We have said many times before that science and faith are friends, not enemies. The conflict comes when we have bad science or bad theology, and there has been a lot of both. It becomes increasingly necessary in today’s polarized world to avoid fake science and false religious doctrines.
From the beginning of the Church, there have been preachers and teachers who were spreading false doctrines. (2 Corinthians 11:13, 1 Timothy 1:3). Today some scientists present falsified scientific research. Elisabeth Bik, a microbiology researcher, has spent the past few years searching out fraudulent science. She searched 20,000 reports of medical research and found that 800 of them (4%) contained manipulated images.
One of the fraudulent papers Bik found was the work of a Pfizer cancer lab researcher. The images had been edited to show results that were not true. After Bik alerted Pfizer, they fired the researcher, and then investigated her previous research on cancer therapeutics. They found more bogus papers that they had to retract. Scientists often use the work of their peers as a basis for further research. If they are basing their work on false information, the whole system becomes polluted, and lives may be endangered.
Publishing scientific work in prestigious academic journals can lead to respect by other scientists as well as career enhancement and increased income. That creates a “publish or perish” mentality. The temptation to falsify the data becomes strong, and sometimes scientists yield to temptation. That’s a good reason why faith in God is necessary for scientists. Furthermore, the science journals don’t have the staff or funds to catch mistakes, and they are reluctant to retract what they have printed.
With the start of 2020, we are beginning Does God Exist? Today, Year 4. This website features the kind of information found in the “News and Notes” column in our printed quarterly publication. However, because Does God Exist? Today is published daily, the information is more up-to-date. This website continues to grow in its worldwide outreach thanks to our loyal followers.
In addition to the daily posts on this Does God Exist? Today website, we have daily posts on our Facebook page. That page continues to get the attention of people around the world. The posts on the Facebook page deal with evidence of design in living things. We have dealt with that topic for years in our printed publications. This year we plan to expand that with a new website which we will announce soon.
Also, we want you to know about our DoesGodExist.tv website (Does God Exist? Media) where you can view our entire video series. Also, on that site, you will find access to our audio series and as well as other materials.
It is essential that you know about our original website DoesGodExist.org.There you can read the current issue of our printed journal plus many other articles of interest.
Thank you for following our posts. We appreciate your feedback and support. You make it possible for us to share the message that God exists and the good news of His love with people around the world. As we begin Does God Exist? Today year 4, we pray that 2020 will bring blessings to you and your family.
Every year around Christmas and Easter, various secular publications and websites carry articles that are critical of Jesus and the Bible. This year LiveScience.com published a page questioning, “How Much of the Nativity Story is True?” Often articles like this make the mistake of confusing Bible and traditions. This one is no exception.
The article begins by quoting Brent Landau, whom they refer to as “a religious studies scholar at the University of Texas at Austin.” Landau says, “My overall take on this, which would be the opinion of most other biblical scholars as well, is that there is very little in the Christmas story of the Gospels that is historically reliable.” Mr. Landau is not only stating that the “Gospels” are historically unreliable, but he is going farther by asserting that “most other biblical scholars” agree with that! His statement is inaccurate on both counts.
We have many times before dealt with the historical accuracy of the Gospels and the Bible as a whole in our publications, videos, and websites. Most biblical scholars would NOT agree that there is “very little in the Christmas story of the Gospels that is historically unreliable.” Actually, there is very little of the “Christmas story” in the Gospels. The story has been embellished by traditions resulting in people confusing Bible and traditions. Only Matthew and Luke say anything about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, and their accounts are brief. Most of the gospel narratives tell of the ministry and teaching of Jesus leading up to His sacrifice and resurrection, which is much more important than details of His birth.
To provide some balance, the article also quotes Ben Witherington III, a well-known New Testament scholar who teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary. Witherington is author of more than 30 books and is a strong advocate for the accuracy of the Scriptures. He points out that we should apply the same principles of historical investigation to the Bible as we do to the records of other ancient historical events such as Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. As we have pointed out before, the historical evidence for the biblical events is better supported by documentary evidence than any other event of ancient history.
