Conversation With God

By Will Myers

During ancient days before Jesus Christ in the Judaism, men of faith prayed from a distance from God. They didn’t feel worthy enough to talk personally with God Almighty.

Jesus, the Son of God, is worthy to talk with His Heavenly Father. If we reside within the Son of God then we become worthy to have conversation, a personal narative with God.

Now is the time to have a conversation with God in the name of Jesus Who makes us worthy to talk personally with God.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
When personally talking to God Who is our Father in the name of His Son, Jesus, hear God speak, move our thoughts, and inspire thoughts in your mind while being in a peaceful state of mind.

Psalm 46:10

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

There is peace beyond understanding

One must have faith. Testing God by throwing out a comment unto Him won’t works; it must be heart to heart in the faith.

One needs knowledge of the Word of God; for the devil shall defeat you due to your lack of knowledge of the Word of God. The world is a fraud in progress; for we live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people. Ephesians ch 6:13-17 states:

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

 “13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:”

If one has the faith and is victorious by taking above scriptures to heart than one shall gloriously continue in conversation with God Who created all.

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Wasn’t the Flood Miraculous?

A few weeks ago, Kirby Hansen and I wrote an article addressing the scientific possibility of a global flood. A reader named Joe responded with this question:

Dear RTB:
Thank you again for another interesting article!
I do have one question however: Why not just accept a global flood as a miraculous occurrence? Dr. Zweerink only looks at the ‘scientific’ possibilities in this article. A possible ‘global’ flood could be understood as a miracle, along with the miracle of [the] creation of life, along with the events of the final judgment following the miracle of resurrection. Why restrict the global flood to the realm of what is ‘scientifically’ possible? Should the natural and supernatural be separated this way?

Regards,
Joe

Believe it or not, Joe’s question reminds me of a story about three men hitting the links for a fine round of golf. The first fellow, Jack, teed up his ball for a shot. The whoosh of his club sent the ball sailing over the wide water hazard and onto the front edge of the green where it rolled right into the cup. As the second fellow approached the tee, he remarked, “Nice swing, Mr. Nicklaus!” Without even a warm-up, the crack of the second club sent the ball directly toward the middle of the water hazard. Upon contacting the water’s surface, the ball bounced a couple of times before rolling to the shore, up the bank, across the green, and straight into the cup. Jack turned and said, “Well played, Jesus! Well played.” After placing his ball on the tee, the third fellow paused for some time, admiring the beautiful course. A quick swing of the club sent his ball arcing toward the deepest part of the water hazard. Just before striking the surface, a colorful rainbow trout leapt from the water, and the ball ricocheted off the fish’s tail into a large hole in a tree. A second later, a squirrel emerged from the hole, spitting the golf ball out of its mouth. The ball fell through the air, struck four different branches as it circled the tree, dropped onto the green, and rolled into the pin before landing in the bottom of the cup. Jesus turned around and proclaimed, “Excellent shot, Dad!”

Which of the three golf shots demonstrate God’s activity?

Most people would clearly identify Jesus’ shot as miraculous (golf balls rolling over water clearly defy the laws of physics). Many would also see God’s activity in the bizarre circumstances surrounding his Father’s shot, even though nothing about the shot defies the laws of physics.

But the easy-to-explain nature of Jack Nicklaus’ shot seems to remove any need for divine activity. Yet in a Christian worldview, the constancy of the laws of physics flows directly from the nature of God. Stated another way, without God continually upholding creation, it would simply tumble into nonexistence. But God so reliably sustains creation that we can talk about it being governed by constant laws of physics. This means that whenever science figures out how something works according to the laws of physics, we have a clearer picture of how God sustains creation.

In this context, Joe’s question basically asks, “Isn’t the flood a supernatural (beyond the laws of physics) event?” I wholeheartedly agree that the flood was miraculous and might have been unexplainable via the laws of physics, but there a few clues from the biblical text indicating that it’s legitimate to ask about the quantity of water involved.Genesis 7:11–12 describes some of the processes God utilized to bring about the flood. Similarly, Genesis 8 describes the rather natural-looking process of how the waters receded (aided by a divinely orchestrated wind). These passages indicate that the floodwaters originated from Earth and returned to the pre-flood locations afterwards. Consequently, it makes sense to assess the extent of the flood based on the amount of water Earth contains. God gave us the tools to make these measurements to help us understand, in some limited sense, how He affected the flood.

None of this in any way limits what God could have done. As a Christian and a scientist, my job is to study the Bible and to study creation in order to better understand who God is and how He has acted. In those studies I have found that where God intervenes beyond the laws of physics (e.g., the creation of the universeand the origin of humanity), the record of nature testifies to His involvement. I would expect the same principle to apply to the waters of the flood.

Dr. Jeff Zweerink

While many Christians and non-Christians see faith and science as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. They operate by the same principles and are committed to discovering foundational truths. Read more about Dr. Jeff Zweerink.

