SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS (SIG) MOVING NATIONS UNTO HYPERCOMMUNISM

By Will Myers

I had decided to stop harping on the orchestrations of special interest groups (SIG) who collect info on each private citizen, analyze the intimate info, and secretly distribute the info, targeting a private citizen(s) to their detriment even unto destroying their livelihood and raising the risk of losing their life from being targeted by SIG. I prematurely stopped harping on the fact that SIG is causing the phenomenon of mass killings; all except drug turf wars. It’s should be obvious that most of the mass killers are making a statement to the people that persons, strangers, friends, and alike, are invading his life and diminishing his self-worth, and causing humiliation and embarrassment. The snake organization (SIG) steals one’s joy and destroys the assessment by the targeted person’s first choice and even second choices that make them happy. All that the person likes or enjoys is tampered with and even destroyed. Why in the hell does any society tolerate such activity. SIG should not exist in a free society.

The person(s) that feel targeted should be encouraged to meet with concerned persons and organize to back-track unto the source of the collection and distribution of their sensitive info and decapitate the snakes in order to stop the mental anguish perpetrated upon targeted persons and to stop the ultimate destruction of our free society afforded by our U.S. Constitution. This should stop the mass killings. The snake organization (SIG) is the operative for hypercommunism whereas the government owns the virtual minds of the citizens that are mapped on computers. The right to be let alone becomes non-existent. The SIG snake organization is invading the inner sanctuary of each private citizen for big business and the government. SIG has gone from the psychological profiles of a group of people to anticipate the thoughts and movement of a targeted person.

 Yes, I believe that our nation is moving toward ruling, toward authoritarian rule as determined from our recent (in the age of our nation term) wiretapping of all private citizens and the actual targeting of certain private citizens to their detriment; liken unto public scrutiny which is always destructive to the targeted person. It’s special interest groups (SIG) moving into the average citizen’s arena because this is where the political power lye. Control the base of our economic structure politically; you have control of America. I believe that this shall be governed by hypercommunist who owns the virtual-minds of the populace.

There have been over 250 mass killings so far this year. I have rethought the stopping of my harping on the SIG snake criminal organization affects on our society. The SIG snake organization causes profusely the evil fruits of our human spirit to come out in a devastating means. The use of sensitive info being distributed targeting a private citizen is the cause of mass killings; a phenomenon that has begun recently in America relative to its age. This phenomenon has increased relative to the growth of the SIG snake in recent years.

The government and an estimate of 22 agencies are collecting sensitive and intimate info secretly about each private. This info is used to control the private citizen by intimidation and coercion to comply with the desires of SIG the snake. The invasion of the inner sanctuary of the mind perturbs the targeted individual while destroying his self-worth and self-esteem.; mostly stealing his joy and happiness without any relief in sight. It’s not a surprise that many offenders who assault the targeted person end up looking down the barrel of a gun. Do unto others what you want to be done unto yourself. Do NOT do unto others what you DON’T want to be done unto yourself.

The SIG snakes have pushed Christ Jesus out of public schools and workplaces in order to blind everyone to the truth. They are becoming our gods. The free, liberal democracy is very much threatened in America. Our free society is becoming poisoned by the snakes.

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Can Artificial Intelligence Think Like a Human?

by Jeff ZweerinkMay 29, 2020

How close are we to developing machines that can understand and learn anything that humans can? Could such inventions eventually become self-conscious?

A great wealth of information exists regarding the pursuit of what scientists call artificial intelligence. Every now and again, I run across an idea that helps clarify a crucial issue surrounding the pursuit of an intelligence similar to humanity. Computer scientist Judea Pearl articulated one of those ideas in his book, The Book of Why, and titled it “the Ladder of Causation.” This three-level abstraction (see image below) helps identify the key steps to move from an artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) to an artificial general intelligence (AGI), meaning the entity would be able to think like a human being.

Rung 1: Seeing/Observing (“Association”)

The first rung of the ladder entails the ability to see and connect inputs with outcomes. The inputs and outcomes can be complicated and the connections rather hidden, so getting computer programs to do this still represents quite an accomplishment. Everything currently termed artificial intelligence (Siri, Alexa, language translators, facial/voice recognition, even driverless cars) sits on this rung of the ladder. These examples (all are ANIs) operate by using the available data to find correlations in order to make a decision following a predetermined algorithm.

Rung 2: Doing/Intervening (“Intervention”)

The next rung up the ladder of increasing sophistication adds the ability to intervene in an environment and respond appropriately. Pearl illustrates this change by two questions.

  • Rung 1: What is the likelihood that someone who bought toothpaste will also buy dental floss? Correlations in existing sales data will answer this question.
  • Rung 2: What will happen to floss sales if we double the price of toothpaste? In order to find a good answer to this question, one must intervene in the system to gather new data that addresses the question or develop a model that extrapolates from known environments to this new environment.

Scientists routinely exercise rung 2 skills. They ask a currently unanswered question about how the world works, perform experiments or observations to gather appropriate data, and then provide an answer/model that answers the question.

Rung 3: Imagining/Understanding (“Counterfactuals”)

On this top rung, one has the capacity to understand environments that don’t exist. According to Pearl, the toothpaste question becomes: “What is the probability that a customer who bought toothpaste would still have bought it if we had doubled the price?” In other words, this rung requires the ability to imagine something different than the physical world that already exists.

Humans consistently and effortlessly operate on this third rung. We routinely think about how things would be different if we had chosen the “other” option. The theological importance of this level is that humans recognize our place in this physical universe as well as the existence of reality completely separate from it. All the evidence to date indicates that only humanity operates on this intellectual plane. This evidence aligns well with the biblical idea that humanity alone was created in the image of God.

