Jesus told Pilate that everyone who follows the way of truth listens to His voice. Pilate replied, “What is truth?” That was a rhetorical question. He said it because he didn’t think there was such a thing as ultimate truth, and his worldview was like that of many moderns. What is truth today? “Truth is what you make it.” “Your truth is not my truth.” “I don’t believe anyone has ultimate truth.”
In today’s world, people are confused by many contradictory “truths” presented by politicians, religious leaders, and social media. It is amazing how two people can look at the same fact and reach opposite conclusions. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb, He told His disciples that He would soon be crucified. Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled. What should I say—Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify our name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (See John 12:27-29.) The crowd of people who heard it reached different conclusions. Some said it was thunder, and some said it was the voice of an angel. When Peter and the apostles spoke to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, some said they were drunk while others repented of the grave injustice they had done to Jesus. (See Acts 2:5-13, 38-41.)
It has always been possible for people to reach completely different conclusions while looking at the same evidence. In our posts and publications, we often show design in living things, on planet Earth, and in the universe. We see that design as evidence of a Designer. Others see it as a pattern of accidental coincidence created by random chance. Paul said we can know there is a God by the things He has made. (See Romans 1:20.) He explained the inability of many to see that truth by saying, “In their case, the god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers…” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
What is truth today, and why is it often difficult to tell from lies? Experience has shown that when a lie is told repeatedly and often, people will eventually believe it. In our post-modern age, we have social media spreading lies. We also have “fact checkers” who have their own agendas and biases, which slant the way they look at “What is truth?” It can be hard to know whom to believe.
The term “fake news” has entered our vocabulary in a big way. We have seen news reports of “peaceful protests” while behind the reporter, fires are burning. In cases like that, we can see that the facts don’t fit the description. However, modern technology has created ways to fool our senses. We have posted examples of various kinds of fakery HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
The fakery is only getting worse to the point where we can’t always believe our eyes and ears. Artificial intelligence has made it possible to create very convincing fake videos. You won’t believe your eyes if you watch THIS FAKE VIDEO of president Richard Nixon eulogizing the Apollo astronauts who died on the Moon. Of course, we remember that it did not happen, but the video can almost bring tears to your eyes. The creators of this fantastic fake video were not trying to fool us but to show us how dangerous video fakery has become.
So what is truth today? Jesus is truth. The Bible is truth. The point we are making is that we must be skeptical when it comes to history or politics, or religion. Make sure your sources for faith topics are reliable and test them against God’s word. Fake news can be dangerous, but false religious teaching is the most dangerous of all.
I am sure you have heard the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.” Perhaps someone used it to give you a warning about the danger of curiosity. In other words, they wanted you to stay just as you are and not ask questions.
However, asking questions is part of being human. The truth is that cats are not particularly curious. If you observe them, you may notice that they are extremely cautious. They may watch from a distance or test something cautiously with one paw. Humans, however, are not so cautious in their approach to things.
Humans are born into the world with a lot to learn, and they have to do it in a short time. Perceptual curiosity is the tool babies use to learn about the world. Adults who know the dangers of the world are always putting up barriers because the infant hasn’t learned the danger of curiosity.
However, perceptual curiosity is not restricted to humans. Animals such as dogs and crows (and even cats) display curiosity as they randomly explore unfamiliar objects. They may be thinking, “Does it move?” or “Can I eat it?” That is not much different from an infant’s investigation of the surroundings.
There is another level of curiosity only seen in humans. Psychologists call it epistemic curiosity. Jordan A. Litman of the psychology department at the University of South Florida wrote a paper on epistemic curiosity in the Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. He defined epistemic curiosity as “the desire to obtain new knowledge (e.g., concepts, ideas, and facts) expected to stimulate intellectual interest…or eliminate conditions of informational deprivation.” Epistemic curiosity requires an understanding of complex language and the ability to think and reason. It goes beyond infant or animal curiosity. Humans display epistemic curiosity after their perceptual curiosity has given them the necessary tools.
Epistemic curiosity leads humans to go beyond creating simple tools, which some animals can do, to imagining and inventing new creative possibilities. It has paved the way for creativity in music, art, and science. Humans have an intellectual interest in things beyond what is required for mere survival. We want to eliminate “informational deprivation.” We wonder what would happen if…, and what will happen when…” We want to know if there is a God. We want to know if this life is all there is. This ministry seeks to encourage that curiosity and encourage people to follow the evidence where it leads. The problem comes when people choose to stay at the perceptual curiosity level. “If our senses can’t detect it, then it doesn’t exist.” “The cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be.” “Curiosity killed the cat, so, therefore, don’t be curious.” “Don’t ask too many questions.”
