Sunday, 29 June 2008
Reconstruction of a Neanderthal girl. Christopher P.E. Zollikofer. Anthropological Institute, University of Zurich Image from Wikipedia.
The first Neanderthal skulls were found in 1829 and 1848 but the early remains went rather unnoticed. They got their name from a 1856 discovery in the Neander valley in Germany. They were assumed to be the remains of early men. The publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) gave impetus for the search for links between modern man and less developed beings.
In evolutionary thinking, Neanderthal man was assumed to be a very primitive man, incapable of speech and higher culture. However, recent discoveries have shown that the Darwinian view is wrong. Neanderthals were culturally more advanced. They were able to speak, buried their dead, cleaned their teeth and even made musical instruments.
The latest confirmation of the Neanderthals’ cultural development comes from a dig in England. According to a recent item in BBC news, archaeologists have examined dozens of tools they believe were made by Neanderthals. When the tools were first found in Beedings in West Sussex, in 1900, they were thought to be too modern and thus assumed to be fakes. Most of them were thrown away.
Now archaeologists have re-examined some of the artifacts and concluded that they are genuine. The old view of semi-human, grunting Neanderthal men deserves to be buried.
McGourty, Christine. 2008. 'Neanderthal tools' found at dig. BBC news 23 June
Saturday, 28 June 2008
The Spanish parliament thinks the chimpanzee deserves human rights. Illustration from Wikipedia.
Spain is becoming a paradise for apes. The environmental committee of the Spanish parliament has approved a resolution that calls for the right to life and freedom for great apes.
The resolution has its roots in the Great Apes Project. Started in 1993 by philosophers Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri, the project argues that “non-human hominids”, i.e. chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and bonobos, should have the right to life and freedom and be protected from torture. Well-known scientists and activists, for instance Jane Goodall and Richard Dawkins, have given their support to the project.
The Spanish resolution is not the first attempt to give human rights to apes. In January 2008 animal rights activists in Austria failed to secure rights for a chimpanzee they called Matthew Hiasl Pan as the Austrian supreme court judged that an ape could not be a person.
The attempt to elevate the status of apes is based on the evolutionary belief that humans and apes are genetically closely related and have a common ancestor. Natural history museums often put the DNA difference between humans and chimpanzees at 1-2 per cent although several recent studies have suggested that a more correct figure would be at least four or five per cent.
While it certainly is ethical to treat animals well, a disturbing phenomenon is taking place in some European Union (EU) countries that actually weakens the rights of humans. Promoters of Darwinian evolution have usually been reticent about it.
Euthanasia has been legal in Holland since 1984. Dutch doctors have the right to assist in the killing of patients. In his newly released book The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, philosopher and mathematician David Berlinski sees the Dutch experiment as very troubling. He refers to The Journal of Medical Ethics that reported that by 1995 three per cent of all Dutch deaths were assisted suicides and a quarter of those involuntary. Doctor Berlinski asks, “How many scientific atheists, I wonder, propose to spend their old age in Holland?”
Spain does not have a very good reputation for its treatment of bulls, and thus any improvement in animal welfare is a positive development. However, seen in the context of weakening rights for the sick and elderly in Holland, especially the right to life, the Spanish resolution seems rather odd. Animals might soon have more rights in the EU than humans.
Berlinski, David. 2008. The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. New York: Crown Forum.
Glendinning, Lee. 2008. Spanish parliament approves 'human rights' for apes. Guardian. (26 June). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jun/26/humanrights.animalwelfare/print
Roberts, Martin. 2008. Spanish parliament to extend rights to apes. Reuters (25 June). http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSL256586320080625?feedType=RSS&feedName=scienceNews&rpc=22&sp=true
Sunday, 22 June 2008
The global flood of Noah's days is the most probable source of fossil graveyards
A large dinosaur graveyard has been unearthed near Hanksville, Utah. Dinosaur experts have characterised the new find as “really amazing”. As recently reported by National Geographic News, paleontologists have found at least two carnivorous or meat-eating dinosaurs, a dinosaur with armored plates that is probably a Stegosaurus, and four sauropods or huge dinosaurs with long necks and tails. The sauropods were some of the largest land creatures that ever lived on earth. They could be over 130 feet (40 meters) long. Like the Stegosaurus, they were herbivorous, i.e. they ate plants.
The size of the graveyard came as a complete surprise to scientists from the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois, who were digging at the site. In addition to scattered bones they also found partial and complete dinosaur skeletons, freshwater clams and petrified trees. While they did not find any new species of dinosaurs, they hope to discover more about the ones they have previously found.
The Hanksville-Burbee Quarry, as the site is now called, is on high ground but scientists believe the fossils were “washed down during high-water events over several centuries.” The emphasis should be on the word “believe” as there is no way of making sure that the graveyard was not formed in a single watery catastrophe, such as the biblical flood described in Genesis, which by no means was a tranquil little flood but a disastrous global catastrophe that could be expected to form fossil graveyards.
The new graveyard is just one of many similar mass burial sites found all over the world. Many if not all have signs of being caused by a watery cataclysm.
Handwerk, Brian. 2008. “Amazing” Dinosaur Trove Discovered in Utah. National Geographic News(June 17) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/06/080617-utah-dinosaurs.html
Saturday, 21 June 2008
Paul would not approve of this gospel.
Pastor Michael Dowd, the author of Thank God For Evolution, is spreading the good news of blaming evolution for our moral weaknesses. His message attracts attention as everything that might offend the views of a modern civilised humanist has been eliminated from this form of “Christianity”. One does not have to focus on sin or to repent.