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Vaccine Safety and Loving Our Neighbors

In the wake of a recent outbreak of measles originating at Disneyland and spreading to more than 20 states, California state legislators have passed a bill implementing mandatory vaccination for students attending public schools. The grassroots uprising against this legislation surprises and disappoints me. This is a charged topic, but it seems that this reaction is primarily rooted in misinformation and a false sense of security that may also involve a failure to consider civic responsibilities. I share here my scientific perspective on vaccine safety and my Christian perspective—that vaccinations can be an apologetic demonstration of Christlike love for our neighbors.

Let me say now that I have no ties to pharmaceutical or vaccine companies. As a virologist, I have spent nearly 25 years teaching, studying, and researching viral pathogenesis (how viruses cause disease) and correlates of immunity (what aspects of the immune response are necessary for protection from viral infections). Much of my research involved vaccine proof-of-concept studies. Motivated by the love of God, and informed by years of study, I saw my research as a form of creation stewardship and as a way to love and serve others. I felt like my work was making a direct contribution to redeeming aspects of human disease and suffering.

I offer my perspectives from a passion for the well-being of others. Vaccination is a rich opportunity for our Christian witness based in the precept of loving others as ourselves, caring for the least of those among us, and considering others as more important than ourselves (Matthew 25:40; Philippians 2:3). On these grounds, my appeal echoes that offered by family physician Matthew Loftus in Christianity Today(May 2015).

Viruses Kill—Vaccines Save Lives

Successful US immunization campaigns have erased some diseases from day-to-day concerns—measles, polio, and rubella are no longer endemic, and incidences of mumps, chicken pox, hepatitis B, and whooping cough are greatly reduced. Decades of successful childhood immunizations have led many in society to no longer see their need for vaccines or their responsibility to act for the benefit of shared public health.

However, as recent measles outbreaks have demonstrated, we are not as protected and insulated as we think. Many viral-associated diseases are just a plane ride away. Measles is endemic in many other countries and is highly contagious. Globally,measles kills about 16 people every hour. Outbreaks occur in the US when individuals are infected abroad, return to the States, and come in contact with unvaccinated people. Continued widespread immunization is necessary to prevent such outbreaks and to protect those most vulnerable.

Evaluating Vaccine Safety

Vaccines administered in the US undergo rigorous evaluation. Long before licensure, research laboratories conduct proof-of-concept (preclinical) studies for potential vaccines. Relevant animal models are employed to demonstrate safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy. This multi-year process examines the extent and ability of potential vaccines to elicit an immune response and it examines the level of protection offered from subsequent challenges with the actual virus.

Once the best potential candidate is identified, production of the vaccine occurs under highly regulated manufacturing processes. Only then can prelicensure clinical trials begin, which are a multi-stage, highly regulated process that evaluates safety at every step in increasing populations. (See table.) If and when the vaccine successfully passes through clinical trials, panels of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and non-FDA experts review all preclinical and clinical data prior to licensure. Even after licensure, safety evaluations continue through the nationwide Vaccine-Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and, if warranted, in Phase 4 clinical trials. Many times the scientific community foresees potential side effects and may call for further scrutiny prior to licensure as is the case for current Dengue vaccine trials.1 (Dengue virusthreatens millions worldwide each year.)

The FDA has a specific division dedicated to oversight of vaccine manufacturing and development and pre-licensure clinical trials. If at any time before, during, or after licensure a vaccine demonstrates dangerous adverse side effects, the FDA can demand more studies, halt manufacturing and administration, or revoke licensure.

FDA/CBER Road to Vaccine Approval

Preclinical Studies and Manufacturing Candidate vaccines undergo extensive evaluation
for animal safety and immunogenicity and for Good Manufacturing Protocols (purity, sterility, stability, potency, reproducible lots, assay validation, quality control, assurance, etc.).
Phase 1 Clinical Trials Initial human studies evaluated for safety and immunogenicity in a small number of closely monitored volunteers.
Phase 2 Clinical Trials Dose-ranging studies evaluate safety and immunogenicity at various doses in dozens to several hundred volunteers.
Phase 3 Clinical Trials Evaluates disease prevention and safety in large and
diverse populations (usually 1,000s–10,000s).
Application for Licensure Internal FDA review and external FDA review: Data from all preclinical and clinical studies and manufacturing protocols reviewed by experts, including scientists, doctors, regulators, and consumer advocates.
Licensure
Continued Monitoring (Optional Phase 4) Even after licensure some vaccines may undergo Phase 4 clinical trials to collect more information under certain conditions or in certain populations. All vaccines undergo continued safety and manufacturing evaluations and reviews. Adverse events are reported via VAERS.

The FDA rigorously and continuously evaluates all components of licensed vaccines for purity, potency, and safety. Continued monitoring has helped suspend or halt production and use of poliovirus, rotavirus, and respiratory syncytial virus vaccines when adverse side effects were detected.

Refuting a Falsified Study

In 1998, British surgeon A. J. Wakefield published research on an extremely small number of individuals suffering from bowel disease and implied a link between vaccination and onset of autism. It was later discovered that Dr. Wakefield had falsified data and had a direct conflict of interest in discrediting the MMR vaccine. The journal Lancet retracted the article and Dr. Wakefield was banned from practicing medicine in the UK.2

More importantly, other researchers have never been able to corroborate his research findings. Numerous additional studies (from multiple countries and multiple research groups) have since documented vaccine safety in extremely large populations and have found no association of vaccination or thimerosal (a vaccine preservative) with autism or any other developmental disease. The data overwhelmingly supports the safety of vaccines. Even the national autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks indicates the safety and need for vaccination.

