In 2013 a 10,000-ton 60-foot (20 m) wide asteroid entered the Earth’s atmospheric shield and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The explosion occurred 18 miles (29 km) above the Earth emitting a shock wave equivalent to 10 Hiroshima bombs.
A team led by Dr. Jay Melosh of Purdue University has extensively studied what controls how much damage a rock from space can cause. Dr. Melosh’s research was funded by NASA’s Office of Planetary Defense, and some interesting facts have come from the research. According to the study, Hollywood disaster movies aren’t even close to being realistic. Dr. Melosh says “Realistic stuff doesn’t make a good story. Hollywood usually manages to get it wrong.”
Meteoroids are hunks of rock that come in all shapes and sizes and with different amounts of porousness. As a rock enters the atmosphere, air pressure builds up in front of it, and a vacuum develops behind it. For most porous rocks, the air will rush into the rock and blow off pieces, like an air hose blowing in a bucket of sand. The design of the Earth’s atmosphere is what causes the break-up of the meteoroids. It is only if they are too big to blow apart that they hit the Earth leaving a crater such as Meteor Crater in Arizona.
When I took my earth science students on our annual field trip to Lake Michigan, we did a “magnetism and history” exercise showing Earth’s magnetic reversals. We would go to the large sand dune known as “Old Baldy” (no, not named after me), cover a bar magnet with a white handkerchief, and stick it into the sand. The handkerchief would come out completely covered with little black needles of magnetite which is a magnetic iron oxide.
There was a nearby pool where the water was calm and where you could see the magnetic pieces with a pair of binoculars. They pretty much lined up in the same direction, and I showed the students that they were lined up with a compass needle. We would then dig down several feet into the sand to a layer of mud where the magnetite pieces pointed every which way. I would ask my students to tell me why that would be. Most of them said that the Earth must have lost its magnetic field at the time when that mud was deposited. I then told them if we dug down deeper we would find the magnetite pieces lined up again, but in the opposite direction. The point was obvious–the magnetic field of the Earth had flipped.
In reality, there are several other possible causes for the scrambled magnetite pieces, but the magnetic reversal did happen. In the mid-ocean ridge of the Atlantic, lava flows have trapped the magnetite. The process is called “thermoremanent magnetization.” Because the lava flows happened multiple times, they show a picture of the history of the Earth’s magnetic reversals. These lava flows have recorded over a dozen “flips” in the magnetic field of Earth.
Archaeologist Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University has led studies of the history of magnetic changes on the Earth. Ancient pottery has tiny magnetic minerals that were aligned with the Earth’s magnetic field when the pottery was fired in the kiln. The stronger the magnetic field, the greater the alignment of the magnetic particles. From the late eighth to the second century B.C., ceramic jars bearing the impressions of royal stamps were manufactured in and around Jerusalem. Scientists have studied handles from 67 pieces of pottery, and they have found that the magnetic field of the Earth has gone through periodic rises and falls throughout history. The mapping of the magnetic fields gives a record of history, with small changes producing a pattern that improves dating techniques by a huge factor.
What causes the Earth’s magnetic field is still not completely understood, and the magnetic reversals are even more of a mystery. By measuring the magnetic particles in the pottery, scientists can date the pottery very accurately. This dating method can answer many questions about ancient kings and kingdoms including the major figures in the history of Israel.
From the beginning of this ministry, we have been involved in working with individuals who are incarcerated. The toughest part of prison ministry is inescapable. It is dealing with children who are experiencing incredible pain because of the actions of their parents.
Ezekiel 18:20 makes it clear, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son…” Still, children who are not guilty of any wrongdoing suffer when a parent is put in jail. It is excruciating to be part of “visitation” at a prison as children cry out for love and attention and can’t understand the reason for an end to the visit that always comes way too soon.
