There is a wonderful example of how the way things are written can affect understanding in the July 2018 issue of Reader’s Digest (page 48). The story is that a professor wrote the following sentence on the blackboard: “Woman without her man is nothing.” He then asked each person in the class to rewrite the sentence with correct punctuation. The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.” The women wrote: “Woman! Without her, man is nothing.” It is obvious that punctuation causes misunderstandings!
When one reads the Bible in English, the same problem occurs. The original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible were written in a completely different way from modern English. The original documents usually have no punctuation and sometimes not even spaces between words. This is rarely an issue for someone simply trying to understand the basic message, but when people start digging into questions that are technical in nature, it can become an issue.
An example of this is Genesis 1:1-2a. In the King James Bible, there is no punctuation. The Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible reads “In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth– the earth hath existed waste and void.” In my studies with Jewish scholars, I was told that the understanding of this in their tradition is that God created the Earth and heavens and the earth became wasted and chaotic.
Many skeptics of the Bible attempt to suggest that the biblical record of the Exodus, Moses, and Israel is fiction. They say that most of the Old Testament contains made-up stories with no historical support. However, with further discoveries, biblical history gains new support.
Michael Zellmann-Rohrer of the University of Oxford has recently translated a large papyrus document discovered in 1934 at the pyramid of Senusret I at Lisht in Lower Egypt. The text is written in Coptic, an Egyptian language that adapts the Greek alphabet. The document contains references to Abraham and Isaac from the Book of Genesis and quotations from a prayer by Seth, a son of Adam and Eve. This papyrus does not come from the time of the Exodus, but it shows strong connections to the biblical record in Egypt that endured to the time of Christ and beyond. (Reference: ArchaeologyJuly/August 2018, page 16.)
In our websites and publications, we have repeatedly given examples of evidence showing that what the Bible says is true. We also have a DVD series on biblical archaeology by Dr. Harvey Porter. We are currently working on new programs on archaeology and history for our “Does God Exist?” video series. They are taught by John Cooper and recorded in the Clayton Museum of Ancient History at York College in York, Nebraska. Those new programs will be available by the fall of 2018.
You may think that pigeons are more of a nuisance than anything else. Many of us have had to scrub pigeon droppings off of statues or home decorations. The sheer number of pigeons that we see in our cities can make us take these birds for granted. Discover magazine for August 2018 published a dossier of the unique features of the common pigeon, also known as the rock pigeon or rock dove. These features show it is incredibly well-designed to survive in almost any environment on Earth. Here are some interesting characteristics:
Pigeons are one of only three kinds of birds that have an enlarged crop which is an extension of the esophagus. They use this crop to store food which they eventually give to their young.
Most birds drink by taking in water and then putting their heads back to allow the water to run into their stomach. Pigeons have a unique beak that acts like a straw enabling them to suck up the water.
Wing muscle makes up about 60% of a pigeon’s body weight making pigeons excellent flyers. They can cover 500 miles a day and can reach speeds of 50 mph.
Pigeons can navigate in ways that are still poorly understood by scientists. Experiments have shown they can use sound, magnetic fields, landmarks, the Sun, and even smell. Like the Arctic Tern, the common pigeon seems to possess multiple navigational tools.
Pigeons have a concept of self and can recognize themselves in a reflection. There are only six other animals that can do that.
Pigeons are more capable than babies and toddlers in recognizing the letters of the alphabet.
Pigeons use “fright molt” which is the ability to shed feathers when attacked.
Science fiction writers and UFO proponents like to propose strange looking aliens that can do incredible feats. The common octopus is a beautifully designed and incredibly intelligent animal that could compare to any intelligent alien of science fiction.
The octopus has no bones in its body, in fact, the only hard part of an octopus is its beak. That means that the octopus can take any shape and fit through almost any opening. One famous example is an octopus that escaped from an aquarium in New Zealand. That animal picked apart the lid on its aquarium, crawled out, went across the room and down through a drain hole that led to the sea and has never been seen again.