Real side effects (not autism) occur in a low percentage of those vaccinated. The side effects are very rare and, in many cases, pale in comparison to the risks associated with contracting the disease if unvaccinated. The risks for each vaccine should be discussed with your doctor or pediatrician.

Loving Our Neighbors

One of the amazing things about national vaccination campaigns is that you don’t have to reach every single individual. Based on epidemiological studies measles vaccine coverage of approximately 95 percent is sufficient to protect almost 100 percent of the population.3 As the Disneyland outbreak demonstrated, this “herd immunity” is critical in protecting those who are immunocompromised (due to age, illness, or treatments) and unable to receive or elicit a protective response to vaccination. I believe protecting the vulnerable is a critical part of our Christian witness.

For the sake of others, please consider immunizations. Consider vaccinations for your children’s well-being and safety. If you think your child is receiving too many immunizations at once, discuss it with your pediatrician. Please avoid spreading misinformation and unsubstantiated, falsified reports. Instead consider what impact you might have with your unbelieving neighbors if you shared with them the conviction that you vaccinate, despite uncertainties, for the sake of their children and the most vulnerable in society.



Anjeanette Roberts

Dr. Anjeanette (AJ) Roberts received her PhD in cell and molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996, and currently serves as a Visiting Fellow with the Rivendell Institute at Yale University in New Haven, CT.

Guest Writer

For a listing of all of our guest writers, click here.

Notes

  1. Sri Rezeki Hadinegoro et al. “Efficacy and Long-Term Safety of a Dengue Vaccine in Regions of Endemic Disease,” New England Journal of Medicine 373 (September 2015): 1195–206, doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1506223; Luis Villar et al., “Efficacy of a Tetravalent Dengue Vaccine in Children in Latin America,” New England Journal of Medicine 372 (January 2015): 113–23, doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1411037; Cameron P. Simmons, “A Candidate Dengue Vaccine Walks a Tightrope,” New England Journal of Medicine 373 (September 2015): 1263–64, doi:10.1056/NEJMe1509442; Anna P. Durbin and Stephen S. Whitehead, “The Dengue Human Challenge Model: Has the Time Come to Accept This Challenge?,Journal of Infectious Diseases207 (March 2013): 697–99, doi:10.1093/infdis/jis749.
  2. See T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao and Chittaranjan Andrade, “The MMR Vaccine and Autism: Sensation, Refutation, Retraction, and Fraud,” Indian Journal of Psychiatry 53 (April–June 2011): 95–96; and Jeanne Whalen, “U.K. Bans Doctor Who Linked Autism to Vaccine,” Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2010,http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704113504575263994195318772
  3. “CDC: With Low Vaccine Rates, Some Areas Risk Losing Herd Immunity,” Advisory Board Company, published October 21, 2014, https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2014/10/21/cdc-with-low-vaccine-rates-some-areas-risk-losing-herd-immunity.
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What Does the Discovery of a Supermassive Black Hole Binary Mean for Creationism?

A team of 10 Chinese astronomers recently announced the first-ever discovery of a supermassive black hole binary.1 They found the binary in the galaxy NGC 5548 (see figure 1), a galaxy where more than 70 percent of its light comes from the nuclear core. Previous research teams had determined that a supermassive black hole with a mass 280 million times the sun’s mass resided in the nuclear core.2

Details on the First-Detected Supermassive Black Hole Binary

The team found a 14-year periodicity in the double-peaked profile of the hydrogen-beta spectral line and in the brightness of both the hydrogen-beta emission line and the optical continuum arising from the nuclear core. These periodicities imply that the “supermassive black hole” is really two black holes of roughly equal mass that orbit one another with a separation of 21.7 light-days or 350 billion miles. This separation is approximately 100 times the distance between Neptune and the sun.

Figure 1: Seyfert galaxy NGC 5548
Image credit: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

Further confirmation for a supermassive black hole binary residing in the galactic center of NGC 5548 comes from a very deep exposure image of NGC 5548. This image shows two long tidal tails, indicating that NGC 5548 is the product of two roughly equal mass galaxies that merged about 1 billion years ago. Each of the two galaxies that merged to become NGC 5548 would have contained a supermassive black hole at their respective galactic centers. A billion years is a reasonable time for the orbit of the two supermassive black holes around one another to decay to a distance of about 22 light-days.

NGC 5548 is 244 million light-years away from Earth. It is a little more than five times closer to us than the merger of two 30-solar-mass black holes discovered by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). NGC 5548’s proximity to Earth and the very high mass of its black hole binary make it an excellent target for detecting gravitational waves.

Eventually, the two supermassive black holes in NGC 5548’s center will merge. That merger will impact the LIGO instrument with gravitational waves billions of times stronger than those detected from the merger of the two 30-solar-mass black holes. However, it will probably be at least another million years before the merger of NGC 5548’s supermassive black holes occurs. Nevertheless, NGC 5548’s supermassive black holes are already close enough together to radiate detectable gravitational waves.