If someone wants you to stay just as you are and avoid the danger of curiosity–beware! Don’t be afraid to ask the crucial questions. Sadly, it is not always unbelievers who avoid the danger of curiosity. God is not afraid of our questions. Let us, like Job, not be afraid to ask the questions–and accept the answers.
Someone asked me, “Why did God do it that way? My only reply was, “I don’t know. I would not have done it that way. I guess you’ll have to ask God.” Why is it that we want God to do things the way we would do them? Are we remaking God in our image?
One of the objections that people have to God’s existence is that they think a loving and omnipotent God would do things differently. Why does God allow suffering? Why did God create viruses? Why didn’t God do a better job of designing (insert anything here)? Like Job in the Old Testament, we think we are smarter than God, and we want to tell Him how to do things. God set Job straight by giving him some challenges such as: “Do you know how to make (insert item here)?” – “Where were you when I did (this thing)?” – “Do you know how (this works)?” Job suddenly realized that he didn’t know everything. He was not as smart as the thought he was.
I could list several things right now that I think God should have done differently. But, before I do that, I have to look at my own failures and weaknesses. I have to look at times when things didn’t work out the way I planned, and I am thankful they didn’t. Small changes in my life’s circumstances would have led me in a completely different direction. God knew what was going to happen. He knew what was best. I can only be thankful that God has not allowed me to remake Him in my image.
We are created in the image of God, but sometimes we become guilty of remaking God in our image. Can we fully understand God and why He does things the way He does? Absolutely not! Can we trust Him to do things right? Absolutely yes! J. I. Packer, the late Bible scholar and author of Knowing God, was interviewed at age 89 after losing sight from macular degeneration. When asked how he felt about no longer being able to read, write, and teach, he replied, “God knows what He’s doing,…this comes as a clear indication from headquarters. And I take it from Him.”
We need to stop remaking God in our image and simply trust God to be God. He knows what He’s doing.
On this website, we often talk about design in living things. Everyone sees design in the world around us. It’s impossible not to see design. Even the leading atheist biologist Richard Dawkins said that biology is the study of things that appear to be designed for a purpose. However, he believes they only appear to be designed because he knows that design requires a designer. The trick is to pretend that it is not design but merely a pattern produced by natural selection acting on random chance mutations.
Our study of design is not the ancient god-of-the-gaps concept where we say, “I don’t know how this happened, so there must be a god who did it.” Instead, we consider the evidence for the possibility of these “designs” happening by pure chance. Is chance or intelligence a better explanation for what we see in living things? Can the features we observe be explained more effectively by natural selection acting on random mutations; or by intelligent design? Which alternative has greater explanatory power and is, therefore, more plausible? Can you say with confidence that living things were not designed for a purpose?
Every day, we see machines and devices created by human intelligence. We marvel at the complexity of such things as computers, automobiles, or vehicles for space travel. The intricate design of living things, including humans, is far greater than any of those human-designed devices. Do we ever question whether the human inventions came together by accident? But some would say, “Those things are not alive, and therefore they can’t design themselves. Living things can change on their own through natural selection.”
That brings up the question of where did the first living thing come from? It came from non-living matter. How did that lifeless material assemble itself into something as complex as a living cell that could take in nourishment and reproduce? Where did the information in the DNA come from? Random text can’t assemble itself into intelligent language, and the DNA contains a language so complex that it took modern computers to decipher it. What intelligence wrote the code within the DNA of each plant and animal, giving them the ability to change and adapt to stay alive?
We see random patterns in clouds, or sand, or waves blown by the wind. We see patterns of sunlight on the forest floor as it shines through the tree leaves. Those things are random. Though they may be beautiful, they are not examples of design. When we see the biological systems working within a living animal or plant or study biomes and ecosystems working in harmony to make life possible, we observe more than a chance pattern. We are beholding something that was designed for a purpose by an intelligent Designer.
Bringing it closer to home—that means an intelligent Designer designed YOU for a purpose.
Lava tubes on Earth are dark and cold places. It’s unclear what they may be like on Mars, but perhaps someone will find out. Future Martian explorers may experience life in a lava tube.
Camping out on Mars is not a good idea. There is no breathable atmosphere, and the radiation is deadly. Without much of an atmosphere, the temperature on Mars varies extremely. On a summer day near the equator, the temperature may reach a comfortable 70 degrees F (20 degrees C). However, without the thermal blanket of an atmosphere, the night-time temperature can drop to minus 100 degrees F (minus 73 C). At the poles, the temperature can get down to minus 195 F (minus 125 C). The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees F (minus 60 C).