However, as we said, secular writers often make the mistake of confusing Bible and traditions. The article talks about December 25 not being Christ’s birthday. Of course, it isn’t. The Bible doesn’t give a date for His birth, but it was most likely in the spring. The article also says, “Most scholars agree that Jesus wasn’t born in A.D. 1.” That is true also, but that doesn’t mean the Bible is wrong. No year of His birth can be found in the Bible, but the Scripture does connect it with the reign of Herod the Great. In fact, shouldn’t Jesus have been born in 0 A.D? The A.D. And B.C. designations were assigned years later after people came to understand the importance of His birth.
When Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem to a humble couple from the backwater town of Nazareth, only a few shepherds recognized the significance. Herod was the powerful ruler building monuments to himself. Today, Herod’s structures are in ruins, and nobody bases their calendar on his birthday. By contrast, our calendars remind us of the (approximate) date of Jesus’ birth, and the Church that He established is a monument to His love and sacrifice. The Gospel accounts meet the standards of historical integrity when we avoid confusing Bible and traditions.
Christmas reminds us of the birth of Jesus, but why is the birth of a baby two millennia ago relevant today? The answer to that question depends on the answer to another question. Who is Jesus? People have various ideas of who Jesus is. Some say He is God. Others say He was just a man who was a good moral teacher. But, if Jesus is not God, He could not have been a good moral teacher. Let me explain why.
There is no doubt that Jesus was born a human being. The shepherds who saw Him in the stable and the people who watched Him grow up in His hometown of Nazareth could verify that. He grew to be a rabbi, a teacher, and He had many followers. His select group of disciples who talked with Him and ate with Him and lived with Him knew that He was a man. But His teaching was like no other man. He taught with the authority of God. He claimed to be God. He claimed to forgive sins, which only God can do.
Thus, if that baby born in Bethlehem were merely a human being who grew to be a man and said the things He said, He would not be a good moral teacher. He claimed to teach the truth, and He even claimed to be the truth. He claimed to be God! If He were not God, He would be a liar or a madman, but He would not a good moral teacher.
So who is Jesus? What do we celebrate at Christmas? We remember that God took on flesh as a baby who grew to be a man. He lived a sinless life because He is God. But He did not come merely to show us how to live a sinless life. He knew that we could not. He came to redeem us—to be a sacrifice for our sins.
When Jesus was on Earth, He was truly man and truly God. He could be the sacrifice for sins only because He was God. Although Jesus was sinless, He was not a third-party victim selected to bear our punishment. It would be immoral to punish an innocent man for the sins of all the guilty people. He was also the divine lawgiver and judge, so He could choose to suffer the penalty of His own law and bear the sins of all people. One man could only bear the punishment for His own sins. God can bear the punishment for all.
So who is Jesus? On that night near Bethlehem, the angel did not merely announce the birth of a baby boy. The angel said, “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11 CSB). Have you allowed Him to be your Savior?
After today, Sunday, December 22, 2019, the hours of daylight will begin to be longer in the Northern Hemisphere where we live. Last night at 11:19 p.m. local time (Eastern Standard), the December solstice occurred as the Sun reached its lowest point in the dome of the sky, even though we couldn’t see it. It happened at the same moment all over the Earth, but, of course, local times varied. (It was at 04:19 Universal Time, and you can figure your local time from that.)
The December solstice ushers in winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere. So for those of us in the north, the days will now start to slowly get longer as the weather gets colder. South of the equator, the situation is just the opposite. At the North Pole, there are 24 hours of darkness when the Sun never appears. At the South Pole, the Sun is up for 24 hours.