How Is the Creation Model Affected?

In their paper, the team calls for the search of additional supermassive black hole binaries. Additional supermassive black hole binaries will not only aid research on the properties of gravity and general relativity but also assist in testing cosmic creation models. The predominant big bang creation model predicts that galaxy merger events were common in the early history of the universe. While many images of galaxy merging events have been collected, a comprehensive catalog of the characteristics of supermassive black hole binaries in galaxies would yield truly definitive tests of the leading big bang creation models.

The recent discovery of gravitational waves emanating from the merger of two 30-solar-mass black holes (and the potential discovery of more medium-sized black hole merger events) has been significant in the defense of the biblically predicted big bang creation model. This discovery illuminates a core feature of the creation model by providing a much more detailed understanding of the universe’s firstborn stars and of the subsequent star formation history of the universe. However, presently operating gravity wave telescopes are reliant upon rare merger events (either two medium-sized black holes within a few billion light-years from Earth, or two small black holes or neutron stars in a nearby galaxy) to generate a signal strong enough to detect gravitational waves. Even then, the detectable gravitational signal lasts only a few seconds. But the discovery of a different kind of black hole binary—a supermassive black hole binary—promises to augment scientists’ ability to study gravitational waves.

With access to gravitational waves emanating from both medium-sized and supermassive black hole binaries, astronomers will be able explore new properties of gravity and general relativity. They will be able to gain a greater understanding of the universe’s star and galaxy formation history and, consequently, of the cosmic creation event and development of the universe. This deeper understanding may help remove some of the remaining doubts about the validity of the biblically predicted big bang creation model.3

Subjects: Origin of the Universe, Universe Design

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. Read more about Dr. Hugh Ross.

Endnotes

  1. Yan-Rong Li et al., “Spectroscopic Indication of a Centi-parsec Supermassive Black Hole Binary in the Galactic Center of NGC 5548,” Astrophysical Journal 822 (April 2016): id. 4, doi:10.3847/0004-637X/822/1/4.
  2. Jong-Hak Woo et al., “The Lick AGN Monitoring Project: The MBH-σ Relation for Reverberation-Mapped Active Galaxies,” Astrophysical Journal 716 (June 2010): 269–80, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/716/1/269; John Kormendy and Luis Ho, “Coevolution (or Not) of Supermassive Black Holes and Host Galaxies,” Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 51 (August 2013): 528–33, 545, doi:10.1146/annurev-astro-082708-101811.
  3. Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days, 2nd ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2015), 135–44; See Hugh Ross, “Big Bang—The Bible Taught It First!” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, July 1, 2000, http://www.reasons.org/articles/big-bang—the-bible-taught-it-first.
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Personal Relationship With God Thru The LORD

By Will Myers

As expressed in the Word of God, we are to listen to every word from the mouth of God and obey. How is this possible? There is the perfect will of God, Christ Jesus, and there is a permissive will of God, self righteousness. Humans live by the permissive will of God. It’s our grace period until we get it right. Jesus, our Comforter, brings the Words of God; God’s commandments, and tunes One into the moment by moment inspiration from God.

A person can pray to God in the name of Jesus, the Son of God, intimately. The most intimate communing with our Heavenly Father is speaking in tongues, our Heavenly Language while letting our soul being exposed to God. One who speaks in tongues has a privacy between their God and themself.

The transformation of our minds occurs when we seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. God is perfect in all that He does; therefore, as God have a perfect will God has perfect righteousness. Once again, humans who work to renew their minds pressing into the perfect will of God (Christ Jesus brings God’s Holy Spirit Who is God) are rewarded. God gives blessings for partial completion. If One continues to press toward the perfect law of liberty he shall receive from eternal life. Jesus the Son has fulfilled the law.

God’s Spirit of Truth, Holy Spirit Who is God, in the world speaks of His Son, Jesus, and tells of things to come. This is in part the works of God’s Holy Spirit that work in all things. The Spirit of the Law in all things is Jesus. The works of God is to make people believe in whom He has sent. God created Heaven and earth that speaks of His Son who is the King of God’s Kingdom in perfect righteousness.

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Testing Quantum Gravity Models

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how recent observations of distant quasars and blazers at short wavelengths eliminated many of the quantum gravity models certain atheists appeal to in their attempts to escape a cosmic beginning and the implied cosmic Beginner.1 I noted that astronomers can make these constraints on quantum gravity speculations even more rigorous and limiting by measuring the image sharpness of quasars and blazers at greater distances and shorter wavelengths than achieved so far.

In the latest issue of the Astrophysical Journal a team of four astronomers proposed another ingenious observational tool2 for penetrating the state of the universe when, back about 13.8 billion years ago, it was smaller in diameter than 1.6 x 10-35 meters (orders of magnitude smaller than the diameter of an electron). They explained how the discovery of pulsars orbiting supermassive black holes and subsequent measurements of the orbital features of such pulsar-black hole binaries could yield important information about quantum gravity physics.

