Friday, 26 December 2008

The Christmas Message According to Darwin’s Bulldog



T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) was known as Darwin's Bulldog. Image from Wikipedia


Joel Kontinen

Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895) was an outspoken critic of Christianity. For instance, in the 1890s he wrote a series of letters to The Times, warning of the dangers of the Salvation Army. He thought that its leadership was all too autocratic.

History has shown us that Huxley’s views on the Salvation Army had more to do with his own evolutionary worldview than with any real danger.

Known as Darwin’s Bulldog, Huxley did more to propagate the “good news” of evolution than his contemporary Charles Darwin.

Huxley was a child of his times. He thought that science had disproved the Bible but found it hard to believe that Christians would try to explain away parts of Genesis and of other Old Testament books as figurative language. In his essay The Lights of the Church and the Light of Science (1890) he stated:

I am fairly at a loss to comprehend how any one, for a moment, can doubt that Christian theology must stand or fall with the historical trustworthiness of the Jewish Scriptures. The very conception of the Messiah, or Christ, is inextricably interwoven with Jewish history; the identification of Jesus of Nazareth with that Messiah rests upon the interpretation of the passages of the Hebrew Scriptures which have no evidential value unless they possess the historical character assigned to them. If the covenant with Abraham was not made; if circumcision and sacrifices were not ordained by Jahveh; if the "ten words" were not written by God's hand on the stone tables; if Abraham is more or less a mythical hero, such as Theseus; the Story of the Deluge a fiction; that of the Fall a legend; and that of the Creation the dream of a seer; if all these definite and detailed narratives of apparently real events have no more value as history than have the stories of the regal period of Rome — what is to be said about the Messianic doctrine, which is so much less clearly enunciated: And what about the authority of the writers of the books of the New Testament, who, on this theory, have not merely accepted flimsy fictions for solid truths, but have built the very foundations of Christian dogma upon legendary quicksands?

Huxley had realised something that the theistic evolutionists of our day have failed to understand. It was the real sin of a real person (Adam) that caused a real Messiah (Jesus) to atone for it by His death on the cross. Hundreds of years before the first Christmas, the Jewish Scriptures had predicted the details of His birth in surprising detail.

Darwin’s Bulldog was right about Christmas. If it were built on “legendary quicksands”, Christians would be the worst sort of liars. But the real Christmas message tells a different story. There are no legendary quicksands in the Bible. The Good News about the baby born of a virgin in the manger at Bethlehem is real history.

He was born to die that we might live forever. And behold, He, the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:5), lives.





Sources:

Huxley, Thomas H. 1893 (2006). Evolution and Ethics And Other Essays. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Huxley, Thomas H. 1890. The Lights of the Church and the Light of Science. In Collected Essays IV. http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE4/Lights.html

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Blind Cave Crabs – No Evidence for Evolution



This tiny crab is blind.


Joel Kontinen


Mutations are genetic copying mistakes that according to the Neo-Darwinian great story are the raw materials for evolution. Natural selection is then supposed to be able to pick and choose what to use for producing new body parts.

An example of the ingenuity of mutations can be seen on the Spanish island of Lanzarote. The tiny white crabs living in a cave at Jameos Del Agua are blind.

Is this a case of evolution in action? No, since the crabs have lost something (i.e. eyesight) that their predecessors once had.

Evolution would need more genetic information. Loosing money will not make a mendicant into a millionaire. And neither will a loss of information make a mollusk into a man. As Dr. Carl Wieland put it, The evolution train’s a-comin’ (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction).

Source:

Wieland, Carl. 2002. The evolution train’s a-comin’ (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction). Creation 24(2):16–19. March 2002.
http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/431

Friday, 12 December 2008

How Did Life Begin? Meteorites Did It!




This view might get you expelled. Michelangelo: The Creation of Adam (ca. 1511). Image from Wikipedia.


Joel Kontinen

Since Charles Darwin’s day, theories about the birth of life have come and gone. Darwin famously speculated about life having begun in a warm pond. Researchers tested the idea in 2006 and found it wanting. They examined hot puddles in Kamchatka, Russia, and Mount Lassen in California and discovered that “hot acidic waters containing clay do not provide the right conditions for chemicals to assemble themselves into 'pioneer organisms’. ”

Stanley Miller and Harold Urey conducted a famous experiment in 1953. While it has been used as a propaganda device for evolution, Dr. Jonathan Wells and other Darwin skeptics have pointed out its flaws. Wells said:

The Miller-Urey experiment used a simulated atmosphere that geochemists now agree was incorrect, it was not the ‘first successful attempt to show how organic molecules might have been produced on the early Earth.’ When conditions are changed to reflect better knowledge of the Earth’s early atmosphere, the experiment doesn’t work.

Others have looked to outer space as a potential source of life. Sir Fred Hoyle, convinced that life could not have originated on earth, suggested that it was brought here from space. While this panspermia view has its advocates, the naturalistic answer to how life began on Earth remains as elusive as ever.

A new study by Yoshihiro Furukawa and others published in Nature Geoscience speculates that life did not come from space but meteor impacts might have caused chemical reactions in the primordian ocean, jump starting life. In their simulation, they made chondrite (a common type of meteorite) strike the ocean, managing to produce some organic or carbon-based compounds, such as fatty acids and amines.

While Furukawa and colleagues made sure the results were not due to contamination, others remain skeptical about the significance of their find. Astrobiologist Jennifer Blank at the SETI Institute in Mountain View in California thinks we might never come up with a viable answer.

Indeed, the jump from amino acids to a functioning cell is nothing short of a miracle. Far from being a black box, the cell is an extremely complicated factory that needs to have all its components in place in order to function.

So where did life come from? Life could only come from life. The cell has an enormous amount of information programmed into it. It looks as if it has been designed.

Unfortunately, mentioning the word design is a sure way to get one expelled from academia.

Sources:

Matson, John. 2008. Rock And Roil: Meteorites Hitting Early Earth's Oceans May Have Helped Spawn Life. Scientific American.com (9 December.) http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=rock-and-roil-meteorites&sc=wr_20081209

Morelle, Rebecca. 2006. Darwin's Warm Pond Idea is Tested. BBC News. (13 February) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/science/nature/4702336.stm.

Wells, Jonathan. 2002. Inherit The Spin: Darwinists Answer “Ten Questions” with Evasions and Falsehoods. http://www.discovery.org/a/1106.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Hot Water on Hot Jupiter



Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

Joel Kontinen

For years, astronomers have been searching for water in our Solar System and beyond it. Water is essential for life, and NASA regards the search for life as one of its major activities. Recently astronomers using the Spitzer Space Telescope detected signs of water on planet HD 189733b, a gas giant or hot Jupiter 63 light years from Earth. Its atmosphere also contains carbon dioxide and methane.

Carl Grillmair of the Spitzer Science Center in Pasadena, California, and his colleagues reported their find in a letter published in the journal Nature. They used the 'secondary eclipse' method to distinguish between infrared light coming from the planet and from its sun.

They probably also detected signs of weather on HD 189733b. The planet orbits its sun closer than Jupiter so chances of finding signs of life are rather slim.

In astronomy, “Goldilocks Zone” refers to a region of space where life could potentially be possible. The name comes from the children’s story "Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. " Lost in a forest, Goldilocks finds shelter in a hut and discovers three bowls of porridge. She tastes the first and finds that it is too hot. The second bowl is too cold, but the third is just right.

