One of the interesting things going on in the world today is how we use our money. The sale of a T. rex fossil is one example. The skeleton of a massive dinosaur can bring huge profits to the owner. Recently a 13-foot tall Tyrannosaurus rex fossil known as “Stan” was sold at Christie’s Auction House for $32,000,000. Most of us would wonder why anyone would spend that kind of money on a fossil? Sarah Rose Sharp gave a possible answer in Hyperallergic.com:
“And honestly, can we find a more contemporary symbol than a tyrant king who stomps on all other living things with no regard for propriety, before witnessing the extinction of his species based on natural science beyond his control?”
Daily we see reports of leaders in politics, media, and technology raking in vast amounts of money no matter who gets hurt in the process.Jesus dealt with this mindset in His day. The parable Jesus told in Luke 12:16-21 is a picture of what is happening today. We should heed His follow-up teaching in verses 22-34. The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21 tell us what we should hold as important. Luke 18:10-14 demonstrates the attitude we should have.
The sale of a dinosaur fossil for massive amounts of money is just one more illustration of how we use our money and where we place our priorities.
Let’s consider the possibility of life from non-life by chance. The simplest living organism is an anaerobic bacterium known as Pelagibacter ubique, which was first isolated by scientists in 2002. Anaerobic means that it does not need oxygen to survive.
Anaerobic bacteria are much simpler than aerobic bacteria, which do require oxygen. This bacterium lives in the lakes and oceans of the world. In 2005, scientists sequenced (decoded) the genome (genetic material, DNA) of P. ubique. They found it to be the smallest genome with the theoretical minimum of information needed to exist as an independent life.
P. ubique has 1,308,759 base pairs, which are pairs of the essential biological compounds that are held together by hydrogen bonds to form the DNA molecule which contains the “blueprint” for each living organism. Each of the components of the base pairs, called nucleobases, are complex biological compounds containing nitrogen and other elements.
There are four nucleobases in DNA, and they are adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. They are typically abbreviated A, G, C, and T. The DNA molecule is present in every cell of every living organism, and the arrangement of those nucleobases describes the basic features of the organism.
We have vastly oversimplified this explanation, but I think you can see our point. Let’s go back to those 1.3 million base pairs in the simplest living organism. What do you think is the possibility of all the essential elements coming together to form the compounds and molecular structures to create the simplest form of life from non-life by chance with no guiding Intelligence? We have one word for it. IMPOSSIBLE!
The Week Magazine (October 23, 2020, page 11) had some interesting data on abortions in the United States. Here are the abortion rates per 1000 women ages 15-44 in some of the states:
Arkansas 6.2 Oklahoma 6.2 Alabama 8.3 Mississippi 8.6 California 17.3 New York 27.4 New Jersey 28.2
Middlebury College in Vermont conducted the study of abortions in the United States. If the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade, the national reduction in abortions would be 12.8%, and 90% of the American abortion industry would remain intact.
The main point of all this is that laws and court rulings cannot control people’s moral choices. If we are to stop infanticide in America, it will have to be done by changing the thinking of our population. The question remains as to whether a woman’s personal rights supersede the personal rights of a child.
This reminds me of the story of a man who came to the United States of America. He came because he heard that it was the land of the free, and you could do anything you wanted because all human rights were guaranteed. On his first day in America, he saw a man he didn’t like the looks of, so he punched him in the nose. He was arrested and brought before a judge. “I don’t understand,” the man said, “I thought America was the land of the free!” The judge said, “That it is, but your freedom ends where the other man’s nose begins.”
The November/December 2020, issue of Archaeology, the journal of the Archaeological Institute of America, carried an interesting article titled “The Price of Purple.” It tells about an archaeological site known as Tel Shikmonan in northern Israel, where there is a very long history of securing purple dye for coloring textiles.
Textiles colored with purple dye were listed along with precious metals in trade and tax records indicating prestige and royal status. In Jesus’ time, Roman high officials wore distinctive purple togas. In Mark 15:17, Jesus was clothed in purple when the Romans wanted to portray Him as king of the Jews. In Luke 16:19, the rich man in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus was clothed in purple to indicate his status.
In the New Testament, we read the story of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15, 40). Paul had arrived in Philippi, which was a “chief city” of that part of Macedonia. There he met Lydia, who came from Thyatira, which was a city near Philippi. Lydia was a “seller of purple” (verse 14). Verse 15 tells us that she owned a house and other people lived in the house with her. Selling purple dye was a high scale business. A woman owning a home and having a household indicated wealth and prestige in the Roman culture. Verse 40 tells us that the Church was meeting in Lydia’s house.
Skeptics have attempted to deny this account, but excavation at Tel Shikmona has strongly supported the Bible. Tel Shikmona is located on the coast at the foot of Mount Carmel near the present-day port city of Haifa, Israel. The ocean is shallow and rocky at Tel Shikmona, and there are large populations of murex snails in those waters. Liquid extracted from the hypobranchial glands of murex sea snails formed the purple dye when treated with light or oxygen. The sea snails at Tel Shikmona can produce large quantities of the purple dye that stains textiles like no other known dye. People had ground up lapis lazuli, which we rock hounds know is a blue color, but it fades and was not as unique as the murex purple.
Joseph Elgavish excavated Tel Shikmona in the 1960s and found thousands of artifacts. Later excavations convinced archaeologists that this was an industrial site focused on the purple dye industry. Roman rulers starting with Julius Caesar (46-44 BC) and continuing through Nero (AD 54 – 68) had laws to fine anyone wearing murex purple without permission. So Lydia was indeed a special woman with connections and clout with people at the top of the social structure. These facts strongly support her ability to use her status to help Paul in his work at Philippi.
Politicians and the media often use the word “fake” in all kinds of dubious ways. Now we can apply the word to an asteroid known as 2020 SO (Space Object). It seems that this fake asteroid is just space junk.
There has been concern among astronomers for many years about the large number of rocks in our solar system. Right now, the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center has almost a million identified asteroids and comets, some of which could strike the Earth and cause massive destruction. The idea is that by cataloging these objects, we can know if any are on a collision course, so we might intervene to alter the trajectory.
It turns out that at least one of the cataloged asteroids is a fake asteroid. It is actually space junk. A NASA scientist determined that it is the upper stage of a Centaur rocket that put NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander on its way to the Moon in 1966. This rocket is just under 32 feet long and 10 feet in diameter and traveling at 1500 miles per hour. Another fake asteroid has turned out to be the third stage of the Saturn five rocket, which NASA launched in 1969 during the Apollo 12 mission.
Scientists are concerned about the amount of material that humans discard. That includes plastics that clutter the oceans and provide a constant headache at landfills. Chemicals dumped into rivers and lakes have had a very destructive effect on fish and other life forms, including humans. Space is also becoming more and more cluttered with human space junk. The material left from space launches is becoming a hazard to communications satellites and even space vehicles, including the International Space Station.
It is well understood that unborn human babies have a great awareness of conditions outside the womb during the last several months of their development. One question that remains unanswered is how much unborn babies understand about what is going on in the outside world. Is the awareness of the outside world present in all embryos, and is there such a thing as embryonic communication?
Researchers at Spain’s University of Vigo writing in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution have an interesting report on bird embryos. While inside their eggs, they seem to perceive signals from and generate signals to the outside world. The studies involve yellow-legged gulls receiving warning signals from adult birds. Not only do the unhatched birds receive the signals, but they produce strong egg vibrations transferring the information from the adult birds to other embryos. Scientists are still studying what the unhatched birds do with this information. It may relate to when the baby birds peck their way out of the egg.
Ecologist and co-author of the study, Jose Noguera, says he is confident that this phenomenon is present in other bird species. We suggest that it is likely to be true of other forms of life. Some species have synchronous births where many young are born at the same time to reduce the efficiency of predators. Could embryonic communication control that to some extent? Are human babies aware of a pending abortion, and if so, at what stage of the pregnancy?
There are many questions involved in this field of study, and they do have relevance to today’s moral issues.
The Bible refers to the benefits of honey. In the Old Testament, the ideal place to live was “the land of milk and honey.” Proverbs 24:13 finds Solomon telling his son, “You should eat honey because it is good.” John the Baptist’s diet consisted of locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). It is important to note we are talking about natural, wild honey, not the processed honey with nutrients removed that you might find in your grocery store.
Skeptics will complain that honey is just sugar. Although it does have high sugar content in its 64 calories per tablespoon, wild honey is packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. The nutrients in the honey depend on where the bees gathered the nectar. The darker the color, the greater the antioxidant punch and benefits of honey. Dark honey has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac for the fall and winter of 2020 has the following facts about the uses of dark, wild honey:
A spoonful of honey will ease a nighttime cough and is an excellent antihistamine.
A spoonful of honey at bedtime will cause a rise in insulin, which triggers a release of serotonin, which is converted to melatonin, a chemical that regulates sleep.
A 2001 study published by the European Journal of Medical Research revealed that a honey solution in warm water applied to itchy areas of the scalp will reduce itching and scaling. It can also reduce skin lesions and hair loss.
A dressing of honey with hydrogen peroxide applied to burns, scrapes, and wounds speeds up healing.
One word of caution–the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents of children under the age of 12 months not to use honey on the child. Before their first birthday, their underdeveloped immune system cannot handle impurities that can get into the honey.
The fact that ancient biblical characters ate honey, and even locusts, as a staple in their diet, is not a foolish error. We now know that eating some insects and honey can provide a very nutritious line of food. Only recently has modern science come to understand why the Bible references to the benefits of honey make sense.
We are continually looking for examples of intelligence and design in the world around us. One of the most incredible examples is the human immune system.
During the 2020 pandemic, we have all heard discussions among the experts about antibodies and how they can protect us from COVID-19. Scientists have also talked about who is vulnerable to the virus and herd immunity. We may not have thought about how our bodies were designed to fight diseases, virtually all of which come to us from animals.
Built into the human body is the ability to produce antibody proteins whenever a harmful antigen enters the body. This protein is a Y-shaped molecule that destroys the antigen. The antigen can be bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses. Once the antibody enters the bloodstream, it can last for a very long time.
More recent studies of people who survived the 1918 flu virus (which killed 50 million people worldwide) showed that survivors still had the antibodies in their blood years later. Dr. Eric Altschuler at the University of Medicine in New Jersey said, “Our immune system has a steel-trap memory. It’s incredible that the Lord has blessed us with antibodies our whole lifetime. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
The question arises as to whether this means we should let people get the COVID-19 virus until we all have antibodies to prevent getting it again. The problem with that view is that this virus can do great harm to our bodies, even if we survive it. The virus can perhaps also mutate and be re-introduced to our bodies.
As we have said many times, examining design in the natural world can lead to solutions for human problems. We have mentioned that Velcro came about by studying burdock plant seeds. Spider webs have taught us how to make stronger fibers. Now there is a connection between sponges, skyscrapers, and bridges.
Researchers at Harvard University and the National Science Foundation have published the results of the study of a sponge called Venus’ Flower Basket (Euplectella aspergillum). It’s a deep water glass sponge that has a lot to teach engineers about building bridges and skyscrapers.
This sponge employs two sets of parallel diagonal skeletal struts that intersect and are fused to an underlying square grid creating a checkerboard-like pattern. Research shows that this design has a significantly higher strength-to-weight ratio than the traditional lattice designs used to construct buildings and bridges for centuries.
Matheus Fernandes, who is the first author of the research paper, says, “We found that the sponge’s diagonal reinforcement strategy achieves the highest buckling resistance for a given amount of material, which means we can build stronger and more resilient structures by rearranging existing material in the structure.”
These sponges have used this structure from the beginning of life on Earth. Peter Anderson, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Materials Research, says, “The structures of marine sponges inspire not only skyscrapers and bridges, but have the potential to accelerate the discovery and development of lightweight, porous materials with superior mechanical properties.”
Romans 1:20 speaks of being able to see God’s wisdom and design “from the creation of the world.” From burdocks and Velcro to sponges, skyscrapers, and bridges, wherever we look in nature, we see that a wonder-working hand has gone before.
Typically we review books that deal with apologetics. However, sometimes a book comes to our attention that we believe meets a need even though it does not primarily involve evidence for God and the Bible. We want to share one such book with you here— So You Have Cancer: Now What? By Glen Goree.
I have read many books on cancer and books that deal with grieving when you lose a loved one to cancer. This book was written by a man who has terminal cancer of the liver and a short time to live. I did a lectureship with a congregation in Texas many years ago, where Glenn was the preacher for ten years. He has also been a missionary in Africa and has had a long career as a counselor. Glenn has had a large share of illnesses, including two heart attacks, hepatitis C, diabetes, including having five toes removed, and neuropathy.
The purpose of this book is to help Christians who know their life is about to end. Glenn is candid, outspoken, honest, and fair in what he says. He talks about being angry with God and being outraged. He deals with fear and depression. He discusses God’s grace, forgiveness (including forgiving God), and mercy. He does this by describing his own feelings and then going to the Bible to get help when knowing you are about to die.
Every reader will profit by reading this book since every one of us is terminal. Goree’s approach to grace and God’s mercy alone makes it worth reading.