How to Discern Education vs. Propaganda

By Kenneth R. Samples – September 4, 2018

There is a lot of discussion these days about things like fake news, yellow journalism, and political propaganda. There is also a lot of attention given to whether public schools and colleges in our time educate or indoctrinate when it comes to the instruction of their students. So what’s the difference between education and propaganda? Let’s look at seven ways education differs from propaganda.

First, we’ll define three key terms:

Education is the pursuit and discovery of information, knowledge, truth, and wisdom through critical analysis. That process of discovery can be unaided (self-study) or aided (teachers). The goal of education is for the student to develop the ability to form an independent, reasonable judgment of the topics studied.

Indoctrination can mean mere instruction in a given topic, but it often carries the pejorative meaning of inculcating ideas in an uncritical manner. This approach to teaching can be well-intentioned but, from an educational standpoint, it is ultimately not in the best interest of the student because it lacks the necessary critical analysis. Indoctrination stands closer to propaganda than to education.

Propaganda involves the dissemination of information—including biased and misleading information—to get someone to accept a particular agenda, often of a political nature. Propaganda is worse than well-intended indoctrination because it intentionally seeks to manipulate a person into accepting a specific viewpoint or ideology.

7 Ways Education (Analytical Discovery) Differs from Propaganda (Manipulative Persuasion)

A good education strives to incorporate the following seven ideals, practices, and virtues, whereas propaganda denies, ignores, or limits them:

1. Education Emphasizes How to Think Instead of What to Think

Genuine learning requires developing critical thinking skills that can aid the student in analysis and evaluation in order to form a reasonable judgment on a given topic. A good education prepares students to develop the necessary skills to learn to think for themselves. Propaganda tells a person exactly what to think.

2. Education Pursues Objectivity Instead of Subjectivity

A solid approach to learning acknowledges the challenge of human bias and prejudice and seeks to promote a reasonable open-mindedness, an evenhandedness, and a basic fairness when considering issues. Education usually serves to broaden one’s perspective. Propaganda is agenda driven and focuses upon the subjective goal of persuasion and tends to significantly narrow one’s perspective.

3. Education Introduces Controversies (Disagreements) Instead of Shielding Them

Discovering genuine knowledge and truth about life and the world is seldom without controversy and disagreement among people. A good learning environment exposes students to the general and important differences concerning topics and perspectives. Propaganda selectively shields people from controversies.

4. Education Examines Both Sides Instead of Just One Side

When topics are divided between viable positions, a good model of education exposes students to a fair-minded discussion of both sides of a controversial issue. Again, propaganda tends to be manipulatively one-sided in perspective.

5. Education Reviews Strengths and Weaknesses (Pros and Cons) Instead of Just One or the Other

Proposed solutions to problems can be controversial and usually involve potential strengths and weaknesses. A fair-minded approach to learning gets into the practice of examining both the pros and cons of a position. Genuine learning involves knowing both strengths and weaknesses of a viewpoint. Propaganda, on the other hand, is all about persuasion thus the focus is exclusively on either the strengths or the weaknesses.

6. Education Promotes Honest Intellectual Inquiry Instead of Deception

A proper education stresses the critical importance of the virtue of honesty at every stage of the learning process. Ideas are prized and therefore treated with integrity. Manipulation and deception, hallmarks of propaganda, are never acceptable.

7. Education Encourages Dialogue Instead of Monologue

Learning is enhanced by respectful dialogue, discussion, and interaction. Learning under multiple voices is often superior to learning under one voice, as in propaganda.

A good education (unaided or aided) can provide the critical tools to help students gain knowledge, truth, and wisdom. A noble learning experience illumines the human condition and greatly enhances the human experience.

Reflections: Your Turn

Which of education’s seven ideals, practices, and virtues do you find the noblest? How prevalent is propaganda today? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

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MAN COMING INTO BEING; STATE OF BEING

By Will Myers

Our spirit is our life. Our soul is the center of our emotions. Our emotions, of course, are based on our life support which is material. The question arises of how does or why does one have self-awareness? One answer is that our Creator didn’t intend to create more robots. Obviously, our Creator made mankind to be independent with the ability to love by self-choice. By being independent, this would mean that man would face outer darkness…nothingness…nothing; the liquidation of the man’s mind and body. So, our existence has a condition; that is to love God in return. The independence just so happens to be the choice between self-destruction or life from God. Lump it or chunk it, this is where we are in this universe; this existence. I choose life.

Our One God has given life to a man, Adam, by breathing life into the matter; later, God created a woman from the body of the man, Adam. Scientist and philosophers have been working for centuries to find a more definitive answer to the previous suppositions, and have not. Not saying that continuing investigation should not continue. I have a B.S. in physics with a departmental specialty in electrodynamics, and I am quite comfortable with life being created by a superior being. My thoughts were solidified by the factor of self-awareness. I believe that only an Eternal Being can create a being that has self-awareness.

