If all goes as planned, Christmas Eve will see the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or WEBB). It has been a long time in the making with many delays and cost overruns, but it seems that the time has finally arrived. The JWST was supposed to launch in 2007 at the cost of $1 billion. Now it is launching at the end of 2021, and the price has escalated to $10 billion. Let’s examine the what and why of JWST.
First, the what of JWST. The James Webb Space Telescope is a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST or Hubble). It is intended to be a space observatory with capabilities far beyond HST, which was launched in 1990. NASA designed the JWST, and Northrop Grumman built it in California. The European Space Agency will launch it from their launch site in French Guiana, South America.
The why of JWST is that scientists expect it to revolutionize astronomy and expand our knowledge of the universe. Science and technology have made great strides since Hubble was launched and even since astronauts repaired and updated it, most recently in 2009. JWST will observe the universe in infrared light, while HST is limited to visible light. Because galaxies farther away are retreating at increasing speeds, their light shifts toward the red or infrared spectrum. Scientists hope that JWST can observe farther back toward the cosmic creation event known as the big bang. Because of that, astronomers expect to learn more about the formation of stars and galaxies.
Earth-based telescopes must always observe the universe through our atmosphere with particles, pollution, and moisture. That limits their ability to obtain sharp, precise images. Space-based telescopes, like Hubble, eliminate that problem. Webb will give much sharper images with its mirror made of beryllium coated with gold and a diameter more than 2.5 times as wide as Hubble’s.
JWST will locate itself at the Lagrange point where the gravity of Earth and Sun balance each other. That is 930,000 miles (1.5 million km) from Earth. Repairs or upgrades such as those performed on Hubble will not be possible at that distance. That means everything will have to perform flawlessly when the telescope reaches its destination. Deploying the mirror, sun-shield, super-cooling equipment, and telemetry equipment will take a month, which NASA has called “29 days on the edge.”
Another thing that astronomers hope to study with JWST is dark matter, the stuff that’s out there but cannot be seen or detected by any means science has discovered. The way they know dark matter must be there is that it holds the galaxies together. Physics cannot explain why spinning, spiral galaxies, such as the Milky Way, do not fly apart because of centrifugal force. Astronomers hope that JWST’s high-definition images can at least show us where the dark matter is by what they call “gravitational lensing.”
So that is the what and why of JWST. We are excited to see the new images of the universe the James Webb Space Telescope will capture. As we learn about the formation of stars and galaxies, it opens the door to knowledge of God’s handiwork, allowing us to say, “So that’s how God did it!”
The media have recently reported on several life issues from beginning to end. Here are some examples: The German Euthanasia Association has announced that those seeking euthanasia must produce proof of COVID vaccination to legally end their lives. This is apparently to protect healthcare workers.
In Poland, the government has passed a law requiring doctors to report all pregnancies and miscarriages to a government database. The apparent reason for this is to make sure that all pregnancies end with a birth. Unfortunately, Poland has a shortage of workers, and this seems to be the government’s solution to the issue.
Research has shown that women who use marijuana during pregnancy are more than twice as likely to have aggressive, hyperactive children with heart rate and immunity issues.
Babies have a fragrance that comes from an organic compound called hexadecanal. It is found in human skin but is abundant in a baby’s scalp. Research shows that females exposed to the fragrance become more aggressive and strong defenders of their babies. On the other hand, men exposed to it become more gentle and speak with softer voices. Evolutionists claim that this is an evolutionary survival mechanism. We would suggest this is part of God’s design of the human reproductive system.
Research on adopted children shows that some traits are common to adopted children that do not commonly appear in children who are not adopted. In the nine months of pregnancy, there is a “primal bonding that happens by biological design.” Those of us with adopted children can attest to some behavior issues that may be related to the adoption process.
God gave us the ideal arrangement for family–one man and one woman in love with each other produce children they love and care for. Unfortunately, that arrangement is not always possible. Understanding the stress and feelings involved can go a long way toward making adoption a good experience.
As we examine life issues from beginning to end, we know that every child needs a loving family, and every senior adult needs someone who loves them.
On December 1, 2021, the United States joined Canada, Australia, and Europe in allowing drug safe-havens for people who wish to use heroin and other narcotics. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced that having monitored facilities where someone watches for overdoses will save lives. The first facility in New York was set to open immediately.
