Wednesday, 30 March 2011
The 9/11 attacks brought much fear to atheists. Image courtesy of Wally Gobetz, Flikr/ Wikipedia Commons.
Atheists often assume that they are rational thinkers. However, the truth looks very different, at least according to this week’s issue of New Scientist.
It’s not often we get to read in a popular science magazine that atheism is irrational, but now we did.
Jonathan Lanman, an anthropologist at Oxford University, who studies atheism, puts into words that what many of us have known for years, i.e. atheism stems from fear. He gives some interesting examples:
Sam Harris wrote his anti-religion book after the September 11 attacks. American atheists sought refuge in Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion following the re-election of George W. Bush. And in Denmark, atheists began networking in the wake of the disturbances caused by the Mohammed cartoons.
According to Lanman, the popularity of atheism is on the wane. In a world that is becoming more global, the impact of religion is getting stronger and will continue to do so in the coming years.
Lanman, Jonathan. 2011. Religion is irrational, but so is atheism. New Scientist 2805: 38-39.(registration at New Scientist.com is required for reading the article online).
Monday, 28 March 2011
Dakota, a ”67 million year old” Edmontosaurus, is known for its exceptionally well-preserved skin. Image courtesy of Flikr/ Wikipedia. Recently, researchers found even better preserved fossilised skin.
When a fossilised reptile is assumed to be 50 million years old but its skin looks just like it was a living animal, researchers are faced with a huge Darwinian dilemma.
Recently, Roy Wogelius and Phil Manning at the University of Manchester, UK, published their research on an exceptionally well preserved reptile skin in the journal Royal Society Proceedings B: Biology.
“The mapped distributions of organic compounds and trace metals in 50 million year old skin look so much like maps we've made of modern lizard skin as a check on our work, it is sometimes hard to tell which is the fossil and which is fresh," geochemist Roy Wogelius said, as quoted in ScienceDaily.
However, since it is not acceptable to doubt the dogma of millions of years in the scientific community, the researchers are baffled with what their research shows them, i.e., even the distributions of organic compounds in the fossilised skin are practically indistinguishable from those of modern reptiles.
Doctors Wogelius and Manning looked at the skin of an exceptionally well preserved reptile found in Utah with infrared technology at the University of Manchester and discovered amides on its skin.
The list of exceptionally well preserved soft tissues and compounds that should not last for millions of years is getting longer all the time.
This amazing preservation hardly lends support for Darwinian evolution.
First Image of Protein Residue in 50-Million-Year-Old Reptile Skin. ScienceDaily 23 March 2011.
Saturday, 26 March 2011
Boa constrictor. Image courtesy of Jens Raschendorf, Wikipedia Commons.
In an interesting article in Christianity Today, Carolyn Arends tells the story of a married missionary couple and their encounter with a huge snake that crawled into their house.
They had to flee and get a neighbour to deal with the snake. The neighbour cut off the snake’s head with a machete but for a long time the snake kept on writhing until at last it became still.
The Book of Revelation calls the enemy “the great dragon …that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray."
The missionaries saw the snake episode as a lesson. Although Jesus has defeated this serpent on the cross, the devil does not know it.
I would rather say that the devil does know he is beaten but he pretends he hasn’t been. But the time is coming when he will have to admit defeat –publicly.
The apostle Paul writes in Philippians about Jesus:
“He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The incident reminds me of my days in Kenya. There was a big mango tree near our house and at times green mambas would try to sneak inside. We knew a Kipsigis man who was an expert at killing snakes and he would come and strike swift blows at the snake until it was completely dead.
Even those snakes kept on writhing for a while after they were dead. Sooner or later, however, they could cease writhing.
That will also happen to the ancient serpent that has succeeded in leading so many people astray.
Arends, Carolyn. 2011. Satan's a Goner. Christianity Today 25 March.
Friday, 25 March 2011
Writing to the Roman church, the apostle Paul stated:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16, NIV)
Some time ago, Answers in Genesis launched its I am not ashamed campaign:
Writing to the Roman church, the apostle Paul stated:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16, NIV)
Some time ago, Answers in Genesis launched its I am not ashamed campaign:
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Crucifixes will be allowed to be displayed in public buildings, even in Italy. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
The apostle Paul wrote that the cross is foolishness to unbelieving non-Jews:
“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25, NIV)
In 2009, Mrs. Soile Lautsi, a latter-day skeptic, complained to the European Court of Human Rights because she felt that the crucifixes displayed in Italian schools violated the human rights of non-Catholic families.
