Thursday, 31 December 2009
Michelangelo: The Creation of Adam. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. In the Darwinian scenario, there is no need of the Creator since super-intelligent molecules are assumed to be capable of creating life.
”Four billion years ago, a number of molecules organised themselves in water, the true cradle of life. Here they formed chemical groups capable of generating true copies of themselves (self-reproduction). As a result of minor errors of assembly, more effective groups appeared and became dominant species (evolution).”
This is how Andre Brack, who is a biophysicist, outlines the origin of life in Unesco’s newsletter A World of Science. The scenario is neither credible nor possible but it is nonetheless a typical example of Darwinian storytelling.
Charles Darwin assumed that life began in a warm little pond. Brack repeats an old tradition that fails to take into account the complexity of the cell.
By using the ”just add water” strategy one might be able to make chicken noodle soup, provided one has all the necessary ingredients but producing a living cell is a much more complicated achievement. Brack’s super-intelligent molecules would easily become honorary members of Mensa.
Michael Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University, has a much more realistic view of the cell as Brack: The cell is full of molecular machines and it could not have come about by Darwinian mechanisms.
Brack, Andre. 2009. Are we alone? A World of Science 7 (1), 4.
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
James W. Sire, an associate professor of English, discusses worldviews in The Universe Next Door, a textbook used in over a hundred universities and collages. Over 250, 000 copies have been sold.
Rejecting Christianity leads to an irrational worldview. This is the basic message in James W. Sire’s book The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalogue. Sire, an associate professor of English, defines worldview as ”a set of presuppositions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or unconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world.”
According to Sire, naturalism, so popular with atheists, is anything but rational: “If Darwin’s naturalism is true, there is no way of even establishing its credibility, let alone proving it.” (p. 84).
Atheism does not lead to rational thinking but to nihilism that leads to meaninglessness. Not all naturalists are nihilists, however, because they are inconsistent. In other words, they do not believe in their own worldview. If they were to believe it, in a meaningless universe suicide would be as acceptable a decision as watching a film produced by Walt Disney (pp. 93-94).
Sire also criticises biblical interpretation based on ”theistic” existentialism. Theologians following in the footsteps of Rudolf Bultmann do not want to hear about new discoveries that support the historical reliability of the Old Testament (pp. 124-125).
Few academic textbooks are as easy to read as The Universe Next Door. A well-documented book, its 1976 edition includes an index and almost 20 pages of endnotes.
Sire, James W. 1976. The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalogue. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Friday, 25 December 2009
Old speculations re-emerge: The Black Sea Flood as the inspiration behind the description of the Noachian Flood?
Noah’s ark was considerably larger than this model built by Spanish artisans in Gran Canaria. You can see an image of what the ark probably looked like here.
Recently, Ulrike Guérin and Katrin Köller brought up the local Black Sea flood as a potential explanation for the Noachian flood in an article on underwater treasures in UNESCO’s newsletter A World of Science.
According to Guérin and Köller, 7,500 years ago the surface of the Black Sea was a hundred metres lower than that of the Bosphorus. As the climate became warmer, glaciers melted, raising the sea level of the Mediterranean until its waters broke the natural dam at the Bosphorus and water rushed through.
They conclude this from the traces of a submerged coastline lying 17 metres below the surface of the Black Sea.
The hypothesis that Guérin and Köller propose is not new. Roughly ten years ago, National Geographic sponsored research that aimed at establishing the connection between the post-ice age Black Sea flood and the cataclysm of Noah’s day. The expedition was led by Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic.
Dr. Tas Walker assessed these speculations in 2000. He showed that no details of the local flood scenario corresponded with what we know of the global cataclysm of Noah’s time.
The flood of Noah’s day was an unique global flood that destroyed all people and land animals outside the ark.
The Black Sea flood was a local catastrophe that occurred at the close of the ice age. Scientists who have dated the marks it left behind have failed to take into account the effect of the global flood that would have changed the 14C/12C relationship of the atmosphere as great amounts of vegetation remained submerged. Consequently, the carbon-14 dates for this and other catastrophes are too old.
Guérin, Ulrike and Katrin Köller. 2009. Of Shipwrecks, lost worlds and grave robbers. A World of Science 7 (2): 19-23,
Walker, Tas. 2000. The Black Sea flood Definitely not the Flood of Noah. Journal of Creation 14 (1): 40-44. http://creation.com/the-black-sea-flood
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Although we might not know what month Jesus was born in Bethlehem, we celebrate Christmas because the Creator of the entire universe ” made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7).
In addition to Creation and Redemption, the event that marked the beginning of Christ's earthly life, i.e. Christmas, is also an essential part of historical Christianity.
We cannot understand the good news of the New Testament without the tragedy of the third chapter of Genesis that introduced sin and death into the world.
God created a perfect world but man was reluctant to take his Creator at His word and wanted to follow his own path. By breaking God’s explicit commandment, Adam and Eve brought chaos to the world.