Federal laws ban operating a place for narcotic use, but those laws have been poorly enforced. It is interesting that there is no evidence that these facilities provide help for those who are addicted. There have been negative results in other places where governments have tried legalization. Other moral issues such as prostitution and sexual abuse become part of the scene.
Setting up drug safe-havens, making it easier for people to use narcotics, is sanctioning people to harm themselves. Even though they may not die immediately from drug usage, the long-term result is not good. Should the government provide a way for people to become addicted? The news releases on the New York City plan do not say that drugs will be provided. If that is true, drug dealing and the problem of contaminated drugs will continue.
Licensing sin has never worked, and neither will drug safe-havens. Instead, the legalization of gambling has increased crime, prostitution, economic damage, and family breakdown. As the world turns away from God and denigrates the teachings of Jesus, we are not surprised that politicians will seek to condone the sin industries and tax them.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, Paul admonishes Christians to “Bring everything to the test and cling to that which is good and rejecting all that has a look of evil about it.” Therefore, let us oppose the movement of our nation toward embracing the sin industry as it offers an alternative to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The evidence supports the concept that humans are created in the image of God. Humans have a concept of self that we don’t see in other forms of life. Humans are creative in art and music. All human populations share the capacity to worship. Even though that worship sometimes takes bizarre forms, it still recognizes a spiritual nature. The ability to be taught to think and to reason is not something we see in other life forms. The idea of existence after this life is peculiar to humans. With these things in mind, we should not be treating animals as humans.
Instincts built into the DNA of animals direct their behavior. Even when humans raise monkeys to be human, they ultimately revert to instinctive drives that sometimes culminate in violence. Animal “songs” have survival catalysts communicating territory or securing mates. Human trainers have attempted to teach “art” to animals, resulting in anthropomorphic interpretations by those trainers.
People should not cause animals to suffer or subject them to conduct that violates their nature. The biblical admonition to humans was to take care of the creation, not to abuse it. (See Genesis 2:15.) Treating animals as humans with human values does violence to the animals, depriving them of their instinctive behaviors and putting them in unrealistic environments. It is also a huge waste of resources.
In 2011, PETA sued SeaWorld on behalf of five captured orcas they said were protected under the 13th Amendment, which bans slavery. In 2015, a judge ruled that an orangutan named Sandra had “legal personhood,” which resulted in Sandra being moved to special quarters. Recently, on October 15, 2021, a federal judge in Cincinnati ruled that the descendants of hippos smuggled into Colombia by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar are considered “legal persons” under United States law. According to CBS News India, Pakistan, and Argentina have granted legal rights to animals.
God designed life, and we should treat all animals with respect, allowing them to live in the habitat where they were designed to live. However, that doesn’t require treating animals as humans.
Jesus Christ made a clear separation between faith and politics when He said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Yet, as our culture and our government become more and more atheistic, we see the government trying to stop anything that smacks of faith in God.
For example, in Brookings, Oregon, the city has banned churches from providing meals to the homeless more than twice a week. The government apparently did this because people who lived near churches providing meals complained about the activity. (Reference: The Week for November 12, 2021)
In a similar situation, the American Center for Law and Justice has reported on an elementary school student in Illinois who was reading her Bible during recess. School authorities took the Bible away from her because the school system did not allow Bibles on public school property. (Reference: ACJL report for November 2021)
Politicians such as President Biden take public positions in opposition to the teachings of the Church. The Catholic Church, of which Biden is a member, considers abortion to be a sin. However, in a recent meeting with the Pope, they never discussed abortion.
Issues like these are a significant part of the political scene in America today. Should prostitution be legal? Is Euthanasia an acceptable solution to severe illness? Can chaplains in the military conduct worship services that use the Bible as a source of information?
This is a difficult time for people who believe in God, the Bible, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. As the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches, we can expect to see various efforts by atheists and anti-Christian groups to stop believers from any public display of faith in God or the biblical message, including Christmas music, Bible quotes of the birth of Christ, or manger scenes. That is especially true on government property, military bases, or public schools. Unfortunately, it seems that the view of faith and politics in America today is that everyone should be able to enjoy freedom except those who believe in God.