I am sure that scientist shall manipulate the human spirits of the future through genetic applications and by foundation training (SIG social machinery) upon the arrival of the soul. Our social machinery shall develop into a state that constantly monitors an individual and distributes information directed at the targeted individual on a daily basis (Privacy being a thing of the past).  The social machinery is special interest groups (SIG) that constantly collect information and distribute information with psychic profiles about each private citizen.

The social machinery exists at present; what’s remaining is the problem of the orchestration of information directed upon an individual. This is the state of man in America and the world to come. Our social interactions shall be altered, trending toward a hierarchy based on knowledge about the targeted individual. It is a very different thing between the government having stats, and distributing general info to a group and targeting each soul; up close and personal.

If and when SIG approaches it’s ideal state what kind of government would we live in? I label it as hyper-communism where, ideally, the government owns the minds of the citizens. Of course, this shall become reality only in a practical sense. But, coercive forces, intimidation, isolation, and destruction of livelihood is possible at present.

I am going to share something very intimate for the sake of Christ: in Los Angeles, California. For over a year, the Cashiers who were total strangers (Different cashiers, different stores) stopped the line, and we all had to wait for something to be negotiated. Believe it or not, this happened every time without a break. Of course, the Cashiers’ eyes did fix on me just before stopping the line. It was obvious; I was targeted. These bizarre actions were in association with many other unusual actions. Shit! This might give one an idea how powerful this SIG snake organization is…huge Los Angeles…knowing the place and time and Cashier at the register…public scrutiny is destructive to one’s happiness and fulfillment of life. F…!!! SIG is is an enemy of the U.S. Constitution.

Of the thousands of examples that  I could give, I am going to give only one more: for decades, SIG who is the snake organization has caused a spoiler to present itself into any and all thoughts or actions that could make me happy; most being very sophisticated interference at anticipating my thoughts.

We shall soon become subjects to the government in very special ways. The government has a plan for each person. Each soul living in hyper-communism shall be aware of SIG who is definitely not God our Creator. Instead, we have SIG, the snake organization. Our existence has an enmity between God and self. We must be aware of these special interest groups that collect information and distribute it which target private citizens each soul at a time.

 

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Do Both Science and Christianity Require Faith?

BY JEFF ZWEERINK – MAY 4, 2018

In a New York Times editorial, Paul Davies made this provocative statement:

Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith—namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

Davies basically argues that scientists must largely accept that the laws of physics work without having an adequate understanding of why they work. Nothing about the laws of physics specifies that they must appear the way they do or that they should exhibit the regularity, order, and understandability that they do. As you could imagine, the claim that science is founded on faith produced some rather strong reactions—which you can read in a conversation that took place at the Edge. The responses highlighted three important points.

First, many of the responses seemed determined to sever any connection between the practice of scientific and religious faith. For example, Jerry Coyne replies that scientists’ belief in the reliability of the laws of physics is “not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of experience. In contrast, the tenets of religion are truly based on faith, since there is no empirical data to support them.” He further states that “the lack of a current explanation for why the laws are as they are, however, does not make physics a faith. It only means that we don’t have the answer.”

Second, Coyne’s response (as well as others) shows that many scientists misunderstand the true definition of Christian faith. Lawrence Krauss echoes Coyne’s sentiments and declares that “the scientific method continually refines and changes our understanding of physical law, whereas religious ‘truths’ have remained largely unchanged.” Both of these scientists imply that science operates on logic and facts, whereas religion operates on feeling and belief.

However, as my colleague Ken Samples says, “biblical faith is confident trust in a credible or reliable source.” Testing and probing is part of the process of determining the credibility and reliability of a source. Contrary to Coyne’s assertion, the reliability of the Bible is supported by empirical data. For a couple of examples, investigate the big bang and early Earth.

Third, clearly many non-Christians have an inaccurate view of biblical faith. However, I think Christians should be responsible for articulating an accurate description of the Christian faith. Let me provide an example that clarifies how talking about God’s work in our lives can help dispel this misunderstanding.

A job interview brought me to California for the first time. Two months later, my family and I moved into an apartment I rented—sight unseen—over the phone. Before we even began the journey from the Midwest (where we were living at the time), we had some concerns. All of our family and friends lived in the Midwest. On top of all that, neither of us wanted to live in California, plus my pregnant wife was suffering back problems. Yet we made the move. One could call this blind faith since we were moving to an unknown place, dealing with significant health issues, and leaving the support of our extended family—all because God told us to.

