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).
Thursday, 16 July 2015
NASA scientists were expecting to see a dwarf planet that looked old and its largest moon Charon to be full of impact craters. What they saw in the images sent by the New Horizons spacecraft “blew our socks off,” as Deputy Project Scientist Cathy Olkin put it in a New Horizons press conference.
Both worlds looked too young and are probably geologically active.
New Horizons flew past Pluto on Tuesday the 14th of July, coming to within 12,553 kilometres (7,800 miles) of this amazing world, “revealing towering ice mountains rising from its surprisingly youthful face,” as an article on Space.com described it.
Planetary scientist John Spencer acknowledged that Pluto with its ice mountains rising to 3,500 metres (11,000 miles) and its lack of impact craters looked surprisingly young:
"The most striking thing about this image is, we have not yet found a single impact crater on this region. We're just eyeballing it, but we think that it probably has to be less than 100 million years old."
That is a tiny fraction of the solar system’s assumed 4.5 billion years, so they have a hard nut to crack. Resurfacing seems to be the most popular explanation at this stage.
There is a better explanation: Pluto is much younger than assumed.
Many other planets and moons in our solar system also look young, for instance Mercury, Venus, Jupiter’s moons Io and Europa, as well as Saturn’s moons Titan, Mimas and Enceladus.
Who said Genesis was not relevant? It could at least help us to keep our socks on.
Malik, Tariq. 2015. Pluto Unveiled: NASA Photos Reveal Ice Mountains and Active Moon. Space.com (15 July).
PS. I wrote about Pluto yesterday in my Finnish blog.
Tuesday, 14 July 2015
Not so long ago, many people thought there might be at least some forms of life lurking beneath the red planet’s surface. Some even saw Earth’s life coming from Mars via meteorites.
However, now it seems that Mars is a barren planet, devoid of life. A recent article in New Scientist asks:
“WHEN can we declare the Red Planet a dead planet? Although most efforts so far have gone toward showing that other planets could support life, now is the time to think about the other side of the coin.”
The writer seems to be more concerned with life eventually reaching Mars from Earth than the other way round:
“Spacecraft going to other worlds must follow costly planetary protection protocols, such as sterilisation, to avoid contaminating their destination with Earth microbes, putting any native life at risk, or bringing potentially dangerous alien ones back.
But if there’s nothing there, why bother? We haven’t found life on Mars yet, and if further missions also turn up nothing, at some point commercial space enterprises such as mining operations or tourism will want to avoid the costs of sterilisation.”
Life does not just happen. It has to be designed and created.
The more we get to know about other worlds, the more evident it becomes that ours is a very special place.
There’s no place like home elsewhere in the universe (except eventually heaven, which is similar but much better).
Earth was created to be our home planet.
Holmes, Bob. 2015. It’s time to decide when to declare a planet lifeless. New Scientist 3029 (11 July).
Sunday, 12 July 2015
Richard Dawkins and all others who advocate the outdated bad design hypothesis of the human eye might not actually shout for joy if and when they hear about a new study that relegates their view to the dustbins of history.
Recently, the Optical Society of America published an article that states:
“The human eye is an amazing instrument and can accurately distinguish between the tiniest, most subtle differences in color. Where human vision excels in one area, it seems to fall short in others, such as perceiving minuscule details because of the natural limitations of human optics.”
It then goes on to introduce a new study:
“In a paper published today in The Optical Society’s new, high-impact journal Optica, a research team from the University of Stuttgart, Germany and the University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland, has harnessed the human eye’s color-sensing strengths to give the eye the ability to distinguish between objects that differ in thickness by no more than a few nanometers — about the thickness of a cell membrane or an individual virus.”
Never knew we had such an amazing skill:
“ ‘We were able to demonstrate that the unaided human eye is able to determine the thickness of a thin film — materials only a few nanometers thick — by simply observing the color it presents under specific lighting conditions,’ said Sandy Peterhänsel, University of Stuttgart, Germany and principal author on the paper. The actual testing was conducted at the University of Eastern Finland.”
The research is a big nail in the coffin of the bad design hypothesis that has already met with enormous hurdles in the past few years.
For years, experts have been saying that the bad design argument is a bad myth.
Our eyes bear all the hallmarks of magnificent design.
The Optical Society of America. 2015. Human Color Vision Gives People the Ability to See Nanoscale Differences (9 July).
Friday, 10 July 2015
“It's Not Shirley Temple in Me, It's Jesus,” Heavenly Joy Jerkins Says in America’s Got Talent Competition
This year’s America’s Got Talent auditions brought a pleasant surprise. Heavenly Joy Jerkins, who is five, sang and tap danced the song In Summer, prompting judge Howard Stern to compare her to Shirley Temple.
“When I was young, I used to watch Shirley Temple movies on TV,” he said. “I think Shirley Temple is living somewhere inside of you.”
“Not Shirley Temple. Jesus!” Heavenly Joy responded quickly.
In December 2010 a flash mob rendering of George Fridrich Handel’s Messiah garnered over 9 million YouTube views. With over 5.5 million views so far, Heavenly Joy is not far behind.
