Monday, 30 March 2015
New Scientist has not always been altogether friendly towards Biblical Christianity.
In what might at first glace seem like a different approach, a recent article in the magazine acknowledges that people are increasingly entertaining the idea that religion led to modernity.
Archaeology is actually a friend of the Bible-believer.
Places like Göbekli Tepe in Turkey suggest that the transcendent dimension played a major part in the birth of ancient civilisations. People built cities because they were religious. They did not become religious because they had built cities.
While the NS article recognises the role of religion, it urges people to leave that behind:
“But just because spirituality may have led to civilisation, it doesn't follow that it should lead it now. If religion did have an early founding role, we must acknowledge this, learn from it – and move on.”
However, we should perhaps stop for a second or two and think whether Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz on the ill-fated flight 9525 would have acted differently if he, instead of moving on, had really believed that he was accountable to His Maker not only for his own life but also for the 149 souls who met their end in the tragic crash in the French Alps.
And that there is a Transcendent Lawgiver, who admonishes us to love our neighbour as ourselves.
In fact, He is much more than that. For those who know Him, He is the loving and compassionate Heavenly Father who can be approached by prayer.
Should we thank god for civilisation? New Scientist 3014. (26 March 2015).
Saturday, 28 March 2015
Evolution stories tend to evolve. At times, the evolution is extra fast, as in the recent case of mudskippers, as reported in Nature.
The latest version states:
“Mudskipper fish (Periophthalmus barbarus) use water bubbles as a 'tongue' to feed on land. The finding hints at how other animals might have evolved tongues as they made the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life.
Krijn Michel at the University of Antwerp in Belgium and his colleagues used high-speed video and X-ray imaging to study the feeding behaviour of various animals. They found that when the mudskipper eats on land, a bubble of water held in its mouth protrudes out and touches food before its jaws close.”
Last week, a Nature news article also explained the feeding habits of mudskippers and suggested:
“Amphibious fish that feed on land use water held in their mouths to help them grab and manipulate their prey. The unusual feeding behaviour of mudskippers (Periophthalmus barbarus) could shed light on the evolution of sea-dwelling animals into terrestrial ones.”
Thus, in just one short week, “could shed light on the evolution” becomes “might have evolved tongues.”
While mudskippers eat on land, their feeding behaviour does not lend support to the Darwinian frog-to-prince hypothesis.
It might be advisable to remember what Mark Twain said:
“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”
Cressey, Daniel. 2015. Fish uses 'water tongue' to grab prey on land. Nature news (18 March).
Fish slurps up prey with watery 'tongue'. Nature 519, 392 (26 March 2015).
Thursday, 26 March 2015
Astronomers used to assume that our solar system was by no means special. However, with the discovery of countless exosolar systems, they have to acknowledge that ours is no humdrum system.
There’s no place like home.
For those who rely on solely naturalistic explanations, the uniqueness of the solar system has to be explained away. A recent paper in PNAS attempts to do this:
“The Solar System is an unusual member of the galactic planetary census in that it lacks planets that reside in close proximity to the Sun. In this work, we propose that the primordial nebula-driven process responsible for retention of Jupiter and Saturn at large orbital radii and sculpting Mars’ low mass is also responsible for clearing out the Solar System’s innermost region. Cumulatively, our results place the Solar System and the mechanisms that shaped its unique orbital architecture into a broader, extrasolar context.”
In their paper, Konstantin Batygin at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Greg Laughlin at the University of California, Santa Cruz, propose that Jupiter first wandered near the Sun, driving away the assumed big gaseous planets and thus making room for the inner planets.
It was then rescued by Saturn from drifting away into space.
This sounds more like storytelling than science. There is not the slightest bit of evidence that Jupiter ever came that close to the Sun or that hot gas planets existed in “the Solar System’s innermost region”.
It seems that the main purpose of this paper is to show that Earth and our solar system are not special.
The evidence points to a very different conclusion, however, as Privileged Species, a newly released video from Discovery Institute featuring biologist Michael Denton, shows:
Batygin, Konstantin & Greg Laughlin. 2015. Jupiter’s decisive role in the inner Solar System’s early evolution. PNAS (March 23).
Tuesday, 24 March 2015
“He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time,” the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes (3:11, ESV) tells us. Many flowers dazzle with their beauty, and when it comes to the animal kingdom, this is certainly also true.
We would probably first think of peacocks and parrots, or perhaps even of penguins.
Or maybe tropical fish or dragonflies. Moreover, even ammonite shells and mantis shrimps and – yes – spiders can sport amazing beauty, especially the peacock spiders of Australia.
It would be difficult to explain why blind and mindless Darwinian processes would produce such beauty. Darwin’s theory of sexual selection does not work, and there are few plausible naturalistic explanations.