However, God did not desert man but promised to send the Saviour who would pay the penalty for mankind’s sin. Thus, some 2000 years ago, Luke wrote the following comforting words: "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Have a blessed Christmas!
Friday, 11 December 2009
Science publications have recently written about cataclysms such as a mega-flood. Image of a miniature Noah’s ark at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum.
A mega-flood filled the present Mediterranean Sea in a few months. At the height of the flood, the sea level arose by over ten metres a day.
This text is not from the book of Genesis but from a recent article in New Scientist. Its author Kate Ravilious even mentioned Noah and said it was a ”flood of biblical proportions”. She was reporting on research published in Nature that dates the mega-food at over 5 million years before our time.
Daniel Garcia-Castellanos and colleagues came up with the flood hypothesis after interpreting data from boreholes and seismic activity. They assume that at one time the Mediterranean Sea almost dried up due to evaporation and then it was quickly re-filled by the waters of the Atlantic.
Recently, Phil Gibbard, a professor of geography at Cambridge University, and colleagues published research in Quaternary Science Reviews of a ”super river” that they suggest separated the British isles from continental Europe.
They came to this conclusion after studying sedimentary deposits in the Bay of Biscay. The researchers associated this cataclysm with the ice age. They assume that the river existed in three different periods between 30,000 and 450, 000 years ago.
Interestingly, two research teams have harboured the idea that lots of water can bring about dramatic changes. Their view is not new. Written 3,500 years ago, the book of Genesis already describes a year-long global flood that destroyed the entire primeval world except for those on board the ark.
What the researchers still would need is a more global perspective, however, and an update on the reliability of dating methods.
D. Garcia-Castellanos, F. Estrada, I. Jiménez-Munt, C. Gorini, M. Fernàndez, J. Vergés and R. De Vicente. 2009. Catastrophic flood of the Mediterranean after the Messinian salinity crisis. Nature 462:778-781 (10 December)
Edwards, Lin. 2009. ‘Super-river’ formed the English Channel. PhysOrg.com (2 December)http://www.physorg.com/news178954083.html
Ravilious, Kate. 2009. Mega-flood filled the Mediterranean in months. New Scientist. (9 December). http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427383.900-megaflood-filled-the-mediterranean-in-months.html?full=true&print=true
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Skeptic, Michael Shermer’s magazine, is probably one of the best-known skeptic publications. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Known for his many books and articles, Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic magazine, is not averse to discussing controversial topics. In the new issue of E-Skeptic he recommends Daniel Loxton’s article on creationism.
Loxton equates young earth creationism with Darwinism.
According to an old myth, creationists believe that species have hardly changed since creation.
However, Loxton took a look at the websites of Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International and he was almost as astonished as the shepherds to whom angels announced the good news near the little town of Bethelem.
He noticed that creationists do not deny natural selection. Neither do they claim that species have not changed or do not change.
Many creationists believe that the global flood of Noah’s days was a genetic bottleneck that most probably accelerated speciation.
Loxton even checked what Creationwiki had to say about baraminology. The concept is derived from the Hebrew words bara (’create’) and min (’kind’). In other words, baraminology has to do with the study of created kinds.
Animals change according to their kinds. For instance, the Australian wild dog dingo (Canis lupus dingo) is now considered to be a separate species. It probably developed from the domesticated dog (Canis lupus familiaris) that returned to living in the wild. The domesticated dog developed from the wolf (Canis lupus).
However, a dog could never evolve into a cat. Neither could a unicellular organism develop into a multicellular animal since it would need far too many beneficial mutations. As Haldane’s dilemma suggests, even hundreds of millions of years would be far too short for that.
Darwinian evolution does not work in practice. It cannot explain where the necessary genetic information comes from. Without huge additions of information, a unicellular organism will for ever remain a unicellular creature.
Loxton, Daniel. 2009. Young Earth Creationism = Darwinism. Skepticblog (8 December)
Monday, 7 December 2009
E. coli. Image courtesy of Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH. A fresh study indicates that bacteria are more complex than previous thought.
Unicellular organisms can be astonishingly complex, a new study conducted at the University of Arizona reveals. Although Mycoplasma pneumoniae only has a fifth of the genes of Escherichia coli, it is by no means simple.
Howard Ochman and Rahul Raghavan, biologists at the University of Arizona, recently published a paper on M. pneumoniae in Science. They documented almost all proteins that M. pneumoniae uses, studied the function of each gene and recorded their gene activity.
M. pneumoniae has only eight gene switches (E. coli has 50), but they are able to control its molecular activities. This suggests amazingly sophisticated co-operation.
In other words, stupid bacteria are surprisingly clever.
Charles Darwin assumed that the cell was exceedingly simple. However, recent biochemical discoveries have shown that the cell is more of a conglomeration of well-designed nano factories than a Darwinian black box.
Rather than being noise, the message that these humble bacteria are trying to communicate clearly speaks of extremely intelligent design.
If only we had ears that could hear.
