Canyonlands Field Trip Purpose

Canyonlands Field Trip

Today is the final day of the 2018 DOES GOD EXIST? Canyonlands Tour. The pictures are of Bryce Canyon and Alan Doty who has served as a guide along with John Clayton. They have been making these educational tours for several years. The purpose of the Canyonlands field trip is not just entertainment. We want to help people understand the history of how God has crafted the Earth He created to make it a suitable home for people. We also want to show that science and faith are friends, not enemies. This video is from an earlier journey to the Canyonlands. We share it here so that John can tell you why he believes these trips are important.

You can watch the video series John mentions by using THIS LINK.
We also invite you to see our two previous posts about the Canyonlands Field Trip HERE and HERE.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?
An atheist once said, “We are as much a product of blind forces as is the falling of a stone to earth or the ebb and flow of the tides. We have just happened, and man was made flesh by a long series of singularly beneficial accidents.” The other view is that we are the result of design and planning. Do you consider yourself the result of intelligent design or beneficial accidents?

C. S. Lewis, an atheist who became a believer, wrote, “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists’ and astronomers’ as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident would be able to give correct account of all the other accidents.”

We suggest that you ask yourself this question: “Can I rationally believe that the incredible complexity of my body is the result of mindless forces, or does it indicate design?” If our thoughts are merely accidental byproducts of the movement of atoms in a brain that accidentally assembled itself, then nothing has any real meaning.

At DOES GOD EXIST? we believe that we are not accidents. The human body exhibits evidence of design, not chance accidents. Our thoughts are rational because we are the product of a rational God. Intelligent design or beneficial accidents — which do you choose?
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Grand Canyon Formation

Grand Canyon Formation
As we told you before, this is the week of the 2018 Canyonlands Tour. We mentioned the plaque at the Grand Canyon watchtower with the verse from Psalms. Today, we would like to share with you a video segment from a previous field trip to the Grand Canyon. In the video, geologist and teacher John Clayton uses the diagram shown above as he describes the layers of the Canyon and the various processes that formed them. The Grand Canyon formation processes are complex and involve God’s work over a vast span of time.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Canyonlands Tour 2018

Canyonlands Tour 2018

This week John Clayton is with a group of people on what we call the Canyonlands Tour. Many times over the years John has taken groups of people to visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion Canyon, as well as other locations in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

The Canyonlands Tour is not just a sightseeing trip. It’s an opportunity for Christians to learn about how God has worked to create those “natural wonders.” John uses his knowledge of geology to explain the many interesting and beautiful features of the “canyonlands” area. Some people try to explain the Grand Canyon by “flood geology.” John explains what the real science of geology actually tells us about the formation of that remarkable Canyon.

With the assistance of Alan Doty who has hiked the canyons many times, the Canyonlands Tour is always an interesting and educational experience. One of the places on the agenda is the “desert view” area overlooking the Canyon. That is the location of a watchtower which visitors can tour.

On a level of the tower, there is a wall which has a plaque attached as you can see in the picture. The plaque contains the words from Psalm 66:4. It says, “All the earth worships Thee; they sing praises to Thee, sing praises to Thy name.” That plaque has been there for years. With atheists demanding the removal of any acknowledgment of God on public property, perhaps the only reason those words are still there is that some might interpret the “Thee” and “Thy” as referring to the Grand Canyon.

However, those pronouns do not refer to the Canyon, but to the One who created it. The process of creating the Canyon was no small feat. It did not happen in one flood. The people on the Canyonlands Tour will learn something about the processes that science still does not fully understand. In the meantime, there are those who say the Grand Canyon disproves God. It does not. It only invalidates a false interpretation of the Bible which many have adopted.

It’s too bad the people who placed that plaque didn’t include verse 3 as well. It says, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you'” (NIV). I am sure that there have been some atheists who have cringed when they read the words of that plaque. I suspect that sometime an “offended” atheist will demand its removal. However, nobody can remove the Grand Canyon and the testimony it gives to the power and glory of God.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians

Nones Can Be More Religious than Christians in Western Europe
We have reported on the Pew Research Center’s survey in the United States which indicated that those who list their religious affiliation as “none” are increasing. (See more about that HERE.) New research indicates that those nones can be more religious than Christians.

In May of 2018, the Pew Research Center released a study of religious beliefs and practices in western Europe. Some of the things they learned are very surprising. The survey involved 25,000 people in 15 countries of Western Europe. Since Pew had previously gathered similar data in the U.S., they were able to make comparisons. In comparing the results in the U.S. and Western Europe, the Pew researchers found that:

1-Americans are more religious than Western Europeans. That isn’t too surprising. The questions asked included “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”

2-American “nones” are more religious than Western European “nones.” This is more surprising since you would think that those who have no religious affiliation would be equally lacking in faith. However, many Americans who have given up on organized religion still believe in God, and they even pray to Him.