A black hole is a massive body that is so highly compressed that the gravity of such a body will not permit anything to escape the body, not even light. A pulsar is a highly magnetized, fast-rotating neutron star (a solid ball of neutrons) that emits a highly collimated beam of electromagnetic radiation (see image). Pulsars are like lighthouses in that a fixed observer will see a pulse of light once per rotation period of the pulsar.

Image: Schematic Diagram of a Pulsar
The small blue sphere in the middle represents the neutron star. The curved lines indicate the pulsar’s magnetic field. The green vertical line shows the neutron star’s axis of rotation. The narrow blue cones show the electromagnetic emission beams.
Image credit: Roy Smits/Mysid

Pulsars rank as the most accurate natural clocks in the universe. Inside a black hole’s event horizon (the distance from the center of a black hole where gravity begins to become so powerful that no matter or energy, not even light, can escape) quantum gravity physics operates.

The team of four astronomers showed that measurements of the timing of the repetitive light pulses from a pulsar orbiting just outside the event horizon of a sufficiently massive black hole will allow astronomers to determine the degree and the manner in which information escapes from the black hole. In particular, the team showed that quantum fluctuations of the space-time geometry just outside a black hole’s event horizon will cause an increase in the measured root mean square deviation of the arrival times of pulsar pulses traveling from near the event horizon. Depending on the quantum gravity model and the mass of the black hole, the root mean square deviation can range from less than a microsecond to several minutes. Thus, such a determination will provide a powerful tool for testing competing quantum gravity models.

Astronomers have not yet detected a pulsar-black hole binary. However, the operational gravity wave telescope LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and the planned and designed gravity wave telescope LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), and the scheduled radio telescope SKA (Square Kilometre Array), will soon likely discover at least a few pulsar-black hole binaries.

The opportunity to gain yet more knowledge of the physics of the quantum gravity era (the physics of the universe when it was less than 10-43 seconds old) has the potential of adding to the already impressive amount of evidence that the universe was created a finite period of time ago by a causal Agent that transcends matter, energy, space, and time. Such a causal Agent uniquely defines the God of the Bible.

Featured image: M87, a Supergiant Galaxy in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies
In the nucleus of M87 resides a black hole that is 6.4 billion times more massive than the Sun. It is responsible for the blue jet emanating out from the right side of M97’s nucleus. You can watch a short video clip that zooms into M87’s black hole jet here.
Featured image credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Space Telescope

Endnotes

  1. Hugh Ross, “Does Quantum Gravity Avoid the Need for a Cosmic Creator?” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, March 6, 2017, http://www.reasons.org/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/does-quantum-gravity-avoid-the-need-for-a-cosmic-creator.
  2. John Estes et al., “Shining Light on Quantum Gravity with Pulsar-Black Hole Binaries,” Astrophysical Journal 837 (March 2017): id. 87, doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aa610e.

Subjects: Cosmology, Laws of Physics, Origin of the Universe

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AN UPDATE FROM DR. CAROLINE LEAF

Message body

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Can Science Detect the Creator’s Fingerprints in Nature?

Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? (Job 12:9, NIV)

In early March (2017), I took part in a forum at Samford University (Birmingham, AL) entitled Genesis and Evolution. At this two-day event, the panelists presented and discussed scientific and biblical perspectives on young-earth, old-earth, and evolutionary versions of creationism.

The organizers of this forum charged me with the responsibility of describing old-earth creationism (OEC) from a scientific vantage point while also providing the rationale for my views. As part of my presentation, the organizers asked me to discuss the assumptions that undergird my views. One of the foundational tenets of OEC is an important idea taught in Scripture: God has revealed Himself to us through the record of nature. According to passages such as Job 12:7–9, part of that revelation includes the “fingerprints” He has left on His creation.

Detecting the Fingerprints

If Scripture is true, then scientific investigation should uncover evidence for design throughout the natural realm. Science should detect God’s fingerprints. And indeed, it has. As a biochemist, I am deeply impressed with the elegance, sophistication, and ingenuity of the cell’s molecular systems. In my view, these features reflect the work of a mind—a divine Mind. But the evidence for intelligent design in the biochemical realm is much more extensive. For example, the eerie similarity between the structure and function of biochemical systems and the objects and devices produced by human designers further evinces the Creator’s handiwork. In my book The Cell’s Design, I show how the remarkable similarities serve to revitalize William Paley’s Watchmaker argument for God’s existence.

To describe the hallmark features of human designs, Paley used the term “contrivance.” Human designs are contrivances—and so are biological systems. If human contrivances require the work of human designers, then it follows that biological systems—which are also contrivances—require a divine Designer. In The Cell’s Design, I introduce the concept of an intelligent design pattern. Following Paley, I identify several features that characterize human designs. Collectively, these characteristics form a pattern that can then be matched to the features of biological and biochemical systems. The greater the match between the intelligent design pattern and biological/biochemical systems, the greater the certainty that designs found in living systems are the work of a Mind.

Is Science Capable of Detecting the Supernatural?