Last week, the Grande Chambre of the European Court of Human Rights ruled almost unanimously to overturn its previous sentence on the issue.
Italian schools will thus be allowed to display crucifixes in the future, also.
Vatican Information Service provided background information on the case:
”It is, in fact, a significant and historic sentence, as shown by the conclusion reached by the Grande Chambre after a detailed appraisal of the matter. The Grande Chambre has, indeed, overturned in all respects a first degree sentence, adopted unanimously by a Chamber of the Court. This sentence led to an appeal by the Italian State, which received an unprecedented degree of support from numerous other European States as well as from many non-governmental organisations, an expression of widespread feeling amongst people.”
It is a mystery why free-thinkers would even attempt to restrict the rights of those with whom they disagree.
Crucifix, An Expression of Cultural and Religious Identity. Vatican Information Service 21 March 2011.
Italia voitti kiistan koulujen krusifikseista Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuimessa. Aamulehti 19 March 2011, A12.
Monday, 21 March 2011
Carl Heinrich Bloch: The Sermon on the Mount. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Jesus also taught about copyrights.
Did Jesus have anything to say about copyrights? Yes, He did. When some Pharisees and Herodians tried to trap Him so they could report Him to Pilate, the Governor, they asked whether they could pay taxes to Caesar.
“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’
They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’
‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.
Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ " (Matthew 22:18-21).
According to Genesis, we have been created in God’s image. He wants us to acknowledge this truth and live to bring Him glory.
Darwinian evolution attempts to blur our view of whose image we are and to whom we are accountable. In other words, it does not accept God’s right to that what He has created but attempts to infringe his copyrights.
Scripture passage from the NIV.
Sunday, 20 March 2011
The European robin (Erithacus rubecula). Image courtesy of Ernst Vikne, Flikr/Wikipedia.
I have often watched European robins (Erithacus rubecula) flying around my garden. However, I have never realised just how clever these little birds are. Until now, that is.
Recently, Simon Benjamin, a quantum physicist at Oxford University, and colleagues studied the navigation skills of European robins.
According to Wired Science:
“European robins may maintain quantum entanglement in their eyes a full 20 microseconds longer than the best laboratory systems, say physicists investigating how birds may use quantum effects to ‘see’ Earth’s magnetic field.
Quantum entanglement is a state where electrons are spatially separated, but able to affect one another. It’s been proposed that birds’ eyes contain entanglement-based compasses.”
Understandably, Benjamin is puzzled: “How can a living system have evolved to protect a quantum state as well — no, better — than we can do in the lab with these exotic molecules?” he asks.
The answer is not blowing in the wind. The surprisingly smart navigation skills of these tiny birds speak of intelligent design that cannot be explained by Darwinian evolution.
The ingenious design of these robins suggests that they have been created supernaturally by an all-powerful God.
Grossman, Lisa. 2011. In the Blink of Bird’s Eye, a Model for Quantum Navigation. Wired Science 27 January.
Saturday, 19 March 2011
BBC’s new religious affairs programme claims that Aserah, the Canaanite goddess of fertility, was Yahweh’s spouse. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
BBC’s new religious affairs programme The Bible's Buried Secrets ”reveals” that Yahweh had a spouse called Aserah.
Ancient Israelites worshipped both God and a goddess in their temple, says theologian Francesca Stavrokopoulou, who wrote the programme. She says that the Old Testament book of First Kings reveals that women wove ritual textiles for Aserah, whose statue was kept in the temple at Jerusalem.
Stavrokopoulou has previously claimed that Moses did not exist.
Doctor Stavrokopoulou brings up a piece of pottery discovered in the Sinai Peninsula, dated in the 8th century B.C., that mentions Yahweh and his Aserah. She deduces that Aserah had to be Yahweh’s spouse.
There is a major problem related to the discovery: the original shard has been lost and only copies are left. The antiquities authorities of Israel and Egypt say they do not know what happened to the original.
Stavrokopoulou steps into the intriguing world of conspiracy theories by suggesting that perhaps an ardent defender of the Bible might have hidden it.
