Cosmic Inflation Confirmed and Why We Need It

BY HUGH ROSS – FEBRUARY 24, 2020

Advancing science continues to reveal that we live in a just-right universe. Our universe exhibits three truly astounding features: it is presently extremely large, every region of the universe is thermally connected to every other region, and its shape is geometrically flat. All of these amazing cosmic features are necessary for physical life to exist in the universe and without cosmic inflation, we wouldn’t have them.

Life-Friendly Features
Despite the vast stretches of space between stars and galaxies, every region of the universe manifests the same overall temperature. Without this temperature similarity and temperature smoothness, the universe would be much more clumpy than it is and the kind of galaxy cluster, galaxy, star, and planetary system that physical life requires would never exist. The vast stretches of space that currently exist between stars and galaxies mean that it is possible for life—especially advanced life—to exist somewhere in the universe where deadly radiation and gravitational disturbances from adjacent stars and galaxies do not pose a threat. If the universe were spherically shaped rather than flat (see figure below), the universe would expand from the cosmic creation event, stop expanding, and collapse back in on itself before a galaxy, star, and planetary system could form in which physical life could possibly exist. If the universe were hyperbolically shaped rather than flat (see figure below), the universe would expand so quickly from the cosmic creation event that galaxies, stars, and planets would be unable to form.

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Figure: Possible Cosmic Geometries. Only in a universe that is very close to possessing a flat geometry will galaxies, stars, and planets form that are necessary to make life possible. Image credit: NASA. Diagram credit: Hugh Ross

Cosmic Inflation Necessary for Life
The thermal connectedness, vast size, and flat geometry of the universe that presently exist would be impossible if the universe expanded from the cosmic creation event at a rate that never exceeded the velocity of light. An extremely brief inflation episode, lasting from less than 10-36 to 10-32 seconds after the cosmic creation event, where the universe expands by at least a factor of 1026 (from smaller than a proton to about the size of a grapefruit, or about a trillion trillion times faster than the velocity of light) when the universe is very young (10-36 to 10-32 seconds old) solves all three problems.

First, the hyper-accelerated expansion of space during a brief inflation event would stretch out any initial variations in matter, density, or temperature, such that the universe becomes homogeneous and uniform on large size scales—on the largest size scale to about one part in one hundred thousand. Second, temperature differences among regions in the universe would get reduced to only about one part in a hundred thousand. And third, the curvature of space would get reduced to where it measures to be flat to at least four places of the decimal.

Observational Confirmation of Cosmic Inflation
These outcomes are not only what is needed to make life in the universe possible, but they’re also what astronomers have determined by their measurements to be true about the universe. The ongoing Sloan Digital Sky Survey of galaxies and galaxy clusters1 and the Planck2 and WMAP3 maps of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) have yielded undeniable affirmations.

Another strong affirmation comes from measurements of the scalar spectral index. A value for the scalar spectral index, ns, arises from accurate measurements of the E-polarization mode in maps of the CMBR.

For a universe with no inflation event, ns equals 1.0 or greater. For a universe that manifests a simple inflation event, ns equals exactly 0.95. For a universe that has experienced a complex inflation event, ns equals 0.96–0.97.

An analysis of the two best maps to date of the CMBR, plus the best map of the baryon acoustic oscillation, yielded a value for ns = 0.9658 ± 0.0038.4 This measurement is a major improvement on the previous best measure of ns that I wrote about in my book The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th edition: ns = 0.9593 ± 0.0067.5 The error (uncertainty) in the new measure, ±0.0038, implies there is less than 1 chance in 6 quintillion (1 chance in 6,000,000,000,000,000,000) that the universe did not experience an inflation event very early in its history.This measure of certainty that the universe must have experienced an inflation event compares with 1 chance in 900 million that it did not, based on the previous best measure.

The error measure, ±0.0038, also implies there is less than 1 chance in 16,000 that the universe experienced a simple—as opposed to a complex—inflation event. However, in the physical sciences an event is not considered certain unless the probability of an alternative outcome is less than 1 chance in 1,750,000. Therefore, astronomers have yet to determine exactly what kind of inflation occurred in the very early history of the universe. It appears, though, regardless of what kind of inflation occurred, the event must have been fine-tuned for physical life in the universe to be possible.

Resource

Readers wanting a more in-depth description and explanation of how an early cosmic inflation event must be fine-tuned to make physical life possible will find it in my book The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th edition, 68–69.

Endnotes
  1. Beth A. Reid et al., “Cosmological Constraints from the Clustering of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey DR7 Luminous Red Galaxies,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 404, no. 1 (May 2010): 60–85, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.16276.x; Max Tegmark et al., “Cosmological Constraints from the SDSS Luminous Red Galaxies,” Physical Review D 74, no. 12 (August 2006): id. 123507, doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.74.123507.
  2. P. A. R. Ade et al., Planck Collaboration, “Planck 2015 Results. XIII. Cosmological Parameters,” Astronomy & Astrophysics 594 (October 2016), id. A13, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201525830.
  3. Gary Hinshaw et al., “Nine-Year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Observations: Cosmological Parameter Results,” Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 208, no. 2 (October 2013): 1, id. 19, doi:10.1088/0067-0049/208/2/19.
  4. Narges Rashidi and Kourosh Nozari, “Gauss-Bonnet Inflation after Planck2018.” Preprint, submitted January 20, 2020. https://arXiv:2001.07012v1.
  5. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 69.
  6. Kevin Dowd et al., “How Unlucky is 25-Sigma?” Preprint, submitted March 24, 2008. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1103.5672.pdf.

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How to Respond to the Challenge That God Is Hidden

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – MARCH 16, 2021MORESHARE17

One of the reasons cited in favor of atheism and against the idea that the God of Christian theism exists is known as the “hiddenness of God” objection.The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers this definition: “‘Divine hiddenness’, as the phrase suggests, refers, most fundamentally, to the hiddenness of God, i.e., the alleged fact that God is hidden, absent, silent.”

In a previous article (see “Is God’s ‘Hiddenness’ a Rational Objection to Christianity?“) I offered a historic Christian response to this skeptical claim. I explained that the biblical religions of Judaism and Christianity are religions of revelation. This means they claim that God has unveiled himself. So from a biblical perspective God is not hidden, absent, or silent the way some atheists claim. Rather, God is revealed in nature, in the human conscience, in the history of the nation of Israel and the historical person of Jesus Christ, and in Scripture.

In this article, I will address the role that arguments can play in responding to the charge that God is somehow hidden.