Not only does Pearl’s ladder of causation provide a great image of the challenges that lie ahead in the quest for true artificial intelligence, it also highlights humanity’s unique understanding of our place in the cosmos. And that fact affirms the validity of Christianity.Human Origins & AnthropologyArtificial Intelligence

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Things to Know about Artificial Intelligence

by Jeff ZweerinkApril 30, 2021

Do thoughts about artificial intelligence (AI) bring excitement or fear? Anticipation or dread? And how should we think about this as Christians? If these questions resonate with you, then you will want to check out the videos of RTB’s recent, three-session workshop, Artificial Intelligence: Ethics, Impact, and Christianity

John Lennox started the workshop with an overview of AI. His talk discussed the difference between narrow AI and general AI. Narrow AI learns to do a specific task or group of tasks where general AI has the capacity to learn across a broad spectrum of fields or skills. Although the latter seems relegated to the distant future, the former already exists and is becoming pervasive. As narrow AI continues to grow, we must recognize that the technology brings potential for good, but also harm. One key takeaway from Lennox’s session is the notion that many people are looking to AI to save humans from the perils that plague us, including death. However, Lennox notes that salvation has already been accomplished by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

Next, Jason Thacker spoke in his area of specialty, the ethical concerns surrounding technology. And AI certainly raises a plethora of them. The pursuit of general AI raises the question of what it means to be human—which Scripture answers directly by stating that we alone are the bearers of God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27). A second thing to consider as we pursue narrow AI is how to use it. We’ll be able to do facial recognition, automate various jobs, and develop autonomous weaponry. Although AI is a powerful tool, we can choose to use it for good or evil. Thacker wrestles with this question in the context of our postmodern society where ethics are difficult to determine and seem to vary from person to person. 

J. P. Moreland concluded the workshop by exploring the nature of intelligence and consciousness. The terms “weak AI” and “strong AI” are often used as synonyms for narrow and general AI. Moreland highlights one subtle but important difference between strong and general AI. Where general AI refers to an AI that has the capacity to learn across a broad spectrum of fields or skills, strong AI possesses an awareness of its ability to learn rather than just the ability to mimic human learning. Moreland then proceeds to provide a philosophical framework for understanding strong AI dubbed “machine functionalism.” At the basis of any naturalistic philosophy of mind or intelligence, machine functionalism holds that consciousness ultimately reduces to some arrangement of matter and the interactions between that matter. As a consequence, machine functionalism will inevitably diminish our view of consciousness.

Each session consists of an overview talk, followed by two panelists asking questions raised during the talk. Overall, the workshop provides a broad framework Christians can use to engage this challenging and exciting area of research. In my assessment, the pursuit of AI is inevitable. More importantly, if we are to use this powerful tool for good while mitigating the potential harm, we need to demonstrate the truthfulness of Christianity and lead the way in providing ethical guidance for all.

Resources

Artificial Intelligence

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A Virtual “Self-Aware” Predator

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Does Animal Planning Undermine the Image of God?
Does Animal Planning Undermine the Image of God?

A few years ago, we had an all-white English Bulldog named Archie. He would lumber toward even complete strangers, eager to befriend them and…Biology

Can Artificial Intelligence Think Like a Human?
Can Artificial Intelligence Think Like a Human?

How close are we to developing machines that can understand and learn anything that humans can? Could such inventions eventually become self-conscious?Human Origins & Anthropology

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Atomic Clocks Advance Cosmic Creation and Design Models

by Hugh RossApril 26, 2021

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. —Ecclesiastes 4:12

This Bible verse makes the point that a triple-braided cord or a group of three humans offers much greater strength and efficacy than a single-braided cord or a lone human. Physicists have discovered that this principle of three also applies to atomic clocks. Atomic clocks work by the natural oscillation of atoms, and each atom “ticks” at a different speed. These clocks have allowed the development of modern conveniences such as cell phones, GPS, and the internet. The clocks’ accuracy also carries significant relevance for exploring cosmic design features and developing more-detailed cosmic creation models.

Optical Atomic Clocks
Atomic clocks tick at a rate (billions of times per second) established by the frequency of light emitted or absorbed when an atom changes from one energy state to another. Atomic clocks based on different atoms run at different rates. An optical atomic clock is an atomic clock that runs at an optical frequency. There is growing experimental evidence that optical atomic clocks provide superior precision to cesium atomic clocks, which presently are the standard timekeeping devices for fundamental physics, global navigation satellite systems, and many other frequency standard applications.

Three of the world’s best optical atomic clocks are the strontium-87 clock at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) and the aluminum-27 and ytterbium-171 clocks at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), all in Boulder, Colorado. Each of these clocks has measured frequencies estimated to be correct within 2 parts per quintillion (2 parts in 1018) or better.1 These clocks gain or lose no more than 1 second over the entire age of the universe.

Potentially, optical atomic clocks are a hundred times more accurate than the best cesium atomic clocks. However, before the best optical atomic clocks can replace the best cesium atomic clocks as time-keeping instruments, physicists must first demonstrate reproducibility of optical atomic clock time measurements through a series of clock comparisons.

Optical Atomic Clocks Comparison Experiment
A team of 35 physicists at JILA and NIST, known as the Boulder Atomic Clock Optical Network (BACON) Collaboration, designed an experiment for comparing the timing measurements of the three optical atomic clocks in their possession.2 The comparison was especially robust because the three clocks are based on isotopes of three different elements, which means that each of the three clocks runs at a different rate.

The BACON Collaboration linked their optical atomic clocks (see figure) by two independent means: a 3.6-kilometer optical-fiber link and a 1.5-kilometer free-space link that sent laser pulses through the air between NIST and JILA. Both connection methods were successful. Clock comparisons were achieved by measuring clock frequency ratios using femtosecond-frequency combs (1 femtosecond = one quadrillionth of a second).

