A Limited-Time Special Offer From Great Homeschool Conventions

Homeschool Event of the Year!
2016 – Great Homeschool Conventions

**See special offer at the end of this article – Thanks to Dr. Wile.

Great Homeschool Conventions is excited to partner with National Center for Life and Liberty, with a special thanks to our Title Sponsor, WORLD News Group, to host four regional homeschool conventions once again in 2016!

Why would you want to attend a Great Homeschool Conventions’ event? Each year, we begin to build the coming year’s event with that question in mind. We love our homeschooling families and want to bring the very best to you. We strive to provide top notch homeschool conventions which encourage, inspire, and educate homeschooling families to continue to do what they do best – HOMESCHOOL!

This coming year’s events promise to be packed with GREAT speakers, a HUGE exhibit hall, and family friendly special events.

First, we gather the cream of the crop for speakers and put together the best line up possible. We have 40 – 50 featured speakers each year! There are over 230 speaking sessions presented at each event. Below is just a sample of our amazing speakers in 2016:

Ann Voskamp, John Stonestreet, Dr. Jay Wile, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Dr. Kathy Koch

Visit our featured speakers’ page for a complete listing. We also have other presenters providing general sessions covering a wide variety of topics of interest to homeschooling families.

We have several “tracks” which address very specific interests to homeschooling families:

Homeschool 101 Track will be presented by Janice Campbell.

Our Real Faith for the Real World Teen Track helps teens learn how to defend their faith in today’s world. John Stonestreet, Mark Mittleburg, Brett Kunkle, and Dr. Jay Wile will provide your teens with a wealth of information on how to address the tough issues they are faced with today.

We also have a Special Needs Track and Parenting Track.

At the Homeschool EVENT of the YEAR, you will also have the opportunity to shop ‘til you drop in the HUGE exhibit hall. The exhibit hall is filled with hundreds of booths that often offer special “convention discounts” on homeschool curriculum.

Giant Cow Ministries offers an action packed vacation Bible school type program complete with skits, songs, and a full range of activities. With a separate registration, your children can be signed up to attend this special “children’s conference” for children ages 3-12 at the SouthEast, Texas, and MidWest events, and ages 6 – 12 at the California event.

Each year, we search for special events which offer a learning experience or a fun night out for families to spend time together. This coming year, we are happy to have:

The Willis Clan performing at the SouthEast, Texas, and MidWest Homeschool Conventions.

Holocaust survivor, Dr. Inge Auerbacher will be educating families about the Holocaust and will be sharing her experience as a young child living in a concentration camp for three years. Dr. Auerbacher will be joining us for the SouthEast and MidWest events.

Comedian Bob Smiley will be performing for those attendees at the Texas Homeschool Convention.

Comedian Dennis Regan will be entertaining at the California Homeschool Convention.

At all four GHC events, professional Christian theatrical company, Friends of the Groom will perform their version of C.S. Lewis’ popular novel, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

We will see you there!

**SPECIAL OFFER: We greatly appreciate Dr. Wile speaking and exhibiting with Great Homeschool Conventions each year! In honor of Dr. Wile, we would like to offer his readers up to $30 off of special event tickets with the purchase of a family registration.

Register NOW >>> www.greathomeschoolconventions.com.
Use the coupon code: drwile2016. Thanks Dr. Wile!!

This limited time offer is only good for new registrations only. Prior purchases cannot be included. No refunds or exchanges / cannot be combined with any other offers. This offer expires on Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 at midnight.


SOUTHEAST Homeschool Convention, TD Convention Center, Greenville, SC, March 10-12, 2016

TEXAS Homeschool Convention, Fort Worth Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – March 17-19, 2016

MIDWEST Homeschool Convention, Duke Energy Convention Center, Cincinnati, OH, March 31 – April 2, 2016

CALIFORNIA Homeschool Convention, Ontario Convention Center, Ontario, CA, June 16 – 18, 2016

What are the differences between my old chemistry course and my new chemistry course?

The cover of my new chemistry course.

The cover of my new chemistry course.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might know that I recently wrote a new chemistry course. The publisher of my old chemistry course came out with a new edition, and they did not consult me. This happened with another course, and the result was excellent. However, the new edition of the chemistry course was riddled with errors. Many of the errors weren’t just typos or minor mistakes in the solutions to the problems. They were serious scientific errors that would put students at a disadvantage in their future studies. I asked the publisher to make my old chemistry course available for those who wanted to avoid such errors, but it refused. As a result, I wrote a new chemistry course, Discovering Design with Chemistry.

I was recently asked on Facebook about the differences between my old chemistry course and my new one. While I have touched on that issue in a couple of other posts, I thought I would provide a thorough answer to that question here.

