People Believing Fake News

Fake or Fact - People Believing Fake News

One of the most frequently quoted excuses for someone rejecting factual information is to claim it is fake news. Not everything called fake news actually is. On the other hand, there are plenty of examples of people believing fake news. In January, protestors following a fake news story disrupted a mass COVID vaccination site in Los Angeles, preventing hundreds of people from getting the vaccine. A fake news story started by QAnon got a lot of attention, claiming that Satan worshippers controlled politics and the media.

People spreading fake news often use social media to present their deliberate or ignorant lies. Health information is the most dangerous area of concern. Frequently a claim is based on a single case which may be one in millions of other cases. The problem with any health scare is that you never know what other health problems the person may have had. The number of deaths of people in nursing homes in COVID was massively greater than the deaths of school-age children. By cherry-picking data, one can make convincing statements about the danger of health issues when the actual risk is very low.

We suggest that all of us need to understand a few basic points about news reporting. News outlets in today’s world are heavily biased and don’t report the news–they interpret it. Getting unbiased information in today’s world is very difficult. Even government organizations frequently state their findings in a way designed to promote political positions. Listen critically to any news program.

Christians must avoid becoming some of the people believing fake news. Even scientific material is affected by vested interests in whatever the scientist is promoting. Even some Nobel Laureates have supported some very bad science, and sometimes they take on destructive causes both socially and politically.

We have frequently mentioned that Jesus Christ repeatedly steered his followers away from getting overly entwined in politics, government, or secular causes. He paid taxes but made it clear that we should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God the things that are God’s. Don’t get entangled in the affairs of this world to the exclusion of your labors for Christ. It is your service to God and the things Jesus discusses in Matthew 25:34-40 that really count.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, May 8, 2021.

Skin Color of Ancient Humans

Skin Color of Ancient Humans

“Systemic racism” is making the news in a wide variety of subject areas. Science News magazine carried an interesting discussion of how media presentations and museums have contributed to racial bias. When you look at a series of pictures dealing with apes and ancient humans, they are artist depictions with many details that could not possibly be determined from a few bones. Anthropologists cannot determine soft tissue like ears, noses, and lips or skin color of ancient humans by looking at some bones.

When I taught a class on anthropology, I found the portrayal of Neandertals interesting. The earliest images showed hunched-over creatures with matted hair walking with the gait of a very old man. The fact is that grooming is part of any primate’s behavior. Some scientists believe that the first fossil specimens had arthritic problems that contributed to how they appeared.

The Time-Life series that was popular several decades back contained numerous errors. One interesting fact was that early specimens were shown with dark skin and negroid soft tissue, while recent models had lighter skin and caucasian features. The article in Science News points out that the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has a similar portrayal in which the skin color of ancient humans gives the impression that people with lighter skin are more evolved.

Many years ago, in a college lectureship, I confronted a professor who said that black people evolved from gorillas and white people were true humans who had not changed. I asked the audience to compare the properties of a gorilla with those of the races today. Here are some examples:
Gorillas have straight hair, not curled hair. Which race has straight hair?
Gorillas have white skin under their hair. Which race has white skin?
Gorillas have thin linear lips. Which race has thin lips as opposed to thicker lips?

I’m sure you get the point. The physical features of white people are more like gorillas than those of black people. I suggested to the professor that white people evolved from gorillas, and Adam was a black person. The reality is that no one evolved from gorillas, and no evolutionist would suggest that. We can’t determine the skin color of ancient humans.

Adam named his wife “Eve” because she would be the “mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). All of us carry the same genetic information indicating the truth of that statement. Like it or not, we are all related. The imaginative artwork that is so popular in the media and museums is almost always inconsistent with scientific evidence.

The biblical concept of humans is spiritual and has nothing to do with a person’s race or ethnic background. We are all in God’s image, and that reference has to do with our soul, not how we look (Genesis 1:27).

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News magazine for April 24, 2021 (page 32)

Unique and Bizarre Planet Earth

Unique and Bizarre Planet Earth

“Planet Earth – Unique And Bizarre.” Those are the words used by Astronomy magazine (June 2021, page 21) to describe the results of studies of the planets within and beyond our solar system. Why is Earth a unique and bizarre planet?

We have four terrestrial planets in our solar system. In addition to Earth, they are Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Those planets have smaller masses than Earth, ranging from Mercury with 5.5% of Earth’s mass to Venus with 81.5%. They also have radically different atmospheres. Venus, which is closest to Earth’s size, has an atmosphere that is 96% carbon dioxide. Mars, roughly half of Earth’s size, is 95% carbon dioxide and 2.7% nitrogen. By contrast, Earth’s atmosphere has 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and less than .1% carbon dioxide.

