity Today. (15 July).
Saturday, 18 July 2015
The opening sentences in an article in Science on the human hand might not prepare you for the rest of the text. Introducing a new paper published in Nature Communications, Michael Balter writes:
“The human hand is a marvel of dexterity. It can thread a needle, coax intricate melodies from the keys of a piano, and create lasting works of art with a pen or a paintbrush.”
Next comes the Darwinian just-story about our assumed cousinhood with chimps. Balter acknowledges that chimps “have much longer fingers and shorter thumbs, perfect for swinging in trees but much less handy for precision grasping.”
The most logical explanation for this is that chimps were designed to live in trees, whereas we were not.
But this is not something evolutionists would agree with. They seem to dislike anything that resembles a razor that might be associated with Ockham.
In other words, they almost always reject the most obvious explanation. This gives rise to intriguing storytelling that has next to nothing to do with empirical science:
“For decades the dominant view among researchers was that the common ancestor of chimps and humans had chimplike hands, and that the human hand changed in response to the pressures of natural selection to make us better toolmakers.
But recently some researchers have begun to challenge the idea that the human hand fundamentally changed its proportions after the evolutionary split with chimps.”
Then article brings up some of the poster boys – or girls – of evolution, such as Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus sediba, but remains mum on the huge genetic gap that separates us from chimps. As biomedical researcher David Page put it, we are “horrendously different from each other.”
The latest estimate puts the difference at around 30 per cent.
While some researchers welcome the idea that our hands are primitive, others disagree. Balter includes the view of one dissenter:
“Adrienne Zihlman, a primatologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz … argues that the hands alone provide researchers with only a very limited view of what the common ancestor was like. `This paper serves as a poster child for what is wrong with a lot of work in paleoanthropology.` ”
Actually, our hands do not say anything about a mythical common ancestor. Instead, they suggest that we were created to use our hands in creative ways. An ape could never become a concert pianist, for instance. Or a science writer.
Balter, Michael. 2015. Humans have more primitive hands than chimpanzees. Science (14 July).