Also known as “habitable zones”, these Goldilocks regions seem to be rare in the universe. Carl Sagan was known for describing Earth as a pale blue dot. However, Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards wrote a book called The Privileged Planet to refute Sagan’s thesis that our planet is not special.

This was too much for many evolutionists. As Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed shows, Dr. Gonzales lost his job merely for suggesting that the universe speaks of design.

Astronomers have found over 300 exoplanets or planets outside our Solar System. They have yet to find a system that would correspond to ours. In most cases, giant hot Jupiters orbit very close to their sun. Goldilocks would find these places far too hot.

In other words, it seems that Gonzales and Richards were right. Earth is a privileged planet. The evidence we see around us speaks of creation.



Sources:

Grillmair C. et al. 2008. Strong water absorption in the dayside emission spectrum of the planet HD 189733b Nature 456:7223, 767-769 (11 December 2008).

Koczor, Ron and Tony Phillips. 2003. The Goldilocks Zone. http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2003/02oct_goldilocks.htm. Accessed 11 December 2008.

Yeager, Ashley. 2008. Exoplanet may harbour stormy skies. Nature News (10 December). http://www.nature.com/news/2008/081210/full/news.2008.1289.html.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Want to Promote Academic Freedom?




Joel Kontinen

As evidenced by Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, questioning Darwinian evolution has become hazardous for scientists, academics, teachers and students. Recently a British scientist was expelled from the Royal Society for his unorthodox approach to dissenters.

Now, with Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday just around the corner, science journals are praising the man and his achievements while keeping silent on the weaknesses and consequences of his theory.

However, dissent against Darwin has by no means become extinct. Discovery Institute, for instance, is scheduling its Academic Freedom Day on Darwin’s birthday (February 12). The celebrations will include a video and essay contest for high school and college students.

Darwin once stated, "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question."

His supporters have obviously forgotten the advice he gave. Thus the need for Academic Freedom Day. For more details, go to Academic Freedom Day. com .

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Newtonmas Is Just Around the Corner…




Sir Isaac Newton's portrait by Godfrey Kneller (1702). Image from Wikipedia.


Joel Kontinen

Skeptics seem to dislike Christmas. This might be no surprise since the very word is derived from an old English concept Cristes maesse, meaning “mass of Christ”. And since the Bible clearly speaks of Christ as the Creator (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16), evolution-believing skeptics try to downplay the significance of Christ’s birthday.

While the Bible does not explicitly say that Christ was born on December 25, we have compelling evidence that He was indeed born, lived, died and rose from the dead.

Skeptics try to cloud the significance of Christmas by introducing a "feast" they call Newtonmas.

They seem to have forgotten that Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), whose birthday is on December 25, was a devout Christian, a believer in biblical creation. He might not have appreciated the skeptics’ idea of celebrating his birthday as a mass. He wrote in Principia, Book III:

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. … This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” Παντοκράτωρ [Pantokratōr cf. 2 Corinthians 6:18], or “Universal Ruler”. … The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect.

In other words, Newton was no skeptic.


Sources:

E-Skeptic 3 December 2008: Newtonmas is here again (almost).

Thayer, H. S. 1953. Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections From His Writings. New York: Library of Classics.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Tiny Living Fossil Shows the Cambrian Explosion Was Real


A previously found Ediacaran trace fossil. Image from Wikipedia.




Joel Kontinen

Marine biologists have found a grape-sized creature off the coast of the Bahamas. Mikhail Matz from the University of Texas at Austin and his colleagues discovered a group of single-celled creatures called Gromia sphaerica. A distant relative of the amoebas, it is believed to be the earliest living fossil.

The discovery, soon to be published in the journal Current Biology, was reported recently by BBC News and Discovery News. Both publications hailed it as an astounding find.

While G. sphaerica is a mere three centimeters or 1.2 inches in diameter, for a unicellular animal it is almost a giant. It left a 50-centimeter (20 inch) long trail on the seabed. Scientist did not believe that single-celled creatures could leave trails. They had supposed that all existing “trace fossils” or animal trails were made by multicellular animals.

Charles Darwin knew about the Cambrian Explosion, which weakened the credibility of his theory of evolution. However, he thought that the lack of fossil evidence for gradual evolutionary change was due to “the Imperfection of the Geological Record” as he put it in The Origin of Species (1859).

But the new discovery suggests Darwin was wrong. Matz explained that the find means that the Cambrian Explosion was real. “It must have been a diversification of life on a scale never before seen”, Discovery News quoted him as saying. He compared the find to a “burst out of a magic box”.

"There's a 1.8 billion-year-old fossil in the Stirling formation in Australia that looks just like one of their traces, and with a discoidal body impression similar to these guys," Matz went on to say. "We haven't proved anything, but we might be looking at the ultimate living macroscopic fossil."

Previously, the oldest trace fossil was believed to be 580 million years old. The new discovery pushes back their age a further 1.2 billion years on the evolutionary timescale.

This might cause us to question the credibility of the idea of millions of years of earth history. Moreover, all too often a single discovery has caused Darwinists to re-write vast sections of their supposed history.

Sources:


'Grape' is key to fossil puzzle. BBC News. 21 November 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7739703.stm

Reilly, Michael. 2008. Single-Celled Giant Upends Early Evolution. Discovery News. (20 November). http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/11/20/gromia-cambrian-print.html

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Evolutionists’ Not-So-Secret Agenda



Here is part of the evolutionary good news. Wikipedia image by José-Manuel Benito Álvarez.

Joel Kontinen


It’s not often that I get an e-mail that begins with “Dear Fellow Evolutionaries” but today it happened. The sender was The Evolutionary Times, a newsletter launched by Reverend Michael Dowd.

If you think evolution is not a religion you have probably never heard Rev. Dowd speak on what he calls "our common creation myth — The Great Story of cosmos."

Michael Dowd, the author of Thank God for Evolution, seems to be a man of great expectations. Describing himself as an evolutionary evangelist, he travels throughout North America, “sharing in religiously inspiring ways the 14 billion year history of the Universe given by mainstream science”.

Yes, Dowd is saying that evolution is religiously inspiring. He not only began the e-mail with “Dear Fellow Evolutionaries” but he also ended it with “Co-evolutionarily yours”. Moreover, he has a habit of using phrases like lizard legacy and monkey mind to illustrate his good news that we are part of the animal kingdom.

In the first issue of The Evolutionary Times he outlined his goals:

Our Two-Fold Vision: (1) By 2050, we see the majority of religious and non-religious people worldwide joyfully embracing an evolutionary, ecological worldview. (2) We also imagine, by mid-century, that humanity, in symbiotic partnership with our technologies and social structures, will have largely transitioned to a mutually enhancing relationship with the larger body of life of which we are part.

It seems that Rev. Dowd’s aim is to bring about a new secular religion that combines the two great quasi-scientific truths of our time, goo-to-you Darwinian evolution and the fight against man-made global warming.

On Dowd’s website, playwright Bill Bruehl has this to say about Thank God for Evolution: “This is a much needed book, even a Holy Book, a scripture for a spiritual renewal available to all religions as well as people living outside organized religion.”

Unfortunately, this “spiritual renewal” is diametrically opposed to the claims of traditional Christianity. The Apostle Paul might have called it a great delusion. Scientist will do well if they call it a pseudo-religion.

