Why we are here:
Here in Bios & Logos we have some fun examining small corners of the creation to show how great a Creator Jesus is—and our need for Him as Redeemer. Soli Deo Gloria.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Bad Statement; Bad Policy; Bad Board; Bad Case; Bad Judge; Bad Decision; Constitutional Confusion; ID Is Not Religious!
The Dover Pennsylvania Intelligent Design court case has finally come to an end. The Judge has ruled for the plaintiff, thus banning even the mention of Intelligent Design in biology classes within the Dover Area School District; and the ruling will probably not be appealed, since the school board that initiated the ID statement to be read to biology students has been voted out of office.
What are we to make of the whole debacle? Trying to sort out all the complexities of the case has my head spinning. Let’s see some of the factors that are making it spin.
Bad Statement. The 160-word statement that was to be read to biology students before the evolution unit looks like it was designed by a committee, as in, “There is an old saying, be it true or be it witty, that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.” It was added to, subtracted from and rearranged through many drafts, ignoring suggestions by the science teachers who were to read it. Here it is in its final form:
"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments."(York Daily Record, January 8, 2005)
In fact, the science teachers refused to read it, so an administrator had to do it.
Bad Policy. Never tell a bunch of proud (egotistical?) science teachers that they have to read a prepared statement, the content of which they don’t believe. My former colleagues would have reacted much like the Dover teachers did. And I probably would have joined them. And the Discovery Institute, the principal Intelligent Design think-tank, refused to get involved in the case because they (along with creationist organizations, such as Answers In Genesis) disagree with mandating the teaching of ID. Permit and encourage, yes; mandate, no, is their policy. It is also bad policy to take action on such a potentially inflammatory issue without wide community support. It takes a lot of educating of the public before taking controversial action.
Bad Board of Education. Their motives might have been good, but their methods and behavior, as I gather from the judge’s decision, were anything but God-glorifying. Apparently they intimidated and threatened non-believing board members and others, even calling them atheists and telling them they were going to hell. They rejected a biology textbook because it didn’t balance coverage of evolution with creationism. There was a mysterious burning of an evolution poster removed from a biology classroom wall. And seemingly, the board members didn’t understand the theory they were trying to support.
Bad Case. A handful of parents instituted the lawsuit, supported, of course, by the ACLU and several other atheistic, church-state separatist and anti-creation groups. The defense was represented by the Thomas More Law Center, whose mission is to “defend the religious freedom of Christians.” – which, of course, could have made a poor impression on the judge, since this was an “establishment of religion” case. Although I have used the term, “Bad Case” to continue in my emphasis of the “badness” of the overall situation, the expert witnesses were scientifically well qualified. Among others, they included Kenneth Miller (Brown University, author of Finding Darwin’s God) for the plaintiffs; and Michael Behe (Lehigh University, author of Darwin’s Black Box) for the defense. They each testified for several days; and reading through the court record of their testimonies was quite informative. In my opinion, Dr. Behe was more convincing—obviously the judge didn’t think so—if, indeed, the decision had anything to do with the expert testimony. In fact, the scientific testimony by both sides seems to have been a mere showcase; and as far as the final decision goes, the judge might just as well have slept through it all.
Bad Judge. I saw trouble coming when I heard that the judge, Honorable John E. Jones III, intended to research the case by renting a copy of the movie Inherit the Wind in order to compare the present case with the “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925. At least one organization wrote to the judge to inform him that the movie was a fictional adaptation of a fictional play (which was intended as an anti-McCarthyism message) and that neither movie nor play was in any way an accurate representation of the Scopes trial. Apparently, Judge Jones was not terribly interested in the question, “Is Intelligent Design Theory science?’ but was convinced from the start that it was “religion.” In his 139-page decision, he used language that seemed particularly non-judicial—terms like “breathtaking inanity,” “lied to cover up…” And how about this statement in his decision as a classic example of activist overreaching: “we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.” Dr. John West of the Discovery Institute opines: "Judge Jones found that the Dover board violated the Establishment Clause because it acted from religious motives. That should have been the end to the case," said West. "Instead, Judge Jones got on his soapbox to offer his own views of science, religion, and evolution. He makes it clear that he wants his place in history as the judge who issued a definitive decision about intelligent design. This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur."
Bad Decision. First, it was a bad decision by the Dover Area School District Board of Education to institute the “Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolution” policy without educating the public, without convincing its teachers of the soundness of the policy, and without the imprimatur of the Discovery Institute, the primary ID think tank. Second, it was a bad decision by the Thomas More Law Center to take on the case. It is a fine institution, but they should pick their battles more carefully so as to prevent embarrassing themselves and the cause of Christ. Third, the judge’s decision was bad in that it was based on his confused thinking and his arrogance in believing that in the space of a few weeks he had become an expert in a highly complex field of science and its relation to religion. It is my humble believe that Judge Jones’s mind was made up from the beginning—evolution is science; ID is religion, and that is that.
Constitutional Confusion. Ultimately, the most frustrating thing about this case and so many others is that it should have anything whatsoever to do with the “establishment” clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. That clause, through countless bad decisions through many decades, has become like a wax nose on a dartboard (to badly mix metaphors,) so distorted and punctured so as to have “original intent” advocates despairing of the very survival of the Constitution. Even if ID were in some way “religious,” what happened to the “free exercise” clause?
Intelligent Design is Not Religion. Liberal, atheistic, church-state separationist and scientific organizations, as well as the liberal press and activist judges, have allowed the definitions of both science and religion to be radically changed. The definition of science has been so narrowed that it excludes anything outside of Karl Popper’s “falsifyability” philosophy and ignores the difference between operational science and historical science—and most certainly “denigrates and disparages” any disagreement with the “fact” of Darwinian evolution. And the definition of religion has been broadened to include any suggestion that anything other than the interaction of atoms and energy is operating in the universe.
How did anything get done in science before Karl Popper? How did those Bible-believing creationist founders of modern science ever discover anything without the “modern” definition of science? And what about religion? I always thought it involved words like church (or synagogue or mosque,) worship, prayer and sacraments. The Dover ID case has served to further damage the definitions of both science and religion.
Is Intelligent Design Theory good science? Only time will tell. It is too young, too squelched by the establishment, to have its ideas fairly adjudicated. But the work will go on in spite of bad court cases here and there.
Is ID religion? By any reasonable definition of the term, absolutely not. Does it have philosophical, metaphysical, even theological implications? Of course it does. Every facet of life has philosophical implications, whether we have thought them through or not. But only those with the biblical worldview have the opportunity to appreciate fully those implications. In this matter, there are confused scientists and there are confused Christians. Let us “study to show ourselves approved unto God as workmen who do not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth”—as it applies to both the material sciences and the “Queen of Sciences”—theology.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
As I attempt to re-familiarize myself with Charles Darwin by skipping and skimming through “Fat Book #1” mentioned in the last entry, I find myself quite impressed with the man, in spite of the fact that we believe that he came to totally false conclusions, for which we may excuse him because he was working with inadequate data and was reacting to the straw man* creationism of his day. But he was a keen observer of nature and a careful documenter of his findings.
Always the gentleman, his writings present a sharp contrast with some of his followers currently in print—no Dawkins-like derogatory characterizations or the simplistic and cynical outbursts of newspaper and science journal editorial writers (See 11/11 and 11/24 posts.)
Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from “Origins.”
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
“A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”
Of course, the first quote was followed by, “But I can find out no such case.” An examination of the fossil record that has been developed since his writing, and a brief talk to Michael Behe or other Intelligent Design theorists would surely offer him some “cases.” Would some irrefutable examples of "Irreducible Complexity" grab his attention?
If Mr. Darwin were alive today and had access to a mere handful of electron micrographs of cell structure, or had the opportunity to discuss probability and information theory with some of today’s specialists in those fields, perhaps, just perhaps, he would reconsider some of his far reaching—and disastrous—conclusions.
As for Professor Dawkins, mentioned above, a short quote will demonstrate the contrast between the objective Darwin and one of his current disciples:
“If you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that.)” –Richard Dawkins, Oxford University
Well, thank you, Professor, for not wishing to consider us wicked. Thank God WE DO recognize our wickedness and our need of our Great Savior!
By the way, I recently included that quote in a letter to the editor of The Record on the subject of Intelligent Design. The editorial staff published the letter—with the Dawkins quote deleted. Hmmm.
*Perhaps "straw man" is not quite the appropriate term for the creationism of the 19th century. Its advocates were sincere in their beliefs, but they had a fixation on fixity of species. Darwin saw too much variability in living things to believe that every species had been created separately. Today's creationists believe in rapid speciation of created kinds, which could correspond to anything from species, to genera or families in the Linnaean system of classification. The field of baraminology deals with this subject.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
“Stop with the biblio-trivia and tell us what the books are, already!” OK here is the bibliographical info:
Wilson, Edward O., Editor and with Introductions by: From So Simple a Beginning: The Four Great Books of Charles Darwin. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005.
From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books
Marshall, I. Howard, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer and D. J. Wiseman, Editors. New Bible Dictionary, Third Edition. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996 (2004 Printing)
New Bible Dictionary
The reason for boring you with trivial information about book dimensions is to emphasize the point that it is not the paper, cardboard, thread, glue and ink that make a book what it is. Nor is it those funny little symbols, in and of themselves, strung together in short groups to make words, which are strung together to make phrases, clauses and sentences, paragraphs and chapters. What makes a book, in any useful sense of the word, is the information embedded within those strings of symbols.
That information remains hidden until and unless a human being decodes and interprets it. It takes children six, seven, eight years to learn how to decode that information and several more years to learn how to express themselves effectively using that code. The whole process is exquisitely complex. Things can go wrong. Ask any dyslexic, or an unfortunate child who was exposed to the disastrous “whole language” fad in reading education.
Translating that printed code into speech is even more complex. I once took a course called “The Anatomy and Physiology of the Auditory and Speech Mechanisms.” The course covered every muscle from the waste up, (including by favorite, the tensor veli palatini) the anatomy of the respiratory system and the nerves supplying it, the ear and its innervation and most of the brain. (I’m sorry, but anyone who fools himself into thinking that all of that stuff just “evolved” is just plain deluded or nuts! Pardon me for sounding a little like Richard Dawkins, who uses similar adjectives when referring to creationists—and pardon this editorial interruption.)
In terms of complexity, the transmission of information from one human mind to another human mind is of another order of magnitude higher than all of the above. If the communication is through face-to-face speech, people have to talk precisely and repetitively to have any assurance that a thought in one person's head has been received and understood by the other. If communication is through the written word, the writer must write even more precisely, because there is usually no opportunity for feedback. (In fact, this dumb paragraph has been rewritten several times and I’m probably still not communicating.)
“But Bioman, you surely are going to tell us why you selected the two books you are using as examples. You didn’t pick them, did you, simply because they are fat recent arrivals.” Ah, yes. Bioman has an ulterior motive (or actually a higher motive.) I picked them because of their similar size, weight, word count and amount of information to emphasize not their similarity but the enormous contrast between the two volumes. The contrast lies in those non-material entities called ideas. Ideas are more than information. Information is a non-material entity riding on a material substrate, such as the printed word (or in some electronic medium.) Ideas are non-material entities riding on a non-material substrate—information. They are abstractions of abstractions. And that is what makes them so wonderful, yet so potentially dangerous.
Beside their physical similarities, the kinship of our two fat books lies in the fact that they are both attempting to communicate big—in fact, world-shaking—ideas. The contrast—Bioman is finally getting to it—lies in the antithesis of the big ideas in the two books and the night-and-day difference in the effects the two have wrought in the world. Just a glance at the two titles should make that self-evident. The analysis of those ideas, however, will have to wait for a future bloggeration. I have overextended my visit for this session. Was that a cliff-hanger—or a cliff dropper?
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Today I celebrated the veering off to the east of a major snowstorm by enjoying a short hike at the Celery Farm Natural Area. If I were a serious birder, interested in making a long list of species observed, this would have been a disappointing walk. I scared up a few chickadees, a catbird and some unidentified sparrows in my walk half-way around the lake. There was also a small flock of gulls and a hunched up, unhappy looking great blue heron on the iced-up lake. Mostly, I spent time enjoying a flock of a dozen or so American Coots, which were concentrated in a small area of open water. It gave me the opportunity to see these rather unusual duck-like, yet not duck-like birds closer than usual. We usually see them floating; today I got to see a couple standing on the ice, revealing their outsized green feet with their unusual lobed toes, which you may be able to see in the photo.
This adaptation seems like a good compromise between fully webbed feet, which may somewhat inhibit walking on land, (one reason why ducks waddle and say “ouch, ouch”—the translation of “quack quack”) and the non-webbed feet of the coot’s cousins, the gallinules and moorhens. Having long toes enables those birds to walk where others fear to tread, such as on lily pads, but probably makes them non-competitive swimmers. Long, lobed toes offer a wide platform for standing and walking and enough toe surface area for paddling. So all-in-all, the coots are well-designed tubby little floaters. And I thank their Designer for giving me the chance to see and photograph a group of them up-close and personal today. Soli Deo Gloria
p.s. I hope you enjoyed this non-controversial post. Writing it gave me relief from thinking of all the dead bears out there, as this was the second day of New Jersey's controversial bear hunt.
Friday, December 02, 2005
No sooner had I bloggerated about PETA (see 11/28 post) than a column by David Briggs shows up in today’s paper: “Christian vegetarians turn to a Garden of Eden Diet.” The article describes the motives, biblical rationale, activities and dietary recommendations of CVA, a Cleveland-based group formed as a Christian alternative to the very secular and religion-averse PETA.
The CVA website, http://www.christianveg.com/default.htm offers much the same fare as PETA’s, the most sensational (perhaps sensationalist?) of which is the section on the medical, environmental and economic downsides of “flesh eating,” as well as the health benefits of the vegetarian diet. They seem quite convincing to me and are worth a look.
The descriptions of meat, milk and poultry production are not pretty and they are accompanied by photos intended to upset. So I won’t include any here, especially the turkey photos, which would not be appreciated so soon after Thanksgiving. (even if the Blogger program would allow me, which I don’t think it does—or at least I haven’t figured it out yet.)
We should be thankful, at least, that there are organizations that point out animal abuse (and in the case of PETA at least,) put up a legal fight against it.
The thing that I like about CVA, as compared to PETA, is its biblical approach. At least they try to approach the subject from a biblical worldview and honor and give glory to the only One who deserves any. Whether or not strict vegetarianism can be legitimately supported by scripture is debatable (which debate is presented in Briggs's column) at least CVA is trying. And that’s a good thing (was that a little Martha-esque?) And the positive, encouraging approach may, in the end, be more effective. At least it’s not nasty.
These are important issues to think about and act upon, if the Spirit moves. And now we will move on to other topics—unless something else shows up on the subject in one news medium or another. Happy eating, whether from the flora, fauna, or both.
Bioman, in case you're wondering, will not become a vegan any time soon. I don't eat a tremendous amount of red flesh--maybe a once-a-year cholesterol special, like a double cheese bacon burger at Friendly's. But if you are convicted by these blogs, why not give the veggie lifestyle a try?
Monday, November 28, 2005
If all the shrink-wrapped PETA members in the world were laid end-to-end, it would be good to just leave them that way.
I realize that this subject is strikingly fresh (can you see the expiration dates on the PETA packages?) But I thought I should escape from Intelligent Design for a spell and comment on un-intelligent activities, like being shrink-wrapped and put on public display.
When I first saw this picture, my reaction was the usual, “What are these crazy people up to now?” Then I thought, “At least this is fairly harmless (except for the danger of suffocation) and less disgusting than splashing blood on fur-clad ladies or handing out leaflets to small children, telling them that their parents are murderers for roasting turkeys or going fishing.”
Then I decided to see if engaging in these embarrassing activities is all that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) does as an organization. So I Googled and found their website http://www.peta.org/ —or I should say sites, for they have literally dozens. I was quite surprised to find out how big the organization is and how much they do, not only by way of silly and offensive demonstrations but also in more legitimate educational and legal persuits.
The PETA sites also gave me new insight into the extraordinary amount of animal cruelty that goes on in the world and in numerous industries, many of which we don’t or would rather not think of as animal abusers: food, entertainment, cosmetics, medical research, education and many more. I know that you would benefit from—and be shocked by--perusing PETA’s material.
Of course, PETA’s very evolutionary “we’re all relatives” philosophy makes them go way too far. Their descriptions of animal groups are precious. Fish, for example are portrayed as, “ smart, sensitive animals with their own unique personalities. They have excellent memories and can learn to avoid nets by watching other fish in their group and can recognize individual “shoal mates.” Some fish gather information by eavesdropping on others, and some even use tools. Says marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle, “They’re so good-natured, so curious. You know, fish are sensitive, they have personalities, they hurt when they're wounded.” Enjoy more at: http://www.goveg.com/amazingAnimals.asp
PETA encourages people to be vegetarians, especially vegans, as even the dairy industry is rife with cruel practices, and “milk is for babies.” And that may be a good thing. The vegans I know look fairly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and make me look sicker than I actually am.