3-American “nones” are as religious as or more religious than Christians in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. That is the most surprising finding of all that nones can be more religious than Christians. Only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty. In the United States 27 percent of “nones” have that much faith. Only eighteen percent of Christians in Western Europe pray daily. Twenty-percent of the “nones” in the United States say that they have daily prayer. In Western Europe, fourteen percent of Christians say that religion is very important in their lives. Religion is almost as important to U.S. “nones” where thirteen percent say that religion is very important.

According to Pew Research, even though Western Europeans identify as Christians, for them it is a cultural or ethnic identity rather than a genuine religious faith. Eleven percent of Western Europeans say they are “spiritual but not religious.” That allows them to keep the traditions of Christianity without a commitment to the doctrines and things they don’t like.

Looking at these statistics, we can see that it is possible that some nones can be more religious than Christians. We see that even though faith in God has eroded in the United States, Western Europe is far ahead of us in secularization. All of these statistics give those of us who are committed Christians something to think about.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
You can read more about the recent Pew study HERE.

Opposing Spirit Adversary: Satan

Opposing Spirit Adversary: Satan
When you think of Satan, what do you visualize? Do you see an image of a sinister, demonic-looking man with horns and a tail? Do you see a cartoon guy in a red suit with a pitchfork? The Bible refers to Satan by name more than 50 times and uses other descriptions such as “the enemy” or “the prince of this world,” or “the devil.” Is this opposing spirit adversary Satan real or an ancient construction of superstitious people?

The Old Testament Hebrew word and the New Testament Greek word translated “satan” literally mean “accuser,” “adversary,” or “opposing spirit.” In 1 Chronicles 21:1, Zechariah 3:1-2 and Job chapters 1 and 2 present Satan as appearing before God along with the angels as an accuser. The New Testament tells us that Satan entered into Judas as he betrayed Jesus (Luke 22:3). Christ even called Peter “Satan” when he opposed God’s plan (Luke 8:33). The Bible does not portray Satan as taking on a human form in the physical realm, but it does show the opposing spirit assuming a symbolic form as a serpent creature (Genesis 3:1). So we have an opposing spirit adversary in the spiritual realm.

There are two realms of existence–the physical and the spiritual. The physical realm that you and I live in is time-dependent. Our senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing enable us to comprehend the physical. The spiritual existence is time-independent, and we perceive that realm in other ways, but not through our senses.

The Bible tells us that beings exist in the spiritual realm. Ephesians 3:8-10 describes this for us: “God gave me the work of telling all people about the plan for his secret truth that has been hidden in Him since the beginning of time. He is the one who created everything, His purpose was that all the rulers and powers in heavenly places will now know many different ways He shows His wisdom. They will know this because of the Church.”

Ephesians 6:11-12 repeats this reference to the spiritual realm. “Wear God’s armor so that you can fight against the devil’s clever tricks. Our fight is not against people on Earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places.”

As science probes more deeply into the origin of mass and electric charge, something becomes increasingly apparent. The physical realm’s source is from a dimension higher than the three-dimensional world we experience. String theory, for example, proposes 11 spatial dimensions in its mathematical analysis. We directly sense only three dimensions plus time, but the spiritual realm exists outside of the spatial dimensions that make up the physical world.

Most people don’t believe that when we die there is no further existence of any kind. We sense that there is something more. Revelation 21:3-5 tells us that when our physical life ends, we will be in a time-independent realm. For those who are in Christ “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain so the old order of things is passed away.”

According to Revelation 20:10 the opposing spirit will be done away., but it is very active in today’s world. We will continue with more on that tomorrow.

In the spiritual world, there is an opposing spirit adversary, Satan who is very active in our physical world today. Tomorrow we will look at the ways Satan works.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Secularizing a Culture

Secularizing a Culture
Is it possible to discover the key factors for secularizing a culture? Yesterday we discussed an international computer modeling project called the Modeling Religion Project. The goal of the international team of experts working on the project was to use computer modeling to learn how politicians could manipulate the religiosity or secularization of a society. We won’t go into all of the background details again, but you can read yesterday’s post HERE.

We said that this scientific study determined that four factors lead to secularizing a culture. The factors are: 1-Having material things, 2-Having personal freedom, 3-Welcoming diversity or pluralism, 4-Having a higher level of education in science and the humanities. We quoted Wesley Wildman, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Boston University and a collaborator on the project who seems to want our culture to become more secularized and less religious. He said, “The U.S. has found ways to limit the effects of education by keeping it local, and in private schools, anything can happen.” He also said, “Lately, there’s been encouragement from the highest levels of government to take a less than welcoming attitude to pluralism. These are forms of resistance to secularization.”