However, this would miss the point that I had great confidence in God’s plan for our family. I had seen his work in my parents, and they trained us in the Christian faith. I had personally encountered God numerous times on mission trips and skiing trips, in my time at college, and during graduate school. I had studied under intelligent, knowledgeable Christians and had learned how to defend the reliability of the Bible. And I had seen Christ transform various aspects of my life as I sought to follow him. In other words, I had an abundance of evidence saying that following God’s direction in my life was the best way to live. Rather than blind faith, I was exercising confident trust in a credible source.

As I read the responses to the article by Paul Davies, I sense people rejecting Christianity, at least in part, because they see faith as ignoring the evidence. This provides an opportunity for Christians to show the rational, evidence-based nature of the Christian faith. And it allows us to make the case that God (and his revelation in the Bible) is a credible, reliable source worthy of our confident trust.

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Is Humanity About To Accidentally Declare Interstellar War On Alien Civilizations?

There are a great variety of stars with known exoplanets within 25 light years of the Sun, and missions like K2 and TESS will only find more. These are excellent targets for interstellar travel, but if we don’t do it carefully, our explorations could be mistaken for a malicious act of aggression. (NASA/GODDARD/ADLER/U. CHICAGO/WESLEYAN)

________________________________________________________________________________

If the Breakthrough Starshot initiative, promoted by Stephen Hawking, works exactly as planned, it could lead to disaster.


Imagine yourself on a world not so different from Earth, orbiting a star not so different from our Sun. The temperature and atmosphere are just right for liquid water to exist on the surface, and a mix of oceans and continents ensures that life has had stable, thriving conditions for billions of years. Evolutionary processes increased the complexity and level-of-differentiation of the organisms on this world, too. Through a combination of chance mutations and selection pressures, a species on this world became sentient, conscious, and reached unprecedented levels of dominance over nature.

As their technology advanced, they began to wonder about alien civilizations around other stars. And then, from a distant, faint point of light in their sky, the first attack happened, blowing a hole in their planet at relativistic speeds. It wasn’t a meteor, asteroid, or comet; from across interstellar space, it was humanity.

This launch of the space shuttle Columbia in 1992 shows that acceleration isn’t just instantaneous for a rocket, but occurs over a long period of time spanning many minutes. For a starship that could reach another star system, versus a rocket, the practical limitations we have today mean a journey would necessarily span multiple human generations. (NASA)

Here on Earth, our dreams of interstellar travel have traditionally fallen into two categories:

  1. We go slowly, with rocket-propulsion, on a journey taking many human lifetimes.
  2. We go quickly, assuming we make tremendous scientific advances to travel at relativistic (near-light) speeds.

Even with an uncrewed journey, these two options seemed to be the only ones there are. Either we go as the Voyager spacecrafts go, taking many thousands of years to travel even a single light year, or we develop some new technology capable of accelerating a spacecraft to much, much higher speeds. The first option seems unacceptable; the second seems unrealistic.

The warp drive system on the Star Trek starships was what made travel from star to star possible. If we had this technology, we could easily bridge the distance to the stars, but this remains in the realm of science fiction for today. (ALISTAIR MCMILLAN / C.C.-BY-2.0)

But something happened during the 2010s that has the potential to change the game. We’ve actually gone and made a huge technological advance that could impart a large amount of energy to a spacecraft over a reasonably long amount of time, allowing us to (in principle) accelerate it to tremendous speeds.

The big advance? In the science of laser physics. Lasers, now, are both more powerful and more collimated than they’ve ever been, and that means that if we put an enormous array of these high-powered lasers in space, where they don’t have to fight atmospheric dispersion, they could shine on a single target for a long time, imparting energy and momentum to it until it reached more than 10% the speed of light.

The DEEP laser-sail concept relies on a large laser array striking and accelerating a relatively large-area, low-mass spacecraft. This has the potential to accelerate non-living objects to speeds approaching the speed of light, making an interstellar journey possible within a single human lifetime. (© 2016 UCSB EXPERIMENTAL COSMOLOGY GROUP)

In 2015, a team of scientists wrote a white paper on how an advanced laser array could combine with the solar sail concept to create a “laser sail”-based spacecraft. In theory, we could use current technology and extraordinarily low-mass spaceships (i.e., “starchips”) to reach the nearest stars in a single human lifetime.

The idea is simple: shoot this high-powered laser array at a highly reflective target, attach a very small and low-mass micro-satellite to the sail, and accelerate it to the maximum speed possible. The ideas of solar sails are old, and have been around since the time of Kepler. But to use a laser sail would be a real revolution.