Figure: The Strontium-87 Optical Atomic Clock at JILA
Credit: NIST

The collaboration ran clock comparison experiments from November 2017 through to June 2018. The sum of the statistical and systematic uncertainties (2 methods, 3 clocks) in their frequency ratio measurements were 5.9 x 10-18 for the aluminum-27 and ytterbium-171 clocks, 8.0 x 10-18 for the aluminum-27 and strontium-87 clocks, and 6.8 x 10-18 for the strontium-87 and ytterbium-171 clocks (all tiny numbers). These measurements are the first reported clock frequency ratios with uncertainties below 1 x 10-17.

Scientific Applications and Philosophical Implications
Now that physicists possess clocks more than a factor of ten superior in their timekeeping capability, we can look forward to scientific advances, including some with broad philosophical and theological implications.

Climate Change
Some of the advances will provide more accurate and reliable determinations of the rates and locations of climate change. According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Earth’s gravity causes the frequency of an atomic clock to vary with the altitude of the clock. The altitude difference between two optical atomic clocks like those used in the NIST–JILA experiments can be determined to a precision of about 1 centimeter. Therefore, it is now possible to measure, unambiguously and accurately, even tiny changes in sea levels and ice sheet thicknesses around the world.

Driverless Vehicles
The same optical atomic clocks can be used to greatly improve our global positioning satellite (GPS) navigation systems. Right now, publicly available GPS navigation systems can determine what highway or road one is driving on and where one is on the road to an accuracy of about 10 meters. The application of optical atomic clocks like the ones at the NIST and JILA make possible GPS navigation systems that can track the position and movement of a vehicle or a cell phone to an accuracy of about 1 centimeter. Such systems will not only know what lane the driver is in but whether or not the vehicle is drifting in the lane. Such systems will make possible driverless vehicles and the elimination of vehicular accidents.

Cosmic Features
Radio astronomers have a lot to look forward to. With clocks like the ones at the NIST and JILA, they will be able to use their long baseline radio telescope interferometers to measure astronomical distances and produce maps of galaxies, black holes, and other cosmic structures to unprecedented precision. They may even be able to probe the physics of quantum gravity.

Nature of Dark Matter
The BACON Collaboration achieved an immediate scientific advance in their experiments. They used the clock frequency ratios to search for signs of interactions between ordinary matter (protons, neutrons, and electrons that strongly interact with photons) and dark matter (particles that do not or very weakly interact with photons). If ordinary matter (atoms) were to interact with dark matter through electromagnetic forces, such interactions would cause slight changes in the optical atomic clock frequencies. The BACON Collaboration detected no changes. In so doing, they established an upper limit to interactions between ordinary and dark matter that was nearly ten times lower than what physicists previously had determined. Soon-coming advances in optical atomic clock technology hold the potential of revealing the nature of dark matter particles and possible additional evidences for cosmic design.

Creation of the Universe
Philosophers and theologians can anticipate benefits in addition to new evidences for cosmic design. For example, these clocks will provide more definitive tests of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which is the foundation for the theorems that establish that a Causal Agent beyond space and time created the universe.3 These clocks can test to even greater precision the biblical claims (see, for example, Jeremiah 33:25 and Romans 8:20–22) that the fundamental constants governing the laws of physics do not change.4 Thanks to the technological advance (of the three clocks’ superior measurements) achieved by the BACON Collaboration, we all can anticipate more evidence for God’s existence and the inerrancy and predictive power of the Bible.

Endnotes

  1. S. M. Brewer et al., “27Al+ Quantum-Logic Clock with a Systematic Uncertainty below 10-18,” Physical Review Letters 123, no. 3 (July 2019): id. 033201, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.123.033201; Tobias Bothwell et al., “JILA SrI Optical Lattice Clock with Uncertainty of 2.0 x 10-18” Metrologia 56, no. 6 (December 2019): id. 065004, doi:10.1088/1681-7575/ab4089; W. F. McGrew et al., “Atomic Clock Performance Enabling Geodesy below the Centimetre Level,” Nature 564 (December 6, 2018): 87–90, doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0738-2.
  2. Boulder Atomic Clock Optical Network (BACON) Collaboration, “Frequency Ratio Measurements at 18-Digit Accuracy Using an Optical Clock Network,” Nature 591 (March 25, 2021): 564–569, doi:10.1038/s41586-021-03253-4.
  3. Christian Sanner et al., “Optical Clock Comparison for Lorentz Symmetry Testing,” Nature 567 (March 14, 2019): 204–208, doi:10.1038/s41586-019-0972-2; Masao Takamoto et al., “Test of General Relativity by a Pair of Transportable Optical Lattice Clocks,” Nature Photonics 14, issue 7 (July 2020): 411–415, doi:10.1038/s41566-020-0619-8.
  4. R. M. Godun et al., “Frequency Ratio of Two Optical Clock Transitions in 171Yb+ and Constraints on the Time Variation of Fundamental Constants,” Physical Review Letters 113, no. 21 (November 21, 2014): id. 210801, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.210801; Hugh Ross, “More Evidences for Biblical Claim of Unchanging Physics,” Today’s New Reason to Believe, June 22, 2020.

Laws of PhysicsParticle PhysicsUniverse Design

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How to Distinguish between Science and Scientism

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – MARCH 17, 2020

Science is truly one of the great intellectual enterprises that humankind has ever developed. But what exactly is science? Is it mainly a narrow method or practice for obtaining knowledge about the natural world? Or does it involve a broad philosophical system?

I respect and appreciate science and I enjoy interacting with scientists. But my background in logic and philosophy motivates me to ask critical questions that help me to understand just what science is and how it relates to beliefs, ideas, and truth in general.