Source:

http://thankgodforevolution.com/newsletter/200811

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Robbing Genesis



Robbing Genesis? Image from the Answers in Genesis' Creation Museum.


Joel Kontinen

I hate to admit that I have been robbing Genesis lately. I made this astounding discovery when reading LiveScience’s recent article on Karl W. Giberson, a physics professor at Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts. He suggested that a historical-literal understanding of Genesis “robs it of everything that is interesting."

Sounds interesting. A glance at the background might be in order. LiveScience reported on professor Giberson’s discussion with Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine at the Harvard Club. The event was prompted by Giberson's new book Saving Darwin, published by HarperOne. He recommends that instead of getting bogged down in the details of Genesis, readers should “recall that the Bible repeats the refrain that God found what he made ‘good’ and looks at the world as good.”

Giberson was editor of Science and Theology News that I used to read until it became extinct in 2006. The monthly newsmagazine was the brainchild of the John Templeton Foundation. It attempted to tread a middle ground between theistic evolution and all-out atheism. Giberson practically excluded all views that would have presented creationism and intelligent design in a positive light.

While the publication included some insightful views on the reality and significance of spirituality, its “let all religious flowers bloom” approach failed to convince would-be subscribers and it soon went extinct.

However, Giberson eventually found other forums for his approach to origins issues. For instance, he recently debated Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis at Beliefnet.com.

Attempts at reconciling Genesis and evolution have not gone extinct. As Darwin’s 200th birthday approaches, we are probably doomed to hear more on the topic.

When we take a detailed look at the pros and cons of a mythological approach to Genesis, we might reach a conclusion that differs from professor Giberson’s stance. After all, Jesus believed in a literal Genesis and came to redeem mankind because of a literal Fall.

Reading the daily paper might soon give a clue to all but the most downright optimists that the created world is no longer very good, which might lend some support to the view that Genesis is still relevant.

In the meanwhile, methinks I will go on robbing Genesis. After all, I am not utterly convinced that it would mean the end of “everything that is interesting.”






Source:

Lloyd, Robin. 2008. God and Evolution Can Co-exist, Scientist Says. LiveScience (18 November). http://www.livescience.com/culture/081118-god-evolution.html

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Darwin 200: Nature Celebrates in Advance



Nature Celebrates Darwin in Advance




Joel Kontinen

If (Neo) Darwinists were more disciplined, they would celebrate the birthday of their Founding Father on February 12 when Charles Darwin turns 200. However, following the very example set by him they have decided to begin their celebrations in advance. The journal Nature already published a special section on Darwin and we will probably hear a lot more about natural selection before the party is over.

Nature’s editorial Beyond the Origin lifts up natural selection as the prime mover of sorts in evolution although natural selection was known before Darwin’s day, being discovered by Edward Blyth (1810—1873), a British chemist and zoologist who of all things believed in the Genesis account of creation.

In their rush to celebrate, Nature might have forgotten that natural selection can only select from pre-existing genetic material. Everything else would by definition be classified as intelligent design, which from an orthodox Darwinian viewpoint would amount to heresy.

When heaping praise on Darwin Nature cannot be accused of modesty:

Darwin was arguably the most influential scientist of modern times. No single researcher has since matched his collective impact on the natural and social sciences; on politics, religions, and philosophy; on art and cultural relations, and in ways that the man himself would never have imagined.

Charles Darwin had no formal scientific training. His only academic credentials were in theology. However, suffering caused him to doubt the goodness of God. Some 2300 years before Darwin’s time Greek philosophers who only believed in material causes came up with the idea of species slowly changing into other species, which would suggests that Darwin’s hypothesis as such was not much of a novelty.

After the death of his daughter Darwin rejected the Bible’s teaching on human origins and designed a structure in which God was basically superfluous. In The Origin of Species (1859) he potentially reserved a minor role for the Creator but by the time he wrote The Descent of Man (1871) natural processes were all that were needed.

In 1859 Darwin published a theory although he still did not have intermediate fossils or other evidence needed to support his view. He excused this by appealing to the "imperfection of the Geological Record", hoping that the day would dawn when real ape men are found.

We have waited 150 long and weary years. All that we have are a few disputed specimens such as Lucy (a.k.a Australopithecus afarensis) and Archaeopteryx. We lack real evidence. So, would someone please tell me why Nature is heaping an incredible amount of praise on Charles Darwin?




Sources:

Darwin 200. Nature 456. http://www.nature.com/news/specials/darwin/index.html

Beyond the origin. Nature 456, 281 (20 November. 2008)

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Michael Crichton Calls For A More Critical Approach to Global Warming



The father of Jurassic Park was critical of "consensus science". Image from the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum.

Joel Kontinen

Science fiction writer Michael Crichton is probably best known for his book Jurassic Park (1990). Its film version began a veritable dinosaur boom around the world. Crichton, who died on November 4, was also a scientist and took an interest in various issues, such as global warming and extraterrestrial life. He could at times be rather critical. He even went as far as suggesting that the search for extraterrestrial life (SETI) was not science. He said, “SETI is unquestionably a religion.”

Recently Wall Street Journal re-published part of a lecture Crichton gave at the California Institute of Technology on January 17, 2003. His talk had a rather interesting name: “Aliens Cause Global Warming”. He warned against what he called “consensus science”, saying, “There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.”

He went on to point out, “Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough.” Crichton’s lecture suggested that he was not a true believer in global warning, which, of course, is understandable given the haphazard reliability of weather forecasts. He said, “Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future?”

I recently heard a geologist speaking along the same lines as Crichton. He lamented that global warning is more of a religion than science and that the media rarely give critics the chance to respond to articles that regard it as an indisputable fact.

Cricthon’s views do not make him into an anti-environmentalist. He saw the dangers of dogmatic science that instead of evidence was based on consensus, which, after all, might turn out to be less than actual fact.

We need to conserve, recycle and take good care of this planet of ours. But we also need to beware of elevating some scientific “truths” into dogma. This is the legacy of the father of Jurassic Park.




Source:

Crichton, Michael. 2008. 'Aliens Cause Global Warming'. Wall Street Journal. 7 November.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122603134258207975.html?mod=djemEditorialPage#printMode

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Oldest Hebrew Text Found



David and Goliath by Caravaggio (c. 1599) at the Prado in Madrid. Image from Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Archaeologists have found the earliest known Hebrew text near the area described in the Bible as the battlefield where the young David defeated the Philistine giant Goliath. In June 2008 archaeologists began excavating a tenth century B. C. fortress 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of present-day Bet Shemesh.

In a recent press release, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced that they had found an old pottery shard (known as an ostracon) with five lines of writing on it. While the inscription has not yet been deciphered, a preliminary examination suggests that the text at least contains the roots of the words “judge”, “slave” and “king”.

The excavations were led by professor Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University. They discovered the shard in a building at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the site of a huge Jewish fortress with a 700-meters (0.4 miles) long city wall built of massive stones. The ostracon contained some organic material, enabling it to be carbon dated. A carbon-14 analysis at Oxford University and a comparison with other ancient pottery indicated that it was approximately 3000 years old.