Although the December solstice is the time when the Sun is at its farthest point south, it hasn’t moved. We have. Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees from the path of its orbit path around the Sun. Each year that tilt causes us Earthlings to perceive that the Sun is moving north or south. Earth’s orbit is somewhat elliptical rather than a perfect circle. The point when Earth is closest to the Sun occurs in January during the Northern Hemisphere’s mid-winter. It’s mid-summer in the Southern Hemisphere, so you might think that their summers would be extra hot. Whatever increased heat would occur because of the proximity of the Sun is counteracted by the fact that the Southern Hemisphere is mostly covered by oceans which absorb the heat. That is just another part of our amazingly well-engineered planet.
In Genesis 1:14, we read that God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.” Ever since Adam and Eve, people have recognized the Sun’s regular path across the sky and the changes in daylight, sunrise, and sunset times throughout the year. In ancient times, they didn’t understand why. We know why and we marvel at the design.
Every creature on Earth is affected in some way by the length of daylight. Historically, people in the Northern Hemisphere have celebrated the December solstice because it means the days will start getting longer, and spring will return. In ancient Rome, the people called their celebration Saturnalia and honored their pagan god Saturn with immoral behavior. With the coming of Christianity, the Christians re-purposed the holiday to honor the coming of Christ into the world. While the pagans celebrated with debauchery, the Christians made it a time of praising God and the gift of His Son. Jesus was almost certainly not born at this time of year, but more likely in the spring. However, we should take time to honor God for the beautiful design of our planet that makes life possible, and the wonderful gift of Jesus that makes eternal life possible.
What if we could speed up time to test the concept of evolution? A scientist can’t wait millions or billions of years to study the process of natural selection as it creates new creatures. With that in mind, science must devise evolution experiments to study many generations in a much shorter time.
More than thirty years ago, Richard Lenski, who teaches at Michigan State University, began a project to study the evolution of the bacteria Escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli. The project is called the Long-Term Evolution Experiment (LTEE). The scientist and his assistants carefully track the naturally-occurring random mutations in succeeding generations of E. coli. The environment for the bacteria is optimized for these one-cell creatures to grow and reproduce. Mutations are often harmful, but sometimes beneficial mutations lead to an improvement in the bacteria’s reproductive ability. Natural selection removes the bacteria with harmful mutations while those with beneficial mutations become more fit and reproduce. It’s what we call survival of the fittest.
Since 1988, the evolution experiment has continued, and scientists have kept careful records of the changes. Since the generation period of these bacteria is much shorter than that of humans, the study has gone through 70,000 generations. That is equivalent to more than 1.75 million years of human generations.
Through thousands of generations, there have been billions of mutations. Beneficial mutations that have lasted and accumulated amount to dozens. It is interesting that as time passes, successful mutations become increasingly rare. What the scientists are looking for is what they call “historical contingency,” which means a succession of small, almost inconsequential changes that accumulate to create significant changes.
So how has the E. coli changed after the 70,000 generations in this evolution experiment? The latest generation of E. coli can reproduce 70% faster than their ancestors. They are still bacteria. In fact, they are still E. coli bacteria. They have not mutated into some more advanced form of life. Dr. Lenski wants to see funding made available to continue the experiment for another 30 or even 300 years in the hope of seeing more dramatic results.
The LTEE has inspired other scientists to conduct evolution experiments. There is one at Harvard experimenting with yeast. Other scientists have experimented with fruit flies (Drosophila) to study the evolution of multi-cell creatures. They have bombarded the fruit flies with radiation and chemicals, changing light levels, and changing temperatures. After thousands of generations, the result has been mutant fruit flies with extra eyes or wings that didn’t function. They were still fruit flies.
The bottom line is that multi-generation evolution experiments have not resulted in new creatures or even greatly improved old creatures. The changes resulting from mutations and natural selection are either harmful or insignificant. God created animals to adapt and change due to environmental forces. Humans can change and sometimes improve animals by selective breeding. We see that very clearly in the many and very different breeds of dogs. But the evidence seems to indicate that only God can make a Canine or a Drosophila or an Escherichia—or a human.