You shouldn’t need a computer model to realize that having money and material things along with personal freedom can lead people to forget about God. The ancient Israelite nation demonstrated that multiple times, and we can see it in more modern societies. Unfortunately, people turn to God in hard times and forget about Him when things are going well. Welcoming diversity or pluralism, when it means that we consider all faiths or no faith to be equally valid, is also an obvious path to secularization. However, sharing our faith with people of diverse cultures does not lead to secularization. Also, education does not have to be a path to unbelief. The DOES GOD EXIST? program has always said that science and the Bible, when both are correctly understood, are friends and not enemies.

Professor Wildman built another computer model to determine why some religious groups survive while others fall apart. He concluded that one of the most important factors is that the movements that persist have “a highly charismatic leader who personally practices what he preaches.” Wildman said, “It’s basically, leave the groups alone when the leaders are less consistent, kill the leaders that have those specific qualities.” In other words, he is saying not to worry about religious movements with leaders who are not charismatic and who don’t practice what they preach. They will probably die out anyway. The religious movements that will last and have a radical effect on society are those led by a charismatic leader who practices what he preaches.

What religious leader fits that description precisely? Jesus Christ, of course. What did the ones who wanted to end His religious movement do? They killed Him. The thing they did not count on, was that we would not stay dead.

Computer modeling has now given us the steps to secularizing a culture. Professor Wildman put it this way: “The MODRN (Modeling Religion in Norway) model gives you a recipe for accelerating secularization—and it gives you a recipe for blocking it. You can use it to make everything revert to supernaturalism by messing with some of those key conditions—say, by triggering some ecological disaster. Then everything goes plunging back into pre-secularism. That keeps me up at night.”

We suggest that we should be working to create not a “secular” or “religious” society, but a society based on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. We don’t need an ecological disaster. We do need a 1-a secure society, 2-with personal freedom of speech and religion, 3-that welcomes and shares with those in need, not only physically, but spiritually, 4-and with education that recognizes that God speaks through His creation (science) and through His word (the Bible). Remember that the authorities tried to kill Jesus and His message, but they could not.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Click HERE for information about the Modeling Religion Project.
Click HERE for research reports from the project.
Click HERE for an article from The Atlantic titled “Artificial Intelligence Shows Why Atheism Is Unpopular.”

Computer Modeling Religion

Computer Modeling Religion
An international team of experts including computer scientists, philosophers, religion scholars, and others set out to find a method for computer modeling religion. The “Modeling Religion Project” ran for three years with funding from the John Templeton Foundation. They completed the project and gave their report in June 2018.

Collaborating on the project were Boston’s Center for Mind and Culture, the Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center, and the University of Agder in Norway. The goal was to use artificial intelligence to predict which political philosophy will give the best outcome. What does that have to do with religion, you ask? Read more.

The experts entered data collected from real people (largely in Norway) concerning economic security, education, and religiosity into computer models. The computer models were “trained” with “a set of empirically validated social-science rules about how humans tend to interact under various pressures.” In the computer model, the researchers could increase investment in education or provide more jobs or give the youth more social opportunities and so forth. The outcome was supposed to give politicians a tool to choose the most effective policy to follow. You still might wonder what this has to do with computer modeling religion.

Okay, here is the crucial part concerning religion. A spinoff of that project is another one called “Forecasting Religiosity and Existential Security with an Agent-Based Model.” This project is asking questions such as: “Why aren’t there more atheists? Why is America secularizing at a slower rate than Western Europe?” They also are attempting to learn what factors make a society more religious or speed up secularization. LeRon Shults who teaches philosophy and theology at Norway’s University of Agder said that by entering data from 22 different countries, they can predict “whether and how belief in heaven and hell, belief in God, and religious attendance would go up and down over a 10-year period.”

The researchers found that four factors lead a society to become more secular (less religious). The factors are:

1-Having enough money and food (existential security)

2-Having personal freedom (to choose whether or not to believe)

3-Welcoming diversity (or pluralism)

4-Higher level of education (in science and the humanities)

They found that all four of those factors must be present to speed up the secularization of a society. If any one of those four is missing, the society will remain more religious.

Wesley Wildman, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Boston University, collaborated on the project with Shults. Wildman said that keeping education local and in private schools and not welcoming pluralism have been “forms of resistance to secularization” in the United States that have slowed the move away from religion. He suggests that we need to nationalize education and be more welcoming of diversity and pluralism so that we can achieve more secularization as Europe has done. He hopes that their computer model will help politicians learn how to do that. However, he is not optimistic that politicians will accept his recommendations anytime soon, but he said, “We’re going to get them in the end.”