Four Traditional Arguments
For centuries, Christian thinkers have provided plenty of substantive philosophical and historical arguments for God’s existence and the truth of Christianity. 1 These arguments correspond to the areas that Scripture indicates God reveals himself (nature, conscience, history) and comport well with the modern findings of science and history.

The four traditional arguments for God’s existence are the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument, and the ontological argument. There are many versions of these classic arguments along with many other arguments apologists can marshal from different academic disciplines (history, science, mathematics, aesthetics, etc.).2 I have chosen specific versions of the arguments and have presented them in introductory, outline form. In logic, an argument is defined as a supported claim. The claim is called the conclusion and the support (facts, evidence, reasons) are called the premises. For each argument, I have briefly identified the basic support for the premises and noted the biggest objection to the argument followed by a rejoinder.

Cosmological Argument
Several different arguments reside in the cosmological category (how to account for the cosmos). Here is one popular version of the cosmological variety known as the Kalam cosmological argument:

Premise #1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Premise #2: The universe began to exist.

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause (God).

The first premise comports well with the basic principle of causality. Causality holds that if something emerges into existence or being it cannot be uncaused nor can it be self-caused. It must be caused by another.

The second premise is consistent with science’s traditional big bang cosmological model (the cosmos had a singular beginning a finite period ago).

The Kalam cosmological argument is also compatible with the biblical doctrine of creation ex nihilo, which affirms that God created all contingent entities out of or from nothing, not from preexistent entities.

Arguably the biggest objection to the Kalam cosmological argument is the speculative scientific view known as the multiverse. This view posits that there is a near-infinite number of universes. Thus, if our universe had a beginning it was not the true beginning of everything. However, the multiverse theory comes with flaws. One major weakness is that these claimed multiple universes are currently unverifiable and unfalsifiable and may always be so, causing many scientists to deem them philosophical speculation, not science.3

Teleological Argument
Under the teleological category we also find several different arguments. Here is a popular version of the teleological argument known as the fine-tuning argument.

Premise #1: The fine-tuning of the universe (the fact that the cosmos exhibits all the necessary and narrowly drawn parameters to make human life possible) is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

Premise #2: It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

Conclusion: Therefore, it is due to design (God).

The first premise seems to reasonably set forth the three possible options to account for the universe’s fine-tuning.

The second premise is supported in two ways: (1) the scientific awareness that the physics of the universe could have taken a different pattern,4 and (2) the statistical probability of the fine-tuning resulting from chance is so extraordinarily improbable as to be virtually impossible. 5

Thus this argument is compatible with biblical design and science’s anthropic principle—the idea that the cosmos seems designed to allow for human life.

The biggest objection to the fine-tuning argument is again the proposed multiverse.  But the multiverse seems to imply the existence of something supernatural or above the natural realm of reality. Can a theory dependent on forces outside space-time be considered naturalistic? Appealing to mechanisms rather than empirical data clashes with old-school atheistic naturalism (physicalism or materialism). Thus, if the multiverse is a reality, it may best comport with an act of God.

Moral Argument
Christian thinkers have presented a number of different arguments that are designated under the moral category. This popular version appeals to objective morality.

Premise #1: There are objective moral obligations.

Premise #2: If there are objective moral obligations, there is a God who explains these obligations.

Conclusion: Therefore, there is a God.

The first premise is largely affirmed by both theists and atheists. One such moral obligation avers that all human beings have inherent value and dignity. Therefore, moral offenses like rape and murder are always morally wrong.

The second premise is supported by the position that the existence of God can ground objective moral values. For example, if people are made in God’s image then their value and dignity come from an objective source outside of human experience.

The biggest objection to this moral argument is the claim that God isn’t needed to ground objective morality. But the sources that secularists often appeal to in order to justify morality (the results of evolution, collective consensus of humanity) don’t seem reliably objective in nature.

This moral argument seems solidly compatible with the divine revelation mandate that people are made in God’s image and have a God-given understanding of morality (Genesis 1:26–27Romans 2:14–15).

Ontological Argument (Maximally Perfect Being)
Christians have marshaled several different arguments under the ontological category. This contemporary version contains five premises:

Premise #1: It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

Premise #2: If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

Premise #3: If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.

Premise #4: If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.

Premise #5: If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.

Conclusion: Therefore, a maximally great being exists (God).

The original ontological argument dates back to St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) and some people think it may have its basic roots even earlier in St. Augustine. The basic argument has always been controversial. Notable defenders include René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, and Alvin Plantinga and objectors include Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, and Graham Oppy. The modern version above reflects a modal (logical reasoning that uses words like  possible and necessary to guide thoughts toward a rational conclusion) version of the argument.

Anselm’s basis for the argument is said to have reflected his prayerful thought about Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”

Criticisms of the argument center on definition of terms, coherence, and logical assumptions. Yet this argument refuses to go away and some distinguished philosophers today find it to be logically sound.

Takeaway: Hidden or Revealed?
I recognize that arguments on one hand and personal persuasion on the other are distinct things and maybe especially so when it comes to belief in God. But since there are well over 100 arguments (or varieties of arguments) for God’s existence that competent scholars in various fields affirm to be logically sound and cogent, then it is difficult—at least in my mind—to accept the position that God’s existence is somehow truly hidden from human beings.

In the next article I plan to consider what value there may be for both atheists and theists for God’s existence not being too overt.

Reflections: Your Turn
Of the traditional arguments for God’s existence summarized above, which one do you find the most probative or engaging? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources
Endnotes
  1. For an analysis of these arguments and others, see Ed. L. Miller, God and Reason: An Invitation to Philosophical Theology2nd ed.  (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995); William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008); Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994); Jerry L. Walls and Trent Dougherty, eds.,  Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018); Kenneth Richard Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012); Kenneth Richard Samples, Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction (Covina, CA, RTB Press, 2019); Kenneth Richard Samples, Christianity Cross-Examined: Is It Rational, Relevant, and Good? (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2021).
  2. Chad McIntosh, “Over 100 Arguments for the Existence of God,” on Capturing Christianity with Cameron Bertuzzi, YouTube, February 25, 2001.
  3. George F. R. Ellis, “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?” Scientific American (August 2011).
  4. Paul Davies, The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 169.
  5. Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 339–45.

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I believe deeply that “all truth is God’s truth.” That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach r… Read more about Kenneth R. Samples.

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Does Complex Speech Expression Demonstrate Human Exceptionalism?

Last fall the announcement that phosphine was discovered in Venus’s upper atmosphere stunned internet science geeks.1 This announcement generated over 4,700 news stories around the world.2 The reason why is that many astronomers consider phosphine to be a signature for the existence of life. Is the signature genuine? Have scientists discovered life on Venus?

