What Can We Trust?

What Can We Trust?
The October 2018 issue of Scientific American (page 39) contains an article by Brooke Borel titled “Clicks, Lies and Video Tape.” The article begins by stating, “Artificial Intelligence is making it possible for anyone to manipulate audio and video. The biggest threat is that we stop trusting anything at all.” Then what can we trust?

The article tells us that in April 2018 a new video of Barack Obama appeared on the internet in which he spoke looking exactly as he did when he was president of the United States. The image we could all see was Obama facing the camera, and with outstretched hands, he said, “President Trump is a total and complete XXXXX.”

In reality, it wasn’t Obama at all, but an actor named Jordan Peele who used BuzzFeed News to produce a fake video. The technology is now available to make realistic-looking fake videos. They can contain what appears to be known political characters spreading disinformation. In fact, this is already being done.

The first example of fakery was the serpent in Genesis 3, and Satan has continued to use this tool throughout time. In 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 Paul writes, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” The truth is that we cannot trust anything in the physical world. The evening news is full of falsehoods and agents of Satan.

As Christians, we would encourage others to understand that while humans can be bribed, bullied, and deceived. What can we trust? The word of Jesus Christ is true and testable. It can be trusted 100%. What a joy it is to know that we have a rock that is God’s word. If we trust God, all of the deceit and lying of men and of Satan himself cannot mislead us.

“All scripture is given by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness that the man or woman of God may be complete, totally furnished to guide us into all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Alone In the Milky Way

Alone In the Milky Way
Yesterday we mentioned an article by John Gribbin in Scientific American (September 2018, page 96 or online HERE.) The title of the article was “Are Humans Alone in the Milky Way?” Although Gribbin suggests that some form of life exists elsewhere in the galaxy, he insists there could be no sentient beings like ourselves. The reasons for concluding that we are alone in the Milky Way galaxy are these “amazing” and “implausible” “coincidences.”

SPECIAL TIMING. The elements that make up a terrestrial planet like Earth are produced from hydrogen and helium by thermonuclear fusion. We see supernova explosions producing the heavy metals that make up a terrestrial planet and life itself, but it takes time for this process to create the necessary elements. Most of the exoplanets we see have minimal amounts of the heavy elements because they are early in their stellar evolution. Even the sun itself is 71% hydrogen and 27% helium with only 2% metals. The timing of putting the materials together to make a terrestrial planet is critical.

LOCATION IN THE GALAXY. The location of a solar system in the galaxy makes a difference. The galactic habitable zone is the area where there is a freedom from the concentration of supernovae. Systems near the center of the galaxy have high levels of radiation in the form of X-rays and cosmic rays. There is a massive black hole in the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A which produces massive amounts of radiation. Gamma-ray bursts occur in certain places in the galaxy. In our area of the galaxy, sterilizing radiation bursts do not happen.

Recent studies of the galactic habitable zone tell us that it extends from 23,000 to 30,000 light-years from the center or only about 7% of the galactic radius. This zone contains only about 5% of the stars, because stars tend to concentrate toward the core of the galaxy. Our Sun is close to the center of the galactic habitable zone providing rare long-term stability.

TYPE OF PLANET. So far astronomers have discovered about 50 “earth-like planets.” What that means is that they have found rocky planets in the habitable zone that are about the same size as Earth. Venus would qualify as an “Earth-like planet,” but it is an excellent example of how misleading that statement is. Venus has a thick crust with no sign of plate tectonics, no magnetic field, no way to recycle materials, and no stabilizing moon. Our Moon keeps the tilt of Earth’s axis at 23 ½ degrees providing a stable climate.

Realize that all of these factors are just to have a ball of rock in the right place at the right time with the right materials with which to make life. Now we would need to calculate the odds of getting the right chemicals together at the right time in the right place with the right catalyst to make the first living thing. Books have been written about how improbable those steps are. The writers are not religious fanatics, but scientists who are doing the research.