I went with my grandson to a musical instrument mega-store, where he was looking for an amplifier for his bass guitar. In addition to being a guitarist, he is also a drummer. While there, my ears were accosted as he tested a drum set and then tried out several bass guitar amps. The bass was so loud it rattled objects in the vicinity, and I could feel it pounding on my body. The experience reminded me of the connections between humans and music of all kinds.
My grandson purchased nothing because he didn’t find anything he liked in his price range. As we left the store, I was a bit relieved since my ears were still ringing. Stepping out into the parking lot, the sound of heavy traffic on the busy New Jersey street was relatively quiet.
Humans and music have been connected from the beginning. The artifacts left behind by the earliest humans include primitive musical instruments. Music styles change, and tastes in music vary from person to person. Just think of all the different musical genres and styles that people create and enjoy from country to classical, from jazz to gospel.
Music can stir our emotions. It can transport us to new places in our minds or stimulate us to action. Music can soothe our troubled souls, or a sad song can make us cry. The words of Christian songs can inspire us, and music can also tempt us into sin. Music goes beyond our minds and reaches into our emotions. What is it about music that so moves us? Perhaps it’s a desire for heaven.
Read the book of Revelation, and you will get an idea of the role of music in heaven. Music and worship go together, both in this life and in the life ahead. One of the things that distinguishes humans is our ability to create, perform, and appreciate music. Since we are created in the image of God, that must mean that God appreciates music also. Revelation indicates that singing for God before His throne will be a joyful experience. Until then, humans and music will go together as we long for the time when we are at home with God. For now, singing as we worship Him in our assemblies brings us joy as we honor our Creator.
We have mentioned before that many human inventions are actually adaptations of things we see in nature. That applies to products from Velcro to high-strength materials to airplanes. However, there are times when we can’t improve on the natural product, so we use it as God created it. An example of that is wood. It’s a natural multipurpose building material. Wood is strong, durable, flexible, weather-resistant, lightweight, and non-toxic. Lumber from trees is the most common building material for homes and other housing structures.
How could there be such a well-designed and valuable natural multipurpose building material? Wood is produced in a living plant. Under the protective bark of a tree lies the cambium layer. It is the innermost layer of the bark where growth takes place. Each year, during the warm months, the cambium produces living cells, which become the new sheath expanding the trunk of the tree. The layers from previous years remain as the wooden skeleton giving strength to the tree. If you cut it down, you can count those layers as visible rings revealing the age of the tree.
The tree’s roots take in water with vital nutrients from the ground. Within the woody trunk, there are microscopic conduits called xylem carrying that water up to the leaves. Just outside of the cambium, another layer of micro-ducts called phloem moves sugar-water that the leaves produce using the amazingly complex system of photosynthesis. The phloem supplies nourishment that the cambium requires to build the new sheath of wood. When the growing season ends, the phloem carries the remaining nourishment to the roots for winter storage until next spring.
Trees often lose branches from wind, ice storms, other natural means, or by human intervention. When that happens, it can throw the tree off balance. The cambium steps in to build a thicker sheath on the side where the limb was lost, reinforcing the tree to bear the uneven load. When examining the rings of a felled tree, a ring that is thicker on one side indicates a fallen branch. The tree automatically takes care of the area of the lost limb by covering it with new annual sheaths.
Take a moment to look at the wood in your house. That natural multipurpose building material in the window and door trim, the floor, and your furniture was once alive. It was growing and transporting sap while the leaves converted sunlight and water into sugar-water to nourish the tree, and the cambium created new growth. The lines in that wood tell the story of days and years of rainfall, sunshine, wind, and changing temperatures in a forest somewhere in the world. The wood in your house is not there by accident, and we don’t believe the tree was a natural accident, but the work of a creative Engineer.
Imagine standing naked outside on a cold winter day. When winter’s chill comes, people take shelter. If we have to be out, we put on more clothing. Most animals have fur or feathers to help keep them warm, and they also seek shelter from the cold. Trees in winter can only stand there and take it for months at a time. So how do trees prepare for winter?