According to the Hebrew University’s press release, the find “is thought to be the most significant archaeological discovery in Israel since the Dead Sea Scrolls”.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1947 at Qumran by a Bedouin shepherd, contained hundreds of religious documents and biblical texts including the entire book of Isaiah on a single scroll. Old Testament scholar Samuel J. Schultz says these discoveries confirmed that the Jewish scribes who copied the biblical texts were extremely careful, since the earliest Hebrew Bible (i.e. the Old Testament) dated from A. D. 900 and although the Qumran texts were a thousand years older they were almost identical.

The ostracon resembles pottery found at other sites in Israel. The existence of a huge fortress suggests that there indeed was a strong central government in Israel at the time of King David.

Some archaeologists known as minimalists have doubted the historicity of the Old Testament account of King David and Solomon. However, recently a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that the remains of King Solomon’s mines were found near Petra in Jordan.

The recent discovery supports the view that David was no mere legend but that the Old Testament writers described their times accurately.

This would be no surprise. We would expect the Bible to be a record of true history.

Recently, an old seal impression found in Jerusalem indicates that the old Testament writers recorded history meticulously and accurately.



Sources:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.2008. Earliest known Hebrew text in Proto-Canaanite script discovered in area where David slew Goliath. News Release 30 October. http://www.huji.ac.il/dovrut/Osctreconrelease.doc

Schultz, Samuel J. 2000. The Old Testament Speaks. 5th ed. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Catholic and Muslim Leaders Call For Religious Freedom




Let my people worship. The Vatican calls for religious freedom for minorities. Image from Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

More and more mosques are springing up in what was once a Christian Europe. While muezzins call faithful Muslims to prayers on Friday, we do not often hear church bells ringing in Saudi Arabia.

To discuss this issue and many others, Catholic leaders have been meeting with Muslim scholars in Rome. At the end of their three day forum (November 4 to 6) they issued a final declaration in which they also took up the issue of religious freedom for minorities. They said,

Religious minorities are entitled to be respected in their own religious convictions and practices. They are also entitled to their own places of worship, and their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subject to any form of mockery or ridicule.

It sounds good on paper. But former Muslims who turn to Christ should also have the right to worship freely with their new brothers and sisters without fear of losing their lives.

In other words, the “once a Muslim, always a Muslim” mantra should be dropped. People who turn to Islam in the west are not penalised for their decision. But all too often Muslims who find Jesus Christ as Saviour are persecuted, discriminated against and even killed in some Arab countries.

I sincerely hope that Muslim leaders would keep their promise. But promises are all too easily broken. Thus, as Christians, we will do well if we pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for following Christ in the shadow of the crescent.

Source:

Vatican Information Service. Final Declaration of Catholic-Muslim Forum.
7 November 2008.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Richard Dawkins’ Surprising Acknowledgement



Image from Wikipedia.


Joel Kontinen

”A serious case could be made for a deistic God.” This was an unexpected acknowledgement, coming from the lips of none other than Richard Dawkins. He said this during a debate with Mathematics professor John Lennox at the Natural History Museum in Oxford on October 21.

Dawkins has a track record of regarding the existence of God as extremely unlikely. He has said that we are able to explain all life, intelligence and design in the universe with the help of ”Darwinian” natural selection and that design does not have anything to do with the birth of the universe.

Richard Dawkins’ recent book The God Delusion is a severe attack on religion in general and Christianity in particular. Recently, fellow evolutionist Francisco Ayala criticised Dawkins for his aggressive ridicule of religion in Scientific American.

Dawkins’ new approach seems to refute his earlier views. The design that is evident in the universe caused Anthony Flew, once regarded as the chief spokesman for atheism, to reject his godless worldview. The hopeless improbability of a naturalistic origin of life made an end of Sir Fred Hoyle’s atheism. C. S. Lewis realised that the evidence favoured theism and Monty White, the former CEO of Answers in Genesis (Great Britain/Europe), also gave up atheism having noticed that creation explains reality much better.

So, is Richard Dawkins about to change his views on origins issues? It may be good to keep in mind that when Ben Stein interviewed Dawkins for the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Dawkins acknowledged that aliens could have seeded life on earth. Later, when the news of this spread throughout the blogosphere, he explained that he had meant it as a joke.

Melanie Phillips interviewed professor Dawkins after the Oxford debate. Dawkins denied that he had changed his views on the supernatural but said that life on earth could nevertheless be the result of design. He still regards aliens a more likely source of life than God.

During the interview, Dawkins acknowledged that some of his views, such as the origin of life, cannot be regarded as being scientific. It is not possible to study abiogenesis or the birth of life from non-life scientifically so that science is unable to solve this problem.

Phillips said that although Richard Dawkins “insisted over and over again” he wanted to hold on to the truth, it was conspicuous that he “seems to be pretty careless with historical evidence”. Anthony Flew for instance has criticised Dawkins for claiming that Albert Einstein was an atheist although Einstein explicitly denied this.

Usually Deism is understood as a belief in a watchmaker type of God who created the world but has not since then actively taken part in the life of His creation, and does not answer prayer. In contrast, the God of Christianity is both transcendent (“there” or beyond our realm) and immanent (“here”). Unfortunately, Richard Dawkins’ ”deistic God” seems to live on another planet.

But it is a beginning.

Source:

Philipps, Melanie. 2008. Is Richard Dawkins Still Evolving? The Spectator (23 October)
http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/2543431/is-richard-dawkins-still-evolving.thtml

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Is the James Ossuary Genuine?


The James ossuary was on display at the Royal Ontario Museum from November 15, 2002 to January 5, 2003. Image: Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

In November 2002 Biblical Archaeology Review published an article about an old limestone box dating from the first-century AD. It soon made headlines around the world. One side of the burial box or ossuary had the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” written in Aramaic letters. This was a sensational find since it would probably mean that the ossuary once held the bones of Jesus’ earthly brother, who according to the Book of Acts was one of the early Christian marthyrs.

André Lemaire, an expert of Hebrew and Aramaic epigraphy at the Sorbonne in Paris, who wrote the article, said the inscription was authentic. Researchers at the Geological Survey of Israel likewise vouched for its authenticity.

However, when it became known that the ossuary was bought from Oded Golan, a private arts collector, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) formed a committee to decide whether the inscription on the burial box was authentic or not. At issue was not the authenticity of the ossuary as such but only of the inscription and especially the word Jesus on it.

The committee failed to issue a final report but concluded that the inscription was a forgery. While Lemaire and some other prominent scholars continued to insist that the engraved letters on the ossuary were authentic and not later additions as some had claimed, the IAA began a long forgery trial against Oded Golan in 2004.

Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, has from time to time published updates of the ossuary trial. In a fresh report, he stated that after hearing 75 witnesses, Judge Aharon Farkash, who is presiding over the case, suggested that the prosecution should drop the case for lack of evidence. Even the IAA’s main witness Yuval Goren, former chairman of Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology, admitted that after all the patina on the word Jesus was original.

While the case is not over yet, it seems very likely that the James ossuary is indeed authentic.

It is good to keep in mind that regardless of what skeptics claim the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is a reliable account of history.

Sources:

Lemaire, Andre. 2002. Burial Box of James the Brother of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Review 28:6, 24-33. (November 2002)

Shanks, Hershel. 2008. Supporters of James Ossuary Inscription’s Authenticity Vindicated. http://bib-arch.org/news/forgery-trial-news.asp.

A Well-known Evolutionist Acknowledges: Creationists and Supporters of ID Are More Visible



Ayala does not believe in this scenario. Image from the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum.