The problem of human suffering has been at the center of debates over the existence of God for hundreds of years. However, in recent years, increasing evidence has come to light that, to a large extent, dangerous chemicals cause human suffering.
In April 2021, a federal appeals court ordered the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos from food. Mounting evidence indicates that it and other organophosphate pesticides are related to a host of human ills, especially in children.
The federal agency regulating nuclear waste recently proposed putting “very low level” nuclear waste into unlicensed landfills. We know that nuclear radiation increases the risk of cancer, birth defects, immune disorders, and a host of other health issues.
The state of Washington decided to get rid of toxic firefighting foam by shipping it to an out-of-state incinerator. Burning the foam releases poly-fluoroalkyl substances, which can stay in the human body for decades and are related to cancer.
The federal government plans to reopen the Homestead Detention Center in Homestead, Florida, to detain migrant children. That center is near a military superfund site saturated with contaminants linked to cancer, kidney failure, blood disorders, and developmental damage. Dangerous chemicals cause human suffering.
The list goes on and on of decisions that can ultimately bring pain and suffering to humans. We can’t blame God for what we do to ourselves by selfishness, bad judgment, greed, and abuse of God’s gifts.
One of the most famous authors on the world literary scene was Leo Tolstoy. He is probably best known for War and Peace but is well respected for his other novels. In 1890 Tolstoy wrote an essay titled, “Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?” For Tolstoy, “stupefacients” were anything that interfered with the rigorous application of a person’s conscience, and he believed they caused most human problems. Tolstoy’s list of stupefacients included wine, beer, spirits, narcotics, and tobacco.
The Bible agrees with Tolstoy. Numerous Old Testament passages tell of trouble coming from the use of alcohol. (For example, see Genesis 9:20-24, Leviticus 10:9, Deuteronomy 29:6, and Judges 13:4-7.) The condemnation of alcohol use in passages like Proverbs 20:1 and 23:21 make it clear this is not God’s will for us to stupefy ourselves with alcohol. There is no product of humanity that has caused more misery, ill health, disruption, and violence than alcohol.
So here we are in 2021, legalizing another stupefacient. We already see the ill effects of the use of marijuana, and yet 70% of all Americans support the legalization of recreational pot. Nearly 80% of people in the 18-29 age category support it. Celebrities like Willie Nelson, Cheech and Chong, Woody Harrelson, and Bill Maher have promoted marijuana as a way to find peace in a confusing world.
People made similar claims about alcohol when prohibition was the law. The promoters of alcohol won, and the result of the legalization of alcohol brought in tax dollars. At the same time, it has cost far more in alcohol-related accidents, broken homes, and broken lives. The legalization of marijuana is also riding on the claim of increased tax dollars.
Tolstoy was a Russian writing in the late 19th century, and he was unsuccessful in turning Russia away from the use of stupefacients. The Russian Republic was destroyed and replaced with Communism with dictators like Lenin and Stalin. The question is, “Will America survive our 21st-century involvement with stupefacients?”
One of the challenges of medical science is how to test a new drug or procedure on humans. If people are nothing more than animals, science can justify experimenting on human subjects for the common good. For example, German and Japanese scientists conducted experiments on World War II prisoners against their will. After the war, international courts prosecuted German doctors and scientists for war crimes related to human experimentation. Japanese researchers did not face trial because the U.S. agreed not to prosecute in exchange for access to their data.
Out of the prosecution of German researchers came what is called “The Nuremberg Code.” It involves ten statements describing the ethical standards for experimenting on human subjects in research. In simple terms, the ten statements are:
Participants must give consent without stress or force.
The research must be able to show benefits for the good of society.
Findings should justify the experiment.
Research should avoid mental suffering and physical harm.
No one should be killed or injured.
Risks should not outweigh the benefits.
The research should protect participants from injury or death.
The researcher must be qualified to do the research.
Participants should be able to stop participating at any time.
The researcher must be prepared to stop the study at any time.
A classic example of how far things can go in today’s world, even in the United States, is the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Male Negro.” That study continued from 1932 to 1972. The United States Public Health Service recruited 600 African American men with syphilis offering them free meals and burial stipends for the right to their bodies after they died. Unfortunately, no medical treatment was made available to those men, and they were subjected to painful spinal taps. You can imagine what they went through with 40 years of untreated syphilis raging in their bodies.