What, then, are the implications of computer modeling religion? You see the four factors that the researchers say will speed up the secularization of a society. Think about what this might tell us about the future. We will continue with that thought tomorrow. In the meantime, below are some links for more information about this project.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Click HERE for information about the Modeling Religion Project.
Click HERE for research reports from the project.
Click HERE for an article from The Atlantic titled “Artificial Intelligence Shows Why Atheism Is Unpopular.”

‘Oumuamua: Mysterious Space Visitor

'Oumuamua: Mysterious Space Visitor
In October of 2017, astronomer Robert Weryk using a telescope in Hawaii discovered an object careening through our solar system from somewhere in interstellar space. Astronomers assumed it was an asteroid from some other stellar system in our galaxy. UFO promoters saw it as a spaceship from some other star system that was spying on our planet. The name given to it is ‘Oumuamua which is Hawaiian for “scout.”

The object was quite narrow and seem to be less irregular than most asteroids. Closer examination has shown that the surface of the object is a reddish color which is typical of some comets which have a crust covering an icy interior. Its size is approximately 800 by 100 feet (230 by 35 meters).

Studies of the trajectory of ‘Oumuamua show it is tumbling and changing directions in a way that indicates a force other than the Sun’s gravity working on it. Naturally, the UFO promoters were overjoyed saying that this proves that alien spacecraft are all around us, and we just happened to catch this one. The SETI Institute used its powerful Allen Telescope Array to examine the object but detected no radio signals indicating intelligence. The problem with the UFO idea is that the change of direction is much smaller than what rockets on a spacecraft would cause. The overall trajectory of ‘Oumuamua has not changed significantly as it heads out of the solar system. It is traveling to fast for any of our existing spacecraft to reach it, but it will still take 20,000 years to be completely clear of our solar system.

After much study, astronomers concluded that ‘Oumuamua is a comet. When comets get near the Sun, they spew gases from their interior. This jetting of gas always has some effect on the trajectory of the comet. The amount of change in ‘Oumuamua’s trajectory is consistent with the effect of a comet’s gas jets.

As we have emphasized before, the Bible doesn’t say that Earth is the only place in the universe where God chose to create life. At present, however, there is no credible evidence that there is life elsewhere, although microscopic forms may exist on Mars and some moons in our system. The idea of alien visitation is pure speculation with no evidence to support it.

The Lord tells us how to live in another existence. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 to learn more about it. Waiting for an E.T. to come and whisk you away to a heaven is wishful thinking. Waiting for the Lord to come again has much more promise and much more supporting evidence.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks
In our post yesterday we mentioned that the Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow night August 11-12 and 12-13. Earth is making its annual journey through the trail of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. When those pieces of rock, mostly ranging in size from a grain of sand to pea-sized, enter Earth’s atmosphere at supersonic speeds, they burn up from the heat of friction. We see the streaks as “shooting stars.”

Earth has been passing through the Swift-Tuttle debris since July 17 and will not be clear of it until August 24. So even though the Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend, it is possible that you might see some of the meteors over the next few days. However, on these two nights, they should be visible at the rate of about one per minute. The best time to see them is after the Moon sets, and the best place is an area free of lights and with an open sky.

Every day anywhere from 100 tons to 1,000 tons of meteoritic material enters the Earth’s atmosphere. This material can come from comets or asteroids. The asteroid 3200 Phaethon produces the Geminid meteor shower in mid-December. There are other pieces of rock, dust, and debris in space that sometimes get trapped in the Earth’s gravitational field, and contribute to the hundreds of tons of material that reach Earth every day.

So what are the lessons we get from all of this? For one thing, Earth is not a static planet. It is gaining new mineral wealth every day. Our planet is vibrant and alive and has changed over the eons of its existence. The design of Earth’s defensive shield is incredible. With all of this material left over from the creation processes, it is critical that we have an atmosphere that is dense enough to burn up the space junk that comes toward us.

Every time scientists get a meteor sample we learn more about our neighbors in space. We knew a lot about the makeup of asteroids before science actually landed a spacecraft on one. Our knowledge of comets was advanced before we were able to leave Earth’s gravity and examine one up close. We continue to learn about the unique nature of the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, and the material that makes up our solar system.

While you are outside, take a look at Mars which is still closer and brighter than usual and visible until about 4 AM local time. Saturn will be visible until 2 AM. Venus will set about 9:30 PM and Jupiter at 11 PM. The planets travel near the ecliptic, the path of the Sun and Moon across the sky, so here’s your chance to enjoy them all. As the Perseid meteor shower peaks, it reminds us of the words of the psalmist: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalms 19:1).
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018