Defining Science

According to the National Academy of Sciences, science is “the use of evidence to construct testable explanation and prediction of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.”1

The popular source Wikipedia offers a bit more of an expansive definition: “Science (from the Latin word scientia, meaning ‘knowledge’) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.”2

These two sources seem to define science more as a practice or method that involves observing nature and then developing predictive models about the natural world that can be tested for their explanatory power. Science understood this way—as a basic practice—is limited in obtaining knowledge about the natural world. Focused narrowly, science does not deny that there may be other sources of knowledge—such as philosophical and religious-based knowledge. This narrow definition of science also does not speak directly to broader worldview concerns like metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics (the meaning and purpose-oriented issues relating to ultimate reality, goodness, and beauty).

Defining Scientism

Some secularists go further than just viewing science as a limited practice. They have adopted a full-fledged science-oriented philosophy known as scientism. According to scientism, science confers genuine knowledge to humanity. In terms of epistemology (relating to knowledge), scientism takes two forms: (1) strong scientism says science is the only path to knowledge, and (2) weak scientism says science is the best path to knowledge.

Well-known scientists and outspoken atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Peter Atkins seem to advocate a strong scientism. They affirm that science can indeed answer the big questions of life concerning humankind’s meaning, purpose, and significance. Strong scientism thus tends to deeply depreciate the belief that knowledge can come from moral, aesthetic, and religious experience and sources.

Strong scientism also generally accepts two foundational assumptions—one metaphysical (relating to reality) and the other epistemological (again relating to knowledge).

First, metaphysically speaking, this robust version of scientism asserts that the material, physical universe is the sole reality. For example, to quote astronomer and secularist Carl Sagan: “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”3 Scientists who adopt a more complex view of reality by affirming a multiverse or many-worlds hypothesis extend reality beyond this present universe, but ultimately all reality is still only natural (material and physical in nature).

Second, epistemologically speaking, science is the only way of verifying truth claims about reality. Therefore a belief that is not scientific or doesn’t pass scientific scrutiny is considered false or meaningless. So the foundational question becomes: “Can you prove it scientifically?” This approach, again, seems to make moral, aesthetic, and religious knowledge superfluous.

The claims of strong scientism are both breathtaking and logically incoherent. For example, the assertion that the material, physical world is all that exists cannot be shown by science. And the claim that all truth claims must be scientifically verified cannot itself be empirically verified by science. Both claims, therefore, stand as self-referentially incoherent and thus false. Strong scientism cannot back up its extravagant metaphysical and knowledge claims.

Christianity and Science

The powerful enterprise of science was birthed, established, and ultimately flourished within the context of the Christian worldview.4 Christian scholars view science as extremely effective in explaining aspects of the natural world. Nevertheless, its focus is limited. Thus, the Christian worldview provides other sources of knowledge (moral, aesthetic, and religious) that help augment the genuine knowledge derived from science. In this way, Christianity provides answers to big questions—for example, is life worth living? or why be moral?—that science does not address.

Reflections: Your Turn

Why is it important to distinguish between science and scientism? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Endnotes
  1. “Some Frequently Asked Questions From Reporters,” National Academy of Sciences (website), Accessed March 9, 2020, http://www.nationalacademies.org/newsroom/faq/index.html.
  2. “Science,” Wikipedia, last modified February 29, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science.
  3. Sagan’s 13-part television series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980), opened with these words.
  4. For more about Christianity’s influence upon science, see Kenneth Richard Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 188–91.

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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Ancient Cave Art Strengthens Evidence for the Image of God

BY FAZALE RANA – MARCH 10, 2021MORESHARE

When our kids were little, we would decorate the refrigerator door with their artwork. They were so proud of their creations that they wanted them displayed for everyone to see.

Now that we have grandchildren, once again our refrigerator door has become adorned with what we consider to be artistic masterpieces made by little hands. Children seem to be born with an innate need to leave their mark on the world.

In fact, no matter how old we are, each of us is compelled to create. Some people produce art, music, and literature. Others design new technologies And others erect buildings. And, like little children, we want people to see and appreciate our work.

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.

Our capacity to create art, music, and literature hinges on our capacity for symbolism—an ability to represent the world around us with symbols. We even devise symbols to represent abstract concepts. And we can manipulate these symbols in countless ways to tell stories—stories about the way we think things are and imaginary stories about how we wish things would be. Our capacity to create art, music, and literature hinges on our capacity for symbolism—an ability to represent the world around us with symbols. We even devise symbols to represent abstract concepts. And we can manipulate these symbols in countless ways to tell stories—stories about the way we are. This open-ended generative capacity combined with our symbolic abilities even makes science and technology possible.

So, when did human symbolic and open-ended generative capacities first appear? Did they emerge suddenly? Did they appear gradually? Are these qualities truly unique to human beings or did other hominins, such as Neanderthals, possess them too?

If the biblical account of human origins is true, then I would expect that symbolic expression would be unique to modern humans and would coincide with our first appearance as a species. One way to address these questions is to seek after evidence of symbolism in the archaeological record. Artistic depictions serve as the most accessible proxy for symbolism among the artifacts left behind by modern humans and other hominids.

The Oldest Cave Art Discovered to Date
Recently, a research team from Australia unveiled the oldest figurative art discovered to date.1 Instead of being affixed to a refrigerator door, this artwork was depicted on the walls of the Leang Tedongnge cave, located on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Using a technique that measures uranium and thorium in the calcium carbonate deposits that have formed underneath and on top of the cave paintings, the researchers age-dated the paintings at over 45,000 years old.

These paintings were discovered in 2017 and consist of four warty pigs (Sus celebensis), creatures endemic to Sulawesi. The artists used red ochre, which gives the paintings a red/purple hue. Two hand stencils accompany the pigs. Only one of the pigs is complete. A large portion of the other three pigs has been lost due to erosion of the cave wall (which served as a canvas for the artwork). The intact pig measures over three feet in length. The head region of two of the three partial pigs has been preserved. Instead of facing in the same direction, the pigs appear to be facing off against one another. The researchers believe the artwork presents the viewer with a narrative of sorts, depicting social interactions taking place among the four pigs.