In response to my presentation at the Genesis and Evolution event, cell biologist Kenneth Miller from Brown University—a well-known critic of intelligent design—argued that creationism and intelligent design cannot be part of the construct of science because science lacks the capability of detecting the supernatural. In his book The Triumph of Evolution: And the Failure of Creationism, paleontologist Niles Eldredge makes this very point:

We humans can directly experience the material world only through our senses, and there is no way we can directly experience the supernatural. Thus, in the enterprise that is science, it isn’t an ontological claim that a God . . . does not exist, but rather an epistemological recognition that even if such a God did exist, there would be no way to experience that God given the impressive, but still limited, means afforded by science. And that is true by definition.1

But as I pointed out during my presentation, there are scientific disciplines predicated on science’s capacity to detect the activity of intelligent agency. One such research program is SETI (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence). Astronomers involved in this program seek ways to distinguish electromagnetic radiation emanating from astronomical objects from those hypothetically generated by intelligent agents that are part of alien civilizations. To put it another way, SETI is an intelligent design research program.

Aliens and Fast Radio Bursts

Research by scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics powerfully illustrates this point.2 These investigators propose that fast radio bursts (FRBs) emanate from alien technology, specifically planet-sized transmitters powering interstellar probes.

Astronomers discovered FRBs in 2007. Since then, around two dozen exceedingly bright millisecond-long bursts of radio emissions have been detected. Astronomers think that FRBs originate in distant galaxies, billions of light-years away.

The Harvard-Smithsonian scientists calculate that the transmitters could generate enough energy from sunlight to move probes through space, if the light was directed onto an area of a planet twice the size of Earth. Given the energies involved, the transmitters would have to be cooled. Again, the researchers estimate that a water-cooled device twice Earth’s size could keep the transmitter from melting.

The researchers recognize that construction of the transmitters lies beyond our technology but is possible given the laws of physics. They speculate that aliens built these transmitters to power light sails to move spacecraft weighing a million tons and carrying living creatures across interstellar space.

These astronomers maintain that the transmitter would have to continually focus its beam on the light sail to power it. Accordingly, because the sail, its planet, star, and galaxy all move relative to us, FRBs originate when the transmitter’s beam sweeps across the sky and briefly points in Earth’s direction.

So, are FRBs evidence for alien technology? Avi Loeb, one of the Harvard-Smithsonian scientists, admits that their proposal is speculative but justifies it because they “haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence.”3 Loeb argues, “Deciding what’s likely ahead of time limits the possibilities. It’s worth putting ideas out there and letting the data be the judge.”4

His Evidence Is Clearly Seen

So contrary to the protests of scientists such as Miller and Eldredge, science does have the tool kit to detect the handiwork of intelligent agents and even discern the capabilities and motives of the intelligent designer(s). Therefore, why not let intelligent design proponents and creationists put their ideas out there and let the data be the judge?

It is interesting that the Harvard-Smithsonian astronomers think they can recognize the work of intelligent designers who possess capabilities beyond what we can understand—and maybe even imagine. They also think that they can discern the purpose behind the alien technology—space exploration. Then why can’t science recognize the work of a Creator whose capabilities exist beyond what we can imagine?

Considering the proposal by the Harvard-Smithsonian investigators, it is disingenuous for Miller, Eldredge, and other scientists to reject, out of hand, the scientific evidence for God’s fingerprints in biochemical systems. I contend that the intelligent design pattern that I describe in The Cell’s Design can be used to rigorously—and even quantitatively—characterize the Creator’s activity in biological systems. Moreover, as I have discussed previously, science has the tools to identify the Designer.

As the apostle Paul wrote, evidence for the Creator is “clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20). If only the scientific community would be willing to look.

Resources:

Endnotes:

  1. Niles Eldredge, The Triumph of Evolution: And the Failure of Creationism (New York: Holt and Company, 2001), 13.
  2. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “Could Fast Radio Bursts Be Powering Alien Probes?,” Science News (blog), ScienceDaily, March 9, 2017, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170309120419.htm.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.

Subjects: Intelligent Design, Old Earth Creationism

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The Evolution of the Automobile: Evidence for Intelligent Design

“It’s déjà vu all over again.”

As the story goes, baseball player and manager Yogi Berra first uttered this famous yogi-ism sitting in the dugout watching Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris hit back-to-back home runs. Something that happened on more than one occasion.

Yogi Berra’s verbal blunders are legendary. But, perhaps none top the blunder made by biologist Tim Berra. Berra’s blunder didn’t have anything to do with what he said, but with what he wrote in his book Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, published in 1990.