However, the Bible has nothing to fear from archaeology, as discoveries have often provided support for its history. (Read more here, here, here, here and here.)
Dr. Stavrokopoulou says her interest in the Bible sprang from her fascination with her Greek heritage. The gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus led a rather colourful life and did not lack spouses.
Stavrokopoulou seems to have used her background rather creatively and assumed that Yahweh resembles the mythical inhabitants of Mount Olympus.
Whereas the Greek tales of gods and goddesses are myths, the Bible describes real historical events.
It is good to keep in mind that the Israelites began to worship Aserah after they had forsaken the living God. Many Old Testament prophets warned of idolatry and Eliah, for instance, fought a historical battle against the priests of Baal and Aserah on Mt. Carmel.
Stavrokopoulou, Francesca. 2011. Why the BBC's new face of religion believes God had a WIFE Mail Online 6 March.
Friday, 18 March 2011
The destruction caused by the tsunami that followed the recent earthquake in Japan. Image courtesy of US Navy.
The biggest tragedy of mankind was the Fall, which brought death, sickness and suffering to the world. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:19-22:
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Almost all theologians agree that Paul was referring to the Fall.
The world is in turmoil since compared to the very good world of Genesis it is abnormal.
Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, it has become a valley of the shadow of death.
The recent earthquake in Japan and the tsunami that followed in its wake add to the catastrophes and turmoil of the past few months – the quake in New Zealand, the flooding in Australia, the uprisings in North Africa and the killings in Israel and Pakistan, where the country’s only Christian minister Shahbaz Bhattin was assassinated.
And it’s not so long ago that we heard of the Haitian earthquake and the volcanic eruption in Iceland.
It is good to remember that Jesus promised that turmoil, bloodshed and earthquakes would be signs of His approaching return.
In spite of all the turmoil, He has promised to be with those who love and serve Him.
He has not left us alone.
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
A T cell on the right. Image courtesy of Electron Microscopy Facility, The National Cancer Institute, Frederick (NCI-Frederick).
Not only do bacteria promote digestion. They also help organisms resist influenza infections. This is the take-away message of a recent study at Yale University led by Akiko Iwasaki.
As reported in Nature news, “neomycin-sensitive bacteria naturally present in the mice's bodies provided a trigger that led to the production of T cells and antibodies that could fight an influenza infection in the lungs.”
Iwasaki and colleagues published their research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Although the results of mice tests cannot be applied directly to humans, the research suggests that in the very good world of Genesis all bacteria were beneficial and only later the Fall caused some to become harmful.
Maxmen, Amy. 2011. Friendly bacteria fight the flu. Nature News (14 March).
Monday, 14 March 2011
BBC has previously mixed fact and fiction in its report on Jerusalem. Image courtesy of Berthold Werner, Wikipedia.
When a Palestinian man creeps into an Israeli home and brutally kills the father, mother and three children, one of them a three-month old baby, how does the BBC report on the news?
The article title provides a hint of what is to come: Israel approves new Jewish settler homes in West Bank. While it does mention the killing in a few sentences, the emphasis is on Palestinian suffering.
It sounds very much like anti-Semitism.
BBC’s reporting is nothing less than bizarre. When a Palestinian kills Jews, the blame is put on Israeli settlement policy.
There is a name for this kind of approach to reporting.
It is propaganda.
Israel approves new Jewish settler homes in West Bank. BBC News 13 March 2011.
Sunday, 13 March 2011
Richard Dawkins needs to learn new facts in his old age. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Richard Dawkins has often, for instance in his books The Blind Watchmaker (1986) and The Greatest Show On Earth (2009), claimed that all organisms on Earth - save one or two minor exceptions – share the same genetic code. Dawkins believes that this is proof that all living beings have evolved from a common ancestor.
There is one serious defect in this claim: it is not true.
On Charles Darwin’s birthday (12th February) Richard Dawkins took part in a panel discussion on the origin of life. In passing, J. Craig Venter disclosed that the genetic code is not universal and that the Darwinian tree of life does not even exist.
Researchers have found no less than 17 different genetic codes in creatures living on our planet.
In practice, this means that Darwinian evolution cannot explain how life developed and why it is so varied.
The Science Network: The Great Debate - What is Life? Panel discussion (12 February 2011).