Joel Kontinen

Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine, is a former Dominican priest. Nonetheless, Ayala does not believe that God created life in the way recorded in the Bible but thinks that He left it all to evolution.

According of Ayala, ”bad design”, cruel predators and sadistic parasites are proof that God could not have created life supernaturally. Richard Dawkins has for instance used the human eye as an example of poor design. However, several ophthalmologists have pointed out that Dawkins’ claim is simply untrue.

The Fall recorded in Genesis 3 explains why in addition to thorns and thistles we also have death, suffering, parasites and predators.

Ayala believes that natural selection explains the existence of cruelty in nature. In spite of this, he attempts to convince his audience that there is no conflict between evolution and faith. He feels that Richard Dawkins for instance is doing a disservice to science by ridiculing believers.

Ayala acknowledges that creationists and supporters of Intelligent Design are becoming more visible. This is remarkable, given that Darwinists have silenced dissenters and have a monopoly on school education and the media and popular press only propagate the Darwinian truth.

David Berlinski, a well-known philosopher and mathematician, has said that people distrust Darwinian evolution because they are not stupid. In other words, there is insufficient evidence of evolution to make it credible in the eyes of most people.

Source:

Lehrman, Sally. 2008. The Christian Man's Evolution: How Darwinism And Faith Can Coexist. Scientific American. 299:5, 74-75 (November 2008).
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-christian-mans-evolution&sc=WR_20081028

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Have They Found King Solomon’s Mines?



An 18th century Russian icon depicting King Solomon. Image from Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

The Old Testament describes King Solomon as a man of great wisdom, wealth and power. Jesus Christ spoke about him in the Gospels. A recent article in Biblical Archaeology Review suggested that a first century AD painting depicting his wise judgement has been found in the ruins of Pompeii.

The fame of King Solomon has also made its way into popular literature. For instance, the British writer Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) published a fictitious novel describing the adventures of Allan Quatermain, who eventually finds the mines in South Africa. Several popular films are based on the book.

However, some archaeologists known as minimalists have doubted the veracity of the Old Testament’s description of King Solomon. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University has suggested that archaeological evidence does not support the biblical record of Solomon.

A new radiocarbon dating of an old copper smeltery challenges Finkelstein’s claim. Recently, Los Angeles Times reported on a spectacular find that throws more light on the issue. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Thomas E. Levy of the University of California, San Diego, who has directed the excavations in Jordan, says a huge copper smelting plant found in the biblical land of Edom is at least 300 years older than previously thought.

While Levy does not say the find proves the veracity of the biblical record of Solomon, he says, “we've brought empirical data that shows we have to reevaluate those questions. We're back in the ballgame now."

Archaeologist William Schniedewind supports Levy. In his view, Levy “is completely right. The scientific evidence seems to be going in his favor."

While Finkelstein and other minimalists still doubt the significance of the find, the new radiocarbon dates square nicely with the biblical dates for King Solomon’s reign (971-931 BC).

The site Levy reports on is known as Khirbat en-Nahas or “ruins of copper” in Arabic. It is a 24-acre area 30 miles (50 km) south of the Dead Sea and 30 miles (50 km) north of Petra. It includes over 100 buildings. The huge amount of black slag, which is up to 20 feet (6 metres) deep, shows that the place was by far the largest iron age copper mine.

It is thus very likely that Levy is right and the remains of King Solomon’s mines have indeed been found.

This would be no surprise. We would expect the Bible to be a record of true history.

Recently, an old seal impression found in Jerusalem indicates that the old Testament writers recorded history meticulously and accurately.

Sources:

Feder, Theodore. 2008. Solomon, Socrates and Aristotle. Biblical Archaeology Review 34:5, 32-36 (September-October 2008).

Maugh II, Thomas H. 2008. Copper ruins in Jordan bolster biblical record of King Solomon. Los Angeles Times. (28 October)
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-sci-solomon28-2008oct28,0,1332762.story

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Thought of the Week: Fear is Embedded by Evolution in Our Lizard Brain


Brains inherited from this creature bring about fear, at least in the mind of the evolutionist.



Joel Kontinen

A recent issue of Time magazine had an interesting view on the current financial turmoil. Discussing the panic that started with the bank crisis in the USA, John Cloud said, “Fear is a persistent emotion, one embedded by evolution in our lizard brain.”

Cloud’s diagnosis is based on the assumption that humans are the product of natural selection and mutations.

However, the Book of Genesis tells us that man was created in the image of God. Knowing this, we have no need of believing in Darwinian storytelling.

Genesis is real history. We would not understand the New Testament without it. Jesus believed in a literal creation. He did not die for a myth but for the sin of Adam and Eve.

The Bible brings us comfort even in the midst of turbulent times. Repeatedly we see the words Do not be afraid on the pages of the holy book. The apostle John for instance wrote:

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:16-18).


Source:

Cloud, John. 2008. The Moment 10/6/08: New York. Time (European edition) 20 October, page 9.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

New Scientist on the Warpath - Once Again!



Expelled! seems to haunt New Scientist


Joel Kontinen

With Charles Darwin’s 150th birthday approaching, the popular British science magazine New Scientist has recently featured some rather militaristic articles. In early July it had an article entitled New Legal Threat to Teaching Evolution in the US and a recent print edition had an ever more exciting title: Creationists Declare War Over the Brain. Both articles were written by Amanda Gefter.

So what is going on? The July article was a report on the Louisiana Science Education Act that allowed a critical examination of Darwinian evolution in classrooms. Gefter used expressions like “the latest manoeuvre in a long-running war” to present her case that criticism of evolution endangers science education. Darwinian rhetoric notwithstanding, it seems that the only thing this act could threaten is an uncritical presentation of evolution as self-evident truth.

The more recent headlines had to do with the research of neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and other scientists who believe that matter cannot explain consciousness – a view that Darwinists consider heresy. In reporting on an international symposium called Beyond the Mind-Body Problem: New Paradigms in the Science of Consciousness that was held in September in New York, she used expressions like “battleground” and “war on science”.

New Scientist has a track record of using the terms creationism and intelligent design as synonyms, although the only thing that is common to both of them is criticism of Darwinian evolution. Moreover, in a typically Orwellian manner, by “science” the magazine almost always means “Darwinian evolution”.

When the Darwin centennial was celebrated in Chicago in 1959, Sir Julian Huxley announced that creationism was essentially dead. The recent articles adorning the pages of New Scientist magazine are at least proof of the growing suspicion that Huxley’s comment was probably slightly premature.

Could it be that Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which is now available as a DVD, bothers Darwinists more than they are willing to admit?


Sources:

Gefter, Amanda. 2008. New legal threat to teaching evolution in the US. New Scientist 9 July 2008. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19926643.300

Gefter, Amanda. 2008. Creationists declare war over the brain. New Scientist 22 October 2008. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026793.000?DCMP=NLC-nletter&nsref=mg20026793.000.

Whitcomb, John C. 2006. The History and Impact of the Book, "The Genesis Flood". Acts & Facts 35:5, I-iv. (May 2006) http://www.icr.org/article/2719/

Friday, 24 October 2008

Is Barack Obama's Agenda Anti-Christian?



Image from Wikipedia.


Joel Kontinen

Senator Obama said St. Paul’s teaching on the consequences of rejecting the Creator is an “obscure passage in Romans”. This is a very odd claim. Paul was the greatest theologian of the Christian Church and Romans is probably the most comprehensive account of early Christian theology.

There is nothing obscure in Romans 1. Paul teaches that people intuitively know that there is a Creator God but have refused to acknowledge this. The New International Version puts verse 20 like this: “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. “

Nothing very obscure here. The next verse describes how people reacted to God’s revelation in nature: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Paul says that men exchanged “the truth of God for a lie.” They were immoral, murderers and full of “every kind of wickedness”.

Senator Obama’s views of abortion and same-sex relations are diametrically opposed to what the Bible clearly teaches. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks about “the man of lawlessness” who will lead the rebellion against God. The Bible calls this man the Antichrist who, as his name implies, has an Anti-Christian agenda. Could he be Barack Obama?

The Old Testament Prophet Daniel says that this man “will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws.”

History has already seen some little antichrists. The depression of the 1930s brought Adolf Hitler to power in Germany. Like Obama, he succeeded in hypnotising the masses, both Christians and non-Christians, to vote him to power. Hitler changed many laws – to the detriment of Jews, Gypsies and Slavs who were unfortunate enough to live within the clutches of the German eagle.

Keeping this in mind, Obama’s low view of Scripture and his opinion on abortion seem extremely disturbing. In some European nations, abortion was followed by euthanasia. Like in Nazi Germany, it is the defenceless that are persecuted.

While I do not think that Senator Obama is the Antichrist of the Book of Revelation, his views might make him into a little Antichrist that the Gospel writer John warned about in his first letter: “This is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.”


Source:

Riley, Jennifer. 2008. Obama Uses Jesus' Sermon to Bolster Gay Civil Unions. Christian Post (4 March). http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080304/obama-uses-jesus-sermon-to-bolster-gay-civil-unions.htm

Monday, 20 October 2008

Dinosaurs in Alaska



How could dinosaurs find food in Alaska?



Joel Kontinen

We would not expect to see dinosaurs in Alaska. But Arctic Dinosaurs, a recent Nova program, examined an intriguing mystery: how could dinosaurs live in an arctic environment?

Palaeontologists have “unearthed dozens of dinosaurs—adults and juveniles—their bones jumbled together, fossilized, then locked in permafrost for eons, until now.” They have found eight different species at two sites along the Colville River. They dug up hundreds of fossils, including a 10.5-metre (35-foot) Edmontosaurus, a duck-billed herbivore or plant eater just 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the Arctic Ocean and a 9-metre (30-foot) Gorgosaurus, a carnivore.

There are three potential solutions for the existence of these dinosaur graveyards: (1) Alaska was warmer in the past, (2) the dinosaurs migrated there each year or (3) they were warm-blooded after all. As Hans-Dieter Sues of the Smithsonian Institution says in the program, “The traditional view was that dinosaurs were all overgrown reptiles that lived under tropical conditions. When we found polar dinosaurs, however, it was driven home to everyone that dinosaurs could live under different...and thrive under very different climate conditions.”

Migration would probably have to be dismissed as there was not much food in Alaska and the winters might have been too severe for dinosaurs even in near-by areas. While the warm-blood hypothesis might not be ruled out completely, it still leaves an all-important question unsanswered: how could giant plant-eaters find enough food during the severe winters?

This would seem to leave us with just one feasible solution to the riddle: perhaps Alaska was warmer in the past.

That scenario would fit in well with the biblical view of origins. The flood of Noah’s days would leave animal graveyards in its wake. It would also have changed the weather permanently. Creation scientists such as Michael Oard believe the post-flood conditions caused the ice age. In any case, the pre-Fall "very good" world would not have had any harsh weather.

Thus, from a biblical perspective the existence of dinosaur graveyards in Alaska is no mystery at all. On the contrary, if we believe that the Bible is a reliable account of history, we would expect to find traces of the great flood that destroyed all the people and land animals that were not on the ark.




Source:

Nova Transcripts. Arctic Dinosaurs. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/3511_arcticdino.html

Sunday, 19 October 2008

The Oldest Rocks in the World?





The Helvetinkolu Gorge in southern Finland. Estimates for the age of these rocks vary by a factor of over ten, from 150 million to 1.9 billion years.

Joel Kontinen

A group of geologists claims they have found the oldest rocks in the world. In a paper published in the journal Science they say that a piece of Nuvvuangittuq greenstone is 250 million years older than any known rock.

Samples taken from the rock were sent to the Carnegie Institute in Washington for a chemical analysis. The rocks were dated by the samarium-neodymium method. The age of the rocks ranged from 3. 8 to 4.28 billion years.

Don Francis, a professor of geology at the McGill University in Montreal, thinks 4.28 billion years is the most likely date.

The rock also contains ”a chemical signature” that may be evidence of life.

People often suppose that radiometric dating methods are reliable but they almost regularly give incongruous results. Radiometric methods do not measure age but the amount of certain isotopes. Researchers can never be absolutely sure of the original amounts of the isotopes and they also have to make several other assumptions. Thus, they have often had to re-date fossils, rocks and even caves.

In addition, the discovery of soft tissues in T. rex bones and of carbon-14 in diamonds weakens the belief in millions of years. Comets , Mercury’s magnetic field and Saturn's moon Titan also speak for a young solar system.

The belief in millions of years can be a very ideological issue especially for non-theists. The idea of an old earth is actually an assumption that saw daylight before the discovery of the earliest dating methods.




Source:

Morgan, James. 2008. Team finds Earth's 'oldest rocks' . BBC News. (26 September)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7639024.stm

Evolution in Action?






The cichlids of Lake Victoria found their way to the cover of Nature.

Joel Kontinen

Since the time of Charles Darwin, scientists have pondered how new species come into being. According to the Darwinian great story, all living beings are descendants of a single unicellular being that was not created but was formed accidentally.

Evolution needs changes and new species, otherwise it will stop.

Recently, the journal Nature published a study on the speciation of cichlids in Lake Victoria. A research team led by Ole Seehausen of the University of Bern observed the life of these East African fish. They noticed that in the murky waters of the lake, red light penetrates deeper than blue light. Thus, in shallow water the male cichlids were mostly green or blue whereas in deeper water they were bright red.

Karen Carleton of the University of Maryland explained that the fish specialise to different microhabitats or life at different depths. As reported by Physorg.com she went on to say, “The visual system then specialized to the light environment at these depths and the mating colors shifted to match. Once this happened, these two groups no longer interbred and so became new species."

There is no shortage of species in the world of evolutionists. For instance, Lake Victoria holds an estimated 500 species of cichlids.

Many evolutionists suppose that rapid speciation refutes creation. However, this is by no means true. The kinds of Genesis do not correspond to the biological concept "species". For instance, the dog kind (dog, wolf, dingo, coyote) belong to the same biblical baramin or created kind. Likewise, the horse, donkey and zebra belong to the same created kind.

Thus Noah did not have to take as many animals on board the ark as skeptics suppose. God created an enormous potential for change in each kind. But there is absolutely no proof of any created kind ever changing into a different kind. Thus all the cichlids of Lake Victoria belong to the same biblical kind.

The credibility of Nature’s cover story is weakened by the fact that the researchers did not observe the birth of a new species. As doctor Jonathan Wells explains, they merely examined existing species and drew conclusions that are rather misleading.

The recent article in Nature is a typical example of Darwinian storytelling, It is based on the assumption that evolution is a fact and that it happens all the time.