Looking at what happened in this terrible event brings to mind the struggles in America today. In the past, society considered blacks to be less human than whites. For that reason, causing them pain and premature death to benefit the scientific establishment was deemed to be acceptable. The “black lives matter” movement of today is rooted in this kind of history.
More to the point is that science ignored the teachings of the Bible. The Bible tells us that humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), and the body is the temple of God’s Spirit, and defiling the temple invites God’s wrath (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). That means not caring for every person is a rebellion against God. Experimenting on human subjects in the Tuskegee experiment can only be justified if you view blacks as less than human. It also requires embracing the notion that survival of the fittest means it is acceptable to sacrifice the less fit to benefit the fit. Many people today do not accept the Christian view that all humans are special because we are created in the image of God. We can see the result of that in the chaos tearing at the fabric of society.
One of the challenging situations in America today is what to do about the rights of Christian colleges and universities and LGBTQ people. On June 8. 2021, the U.S. Justice Department filed a court statement to defend the LGBTQ exemption for religious colleges from the federal civil rights law. This means that the Justice Department intends to continue allowing Christian colleges who believe that homosexuality is wrong to exclude LGBTQ students from their schools.
Involved in all of this is the fact that the Education Department provides billions of dollars of federal money for scholarships and grants to students attending Christian colleges and universities. The two opposing organizations involved are the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP). CCCU says they are afraid the Biden administration “may be openly hostile” to their cause. They say they have a First Amendment right to promote traditional religious beliefs about sexuality and gender. REAP maintains that this is anti-LGBTQ hate and causes severe harm to LGBTQ students.
Presently 40 LGBTQ students at conservative religious colleges and universities are suing the Department of Education for its role in the LGBTQ exemption for religious colleges. The case is Hunter versus the U.S. Department of Education, and the outcome will have substantial implications for Christian schools and colleges in the United States. While this dispute is between the LGBTQ community and Christian colleges, the issues will affect other Christian organizations.
This is another case of rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21). When a college or other institution accepts money from the government for anything, directly or indirectly, they are obligated to accept government control and restrictions.
Many years ago, Ohio Valley Christian College used grant money to construct an auditorium. However, when it was completed, they were not allowed to have chapel services in the facility because of the use of federal funds. The school eventually bought out the grants so that they could pray in the building.
One of the most challenging issues facing churches, businesses, and the court system is how to resolve situations where a business owner refuses to do something that would violate their religious beliefs. For example, recent cases have involved a flower store owner who was asked to provide flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding and a cake artist who was asked to create a cake for a same-sex wedding and then a sex transition celebration. Both of these cases involve discrimination against religious beliefs. A florist named Barronelle Stutzman in the state of Washington refused to prepare a floral display for a same-sex wedding because she believes, as her church teaches, that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. At the end of June, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear Stutzman’s appeal. That allowed the ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court to stand fining her for violating an anti-discrimination law.
We reported earlier about a case involving Jack Phillips, a cake artist who refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. The Supreme Court decided in favor of Phillips in 2018 because the suit against him was motivated by anti-religious bias. Since then, another lawsuit was filed against Phillips because he would not design a cake to celebrate a sex transition. Discrimination against religious beliefs continues to challenge Christians.
An even more consequential challenge existed in Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia refused to place foster-care children with a Catholic agency because it would not allow same-sex couples to apply to be foster parents. This case is more serious only because it involves children. The question here is whether children can live in a family without both sexes being represented and not have mental issues related to that environment.
As a public school teacher, I saw the challenges faced by kids with single parents. Many of them did well in spite of that situation, but it was an issue. Kids needing foster care are especially vulnerable, and same-sex couples would add another layer of stress to the stability of those kids.
The question of discrimination against religious beliefs is vast. That is one more reason to keep a separation between church and state. Since our political system has embraced everything from prostitution to marijuana, the days ahead look difficult for people trying to live as Christ taught us to live. Remember that Christians in the first century faced the same kind of problems, but Rome never claimed to guarantee religious freedom as the United States Constitution does.