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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just Making Sure That Horse Is Really Dead…

Posted by jlwile on October 29, 2011

I have written two posts about people who have mischaracterized the views of C.S. Lewis when it comes to evolution (you can read them here and here). At the risk of beating a dead horse, I want to write one more.

In both of my previous posts, I mention an article by Dr. Jerry Bergman. In that article, Dr. Bergman tries to make the case that C.S. Lewis is a “creationist and anti-evolutionist.” I think that my posts have done a good job of showing that Dr. Bergman is simply wrong. Dr. Lewis cannot be described as either a creationist or an anti-evolutionist. I have shared my posts with the author and with the people at Creation Ministries International, the organization that runs the website that published the article. Unfortunately, neither the author nor Creation Ministries International feels the need to retract it. Indeed, in a personal communication with Dr. Bergman, I was told that he had found C.S. Lewis scholars who agree with him. He did not provide the names of those scholars, however, even though I asked for them.

As a result, I decided to see if I could find any C.S. Lewis scholars who agree with Dr. Bergman on this issue. I went to the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s website. This is a wonderful organization that “…is dedicated to advancing the renewal of Christian thought and creative expression throughout the world of learning and the culture at large.” As a part of meeting that mission, the foundation has a study centre at “The Kilns,” Dr. Lewis’s former home in Oxford. I sent Dr. Bergman’s article to the foundation, asking them to have one of their scholars review it to see if it was a reasonable discussion of C.S. Lewis’s views on evolution.

A few days ago, I received a wonderful reply to my question. The author was humble, gracious, and very insightful. It started with these words:1

I am not entirely sure if I should be described as a “Scholar”, in fact I am pretty sure that I should not, but the folk at The Kilns have sent your question on to me.

He went on to give me his answer, some of which will appear below the fold. In that answer, he referred to Dr. Lewis as “Jack.” This is what his close friends and family called him, so as I read the message, I assumed that this man knew C.S. Lewis really well. As I reached the bottom of the message, I read his name: Douglas Gresham. If you don’t recognize the name, it is C.S. Lewis’s younger son. Lewis adopted both Douglas and his older brother, David, when he married their mother, Joy. When Joy lost her battle with cancer, Lewis continued to raise Douglas and David. He dedicated The Horse and His Boy, one of the books in his acclaimed Chronicles of Narnia series, to both of them. Douglas is a producer for all the Chronicles of Narnia movies, and he strives to make them follow the books as closely as they possibly can. He also appears as a minor character in each movie.

I think it is safe to say that Mr. Gresham is probably one of the few people alive today who knows what C.S. Lewis really believed when it comes to all manner of things, including evolution. Do you want to know what he said about Dr. Bergman’s article?

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Add Water’s Quantum Forces to the List of Things that Are Finely-Tuned for Life

Posted by jlwile on October 26, 2011

Waves on the surface of water (click for credit)

Water is a strange chemical. It’s molecular formula is H2O, but it is quite different from other chemicals that have a similar formula. For example, the chemicals H2S, H2Se, and H2Te are all gases at room temperature. However, H2O is a liquid at room temperature. Why? Because unlike similar molecules, water molecules are strongly attracted to one other. This causes them to stay unusually close to each other. While a small amount of energy allows similar molecules move far from one another, water molecules like to “snuggle close.” As a result, it takes a lot of energy to pull water molecules away from each other. This makes water a liquid at temperatures where most similar chemicals are gases.

In addition, water has the unusual property of expanding when it freezes. Most chemicals shrink when they freeze, which means that the solid phase is more dense than the liquid phase. As a result, the solid form of most chemicals will sink in the liquid form of the same chemical. Not so for water. Instead, solid water (ice) easily floats in liquid water. It turns out that this is really wonderful, because when a lake freezes, the ice floats on top. As the ice layer gets thicker, it insulates the remaining liquid water below. The practical upshot is that as long as a lake is deep enough, it will never freeze completely solid. That’s nice, because it guarantees the lake’s fishes have somewhere to go, even in the coldest of weather.

If water didn’t have such nice properties, life as we know it would not be possible. Exactly why does water have these properties? Because of a phenomenon called hydrogen bonding. In this process, a hydrogen atom on one water molecule is strongly attracted to the oxygen atom on another water molecule. As a result, the hydrogen atom on one water molecule and the oxygen atom on another water molecule tug on each other, pulling the molecules close to one another. In other words, a weak “bond” develops between two different water molecules. This hydrogen bond is very effective at keeping the water molecules close together. In fact, it is so effective that water molecules must actually pull away from each other a bit in order to form the structure necessary to make ice!