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The Shroud of Turin, Part 1: An Examination of the Man

In this post, we’ll focus not on the Shroud of Turin’s origins but rather on a medical description of the man whose image it bears, including a forensic analysis and a comparison to known Roman crucifixion practices. Later, in part 2, we’ll examine the physical characteristics of the cloth, its age, and how the image may have formed.

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Does Astro-Archaeology Appeal to Intelligent Agency?

From a scientific point of view, these questions fall under the purview of SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). And for the most part, SETI’s approach has focused on searching for radio and optical signals intentionally broadcast by alien civilizations. But should their strategy include searching for artifacts from these civilizations?

Continue Reading »https://player.vimeo.com/video/104664126

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How to Appreciate Early Jesus Symbols

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – FEBRUARY 25, 2020

As someone who calls himself a “historic Christian,” I am very interested in learning as much as I can about the person of Jesus Christ. My interest extends to an appreciation of early Christian art and especially symbols that use Greek and Latin letters to represent the person of Jesus Christ. These early alphabetic artistic symbols were common in the ancient and medieval Christian world and remain so today in various liturgical church traditions (Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, etc.). Learning what they mean gives us, at the very least, an appreciation for Christ’s preeminence in history. That factor alone has led to centuries of thought and written expression about who Jesus truly was.

The symbols are called monograms or Christograms and can be used—instead of formal images or statues—to represent the person of Jesus Christ. Christians have used these monograms of the name of Jesus Christ in art and symbolism through the centuries. Some even appear extremely early in ancient biblical manuscripts. Over time these images came to be used not only in texts but also as freestanding symbols of Jesus Christ or of the historic Christian faith. You will often see them on liturgical vestments and utensils in more traditional churches.

Yet many Christians and non-Christians today see these symbols but don’t know what they represent. In these six common symbols we learn surprisingly much about the Christ of history.

  • Chi-Rho: ☧

One of the earliest symbols for the person of Jesus Christ, the Chi-Rho (pronounced “KEE-roe”) looks like the crossing of the English letters X and P. But in actuality it is the superimposed Greek letters chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ) from the title Christ (Greek: Χριστός) meaning Messiah (Hebrew: “anointed one”). So the Chi-Rho reflects Jesus’s role as the Messiah who, in a Christian context, is the divine Son of God and the deliverer or Savior.

  • Staurogram: 

The staurogram consists of the superimposed Greek capital letters tau (Τ) and rho (Ρ). It takes its name from stauros (σταυρός), the Greek word for cross, and the combining of the tau-rho letters seeks to visually represent Jesus as a crucified figure on the cross. In this way it serves as a “cross-monogram.” It appears in primitive papyri New Testament manuscripts (P66P45 and P75) and may be the earliest visual reference to the crucified Jesus in history.1

  • IHS

The IHS (or sometimes JHS) monogram symbolizes Jesus and is derived from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus (ΙΗΣΟΥΣἸησοῦς: Iēsous), Iota-Eta-Sigma. This common Western symbol for Jesus is used by both Catholics and Protestants. You’ll see this symbol in many liturgically oriented churches.

  • Ichthus: ΙΧΘΥΣ

The ichthus (also ichthys) symbol which is the Greek word for “fish” consists of the first letters of the Greek words Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ meaning “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour.” This symbol represents Jesus’s core identity as Messiah, Son of God, and Savior. Some of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen—thus giving rise to the Christian fish symbol in primitive Christianity.

  • Alpha & Omega: Α – Ω

Alpha (Α) and omega (Ω) are the first and last letters, respectively, of the Greek alphabet (the New Testament was originally written in Greek). In the New Testament Jesus is called the Alpha and the Omega or the First and the Last. These two Greek letters represent the truth that Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end of all things and he possesses divine qualities and prerogatives (see Revelation 21:6, 22:13).

  • INRI

These four letters represent the Latin inscription IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum), which was posted by the Romans on the cross of Jesus. The Latin translates into English as “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” (John 19:19). You will sometimes see this symbol on crucifixes in Catholic Churches where it represents Jesus’s passion on the cross.

It has rightly been said that “Christianity is Christ.” And these symbols powerfully illustrate the centrality of Jesus Christ and his identity to historic Christianity. These early alphabetic artistic symbols that abbreviate the name of Jesus Christ reflect both theology and art. And Christian art in its own way can facilitate apologetic engagement and evangelism.

Reflections: Your Turn

Have you seen these symbols? Which do you find most interesting? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Endnotes
  1. L. W. Hurtado, “The Staurogram in Early Christian Manuscripts: The Earliest Visual Reference to the Crucified Jesus?” https://larryhurtado.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/staurogram-essay.pdf?fbclid=lwAROutaVrJsMqPIFzddDSm9YsyKFeZA5LDk1NDkIFQ4OHsIYITNGM4wmwnXY.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Why the Laws of Physics Are Inevitable

By considering simple symmetries, physicists working on the “bootstrap” can rediscover the basic form of the known forces that shape the universe.

Quanta Magazine

  • Natalie Wolchover

Read when you’ve got time to spare.Bootstrap_FullWidthLede.jpg

These three objects illustrate the principles behind “spin,” a property of fundamental particles. A domino needs a full turn to get back to the same place. A two of clubs needs only a half turn. And the hour hand on a clock must spin around twice before it tells the same time again. Credit: Lucy Reading-Ikkanda / Quanta Magazine.

Compared to the unsolved mysteries of the universe, far less gets said about one of the most profound facts to have crystallized in physics over the past half-century: To an astonishing degree, nature is the way it is because it couldn’t be any different. “There’s just no freedom in the laws of physics that we have,” said Daniel Baumann, a theoretical physicist at the University of Amsterdam.

Since the 1960s, and increasingly in the past decade, physicists like Baumann have used a technique known as the “bootstrap” to infer what the laws of nature must be. This approach assumes that the laws essentially dictate one another through their mutual consistency — that nature “pulls itself up by its own bootstraps.” The idea turns out to explain a huge amount about the universe.

When bootstrapping, physicists determine how elementary particles with different amounts of “spin,” or intrinsic angular momentum, can consistently behave. In doing this, they rediscover the basic form of the known forces that shape the universe. Most striking is the case of a particle with two units of spin: As the Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg showed in 1964, the existence of a spin-2 particle leads inevitably to general relativity — Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity. Einstein arrived at general relativity through abstract thoughts about falling elevators and warped space and time, but the theory also follows directly from the mathematically consistent behavior of a fundamental particle.

“I find this inevitability of gravity [and other forces] to be one of the deepest and most inspiring facts about nature,” said Laurentiu Rodina, a theoretical physicist at the Institute of Theoretical Physics at CEA Saclay who helped to modernize and generalize Weinberg’s proof in 2014. “Namely, that nature is above all self-consistent.”