New York Times reports of a man who after hearing Rev. Dowd’s sermon understood his extra-marital affairs better, realising they were due to our shared animal past.
Rev. Dowd seems to interpret the gospel message in a Freudian way. Everything is always someone else’s fault. In this respect, Adam and Eve were the first Dowdians although their view on origins differed diametrically from Rev. Daud’s.
Fortunately, there are people who have realised the weaknesses of evolution-based morality. Years ago, The Times asked several famous writers, including G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), to write an essay on the topic "What's Wrong with the World?" Chesterton wrote,
G. K. Chesterton
We are morally responsible for our deeds. We cannot blame evolution or, as the Freudians used to think, our parents or society for the things we do wrong.
The Bible’s revelation differs clearly from Rev. Dowd’s ”good news”. As Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32) and “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8: 36).
We cannot merge evolution and the gospel. They are based on mutually incompatible foundations. Rev. Dowd proclaims a false gospel that can never set anyone free from mankind’s basic problem, sin. Only Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, can do this.
Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit. 2008. Darwinists for Jesus. New York Times (15 June) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/magazine/15wwln-essay-t.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&ref=magazine&pagewanted=print
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Komodo dragons can be found in many zoos.
Recently, BBC News had an article about five European divers who had a rather unusual adventure on the Indonesian island of Rinca. Strong currents washed them away from their boat and for 12 hours they had to struggle in waters infested with sharks until they found an island. But soon they saw a Komodo dragon on the beach. They had to throw rocks at the lizard to keep it at bay. The divers were eventually rescued.
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) only lives on some Indonesian islands. The largest living lizard, it can be over three meters (nine feet) long and weigh 120 kilograms (265 pounds). Komodo dragons are swift, ferocious animals that have been known to kill and eat humans.
Komodos can even stand on their hind legs for a while, making them look more like dinosaurs, although their front legs are not as small as those of T. rex, for instance. Their fierceness and their ability to kill by venomous bacteria in their mouths might have contributed to the name Varanus komodoensis has earned, viz. dragon.
Supporters of evolution will scoff at the idea of man and dinosaurs or even dragons co-existing. But like the Tuatara, which only lives in New Zealand, the Komodo dragon brings to mind old dragon stories that are found in many cultures. St. George and the Dragon is probably the best-known tale in the west.
In addition, some ancient cave paintings depict dinosaur-like creatures. There is even an interesting engraving of two fighting sauropod dinosaurs in the tomb of bishop Richard Bell in Carlisle Cathedral in the UK from the 15th century.
What is surprising about the image is that although dinosaur bones had been found earlier, the word “dinosaur” was coined as late as 1841, when Richard Owen named the big creatures ‘terrible lizards’. However, at the time of bishop Bell’s death in 1496 no one was supposed to know what a dinosaur looked like. Yet the animals resemble the pictures of dinosaurs we often see in science journals.
It seems that reality is more amazing than we would expect.
Bell. Philip. 2003. Bishop Bell’s Brass Behemoths! Creation 25:4, 40-43. You can read the article here.
How dangerous is a Komodo dragon? BBC NEWS. 9 June 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7443648.stm
Read more about the Tuatara here.
Sunday, 8 June 2008
G. K. Chesterton was not afraid to defend biblical Christianity. Image: Wikipedia
Militant atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, have recently lifted up their voices in an attempt to convince others of a worldview that does not tolerate anything that smacks of the supernatural. Before their time, however, a very original English gentleman was already debating atheists and agnostics and exposing the logical fallacies of their ideology. “Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas”, he said, “for it is the assertion of a universal negative.” Yes, he did use the word dogma – a synonym of the word doctrine that Dawkins used in Ben Stein’s film Expelled: No intelligence Allowed . They both used the words in the same sense.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was a famous writer and Christian thinker. At a time when many famous European writers were either agnostics or atheists, Chesterton was not afraid to defend Christianity. He debated men like George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell and Clarence Darrow and inspired other Christian writers, especially C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Chesterton answered some of Richard Dawkins’ arguments before anyone had even heard of Dawkins.
Opposing evolution was not very popular in Chesterton’s days but he was not afraid to say what he thought about origins issues. Instead of being content with superficial arguments, he dug deep into the underlying causes: “The Christian is quite free to believe that there is considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.”
Indeed, some of his though-provoking ideas were aimed at the evolutionary worldview: “It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.”
Apologetics is often defined as a rational defence of Christianity. However, Chesterton did not feel he was defending the faith. Instead, he engaged in a witty discussion with unbelievers and beat them in their own game, leaving a trove of memorable quotes for all subsequent generations, including our own.
Montgomery, John Warwick. 2002. The Un-Apologist. Christian History 21:3. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-2136757_ITM
Knowles, Elizabeth (ed.) 2004. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). Image from Wikipedia.
Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) said, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
Schopenhauer’s view might be construed as an interpretation of our understanding of science and our origins. The word science comes from the Latin sciencia, ‘knowledge’. It is a quest for the truth, or at least it should be.
But in reality, almost always a ruling paradigm dictates what counts for truth and what does not. This can be seen in the Darwinian reaction to Ben Stein’s film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Early in the film, Richard Dawkins says, “As a scientist I am pretty hostile to a rival doctrine”.
Evolutionists were not very pleased with this admission or with some others, judging from their posts on various Internet forums.
It seems that in the origins debate, Schopenhauer’s first two stages overlap. Rival, i.e. non-Darwinian explanations are both ridiculed and violently opposed.
But if Schophenhauer is right, they will eventually be accepted as being self-evident.