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Jupiter May Not Shield Earth from Comets

An image of Jupiter as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

An image of Jupiter as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Years ago, I was editing an elementary-level science text, and I ran across a statement that didn’t make a much sense to me. The author said that Jupiter acted as a “shield,” protecting earth from comets that could hit it. I am not an expert in orbital mechanics, but I couldn’t understand how that would work. It’s true that Jupiter is quite massive; therefore, its gravity would tend to attract comets towards it. However, it seemed to me that its gravity could just as easily attract comets toward the inner solar system (where the earth is) as deflect them away from it. Thus, I didn’t see how Jupiter could do what the author suggested.

So I did a little research, and I found a paper from 1995 that seemed to support the author’s contention. The focus of the paper was the hypothetical formation of gas giant planets like Jupiter, but one thing it noted was:1

…terrestrial planet systems physically similar to ours may be abundant but hazardous unless protected by gas giant planets.

This seemed to support the idea that Jupiter “protects” earth from comets, so I didn’t suggest any changes to the author’s statement. However, I still avoided making such a statement in my own textbooks (as least I think I did), because the physics of the claim still did not make any sense to me.

Well, yesterday I attended two lectures by Dr. Kevin R. Grazier at Anderson University, where I am an adjunct member of the faculty. Dr. Grazier is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but that’s not why I wanted to listen to his lectures. He is also a science consultant for television shows and movies, and I wanted to learn more about how that works. I have served as an unofficial science consultant for one yet-to-be-produced screenplay, but I was really interested to learn how the process works in productions that are actually being made.

The more he talked about his experiences, the more interested I became, because I learned that he has consulted for some of my favorite television shows. He was the science consultant for Eureka, Defiance, Falling Skies, and the reboot of Battlestar Galatica. Aside from the first series (which I never really got into), those are some of my favorite television shows! In fact, had Battlestar Galatica ended more reasonably, I would probably call it the best science fiction series that has ever been on television. Because of its awful ending, however, I rank it just under Babylon 5, which every science-fiction fan should watch in its entirety. He also was the science consultant for Gravity (one of the more scientifically-accurate space movies) and will soon start working on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

While his experiences with films and television shows were fascinating, and while he did confirm my thoughts regarding “scilebrities” Bill Nye and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, it was something he said about his scientific research that inspired this post.

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Is There An Undiscovered Planet in Our Solar System?

This is an artist's depiction of what 'Planet Nine' might look like. (click for credit)

This is an artist’s depiction of what ‘Planet Nine’ might look like. (click for credit)

On August 24, 2006, the the International Astronomical Union (IAU) passed a resolution declaring that Pluto is not a planet. This caused a lot of consternation, since Pluto had been considered a planet for more than 70 years. What caused this “demotion?” Starting in about 1992, astronomers began discovering other bodies orbiting the sun in a similar fashion. Astronomers began to ask, “If Pluto is a planet, should we consider these other bodies to be planets as well?” The issue really came to a head in 2005, when the body now called Eris was discovered. Its orbit around the sun is similar to that of Pluto, and it was originally thought to be more massive. If Pluto is a planet, then, Eris has to be considered a planet as well.

So, a decision had to be made: Are there 10 planets (or more) in the solar system (including Eris and possibly some of these other Pluto-like bodies), or is Pluto not really a planet? In the end, the IAU decided that Pluto and similar bodies in the solar system aren’t really planets. They are dwarf planets, and that brought the number of true planets in our solar system down to eight. Recently, however, two astronomers have suggested that there are actually nine planets in the solar system, because there is a very large, undiscovered planet lurking quite far from the sun.

For many years there have been suggestions that a ninth planet has been out there, but generally speaking, the evidence for its existence has been rather slim. Recently, however, two well-respected astronomers published a paper in a well-respected journal that laid out some indirect evidence for the existence of Planet Nine. While I don’t consider the evidence to be very strong, it’s certainly worth discussing.

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Review of Shadow of Oz

shadow_ozDr. Wayne D. Rossiter earned his Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from Rutgers University in February of 2012 and is currently an assistant professor of biology at Waynesburg University. His book, Shadow of Oz, has already caused me to write two blog posts (here and here). In one of those posts, a commenter called Rossiter’s book a “must read,” and I have to agree. While I have issues with some of the content, on the whole it is a valuable addition to the wealth of information that has already been written on the subject of origins. As a result, I encourage you to read this book and seriously think about its contents.