While this is the explanation given in all relevant textbooks (including the ones I wrote), there has always been a bit of a mystery associated with it. Now, this mystery seems to have been resolved.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Another Point About C.S. Lewis

Posted by jlwile on October 24, 2011

About three months back, I posted an essay about how people mischaracterize the views of C.S. Lewis to make it look like he agreed with them on some issue. In that essay, I cited Dr. Michael L. Peterson, an evolutionist, who deliberately edited a quote by C.S. Lewis to make it sound like he was an ardent evolutionist. I then cited Dr. Jerry Bergman, a young-earth creationist, who ripped several of Lewis’s quotes waaayyyyy out of context to make it look like C.S. Lewis was an anti-evolutionist. As I said in my essay, neither of the authors is correct. In fact, C.S. Lewis was an evolutionist, but his faith in evolution was never very strong. He thought it might not be the last word on origins, and at minimum, it would require direct intervention by God at certain key points.

I have gotten some flack from a few of my fellow young-earth creationists for calling Dr. Bergman out on his mischaracterization of C.S. Lewis. However, I am very familiar with all of Lewis’s published works, and there is no doubt that Dr. Bergman was simply not being honest in his portrayal of Lewis. The problem is, most people are not very familiar with Lewis’s work. As a result, it is hard for the average reader to notice when people like Dr. Bergman and Dr. Peterson quote him in such a way as to mischaracterize his views.

Well…there is a popular expression: “Actions speak louder than words.” As I was searching for something in a book I read years ago, I stumbled across the fact that C.S. Lewis performed a specific action which definitively shows, contrary to Bergman’s claims, that C.S. Lewis was certainly not an anti-evolutionist.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Making Something 100% Efficient Is No Problem For God!

Posted by jlwile on October 21, 2011

A model of ATPase. The rotor portion (purple) turns as H+ ions pass through, and the synthesis portion (green) uses that energy to force two molecules (ADP and P) to join together to make ATP. (click for credit)

When you eat food, your body digests it, sending chemicals from the food to your cells. When your cells receive simple sugars like glucose, they are burned for energy. However, that energy is mostly produced in one part of the cell: a small organelle called the mitochondrion. The cell needs energy in many different locations, however, so the energy that comes from burning simple sugars is “packaged” into smaller units that can be distributed throughout the cell. The units are stored in molecules called ATP. When the cell needs energy, it breaks down the ATP, releasing the energy that has been stored there.

So a cell takes the energy that comes from burning simple sugars and stores it in small units that are held in a molecule called ATP. The ATP is then shipped to where the cell needs it, and when that part of the cell requires energy, ATP is broken down so that the energy is released. The two molecules into which it is broken down (ADP and P) eventually make their way back to the mitochondrion, so that they can be put back together to store another unit of energy. The process by which all this is done is mind-bogglingly complex. Ask any biochemistry student who is required to memorize all the chemical reactions that take place in order for this to happen in a cell!

Now we know that this process is not only mind-bogglingly complex, but part of it is nearly 100% efficient!

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

A Positive Step for the National Science Foundation

Posted by jlwile on October 19, 2011

Since 1979, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has been producing a study entitled Science and Engineering Indicators. It is a quantitative review of science and engineering progress in the United States and the rest of the world. One chapter from that report is called “Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding,” and it attempts to assess how the people of the United States view and understand science compared to the people in the rest of the world. The way they try to gauge the public’s understanding of science is to produce a survey that asks questions such as, “How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun?” and “True or False: The center of the earth is very hot.”

For 20 years now, two of the True/False questions on that survey have been:

Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.

The universe began with a huge explosion.

According to the journal Science, two expert panels formed by the NSF’s governing body, the National Science Board, have suggested changing these two true/false questions to:1

According to evolutionary theory, human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.

According to astronomers, the universe began with a huge explosion

The National Science Board has decided to ask the NSF to make that change on half of the surveys given out next time to see what effect it has on the results. This suggestion has infuriated some, but I see it as a very positive step for the NSF.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

So Far, It’s Hard To Find Negative Effects from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Posted by jlwile on October 17, 2011

This mangrove snapper (Lutjanus griseus) is a member of one of the species whose population has increased since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. (Click for credit)

I have posted three separate articles (here, here, and here) about how the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) has recovered remarkably well from the Deepwater Horizon disaster that dumped about 140,000 tons of oil into it. The bacteria that have been designed to remove oil from the ocean have done an amazing job at cleaning up the mess we made. Of course, just because the oil is mostly gone, that doesn’t mean there won’t be serious, long-term consequences to the gulf. Thus, there is still a lot of scientific evaluation to be done on the matter. As a result, some scientists are hard at work trying to discover what they can about the current ecological health of the GOM.