Sources:

Blake, Kelly. 2008. The Color of Evolution: How One Fish Became Two Fish. Physorg. Com. http://www.physorg.com/printnews.php?newsid=142615133

Seehausen, Ole, Yohey Terai, Isabel S. Magalhaes, Karen L. Carleton, Hillary D. J. Mrosso, Ryutaro Miyagi, Inke van der Sluijs, Maria V. Schneider, Martine E. Maan, Hidenori Tachida, Hiroo Imai & Norihiro Okada.. 2008. Speciation through sensory drive in cichlid fish. Nature 455, 620-626 (2 October 2008).

Wells, Jonathan. 2008. One Long Bluff. Evolution News & Views. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/10/one_long_bluff.html#more

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Human Evolution is Over

Our closest cousins according to T. H. Huxley. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia).





Joel Kontinen


Human evolution is about to stop as there are too few older fathers in the western world.

Recently, Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, disclosed that due to the scarcity of older fathers, we will have to say goodbye to human evolution. He explained that fathers who are over 35 probably pass on more mutations to their offspring than younger men.

According to Jones, evolution consists of three main elements – natural selection, mutation, and random change. He says that the amount of mutations has diminished considerably. He suspects that this is due to the fact that there are too few older fathers.

As reported by Times Online, professor Jones explained, “Every time there is a cell division, there is a chance of a mistake, a mutation, an error. For a 29-year old father there are around 300 divisions between the sperm that made him and the one he passes on – each one with an opportunity to make mistakes.”

He went on to say that for a 50-year old father there are over a thousand chances of errors. Thus, the decrease in the number of older fathers has an effect on how many mutations can appear.

Jones also thinks natural selection has weakened as people are living longer. Nowadays ethnic groups are more connected with others, which diminishes randomness. Taken together, these factors will bring human evolution to a standstill.

Paul Taylor of the Christian apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis (UK/Europe) summarises professor Jones’ ideas as follows:

1. Actual scientific evidence suggests that humans are not evolving today.
2. We don't have any evidence that they were evolving in the past either.
3. But we think that they were!


In other words, the idea of human evolution is entirely based on faith and storytelling that is typical of Darwinists.




Sources:

Belluz, Julia. 2008. Leading geneticist Steve Jones says human evolution is over. Times Online (7 October).
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article4894696.ece

Taylor, Paul. 2008. Human Evolution Has Stopped! Answers in Genesis UK/Europe Newsletter October 2008 (Issue 9)

Sunday, 12 October 2008

George Orwell and Darwin’s Thought Police



Beware what you think: Big Brother is watching (and listening)


Joel Kontinen

Concepts such as Thought Police and slogans like Ignorance is Strength that George Orwell wrote about on the pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four are alive and well in our midst.

The Darwinian Thought Police have been busy recently. In Britain, they forced the resignation of a leading scientist from the Royal Society. In the United States, they questioned the competency of a politician who had the temerity to suggest she would allow a critical examination of evolution in science education.

They would gladly keep as many people as possible ignorant of the flaws of Darwinian mechanisms, i.e. natural selection acting on random mutations, as these poor souls might otherwise end up not believing in evolution.

Evolutionists have adapted a very Orwellian use of words and tactics. Thus, by “science” they really mean “evolution” as in the National Center for Science Education. They only science they ever teach is (Neo) Darwinian evolution (the goo-to-you variety). Thus, anyone disagreeing with Darwin is by definition an anti-science bigot although most of the founding fathers of modern science were Christians who believed in a literal creation and a world wide flood. It was only later that Darwinists hijacked the word science.

Now, as Richard Dawkins and many other fellow-believers would agree, evolution is a great story that seeks to replace the Christian account of creation. There is a difference between being created in the image of God and being the result of natural selection acting on random mutations.

Some Christians have tried to make their peace with Charles Darwin by trying to combine atheistic evolution with the revelation of the God of the Bible. However, just like Christ and Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15) do not mix, it is impossible to marry two great stories that are alternative ways of looking at reality.



Source:

Orwell, George. 2001 (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. London: The Folio Society.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Time For a Green Bible?




Joel Kontinen

What has going green to do with the Bible? More than we would suppose, if we are to take a new Bible edition at face value.

While the text itself is not new, a Bible with an emphasis on the environment is a rather green idea. According to the publisher, the purpose of the book is “to show how we can care for and protect God's creation”.

HarperCollins has produced a new edition called The Green Bible. While many readers are familiar with red-letter Bibles, in which Jesus’ words are printed in red, the new Bible has over 1000 verses that “speak to God's care for creation highlighted in green”.

The HarperOne website states, “The Green Bible will equip and encourage people to see God's vision for creation and help them engage in the work of healing and sustaining it.”

The text follows the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which was first published in 1989. The NRSV is a revision of the older Revised Standard Version. While evangelicals might have preferred the New International Version (NIV), the Green Bible nevertheless reminds us of an important but often forgotten aspect of God’s revelation to mankind: According to Genesis 2:15 God entrusted man with the task of taking care of the Garden of Eden. Some Bibles, such as Luther’s now revised German translation, also speak of protecting the garden.

The Green Bible itself is printed on paper that is guaranteed to hail from “well-managed forests” with 10 per cent being made from recycled paper. Moreover, the ink is soy-based and the cover is made from cotton and linen.

In addition to the Bible text, The Green Bible has a foreword by archbishop Desmond Tutu and essays by other well-known Protestant and Catholic leaders such as Pope John Paul II and bishop N. T. Wright.

The Green Bible received a basically positive response from Time’s religion editor David van Biema in the September 29 issue.

While the New Testament puts more emphasis on the Great Commission than on the stewardship mandate, The Green Bible reminds us that the entire creation is God’s creation and we should take good care of it.





Sources:

HarperOne. http://greenletterbible.com/

van Biema, David. 2008. The Good Book Goes Green. Time (Europe) 172:13, 43.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Genesis is History


Hebrew scholar believes Genesis is history. Adam and Eve at AIG's Creation Museum.




Joel Kontinen

Associate Professor Steven W. Boyd, who has a Ph.D. in Hebraic and Cognate Studies, examined the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 statistically and concluded that it was historical narrative.

Ancient Hebrew poetry uses parallelism, for instance Psalm 8:4 uses a literary device called synonymic parallelism:

what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?


The same thing is described twice in different words (man – son of man, mindful of – care for).

Genesis chapter 1 does not use such parallelism. Doctor Steven W. Boyd compared Genesis 1 to a number of Old Testament passages in which the same story is described both as historical narrative and as poetry. These include:

· Crossing the Red Sea: Exodus 14 (historical narrative) vs. Exodus 15:1–19 (poetry)
· The victory of Barak and Debora over the Canaanites: Judges 4 (historical narrative) vs. Judges 5 (poetry)
· The creation account: Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 (historical narrative) vs. Psalm 104 (poetry).

By computing the distribution of preterites to finite verbs and assessing the results statistically doctor Boyd concluded that the probability of Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 being prose is 0.999972604.

James Barr, Oriel Professor of the interpretation of the Holy Scripture, Oxford University, wrote:

Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that:
1. creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience
2. the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story
3. Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.


While professor Barr did not believe that the Genesis account is literal history, he nevertheless confirmed Boyd’s conclusion.

Boyd is more consistent: he believes that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is a reliable historical account of creation. His study was part of the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) project of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR).