This issue has far-reaching consequences for all of us. Dr. Molinda Chartrand who works with both military families and incarcerated people says, “Hitting, biting, and hyperactivity are much more frequent when a parent is deployed or incarcerated.” Very young children who have a parent absent from the home have a 5% higher incident rate of behavior problems than the general population. Older preschoolers have a 20% higher rate.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that an estimated 2 million children with one or both parents incarcerated face the greatest risk of perpetuating the cycle of crime. Nearly 50% of all state prison inmates have either another family member in prison or have a family member who has been in prison.
There is a huge need for Christians to get involved in efforts to help address this problem. God’s plan for the family is the only plan that works. When the family is disrupted for whatever reason, it is the children who suffer as much as anyone. The toughest part of prison ministry is ministering to the children of inmates.
A very long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, two neutron stars circled each other. They got closer and closer, speeding up as they did so. They reached a speed of 100 orbits every second, and then they collided. The collision was so violent that a gravitational wave was sent out and a cloud of subatomic particles was released that produced large amounts of gold, platinum, and uranium. As that happened, a blast of high energy gamma rays was released. By this process, we received a glimpse of God’s incredible power as the energy reached Earth last August.
As astronomers were watching at 8:41 AM EDT on August 17, 2017, they observed the gravitational waves followed 1.7 seconds later by the gamma-ray burst. They gave the identification of SSS17a to the merger of the two neutron stars. Its location was in galaxy NGC 4993. Astronomers were amazed at the timing of the collision and the fact that they had their telescopes in the right place at the right time to observe and measure it. Astronomer Ryan Foley says, “We’ve been walking around for all of humanity being able to see the universe but not able to hear it. Now we get both. It’s even hard to predict where this field will go.”
The location of the collision was so far away that it happened some 130 million years ago and it took the energy that long to reach the Earth. Science is now beginning to understand God’s creation of gravity. Also, scientists are learning how heavy elements like gold and platinum were produced.
Chinese scientists have discovered a block of sandstone three meters square that has more than 215 fossilized eggs. The eggs are from one species of flying reptiles known as Hamipterus tianshanensis–a pterosaur from the Cretaceous geological period. When scientists find that many eggs in one place, they can establish a great many facts about how the animals reproduced and lived. There is no question about the arrangement of the bones or how they developed.
We have suggested that dinosaurs had a very large role in the development of the resources on Earth that humans would eventually need. Knowing how these animals lived, what they ate, how they got around, and how they interacted with their environment helps us understand that role. In this case, the eggs contain at least 16 embryos for study.
One of the world’s most important prizes in academics is the Templeton Prize. Nominees for this prize of over a million dollars must have qualities “of creativity and innovation, rigor and impact… and above all a substantial record of achievement that highlights or exemplifies one of the various ways in which human beings express their yearning for spiritual progress.”
The 2017 winner is Dr. Alvin Carl Plantinga. Time magazine (April 5, 1980) described Plantinga as “America’s leading orthodox Protestant philosopher of God.” In 1982 he was appointed as the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame where he taught until 2010. As a graduate student at Notre Dame during those years, I was personally affected by Dr. Plantinga’s work. I have followed his teachings as he returned to Calvin College in Grand Rapids where he and his family started their careers. Dr. Plantinga has degrees and honors from major universities all around the world including Harvard, Yale, University of Michigan, Oxford, and Glasgow, just to mention a few.
What qualifies Alvin Plantinga is not his degrees or honors, but his work. The question of how to comprehend the existence of evil in a world where God is omnipotent and omniscient has been the focus of Plantinga’s work. The relationship and compatibility of scientific and religious belief and evolutionary arguments against naturalism are two of the main themes that Plantinga presents and defends in his books. He also challenges the militant atheism and materialism that exists in the minds of many people today. He argues that the real conflict is not in the disciplines–not between science and religion–but rather between theism and naturalism. Plantinga’s reviews of atheists Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins concludes that their work is “poor philosophy masquerading as science.”
In the 1970s there was a lot of attention paid to a community of ascetics known as the Essenes. This group lived in the Qumran area near the Dead Sea and were probably the producers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the past, skeptics of Christianity have suggested that they were the originators of Christian teachings and of Jesus himself. The Essenes expected a “Teacher of Righteousness” who would rise from the dead.