An artist’s rendition of a laser-driven sail shows how a large-area, light-weight spacecraft could be accelerated to very high speeds by continuously reflecting back laser light that was high-powered and highly collimated.(ADRIAN MANN / UCSB)

The advantages of this setup to all others are incredible:

  • The majority of power/energy used for this doesn’t come from one-time-only use rocket fuel, but rather from lasers, which can be recharged.
  • The masses of the starchip spaceships are incredibly low, and so can be accelerated to very fast (close to the speed-of-light) speeds.
  • And with the advent of miniaturization in electronics and ultra-strong, lightweight materials, we can actually create usable devices and send them light years away.

The idea isn’t new, but the advent of new technology — both currently available and expected to be available in the next two or three decades — makes this a seemingly realistic possibility.

The arrival of a laser sail at a distant world would be tremendous and fantastic, but this depiction shows it moving about a thousand times too slowly to be realistic. At 0.2 times the speed of light, this would pass through the entire Solar System in a matter of just a few hours. (BREAKTHROUGH STARSHOT / YOUTUBE)

So let’s say we get it right. We develop the right material to reflect enough of the laser light that it doesn’t incinerate the sail. We collimate the lasers well-enough and build a large-enough array to accelerate these starchip spacecrafts to their designed speeds of 20% the speed of light: ~60,000 km/s. And then we aim them at a planet around a potentially habitable star, such as Alpha Centauri A or Tau Ceti.

Perhaps we’ll send an array of starchips to the same system, hoping to probe these systems and gain more information. After all, the main science goal, as it’s been proposed, is to simply take data during arrival and transmit it back. But there are three huge problems with this plan, and combined, they could be tantamount to a declaration of interstellar war.

The laser sail concept, for a starchip-style starship, does have the potential to accelerate a spacecraft to about 20% the speed of light and reach another star within a human lifetime. But the message we send may be catastrophic. (BREAKTHROUGH STARSHOT)

The first problem is that interstellar space is full of particles, most of which move relatively slowly (at a few hundred km/s) through the galaxy. When they strike this spacecraft, they’ll blow holes into it, rendering it into cosmic swiss-cheese in short order.

The second is that there’s no reasonable deceleration mechanism. When these spacecrafts arrive at their destination, they’ll still be moving at roughly the speeds they took off at. There’s no stopping to take data or a gentle orbital insertion. They move at the speeds they move at.

And the third is that aiming to the level-of-precision needed to pass close to (but not collide with) a target planet is virtually impossible. The “cone of uncertainty” for any trajectory will include the planet we’re aiming for.

In 1860, a meteor grazed Earth, and produced a spectacularly luminous light display. We typically have about a 2% chance, given a random collision, of having an atmospheric-grazing meteor like this, versus a 98% chance of collision. (FREDERIC EDWIN CHURCH / JUDITH FILENBAUM HERNSTADT)

What happens when we hit an inhabited planet? What will it look like?

60,000 km/s is thousands of times faster than any spacecraft we’ve ever made to re-enter our atmosphere. It’s about 1,000 times faster than the fastest meteors our Solar System produces. It would take just a few thousandths of a second for this chip to pass through the entire atmosphere: from space to the surface. At thousands of times lower speeds, after all, only the most advanced heat shields ever have survived re-entry into our own atmosphere.

Astronaut Bob Crippen with the Gemini-B capsule, and the severely scarred and damaged (but intact!) heat shield. It’s very difficult to survive re-entry into an atmosphere at speeds thousands of times lower than that which a starchip spacecraft would encounter. (NASA/KIM SHIFLETT)

But speed and energy are related in a way that makes the situation very bad. If you double the speed, it has four times the energy; kinetic energy is proportional to speed squared. A giant rock weighing 1,000,000 kg that strikes a planet going at 60 km/s will do some damage, but a rock weighing just 1 kg that goes at 60,000 km/s will impart the same amount of energy in a collision.

Even if we make this mass tiny, it’s still going to cause some damage. A planet getting hit by a ~1 gram spacecraft moving at 60,000 km/s is going to experience the same level of catastrophic effects as a planet getting hit by a ~1 tonne asteroid moving at ~60 km/s, the equivalent of which happens on Earth just once per decade. Each strike would hit their world with the same energy that the Chelyabinsk meteorite struck Earth: the most energetic collision of the decade.

In 2013, the largest meteorite in many years struck Earth, causing millions of dollars worth of damage and injuring thousands of people. A collision of a 1 gram spacecraft moving at a relative speed of 60,000 km/s with a planet would be even more damaging. Such an act could be viewed as a malicious display of aggression, or even worse, a declaration of war. (Elizaveta Becker/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

If you were an alien on this world that got struck by these relativistic masses, what would you conclude? You’d know that these were too massive and too fast-moving to be created naturally; they were made by an intelligent civilization. You’d know that you were being intentionally targeted; space is too vast for these to strike you by random chance. And — worst of all — you’d assume this civilization had a malicious intent. No benevolent aliens would launch something so recklessly and carelessly given the damage it would cause. If we’re smart enough to send a spacecraft across the galaxy to another star, surely we can be wise enough to reckon the disastrous consequences of doing so.