Justice, Jessilyn. 2015. WATCH: 'America's Got Talent's' Heavenly Joy: It's Not Shirley Temple in Me, It's Jesus Charisma News (7 July).
Wednesday, 8 July 2015
Evolutionary storytelling requires a considerable amount of imagination. As Darwinians tend to be sure that their view of origins is true, they often try to fit any kind of evidence into their framework.
They often have to take back what they say. In 2009 researchers reported on human hairs discovered in hyena coprolite (a technical term for dung) and they speculated they might have belonged to Homo heidelbergensis.
Then, in 2014 Science questioned the existence of H. heidelbergensis.
The past few years have not been kind to our assumed evolutionary ancestors. They have seen the downfall of Ardipithecus ramidus or Ardi, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Paranthropus boisei, a.k.a Nutcracker Man as well as Taung Child, once revered as an icon of evolution.
A more recent example features evolution’s skills at experimenting. In a Science Daily article commenting on early human discoveries in Kenya, professor Carol Ward (University of Missouri) says:
“We are finding that evolution seemed to be experimenting with different human physical traits in different species before ending up with Homo sapiens.”
Now, evolution is supposed to be blind. It cannot plan ahead, so it should not be able to do experiments, either. After all, experimentation requires intelligence.
Many evolutionists are reluctant to use the i word. It smacks of design.
What the researchers actually found was that some “species of early human ancestors had significant differences in facial features” and they “also differed throughout other parts of their skeletons and had distinct body forms.”
Human diversity has not become extinct. At the time of the Scopes trial in 1925, evolutionists assumed that there were five races of humans. That was how Hunter’s Civic Biology (1914), the textbook that John Scopes used in class, described humanity.
They might have erred about the races, but the diversity is real – even among individuals belonging to the same people group.
But there is a better explanation for it than evolution: God likes variety.
University of Missouri-Columbia. 2015. Ancient fossils reveal diversity in the body structure of human ancestors. ScienceDaily. (9 March).
Monday, 6 July 2015
Most people act as thought they had free will. However, since free will is an immaterial or non-material phenomenon, it should not exist in a Darwinian world that rejects the existence of anything that is not naturalistic or materialistic.
Consciousness is another hard nut for materialists to knack. Evolution can’t explain it, so they often have to resort to science fiction.
A paper published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences is the latest attempt to tackle these two hurdles that are far too high for a purely naturalistic framework.
However, this did no stop Ezequiel Morsella, Associate Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University, and colleagues from giving it a try.
They see consciousness as being something less than consciousness. They admit that this might be counterintuitive and in that they are right. We are either conscious – or we aren’t, zombies or not-zombies.
And they probably had the free will to write their paper, as it obviously did not drop from the sky.
So, it seems that the best and healthiest way of getting rid of the cognitive dissonance that is closely associated with the denial of the supernatural is to accept the supernatural.
There is only one real source of truth. As the Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Tagawa, Beth. 2015. Consciousness has less control than believed, according to new theory. SF State news (June 23).
Saturday, 4 July 2015
A new BBC article describes insects as “incredible acrobats.” Reporting from the Society for Experimental Biology's annual meeting in Prague, Victoria Gill writes:
“Insects solve some pretty wacky biological problems, says Dr Gregory Sutton.
And he should know. For almost a decade, he has been using high-speed cameras to reveal the secrets of the most acrobatic of the world's invertebrates.
Along with his colleagues at the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge, he is working out how fleas, locusts and even praying mantises take to the air.”
She describes insects as super-jumpers:
“One of the problems these super-jumpers have is that to use a jump as an evasive manoeuvre, they must accelerate in a very short space of time.
A flea, for example, releases the energy in its legs in one thousandth of a second. A more robust grasshopper manages the feat in 30 thousandths of a second.”
We would not expect such feats in a Darwinian world produced by a blind watchmaker that is primarily concerned with survival.
Had the trait evolved gradually, predators would have had the time to finish them off.
However, in a world that manifests the handiwork of a benevolent Creator who cares for the animal kingdom, we would expect animals to be very intelligently designed to cope in at times a harsh post-Fall world.
Complexity does not just happen – it has to be designed.
In 2013 Dr. Sutton published a paper in Science with neurobiologist Malcolm Burrows of the University of Cambridge on the amazing mechanical gears in the planthopper Issus coleoptratus.
Gill, Victoria. 2015. Why insects are marvels of engineering. BBC news (3 July).
Thursday, 2 July 2015
After the infamous Kristallnacht in late 1938 Nicholas Winton, a young British stockbroker, heard about the plight of Jewish children in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia.
He managed to get 669 of the children to safety in Britain by putting them on trains in an operation that came to be known as the Kindertransport or child transport. Had he failed to do so, most of them would have perished in concentration camps.
Sir Nicholas Winton, who was of Jewish descent, was one of the few humanitarian heroes of an otherwise dark and gloomy era when the Nazis used science against humanity.
Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved hundreds from Nazis, dies at 106. BBC news.