Berra’s Blunder

Targeting a nontechnical audience, Berra presented a case for biological evolution and explained why he and so many scientists think evolution is a fact. As part of this project, he described the evidence for human evolution, highlighting the progressive features of the hominid fossil record. Berra argues,

“If the australopithecines, Homo habilis, and Homo erectus were alive today, and if we could parade them before the world, there could be no doubt about our relatedness to them. It would be like attending an auto show. If you look at a 1953 Corvette and compare it to the latest model, only the most general resemblances are evident, but if you compare a 1953 and a 1954 Corvette, side by side, then a 1954 and 1955 model, and so on, the descent with modification is overwhelmingly obvious. This is what paleontologists do with fossils, and the evidence is so solid and comprehensive that it cannot be denied by reasonable people.”1

In comparing Corvette models with “transitional intermediates” in the fossil record, Berra made a significant error that has become known among creationists and ID proponents as Berra’s blunder. It almost goes without saying, Berra’s mistake was to use Corvettes—machines designed by automotive engineers—as an analogy for the hominid fossil record, claiming that sequential anatomical changes among the various hominid species reflect the outworking of an unguided evolutionary process in the same way that sequential design changes to Corvettes reflect the evolution of technology. But, as pointed out at that time by several creationists and intelligent design proponents, the Corvette sequence actually tells us something about how intelligent agents sometimes create: namely, designers can attain their goals by progressively modifying existing designs. To put it another way, the chronological appearance of organisms in the fossil record displaying serial changes to their anatomical, physiological, and behavioral features could be explained as the work of a Creator who was successively producing creatures that displayed modifications of an archetypical design. In this sense, the fossil record doesn’t necessarily compel reasonable people to accept biological evolution any more than does the evolution of the American automobile.

The sequential changes seen in the fossil record just as reasonably reflect the work of a mind as mechanism.

 Déjà Vu Once More

Recently, researchers from UCLA made the same blunder as Tim Berra—all over again!2 These investigators wanted to understand the principles that influence the tempo and mode for technology development in a society. As a case study, these investigators examined the appearance and disappearance of American car and truck models manufactured between 1896 (when automobiles were first produced) and 2014, using the same approach that paleontologists might use to study the fossil record. Specifically, they monitored the year-by-year diversity of automobile models, paying special attention to the number of new models that were produced (analogous to speciation) each year and the number of discontinued models (analogous to extinction).

These researchers also explored the factors influencing the diversity of automobile models each year. Particularly, they assessed the effects of competition, and the impact of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and oil prices.

Their analysis indicates that the “origination” and “extinction” rates of automobile models displayed highly similar patterns over the course of the last 118 years. In both cases, origination and extinction rates were highest early in the automobile’s history, gradually declining to lower rates over time. The rates of decline dramatically slowed in the 1960s when the Big Three auto manufacturers rose to dominance in the American market place. Since the 1980s, the rate of automobile model extinction has outpaced the appearance rate of new models. However, during this time frame, the lifespan of automobile models has significantly increased.

The UCLA researchers also discovered that completion has had a much greater influence on automobile diversity than GDP and oil prices.

Based on these results, the authors of this study argue that when a technology is in its early stages, manufacturers introduce more experimental designs into the marketplace. But because these designs are experimental, they also disappear more rapidly. They maintain that the appearance and disappearance rates slow as dominant designs emerge. When that happens, it becomes too costly to introduce experimental models into the marketplace. Eventually, cost becomes such a significant factor that it causes the life expectancy of designs to persist for longer time periods.

Based on this study, the UCLA scientists predict that in the near future the number of hybrid and electric car designs will rapidly diversify—a radiation event, of sorts—because these technologies are in their nascent stages.

The Fossil Record and the Case for Creation

The UCLA researchers demonstrated that some of the techniques paleontologists use to study the fossil record—and hence, the history of life on Earth—can yield important insights about the way cultures and technologies change and develop. However, as with Berra’s blunder, they treated designed objects as if they were fossils, which, according to the evolutionary paradigm, are produced by unguided, mechanistic processes. The approach the UCLA research team used to study technology development, once again, highlights the fact that the sequential changes seen in the fossil record just as reasonably reflect the work of a mind as mechanism.

But, it is possible to take the implications of their work one step further. Not only can we argue that the progressive anatomical changes observed in fossilized organisms reflect the Creator’s handiwork, but so do overall patterns in the fossil record. The UCLA study demonstrates that when it comes to technology produced by human designers, the number of design variants and the rate that designs appear and disappear from the marketplace have a rational basis. Though the rationale may be different than what the UCLA researchers discovered for the automobile’s evolution, it becomes all the more reasonable to view changes in biological diversity and origination and extinction rates in the fossil record as reflecting a Creator’s intentional activity.

In other words, the evidence (the fossil record and homology) that biologists insist provides compelling support for the evolutionary paradigm actually finds ready explanation from a creation model perspective.

Resources

Archetype or Ancestor? Sir Richard Owen and the Case for Design” by Fazale Rana (Article)

Endnotes

  1. Tim Berra, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 117.
  2. Erik Gjesfjeld et al., “Competition and Extinction Explain the Evolution of Diversity in American Automobiles,” Palgrave Communications 2 (May 2016): 16019, doi:10.1057/palcomms.2016.19.

 

Subjects: Creation vs. Evolution, Fossil Record, Transitional Forms

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Does Quantum Gravity Avoid the Need for a Cosmic Creator?

Many people use quantum gravity as a loophole for avoiding the conclusion that a Creator must have intervened from beyond space and time to create the universe. (There are excellent theoretical rebuttals to such speculations that I will report on in future articles.) A recent breakthrough shows the possibility of observational testing in this area. Thanks to new observations of distant quasars and blazers at short wavelengths, astronomers have placed strong constraints on quantum gravity speculations.