Marine scientists F. Joel Fodrie and Kenneth L. Heck Jr. decided to see if there were any consequences to the populations of important fish in the area where the oil was spilled. To do this, they tallied the numbers of juvenile fish retrieved from that area by marine research ships between mid July and late October for the years 2006-2010. Since the oil spill occurred in April of 2010, many of the juvenile fish retrieved in 2010 would have been hatched from eggs that were laid in the oil-polluted waters. In addition, once those eggs hatched, the fish larvae would be swimming around in oil-polluted waters. As a result, the scientists thought that there would be a noticeable drop in the number of juvenile fish retrieved in 2010. As they note:1

We hypothesized that the strength of juvenile cohorts spawned on the northern GOM continental shelf during May–September 2010 in the northern GOM would be negatively affected by egg/larval-oil interactions. Oiled seawater contains toxic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which, even after weathering, can result in genetic damage, physical deformities and altered developmental timing for fish eggs/larvae…Additionally, emulsified oil droplets could mechanically damage the feeding and breathing apparatus of relatively fragile larvae and further decrease individual fitness.

Was their hypothesis correct? Not even close.

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This Is One Smart Spider!

Posted by jlwile on October 11, 2011

The Eurasian diving bell spider (Argyroneta aquatica) is a truly fascinating animal. It lives almost its entire life underwater, but it breathes air. Of course, that’s not very unusual. There are aquatic species of reptiles (like sea turtles and sea snakes) and mammals (like dolphins and manatees) that must breathe air as well. There are even some species of fish (like the Betta – a favorite among aquarium owners) that must breathe air in order to live.1 These reptiles, mammals, and fish regularly rise to the surface to breathe the air that exists above the water. If they are unable to do so, they will drown. The Eurasian diving bell spider does something different, however. As you can see in the video, it brings the air underwater and stores it in a large bubble, which is usually called its “diving bell.”

How does it accomplish this feat? It spins a silken web underwater that holds the air. That way, the spider doesn’t have to return to the surface to breathe. It just has to return to its diving bell. As you can see in the video, once the spider has caught prey, it expands the bell and crawls inside so it can eat its prey in the comfort of an oxygen-rich environment.

While this is all quite amazing, it is not new. The habits of Eurasian diving bell spiders and other, similar species have been known for quite some time. However, up until now, many scientists have thought of a spider’s diving bell as the equivalent of a scuba tank: a one-time supply of air that must be continually replaced. Not surprisingly, new research has shown that it’s significantly more complex than that!

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Despite Their Protests, Evolutionist Do Depend on “Junk DNA,” and LOTS of It!

Posted by jlwile on October 8, 2011

As important functions are found for more and more junk DNA, some evolutionists are trying to claim it is not all that important to evolution.

Once Susumu Ohno coined the term “junk DNA” and called it the remains of extinct genes1, junk DNA started to become the darling of the evolutionary community. First, it was seen as an effective argument against creationism or intelligent design. After all, why would the Creator put so much useless DNA into His creation? More importantly, however, it was considered an integral component of evolution. After all, evolution requires that genetic mutations acted on by natural selection produced genes with novel functions. However, it is difficult to expect that to work when the mutations occur in genes that the organism needs. Thus, one of the major mechanisms of genetic evolution involves gene duplication. In this view, a gene is duplicated, and one copy continues to produce the protein it always produced, while the other is free to mutate wildly. Waving the magic wand of time, the evolutionist then says that a large number of these mutating copies will become useless junk, but a small number of them will develop into novel genes. As you can see, then, junk DNA is integral to evolution, and according to evolution, most organisms should have a lot of it.

This, of course, is why Dr. Jerry Coyne says the following in his book, Why Evolution Is True:2,

When a trait is no longer used, or becomes reduced, the genes that make it don’t instantly disappear from the genome: evolution stops their action by inactivating them, not snipping them out of the DNA. From this we can make a prediction. We expect to find, in the genomes of many species, silenced, or ‘dead,’ genes: genes that once were useful but are no longer intact or expressed. In other words, there should be vestigial genes…Our genome—and that of other species—are truly well populated graveyards of dead genes.

Unfortunately for evolutionists, function is routinely being found for this supposed “junk DNA.” As a result, some evolutionists have realized that they need to back away from the claim that junk DNA is integral to the process of evolution.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

David Barton Needs a Fact-Checker

Posted by jlwile on October 3, 2011

I recently received this video via E-MAIL. The subject line of the message was “What you won’t be taught in school.” That intrigued me, so I watched the video. It is of a man named David Barton who is leading a tour of the U.S. Capitol. According to his company’s website:

David Barton is the Founder and President of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious and constitutional heritage….His exhaustive research has rendered him an expert in historical and constitutional issues and he serves as a consultant to state and federal legislators, has participated in several cases at the Supreme Court, was involved in the development of the History/Social Studies standards for states such as Texas and California, and has helped produce history textbooks now used in schools across the nation.

As I listened to just the first part of the video, however, something seemed off…way off. So I decided to do a little fact-checking. Now I am not a historian, but I am able to do some investigative research. When I checked the facts on just one segment of the video, I was rather disappointed.

I don’t normally do this, but I ask that you watch the video before you read the rest of this piece. You needn’t watch the entire thing. Just watch from 0:40 to 1:26. It’s only 46 seconds of video, but it allows you to see just how wrong he is, at least in that section of the video.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »