Perhaps the most abused word in the English language is the word “love.” We hear that word used in every kind of situation. “I love that song” certainly is different from “making love.” In English, you have to look at the entire context of a statement about love before you know what the person who said it is talking about. The New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greeks had multiple words that we translate with our one word, “love.” In today’s world, the greatest love is agape.
In the Greek language, sexual love was the subject of the word “eros.” “Thelo” was used when the love was a desire or wish. “I love that kind of perfume” would be an example of that use. The prefix “phileo” indicating an emotional or material kind of love and had multiple uses. “Philargurix” was the love of money. “Philanthropia” was human love. “Phildelphos” was the love of brethren and is familiar to us today in the name of the city Philadelphia. “Philedonos” was the love of pleasure.
The New Testament presents a unique concept of love. The Greek word is “agape,” a noun, or “agapao,” a verb. These words were used 114 times in the New Testament and especially by Jesus Christ. In John 21:15-17, Jesus repeatedly asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Jesus used the word “agape,” but Peter kept responding with “phileo.” The greatest love is agape, but Peter did not understand that yet.
Many people struggle with the teachings of Christ because they don’t understand Jesus’ concept of love. How can I love my enemy (Matthew 5:43-44)? How can we love one another (John 15:12) when many of us are not lovable? Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church. This is not a sexual reference any more than is Jesus’ discussion with Peter. A marriage based solely on sex is doomed.
The familiar passage in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love” is another reference to the unique form of love that God calls us to. Christians have help in their capacity to love as 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 tells us that an unbeliever: “…cannot accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The passage goes on to say that Christians “have the mind of Christ.” So do I have the capacity to love my enemy? Not in a physical sense or a sexual sense, but I have grown to love in a spiritual sense. This is a growth process, and I am closer to it now than I was 50 years ago.
Read Matthew 5-7 and pay attention to the fact that Jesus is talking about loving the spiritual nature of all humans. When you read 1 John 4:12-13, you see a great picture of what Christian love is all about: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. We know we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Read the rest of the chapter and especially verse 20: “If a man says that he loves God and then hates his brother, he is a liar, because he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen.”
In the early 1920s, Edwin Hubble (in whose honor the Hubble Space Telescope was named) was peering through his telescope. As he examined many of the points of light that astronomers had thought were stars or “spiral nebulae” in our galaxy, he realized that they are much more than that. He discovered that they are other galaxies!
By the mid-1920s, everyone knew that our Milky Way is only one of a myriad of other galaxies. Since then, we have learned many things about our galaxy, but we still have much to learn. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy in the shape of a large saucer. Other types of galaxies–which are the majority–cannot support planets and therefore are not suitable for life.
We are spinning around our spiral galaxy at about 120 miles (200 kilometers) per second. At that rate, it will take us 250,000,000 years to make one complete orbit of the galaxy. We can’t take a picture of the entire Milky Way because to travel outside of our galaxy would take many thousands of years–even at the speed of light. We can take pictures of other galaxies, and this one is another spiral galaxy named M74.
The Milky Way’s disk is about 100,000 light-years across, and we are about 27,200 light-years from the center. It’s good that we are not near the center because that is the location of a giant black hole. It is also fortunate that we live in an area of the galaxy that is not crowded with quasars, black holes, and other major hazards. The galaxy area with the most gas and dust is less than 500 light-years from the central plane–far away from us. That means we are in an area relatively free of debris, so this is an excellent spot to get a good view of our galaxy as well as other galaxies and stars.
Is it just a coincidence that we are in the right kind of galaxy and in the best position in that galaxy to be safe and to be able to study and observe the universe? We think God wanted us to be in a hospitable place where we could see the majesty of His creation.
More and more data shows that leaving Earth and venturing into outer space away from Earth’s constant gravity and the protection of our atmosphere and magnetosphere is much more destructive than anyone imagined. One of our regular readers sent us a quote from NBC News about the potential health problems of space travel. Here is what it says:
“The number of deaths due to heart disease among the Apollo lunar astronauts is almost five times greater than that in non-flight astronauts, or astronauts who never flew missions in space, researchers from Florida State University found. Compared to astronauts who flew only in low Earth orbit (LEO), the heart risk among Apollo astronauts is four times higher. There were no differences between LEO and non-flight astronauts.”
We recently reported on the astronaut twin study, which showed physical changes even in low Earth orbit. We don’t yet know what potential health problems of space travel may become evident in the long-term.
Micro-gravity and exposure to radiation seem to combine to cause bodily harm. Earth’s magnetic field is more protective than science has understood. Working in the International Space Station is less of an issue because the LEO means that some of Earth’s protections still function.Going to Mars may be impossible with the present spaceship design.
We will be interested in future data on travel to the Moon and prolonged existence in outer space. We know that God’s design of planet Earth makes it suitable for life, but we are not fully aware of the potential health problems of space travel. You can read the full NBC report from HERE.
The vanilla flavor used in many foods comes from an orchid (Vanilla planifolia) that originally grew in Mexico. Herman Cortes, a Spanish conquistador, discovered the pleasant-tasting substance used by the Aztecs, and he introduced it to Europe in the 1520s. But it took 300 years to solve the vanilla mystery.
When the Europeans tried to produce vanilla in their own countries, they could grow the vines, which produced flowers that bloomed one morning each year. However, within 12 hours, the flowers withered and produced no fruit. For three centuries, the vanilla mystery remained unsolved, and the Europeans depended on Mexico for vanilla flavor.
Then in 1836, a French botanist named Charles Francois Morren traveled to Mexico to study vanilla production. He noticed bees landing on the vanilla flower, working their way under a flap in the flower, and becoming dusted with pollen. Then they transferred the pollen to other flowers. Within hours of pollination, the flowers closed, and soon seed pods began to form.
The vanilla mystery solution was known only to those stingless bees of the genus Melipona which lived only in Mexico.They knew how to pollinate the flowers so that they could produce seed pods. The people who attempted to grow vanilla elsewhere tried without success to bring the bees into their areas. Then in 1841, a twelve-year-old slave boy discovered a way to hand pollinate the flowers using a sliver of bamboo. The vanilla mystery was solved!
Because of hand pollination, Indonesia and Madagascar now exceed Mexico in vanilla production. However, hand pollination is labor-intensive and requires constant monitoring of the plants since the flowers stay open for only a few hours. It took humans 300 years to discover how to pollinate the vanilla flower. Before that, only the Melipona bees knew the secret. No other insects knew how to enter those flowers and pollinate them.
Without the bees, there would have been no vanilla plant for humans to discover and use. More important, without the bees, the vanilla vines could not reproduce. Since the orchid could not survive without the bee, the question is, “Who put that bee there and told it how to pollinate that flower?” The vine and the bee could not have evolved separately. That leaves us with another vanilla mystery. Perhaps the bee and the vanilla vine were created to work together. We see this as another evidence of God’s creative work. Think about that the next time you enjoy some vanilla ice cream.
For a hundred years, scientists looked for the answer to a perplexing question. In 1859 British astronomers observed what we now call a solar flare. The next day there was a disturbance of Earth’s magnetic field called a geomagnetic storm. Scientists were puzzled over what was happening. After a century of study, the answer came down to solar wind and Earth’s magnetic shield.
In 1958, American astrophysicist Eugene Parker described the phenomenon and named it “solar wind.” The solar wind consists of charged particles ejected from the corona (extended outer layer) of the Sun and traveling at high speed into space. This material is plasma, a mixture of negative electrons and positive ions. Since electric charges and magnetic fields interact, the planet’s magnetic field steers the solar wind away from the planet’s surface when it reaches Earth. Because Earth’s magnetic field originates from the North and South poles, we see the interaction in those regions as beautiful auroras, the Northern and Southern lights.
What if Earth did not have a magnetic field? The solar wind would reach Earth’s surface and significantly damage living cells, bringing an end to life. Our neighboring planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury have little or no magnetic field and therefore are bombarded by the solar wind.
Why is our planet different? Why do we have the protection of a magnetic field? The motion of the molten iron in Earth’s core produces the magnetic field. Why does Earth have a molten iron core? Heat generated by the decay of the radioactive elements uranium and thorium keeps the iron core from becoming solid.
The bottom line is this: Hidden inside our planet is a magnetic-field generator powered by unseen radioactivity that gives us an invisible magnetic shield protecting us from invisible destructive particles coming from the Sun. This same process also gives us beautiful auroras we enjoy watching. The solar wind and Earth’s magnetic shield give us one more example of the beautiful design of the planet we call home. Did this all happen by accident? We don’t think so.
Scientists have recently conducted a fascinating study of the North Pole region. The Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the planet. With North Pole ice melting, the question is, “What effect will this warming have on Earth’s climate?”
To investigate that question, The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) involved 600 scientists and experts from around the world. They equipped the icebreaker RV Polarstern with a large number of scientific tools and accommodations. The plan was to freeze the ship into an ice floe and let it drift for a year to study the North Pole’s climate as never before.
The scientists did much of the work on the ice floe itself, even setting up camp there. Sometimes they fell through but were saved by their protective flotation clothing. They gathered large amounts of data, which will take years to analyze thoroughly. It will give a wealth of scientific information about the changes that are taking place on our planet.
The team started the project in October of 2019, but by July 30, the floe had broken up, and the Polarstern was in open water. They decided to head directly to the North Pole. On August 19, still in open water, the ship arrived at the pole and found very little ice.