From a biblical viewpoint (the only one that really counts) flesh eating was permitted after Noah’s day because God’s curse on the ground had made it ever more difficult to get sufficient nourishment from the degraded plant kingdom. (See Gen 1:29-31 and 9:1-4 for the before and after commands.) But also see Paul’s warning against dietary and other prohibitions in I Tim 4:1-5--legalism kills grace!
Well, we have wandered far and wide in this bloggeration. Now I should go and see if there are any PETA-approved tidbits in my cupboard for lunch—or maybe I'll find some sensitive, good-natured sardines.)
Saturday, November 26, 2005
In several recent posts I sound like I’m defending Intelligent Design Theory. In fact, I am and I am not. The situation is not as simple as an up or down vote in Congress (I suppose that’s a poor analogy.) It is both simpler and more complex than that.
My aim is to confuse, and I most likely have done that in a mere four sentences. But let’s try to figure this thing out. Such figuring is not easy in these days of hot debate and the throwing around of terms and the throwing up of dust. (But let me be clear: we won’t figure it out in one blog post—or if I should blog about the subject until the proverbial bovines return to their domicile.)
First, let’s make some distinctions. Intelligent Design Theory is not the same as Biblical Creationism. The ID theorists are trying (if the evolutionists, the press and the general public would let them) to approach their ideas as pure science. They are smart people and they know how to separate their science from their theology. (Whether that is a good thing or not I will discuss later.) Their main premises are that (1) living systems are too complex to have been produced by blind chance and natural selection, and (2) evidence of intelligence can be detected in the design of living systems. In their personal beliefs, supporters of ID are all over the map. Some are theistic evolutionists; some may be Biblical Creationists others, agnostics. Their religions range from Protestant to Roman Catholic to Unification Church to Judaism—and probably many others.
Biblical Creationists, on the other hand, openly admit to using God’s Word as the basis of their worldview and as their approach to science. In their operational (experimental) science—science in which repeatable experimentation and falsification are the rule—they operate under the belief that God created and sustains His universe by laws that can be discovered by science (thinking God’s thoughts after Him.) In studying prehistory, however, Biblical Creationists realize that different rules apply. The past is not subject to repeatable experimentation. Evidence (the same evidence that any scientist has available) must be interpreted according to un-provable (in the scientific sense) assumptions and philosophical (religious, if you prefer) presuppositions. This is where God’s Word must take precedence over purely naturalistic assumptions and must act as the guidebook for the interpretation of evidence.
People claiming to be Biblical Creationists also come in a variety of flavors, ranging from YECs (Young Earth Creationists,) OECs (Old Earth Creationists,) Theistic Evolutionists, Progressive Creationists, etc. Of course, I believe that only one of these flavors has any real taste--is consistent with the grammatical/historical interpretation of the Bible.
Bioman from Jersey proudly (or humbly) wears a YEC t-shirt and is blessed to be persecuted for his position (So there, now you know—and probably suspected) I believe that any other position severely compromises God’s Word and the gospel—in fact, God’s whole plan of salvation. And that is the last thing any Christian should be doing. I realize that sincere people hold to other positions, but I believe that sincerity, by itself, plus $2 will get you a ride on the NYC subway (unless the fare has gone up again.)
That brings us to my original question: am I defending Intelligent Design Theory? The answer now is the same as I started with—yes and no. I believe that, as far as it goes, ID is a legitimate scientific approach to the study of origins. While it is not strictly inductive and open to falsification, neither is any other study of the past, in spite of the claims of materialist scientists.
My gripe with ID is that it doesn’t go far enough. It refuses to openly identify and honor the Intelligent Designer and is therefore legitimately criticized by its opponents, including Charles Krauthammer, whom I blasted in a previous blog post. If the ID-ers are not willing to openly admit their theological position(s) they will continue to be lambasted by unbelieving critics as committers of subterfuge and fraud. Better to admit their theistic assumptions and be persecuted as fools (I Corinthians 1:27) That is not an easy thing for a scientist to do—it will cost him dearly. But that is what Christianity is all about, is it not?
The issues here are broader and deeper than I have stated and range from the definition of science to the really big issue: Who created, cursed, sustains—and soon will redeem the created universe? Let’s face it—there are believers and there are unbelievers, and He knows who they are. Soli Deo Gloria.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Charles Krauthammer, columnist for the Washington Post and contributor to the Fox News Network, is one of the more intelligent, politically savvy journalists in Washington. His conservative positions are strongly and eloquently stated, both in print and on air. But recently, in his newspaper column, he ventured away from Washington politics and into science and religion, revealing his ignorance and confusion concerning both.
The subject was—what else these days—the Intelligent Design court case just concluded in Pennsylvania. But he was aiming at a broader target: any thought that there is a conflict between “science”—especially evolution—and “religion.” He starts by saying that neither Newton nor Einstein saw any conflict with science and their particular views of deity, then proceeds to describe the God of the Bible as a “crude and willful God who pushes and pulls and does things according to whim.”
We’re beginning to see that Mr. Krauthammer’s theology is somewhat suspect. Now what about his science and his opinion of Intelligent Design theory? In the column’s headline he calls ID a fraud; in the column he calls it “today’s tarted-up—or warmed-over—version of creationism” and an “insult both to religion and to science.”
The 800-word slam continues with too many errors and misrepresentations concerning science, ID, creationism, the Dover PA and Kansas School Board situations and God to remark on here. But the final paragraph is a corker. This man is obviously passionately in love with goo-to-you evolution. Here it is, in full:
How ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God. What could be more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet interactive, all ultimately derived from accumulated variations in a single double-stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to give us mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein?