As scholars probed more deeply, it became obvious that there were huge differences that invalidated attempts to discredit Christianity by ascribing its teachings to the Essenes. The Essenes were ultraconservative Jews, many of whom rejected marriage and attempted to hide from the Romans.
On November 16, 2017, anthropologist Yossi Nagar of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem presented a study of 33 newly discovered skeletons found at Qumran. Carbon-14 dating puts the bones at 2200 years ago, close to the dates of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The bones are mostly, if not all, from adult males and have no signs of having been in combat, so they were not soldiers.
In February of 2017, researchers found another cave that seems to have held more scrolls or pieces of leather or papyrus that were ready to be used for writing. The significance of the finds is that they may lead to more scrolls in the area. Questions about who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls do need to be answered to establish the validity of the documents.
The Does God Exist? ministry is heavily involved in educational programs. Right now we have 3600 students taking our correspondence courses in apologetics. Most of those students are confined to prisons all over the country. With our financial assistance, twelve of the students have gone on to receive college degrees.
Every year we have offered $1000 scholarships to graduating seniors to help them attend a university program. Students are selected based on their writing a paper on the compatibility of science and faith. Many of those papers have appeared in our printed journal.
We hope to offer another “Canyonlands Field Trip” this fall. This trip is also an educational program because it includes a college-level course in the geology and geomorphology of the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area.
In 2015 the “Clayton Museum of Ancient History” opened at York College in York, Nebraska. It displays artifacts collected by Foster Stanback. Foster selected the name for the museum as a token of appreciation for this ministry. Amber Soderholm has been the museum designer and curator. She has built a program of interactive learning for children in the museum and developed a program with 15 “Junior Docents” which meet each week. The museum also features temporary exhibits, like the current one on Martin Luther. Thanks to Amber’s hard work, 10,000 visitors have come to the museum since it opened. For more about the museum go to www.claytonmuseumofancienthistory.org.
Skeptics like to claim that the Bible is full of errors and cannot be trusted as a guide to how we should live. Some of them spend a great amount of time and energy trying to find errors in the Bible. They look for anything they think is historically wrong, or in contradiction to something stated elsewhere in the Bible.
We can often answer the skeptics’ challenges by looking carefully at the original language and the oldest manuscripts. What biblical critics tend to ignore is the constant verification of biblical statements. Archaeological finds continue to support the biblical record, but since they don’t have political value, the press rarely reports them.
With President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, one seemingly minor find has been reported. On January 1, 2018, the Israel Antiquities Commission released information about a token that was found in the old city near the Western Wall. It is 2700 years old and bears an inscription that says, “Property of the Governor of the City.”
The implications of the find for the politics of today are obvious. What interests us is that fact that this validates passages of Scripture that say there was a “Governor of the City” in Old Testament times. One is in 2 Kings 23:8 which identifies a man named Joshua with that role. At another time 2 Chronicles 34:8 identifies Maaseiah as governor of the city.
With the start of 2018, we are now beginning the second year of Does God Exist? Today. We started these daily posts last January, and we now have a worldwide outreach. This website features the kind of information found in the “News and Notes” column in our printed quarterly publication. However, because Does God Exist? Today is published daily, the information is more up-to-date. In our first year, the site has been growing, and we are now getting about 2,500 views per month.
During 2017, in addition to the daily posts on the new Does God Exist? Today website, we have continued daily posts on our Facebook page. That page continues to get the attention of people around the world. We now have more than 20,000 followers. Most of the posts on the Facebook page deal with subjects related to evidence of design in the universe and in living things. We have dealt with that topic for years in our printed publications and also on our Dandy Designs website. We are working on getting the Facebook posts into a collection that we will use to update our Dandy Designs website. Watch for that in 2018.
Also in 2017 we redesigned our DoesGodExist.tv website (Does God Exist? Media) where you can view our entire video series. During 2017 we added four new videos for a total of 36. Also on that site you will find access to our audio series and as well as other materials. There is also our original website DoesGodExist.org where you can read the current issue of our printed journal plus many other articles.