The Scientific American article, concludes that we are alone in the Milky Way:

“As we put everything together, what can we say? Is life likely to exist elsewhere in the galaxy? Almost certainly yes, given the speed with which it appeared on Earth. Is another technological civilization likely to exist today? Almost certainly no, given the chain of circumstances that led to our existence. These considerations suggest we are unique not just on our planet but in the whole Milky Way. And if our planet is so special, it becomes all the more important to preserve this unique world for ourselves, our descendants and the many creatures that call Earth home.”

We must make one additional point. If an intelligent Creator was involved in this process, the probability of a habitable Earth with life on it is 100%. Perhaps we are not really alone in the Milky Way because there is a God who cares about us. For those who might want to consider this option, we encourage you to watch program #6 of the video series available free on doesgodexist.tv.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Mollusk Designs

Mollusk Designs
Many of the invertebrate creatures known as mollusks build interesting shells. An article titled “How Seashells Take Shape” describing a study of mollusk designs appeared in the April 2018 edition of Scientific American (page 70). The article begins with this paragraph:

“Mollusks are fabulous architects. They build houses that protect their soft bodies from predators and the elements–shells of uncommon strength, durability and beauty. Many of these shells have spectacularly complex shapes–logarithmic spirals bedecked with fractal spines or other ongoing elements, all executed with near-perfect mathematical regularity. Yet mollusks, of course, know nothing of math. How, researchers have wondered, do these humble creatures produce such intricate patterns so precisely?”

The article goes into the mathematics of the shells and how the animals use complex processes that scientists are still studying. It isn’t just the shapes that are an issue here, but also the physical properties of the shell material including elasticity, ductility, tensile strength, and the use of oscillatory systems. Scientists are trying to understand the fractal-like spine pattern in some mollusk designs. Also, the researchers are curious about why 90 percent of mollusk shells are right-handed and only 10 percent are left-handed. Other “exquisite ornamentations” create a mystery for scientists to study.

Romans 1:18-22 tells us that “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.” The complexity of something as basic as a seashell can speak to us about the design God has used in everything He does. It is only with the advent of mathematics and engineering that we can duplicate what we see in nature. Seashells are an intricate example of the design of living creatures.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

In Reason We Trust?

In Reason We Trust?
In the March issue of Scientific American, there was an advertisement for the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They claim to be “the nation’s largest association of freethinkers, working to keep religion out of government.” Actually, they go farther than that. They strive to keep “religion,” especially Christianity, out of the public square. The headline banner of the ad is In Reason We Trust.

This particular ad features a picture of Lawrence Kraus and a quote from him. Lawrence M. Kraus is an American-Canadian theoretical physicist and cosmologist who teaches at Arizona State University. He is a leading atheist who works to reduce the influence of “superstition and religious dogma in popular culture.” You can find videos of him on YouTube debating Christians. He is the founder and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. Their website states that the Origins Project was “created to explore humankind’s most fundamental questions about our origins … ranging from the origin of the universe to the origins of life, modern humans, consciousness, culture, complex systems, and technology.” Dr. Kraus’s Origins Project will not consider the possibility of God in the origins discussion.

The In Reason We Trust ad quotes Kraus saying, “Lack of understanding is not evidence for God. It is evidence of lack of understanding, and a call to use reason to try and change that.” I agree that a lack of understanding is not evidence for God. In the past, humans could not understand things such as lightning or seasons or trees or insects, so they invented gods to explain those things. They saw the world as chaotic, and even their gods were chaotic and capricious. As long as their worldview was chaotic, they could not pursue science. That is why the extremely intelligent ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans did not achieve scientific understanding even though they created great works of engineering and architecture.

Science requires a worldview that sees order and laws. It was the Judeo-Christian worldview that led to modern science. The Judeo-Christian worldview sees logic and wisdom and order in nature because it was created by a wise and loving God. It is only with that understanding that you can begin to look for that order and study those laws to see how God works. Scientists like Lawrence Kraus and the writers and publishers of Scientific American are standing on the shoulders of Christians like Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and many others. Those men understood that the world was designed with order and wisdom. They looked for that wisdom, and they used not only reason, but experimentation to see how things work—to see how God did it.

Many scientists today have forgotten the very basis for the science that they practice. Yes, Kraus is right that the lack of understanding is not evidence for God. At the same, our ability to understand how God works does not show that there is no God. It shows that God has created us in His image with the ability to understand and create with reason and wisdom. Instead of In Reason We Trust, we should be thinking, “I trust my reason because it is a gift from a rational God.”
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Extraterrestrial Intelligence and God

Extraterrestrial Intelligence and God
Why do people want to believe in extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), space aliens, and UFOs? It has been my experience that proponents of these things are people who reject Christianity and belief in the God of the Bible. Now there is scientific data which supports what my experience has indicated about extraterrestrial intelligence and God.

The scientific journal Motivation and Emotion published a study by North Dakota State University researchers showing that the more people believe in extraterrestrials, the less they believe in God. The researchers wrote, “ETI beliefs serve an existential function: the promotion of perceived meaning in life. In this way, we view belief in ETI as serving a function similar to religion without relying on the traditional religious doctrines that some people have deliberately rejected.” In other words, people believe in extraterrestrial intelligent beings to take the place of belief in God.

The research seems to indicate that believing in ETI provides a way to develop a view that gives meaning to life. The researchers say that belief in ETI “could make humans feel like they are part of a larger and more meaningful cosmic drama.” Even some scientists such as Nobel prize winner Francis Crick have advanced the idea that extraterrestrials planted life on Earth. It just goes to show that when you don’t believe in God, you will believe in anything. Atheist Michael Shermer who is the publisher of Skeptic magazine says “any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God” (Scientific American, January 2002).

All of this confusion about extraterrestrial intelligence and God is the result of an unfortunate, mistaken concept of what God is. It also results from not looking at all of the evidence for the existence of God. It does explain, however, why many people desperately try to find a way to believe that aliens are our creators.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

WIMPS and God’s Design

Spiral Galaxy M74
Spiral Galaxy M74

One of the most interesting areas of scientific research today is the study of dark matter. We have known for more than half a century that galaxies are groups of billions of stars revolving around a core. Science had assumed that the glue holding galaxies together was the gravitational force produced by the mass of the stars in the galaxy. The problem with this explanation was that the stars were spiraling too fast for the gravity produced by their mass to hold the galaxy together.

If you stand in the center of a circle and spin a bucket of water on a rope, you have to spin it at a certain speed to keep the water in the bucket. If you go too slow, the bucket will hit the ground, and if you go too fast, it will break the rope. In the case of galaxies, the stars were going so fast for the gravity of the stars to hold the system together. Some other gravitational force must be the glue doing the job. The discovery of black holes in the center of galaxies was thought to be a possible answer, but the speed was much too fast for even that source. The amount of mass it would take to hold some of the galaxies together is as much as 85% higher than what we can observe.

This problem led to the proposal that there is a missing mass. Scientists suggested particles called WIMPS, which is an acronym for “weakly interacting massive particles.” For some time now, experiments have been conducted to find evidence for WIMPS. The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, has been smashing protons together in hopes of detecting the particle. The Large Underground Xenon experiment in South Dakota has been looking for traces of them as well. So far neither attempt has been successful. In an article in Scientific American (October 2016, page 16) Edward Kolb, who was involved in proposing the existence of WIMPS, said: “We are more in the dark about dark matter than we were five years ago.” David Spergel who is an astrophysicist at Princeton says, “…we now need more hints from nature about where to go next.”

It seems that God has already taught us quite a bit about the complexity of creation. Thanks to Isaac Newton we know that mass has a connection to gravity. Thanks to Albert Einstein we know that the shape of space has something to do with it as well. Making a galaxy is not a simple task. Just like the making of electric charge, the process involves understandings that science is just beginning to comprehend. Quantum mechanics has taught us that a whole new set of laws governs what happens in forming these building blocks of what we see.