How Bootstrapping Works

A particle’s spin reflects its underlying symmetries, or the ways it can be transformed that leave it unchanged. A spin-1 particle, for instance, returns to the same state after being rotated by one full turn. A spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ particle must complete two full rotations to come back to the same state, while a spin-2 particle looks identical after just half a turn. Elementary particles can only carry 0, $latex \frac{1}{2}$, 1, $latex \frac{3}{2}$ or 2 units of spin.

To figure out what behavior is possible for particles of a given spin, bootstrappers consider simple particle interactions, such as two particles annihilating and yielding a third. The particles’ spins place constraints on these interactions. An interaction of spin-2 particles, for instance, must stay the same when all participating particles are rotated by 180 degrees, since they’re symmetric under such a half-turn.

Interactions must obey a few other basic rules: Momentum must be conserved; the interactions must respect locality, which dictates that particles scatter by meeting in space and time; and the probabilities of all possible outcomes must add up to 1, a principle known as unitarity. These consistency conditions translate into algebraic equations that the particle interactions must satisfy. If the equation corresponding to a particular interaction has solutions, then these solutions tend to be realized in nature.

For example, consider the case of the photon, the massless spin-1 particle of light and electromagnetism. For such a particle, the equation describing four-particle interactions — where two particles go in and two come out, perhaps after colliding and scattering — has no viable solutions. Thus, photons don’t interact in this way. “This is why light waves don’t scatter off each other and we can see over macroscopic distances,” Baumann explained. The photon can participate in interactions involving other types of particles, however, such as spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ electrons. These constraints on the photon’s interactions lead to Maxwell’s equations, the 154-year-old theory of electromagnetism.

ComptonScattering_560rv.jpg

Or take gluons, particles that convey the strong force that binds atomic nuclei together. Gluons are also massless spin-1 particles, but they represent the case where there are multiple types of the same massless spin-1 particle. Unlike the photon, gluons can satisfy the four-particle interaction equation, meaning that they self-interact. Constraints on these gluon self-interactions match the description given by quantum chromodynamics, the theory of the strong force.

A third scenario involves spin-1 particles that have mass. Mass came about when a symmetry broke during the universe’s birth: A constant — the value of the omnipresent Higgs field — spontaneously shifted from zero to a positive number, imbuing many particles with mass. The breaking of the Higgs symmetry created massive spin-1 particles called W and Z bosons, the carriers of the weak force that’s responsible for radioactive decay.

Then “for spin-2, a miracle happens,” said Adam Falkowski, a theoretical physicist at the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics in Orsay, France. In this case, the solution to the four-particle interaction equation at first appears to be beset with infinities. But physicists find that this interaction can proceed in three different ways, and that mathematical terms related to the three different options perfectly conspire to cancel out the infinities, which permits a solution.

That solution is the graviton: a spin-2 particle that couples to itself and all other particles with equal strength. This evenhandedness leads straight to the central tenet of general relativity: the equivalence principle, Einstein’s postulate that gravity is indistinguishable from acceleration through curved space-time, and that gravitational mass and intrinsic mass are one and the same. Falkowski said of the bootstrap approach, “I find this reasoning much more compelling than the abstract one of Einstein.”

Thus, by thinking through the constraints placed on fundamental particle interactions by basic symmetries, physicists can understand the existence of the strong and weak forces that shape atoms, and the forces of electromagnetism and gravity that sculpt the universe at large.

In addition, bootstrappers find that many different spin-0 particles are possible. The only known example is the Higgs boson, the particle associated with the symmetry-breaking Higgs field that imbues other particles with mass. A hypothetical spin-0 particle called the inflaton may have driven the initial expansion of the universe. These particles’ lack of angular momentum means that fewer symmetries restrict their interactions. Because of this, bootstrappers can infer less about nature’s governing laws, and nature itself has more creative license.

Spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ matter particles also have more freedom. These make up the family of massive particles we call matter, and they are individually differentiated by their masses and couplings to the various forces. Our universe contains, for example, spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ quarks that interact with both gluons and photons, and spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ neutrinos that interact with neither.

The spin spectrum stops at 2 because the infinities in the four-particle interaction equation kill off all massless particles that have higher spin values. Higher-spin states can exist if they’re extremely massive, and such particles do play a role in quantum theories of gravity such as string theory. But higher-spin particles can’t be detected, and they can’t affect the macroscopic world.

Undiscovered Country

Spin-$latex \frac{3}{2}$ particles could complete the 0, $latex \frac{1}{2}$, 1, $latex \frac{3}{2}$, 2 pattern, but only if “supersymmetry” is true in the universe — that is, if every force particle with integer spin has a corresponding matter particle with half-integer spin. In recent years, experiments have ruled out many of the simplest versions of supersymmetry. But the gap in the spin spectrum strikes some physicists as a reason to hold out hope that supersymmetry is true and spin-$latex \frac{3}{2}$ particles exist.

In his work, Baumann applies the bootstrap to the beginning of the universe. A recent Quanta article described how he and other physicists used symmetries and other principles to constrain the possibilities for those first moments.

It’s “just aesthetically pleasing,” Baumann said, “that the laws are inevitable — that there is some inevitability of the laws of physics that can be summarized by a short handful of principles that then lead to building blocks that then build up the macroscopic world.”

Natalie Wolchover is a senior writer and editor at Quanta Magazine covering the physical sciences.Quanta Magazine

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Do Goosebumps Send a Chill Down the Spine of the Creation Model?

BY FAZALE RANA – SEPTEMBER 2, 2020

I think few would be surprised to learn that J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter titles are the best-selling children’s books of all time, but do you know which works take second place in that category? It’s the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine.

From 1992 to 1997, Stine wrote and published 62 Goosebumps books. To date, these books have been printed in over 3o languages, with over 400 million copies sold worldwide (this does not include Stine’s numerous spin-off books) and adapted for television and film. Each book in the Goosebumps lineup features different child characters who find themselves in scary situations that often involve encounters with the bizarre and supernatural.

The title of the series is apropos. Humans get goosebumps whenever we are afraid. We also get goosebumps when we are moved by something beautiful and awe-inspiring. And, of course, we get goosebumps when we are cold.

Goosebumps are caused by a process dubbed piloerection. When we feel cold, tiny smooth muscles (called the arrector pili) deep within our skin contract. Because these muscles are attached to hair follicles, this contraction causes our hairs to stand on end. Getting goosebumps is one of our quirks as human beings. Most biologists don’t think this phenomenon serves any useful purpose, making it that much more of an oddity. So, if goosebumps have no obvious utility, then why do we experience them at all?