Several Bible passages encourage us to look at the creation around us and know there is a God by what He has made. Romans 1:20 says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” We can see the power and nature of God by looking at the things in the natural world all around us. One of those things is squid communication by bioluminescence.
Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) living 1500 feet (457 m) below the ocean’s surface in total darkness hunt for food in groups. These are big animals averaging six feet (1.8 m) long, but they don’t bump into each other. Recent research has shown that Humboldt squid use squid communication by bioluminescence. The squid have small light-producing organs in their muscle tissue, and they can convey information by changing the pigmentation pattern.
Scientists from Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute say that what these squid do is similar to humans using turn signals in traffic. But even more than that, they can use changes in pigmentation patterns in a way similar to how humans arrange words in a sentence. Ben Buford of Stanford says that this is an example of a complicated form of animal communication never seen before in deep-sea creatures.
The more we learn about creation, the more we see complexity and design that speaks of a Creator who built into every animal the tools for survival. Squid communication by bioluminescence is just one more evidence of design. Indeed we can know there is a God through the things He has made.
Sometimes evidence of God’s design in our lives shows up in unusual places. A recent example of that is a study by neuroscientist Livia Tomova and her associates at MIT that showed we were designed for fellowship.
The study involved 40 people who were required to fast for 10 hours. Then the researchers showed them pictures of pizza and chocolate cake and recorded the brain waves from the midbrain of the subjects. Several days later, they took the same 40 people and did not allow them to have any contact with other people for 10 hours. That meant no friends, no Facebook, no Instagram, no social contact. Then the researchers showed them pictures of people chatting or playing team sports. The brain waves showed the same response as they had for food deprivation.
The area of the brain the researchers studied plays an essential role in human desire for food, friends, drugs, or gambling. The research indicates that humans are designed for fellowship. The effects on people who are socially isolated by COVID-19 are significant. It may explain some behavior issues that researchers have noted. Social isolation puts both mental and physical health at stake. It can even leave people craving for more food, drugs, or gambling.
Genesis 2:18 tells us that when God created Adam, He recognized “It is not good that the man should be alone…”Humans are designed to be social in our base nature. We may think that we like to be alone, but the reality is that eventually, we all need contact with other humans.
After a period of isolation, all of us need to be with other people. The biblical model of the Church is that “when two or three are gathered together” in the name of Jesus, He is there also (Matthew 18:20). One of the frustrations associated with the pandemic is not being able to be with other people who share our convictions and values. We are designed for fellowship with others. That is the way God created us.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) released its report on the flu cases in the early part of this winter. They reported that in the United States, cases of the flu were down 98%. Almost all of this report’s data was gathered before any COVID vaccine was available, although regular flu vaccinations were the highest on record. However, flu shots alone are not enough to explain why flu cases are down so much.
The CDCP attributes the decrease in flu cases to the following:
1) Mask wearing.
2) Fewer people traveling
3) COVID prevention measures such as working from home and school closings
4) Flu shots
It would appear that flu cases are down because of some of the things we don’t like about the COVID-19 pandemic. We should keep that in mind to say healthy in the future.
Recently there have been many articles and news stories about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some leading scientists are worried about what may happen in the future as machines or robots become available with higher levels of AI. Already we have “Weak AI” with computers and phones speaking in human-sounding voices and answering our questions. The next step is “Artificial General Intelligence.” That would be a general-purpose speaking machine that can think and perform specific tasks better and faster than humans. The main concern here is the loss of jobs that humans now perform. Perhaps we need to be concerned about an invasion of amoral intelligence.
What worries or even frightens some experts in the field is “Artificial Superintelligence.” We are talking about an artificial intellect that could outperform the most brilliant human minds, achieve new levels of creativity on its own, and display social skills that could not you could not distinguish from humans. It would be able to continue learning at a fantastic speed, shape its own future, and act in its own interest. Its desires and motivations could be very different from the interests of its creators or humanity as a whole. It could develop its own agenda even to the destruction of humans. This is the stuff of science fiction movies, and the current prediction is that somewhere between 2040 and 2050, science could achieve this level of AI.
Human life is guided by a conscience that our Creator put into us. Every human being recognizes that there are moral values and that some things are right and good and other things are wrong and evil. No matter if this moral sense becomes distorted by teaching, experiences, or even mental illness, it is still there. Even an atheist such as Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer has some limits, even though he argues that humans are just animals not deserving status above any other species and that parents should have a month to decide whether to keep or euthanize their newborn children. That seems like a shocking moral code, but an Artificial Superintelligence would not necessarily have even those moral limitations.
Humans have a built-in moral quality becauseGod created us in His image. The result of humans making a machine with superhuman thinking abilities and no moral conscience should cause us to step back and carefully consider the possible invasion of amoral intelligence.