But seen from a Biblical perspective, beauty is something we would expect to see, given that the Lord God is the ultimate source of beauty.
Hooper, Rowan. 2015. Wizards of Oz: World's cutest and most awesome spiders. New Scientist (24 March).
Sunday, 22 March 2015
It takes strong faith to believe in the preservation of liquid water and even of ice for billions of years. At times, it requires creative explanations that are certainly not backed up by the facts.
But there’s little else that the advocates of naturalistic /materialistic processes can invoke.
In recent years, we have seen a remarkable increase of facts that speak for a biblical age (i.e. thousands instead of billions of years) of the solar system. (You can see details here, here, here, here, here and here.)
Now, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft may have discovered water vapour spewing from Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. In any case, analyses show that the dwarf planet is far from being dead.
Hand, Eric. 2015.Scientists may have solved mystery of dwarf planet’s enigmatic bright spot. Science (17 March).
Friday, 20 March 2015
Every now and then researchers claim that they may have solved a huge dilemma: the naturalistic origin of life.
Theories have come and gone. None of them have withstood scrutiny. A recent article in Science acknowledges:
“The origin of life on Earth is a set of paradoxes. In order for life to have gotten started, there must have been a genetic molecule—something like DNA or RNA—capable of passing along blueprints for making proteins, the workhorse molecules of life. But modern cells can’t copy DNA and RNA without the help of proteins themselves. To make matters more vexing, none of these molecules can do their jobs without fatty lipids, which provide the membranes that cells need to hold their contents inside. And in yet another chicken-and-egg complication, protein-based enzymes (encoded by genetic molecules) are needed to synthesize lipids.”
In other words, life is just too complicated to have come about by purely naturalistic means.
However, researchers want to bypass this by speculating a gradual increase in complexity.
The latest suggestion features hydrogen cyanide (HCN), hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and ultraviolet light. John Sutherland at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues assume that there was enough H2S on the early earth. Together with HCN from comets or asteroids and UV light it could have produced some kind of precursor for life.
Once again, there are too many ifs and buts. As life only comes from life and design only from intelligence, even the latest try at getting life from non-life is doomed to fail.
Just like many other hypotheses before it.
The most logical solution is to throw naturalistic /materialistic explanations away. “In the beginning God created…” is still by far the most plausible model.
Service, Robert F. 2015. Researchers may have solved origin-of-life conundrum. Science (16 March).
Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Forgiving one’s enemies is not an easy thing to do, especially if they are trying to kill you. However, some Iraqi Christians have done exactly that.
Last July, hundreds of thousands of Christians had to flee from Mosul, leaving their homes and possession behind. Some of them found a safe haven in Irbil in Kurdistan.
One of the refugees is Myriam, who is ten years old. Interviewed on SAT-7, a Christian TV broadcaster, she says of the men who hate her and would want to kill not only her but also her friends and her family: “I will only ask God to forgive them.”
Over a million people have already heard her testimony.
Christianity is much more than a religion. It is a living relationship with the One who prayed for those who crucified Him:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).
Casper, Jayson. 2015. Forgiving ISIS: Christian ‘Resistance’ Videos Go Viral in Arab World. Christianity Today (17 March).
Monday, 16 March 2015
They used to be touted as marvellous mistakes and the raw material for evolution but now mutations are increasingly loosing their ability to aid Darwinian evolution.
A recent paper published in the journal Mutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis suggests that cells have a defence mechanism that prevents genetic mutations from being expressed.
An Elsevier news release provides some details of the study:
“The method the authors used to make this discovery is termed Single-Cell Transcriptogenomics (SCTG). It allows DNA and RNA sequencing to be performed concurrently on the same single cells taken from a cell population treated with the powerful mutagen ethylnitrosourea. This method allowed the authors, for the first time, to prove the tendency of the transcriptional machinery in the cell to avoid transcribing DNA strands harboring a newly induced mutation. This is likely to be a novel cellular defense mechanism to prevent genetic mutations from being expressed.”
For the committed Darwinist, this does not sound like good news. If cells are fighting against mutations, how could all the hundreds and thousands of mutations that evolution sorely needs ever have occurred?
It might be best to see this error control as a kind of spell check system, only much more effective than the one in use in word processing programmes.
This amazing feature suggests that it is the brainchild of creative intelligence, and not of blind Darwinian mechanisms.
Going Beyond the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology: Rather than Being a One-Way Street, DNA-Directed RNA Transcription May Have Profound Adaptability. Elsevier news release 11 March 2015.
Saturday, 14 March 2015
C. S. Lewis warned of the dangers of scientism. While science has mostly been a blessing for mankind, for instance, by eliminating many deadly diseases, it has also brought about suffering and misery. Just think of the experiments the Nazis did in the name of science in the 1930s and 1940s.