Well, isn’t that precious (as the Church Lady used to say.) Here’s MY version:
How ridiculous to make evolution a friend of God. What could be more ugly, more chaotic, more unintelligent, more wasteful, more degrading, indeed more demonic than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet interactive, suffering for millions or billions of years with pain, disease, predation, parasitism, bloody competition and death, all ultimately derived from accumulated chance, purposeless variations in a double-stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to turn pond scum into mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein—and Krauthammer.
Perhaps Mr. Krauthammer hasn’t thought through the implications of his worldview, both the scientific and religious aspects—or perhaps there is a chip on his shoulder (as I surmise from the tone of the column,) a shoulder not far from an otherwise brilliant mind.
Let us pray for this man, that he may recognize his desperate need for the Savior.
“If you don’t understand Genesis 3, you don’t really understand anything.”
Monday, November 21, 2005
As a follow-up on the blog about Carbon Dioxide being classified by New Jersey officials as a “contaminant,” I have just read an article in the Washington Post about a research project being done at Duke University. They have erected 100-foot towers in a grove of loblolly pines. The towers spew out CO2 and literally bathe the pine trees in the stuff. The researchers then collect data on growth rates and numbers of needles, cones and seeds the trees produce, compared to trees not treated with increased concentrations of CO2.
The results have been somewhat predictable (in fact, pumping CO2 into commercial greenhouses to increase growth is a common practice.) Since CO2 is the limiting factor in photosynthesis—that is, the factor that there is the least of (compared with light and water)—it would be predicted that adding more would allow more photosynthesis—and hence growth—to occur. And it logically follows that the more growth, the more reproduction, from seeds produced in cones.
All this sounds good for the loblollies. But, of course, that’s not the whole story. Ecology is never as simple as the observation of one event or one species. When we talk about the complexity of life, we are not just dealing with individual cells, organisms or species. Ecology deals with the interactions of organisms with each other and with their environment—the most complex and intricate system of interactions in the living—or non-living—universe. The biosphere of Planet Earth is so complex and varied that science has but begun to understand it at the most basic level. Ecology is in its infancy as a field of biology; that is what makes it so exciting.
That brings us back to the Duke researchers and their predictions about the ultimate results of increased atmospheric CO2. What will faster growing, faster reproducing pines mean for the ecosystem as a whole? Here is where it gets tricky. Loblollies are mixed in with slower-growing hardwoods, such as oaks and hickories, which will not likely benefit from increased CO2 as much as the naturally faster growing pines. That means that the pines could in time crowd out the hardwoods. So What? The problem is that other species—birds and mammals—depend on acorns and hickory nuts for food. So you see that altering one aspect of an ecosystem affects all others, in ways that may or may not be predictable.
That’s enough bio-talk for now—more to follow. But what is the moral of this story? The world would say, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.” As believers in God as the creator of all things, including the biosphere and all creatures therein, we have a much different perspective: God made it very good; man messed it up with sin; God cursed the ground—yet sustains even His cursed creation, causing organisms to adapt to the fallen environment; we, by our actions, tend to mess things up even further, yet strive to obey God’s command to be good stewards—and that is another reason why my motto stands: “If you don’t understand Genesis 3, you don’t really understand anything!”
Friday, November 18, 2005
In Monday’s blog, I was poking fun at a news headline that said that New Jersey “may ban bears in urban regions,” musing about whether posted signs would discourage the bruins from straying into city streets—or whether urban invaders would be shot on sight, without the benefit of Miranda warnings.
Turns out, it’s no laughing matter. There will be no signs, but there will also be no warnings. City—or even suburban—bears will be “euthanized” by police, according to a new state policy.
It seems that the former practice of tranquilizing strays and transporting them to state lands proved expensive and inconvenient—and did nothing to curb the growing population and dangerous encounters with people and property. But most local police departments hate the idea of shooting bears, both because of possible danger to residents and because they would probably rather deal with criminals than be wildlife “managers.” One local police chief was quoted as saying, "Why would we want to kill bears? Why not just relocate them? We're not going to go out and execute animals in front of people." And I think that many suburbanites, if they become aware of the new policy, may be reluctant to report a sighting, for fear of being responsible for ending the life of a bear.
In addition to this new “shoot on sight” policy, there will be bear hunts this year and for the next couple of years at least, unless conservation groups squawk loud enough—and they will squawk, as they always have, in the ongoing struggles among state officials, hunters and nature lovers.
The other developing story involves research into methods of bear birth control. There are several research studies in progress, at wild animal parks in New Jersey and elsewhere, but those projects are in their infancy.
So I am afraid there will be some ugly encounters in the next few months and years, between people and bears, police and bears, and people and people. And with more than 4000 New Jersey hunters having applied for bear permits, there will be no "Teddy Bear's Picnic" in the woods, much less in the cities and 'burbs.
If it hadn’t been for mankind’s fall into sin and the resultant curse, we’d be playing with our ursine friends instead of shooting them. My motto is always relevant: “If you don’t understand Genesis 3, you don’t really understand anything.”
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Would anyone like to identify the subject of this unusual but elegantly beautiful photograph? I’ll give you a clue: it’s the rear end of something. Dennis Kunkel makes stunning colorized scanning electron micrographs of just about anything under the sun, both animate and inanimate. Electron microscopes, because they use beams of electrons rather than light, can’t do color; but Dr. Kunkel colorizes them by a process that transforms them into works of art more than mere scientific data. See his work at: www.denniskunkel.com
With the invention of the electron microscope our knowledge of the complexity of living organisms, especially of the fine structure of individual cells, has exploded. Light microscopes are limited in their resolution by the length of the light waves. Anything smaller than a half wavelength of light is invisible to the light microscope. Electron microscopes, on the other hand, throw out beams of electrons hundreds of times closer together than the length of light waves. So they can “see” objects that are far smaller than can be resolved by visible light.