Transporting materials to build a suitable shelter on Mars would be difficult. Any structure would have to be small and still might not give adequate protection from radiation. The surface of Mars receives unfiltered solar radiation, cosmic rays, and ionized particles from the solar wind. With the lack of an atmosphere or a magnetosphere, which we have on Earth, there is nothing to block the dangerous radiation. The amount of radiation is many times what astronauts experience in the International Space Station (ISS). NASA limits astronaut exposures in the ISS to months. Explorers might have to spend years on Mars. Just getting there will take about seven months.
What does this have to do with life in a lava tube, and what are lava tubes anyway? During a volcanic eruption, molten lava can bore its way through the ground and run out into the open. When the molten lava exits, it often leaves behind a cave-like underground tube. I explored the Lava River Cave (bottom picture) in Arizona, located in the Coconino National Forest. The walls are black basalt, which the lava left behind, and there is no light except at the entrance. The temperature remains constant at around 40 degrees F (4 degrees C). In most places, the ceiling is high enough that I could stand up, but in other areas, I had to crouch down or get on my hands and knees. The top picture shows a larger lava tube in Iceland.
Researchers have detected what appears to be lava tubes on Mars near Hadriacus Mons, which is a volcanic mountain formed long ago when the Martian interior was hot. They suggest that those lava tubes would be the best location for a Martian outpost. The lava tubes would give protection from the radiation, and it might even be possible to seal one off, pressurize it with oxygen, and heat it. They tested the radiation protection concept in some lava tubes on Earth, including the Lava River Cave in Arizona.
All of this drives home how blessed we are to have a home on planet Earth. I can step outside on a beautiful day, breathe the oxygen, feel the filtered rays of sun on my face, enjoy the pleasant temperature, and thank God for the blessings. Stepping out of the lava tube on Mars without the protection of a super-spacesuit would mean instant death. Even though I enjoyed exploring the lava tube in Arizona, I wouldn’t want to live there. Life in a lava tube does not interest me. I enjoy living on this planet, which God designed to give us everything we need if we will just take care of it.
The ancient Greeks saw the five visible planets and called them “wandering stars” because they moved randomly across the sky instead of staying in fixed positions like the stars. The word “planet” comes from the Greek word for “wanderer.”
We have known for many centuries that the planets are not stars. They appear to wander because they orbit the Sun, just like our planet Earth. They orbit at different speeds, making them appear to wander in the sky. For astronomers to classify a celestial body as a planet, it must meet three requirements:
It must have enough mass for gravity to cause it to become spherical, unlike an asteroid.
It must not have enough mass to cause thermonuclear fusion, which would make it a star.
It must have cleared the area of debris known as planetesimals.
We have five planets that are visible without the aid of telescopes or even binoculars. Two of the visible planets are called inferior planets, not because of importance but because their orbit is inside Earth’s orbit. They are Mercury and Venus. The other three are known as the superior planets since they are beyond Earth’s orbit. They are Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
There is one essential thing the ancient Greeks did not understand about the solar system. They did not know that it is orderly. The Greeks saw a pantheon of gods controlling various aspects of the Earth and skies. Each of their gods had all of the bad traits of humans struggling with each other. It was the Judeo-Christian concept of one almighty and wise creator God who created an orderly system that led to the scientific understanding of the cosmos.
Biologists are always finding and studying new life-forms. Among recent discoveries are fish as flat as a pancake.
How many species of biological life exist? So far, scientists have identified, classified, and named about two million. They estimate that there are somewhere between ten-million and one-hundred-million. How fast are scientists finding and describing new forms of life? About 18,000 new species are identified and given genus and species names each year. At that rate, it will take somewhere between 555 and 5,555 years to identify them all. Obviously, biologists have a lot of work left to do.
Each year, scientists identify most of the “new species” from museum specimens that were found earlier but not studied carefully. Some species in the wild are going extinct, and some of the museum specimens may already have gone out of existence. Two species that are not endangered and that were discovered in the wild in 2010 are fish “as flat as a pancake.”
Scientists discovered two species of pancake batfish in the Gulf of Mexico near the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They gave their discoveries the genus and species names Halieutichthys intermedius and Halieutichthys bispinosus. (The picture shows the similar Halieutichthys aculeatus.) You probably won’t remember their names (or even know to pronounce them), but they play a role in the balance of life in the ocean.
Pancake batfish live on the sandy bottom of the ocean between 148 and 2,690 feet (45-820 m) below the surface. They are flat, that’s why the name “pancake,” and they cover themselves with sand to wait for prey. They eat snails, worms, clams, scallops, and other crustaceans. Their maximum diameter is about 4 inches (10 cm), and they move over the ocean floor by hopping on their fins.
We have to wonder why there are so many species.God created living things with the ability to adapt to many environments, with each one filling a niche in the marvelous system that makes our lives possible. He even gave us strange fish as flat as a pancake. Furthermore, God created us with unquenchable curiosity and plenty of things to study. We believe that we can learn more about God as we explore the creation.