In some ways, the main thrust of his book is obvious: the standard view of Neo-Darwinism (random mutations filtered by natural selection) is incompatible with the Christian faith. I don’t know many people who would disagree with that statement. Nevertheless, the way Rossiter makes that point is rather profound. Early on in the book, for example, he gives five extended quotations from different authors regarding the history of the universe. The first and fourth are from Dr. Carl Sagan (atheist), the second is from Dr. Richard Feynman (atheist), the third is from Dr. Richard Dawkins (atheist). The fifth is from Dr. Karl Giberson (Christian who is a staunch evolutionist). The passages are indistinguishable, and that’s the point. As Rossiter says:

I could have chosen any number of brief atheistic accounts of the history of the universe, and not one of them would differ in any functional way from the one offered by Giberson. (p. 25)

Rossiter’s discussion of Dr. Kenneth Miller’s views on origins is equally insightful and perhaps even more damning. He shows that, like Giberson, the “creation” account that Miller believes is indistinguishable from that of an atheist. Further, he shows in rather stark terms just how confused Miller is when it comes to what he believes. For example, Rossiter quotes Miller as saying that he tells his students that he believes in Darwin’s God. However, as Rossiter makes clear, that statement is pure nonsense:

…as Miller admits earlier in his book, Darwin was not a believer in God. He became a staunch agnostic, who demanded strict naturalistic answers for life’s workings. As so, it’s quite appropriate that Miller should claim to share Darwin’s view. (p. 163)

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Another Bad Sermon Illustration

A shepherd in Wales (click for credit)

A shepherd in Wales (click for credit)

My first post on a bad sermon illustration led a person on Facebook to ask me about a different sermon illustration. That also turned out to be a bad one. Well, that post led another person on Facebook to ask about another sermon illustration:

If a shepherd has a sheep that is always straying and getting into trouble, sometimes what the shepherd will do is break two of the sheep’s legs. Then the shepherd would set the bones and carry the lamb on his shoulders. It would take about five to eight weeks for the sheep’s bones to heal, and in that time, the lamb would grow closer to the shepherd. Once the sheep was well, he wouldn’t want to stray anymore because of the bond that developed between him and his master.

Maybe something traumatic has happened in your life because this is God’s way of breaking your legs.

Like the other two sermon illustrations I wrote about, this one is false. Breaking an animal’s bone is a risky business, and it causes an enormous amount of trauma. In addition, there are chances for complications, poor recovery, etc. In his classic book The Sheep, William Arthur Rushworth discusses what you should do with a sheep that has a broken leg.1

A sheep will, as a rule, nurse a broken leg and make a good recovery if the parts have been properly dressed, but unless the animal be a valuable ram or ewe, especially desired for breeding purposes, it is best not to try treatment, but to turn the animal at once over to the butcher.

I could not find any work from any reputable source that indicates a shepherd would ever intentionally break a sheep’s leg.

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Using Pigeons to Diagnose Cancer?

Dr. Pigeon examines a microscope image of tissue to see if it is cancerous. (image from the article being discussed)

Dr. Pigeon examines a microscope image of tissue to see if it is cancerous.
(image from the article being discussed)

Pigeons are surprisingly smart birds. Quite a while ago, I wrote about how pigeons can learn to solve probability problems better than some people. In addition, homing pigeons can use sound to find their way back home. Now here’s a new way of looking at the intelligence of pigeons: they can use their pattern-recognition abilities to find cancer in microscopic images of tissue!

In the study, researchers put 16 pigeons in a box with a computer screen (shown above). They were shown microscopic images of breast tissue, some of which indicated the presence of cancer, and some of which did not. There were two “buttons” on the computer screen, one on each side of the image. One button represented the answer “this image shows cancer,” and the other button represented the answer “this image does not show cancer.” Each pigeon was free to choose either button, and if the pigeon was correct, it got a pellet of food.

At first, of course, the pigeons’ answers were random. Over time, however, they learned to look at patterns in the image, and within a matter of hours, they were identifying cancer at a rate that was superior to random guessing. Within a month, they were spotting cancer with about an 80% accuracy rate. The most interesting effect, however, was obtained when several birds were shown an image and their combined answers were used to determine whether or not cancer was present. When that was done, the accuracy of the diagnosis was 99%, which is about as good as a trained person!

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Universal Genetic Code? No!

The basic process by which proteins are made in a cell. (click for credit)

The basic process by which proteins are made in a cell. (click for credit)

I am still reading Shadow of Oz by Dr. Wayne Rossiter, and I definitely plan to post a review of it when I am finished. However, I wanted to write a separate blog post about one point that he makes in Chapter 6, which is entitled “Biological Evolution.” He says:

To date, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which houses all published DNA sequences (as well as RNA and protein sequences), currently acknowledges nineteen different coding languages for DNA…

He then references this page from the NCBI website.