Professor Stephen Hawking onstage during the New Space Exploration Initiative ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ Announcement at One World Observatory on April 12, 2016 in New York City. The idea is ambitious and innovative, but carries with it a large potential danger that must be addressed if we wish to avoid an accidental act of interstellar aggression. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Stephen Hawking famously warned:

If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.

Yet, unless we bother to consider the consequences of our interstellar ambitions and the technology we have to realize them, we’ll be the ones firing the first shots, perhaps ever, from one inhabited planet to another. That he himself was the most prominent advocate of the Breakthrough Starshotrepresents a great cosmic inconsistency. The advocate of caution when it comes to alien contact had no problem advocating for the launch of an interstellar weapon.

This is not the wild, wild west. It is the final frontier. As we take our first steps into the cosmic ocean, there will surely be stumbles. But we must ensure they are stumbles of innocence, free of malice. To proceed down a reckless, dangerous path without caution is known as negligence. If we are violently negligent to a species thousands of years more technologically advanced than we are, it could mean more than a slap on the wrist. It could be the first shot fired in a catastrophic interstellar war.


Starts With A Bang is now on Forbes, and republished on Medium thanks to our Patreon supporters. Ethan has authored two books, Beyond The Galaxy, and Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive.

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The End of Civilization As We Know It? Part 3

BY HUGH ROSS – JULY 23, 2018

As I have explained in posts one and two, our present brief (13,000-year) warm interglacial and even briefer (9,000-year) period of extreme climate stability will end. Another ice age is coming. Though for a number of reasons (as I will explain) we cannot prevent the onset of an ice age, there are some things we can do to delay it.

Primary Natural Drivers of the Ice Age Cycle
As I describe in some detail in my book, Improbable Planet, the primary natural drivers of the ice age cycle are (1) cyclical variations in Earth’s rotation axis tilt (aka obliquity), and (2) cyclical variations in the elliptical shape or eccentricity of Earth’s orbit about the Sun.1

Earth’s obliquity varies from 22.1° to 24.5°. The predominant periodicity of this variation is 41,000 years. Presently, Earth’s obliquity = 23.439281°. It is decreasing at a rate of 47 arc seconds per century (0.0130° per century). Lower obliquity favors ice ages because summers are cooler and seasonal differences at high latitudes (where ice resides) are less pronounced, reducing the amount of winter snow and ice that melts. Earth’s obliquity is projected to reach its minimum value around 10,000 AD.

The eccentricity of Earth’s orbit varies from 0.000055 to 0.06792, where a value of 0.0 equals a perfect circle and 1.0 describes an orbit where the maximum orbital diameter divided by the minimum orbital diameter = infinity (that is, the minimum orbital diameter = 0.0). The predominant periodicities are 413,000, 125,000, and 95,000 years. Presently, Earth’s orbital eccentricity = 0.01670986, and it is decreasing. The last maximum (0.019) was about 10,000 years ago, and the previous minimum was 40,000 years ago (0.010). Lower eccentricity favors ice ages and a minimal value of Earth’s eccentricity is projected to occur roughly around 60,000 AD.

Delaying the Next Ice Age
If the primary natural drivers of the ice age cycle were the only significant factors driving the cycle, we should be in an ice age right now. Both Earth’s obliquity and orbital eccentricity are declining. Both are operating to cool our global climate. If Earth’s obliquity and orbital eccentricity were the only significant factors, the next ice age should have begun roughly 5,000 years ago.

Figure 1 shows the global mean temperatures over the past 300,000 years. Some unknown event or unique combination of obliquity and eccentricity cycles, circa 5,000 years ago, prevented the global mean temperature from rising high enough and long enough to melt the polar ice cap and bring on a subsequent ice age.

blog__inline--the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it-part-3-1Figure 1: Global Mean Temperatures for the Past 300,000 Years. The temperature scale (y-axis) is in degrees Centigrade relative to the present global mean temperature. Image credit:Adapted by author from image produced by Robert A. Rohde, Global Warming Art Project, CC by SA.

The domestication of cows began about 10,500 years ago but remained a small component of animal husbandry until 7,000–6,000 years ago.3 The dramatic rise in the domesticated cow population that began during the sixth millennium BC substantially enhanced the emission of greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. This emission compensated for the cooling generated by Earth’s declining obliquity and orbital eccentricity.