Evolutionary Explanation for Goosebumps

Many life scientists view goosebumps as a vestige of our evolutionary history. So, while goosebumps serve no apparent function in modern humans, evolutionary biologists believe they did have utility for our evolutionary ancestors, who were covered with a lot of hair. Presumably, when our ancestors were cold, the contraction of the arrector pili muscles created pockets of air near the surface of the skin when the hairs stood on end, serving as insulation from the chill. And when our ancestors were frightened, contraction of the arrector pili muscles caused their hair to puff up, making them seem larger and more menacing.

blog__inline--do-goosebumps-send-a-chill-down-the-spine
A cross section of skin. Credit: Wikipedia

These two behaviors are observed in other mammals and even in some bird species. For evolutionary biologists, this shared behavior attests to our evolutionary connection to animal life.

In other words, many life scientists see goosebumps as compelling evidence that human beings have an evolutionary origin because: (1) goosebumps serve no useful purpose in humans today and (2) the same physiological process that causes goosebumps in humans causes hair and fur of other animals to stand erect when they feel cold or threatened.

So, one theological question creationists need to address is this: Why would God create human beings to have a useless response to the cold or to being frightened? For those of us who hold to a creation model/design perspective, goosebumps in humans cause us a bit of a fright. But is there any reason to be scared?

What if goosebumps in humans serve a useful function? If they do, that function undermines the idea that goosebumps are a vestige of our evolutionary history and, at the same time, makes it reasonable to think that human beings are the handiwork of a Creator. Accordingly, all facets of our anatomy and physiology are intentionally designed for a purpose, including goosebumps. And this is precisely what a research team from Harvard University has discovered. These investigators identified an unexpected function performed by arrector pili muscles, beyond causing hairs to stand erect.1 This new insight suggests a reason why humans get goosebumps, making it reasonable to interpret this physiological feature of human beings within a creation model/design framework.

Multiple Roles of the Arrector Pili Muscle

To carry out its function, the arrector pili muscle forms an intimate association with nerves in the sympathetic nervous system. This component of the nervous system contributes to homeostasis, allowing the bodies of animals (including humans) to maintain constant and optimal conditions. As part of this activity, animals receive sensory input from their surroundings and respond to environmental changes. So, in this case, when a mammal experiences cold the sympathetic nervous system transmits the sensation to the arrector pili muscles, causing them to contract, helping the animal to stay warm.

Recently, the Harvard research team, working with mice, discovered that the arrector pilimuscle also plays a structural role, with the individual nerve fibers of the sympathetic nervous system wrapping around the muscle. This architecture positions the nerves next to a bed of stem cells near hair follicles, providing the sympathetic nervous system with a direct connection to the hair follicle stem cells.

Normally, the hair follicle stem cells are in a quiescent (inactive) state. Under conditions of prolonged cold, however, the sympathetic nerves release the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This release stimulates the stem cells to replicate and develop into new hair. In other words, the interplay between the arrector pili and the sympathetic nerves provides both a short-term (contraction of the arrector pili) and a long-term (hair growth) response to cold.

The researchers discovered that when they removed the arrector pilimuscles the sympathetic nerves retracted, losing their connection to the hair follicle stem cells. In the retracted state, the sympathetic nerves could not stimulate the activity of the hair follicle stem cells. In short, the arrector pili plays an integral role in coupling stem cell regeneration and, hence, hair growth to changes in the environment by functioning as scaffolding.

Goosebumps and the Case for Creation

In mammals (which have a coat of fur or bodies heavily covered with hair), the dual role played by the arrector pili muscles in mounting both rapid and long-term responses to the cold highlights the elegance, sophistication, and ingenuity of biological systems—features befitting the work of a Creator. But does this insight have any bearing on why humans experience goosebumps if they are created by God?

Toward this end, if the arrector pili muscles served no true function, evolutionary theory predicts that they should atrophy, maybe even disappear. Yet, the work of the Harvard scientists makes it plain that if the arrector pili muscles became more diminutive or were lost, it could very well compromise the overall function of the sympathetic nervous system in human skin, because the scaffolding for nerves of the sympathetic system would be lost.

The recognition that the arrector pili muscles prevent the sympathetic nerves from retracting away from hair follicles in mice suggests that this muscle functions in the same way in human skin. In mice and other mammals, the positioning of the sympathetic nerve is critical to stimulate the growth of new hair in response to ongoing exposure to cold. The same should be true in humans. Still, it is not clear at this juncture if hair growth in humans under these conditions would have any real benefit. On the other hand, there is no evidence to the contrary. We don’t know.

What we do know is that without the arrector pili muscles the sympathetic nerves would lose their positioning anchor in human skin. It seems perfectly reasonable to think that the proper positioning of the sympathetic nerve in the skin, in general, plays an overarching role in communicating changes in the environment to our bodies, helping us to maintain a homeostatic state.

In other words, because the muscle serves multiple purposes, it helps explain why these intact, fully functional muscles are found in human skin, with goosebumps produced as a by-product of the arrector pili’sassociation with hair follicles and sympathetic nerves. And who knows, maybe these muscles have added functions yet to be discovered.

There may be other reasons why we get goosebumps. They help us to pay close attention to the happenings in our environment. And, of course, this heightened awareness provides a survival advantage. On top of that use, goosebumps also provide social cues to others, signaling to them that we are cold or frightened, with the hope that these cues would encourage them to step in and help us—again, a survival advantage.

The cold truth is this: gaining a better understanding about the anatomy and physiology of the skin makes goosebumps less frightening for those of us who embrace a creation model approach to humanity’s origin.

Resources

Endnotes
  1. Yuli Schwartz et al., “Cell Types Promoting Goosebumps Form a Niche to Regulate Hair Follicle Stem Cells,” Cell 182, no. 3 (August 6, 2020): 578–93, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.06.031.

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Fazale Rana

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I watched helplessly as my father died a Muslim. Though he and I would argue about my conversion, I was unable to convince him of the truth of the Christian faith.

I became a Christian as a … Read more about Fazale Rana.

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James 2 and Its Connection to Mathematical Logic

BY MARVIN BITTINGER – MARCH 13, 2020

By Marvin L. Bittinger

 

I have heard many sermons on the issue of faith and good works as conveyed in the book of James. Each time I hear such a sermon I am led, as a mathematician, to connect the relevant Scripture and mathematical logic or, simply, logic. Making such a connection shows how science/mathematics provides compelling evidence for the accuracy of the Bible and the Christian worldview.