Elzanowski, Andrzej (Anjay) and Jim Ostell The Genetic Codes. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Venter vs. Dawkins on the Tree of Life -- and Another Dawkins Whopper 9 March 2011.
Saturday, 12 March 2011
As Europe is debating the right to display crucifixes in public, Great Britain drops the word Christian from the name of a well-known Christian association. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Christianity is obviously not very trendy in Great Britain. Recently, a well-known Christian association changed its name. Known as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) since 1855, the association assumed the name Platform 51. (51 per cent of the population are women.)
The initiative for the name change came from YWCA. A spokeswoman for the association said that the name no longer reflected what its members represented since not all of them are Christians.
None of YWCA’s other 124 national organisations is planning to follow Great Britain’s example.
For some time, Britain has treated Christians harshly and trodden on their rights.
Recently, Owen and Eunice Johns, who are evangelical Christians, forfeited their right to be foster parents because they refused to give up their Bible-based views on sexual morality and said that homosexuality is a sin.
YWCA loses Christianity from title. The Telegraph 7 January 2011.
Thursday, 10 March 2011
Meteorites can be very brittle and Earth-based life can infiltrate them. Image courtesy of NASA.
The Media have not made a big issue of the recent disclosure of alien life found on Earth.
Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at NASA, said he had found signs of alien life in meteorites.
Hoover published his findings in the Journal of Cosmology, which is not an ordinary science journal but is dedicated to promoting the panspermia hypothesis or the view that life came to Earth from outer space.
The journal is going through turbulent times. In mid February Lana Tao, the senior executive managing director, announced that it will cease to appear in May.
This is not the first time that Hoover announces the discovery of life that originates from outer space. The previous “discoveries” have turned out to be misinterpretations.
Many scientists doubt Hoover’s interpretation of what has been found. They believe that Earth-based microbes could have infiltrated the brittle meteorites.
Moreover, NASA announced that it did not have anything to do with Hoover’s paper.
NASA’s reluctance is understandable. Last December it promoted the discovery of a bacterium that allegedly uses arsenic. The study was severely criticised for not being rigorous enough.
Ball, Philip. 2011. The aliens haven't landed. Nature News. (8 March)
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Sir Isaac Newton's portrait by Godfrey Kneller (1702). Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Newton was one of the most famous creation scientists of all time.
Michael Shermer, a well-known American skeptic, has promoted Sir Isaac Newton’s birthday (25th December) as a replacement for Christmas. The idea is somewhat odd since Newton was probably the best-known creation scientist of all times.
Newton wrote surprisingly much about the Bible. He believed that its revelation of the past history of humans and its predictions of the future were entirely reliable. He also studied the history of the Mediterranean and Near Eastern nations and concluded that both Greek and Egyptian historians had artificially stretched their history to make it appear longer than it actually was.
Ancient nations seemed to have had a competition for the longest national history. Historians could for instance invent fictive rulers in order to make the past of their own country appear longer than the history of neighbouring countries.
According to Newton, the history written in the Bible differed from the stories of other nations since it described the past reliably.
The Newton Project.
Sunday, 6 March 2011
Tintoretto: Creation of the Animals (ca. 1550). Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Recently, science writer John Horgan wrote a blog post at Scientific American.com on the difficulties of the origin of life theories. Horgan refers to Dennis Overbye’s report on a conference on origins of life research recently held at Arizona State University.
“Geologists, chemists, astronomers and biologists are as stumped as ever by the riddle of life”, Horgan says.
There are many difficulties lurking along the way towards birthing life spontaneously. DNA cannot make copies of itself without enzymes that act as catalysts for chemical reactions, so the classical dilemma of the origin of life remains unsolved:
Which was first, the hen or the chicken?
Researchers had hoped that RNA would provide the solution but “the RNA world is so dissatisfying that some frustrated scientists are resorting to much more far out—literally—speculation”, Horgan admits.
Horgan mentions Francis Crick’s panspermia hypothesis. Crick speculated that space aliens brought the seeds of life to Earth in their spaceships. Others assume that life came to Earth in the form of microbes from comets, asteroids or meteorites.
All this just moves the problem further back into space. Horgan admits this and says: “Creationists are no doubt thrilled that origin-of-life research has reached such an impasse.”
He is probably right. Life cannot originate spontaneously on Earth or even elsewhere. It needs more than just a catalyst.