The Cave Art of Sulawesi
Prior to this discovery, archaeologists had identified and dated other art on cave walls in Sulawesi. Like the Leang Tedongnge cave art,  that work includes hand stencils and depictions of animals. But it was determined to be younger in age, dating to around 35,000 to 40,000 years old.2

In 2019, archaeologists published an analysis of a mural in a cave (called Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4) in the southern part of Sulawesi.3 The panel presents the viewer with an ensemble of pigs and small buffalo (anoas), also endemic to Sulawesi. This art dates to around 44,000 years in age.

The most provocative feature of the Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 artwork is the depiction of smaller human-like figures with animal features such as tails and snouts. Some of these figures are holding spears and ropes. Scholars refer to these human-animal depictions as therianthropes.

The presence of therianthropes in the cave art indicates that humans in Sulawesi conceived of things that did not exist in the material world. That is to say, they had a sense of the supernatural.

Because this artwork depicts a hunt involving therianthropes, the researchers see rich narrative content in the display, just as they see narrative content in the scene with pigs depicted on the walls of Leang Tedongnge.

When Did Symbolism First Appear?
The latest find in Leang Tedongnge solidifies the case that modern humans in Asia had the capacity for artistic expression as does other archeological evidence located throughout southeast Asia.4

And they used their artistic ability to tell stories.

The Asian cave art is qualitatively similar to the art found on the cave walls in Europe, yet it dates older. This insight means that modern humans most likely had the capacity to make art even before beginning their migrations around the world from out of Africa (around 60,000 years ago). In other words, this discovery pushes the origin of symbolic capacity closer to the time that modern humans emerged.

Anthropologist Christopher Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London notes that, “The basis for this art was there 60,000 years ago; it may even have been there in Africa before 60,000 years ago and it spread with modern humans.”5

This conclusion gains support from the recent discovery of a silcrete flake from a layer in the Blombos Cave of South Africa that dates to about 73,000 years old. A portion of an abstract drawing is etched into this flake.In fact, based on the dates of art made by the San, linguist Shigeru Miyagawa believes that artistic expression emerged in Africa earlier than 125,000 years ago.7

Consistent with the archaeological finds is recently discovered evidence that the globular brain shape of modern humans first appears in the archaeological record around 130,000 years ago.8  Some anthropologists believe that the globular brain shape correlates with the brain structures needed for symbolic expression. Interestingly enough, the Neanderthal brain shape was more elongated. This elongation forced a size reduction in the areas of the brain needed for symbolism. Nevertheless, claims of Neanderthal artistic expression abound in popular literature and appear in scientific journals, but a number of studies question these claims.9

When researchers assemble all the evidence from the fossil and archaeological records , a strong case can be made that only human beings display symbolism and open-ended generative capacity—scientific descriptors of the image of God. Of equal significance, the data also indicates that the origin of these two features occurs simultaneously and abruptly with our first appearance in the fossil record.

Far from challenging the biblical account of human origins and the biblical perspective on human nature, cave art demonstrates the scientific credibility of the biblical text—and this evidence is on full display for everyone to see.

Cave Art and the Image of God:

The Modern Human Brain:

Could Neanderthals Make Art?:

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Endnotes
  1. Adam Brumm et al., “Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi,” Science Advances 7 (January 13, 2021): eabd4648, doi:1126/sciadv.abd4648.
  2. M. Aubert et al., “Pleistocene Cave Art from Sulawesi, Indonesia,” Nature 514 (October 9, 2014): 223–27, doi:10.1038/nature13422.
  3. Maxime Aubert et al., “Earliest Hunting Scene in Prehistoric Art,”Nature576 (December 11, 2019): 442–45,doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1806y.
  4. Paul S. C. Taçon et al., “The Global Implications of the Early Surviving Rock Art of Greater Southeast Asia,” Antiquity 88 (December 2014): 1050–64, https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul-Tacon/publication/259979235_Recent_Rock_art_Research_in_Southeast_Asia_and_Southern_China/links/56d8c26508aee73df6cd02dc/Recent-Rock-art-Research-in-Southeast-Asia-and-Southern-China.pdf.
  5. Pallab Ghosh, “Cave Paintings Change Ideas about the Origin of Art,” BBC News, posted October 8, 2014.
  6. Christopher S. Henshilwood et al., “An Abstract Drawing from the 73,000-Year-Old Levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa,”Nature562(September 12, 2018): 115–18,doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0514-3.
  7. Shigeru Miyagawa, Cora Lesure, and Vitor A. Nóbrega, “Cross-Modality Information Transfer: A Hypothesis about the Relationship among Prehistoric Cave Paintings, Symbolic Thinking, and the Emergence of Language,”Frontiers in Psychology9 (February 20, 2018): 115,doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00115.
  8. Simon Neubauer, Jean-Jacques Hublin, and Philipp Gunz, “The Evolution of Modern Human Brain Shape,”Science Advances4, no. 1 (January 24, 2018): eaao596,doi:10.1126/sciadv.aao5961.
  9. Ludovic Slimak et al., “Comment on ‘U-Th Dating of Carbonate Crusts Reveals Neandertal Origin of Iberian Cave Art,’”Science361, no. 6408 (September 21, 2018): eaau1371,doi:10.1126/science.aau1371; Maxime Aubert, Adam Brumm, and Jillian Huntley, “Early Dates for ‘Neanderthal Cave Art’ May Be Wrong,”Journal of Human Evolution 125 (December 2018),doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.08.004; David G. Pearce and Adelphine Bonneau, “Trouble on the Dating Scene,”Nature Ecology and Evolution2 (June 2018): 925–26,doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0540-4.

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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.

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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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The Shroud of Turin, Part 2: An Examination of the Cloth

by Joseph BergeronApril 8, 2021

By Joseph W. Bergeron

The Shroud of Turin contains the faint image of a man identical to the biblical descriptions of the crucified Jesus. Interest in the Shroud of Turin intensified when a photograph in 1898 unexpectedly produced an enhanced, photonegative-like image of the man.1 In a previous post, “The Shroud of Turin, Part 1: An Examination of the Man,” we discussed a forensic medical examination of the man pictured on the cloth. In this post, we’ll examine the physical and chemical characteristics of the cloth and consider how the man’s image may have formed.

Examination of the Cloth
The Shroud of Turin measures 437 cm by 111 cm. The cloth is about 0.34 mm thick, with each thread containing 70–120 linen fibers.2 Microscopic examination reveals the man’s image is the result of yellow color found on the top two or three superficial fibers, each fiber ranging 10–15 micrometers in diameter, within the yarns of surface threads.3

Aside from blood stains and serum residue, bodily effluents were not found on the cloth.4 The blood stains contain heme, the oxygen-transporting porphyrin found in blood. Yellow-colored fibers forming the image were not found beneath blood or serum, indicating the image formed after the blood adhered to the cloth.5 The image formation did not damage the blood stains, indicating the image was formed by a mild process.6

Variation in color density on the image corresponds to the number of colored fibers per unit area rather than true color gradation. This is called the “half-tone effect.”7 Conversely, dye, paint, thermal energy, or gaseous reactants would have produced a color gradient.

Researchers found that “reflectance spectra, chemical tests, laser-microprobe Raman spectra, pyrolysis mass spectrometry, and X-ray fluorescence all show that the image is not painted with any of the expected, historically-documented pigments.”8 No fluid meniscus or cemented fibers were observed, ruling out the possibility of fluid application having been used to produce the image.9 No paints, dyes, or stains were discovered despite exhaustive testing.

Any form of radiation energy—thermal, electromagnetic, or particle—would have penetrated the fiber and altered the cellulose structure in order to produce the image. Cellulose was unaffected by the image formation, however.10

A fire almost destroyed the Shroud of Turin in 1532, applying a violent chemical test to the cloth in the process. The fire subjected the cloth to a thermal test which revealed that no pyrolysis products of medieval paint compounds were present, ruling out the possibility that the image of the man had been painted. And, despite water being used to douse the flames, the image remained unaltered, indicating it was not water soluble.11

How Old Is It?
In 1988 the cloth was carbon dated to AD 1260 to 1390, but this dating is considered invalid by many Shroud of Turin researchers due to flawed sampling protocol. All three test samples came from a single swatch of cloth cut from near the edge of the cloth rather than by random sampling.12 This area near the edge has anomalous weave patterns compared to the larger body of the cloth. Cotton fibers are mixed with linen in the radiocarbon samples, while the main body of the cloth is entirely linen. Moreover, cotton fibers appeared encrusted with pigment that nearly matches the color of the cloth.13 Altogether, samples used for the radiocarbon tests differ significantly from the main body of the cloth and suggest the samples came from a corner of the cloth that had been repaired by weaving cotton into the linen.

It is noteworthy that weaving clothing from two different materials goes against Hebrew law (Leviticus 19:19). Similarly, archaeological evidence indicates mixed material textiles were not used for Jewish burial shrouds in Jesus’s time.14

Physical and chemical characteristics of the cloth offer clues to its age that are not dependent on the carbon dating controversy. Making cloth in the first century started with spinning linen fibers into yarns of thread. When a spindle was full, the hank of yarn would be  bleached. Hanks of yarn were bleached separately, then woven into cloth stabilized with starch during weaving. The linen cloth was then washed with soapweed, Saponaria officinalis.15 Saponaria has hemolytic and preservative properties, explaining why the blood stains appear red rather than black.16

Linen threads within the Shroud of Turin are consistent with this ancient spinning and weaving method rather than medieval practices where bleaching was done after weaving the cloth was finished. Additionally, chemical tests on linen fiber growth nodes suggest the cloth is very old and predates the medieval period.17

One Possible Explanation
Evaporation drying after washing would leave a residue of polysaccharides (starch) on the surface of the cloth. Evolving amide gaseous compounds from the corpse could react with the polysaccharide residue by the Maillard reaction. Pigment byproducts from this reaction could bond to the starch residue and produce the image.

Chemical tests have confirmed the presence of starch on the cloth. The image color could be stripped off of linen fibers by adhesive tape, indicating that the color resides on a surface residue, not within the linen fiber. The color was removed with the reducing reagent, diimide, leaving unharmed colorless linen, indicating the image color was the result of complex double bonds.18 These findings are supportive of the Maillard reaction hypothesis. If the image was formed by the Maillard reaction, it would indicate the cloth was actually used as a burial shroud but removed from the body before liquid components of decay developed.19

Explanation and the Principle of Economy
Occam’s razor affirms that the hypothesis with the fewest special assumptions is most likely closest to the truth. Elaborate explanations involving radiation or thermal energy must be set aside when the image can be explained by a commonly observed low-temperature chemical reaction. The Maillard reaction offers a plausible explanation for how the image was formed.

The Shroud of Turin has physical and chemical characteristics consistent with an ancient burial cloth potentially dating to the time of Christ. It bears the image of a man unmistakably recognizable as the crucified Jesus. The image was not made by human hands. In spite of extensive scientific study, the Shroud of Turin has not been explained away as a fraud or hoax.