Most of the structures in a living cell are seen as specks or can’t be seen at all under the light microscope. In Darwin’s day, even a large cell looked like a blob of jelly with a few marbles and specks visible inside. I am convinced that Mr. Darwin, had he been able to see even one electron micrograph of the internal structure of a cell, would have been tempted—even forced by the clear evidence—to toss aside his theory of evolution by natural selection.
The Kunkel photograph is not of an individual cell, but of a complex--irreducibly complex--anatomical structure. Give up? OK, it’s the spinneret of a spider—the organ than makes and spins out silk. What a marvel of design (very intelligent design) it is. It can produce several kinds of silk, each for a different purpose: sticky silk for capturing prey; non-sticky for walking on without getting stuck. If this mechanism hadn’t been perfectly designed from the start, it would be a disaster, the tiny openings clogging, or the silk not drying at the correct rate, etc. etc. For more information about the incredible characteristics of spider silk and how it's made, go to: http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v23/i2/webspinners.asp
So don't be deceived into believing that living things are not intelligently designed, down to the most minute detail, by the omnipotent, omniscient Creator of all things, the One who sent His Son to save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
Monday, November 14, 2005
A recent news headline read: “State may ban bears in urban regions—surging population stirs rising concern”
Questions immediately occurred to me: How? Put up signs? Shoot on Sight?
The content of the article offered no answers, but the thought of “banning” ursine mammals from our cities seems impractical. Just training them to read signs would cost millions; and certainly they would have to be read their Miranda rights before taking drastic action.
Seriously though, there is a problem. There are about 8.5 million people in New Jersey and 1600-3000 black bears, concentrated here in the northern region and to our west. And more and more frequently, the two species meet, not only in the woods, but also in back yards and even on decks and in kitchens. Encounters with people and property can be scary, dangerous and destructive. Imagine coming home to find a broken back door and something big and furry rummaging in your pantry—and it’s not your teenage son. Quite a few New Jersey citizens haven’t just imagined—it has happened to them.
War has been waged at times, not only between man and bear, but between government agencies and between wildlife management officials and humane groups, over whether to have a bear hunt to reduce the population. Would hunting kill mostly “innocent” bears rather than the ones who have caused trouble by being habituated on garbage and birdseed? Would reducing the numbers actually solve the bear “problem?” The debate has gone on for years.
In all my tramping through the fields and forests around here, I have never seen a bruin, but just in case, I have memorized all the advice given for surviving an encounter, including yelling and banging pots and pans together--and in the case of a close encounter, hitting the animal repeatedly on the nose. Trouble is, I keep forgetting to take pots and pans on my hikes. And I would rather not have to resort to swatting a bear's schnoz with my $3000 camera. Have you priced camera repair services lately?
Actually, bears are our friends. Before sin entered the world they were strict vegetarians, and even now stick mainly to fruits and other plant material in their diet. They also eat carrion, so they help to clean up dead things and curb disease. There is a problem with livestock and with occasional attacks on humans, but over all, the black bear is a beneficial species and one of God’s more intelligent creatures—more so than some newspaper headline writers (?) And the cubs are so cute and cuddly!
Soon, perhaps sooner than we think, the bear problem, as well as all other problems, will be solved--but only for true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ at His return. (Isaiah 11:6-9) (Rev. Chapters 21-22)
p.s. The Newark Bears are our local Minor League baseball team. Could that headline writer have been thinking of them? Nah!
Friday, November 11, 2005
In yesterday’s post I got excited about an article in the latest issue of Scientific American, America’s premier popular science journal. The article about savant syndrome and the brain was very useful. Unfortunately, after glowing about that article, I made the mistake of turning to the last page of the magazine, where I was confronted by Steve Mirsky’s editorial piece entitled “The Trials of Life.” Right off I thought, “Here we go.” The word “trial” was a clue to where this thing was going. The sub-title read, "Because eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, we have to talk about Intelligent Design again, sorry."
Before launching into a bunch of misrepresentations of ID and the Dover, Pennsylvania ID trial, Mr. Mirsky proceeded to characterize creation science as “oxymoronic and just plain moronic, and ID as a subtle form of creationism that refuses to identify the designer, “but," he sardonically adds, "it rhymes with Todd.” He then makes a demeaning sexist remark comparing the bacterial flagellum ("a whippy little tail") to a couple of well-known Hollywood actresses.
Now I ask you, what is this very unscientific, sarcastic, insulting piece of non-literature doing in a supposedly respectable scientific journal?
Then I flipped over the page to its reverse side and witnessed an amazing bit of irony: the “Ask the Experts” column entitled, “How and why do fireflies light up?” Here, on the very same sheet of paper as the anti-ID rant is a description of one of the most obviously irreducibly complex pieces of anatomy, physiology and biochemistry in the animal kingdom. Firefly bioluminescence has been the subject of scores of research projects and journal articles over the past several decades, attempting to figure out the anatomy and chemistry of the phenomenon. And the more that is known, the more amazing it becomes. In fact the anatomy of these insects—in fact, any insect—is so complex, so unique, that some well-known scientist (Fred Hoyle, as I recall) declared that insects must have come from outer space—they couldn’t have evolved on Planet Earth.
Back to Mr. Mirsky’s subtitle: “Because eternal vigilance is the price of liberty…” What kind of liberty are we talking about? The liberty to demean and insult anyone who questions Darwinian orthodoxy, but not the liberty to mention, in a government school classroom, the idea that there just might be Someone whose name rhymes with “Todd”?
Thursday, November 10, 2005
My December issue of Scientific American arrived today and, much to my delight, it contains an article entitled, "Inside the Mind of a Savant." It features the rather famous savant, Kim Peek, now 54 years old. The reason for my interest involves a book that I have been TRYING to write for the last six years, one theme of which has to do with the pre-Fall mind of Adam. The thesis behind this is that, pre-Fall and pre-Curse, Adam's mental capacity would surely have been remarkably keener than that of our fallen, depraved, sin-infected minds. So I have been investigating (on and off) brain defects that seem to free up the brain to allow the subjects to do amazingly complex things and have extraordinary memories.
One new fact that was brought out in the article was that savants' brains often lack the corpus callosum, the thick band of tissue that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. That is the tissue that is severed in the so-called "split-brain" operation sometimes used to prevent seizures from spreading from one side of the brain to the other. The other interesting fact is that some "normal" people lack the corpus callosum--and their brains work just fine. This has fascinating implications for my research. Did Adam's brain have the corpus? Is the corpus a result of the Fall? I realize this is a far-out thought, but it is surely worth thinking about.
Another reason that this subject is so interesting is that I have been using the split-brain as an analogy for the relationship of science and religion. But I'll leave an analysis of that analogy for another bloggeration (I think I just coined a term there :-) In fact I just may change the name of my blog...
p.s. I just Googled for "bloggeration" and had several hits--so I guess I missed out on claiming ownership of a neologism. But I think I'll use it anyway.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
The photo to the left illustrates perfectly what happens when a church drifts away from or actively abandons the five solas of the gospel: that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on the merits of Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, and giving glory to God alone.
When a pattern of water stains under a bridge overpass is perceived to be an image of the virgin Mary, it is venerated and prayed to by thousands--an act of pure idolatry, or perhaps pure superstition, both of which are condemned by scripture. What false hope is generated when the truth of the God-breathed Bible is added to or subtracted from.
Only by adhering to the five "alones" do we have the sweet truth that we have a Savior who really saves, without the help of His earthly mother or the excess merit of her and some super-saints.
We should honor Mary for the saintly woman she was and for the eternally valuable service she performed in giving birth to the Savior, not because she can add anything to our salvation.
Monday, November 07, 2005
The panda just twitched, so I know he’s still alive (sometimes it’s hard to tell) and Dr. White is proceeding to demolish Mr. Brown’s fabrication of church history. Check it out at http://www.aomin.org/
The question is, “will this habit of multi-tasking actually improve my writing productivity?” Perhaps a #2 pencil and a scratch pad would serve better.
…and now for a Weather Bug update, an email check--and maybe a game of solitaire :-)
Sunday, November 06, 2005
New Jersey Classifies Carbon Dioxide as Air Contaminant
Furthering New Jersey’s commitment to combat climate change, Acting Governor Richard J. Codey adopted regulations classifying carbon dioxide as an air contaminant. The new classification was announced October 18, 2005, and amends several air pollution control rules. This announcement facilitates the state’s engagement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which aims to stabilize and reduce carbon dioxide emissions across nine Northeastern states.
This remarkable statement reminds me of the old one about Dihydrogen Oxide being the major component of acid rain. Dihydrogen Oxide is, of course, water. Now what about Carbon Dioxide? It is a regular, albeit small (.04%) component of air. Classifying it as a contaminant seems odd, to put it mildly. After all, it is an absolutely vital component, upon which all life on Earth depends. It is one of the compounds that plants use to manufacture just about 100% of the world’s food supply, by the process of photosynthesis.
Now it is true that the percentage of CO2 is rising due to the burning of fossil fuels; and the increase is somewhat contributing to global warming (how much is a matter of great debate.) But referring to an absolutely essential substance as a contaminant is semantic foolishness. Every green plant must be shaking in its roots and wondering, “what are they trying to do to us?”
Don’t worry, my green friends, they won’t be “decontaminating” your atmosphere for a long time. I can assure you that much, with every breath I exhale, a breath rich in--Carbon Dioxide!
p.s. The photo: a portion of a skunk cabbage leaf. Click on the image to see a larger version. If you look closely, you may be able to see irregularities, which are individual cells. I like this photo so much that I use it as my Windows desktop wallpaper. And used thusly, the odor is barely noticeable :-)
Saturday, November 05, 2005
This morning, as I usually do on Saturday, I glanced through (online) the book review section of the New York Times to see what was on the non-fiction bestseller list. I read the first chapters (or as much as they give you) of several books on the list, including Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, about Lincoln’s cabinet, Jung Chang’s Mao: The Unknown Story and Charles C. Mann’s 1491, which, surprisingly, begins with Pilgrim/Indian relations in the 1620s. All three of these first chapter excerpts were attention grabbers and exemplified good historical writing, though somewhat different in style. And even these brief glimpses offered much insight into the historical periods represented. I should do more reading in history, even entire books, rather than merely free samples.
I also read ICR Daily devotional online. This one was particularly meaningful (actually, they are all very meaningful, as they are based on God’s Word) so I will preserve it here:
One God November 5, 2005
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4).
This great verse has been recited countless times by Israelites down through the centuries, setting forth their distinctive belief in one great Creator God. The Jews had retained their original belief in creation, handed down from Noah, while the other nations had all allowed their original monotheistic creationism to degenerate into a wide variety of religions, all basically equivalent to the polytheistic evolutionism of the early Sumerians at Babel.
But along with its strong assertion of monotheism, there is also a very real suggestion that this declaration, with its thrice-named subject, is also setting forth the Triune God. The name, "Lord," of course, is Yahweh, or Jehovah, the self-existing One who reveals Himself, while "God" is Elohim, the powerful Creator/Ruler. "Jehovah our Elohim is one Jehovah" is the proclamation. A number of respected Jewish commentators have acknowledged that the verse spoke of a "unified oneness," rather than an "absolute oneness." The revered book called the Zohar, for example, even said that the first mention was of the Father; the second one the Messiah; and the third, the Holy Spirit.