What Is Quantum Gravity?
Everything we can know and measure about the universe from the present all the way back to when the universe was just 10-35 seconds old reveals that gravity dominates the dynamics of the universe. Physicists are designing theories to cope with conditions before the universe was even 10-43 seconds old (less than a quadrillionth-quadrillionth-trillionth second). At 10-43 seconds, the force of gravity within the universe becomes comparable to the strong nuclear force. (The strong nuclear force holds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus of the atom.) Before this epoch in the history of the universe, gravity may possibly be modified by quantum mechanical effects. Hence this early stage of the universe is called the quantum gravity era.

Since the energy densities that exist during the quantum gravity era lie far beyond the capabilities of even the most powerful particle accelerators (a particle accelerator longer than 50 times the distance to the most distant galaxy in the universe is needed), many theoreticians have presumed, therefore, that they are free to speculate any physical conditions, or, for that matter, any physical laws they desire. However, since such physics is obviously beyond “the possibility of observational verification,” it would by definition fall outside the realm of science and into the realm of metaphysics.

Observational Constraints on Quantum Gravity Speculations
Even though the energies during the quantum gravity era are far beyond current experimental physics, a powerful observational check does exist—the present universe in which we live. If a quantum gravity theory cannot explain how the present universe developed from the initial quantum state, it must be incorrect. By this means, a number of quantum gravity theories can be ruled out.

Astronomers can rule out many more quantum gravity theories through observations of distant quasars and gamma-ray sources. In quantum gravity models the foaminess of space-time is a consequence of the energy uncertainty principle. While the individual space-time fluctuations (foam) are infinitesimally small, depending on the particular quantum gravity model, the fluctuations accumulate (become more frothy) over long path lengths. This accumulation can blur the images of the most distantly observed sources. The blurring effect is most pronounced at short wavelengths.

For some quantum gravity models, the blurring effect makes the detection of distant quasars and gamma-ray burst sources impossible.1 These models clearly are eliminated by astronomers’ successful observations of these sources. Constraints on the blurring of the images of distant quasars, blazers, and gamma-burst objects rule out random walk (randomly varying quantum foam) quantum gravity models2 and also rule out holographic quantum gravity models.3(Holographic cosmic models are an outcome of string theories that suggest the entire universe may be seen as two-dimensional information on a cosmological horizon beyond our field of view.) As four European astrophysicists concluded, “All the main QG [quantum gravity] scenarios are excluded.”4

The next generation of ground-based and space telescopes will have the capability of observing the blurring, or lack thereof, of images of quasars, blazers, and gamma-ray burst sources at greater distances and shorter wavelengths. These future observations will yield much stronger constraints on quantum gravity and string theories.

Already, the observed lack of blurred images of objects at great distances establishes that the universe’s space-time fabric is smooth to a high degree out to great distances and deep into the quantum gravity realm. This smoothness implies the likely ubiquitous application of both the theories of special relativity and general relativity. This ubiquitous application means that the space-time theorems proving that a Causal Agent beyond space and time created the universe5are unlikely to be overturned by some exotic physics operating during the quantum gravity era. It also yields by far the strongest constraint on possible variations in the velocity of light. It establishes that the velocity of light in a vacuum cannot vary by more than a few parts in 100 million trillion trillion (1032).6

The lack of observed image blurring has implications beyond the validity of the space-time theorems. Many physicists, in their attempts to avoid the varied theological implications of big bang cosmology, speculate that the laws of physics break down previous to 10-43 seconds after the cosmic creation event. The observed lack of blurred images of distant sources means that if such a breakdown does occur, the physical laws cannot break down by very much.

Endnotes

  1. Eric S. Perlman et al., “New Constraints on Quantum Foam Models from X-Ray and Gamma-Ray Observations of Distant Quasars,” preprint, submitted July 28, 2016, arXiv:1697.08551; Eric S. Perlman et al., “New Constraints on Quantum Gravity from X-Ray and Gamma-Ray Observations,” Astrophysical Journal 805 (May 2015): id. 10, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/805/1/10.
  2. Perlman, “New Constraints”; Eric S. Perlman et al., “Using Observations of Distant Quasars to Constrain Quantum Gravity,” Astronomy & Astrophysics 535 (November 2011): id. L9, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201118319; Wayne A. Christiansen et al., “Limits on Spacetime Foam,” Physical Review D 83 (April 2011): id. 084003, doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.83.084003.
  3. Perlman, “New Constraints.”
  4. F. Tamburini et al., “No Quantum Gravity Signature from the Farthest Quasars,” Astronomy & Astrophysics 533 (September 2011): id. A71, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201015808.
  5. Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 128–31.
  6. Richard Lieu and Lloyd W. Hillman, “The Phase Coherence of Light from Extragalactic Sources: Direct Evidence Against First-Order Planck-Scale Fluctuations in Time and Space,” Astrophysical Journal Letters 585 (March 2003): L77–L80, doi:10.1086/374350.

Subjects: Big Bang Theory, Cosmology, God’s Existence, Relativity, Laws of Physics, Origin of the Universe, Particle Physics

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