Octopus arms are muscular, boneless, and lined with suckers that are covered with chemoreceptors similar to our own taste buds. An octopus can taste everything it touches. They live in oceans around the world from equatorial waters to Antarctica and the Gulf of Alaska and from deep-water trenches to shallow reefs.
The arms are also filled with neurons, so the brain cells of an octopus are in its arms and not its dome. The octopus has sacs of pigments which are controlled by the muscles. It can release this “ink” as a defense mechanism. Its arms also have cells that reflect and scatter light. That means an octopus can control what it looks like. It can resemble a sea snake, a fish, anemones, jellyfish, sand, or seaweed. It’s a master of disguise. In addition to the right color and form some octopus species copy the movements of whatever animal they imitate. The camouflage does not seem to be accidental but is controlled by the octopus itself.
For a soft-bodied animal to survive in the ocean, some unique characteristics must be designed into its DNA. We think the number of features the octopus has is astounding. To have one unique characteristic might be possible–produced by a mutation and supported by natural selection. To have all of the abilities of an octopus would not happen by one mutation. Fossil evidence indicates that octopuses have been around throughout the history of the oceans. They even predate the dinosaurs.
Does Your GPS work? If so, you can give credit to Albert Einstein. In 1905 Einstein published the Theory of Special Relativity which said that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. This presented a problem because gravity acts between objects instantly and thus it seems to be faster than the speed of light. It was a problem that needed a solution.
Ten years later, in 1915 Einstein revealed his Theory of General Relativity which resolved the problem. The explanation was that the Sun and planets cause space to curve around them and this warped shape of space influences the motion of other objects passing by them. That’s why the Moon orbits the Earth, and it’s why Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun.
This warping of space also bends light beams that pass through space. In 1919 British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington confirmed that Einstein was correct. Eddington observed the bending of light from distant stars as the light passed by the Sun during a total solar eclipse.
The understanding of how gravity bends space and light beams has given us methods of making measurements in space and detecting planets orbiting other stars. Einstein also said that time is warped by gravity causing time to move more slowly near massive bodies like the Earth. The effect of gravity on time allows Global Positioning Satellites to determine the exact position of the GPS receiver you use in your car.
Have you ever wondered why plants grow up instead of down? Take a bean, a grain of corn, or any other seed and lay it on top of wet soil until it germinates. The root will grow out of the seed and turn downward into the soil. The shoot will go upward. It doesn’t matter which direction you position the seed when it germinates. Even if the seed germinates in a place where there is no light, the root still goes down, and the stem goes up.
After the root and stem are growing, take the seed and turn it upside down with the root pointing straight up. The root will turn around and head back down into the soil. Take a potted plant and lay it on its side so that it’s horizontal. If the dirt doesn’t fall out, the plant will make a turn and go upward and its roots downward.
Trees on a hillside don’t grow perpendicular to the slope. They grow upward, and the roots grow downward. If there is a landslide and the tree is left horizontal, it will turn and start growing upward again. Amazing, isn’t it?
This ability of plants to know up from down is called gravitropism. Only in recent years has science begun to learn the secrets of how it works. In the cells of the plant, there are particles called statoliths. They normally sit on the bottom of gravity sensing cells. When the plant is tipped, they move and send a message to the growth regulating cells that the direction of gravity has changed. The roots react positively and go toward the source of gravity. The stem responds negatively and goes in the opposite direction.
There are many differences between men and women, but you realize that there are color vision gender differences?
Light is electromagnetic radiation that stimulates our eyes. There are only specific frequencies of the electromagnetic frequency spectrum that we can see. Frequencies below the range of visible light are called infrared. We can sometimes feel infrared radiation as heat, but we can’t see it, although some animals can. Frequencies higher than visible light are ultraviolet which we can’t see, but it affects our skin and can cause sunburn. Some animals can see infrared light.
Within the visible spectrum of light that humans can see, different bands of frequencies affect our eyes differently. Most of us have receptors in our eyes for the wavelengths which we call red, green, and blue. When light stimulates those receptors, they send a signal to our brain which combines the signals to allow us to see many variations in colors.
People with colorblindness (mostly men) have one of those color receptor categories missing. The missing color may be either red or green. Why are men colorblind more often than women? The genes that encode the red and green receptors are located in the X-chromosome. Men have one X- and one Y-chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes. That means that if a man has a defective X-chromosome, he is out of luck. A woman would need to have two defective X-chromosomes to be colorblind.
We all know that lightning can be dangerous. Each year people are killed, and a great deal of property damage occurs because of lightning. We don’t usually consider the benefits of this powerful force. Nitrogen in the soil is essential for plants to grow and lightning is a natural method of adding nitrogen to the soil.
Although lightning can be dangerous, it also produces materials that are critical to life. All living things depend on the chemical element nitrogen. Your body contains molecules known as proteins. Proteins are made up of several elements, including nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for proteins, but it is very hard to make nitrogen into proteins. Even though nitrogen makes up 78 percent of our atmosphere, we don’t get any nitrogen from the air we breathe. With each breath, we inhale and exhale nitrogen without using it. The nitrogen in the atmosphere has three electron bonds between the atoms, and that is a very strong and stable chemical arrangement. It takes an enormous amount of energy to break those bonds to free the nitrogen.
When lightning slices through the atmosphere, it knocks electrons from nitrogen atoms. The atoms are then free to combine with oxygen and hydrogen in the atmosphere forming nitrates. Rain carries this new compound to the ground enriching the soil with nitrates which are the building blocks of proteins. Plants synthesize the nitrates into proteins. When animals eat the plants, they get proteins. When we eat the plants or animals, we get the proteins we need to build more proteins.
Everyone knows that electrons allow us to have computers and other electrical devices, but you may not realize how many ways electrons are essential. The mass, charge, magnetic properties, and spin of electrons are all designed to make life possible. It is amazing that something far too small for us to see is so important.
The changing momentum of electrons creates light which is essential for life. Electrons are also the fundamental cause of all that happens in chemistry. Atoms bond with other atoms to make molecules by exchanging or by sharing electrons. The complex organic molecules in your body, including DNA, are held together by electrons. The properties of every element in the universe are determined by how its electrons are arranged around the nucleus.
The oxygen atom with eight electrons joins with two single-electron hydrogen atoms to form water. The arrangement of the electrons in the oxygen atom causes the oxygen/hydrogen union to form in a way that gives water its unusual properties. The arrangement of electrons and the way the atoms bond causes water to dissolve salts, freeze from the top down, form crystals when freezing, and have surface tension. Without these unique properties of water, life would not be possible on Earth.
The arrangement of the six electrons in the carbon atom allows it to form enormous numbers of carbon compounds in various patterns. Because carbon can build so many organic compounds, our carbon-based life can exist. Without the particular arrangement of electrons in oxygen and carbon, life would not be possible.
Today is the day of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the longest day and the beginning of summer north of the Equator and the shortest day and beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere. Today everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, daylight will be more than 12 hours. In the Southern Hemisphere, daylight will be less than 12 hours.
The reason we have changing seasons of the year is that the Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees in relation to the Sun. As Earth orbits the Sun, the North Pole tilts directly toward the Sun today. At the same time, the South Pole is tilted away from the Sun. In exactly six months, the opposite will be true.
Why is the tilt of the Earth a good thing? If we didn’t have a tilted Earth, less of the planet would be hospitable for life. The area of the Equator would be extremely hot, and the northern and southern regions of the planet would be extremely cold all year. Without the changing seasons, the annual cycle of life would not happen. Life on Earth would not only be much more difficult, but it would also be much less interesting. If the tilt were much greater than 23.5 degrees, the extremes of the seasons would be much more dramatic. All animals and humans would have to migrate to survive.
The tilt of planet Earth is one of many “just right” factors that make our world not just a suitable place for life to exist, but an excellent place for advanced life to thrive. We think that is not an accident but by design. Will we ever find life on any other planet? The chances seem to be slim for any life. The prospect of finding another planet able to support advanced life is next to impossible. If God wanted to, He could create life anywhere. At present, in spite of the best efforts of astronomers to find a comparable planet, there seems to be no place like home.