Living cells in plants or animals consist primarily of water inside a membrane. If you leave a bottle of water in your car on a night when the temperature drops below freezing, you know it will freeze and break the bottle. That is because water has the unique property of expanding as it freezes. The same thing can happen in living cells. If the water in the cell freezes, it will expand and rupture the membrane. Animals that are endothermic (warm-blooded) generate heat within their cells by burning sugar to produce energy. Plants make sugar using light energy. With a few exceptions, they don’t produce heat.
How do trees prepare for winter? They use a process botanists refer to as “hardening.” The cell walls become more permeable to allow water to escape. At the same time, sugars, proteins, and acids in the cell are concentrated into a syrupy liquid, which acts as an antifreeze. The spaces between the cell walls become filled with ultra-pure water filtered through the cell walls. Pure water without stray atoms to form a nucleus around which ice crystals can grow, will freeze only at a much lower temperature. With the cells filled with antifreeze and spaces between having only ultra-pure water that can be super-cooled without freezing, the tree is ready for what the winter brings.
How does the tree know that it’s time to harden for winter? Fall weather can fluctuate quickly and dramatically. A tree can’t depend on the fickle weather because it could easily be fooled by warm days that suddenly turn cold, causing it to freeze to death. Trees know when to prepare for winter because of the length of the days – the “photoperiod.” Weather is unpredictable. The Sun is absolutely dependable. When the tree senses a decrease in light in each 24-hour cycle, it knows winter is coming, even if the weather is unusually warm. The pattern of changing daylight and darkness is exactly the same every year, even though the weather is capricious.
God engineered this incredibly well-designed system. “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will serve as signs for seasons and for days and for years’” (Genesis 1:14). Thus God designed the system which says, “Trees prepare for winter.” It’s another engineering marvel from the Creator.
There’s an amazing balance in the design of living things in this world. Many times humans throw the system out of balance. The rhinoceros is endangered not because of natural predators, but because of humans. Rhino horns can sell for thousands of dollars for their collectible value and their use in traditional Asian medicine, so poachers take advantage of that.
People are willing to pay a high price for the rhino horns for decorative or medicinal purposes. Killing these animals to use their horns for decorative trophies is shameful. Killing them for medicine is useless. Their horns consist of only keratin, which is the same as human hair or fingernails. In reality, the rhino horn is one really tough bundle of nose hairs glued together by material extruded from sebaceous glands in the animal’s nose. Superstitious beliefs have caused people to grind the rhino horns into powder and drink the powder in water or inhale it for supposed health benefits.
Wild rhinos numbered over half-a-million at the beginning of the twentieth century. Today there are fewer than 30,000. The International Rhino Foundation reports that three rhinos are killed each day by poachers just to obtain their horns. Trying to catch the poachers and stop them in the act is nearly impossible. Sawing off the rhino’s horn to make it unattractive to poachers is not a good solution. Science is looking for a better way.
Researchers from the University of Oxford have designed fake rhino horns that look and feel like the real thing. More than that, they have similar material properties to the real horns. They used hairs from the tails of horses (close relatives of rhinos) and cemented them together with a silk-protein based organic filler. Molding the structure into the shape of a rhino horn, you get a realistic imitation. Even examining the internal structure on cross-section reveals identical characteristics. It also handles grinding and high temperatures like the real deal.
These fake rhino horns can be manufactured rather economically, so the rhinoceros horn market could be flooded with them to disrupt the black market. Furthermore, when the horns are ground into powder for medicinal purposes, they will be just as effective real horns, meaning not effective at all.
Education doesn’t work as long as people have superstitious religious beliefs about the power of rhino horns. Perhaps the fake horns will help. The best answer to the problem of human abuse of this well-designed world is to realize that the Creator has given us the job of being caretakers of the creation. (Genesis 2:15) If we believe there is a Creator who holds us responsible, we have good reason to handle the Earth and the life on it with care.