ENDNOTES
  1. Frederick T. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of JesusA Forensic Inquiry (New York: M. Evans), 205. The emulsion used by the photographer was more sensitive to blue color than the human eye, inadvertently producing an enhanced photograph. See also Raymond N. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective on the Shroud of Turin, ed. Barrie M. Schwortz (self-pub., Lulu, 2008), 17.
  2. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 174–75.
  3. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 14.
  4. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 240; Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  5. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 15–16.
  6. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 110.
  7. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 15.
  8. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  9. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 15; Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 242.
  10. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  11. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 12, 109.
  12. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 305; Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  13. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 303–13; Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 64, 66–68, 70, 76.
  14. Orit Shamir, “A Burial Textile from the First Century CE in Jerusalem Compared to Roman Textiles in the Land of Israel and the Turin Shroud,” SHS Web of Conferences 15 (February 27, 2015): 00010, doi:10.1051/shsconf/20151500010.
  15. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  16. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  17. The age of the shroud can be estimated between 1300 and 3000 years old. Raymond N. Rogers, “Studies on the Radiocarbon Sample from the Shroud of Turin,” Thermochimica Acta 425, nos. 1–2 (2005): 192, doi:10.1016/j.tca.2004.09.029; full article available at it/ROGERS-3.PDF (accessed March 2, 2021). See also Raymond N. Rogers and Anna Arnoldi, “Scientific Method Applied to the Shroud of Turin: A Review,” shroud.com/pdfs/rogers2.pdf (accessed February 12, 2021): 15–16; Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 41–42.
  18. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 109.
  19. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 102.

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

by Joseph BergeronApril 1, 2021

By Joseph W. Bergeron

The Shroud of Turin is a relic extraordinaire. It’s a linen cloth containing the front and back images of a crucified man matching the biblical descriptions of Jesus.1 Controversy surrounds the Shroud of Turin. Many believe it to be the cloth used to wrap Jesus’s body after crucifixion. Others wonder whether it’s merely an elaborate hoax.

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.

Roman Crucifixion
The crucifixion process began with the condemned being placed in the custody of a specialized team consisting of a group of soldiers supervised by a centurion. Scourges were made of leather strips with lead balls sown into the ends. Multiple soldiers participated in scourging the victim.2 Jesus’s beatings were doubly severe since he was beaten at the home of the Jewish High Priest before being delivered to the Romans for scourging prior to crucifixion (Matthew 26:67). Jesus was sentenced to death as a political insurgent: “the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37). This title heightened the ire of his Roman executioners who would have perceived Jesus’s crime as defiance of Caesar (Mark 15:16–20).

Roman executioners forced the condemned victim to carry the short, horizontal section of the cross (the patibulum) to the execution site. After nailing the victim’s hands to the patibulum, they lifted it with the victim attached and placed it on top of the stationary vertical section (the stipes) secured by a mortise and tenon joint. They then nailed the victim’s feet to the stipes.3

In most cases, the corpse was left on the cross to be eaten by scavenging animals,4 but upon request it could be obtained for burial instead. Prior to the body being released, it was likely common for the executioners to administer a coup de grâce to assure the victim was dead.5 Accordingly, before Jesus’s body was taken down a spear was driven through his chest (John 19:34). Additionally, the Roman governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate required verification of Jesus’s death before the body could be released for burial (Mark 15:45).

Burial Preparation
It appears that the man in the Shroud of Turin was washed before being wrapped.6 This is consistent with known Jewish funerary customs in the Second Temple period. Burial was completed the same day as the death. The body was washed, anointed with oils or perfumes, and wrapped in a shroud. Spices were placed within the shroud, sprinkled over the bier, or left in the burial site.Jesus was buried according to the Jewish customs of his time (John 19:40). The Gospels state that his body was wrapped in linen cloth (Matthew 27:59Mark 15:46Luke 23:52).

Jesus was buried hurriedly after a cursory and incomplete preparation due to his death occurring late on Friday, the eve of the Jewish Sabbath during Passover week. Women returned to Jesus’s tomb on Sunday to complete the burial preparation with spices and perfumes they had compounded (Luke 23:52–24:1). According to biblical accounts, the women found burial cloths in the tomb, but Jesus’s body was gone (Luke 24:12John 20:2–9).

Examination of the Man of the Shroud
The Shroud of Turin bares front and back images depicting a naked, bearded, long-haired man about 183 cm (~6 feet) tall. 8 The man likely weighed  approximately 70 kg (~154 lbs). Tortuous streams of blood are noted in the matted hair, front and back.9 Hair appears by the sides of the face. The neck is not visible. There is swelling of the forehead, brows, right upper lip, and jaw. The nasal cartilage is separated.10 The right eyelid may be torn.11 Hands are placed below the umbilicus (navel). Thumbs are not visible. There are more than 100 scourge marks. The right shoulder is lower than the left with abrasions noted on both shoulders.12 There is a large oval chest wound between the right fifth and sixth ribs.13 Blood flow is visible from the chest wound, scalp, and both hands and feet.

Forensic Analysis
The Shroud of Turin images depict multiple blows to the face consistent with descriptions in the biblical account (Matthew 26:6727:30). Blood streams from the scalp indicate puncture wounds consistent with a crown of thorns (Mark 15:17). Scourge marks match the size and shape of the lead pieces Romans sewed into the ends of their whips. The scourge marks are also bidirectional, appearing to come from both sides of the body, suggesting a team of executioners (John 19:1Mark 15:15–16).14

The chest wound is consistent with spear penetration, which would collapse the lung and rupture the right chambers of the heart. Copious drainage from the chest wound suggests blood mixing with a pleural effusion (fluid collection around the lung, typically clear). The presence of a clear pleural effusion and subsequent cardiac rupture is also suggested in the biblical description (John 19:34). A smudge of dried blood or clot appears below the chest wound. Blood drains from the chest wound to the back, indicating the body was laid supine after being wrapped. Blood flow from the hands and feet are consistent with nail punctures ( John 20:24–27 ).

The neck and legs appear flexed. This is best explained by rigor mortis, which can occur rapidly when the victim is in a high metabolic state at the moment of death, often the case in violent death.15 Nails through the wrists would tether thumb abductor muscles, flexing the thumbs over the palms, which explains why the thumbs are not seen in the image. Rigor mortis at the shoulders was overcome in order to reposition the arms in front of the body.