And the threat has by no means disappeared. Iran still wants the nuclear bomb, and here in the west many are advocating assisted suicide. Science has been and is being misused.
Unfortunately, this is often been explained away by using Orwellian newspeak, in which words mean something very different from what we would assume them to mean.
National Geography’s recent cover story is perhaps one of the most glaring illustrations of this tendency. It obviously sees a hideous conspiracy desiring to discredit all of science. The cover lists these evils:
· Climate Change Does Not Exist.
· Evolution Never Happened.
· The Moon Landing Was Faked.
· Vaccinations Can Lead to Autism.
· Genetically Modified Food Is Evil.
The cover story never explains what it means by science but it assumes that there is something called scientific knowledge:
“We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from climate change to vaccinations—faces furious opposition.”
However, it’s a long way from doubt to warfare. The article lumps together diverse unorthodox views that have little if anything in common and sees this all as a war on science.
It is entirely possible to believe in the historicity of the moon landing (or the benefits of vaccinations) and still doubt Darwinian evolution, for instance.
National Geographic mentions some past battles against what it sees as being waged against science. However, they might better be understood as myths. While the left-leaning media have made much of the assumed flat earth thinking, the Galileo case and the Scopes trial, they have grossly misrepresented each of them.
Some scientists should probably take a long hard look at themselves and their agendas. Many scientists are more than eager to give their opinion on each and every thing on this earth, even if the issue had nothing to do with their expertise. However, donning a white lab coat does not make anyone omniscient or all-knowing.
Achenbach, Joel. 2015. Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? National Geography (March).
Thursday, 12 March 2015
Researchers are increasingly discovering smart design features in many animals and plants.
Often, such design defies naturalistic explanations.
Recently, they found out how panther chameleons change their colour.
New Scientist reports:
“Scientists always assumed that chameleons changed their appearance by making different colours flowed through their skin, but the reptiles actually have a much smarter method. They rapidly rearrange tiny crystals in their skin so that they reflect different wavelengths of light. ‘Essentially, the crystals act as a selective mirror,’ says Michel Milinkovitch of the University of Geneva in Switzerland, whose team made the discovery.”
The article explains how the little reptiles do it:
“Milinkovitch's team examined chameleon skin under the microscope and found that the cells contain crystals of guanine - one of the four DNA bases - in highly regular grid-like arrangements. Each of these cells, called superficial iridophores, contains hundreds of thousands of crystals.
The researchers then used computer simulations to show that, in theory, simply by altering the distance between the crystals their arrangement could reflect any colour of visible light.”
New Scientist characterises this as clever design.
The Apostle Paul famously said that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,” are clearly seen in His creation (Romans 1:20, ESV).
Andy Coghlan. 2015. Chameleons don't change colour, they use smart mirrors. New Scientist (11 March).
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
The UK’s Green Party has plans for giving all “sentient life forms” the human rights mentioned in Article Five of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
It states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The suggestion would for instance also protect creatures that are not altogether cute, such as fruit flies and horseflies. They are, after all, sentient beings.
Reporting on the plans, The Telegraph states that it “would impose the same prison sentences for the killing, torture or ‘kidnapping’ of dolphins, whales, apes and elephants as would occur for equivalent crimes committed against humans.”
The Greens also propose to ban all commercial horse and dog racing in the United Kingdom.
The tendency to elevate animal rights is nothing new. As long as evolutionists believe that mushrooms are our brothers, we will probably see or hear about many other efforts to do away with the distinction between humans and animals.
Peter Singer, for instance, wants to define chimpanzees as people. In 2008 the Spanish parliament approved a resolution that calls for the right to life and freedom for great apes.
Thomas White, who is an ethics professor, has suggested that dolphins should be treated as ”non-human persons."
It seems that many adherents of the green movement think that animals matter more than humans.
While they champion animal rights, they have forgotten to protect human rights.
According to the biblical worldview, we should care for animals but we should certainly not worship them or pretend that they are human (even though they might be cute).
Holehouse, Matthew. 2015. Rodents to be given human rights under Green Party plans. The Telegraph (7 March).
Sunday, 8 March 2015
Evolutionists used to dismiss them us junk, as useless leftovers from the assumed millions of years of blind Darwinian processes.
Roughly ten per cent of our genome consists of Alu sequences or small repetitive elements known as jumping genes. According to an EurekAlert! article:
“They were considered for a long time as ‘junk’ DNA, because, although they are transcribed into RNA, they encode no proteins and do not seem to participate actively in the cell's functions.”
Now, however, Professor Katharina Strub, at the Faculty of Science of the University of Geneva, and her colleagues discovered that Alu sequences “regulate the activity of ribosomes and contribute to the cell's immunity.”
The article explains how jumping genes do it:
“Alu RNA can bind to specific proteins forming a complex called Alu RNP … this complex allows the cells to adapt to stress caused for example by chemical poisoning or viral infection … the same complex plays a role in protein synthesis by regulating the number of active ribosomes, suggesting that it could be part of the innate system of cellular defense against certain viruses.”
Junk DNA met its demise when a research project known as the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) discovered that most of the “junk” had a hitherto unknown function.
Since then, researchers have found more functions for the parts of DNA they previously were unwilling to look at because of their Darwinian presuppositions.
The most logical explanation for why our genome looks designed is that it is designed. While Darwinian mechanisms cannot explain its existence, the work of the All-Power and All-Wise Creator certainly can.
Jumping genes have essential biological functions. EurekAlert! 19 February 2015.
Friday, 6 March 2015
The Darwinian worldview can lead to unexpected statements. Some time ago a writer in New Scientist called mushrooms “our fungal brethren”:
“If we want a quick, easy fix to problems of human health, environmental degradation and the drivers of climate change, we need to embrace the suite of services offered by our fungal brethren – and fast.”
Obviously, the idea behind this admission is that according to the evolutionary worldview, all living beings share a common ancestor. Hence, Darwinians are free to speculate that mushrooms are our brothers.
The idea might be a parody of what Saint Francis of Assisi wrote. In his Canticle of the Creatures, he gave thanks to God for creating “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon”.
Actually, both the Sun and the Moon pose huge problems for naturalistic /materialistic models.
While they are not alive in the sense we are, they testify of God’s supreme power and wisdom. Without them, our planet would be lifeless.
Webb, Richard. 2013. Magic of mushrooms: Dawning of the Fungus Age. New Scientist 2946, 39–41 (6 December).
Wednesday, 4 March 2015
The Bible calls it the last enemy and the ultimate wage of sin. However, for some secularists, death is increasingly becoming a choice.
It started with abortion, but now the emphasis is on assisted suicide. At first, doctor-assisted killing was legal in only a few countries, such as Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland. Now, however, the phenomenon is gaining momentum in several other countries as well and is making headlines all over the world.
Sounds like echoes of the Third Reich.
New Scientist reports:
“THE fight to legalise doctor-assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill will take centre stage in the US this year, with bills filed in 20 states plus the District of Columbia.
‘I think it's a watershed year,’ says Peg Sandeen, head of the non-profit Death with Dignity, based in Portland, Oregon, which campaigns for doctors to be able to prescribe lethal doses of barbiturates to terminally ill people. The practice is already legal or has been decriminalised in five states.
Sandeen says public opinion may have shifted significantly after Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with terminal brain cancer, moved to Oregon last year, where doctor-assisted suicide is legal. A video by Maynard in which she explained her reasons for choosing assisted suicide has been watched over 11 million times.”
The article also mentions some disturbing facts: not all people diagnosed as terminally ill are actually terminally ill. Others might understand assisted suicide as an order to cease being a financial burden on others.
Moreover, some Christians have prayed for people for whom their doctor gave only a few months to live. After prayer, these “incurable” individuals have lived many years, in some cases over ten years after their initial diagnosis.
We should not forget that our God is a God of miracles who created everything out of nothing by His Word and has not changed since.
Wilson, Clare. 2015. 2015 a watershed year for assisted suicide in the US. New Scientist 3010. (3 March).
Monday, 2 March 2015
Richard Dawkins and other evolutionists have repeatedly claimed that the human eye is an example of bad design. He asserts that no engineer could ever have invented the inverted retina. He dismisses it as poor design.
However, recent research has indicated that he is wrong. Instead of being designed poorly, the eye is an example of superb design.
Eye experts have been saying that for years, but Dawkins has not listened to them.
Sony engineers have actually drawn inspiration from the human eye to design better cameras.
A paper that will be presented on Thursday March 5 at the meeting of the American Physical Society will finally lay the bad design argument to rest. An ErekAlert! report quotes Professor Erez Ribak at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, as saying:
"The retina is not just the simple detector and neural image processor, as believed until today. Its optical structure is optimized for our vision purposes."
If something is optimised, it obviously cannot be designed poorly.
The report went on to say:
“Previous experiments with mice had suggested that Müller glia cells, a type of metabolic cell that crosses the retina, play an essential role in guiding and focusing light scattered throughout the retina.”
Professor Ribak and his colleagues tested this idea.
Unfortunately, the ErekAlert! report began with bowing to Darwin:
“From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting in light scattering by the nervous fibers and blurring of our vision.”
It would have been more honest to admit that some scientists have not understood why the eye is wired the way it is.
In any case, bad eye design is a bad argument that no informed and /or honest evolutionist should use.
Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved. EurekAlert! 27 February 2015.