NASA stationed an observation satellite at the Lagrange point between Earth and the Sun. That is the location where Earth’s gravity balances the Sun’s gravity. The satellite will remain stationary at roughly a million miles from Earth, gather data, and compare Earth data with information from other solar systems. It shows that Earth is the only planet we know of with abundant liquid water driving an active water cycle. 

Scientists believe life itself is responsible for much of the design of planet Earth. Earth’s vegetation has taken whatever carbon dioxide was in our atmosphere and turned it into oxygen. It is no coincidence that the Genesis account portrays plants as the first thing to appear after God created the dry land and seas. 

Another factor making Earth a unique and bizarre planet is the abundance of minerals. Earth has massive minerals of all kinds. Meteorites contain a very small number of minerals, and the Moon has more than the meteorites, but far less than Earth. The media tends to suggest that everything in space is like what we see on Earth, but the data that scientists are gathering shows that our planet is radically different. 

At the end of each day of the Genesis account, God said, “it is good” (Genesis 1:10,12, 18, 21, 25). The first chapter ends with God saying, “it is VERY good.” Over and over, the Psalms call our attention to how unique our planet is. “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him” (Psalms 8:3-4). Psalms 19:1 adds, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky shows his handiwork.” 

Our unique and bizarre planet was created by an Intelligence that shaped it into the one place that can support human life, not only in our solar system but perhaps in the entire creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Astronomy magazine

Data on Neanderthals and DNA

Data on Neanderthals and DNA - Neanderthal Woman
Neanderthal Woman Sculpture in National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, Spain

News reports of the data on Neanderthals have often contained misinformation. Neanderthals (or Neandertals) were not apes, and they were not primitive subhumans. They engaged in activities similar to modern humans. Our suggestion for many years has been that we should think of the Neanderthals as a race of humans. When one looks at the different races of humans in today’s world, we see huge variations. A pygmy is much different from a Scandinavian, and yet from a scientific standpoint, they are one species. They can mate and produce fertile offspring, which was has been the usual way of defining a species.

The newest data on Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) is that they interbred with those we call Homo sapiens, and their genes are being discovered in populations in Europe and western Asia. Science News carried an article titled “Neanderthals and Humans Mated Often.” It reported on the DNA evidence linking Neanderthals to modern humans.

If scientists found the remains of Adam and Eve, what would their DNA look like? The Bible gives us no indication of what Adam and Eve were like regarding their race or physical characteristics. The sons of Noah were Ham, Shem, and Japheth. In the original Hebrew, Ham means dark-colored and Japheth means fair. The term Neanderthal comes from where scientists found their first bones in the Neander Valley of Germany. The name has nothing to do with skin color. If we found the fossil remains of Adam and Eve, what name would we give them?

The only thing we know is that Eve was the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20). How long ago she lived and how we would classify her today is pure speculation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News for May 8 and May 22, 2021 (page 7)

How Little We Know – The Pulsating Earth

How Little We Know - The Pulsating Earth

The May 2021 issue of Discover magazine (page 20) carries an interesting article about a mystery that scientists have been unable to solve. The mystery is why planet Earth pulsates every 26 seconds. Researchers at the Lamont Geological Observatory first reported the pulsation in 1960. After more than 60 years, nobody has formulated an accepted explanation of why this is happening. The point here is not Earth’s pulsations but how little we know about creation.

In time someone will probably find an acceptable explanation for Earth’s pulsations. My point is the nature of human knowledge. We are all amazed at what science has accomplished. We watch the helicopter fly on Mars. We see the COVID vaccine developed in less than a year when it usually took half a decade to build a vaccine. We are amazed by new fabrics and the products of genetic engineering.

The fact is how little we know. Human knowledge is still very primitive compared to all that we observe. We are still struggling to understand what caused gravity. We are only dimly aware of the quantum world and how it forms the material we see around us. Our understanding of the human mind is so incomplete that experts in the field of brain study say we still don’t understand what 95% of the brain does. Perhaps the most significant gap in the knowledge and beliefs of many of us is the question of why there is something instead of nothing.

What little we do understand puts us in awe of the power and intelligence of God. Dr. Frank Baxter used to say that everything he knew as a scientist taught him, “That a wonder-working hand has gone before.” In Proverbs 8:4-5, Wisdom says it another way: “To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding.” The Psalmist said it this way:” When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him (Psalms 8:3-4).

Every bit of knowledge we acquire reminds us of how little we know and raises more questions for us to investigate. This is a wonderful time to be alive when so many of the secrets of God’s creation are just being discovered.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Discover magazine May 2021

No Room for Arrogance in Christianity

No Room for Arrogance

When I was an atheist, one thing that always turned me off was the seeming arrogance of religious people I knew. The “better than thou” attitude is not only unwarranted, but it is unscriptural. The Bible gives us no room for arrogance.

The classic biblical rebuttal of the attitude of arrogance is the parable Jesus taught in Luke 18:9-14. This parable was about a “religious” guy who did everything right religiously and a tax collector who was a Jew who betrayed his fellow Jews by working for the Roman government.

The Pharisee did everything right and told God about it. His opening line was, “I thank you that I am not like other men.” Then he went on to talk about all the good things he did. The tax collector looked down at the ground and “smote his breast,” which was a symbol of sorrow in that culture. Then he begged God for forgiveness. Luke tells us that Jesus “spoke this parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others” (Luke 18:9).

Jesus and the apostles hit this theme over and over. In Luke 7:37-50, we see Christ contrasting the woman who was a sinner with the Pharisee, a part of the religious elite. Jesus praised her and held her actions up as exemplary while he condemned the Pharisee. In Romans 2:17-24, Paul addresses the hypocrisy of religious people who claim to be knowledgeable but don’t practice what they preach. In Matthew 5:14-16, Christ holds up His followers as people who are “the light of the world” for how they live.

It took me a long time as an atheist to realize the fact that “sitting in the chicken coup doesn’t make you a chicken.” Sitting in the Church building doesn’t make you a Christian. The assembly of Christians is not a venue to be entertained but a hospital for people seeking to be what God called them to be. If you are reading this and have been turned off by the arrogance and self-righteousness of people who claim to be Christians, please understand that those folks turned off Jesus Christ as well.

Philippians 2:5-8 reminds us that Christ “humbled himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death, even death on the cross.” How can any of us be very self-righteous or arrogant when we think about that statement. There is no room for arrogance in Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Happiness Comes from Following Christ’s Teaching

Happiness Comes from Following Christ's Teaching - Robert Ingersoll
Robert G. Ingersoll 1833-1899

Robert Ingersoll is an atheist hero because he traveled the country attacking God, Christianity, and the Bible in the nineteenth century. Ingersoll is quoted as saying, “The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, the way to be happy is to make other people happy.” That statement is remarkably similar to the writings of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:10-13 and the words of Christ in John 16:22-24. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching.

Every attempt by atheists to provide an alternative to the teachings of Christ has ended up in frustration and pain. When an atheist built a town in Missouri with the name “Liberal,” it collapsed in a short time, with the founder saying he never again wanted to live in a town with no churches. Governments based on atheism in the past and today have not been successful in providing peace and prosperity for their citizens.

It is easy to attack Christianity while enjoying the blessings of Christ’s teachings. Offering a useful and positive alternative to what Jesus taught is another matter. As the United States drifts away from its Christian roots and embraces humanism, secularism, and atheism, we see an increase in suicides, shootings, racism, and abuse. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching.

When someone is incarcerated, the prison usually asks their religious beliefs for the record. Very few prisoners say “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “none.” In our prison work, we ask prisoners taking our correspondence courses to explain how they got to the point of being jailed. Merle Haggard wrote a song in which he said: “In spite of all my Sunday learning, to the wrong I kept on turning. No one could steer me right, but mother tried.” Haggard’s mother was a member of the Church of Christ, and his prison stint took place because he rejected the teachings he learned as a child. We hear that line over and over from many of our students in prison.

My father was an atheist, but he was a very moral man. I asked him one time why he was faithful to my mother. His response was, “I guess it is because of the way I was raised.” His father was a minister, and his mother was a strong Christian woman. Jesus said, “By their fruit you shall know them (Matthew 7:16). Atheism has no positive fruit in the long run. Happiness comes from following Christ’s teaching. Robert Ingersoll found a receptive audience only when he repeated the teachings of the Bible.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Inspiration for this came from Faulkner University spring bulletin 2021.

Learning from the Natural World

Learning from the Natural World

One of the ways people discover new materials and new applications is by learning from the natural world. Scientists have wondered how bugs that live in wet areas avoid water damage and bacterial infections. Researchers are using a fabrication process called nanoimprinting lithography to study the wings of Neotibicen pruinisus, the annual cicada found in the central region of the United States.

Cicada wings are made of a complex pillar-shaped nanostructure that repels water and prevents bacteria from establishing a foothold. New fabrication tools have enabled scientists to produce replicas of the wings and pillars. Entomologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have reported that this work will be beneficial in engineering applications across various subjects–everything from aircraft wings to medical equipment.

We look at what we feel are simple forms of life and fail to realize the complexity of their design. Earth is full of examples like the Cicada. Researchers are learning from the natural world. Everywhere we look, we find a wonder-working hand has gone before to allow life to exist all over the planet.