The Greater Meaning
The Shroud of Turin portrays an accurate depiction of Roman crucifixion. Moreover, the image of the man matches the unique features of Jesus’s execution recounted in the biblical accounts. Questions of authenticity aside, the Shroud of Turin offers a visual representation of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ and points to the greater significance of God’s forgiveness.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. —Ephesians 1:7

ENDNOTES
  1. Matthew 27:27–50; Mark 16:16–37; Luke 23:26–46; John 19:1–30.
  2. Joseph W. Bergeron, The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Medical Doctor Examines the Death and Resurrection of Christ (Rapid City, SD: Crosslink, 2019), 92.
  3. Bergeron, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 93.
  4. Bergeron, 143.
  5. Bergeron, 178 n281.
  6. Frederick T. Zugibe, “The Man of the Shroud Was Washed,” Sindon N.S., Quad. No. 1, June 1989 (accessed February 2, 2021). See also, Frederick T. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry (New York: M. Evans, 2005), 218–27.
  7. Rachel Hachlili, Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 480.
  8. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 190–91.
  9. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 190–91.
  10. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 192.
  11. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 179.
  12. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 195.
  13. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 196.
  14. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 195.
  15. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 189, 212.

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

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

by Kenneth SamplesMarch 2, 2021

“Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!”1

That was famous secular philosopher Bertrand Russell’s2 response when asked what he would theoretically say in defense of his unbelief if he found himself facing God on judgment day.

One of the common claims that atheists make in objection to God’s existence is that God is hidden. This “hiddenness of God” challenge may take the following forms:

  • If God exists, his existence is not as obvious as it should be.
  • If God exists, there should be more evidence.
  • If God wants people to believe in him, he has failed to make his presence adequately known.

So is God somehow hidden or concealed? And would such hiddenness constitute a substantive rational objection to belief in the biblical God?

A Historic Christian Response
Scripture is the place to begin addressing the question of whether God has made himself adequately known.

Revelation
The biblical religions of Judaism and Christianity are religions of revelation. That means they claim that God has unveiled himself in life and in the world. According to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, God has made himself known in four distinct ways.

  • In Nature

God has revealed himself to all people everywhere through the natural world (Psalm 19:1–4):

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

From this statement concerning God’s declared glory, biblical scholar Bruce Demarest draws the following conclusion: God’s existence, power, and glory are revealed in the natural world and are “perpetual and uninterrupted,” “wordless and inaudible,” and “worldwide in scope.”3

The apostle Paul’s writings in the New Testament comport with what King David wrote in the Psalms about God revealing himself in nature (Romans 1:18–21):

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Paul declares that all people see, understand, and know God. Moreover, unbelief is morally and epistemologically inexcusable. Fallen humans tend to suppress their knowledge of God so faith results only from special grace.

  • In Conscience

According to Scripture, God has made himself known to each and every person in more personal terms through their moral conscience (Romans 2:14–15):

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

In this passage Paul conveys that all people (both Jew and Gentile) have God’s moral law written on their hearts and thus possess an inner witness of God’s existence and basic moral requirements.

Based upon Paul’s statements above, reformer John Calvin developed what is known as the sensus divinitatis (Latin: “sense of the divine”). In the Institutes of the Christian Religion Calvin wrote:

“There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty.”4

Some Christian philosophers—as part of the New Reformed Epistemology following Calvin—have argued that belief in God is a properly basic belief. This means that a person is rational in believing it apart from other beliefs or evidence. It is similar to such beliefs as the existence of an external world, the reality of the past, and the presence of other minds besides one’s own.Thus, to these Christian thinkers belief in God can be confirmed through evidence and argument but it is not grounded by such.

  • In History

God revealed himself in history to his covenant people Israel. God communicated with his chosen Hebrew patriarchs, prophets, and kings. This divine revelation was ultimately encapsulated and explained by the inspired writers in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 18:18).

God’s even more specific self-disclosure comes in the historical incarnation of Jesus Christ as the God-man whose life, death, and resurrection atones for human sin and makes people right with God (John 1:1–4, 14):

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In his prologue of the fourth Gospel the apostle John states that God the Son has “pitched his tent” among us in human history (another way of translating “made his dwelling among us”) and made himself known in an up close and personal way. When people encountered Jesus Christ they were seeing God in the flesh.

  • In Scripture

Christians believe God’s revelation in history has been inscripturated in the biblical text. God inspired the writings of his Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles to produce the biblical canon (2 Peter 1:20–21)

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

To summarize, God has revealed himself in two books: the figurative Book of Nature (God’s world) and the literal Book of Scripture (God’s Word).

So from a biblical perspective God is not hidden the way skeptics claim. 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. And biblically speaking, the denial of God’s existence is not because of God’s absence but rather from the moral and spiritual obtuseness resulting from humanity’s rebellious and fallen condition (Psalm 14:1; Romans 1:18–21; 5:12, 18–19).

In the next article I plan to consider arguments that can also address the so-called “lack of evidence” objection.

Reflections: Your Turn
Is God’s apparent hiddenness a challenge for you? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Endnotes

  1. Michael J. Murray and Michael C. Rea, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 123–56.
  2. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was a British philosopher, logician, essayist, social critic, and one of the founders of analytic philosophy. Two of his significant works are A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1945) and Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957).
  3. Bruce A. Demarest, “Revelation, General,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984), 944–45.
  4. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion I.3.1, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. and ind. Ford Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 1, 43.

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The weight of evidence for a divinely designed universe is now so overwhelming that it has forced astronomers and philosophers who reject the God…Theology

A Conversation on the Life of the Mind, Part 4
A Conversation on the Life of the Mind, Part 4

Is it possible to please God as much by thinking as by praying? The answer is yes (though hopefully you’re also thinking while praying)….Logic & Reason

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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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