In Proverbs 8:1,22-23 Wisdom speaks and says, “Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice?…The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.” It is a wonderful challenge to modern science to understand how the Lord made the building blocks that led to what we can see in space. When we finally understand, we need to step back and say, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalms 19:1, NAS).
–John N. Clayton © 2017

“What Is Truth, Anyway?”

What Is Truth
I would suggest that the most prolific atheist of our time is Michael Shermer. Unlike Richard Dawkins, Shermer knows something about the Bible and Christianity. Shermer is a graduate of Pepperdine University, where he enrolled to become a preacher in the Church of Christ. Because of this education, Shermer understands the biblical account of Jesus. Even though his view of Christ and the Church has been altered by his embracing of atheism he does raise good arguments that are well presented and usually factually correct. He is the editor of Skeptic magazine and has a column in Scientific American which is almost always from an atheist/skeptic position. In the April 2017, issue of that magazine (page 78) Shermer has “What is Truth, Anyway” as the title of his column.

The problem Shermer and I would suggest that all of us face, is that truth has many meanings. In the Old Testament, the word truth was used in two senses: (1) Facts that may be ascertained to be true or false. (2) The existential and moral, or truth as the attribute of a person. The Hebrew word “met” is used for the former and “muna” is used for the latter and is translated “faithfulness” in some translations. In the New Testament Greek words for truth (aletheia, alethes and alethinos) are used in three different senses: (1) Dependability, truthfulness, uprightness of character applied to God and to men. (Romans 3:7 and 15:8; 2 Corinthians 7:14; and Ephesians 5:9) (2) Truth in the absolute sense of what is real and complete as opposed to false and wanting (Mark 5:33 and Ephesians 4:25). Jesus used this to describe himself in John 14:6. (3) Something real as opposed to a copy. (Hebrews 8:2 and John 6:32,35)

Much of the debate between creationists and atheists is rooted in what the two viewpoints are willing to accept as truth. Shermer says, “It is not impossible that the dinosaurs died a few thousand years ago as Young Earth creationists believe, but it is so unlikely we need not waste our time considering it.” I would agree with Shermer on this point because of the problems it poses, and we have discussed this in our publications many times. However, both sides in the discussion have made a decision of what they consider to be true, and both sides are unwilling to look any further at the evidence because they feel they have the truth.

Shermer moves from this scientific discussion to the question of whether Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. He rejects both of these suggestions because the claim is extraordinary and he doesn’t consider the evidence for the validity of the claim convincing since other explanations are possible. About these other explanations, Shermer says, “Any of these explanations for the gospel descriptions of Jesus’s resurrection are far more likely than the possibility that Jesus actually returned to life after being dead for three days.”

The bottom line in Shermer’s argument is naturalism–that everything that has ever happened can be explained by science. By assuming naturalism, most atheists preclude any kind of evidence that cannot be falsified or tested experimentally. Shermer’s rejection of the resurrection is a rejection of historical evidence. He rejects the testimony of witnesses because they could be biased and cannot be checked, and yet that is true of all historical events. He doesn’t consider the logical problem of the apostles dying for something if they knew it was false. He rejects the effect Christ has had in the lives of millions of people as subjective and emotionally driven. When you demand scientific falsification of any true event, you preclude much of what we know of the past and even some of the present.

In John 18:36-38 Jesus and Pilate have a short discussion about truth. Jesus says, “Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate responds by saying, “What is truth?” Pilate doesn’t wait for an answer. In today’s world, many people complain about not knowing what is true, but like Pilate, they don’t want to consider the evidence and testimony of Christ. We used to have a joke in graduate school that said, “Always make sure your data conforms to your conclusion.” Of course, it was said in ridicule. In today’s world, many people have reached their conclusion about truth, and no amount of evidence will change their minds. All we can do is present the evidence and allow them to make their decision of what they will consider to be the truth.
Note: Data about the Old and New Testament words and concept of truth is from The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdman’s Publishing Company.
–John N. Clayton © 2017