It needs an Omnipotent (all powerful) Creator who can give birth to that what is impossible for natural processes even in a trillion years.
Horgan, John. 2011. Pssst! Don't tell the creationists, but scientists don't have a clue how life began. Scientific American.com. (28 February).
Saturday, 5 March 2011
According to Genesis, thorns and thistles appear after the Fall.
Progressive creationism is a view that interprets the Genesis creation days as long eras lasting for millions of years. It assumes that God created new species to replace those that had become extinct.
According to progressive creationism, Adam and Eve were real historical people who lived approximately 100,000 years ago.
Many progressive creationists believe that the Fall was a real historical event that had cosmic consequences. However, some of them think that animals were killing each other before the Fall.
Thorns and thistles are nevertheless a big problem for them. A textbook on the evolution of plants shows that there were thorny plants already in the Devonian Era roughly 345–395 million years ago. It has a picture of Psilophyton crenulatum, a plant that is not very different from the thorny plants we see in our time.
Progressive creationists have a huge problem: the consequences of sin are seen in the fossil record over 300 million years before the Fall of Adam and Eve.
It would be easy to solve this problem by returning to a genuine biblical timescale that knows nothing of millions of years of past history.
Stewart, Wilson N. and Gar W. Rothwell. 1993. Paleobotany and the Evolution of Plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Charles Darwin seems to have admitted that his approach was not entirely objective. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Many would believe that Charles Darwin observed nature and this led him to discover evolution and publish his famous theory. The truth is a lot more complicated, however.
In June 1863 Darwin wrote a letter to John Scott, a young geologist, giving interesting advice:
“Let theory guide your observations, but till your reputation is well established be sparing in publishing theory. It makes persons doubt your observations.”
Theory guided Charles Darwin in his observations. According to his theory, there was no need of God in the creation work. He assumed that natural selection would make the Creator unnecessary.
Now we know that natural selection cannot create. It only selects from existing genetic information. While it might explain the preservation of species, it does not explain the origin of species.
Darwin’s views are outdated and need to be replaced by ideas that actually work.
Darwin Correspondence Project Letter 4206 — Darwin, C. R. to Scott, John, 6 June ,
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Ardi’s skull obviously looked like this: Image: Science 326 (5949), (2 October 2009) from the article Gen Suwa, Berhane Asfaw, Reiko T. Kono, Daisuke Kubo, C. Owen Lovejoy and Tim D. White: The Ardipithecus ramidus Skull and Its Implications for Hominid Origins.
In October 2009 the journal Science published several articles on a fossil discovered in Ethiopia. It was dubbed Ardi. According to its discoverers, Ardipithecus ramidus was a human ancestor that walked on two feet almost like us.
The find was severely criticized by other anthropologists. Alan Walker, a paleoanthropologist at Penn State, complained that “some portions of Ardi's skeleton were found crushed nearly to smithereens and needed extensive digital reconstruction.”
This naturally diminished Ardi’s credibility as a member of our human family.
Recently, Nature published a study that was very critical of Ardi’s status. Bernard Wood and Terry Harrison, who both are professors of anthropology, compared Ardi to other assumed hominids. They challenge the conclusions of the 2009 Science papers.
They conclude that Ardipithecus is an extinct hominid.
Wood and Harrison warn their colleagues of making too hasty interpretations of fossils. They remind us that scientists assumed that Ramapithecus, discovered in southern Asia in the 1960s and 1970s, was a human ancestor. However, they later found out that it was an ancestor of modern orangutans.
Oreopithecus bambolii, an ape found in Italy, also resembles human fossils to some extent, but studies have shown that it cannot be our ancestor.
According to Wood and Harrison, paleoanthropologists should carefully consider all possible options before they announce that a particular fossil is a human ancestor.
Although they do not rule out the possibility that Ardi might after all belong to the human family tree, they believe that the evidence shows that it is not a close relative of ours.
Creationists have always regarded Ardi as an extinct ape. While Nature’s criticism is a bit late, it is obviously better to set things straight now than to let readers think that scientists have at last found an apeman that walks to two feet.
Fossils May Look Like Human Bones: Biological Anthropologists Question Claims for Human Ancestry. ScienceDaily (16 February).
Wood, Bernard and Terry Harrison. 2011. The evolutionary context of the first hominins. Nature 470 (7334): 347-352.