Some people consider mathematics to be the queen of the sciences. It is the language of the universe and it speaks with beauty and elegance. Mathematics functions amid the fundamentals of logic.

 

Logic and James 2: Faith without Good Works Is Dead

In the James 2:14–26 passage, the theme is stated in verse 17: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” I gain insight into this passage by making a connection to logic. Consider the statements, and Q. From these, others are obtained as follows:

negation: not P.

conditional: If P, then Q.

The contrapositive of the conditional: If not Q, then not P.

The converse of the conditional: If Q, then P.

Now, consider these statements derived from James 2:

P: I have faith in Christ.

Q: I do good works to serve God.

The logical statements would then have the following form:

negation of P: I do not have faith in Christ (not P).

negation of Q: I do not do good works to serve God (not Q).

conditional: If I have faith, then I do good works (If P, then Q).

The contrapositive of the conditional: If I do not do good works, then I have no faith (If not Q, then not P).

The converse of the conditional: If I do good works, then I have faith (If Q, then P).

How are these three (conditional, contrapositive, converse) statements related? It is established in logic that a conditional and its contrapositive are equivalent, meaning that each time one is true, the other is true, as well. A conditional is not necessarily equivalent to its converse. Just because a conditional may be true, it does not follow that its converse is true, though it may be.

How does this logic lesson help lay people to resolve potential difficulties in the foregoing Bible passage? Pastors are usually focused on exegetical concerns, as they should be. Thus, I don’t fault them for virtually never presenting these logical statements together in sermons. However, some STEMM-oriented people may appreciate the connection.

Consider the statement: If you have faith, then you do good works (If P, then Q). To me, James is asserting this conditional in these passages. Now consider the contrapositive: If you do not do good works, then you do not have faith (If not P, then not Q). When I hear sermons on this issue, the pastor references the contrapositive, though not usually in words that are overt.

Now let’s look at the converse, which is not necessarily true: If you do good works, then you have faith (If Q, then P). In this statement we see one of the great controversies of religion—at least, it is one I struggled with in my life as a Protestant Christian. My upbringing compelled me to think that if I did good works I would then be a person of Christian faith. I felt like I could only earn favor from God by good works. After many years of Scripture reading and study, aided by my mathematical training, I finally came to peace from the idea stated profoundly in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The following statements summarize my thinking about faith and works:

  • I accept the Holy Bible as true.
  • The Scripture in James 2:14–26 is true.
  • The passage asserts, “If I have faith, then I do good works.”
  • The statement, “If I do not do good works, then I have no faith,” is true because

it is the contrapositive of the statement in (3).

  • The statement, “If I do good works, then I have faith,” is not necessarily true because it is the converse of (3). However, it will be true in the case of a Christian who has received faith as a gift from God.

As a mathematician, I find great meaning and peace in the logic of the James passage. The truth presented in the logic can stand alone without theological explanation. No exegetical sermon is necessary – although such a sermon provides elucidation to enhance our acceptance of this truth, especially for those without training in logic. I hope this brief explanation shows how the author in general revelation of mathematics and logic is the same God who is the author who gives us special revelation in the words of the Bible.

 

Resources

For more details on the logic, see the following works. They establish the equivalency of a conditional and its contrapositive by using truth tables.


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Is the Bible a Flat-Earth Book?

BY HUGH ROSS – MAY 1, 2020

Question of the week: How can one refute the claim made by atheists, skeptics, and even some Christians that the Bible is a flat-earth book?

My answer: First of all, the idea that the Bible promotes a flat-earth doctrine presupposes that people living 2–3 thousand years ago lacked the capacity to determine the true shape of Earth. That presupposition is incorrect. The fact that at different locations on Earth different stellar constellations are seen and they are seen at different orientations was sufficient to persuade ancient peoples that they were living on a spherical body. Aristotle writing in the 4th century BC cited this evidence as proof that Earth is spherical. However, documented mentions of a spherical Earth by Greek philosophers date back to the 6th century BC. Eratosthenes in the 3rd century BC used the sunlight lines at summer solstice in wells at different latitudes to determine the diameter of Earth to 1% precision. Both ancient Greek and Egyptian astronomers pointed to the semi-circular shadow of Earth on the Moon during lunar eclipses as evidence for the sphericity of Earth.

The biblical texts most often cited in the claim that the Bible teaches a flat Earth are Job 38:5, 12-14, Isaiah 11:12, 40:22, and Revelation 7:1, 20:7. Of these passages, the most cited is Isaiah 40:22. The relevant part of Isaiah 40:22, referring to God, states, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.” Whether the “circle of the earth” refers to a human on Earth or God looking down on Earth from above, in both cases the phrase would be consistent with a spherically shaped Earth. It is worth noting that only a sphere always looks like a circle when seen from above.

The Isaiah 11:12 and Revelation 7:1, 20:7 verses all refer to the “four corners of the earth.” However, even today, astronomers, physicists, and educated people around the world recognize and use the “four corners of the earth” as phenomenalogical language referring to the most distant parts of Earth from the standpoint of an observer at a specific location on Earth. It is clear from an examination of the context for all three of these passages that the most distant parts of Earth is the intent implied by the use of the idiom, the four corners of the earth. As the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament points out, the Hebrew word for “corners” used in Isaiah 11:12, kanap, in most of its appearances in the Old Testament is used figuratively.

The passage in Job 38:5 referring to Earth states, “Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” The inference made by those claiming that the Bible is a flat-earth book is that the “measuring line” is a straight line which would be suitable for measuring a flat disk but not a sphere. This is an overinterpretation. Lines can be straight or curved. Also, it is customary to measure the diameter of a sphere with a straightedge ruler.

Job 38:12-14 refers to the dawn seizing “the edges [or ends] of the earth” and Earth taking “shape like clay under a seal.” What is interesting here is that for a spherical
Earth the arrival of dawn first shows up at the most distant horizon, end, or edge of the point of view of a human at a fixed point upon Earth’s surface. The taking shape like clay under a seal would apply to either a disk or a sphere and may be saying more about Earth’s rotation or its manufacture than its actual shape.

The irony of choosing Job 38:5, 12-14, Isaiah 11:12, 40:22, and Revelation 7:1, 20:7 to sustain the claim that the Bible is a flat-earth book is that these biblical texts better fit a spherical Earth than they do a flat Earth. While it would be an overinterpretation to conclude that these texts explicitly teach that Earth is a sphere, nowhere in the Bible do we find any text saying that Earth is flat. The Bible remains the only holy book for which we can say that it contains no provable errors or contradictions.