Sources:

Barr, James. 1984. Letter to David C.C. Watson, 23 April 1984.

Boyd, Steven W. 2004. The Biblical Hebrew Creation Account: New Numbers Tell The Story. Acts & Facts 33:11, i-iv (November 2004).

Don’t Hurt the Feelings of Your Hibiscus!



Treat me with respect.

Joel Kontinen

Plants have intrinsic dignity and we should thus take an ethical approach to them. This is the conclusion reached by the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) in a survey study entitled The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants. Moral Consideration of Plants for Their Own Sake.

This study was awarded the 2008 Ig Nobel peace prize. The Ig Nobels are presented each year at Harvard University at about the same time as the real Nobels in Scandinavia. The ten prizes are a parody of the ones awarded in memory of Alfred Nobel.

The decisions of the Ig Nobel Committee can be surprising. In 2005 the literature prize was presented to a group of Nigerian Internet entrepreneurs who had e-mailed amazingly touching short stories to readers all over the world.

Urs Thurnherr, of the University of Education in Karlsruhe, German, a member of the Swiss Biotechnology Committee, attended the Ig Noble ceremony and accepted the peace prize on behalf of his colleagues. In his speech he asked the audience whether anyone had forgotten to water their plants. If the plants died, "did that make you uneasy in any way?”

Offending plants and causing agony to them should obviously cause us to feel compunction.

For a long time, animal rights activists have tried to do away with the differences that separate humans and animals. In 2007 they made headlines in Austria after attempting to secure juridical rights for a chimpanzee. They gave a 26-year old chimp the name Matthew Hiasl Pan, but the Austrian supreme court judged that it was not justified to regard an ape as a person. In June 2007, however, chimpanzees got limited human rights in Spain.

Animal rights activists and the Ig Noble Committee are not the only ones who try to elevate the status of chimpanzees and plants. Science text books and natural history museums also emphasise the similarities between humans and apes – and often in a misleading way.

If the differences between humans, animals and plants are made more fuzzy, we might soon have to treat our fair trade bananas ethically by not eating them.

We might discern an evolution connection in this year’s choice of the Ig Nobel peace prize. According to to the prevailing great story based on Darwinian evolution, all living beings are supposed to have evolved from the same unicellular organism before the dawn of history. One might, however, ask whether plants are really living and feeling beings.

But there are no prizes for asking such questions.

Sources:

Improbable Research. 2008. The 2008 Ig Noble Prize Winners.
http://improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2008

Nadis, Steve. 2008. An Ig Nobel diary. Nature News(3 October) http://www.nature.com/news/2008/081003/full/news.2008.1150.html#B2

Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants. Moral Consideration of Plants for Their Own Sake. http://www.ekah.admin.ch/uploads/media/e-Broschure-Wurde-Pflanze-2008.pdf

Friday, 3 October 2008

Harun Yahya: Darwinists Should Apologise for Their Lies




Ernst Haeckel’s fabricated embryo drawings. Image from Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

With Charles Darwin’s 200th anniversary approaching, the Church of England has issued an apology to Darwin.

However, Adnan Oktar, a Turkish anti-evolutionist and activist who uses the pen name Harun Yahya, says that it is the Darwinists who should publicly apologise for their lies. Yahya lists a number of hoaxes such as Piltdown man, Nebraska man, horse evolution, Ernst Haeckel’s fabricated embryo drawings, sticking dead peppered moths on tree trunks and feathers to a dinosaur fossil (Archaeoraptor) that have been used to propagate Darwinian evolution.

Yahya also says that evolution leads to discrimination. He mentions the case of Michael Reiss. Doctor Reiss had to step down from his post as Director of Education at the Royal Society after saying that creationism was a worldview that should not be despised in science classes at school.

Harun Yahya has become famous through his tens of books, especially the massive Atlas of Creation in which he places fossils of extinct animals side by side with modern forms and shows that they have hardly changed. The work has also attracted some criticism since Yahya’s organisation also posted the book to several well-known evolutionists, including Richard Dawkins.

Yahya, who is a Muslim, seems to believe in an old earth and often appeals to the Qur’an.

In Turkey, Yahya is a controversial individual who probably also has political ambitions.

Source:

Yahya, Harun. 2008. The Global Darwinist Dictatorship Must Apologize to the Entire World!
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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Why Critical Thinking is Dangerous


The Ancients were not as ignorant as Secular Humanists suppose. Image of the Antikythera Mechanism, courtesy of Wikipedia.




Joel Kontinen


Massimo Pigliucci, who is known for his anti-ID views, wrote a comment on Sarah Palin’s views on science education. His piece was mostly full of rhetoric and empty of facts. Pigliucci, a professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, seems to be afraid that opposing Darwinism raises “a nation of ignorant bigots whose understanding of the world is no better than that of a tribe of ancient middle eastern people wandering around the desert thousands of years ago.”

What Pigliucci has failed to sees is that archaeology and historical finds have shown that ancient people were no ignoramuses. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah, for instance, already knew that the earth was round.

Recent research on the Antikythera Mechanicm revealed that the Greeks were more advanced than we thought. A few weeks ago I visited the ruins of Ephesus and saw that the Romans were no simpletons either.

Pigliucci admits that he is not sure whether Sarah Palin is a creationist but has dug up a two-year old interview in which she advocated open discussion on origin issues in class. She later explained that this would not mean including creationism as part of the curriculum.

Open debate is one thing the Darwinists are afraid of. As Eugenie Scott put it, “In my opinion, using creation and evolution as topics for critical-thinking exercises in primary and secondary schools is virtually guaranteed to confuse students about evolution and may lead them to reject one of the major themes in science.”

Ergo, allowing students to think critically might cause them to doubt Darwinian evolution.

Pigliucci writes that open debate would probably make kids conclude that the earth is flat. In his view, a belief in creation is “superstitious nonsense that harks back to an earlier era of ignorance about how the world works.

Just how objective is this view? Professor Pigliucci writes for Skeptical Inquirer and has for instance taken part in a conference called One Nation Without God? The others speakers included Christopher Hitchens, Paul Kurtz and Eugenie Scott, who are all atheists.

This might say something about the objectivity of his approach, not forgetting the fact that this conference was arranged by the Council for Secular Humanism.

In a survey of the basic tenets of secular humanism, Fred Edwords says that belief in a transcendent God involves “arbitrarily taking a leap of faith and… abandoning reason and the senses.”

This, of course, is a deeply philosophical stance and cannot be supported by science, history or even evidence.

On the contrary, there is much that speaks for the presence of a transcendent God who has revealed Himself in history as Jesus Christ.

In the Soviet Union, science was seen to support the claims of Marxism. Open political discussion was suppressed. Dissenters were often sent to mental asylums. The attitude of some Darwinists is beginning to sound like the approach of the Soviet comrades who definitely knew they were right and all others were wrong.




Sources:

The Cowtown Humanist. April 2003 Volume 5, No. 1http://www.hofw.org/news/news-apr-03-3.htm

Edwords, Fred. 1984. Humanism in Perspective. American Humanist Association. Leaflet reprint from the Humanist, Jan/Feb 1984.

Pigliucci, Massimo. 2008. LiveScience. Is Sarah Palin a Creationist? (1 September) http://www.livescience.com/culture/080901-sb-palin-creationist.html

Witham Larry. 2002. Where Darwin Meets the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press.