When God wanted to convince Job of His intelligence, power, and design (Job 38-41), He used astronomical and geologic creations and the design of an assortment of living things. Job responded by saying, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). We must continue learning from the natural world God created because there is still much we don’t know. That is not just true of the material world but also of the spiritual world as well.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: nsf.gov

Increase in Paranormal Beliefs

Increase in Paranormal Beliefs

Someone said that when people don’t believe in something, they will believe anything. As our culture has turned away from God, it has forsaken Christ’s teachings and turned to irrational ideas. New studies show an increase in paranormal beliefs.

Statistics from the Chapman University “Survey on American Fears” from 2015 to 2018 show that the percentage of people who believe in haunted houses has grown from 41.4% to 57.7%. The percentage of people who believe Bigfoot is real has increased from 11.4% to 20.7%. Those believing that aliens have been visiting Earth has grown from 18.1% to 35.1%. Faith in the ability of fortune tellers and psychics to foresee the future has increased by a small percentage as well.

There are many contributing causes for the increase in paranormal beliefs, but a part of it is biblical ignorance and rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus urged people to seek and to think. When Thomas had doubts, Jesus showed him the evidence. Biblical miracles always had a purpose in conveying truth. Through the prophets, God warned Israel not to trust magicians, soothsayers, witches, and sorcerers. The law gave lethal consequences for those who persisted in promoting the paranormal.

Chaos in all aspects of American life today results from people believing what they are told without demanding evidence and factual information. It has affected the pandemic, the election, and the racial struggles that are going on throughout this country. Let us urge people not to believe anything just because someone says it is true. We must demand evidence and think!

— John N. Clayton © 2021

What Do You Think of the Bible?

What Do You Think of the Bible?

What do you think of the Bible? That is a critical issue we all must face. For many people, the Bible is a collection of fairy tales. Those who hold this view say that snakes talking, the globe being flooded, heaven and hell, and a shepherd boy with a sling killing a giant are on the same level as Mother Goose. They may be stories appropriate for children but not for well-educated adults.

For other people, the Bible is a great literary work comparable to the writings of Shakespeare or Edgar Alan Poe. Perhaps they might believe that in a few cases, it has moral lessons embedded in the stories. Many religious leaders view the Bible as CONTAINING the word of God but containing a lot of material that is not God’s will for modern-day people.

The Bible itself claims to be God-breathed, sometimes referred to as plenary inspiration. Passages like 2 Timothy 3:16 and John 1:1 claim that the Bible’s message provides all humans with everything they need for completeness and that the Bible is God’s Word for us today. The implications of this understanding for LGBTQ practices, abortion, and marriage are huge.

What do you think of the Bible? Here are some things that can help resolve whatever conflicts we may have with the Bible:

  1. Whatever you read in the Bible, consider who wrote the passage, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it.
  2. Examine the words in the original language. Anyone can use a concordance to check out the Greek or Hebrew words to see what they meant. The word translated “giant” in Genesis 6:4, for example, refers to “fallen ones” and refers to moral issues and not super-sized humans. It was not a “whale” that swallowed Jonah. Luke 16:19-31 is a parable and the name Lazarus means “without help.”
  3. Look for historical evidence when considering the integrity of a passage. You can use archaeology, historical documents, and fossil evidence to evaluate the correctness of a statement. Many biblical accounts that skeptics challenged were later found to be supported by the evidence.
  4. Be sure to separate the physical from the spiritual. Humans frequently reduce God to our level. God is not an “old man in the sky.” God created humans in His spiritual image, not His physical image. God is not physical, sexual, or racial. He is not limited in space, nor does He have any needs that revolve around food, time, drink, or politics.
  5. Distinguish miracles from things that are unusual but possible. There are miracles in the Bible which are matters of faith and must either be accepted or rejected. Don’t expect anyone to prove that Lazarus or the widow of Nain’s son rose from the dead. Likewise, nobody can prove that Jesus walked on water or fed 5000 people in a desert place. If the Bible claims that a miracle happened, you can’t conduct an experiment to see if the claim is true. Miracles can’t be repeated or tested.
  6. Do not allow tradition or denominational creeds to replace the Bible. The Bible does not give us the age of the Earth, and there is nothing in the Bible about dinosaurs. A person can die spiritually, and hell is eternal punishment, not eternal punishing.

We have addressed all of these issues repeatedly, and our websites, videos, and printed materials are available. What do you think of the Bible? It is “God-breathed,” but humans must apply common sense and serious study to resolve the challenges of skeptics. We have recently learned the importance of the biblical concept of quarantine, but the Bible speaks of many other practical areas of life. Give some serious thought to what you think about the Bible. Believing and applying it to decisions in your life can bring meaning to how you live and how you die.

— John N. Clayton © 2021