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Life Design Shows Empathetic Transfer of Pain and Relief

By Hugh Ross – February 15, 2021MoreShare

“I feel your pain.” Anyone in pain appreciates such an expression of empathy, but could these words be truer than we realize?

Arguably, one of the most underappreciated designs in animals are the social transfers of emotions and feelings. Mice experiments conducted by three behavioral scientists at Stanford University led by Monique Smith sought not only to determine the degree and extent of social transfer of empathy but also the means and pathways.1 Their results carry implications for evolution and creation.

Biologists typically define empathy as the adoption of another individual’s sensory and emotional state. Field studies establish that humans are not alone in expressing and experiencing empathy. Empathy has been observed in nearly every social mammalian species. Hence, it is possible to use social mammals as proxies to develop therapeutic tools for human neural disorders.

The three behavioral scientists chose mice as their proxy since it is known that for both humans and rodents the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in the brain encodes information about the affective state of other individuals.2

Behavioral Experiments
In one experiment, Smith’s team injected a drug into a mouse that induced long-lasting arthritis-like pain. The experimenters allowed another mouse, a cage-mate of the injected mouse, to socially interact with the injected mouse for one hour. This one-hour exposure resulted in the bystander mouse experiencing the pain of the injected mouse for the next four hours. When the injected mouse received a morphine shot with subsequent pain relief, the bystander mouse almost immediately experienced relief from the socially transmitted pain.

Fancy_mice

In a second experiment, Smith’s team repeatedly shocked one mouse while a second nearby mouse watched. Both mice exhibited the same freeze posture response to the shock-induced fear.

Through the use of specific drugs and circuit neuroscience tools, Smith’s team determined that different neural pathways in the brain were involved in the social transfers of pain and pain relief compared to fear. The neural pathway for pain and pain relief is from the ACC to the nucleus accumbens (NAc), whereas the neural pathway for fear is from the ACC to the basolateral amygdala (BLA).

Potential Treatment Applications
Both chronic and temporal pain from severe trauma pose therapeutic challenges. Smith’s team’s experiments indicate that what works for mice might also work for humans. Someone experiencing severe pain may experience relief simply by observing another human with whom they have had significant social interaction. Such social interaction could substantially reduce reliance on pain-relieving drugs and help combat addictions. The immediate and long-term health cost savings would be substantial.

Another major potential health benefit arising from the research lies in the treatment of brain injuries, brain disorders, and genetic brain handicaps where human subjects have lost some empathetic capabilities. Using animal subjects to determine the specific locations in the brain and pathways in the brain responsible for expressions and experience of empathy would greatly assist medical researchers in finding therapies, and even cures, for empathy-related brain disorders.

Life Design Implications
The origin of emotions and empathy in animals poses a huge challenge to naturalistic evolution. While certain chemicals can govern the degree to which emotions and empathy is expressed or experienced, no deterministic explanation for the origin of emotions and empathy has yet passed scientific scrutiny and testing. From a creation perspective, Genesis 1 uses the Hebrew verb, bara, meaning in the context of Genesis 1, to create something brand new that did not exist on Earth before. The creation of animals capable of using emotions and empathy to bond with one another and to sacrifice for one another indicates a nonphysical origin for emotions and empathy.

Birds and mammals have been endowed with the capacity to express and experience emotions and empathy such that they are able to form life-long bonds with one another and make sacrifices to meet one another’s needs. Such endowment makes it possible to tame these animals so that they serve and/or please humans. A discovery like this one, where scientists use animal designs to find ways to relieve pain marks one great way that animals serve us. The fact that humans, birds, and mammals share in common many design features relevant to the expression and experience of emotions and empathy challenges an evolutionary origin but supports creation.

Endnotes

  1. Monique L. Smith, Naoyuki Asada, and Robert C. Malenka, “Anterior Cingulate Inputs to Nucleus Accumbens Control the Social Transfer of Pain and Analgesia,” Science 371, no. 6525 (January 8, 2021): 153–59, doi:20.1126/science.abe3040.
  2. Monique L. Smith et al., “Anterior Cingulate Cortex Contributes to Alcohol Withdrawal-Induced and Socially Transferred Hyperalgesia,” eNeuro 4, no. 4 (July/August 2017): id. ENEURO.0087-17.2017, doi:10.1523/ENEURO.0087-17.2017; Daejong Jeon et al., “Observational Fear Learning Involves Affective Pain System and Cav1.2 Ca2+ Channels in ACC,” Nature Neuroscience 13 (April 2010): 482–88, doi:10.1038/nn.2504; Maria Carrillo et al., “Emotional Mirror Neurons in the Rat’s Anterior Cingulate Cortex,” Current Biology 29, no. 8 (April 22, 2019): 1301–12.e6, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2019.03.024.

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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 p… Read more about Hugh Ross.

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Ancient Cave Art Strengthens Evidence for the Image of God

All human beings are creative. Creativity defines and distinguishes us from all other creatures that exist now—or ever existed. As a Christian, I view our capacity and compulsion to create as a manifestation of the image of God—a quality that every human being possesses and which makes each human life infinitely valuable.

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Is Earth’s Terrestrial Biosphere at the Temperature Tipping Point?

For many of us, seeing the words “temperature tipping point” may rouse concern or alarm. For researchers who study Earth’s climate, two factors help them know whether we’re reaching a tipping point.

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Is God’s “Hiddenness” a Rational Objection to Christianity?

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Why Would God Command Circumcision?

By Fazale Rana – February 10, 2021MoreShare

At last. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Skeptics—and Christians—ask a lot of questions about the scientific accuracy of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments. In many instances, these questions have little to do with the creation accounts in Scripture. Instead, they involve biblical passages that seem to present scientifically inaccurate information or raise questions about the soundness of God’s designs and purposes.

For example, several people have asked me  about the practice of circumcision first described in Genesis 17:10–12:

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.

Specifically, the questioners want to know why God would create human males—and other mammals—with a foreskin on their penises only to then instruct them to remove it. Today we know that circumcision offers demonstrable medical benefits. Don’t the medical benefits of removing the foreskin imply that this anatomical feature is a bad design? It seems like God could have come up with a better plan.

Circumcision Is a Ceremonial Practice
In response to this understandable challenge, it is important to keep in mind that the practice of circumcision, first and foremost, signified the covenantal relationship between Yahweh (the God of Israel) and Abraham and his descendants. God instituted the practice as a reminder to Israel that they owed their very existence to Yahweh. God promised Abraham a son well after Sarah was of childbearing age. And that son, Isaac, gave rise to the nation of Israel.

In other words, because circumcision is a religious ritual with covenantal significance, this practice does not require a medical or biological rationale. Neither does the practice necessarily mean that the foreskin is a flawed design.