We usually think of bacteria as agents of infectious disease–“germs.” However, many types of bacteria are helpful to us. The truth is, we could not survive without bacteria.
More bacterial cells are living on and in your body than there are human cells in your body. Your body has more bacterial cells than there are people in the whole world! Even more amazing, the total biomass of all bacteria in the world is greater than that of all plants and animals in the world!
Bacteria in our digestive system allow us to digest the food we eat. Good bacteria even help us fight off their less-friendly cousins. Researchers recently discovered that a human skin bacteria (Staphylococcus epidermidis) protects against skin cancer. Those bacteria produce a compound nicknamed 6-HAP, which stops DNA formation in cancer cells, but not in healthy cells. The researchers hope to use this information to develop new treatments for skin cancer.
Bacteria live everywhere in soil, water, hot springs, the deepest part of the oceans, deep in the Earth’s crust, and even in radioactive waste. Bacteria break down waste materials, including sewage and oil spills, to help keep our world clean. Industry uses bacteria to produce cheese, yogurt, ethanol, vitamins, antibiotics, and prescription drugs.
Before humans or any form of animal life could live on the Earth, there had to be a full complement of the right kinds of bacteria. An intricate system of checks and balances had to exist for things to stay in a favorable condition. We have often paid the price for upsetting the balance of the microscopic world.
Don’t forget that we could not survive without bacteria. They feed us, clean up after us, and even fight the diseases some of their cousins cause. They also show us the wisdom and intelligence of the Creator who made us, and those microbes we can’t see.
Brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys) have become a significant pest in areas of the United States. They are native to Asia, but humans accidentally introduced them into the USA in 1998. Since they have no natural predators in North America, their numbers have grown dramatically. We can learn a lesson from stink bugs and human mistakes.
Brown marmorated stink bugs are commonly known to Americans simply as “stink bugs.” The “stink” is because they give off a foul smell when disturbed. “Marmorated” refers to their marbled coloration. You can distinguish brown marmorated stink bugs from similar-looking beetles by the alternating light and dark colors on their antennae and the edges of their abdomen.
When the weather turns cold, these pests find ways to get into homes through small openings, and there they hibernate. Sometimes the heat in the house causes them to become active and annoy the residents during the cold months. The real problem arises when warm weather arrives. That’s when they come out in force.
Halyomorpha halys is a major agricultural problem in some areas because they feed on a wide variety of fruit and vegetable crops. They pierce the plants or the fruits with their needle-like beaks and suck out the fluids. At the same time, they inject saliva, which causes shriveling and rotting.
In their native countries, there is a wasp that feeds on these stink bugs. The US Department of Agriculture has looked into importing those wasps into the United States to bring the bugs under control. The problem with that idea is the wasps might become new pests because they don’t have native predators. Traps remove only some of the bugs, and pesticides can have harmful side-effects. Pesticides are also not very effective because they stay on plant surfaces. The stink bugs don’t eat the surface of the plants. They pierce through the surface and drink the juices from inside. Perhaps the best hope, for now, is that some of our native birds and insects start to develop a taste for stink bugs as their population increases.
Various types of plants are pollinated by bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, or bats. Non-flying mammals pollinate some plants. Rodents accomplish pollination of an African lily (Massonia depressa) that grows in a desert region of South Africa and Namibia.
Massonia depressa forms two huge leaves lying flat on the ground. Its flower in the center is at ground level within reach of the gerbils which pollinate it. Each evening the plant secretes globs of nectar as thick as jelly. The strong yeast-like scent attracts hairy-footed and short-eared gerbils that come at night to eat the nectar. The gerbils get covered with pollen as they spread the flowers open with their front legs and push their faces into the nectar.
Although the nectar is sugar (sucrose) jelly, it is 400 times as thick or viscous as an equivalent sugar solution. Rodents are the pollinators because the nectar is too thick for insects to drink. The gerbils lap it with their tongues. To accommodate the mammal pollinators, the flowers must be more sturdy and produce more pollen than plants pollinated by insects. Unlike the brightly colored flowers that attract flying pollinators in the daytime, these flowers are dull. The Massonia depressa produces seeds that are light enough that the wind scatters them.
We see evidence of design in the pollination of an African lily. This plant depends on a gerbil for reproduction, and the rodent depends on the plant for food. They need each other to survive. The plant is on the ground where the animal can easily reach it. It produces a fragrance and jelly to attract and feed the animal. Insects can’t eat the food or pollinate the plant. The lily and the rodent seem to be made for each other. Some suggest they evolved together by coincidence. We suggest this is another project by the Master Designer.