The key word "one" (Hebrew, achad) is often used to denote unity in diversity. For example, when Eve was united to Adam in marriage, they were said to be "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Similarly, on the third day of creation, the waters were " gathered together unto one place," yet this gathering together was called "Seas" (i.e., more than one sea; Genesis 1:9-10).
Thus, Israel's great declaration should really be understood as saying in effect: "The eternally omnipresent Father, also Creator and Sustainer of all things, is our unified self-revealing Lord." HMM
I then spent way too much time watching the longest interaction to date between mother and cub giant pandas, live via webcam from the National Zoo. Mei Xian and Tai Shan cuddled and played, licked and pawed for a half hour or so. The cub is reaching toward 16 pounds and is becoming more active every day. This is an amazing phenomenon to watch, and a rare one, as only 4 panda cubs have been raised successfully in the US. The next time I checked the webcam, Tai had collapsed into a heap, exhausted after his extended playtime. Pandas sleep a lot, due to their low energy level. A diet of bamboo doesn’t provide a lot of energy.
The photo of Tai Shan was taken during a recent medical exam.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Last night I attended a Fyke Nature Association (local bird and conservation club) meeting and heard a fellow science educator's talk / PowerPoint presentation about his trip to the Galapagos. In general, the man did a fine job, having photographed a large number of the species and habitats of several of the islands.
But, as might have been expected, he concentrated on the finches and their "rapid evolutionary changes" brought about by climate changes (wet and dry spells.) "See how fast evolution can happen--within only a few years beaks became bigger or smaller by natural selection!"
Of course that wasn't evolution at all, but slight variations in beak size, with populations increasing and decreasing as food supplies to which each species of finch was adapted became more or less plentiful. When the weather conditions reversed, so did the populations of big and little-beaked finches. So "evolution" goes nowhere. Yes, there is natural selection, but it can't cause any large-scale changes because it doesn't add any new information, but merely selects from genes already present. In fact, as genes are selected for survival in a particular environmental niche, information is actually lost, so any large-scale "advancements" are impossible.
So this fellow science educator (he's a chemist, so let's not be too hard on him :-) was following the party line of naturalistic Darwinism, probably not having really thought out the problems inherent in the "theory."
Late in the talk, he asked the question, "how did this come about?" Someone in the audience shouted, mockingly or out of ignorance, "intelligent design!" which was received with equally mocking laughter from the audience. The speaker chortled, "Yea, right," or something to that effect.
The audience and the speaker had just mocked The Intelligent Designer and had become inexcusable, according to Romans 1:18-20. So, much prayer is necessary as to how to approach these very nice (in the human sense) people who have "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." (Romans 1:23) Perhaps some idolotrous birder will happen upon this humble blog and be encouraged to open a Bible instead of a Sibley (that's almost a private birding joke.)
p.s. Perhaps I should quote the entire relevant passage so you won’t have to go to the trouble of looking it up (although that would more a blessing than trouble, especially if you read it in the context of all of Romans Chapter 1—and then keep reading.) But here is the immediate context, after the reading of which you will have no excuse:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Romans 1:18-23 NASB)
Friday, October 28, 2005
The results were shocking. Not only did the editors add some of their own material, but they eliminated a key quote, thus again severely altering the meaning of my letter. I would call this a case of irresponsible and dishonest editorial policy and practice.
So what is a person to do? Write more letters to the editor? Write to the editors, complaining about their policies and practices? Cancel my subscription? Well, the first two are certainly possibilities. Cancelling my subscription would only cut myself off from further debate. And besides, I must have my daily dose of crossword puzzle therapy and the philosophical enlightenment of Ziggy cartoons :-)
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Today, however, I decided to celebrate the revival of my new Dell (after 5 hours on the phone and a service call to get it going) by posting here. It is indeed a pleasure using a big, fast machine with a bright 19" flat panel monitor. Getting this machine might actually encourage me to get some serious writing done, an activity that had come to a halt over the past few months.
This morning I concentrated on reading several articles related to the Intelligent Design controversy. The most in-depth and useful was one at: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2005/1025nejom.asp It was a response and analysis of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Now it's off to do some shopping, so I will have a little something to eat for dinner. The cupboard is bare :-(
Friday, September 09, 2005
The unsigned editorial, however, totally denigrated ID, creationism or anything that smacked of anything but the materialistic worldview.
So I decided to write a letter to the editor response. I worked on it and sent it, all 386 words of it. In the acknowledgment email, the paper said that anything over 200 words would be severely edited. So I waited to see what the results would be.
The following Sunday edition included several responses to the editorial, some supporting and some denigrating ID.
My letter appeared, minus several key sentences--and the punch line at the end. So most of the intent of the letter was eliminated or at least diluted to a point of insipid weakness. Next time I guess I'll have to be more concise to avoid having my work pruned.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Monday, August 15, 2005
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Saturday, August 06, 2005
So what to do? Pray for these guys and gals, certainly. Contact and confront them directly? Maybe. Perhaps I should even post a message on that board (anonymously?) letting them know that someone who cares is watching--and that Someone is always watching. Refer them to Psalm 139. Perhaps one or more of them will be open to such a message. Much prayer is needed before I take action. More to follow.
Monday, August 01, 2005
For now, don't expect hourly or even daily posts but merely now and again jottings--whenever something even mildly interesting or useful might seep from my old brain. If I catch the bug you might read more of my thoughts, as well as the thoughts of others. Enough for now--let's see how this thing works.