The Medical Accuracy of the Covenant of Circumcision
This caveat aside, the instructions Yahweh gave to Abraham display remarkable medical insight. In the classic work,None of These Diseases, physician S. I. McMillen discusses the uncanny medical accuracy of the biblically prescribed practice of circumcision.1

Specifically, God commanded Abraham to perform circumcisions on the eighth day after birth (Genesis 17:12). As McMillen points out, this is the ideal time to carry out the procedure because it ensures that the infant’s blood readily clots after circumcision. For the first four days after birth, an infant has a limited amount of vitamin K and clotting factors in its blood. On day five, the level of these materials increases, reaching the maximum level on day eight.

Additionally, God commanded that a flint knife be used to perform the circumcision (Joshua 5:2). According to McMillen, this practice is significant because the act of sharpening a flint knife removes the surface layer, leaving behind uncontaminated stone that would have minimized infection.

One has to marvel at the Bible’s medical prescience. Given the pre-scientific understanding of the ancient Near East, Abraham could not have possessed this medical insight apart from divine wisdom.

Is the Foreskin a Flawed Design? As it turns out circumcision provides clear medical benefits, offering a rationale for the practice that goes beyond religious ceremony. For example, in recent years, biomedical researchers have discovered that circumcision:

  • Prevents the spread of AIDS2
  • Prevents cancer of the penis3
  • Prevents cervical cancer4

And these insights lead us to the questioners’ challenge: Is the foreskin is a flawed design.

This objection assumes that the foreskin serves no function at all. Most male mammals have foreskin covering their penises (though they are often referred to as penile sheaths). These structures serve a variety of functions in animals that include protective and reproductive roles. And increasing evidence suggests that the foreskin also serves similar important functions in humans that include:

  • Providing protection in utero, during infancy, and in adulthood
  • Serving as a component of the immune system
  • Contributing to sexual arousal and stimulation

In light of these functions, a number of physicians now question if circumcision is necessary. Some even express concern that circumcision may be harmful. For this reason, biomedical practitioners debate whether the benefits of keeping the foreskin outweigh the benefits of circumcision.5 Those who argue in favor of keeping the foreskin intact maintain that the benefits of circumcision—namely, the avoidance of infection and disease—can be accomplished through effective hygiene.

Regardless of how this debate ends, the new scientific insights make it hard to argue that the foreskin is a flawed design.

Again, the primary purpose of circumcision in ancient Israel was religious in scope. Still, it is remarkable that the timing and details of the process prescribed by Yahweh reflect sound medical practices. And the recognition that circumcision confers medical benefits indicates that God’s plan for signifying his covenant with Abraham and his descendants was, indeed, sound and reflected divine wisdom.

Resources

Endnotes

  1. S. I. McMillen, None of These Diseases, rev., upd., and exp. ed., ed. by David E. Stern (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), 80–85.
  2. Katherine Harmon, “Can Male Circumcision Stem the AIDS Epidemic in Africa?,” Scientific American (November 29, 2011), reprinted in Nature (November 30, 2011): doi:10.1038/nature.2011.9520.
  3. Brian J. Morris et al., “The Strong Protective Effect of Circumcision against Cancer of the Penis,” Advances in Urology (2011): article ID 812368, doi:10.1155/2011/812368.
  4. Salynn Boyles, “Male Circumcision Cuts Women’s Cervical Cancer Risk,” WebMD, January 6, 2011, https://www.webmd.com/cancer/cervical-cancer/news/20110106/male-circumcision-cuts-womens-cervical-cancer-risk.
  5. Roger Collier, “Vital or Vestigial? The Foreskin Has Its Fans and Foes,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 183 (November 22, 2011): 1963–64, doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-4014.

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Fazale Rana

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I watched helplessly as my father died a Muslim. Though he and I would argue about my conversion, I was unable to convince him of the truth of the Christian faith.

I became a Christian as a … Read more about Fazale Rana.

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Historical Reflections on the Pandemic

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – MARCH 31, 2020

Few things in life get your attention like the subject of infectious disease. And this is especially true of pandemics (“all people” threatened by illness). It is, of course, natural to experience fear and concern during extraordinary times like this. There is great alarm about the illness and death caused by the coronavirus both in our country and worldwide. And there is also genuine anxiety about how society’s response to this health crisis (sheltering in or lockdown) will affect the world’s economy.

In light of this serious challenge that the world is now facing I offer two reflections that I hope will inspire and encourage you. Both of them are important lessons drawn from history.

  1. Many Christians in church history faced similar health crises with courage and acts of selfless service.

Plagues in ancient Rome, the Middles Ages and Reformation, and in the modern world have caused similar health calamities. Yet often without the advantages of modern science and medicine many Christians acted bravely by loving their neighbor. They cared for the sick and dying even while jeopardizing their own health. Christians established makeshift hospitals, provided hospice care, and set up almshouses to help the sick and suffering. These selfless humanitarian efforts testified to the Christian faith’s deep ethical commitment to valuing human lives. At times it also led to the expansion of Christianity because people took notice of how these believers loved others unconditionally.

May these examples from church history motivate us today to acts of service for others. For example, without endangering anyone’s health we could consider donating blood, checking in (by calling) on the welfare of seniors, and volunteering to go shopping for people who need assistance. We can also seek to help those who are working on the frontlines of healthcare. This crisis can be an opportunity for us to serve others.

2. Good things can come out of times of sheltering in or being locked down because of disease.

The famous scientist Isaac Newton (1643-1727) faced the ominous “Black Death” during his lifetime. This forced him into strict quarantine. Yet he used his downtime prudently in his pursuit of scientific studies. Consider this quote about Newton from History.com:

“In 1665, following an outbreak of the bubonic plague in England, Cambridge University closed its doors, forcing Newton to return home to Woolsthorpe Manor. While sitting in the garden there one day, he saw an apple fall from a tree, providing him with the inspiration to eventually formulate his law of universal gravitation. Newton later relayed the apple story to William Stukeley, who included it in a book, ‘Memoir of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life,’ published in 1752.”

Sheltering in can be challenging and it is made more difficult with the uncertainties surrounding the dreaded coronavirus. But we can follow Newton’s example and seek to use our time prudently and keep our minds focused on things we can control. We can spend more time with family and trust that God will bring good things out of extremely trying times (Romans 8:28).

According to the Christian worldview, God is in sovereign control of what ultimately happens in the world. May this confidence in the Lord’s majesty motivate us in the pursuit of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

May God grant you rest and peace in the midst of this pandemic storm.

Reflections: Your Turn What are your thoughts during this challenging time? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

About Reasons to Believe

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