Additional compensation for the cooling arising from Earth’s declining obliquity and orbital eccentricity came from the domestication of rice and the deforestation of Eurasia to make room for intensive crop cultivation and pasture land.4 Before the advent of the industrial revolution, the combination of the growth of animal husbandry, irrigation for rice farming, and the transformation of forests into cultivated fields and pasture lands raised the atmospheric carbon dioxide level from 245 parts per million to 285 parts per million, and the atmospheric methane level from 450 parts per billion to 700 parts per billion.

These three features of anthropogenic activity (human activity that affects nature) operating over the past 7,000 years played a major role, not only in delaying the onset of the next ice age, but also in producing an unprecedented period of extreme global climate stability. As figure 2 shows, the global mean temperature throughout the past 9,000 years has not varied by more than 2°Celsius (3.5°Fahrenheit). As I explained in Improbable Planet,5 it is due in large part to this brief period of extreme climate stability that humanity has been able to launch and sustain global, high-technology civilization and grow a human population numbering in the billions.

blog__inline--the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it-part-3-2Figure 2: Global Mean Temperatures during the Last 80,000 Years. The blue lines show the global mean temperature as determined from the GRIP Greenland deep ice core while the purple lines show the global mean temperature as determined by the NGRIP Greenland deep ice core. Image credit: adapted by author from image produced by Leland McKinnes/Wikipedia Commons, CC-by-3.0.

Since the advent of the industrial revolution and especially during the explosion of human wealth and technology that has occurred since the end of World War II, anthropogenic activity has overcompensated for the global cooling arising from the currently ongoing decline in Earth’s obliquity and orbital eccentricity. As I explained in my previous two blogs, it is this overcompensation that is threatening to accelerate the onset of the next ice age.

Many scientists and many more politicians are calling for draconian economic sacrifices in order to rectify this overcompensation of human activity. These scientists and politicians, in my opinion, are failing to fully consider the biblical principle of the universality of human sin and selfishness. In light of this biblical principle, as I explained in Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job,6 the only practical remedies for reducing the overcompensation are remedies that simultaneously boost peoples’ economic well-being and lower the impact of human activity. I discussed several such remedies in Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job, including restoring the whale populations,7 reducing the Sahara and Gobi deserts to the sizes they manifested two millennia ago,8 and substituting ostrich meat for beef.9

In addition to remedies achievable with existing resources and technology, there are a number of foreseeable technological advances that promise to reduce the over-compensation and restore the extreme climate stability we have been enjoying for the past 9,000 years. A prominent example is nuclear fusion. For several decades, physicists around the world have been working hard to develop nuclear fusion (as opposed to fission) reactors. If such reactors could be developed and produced in quantity, we would no longer need to use fossil fuels to generate energy to sustain the global economy.

While we can take steps to significantly delay the onset of the next ice age and restore extreme climate stability, such steps could have a severe impact on agricultural productivity. One reason why we are able to grow enough food to feed 7.5 billion humans, plus all the world’s domesticated animals, is that we depend on the melting of glaciers left over from the last ice age to provide the necessary water to irrigate our vast cultivated fields. Thus, a substantial delay in the onset of the next ice age could confront us with another potentially catastrophic problem—the complete melting away of the glaciers that currently are supplying water to our agricultural plains.

Preparing for the Next Ice Age
I am not saying it is infeasible for humanity to find a way to delay the onset of the next ice age by one or two millennia. Nuclear fusion reactors, for example, conceivably could provide a means to desalinate huge quantities of ocean water. However, to cite another biblical principle and a famous Christian hymn, this world is not our home.

In chapters 15 and 16 of Improbable Planet, I explain how the ice age cycle is a marvel of divine design. It is designed to enable our planet to sustain several billion people at one time. It is designed to enable these several billion humans to develop the wealth and technology to make possible the completion of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20) within the next few decades.

I describe how it is possible—with existing resources—for Christians today to take the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to all the people groups of the world where, within each people group, a large minority of them would become disciples of Jesus Christ. With sufficient motivation on the part of existing evangelical Christians, I demonstrate in Improbable Planet how the task of “making disciples of all nations” could be completed in less than a few decades.10

The Bible promises (Romans 8Revelation 20–22) us that when the full number of human beings that God intends to redeem is in fact redeemed, the universe and our planet Earth will have fulfilled the purpose for which God created them. God will then replace them with a brand new creation—the new heavens and the new earth, a realm where “the old order of things” will pass away and where God says about the new creation, “I am making everything new.” As I explain in Beyond the Cosmos11 and in Why the Universe Is the Way It Is,12 the new creation will be governed by completely different laws of physics and dimensions. In the new creation we will not need to be concerned about the ice age cycle, global warming, or climate stability. God has promised to make the new creation a perfect realm for all eternity.

To be clear, I am not saying that because it appears the Great Commission can be fulfilled within a few decades, that we can ignore the climate problems we currently face. Many Christians, including myself, believe that the Bible teaches a literal reign of Jesus Christ here on planet Earth for a one-thousand-year period following the completion of the Great Commission. For Christians who do not hold to a millennial reign of Christ on Earth, there are still the exhortations from our Savior to “occupy until I come” (Luke 19:13) and the creation care mandate described in Genesis 1:28–30 and Job 37–39.

What I am saying is that God generously granted us an extremely beneficial ice age cycle and a brief period of extreme climate stability within that cycle so that we could not only enjoy a brief period of unprecedented wealth and technology but also, far more importantly, to use that wealth and technology to fulfill an eternal spiritual destiny. Yes, let’s do everything we can to wisely and economically sustain this remarkable period of terrestrial blessing in which we currently reside. However, let us do much more to partner with God to bring about the redemption of untold human beings, the eradication of all evil, and our preparation for eternal life and our careers in the new creation.

Endnotes
  1. Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity’s Home (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2016): 204–07, https://shop.reasons.org/product/283/improbable-planet.
  2. J. Laskar et al., “La2010: A New Orbital Solution for the Long-Term Motion of the Earth,” Astronomy & Astrophysics 532 (August 2011): id. A89, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201116836.
  3. Benjamin S. Arbuckle et al., “Documenting the Initial Appearance of Domestic Cattle in the Eastern Fertile Crescent (Northern Iraq and Western Iran),” Journal of Archeological Science 72 (August 2016): 1–9, doi:10.1016/j.jas.2016.05.008.
  4. William F. Ruddiman, Stephen J. Vavrus, and John E. Kutzbach, “A Test of the Overdue-Glaciation Hypothesis,” Quaternary Science Reviews 24 (January 2005): 1-10, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2004.07.010; Hugh Ross, “Overdue Glaciation,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, February 18, 2005, http://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2005/02/18/overdue-glaciation.
  5. Ross, Improbable Planet, 209–15.
  6. Hugh Ross, Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011): 53–54, 63–68.
  7. Ross, Hidden Treasures, 65–68.
  8. Ross, Hidden Treasures, 64–65.
  9. Ross, Hidden Treasures, 65.
  10. Ross, Improbable Planet, 225–30.
  11. Hugh Ross, Beyond the Cosmos, 3rd ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2017): 185–94.
  12. Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008): 193–206.

About Reasons to Believe

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Maybe We Are Alone in the Universe

BY JEFF ZWEERINK – JUNE 29, 2018

Back in the summer of 1950, famed physicist Enrico Fermi visited Los Alamos National Laboratory and discussed the possibility of interstellar travel with his colleagues as they walked to have lunch. In the brief exchange, some thought faster-than-light (FTL) travel was possible while others thought not. During lunch Fermi posed his now legendary question: “Where is everybody?” Remarkably, although the question came out of the blue, everyone understood its implications.

Fermi’s Paradox

At least one impetus for the conversation involved a query about how to explain a rash of UFO sightings. If aliens pervade the universe, some of them should have visited Earth already. However, all the observations at the time provided no substantial evidence for alien visitors (a conclusion still true today). Assuming the possibility of FTL travel, the existence of alien life and the lack of any evidence became known as the Fermi paradox.

The Drake Equation

Roughly a decade later, astronomer Frank Drake developed an equation that helps organize the scientific process by which we might determine the number of advanced alien civilizations in our galaxy. Known as the Drake Equation, it has 7 factors that break the huge problem of finding alien life into smaller, more manageable categories.

N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L

N:       number of detectable civilizations throughout the Milky Way Galaxy

R*:      rate of formation of stars suitable for intelligent life

fp:        fraction of stars suitable for intelligent life that have planetary systems

ne:       number of planets in those planetary systems

fl:         fraction of those planets that develop life

fi:         fraction of those life-forms that develop intelligence

fc:        fraction of those intelligent life-forms that send signals into space

L:        length of time those civilizations emit the signals into space

To determine all these factors will require research in disciplines including astronomy, physics, planetary science, geology, biology, biochemistry, and many others. In fact, scientists have formed a discipline called astrobiology that encompasses the specific aspects of all these other disciplines that pertain to life’s existence. A major component of astrobiology research entails the search for other planets that might host life. Until the discovery of the first exoplanet in the 1990s, this was a largely “data-free” endeavor. Research since then indicates that as many as 20% of stars might have habitable planets. We have no hard data driving the values of the last four factors and any one of these could easily be zero (meaning no civilization exists beyond Earth). Some research even suggests that as many as 22% of Sun-like stars harbor Earth-sized planets in some sort of habitable zone.1 However, scientists are likely underestimating the difficulty of making a truly habitable planet.

Resolving the Paradox?

Some people see that the number of civilizations predicted by the Drake Equation is zero (because the last four factors are really small). Others predict really large numbers by assuming, for example, that all the factors are around 0.1. These really large numbers lead to the paradox. According to the authors of a recent paper, replacing specific probabilities normally used for each factor with ranges that account for the uncertainty in each factor resolves (or rather “dissolves”) the issue.2 If one uses a uniform range between 0 and 0.2 for each number, the Drake equation predicts that we are alone in the galaxy over 21% of the time. With this relatively large probability that no other civilizations exist in the galaxy, Fermi’s paradox disappears.

I would point out that this analysis glosses over a more fundamental point: we have no idea what the values for the last four factors should be. And we have good reason to think some, like fl, are probably zero! In reality, most scientists consider the Drake equation, not as a tool to predict the number of detectable civilizations, but as a way to organize our approach to the search for life in the universe. We don’t know the answer we will find, but we can bear in mind that maybe life exists here on Earth (and anywhere else we might find it) because God created it to reflect his glory!

 


Endnotes:

  1. Erik A. Petigura, Andrew W. Howard, and Geoffrey W. Marcy, “Prevalence of Earth-Size Planets Orbiting Sun-Like Star,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (November 26, 2013): 19273–78, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1319909110.
  2. Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler, and Toby Ord, “Dissolving the Fermi Paradox,” Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University (June 8, 2018): https://arxiv.org/pdf/1806.02404.pdf.

 

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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Do Both Science and Christianity Require Faith?

BY JEFF ZWEERINK – MAY 4, 2018

In a New York Times editorial, Paul Davies made this provocative statement:

Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith—namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

Davies basically argues that scientists must largely accept that the laws of physics work without having an adequate understanding of why they work. Nothing about the laws of physics specifies that they must appear the way they do or that they should exhibit the regularity, order, and understandability that they do. As you could imagine, the claim that science is founded on faith produced some rather strong reactions—which you can read in a conversation that took place at the Edge. The responses highlighted three important points.

First, many of the responses seemed determined to sever any connection between the practice of scientific and religious faith. For example, Jerry Coyne replies that scientists’ belief in the reliability of the laws of physics is “not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of experience. In contrast, the tenets of religion are truly based on faith, since there is no empirical data to support them.” He further states that “the lack of a current explanation for why the laws are as they are, however, does not make physics a faith. It only means that we don’t have the answer.”

Second, Coyne’s response (as well as others) shows that many scientists misunderstand the true definition of Christian faith. Lawrence Krauss echoes Coyne’s sentiments and declares that “the scientific method continually refines and changes our understanding of physical law, whereas religious ‘truths’ have remained largely unchanged.” Both of these scientists imply that science operates on logic and facts, whereas religion operates on feeling and belief.

However, as my colleague Ken Samples says, “biblical faith is confident trust in a credible or reliable source.” Testing and probing is part of the process of determining the credibility and reliability of a source. Contrary to Coyne’s assertion, the reliability of the Bible is supported by empirical data. For a couple of examples, investigate the big bang and early Earth.

Third, clearly many non-Christians have an inaccurate view of biblical faith. However, I think Christians should be responsible for articulating an accurate description of the Christian faith. Let me provide an example that clarifies how talking about God’s work in our lives can help dispel this misunderstanding.

A job interview brought me to California for the first time. Two months later, my family and I moved into an apartment I rented—sight unseen—over the phone. Before we even began the journey from the Midwest (where we were living at the time), we had some concerns. All of our family and friends lived in the Midwest. On top of all that, neither of us wanted to live in California, plus my pregnant wife was suffering back problems. Yet we made the move. One could call this blind faith since we were moving to an unknown place, dealing with significant health issues, and leaving the support of our extended family—all because God told us to.

However, this would miss the point that I had great confidence in God’s plan for our family. I had seen his work in my parents, and they trained us in the Christian faith. I had personally encountered God numerous times on mission trips and skiing trips, in my time at college, and during graduate school. I had studied under intelligent, knowledgeable Christians and had learned how to defend the reliability of the Bible. And I had seen Christ transform various aspects of my life as I sought to follow him. In other words, I had an abundance of evidence saying that following God’s direction in my life was the best way to live. Rather than blind faith, I was exercising confident trust in a credible source.

As I read the responses to the article by Paul Davies, I sense people rejecting Christianity, at least in part, because they see faith as ignoring the evidence. This provides an opportunity for Christians to show the rational, evidence-based nature of the Christian faith. And it allows us to make the case that God (and his revelation in the Bible) is a credible, reliable source worthy of our confident trust.

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 »

Support Reasons to Believe

Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.

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