This was a shock to me. As an impressionable young student at the University of Rochester, I was taught quite definitively that there is only one code for DNA, and it is universal. This, of course, is often cited as evidence for evolution. Consider, for example, this statement from The Biology Encyclopedia:

For almost all organisms tested, including humans, flies, yeast, and bacteria, the same codons are used to code for the same amino acids. Therefore, the genetic code is said to be universal. The universality of the genetic code strongly implies a common evolutionary origin to all organisms, even those in which the small differences have evolved. These include a few bacteria and protozoa that have a few variations, usually involving stop codons.

Dr. Rossiter points out that this isn’t anywhere close to correct, and it presents serious problems for the idea that all life descended from a single, common ancestor.

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Another Bad Sermon Illustration

An adult bald eagle in flight (click for credit)

An adult bald eagle in flight (click for credit)

I posted my previous blog article on my Facebook page, and someone asked about another sermon illustration that involves eagles. A typical version of that illustration is:

To convince the little eagles that the time has come to leave the nest, the parent eagles “stir up the nest.” That is, they rough it up with their talons, and make it uncomfortable, so that sticks and sharp ends and pointy spurs stick out of the nest, so that it is no longer soft and secure, ruining their “comfort zone.” The nest is made very inhospitable, as the eagles tear up the “bedding,” and break up the twigs until jagged ends of wood stick out all over like a pin cushion. Life for the young eaglets becomes miserable and unhappy. Why would Mom and Pop do such a thing?

But to make matters worse, then the mother eagle begins to “flutter her wings” at the youngsters, beating on them, harassing them, and driving them to the edge of the nest. Cowing before such an attack, the little eagles climb up on the edge of the nest. At this point, the mother eagle “spreads her wings” and, to escape her winged fury, the little eagle climbs onto her back, and hangs on for dear life. As if that were not enough, then the mother eagle launches out into space, and begins to fly, carrying the eagle on her back. All seems safe and serene, the little eagle never expected such a thrilling ride — but that was nothing to what was to come shortly. For suddenly, without any warning, the mother eagle DIVES, plummeting downward, depriving the little eagle of its “seat,” and the next thing it knows, it is in free fall, falling, and tumbling down, down, down, in the air, its wings struggling to catch hold of the air currents, but flopping crazily due to its inexperience. For it must learn to flow, and there is nothing like “experience” to teach an eagle to fly! Instinct alone is not enough!

Just at it thinks all is hopeless and lost, however, the mother eagle swoops down below and catches it once again on its back, and soars back into the atmosphere. Much relieved, the young eagle hangs on for dear life. But just when he thinks everything is “OK” once again, the mother pulls another sneaky trick, and dumps him into the air, alone, again! Once again, the little eagle struggles, this time his wings begin to work a little better, and instead of tumbling like a rock pulled by gravity to certain destruction below, he manages to slow his descent, and is able to stay aloft a little longer, as his wings begin to strengthen. Again, if necessary, the mother eagle rescues him from death, and soars back into the heavens. But just as he thinks everything is finally “hunky dory,” she does it again! And down he goes! Finally, he learns how to catch the air currents and ride the winds, and begins to soar “like an eagle” — and now experiences the thrill of total “freedom” and “liberty”! Now he is no longer confined to the parameters of the nest. Now he is free to soar in the sky, and to be a true “eagle.”

Like the previous one I wrote about, there is nothing true in this illustration.

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A Bad Sermon Illustration

An adult bald eagle in flight (click for credit)

An adult bald eagle in flight (click for credit)

A student who has used some of my science courses contacted me asking if something he heard in a sermon was actually true. He said that it sounded kind of hard to believe, based on what he knew about science. The student’s question made me happy for two reasons. First, it showed that he was diligent in trying to learn the truth. Second, it showed that he was able to take what he had learned from my science courses and use it to do some critical thinking.

Here is one version of the story he heard:

The eagle has the longest life-span among birds. It can live up to 70 years, but to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40’s, its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food. Its long and sharp beak becomes bent. Its old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to its chest and make it difficult to fly. Then, the eagle is left with only two options: die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain-top and sit on its nest. There, the eagle knocks its’ [sic] beak upon a rock until it plucks it out. After plucking it out, the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its talons. When its new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its old-aged feathers. After five months, the eagle takes it famous flight of re-birth and lives for 30 more years!

The idea, of course, is that change is hard, but if you make the change, great things can happen. While this is an inspiring tale, almost nothing in it is true. Let’s just start from the beginning and work through the story, comparing what the story claims to what we know about eagles.

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