Keim. Brandon. 2009. There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Simple’ Organism. Wired Science. (30 November). http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/11/basics-of-life/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Fscience+(Wired%3A+Science)
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Design is on its way back to biology in spite of Darwin’s anniversary. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Although the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), who was known for his sceptical views, doubted design in nature, the majority of scientists and thinkers in Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) days still thought that what looked liked it had been designed was no illusion but had actually been designed.
Scientists and philosophers saw signs of design in nature. In the 1850s they still regarded William Paley’s (1743-1805) analogy of the watch and watchmaker as a credible explanation of intelligent design.
Evolutionists assumed that Charles Darwin put an end to the idea of design in nature. They believed that natural selection and random variation (mutations) could account for everything that looked as though it had been designed.
Now, however, 150 years after the publication of The Origin of Species, design is on its way back to biology although mainstream science journals as well as Richard Dawkins and other hard-line Darwinists are still reluctant to admit it.
For instance, the attention that Dr. Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell has recently attracted, suggests that the wind has gradually begun to change.
Evolutionists used to resort to semantics when they failed to understand the function of an organ or part of a biological system. Thus, we heard of junk this and junk that and that there were vestigial organs everywhere.
Now, there is scant evidence for junk and vestigial organs in biological systems. It seems that design is on its way back to biology.
Olasky, Marvin. 2009. 2009 Daniel of the Year. World (19 December) http://www.worldmag.com/articles/16170
Friday, 4 December 2009
The discussion on climate change is getting hotter. Image courtesy of NASA.
The discussion on climate change is getting hotter and hotter after either a hacker or a disgruntled worker released a thousand e-mails that Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, GB, and co-workers either sent or received.
For the most part, science publications have been reticent about the incident and its consequences but it seems that the temperature and in some cases also the blood pressure of participants on Internet forums has risen.
It is even possible that historians will remember the word ”climategate”.
The published e-mails suggest that CRU scientists have prevented dissidents from publishing their views in climate journals.
CRU scientists have admitted that in the 1980s they threw away raw climate data. Scientists who take a skeptical approach to man-made climate change cannot check whether the figures CRU has given are reliable.
In a separate incident, climate researchers in New Zealand have doctored climate data in order to get a warming trend.
Scientists and other activists who have raised alarms on the dangers of carbon dioxide have not always sounded very credible. For instance, Al Gore and some climate advocates have had a habit of flying from one climate conference to another in their private jets, spewing tons on carbon dioxide into the air.
This might say something about the credibility of the branch.
We might find it more difficult to believe that science should have to do with a quest of knowledge.
Leake, Jonathan. 2009. Climate change data dumped. Timesonline (29 November) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6936328.ece
Watt. Anthony. 2009. Uh, oh – raw data in New Zealand tells a different story than the official one. Whats Up With That. (25 November.) http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/25/uh-oh-raw-data-in-new-zealand-tells-a-different-story-than-the-official-one/#more-13215
Thursday, 3 December 2009
The Times Literary Supplement has chosen Dr. Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperCollins) as one of the best books of the year.
The book was chosen by Thomas Nagel, a philosopher at the University of New York, who says he is an atheist. Dr. Meyer’s book shows that the cell is so sophisticated that Darwinian mechanisms cannot explain its origin. It speaks of intelligent design.
Darwinism cannot explain the origin of genetic information.
The Times Literary Supplement (TSL) is perhaps the most prestigious literary magazine in Europe. Each year, it announces its list of ten best books. Initially, the TLS was published as a supplement of The Times. Since 1914 it has been an independent magazine.
Although we have celebrated Darwin’s double anniversary this year, pro-evolution books have failed to win any awards.
Amazon has also chosen Signature in the Cell as one of the best books of the year.
Books of the Year 2009. Timesonline (25 November)
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
The religion that Jesus Christ established changes both individuals and societal structures. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Christianity can change both individuals and the structures of society. In her new book Christian Mission: How Christianity Became A World Religion, (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), Dr. Dana L. Robert, an expert on missions history, shows how lady missionaries promoted the welfare of women and brought about societal reforms in Asian and African villages.
Dr. Robert says that these brave pioneers
- established thousands of orphanages and schools
- medicated women in cultures in which male doctors refused to treat female patients
- fought for women’s rights
- resisted prostitution and child marriages
- protested against the killing of widows in India
- campaigned against foot-binding in China
- resisted women’s circumcision in Africa
- tried to prevent honour killings in the Middle East
Such radicalism should not astonish us. According to the New Testament, Christianity is a revolutionary faith. Writing to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul said, ”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17).
This radical message is no mere theory; it motivated these missionaries to resist societal ills.
Atheists and freethinkers who are eager to notice the shortcomings of Christians would definitely benefit by discovering how the gospel makes this world into a better place.
Perhaps even the worldview of Richard Dawkins might change a little bit, were he to have the courage to read Dr. Robert’s book.
Carpenter, Joel. 2009. Bridging the Local and the Global. ChristianHistory.net. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/booksandresources/reviews/bridgingthelocalandtheglobal.html