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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Is Christmas All About?

Posted by jlwile on December 21, 2012

"The Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst (Image in the public domain)

This will be my last post until after Christmas, so I decided to share one of the many Christmas plays I have written over the years. It is tough to do a good, original Christmas play, because the account of Christ’s birth is so well known and has already been depicted in many wonderful ways. However, I have taken a few stabs at it over the years, and the PDF you will find linked below is my latest attempt. We performed it at my church a few years ago, and people seemed to like it. More importantly, I do think it has a somewhat original take on the meaning of Christmas.

If you have read my other scripts, you will see that the play starts with my favorite device: a boring church service being interrupted by something unexpected and exciting. It is also heavy on monologues. Not all of my plays are like that, but when depth is called for, a monologue is one of the best devices I can use. I also tried to add humor to the script, because people need to laugh, even when they are considering weighty truths.

While you obviously don’t have time to use this play for this Christmas, feel free to use it for a future Christmas if you like it. Please give me credit for the script, and please buy the proper accompaniment track or music for each of the songs so that you perform them legally. Also, if you know of other songs that have the appropriate messages, feel free to replace the ones I have listed in the script. I suspect that the play could be done without music, but I do think the songs add to the message.

What is Christmas All About?

A Rorschach Test for Paleontologists

Posted by jlwile on December 19, 2012

This is the first of ten inkblots that compose the Rorschach test printed in Hermann Rorschach's book, Psychodiagnostik. (Public domain image)

Last week I discussed a fossil that isn’t a fossil at all. Instead, it is the result of mineralization processes that have no biological origin whatsoever. While introducing the subject, I mentioned the Cambrian Explosion and the headache that it produces for evolutionists. I also gave a link that shows the desperate attempts evolutionists have made to explain the Cambrian explosion don’t work at all.

A commenter tried to claim that the Ediacaran fossil assemblages offer an explanation around the Cambrian Explosion, but had he actually read the link that was provided, he would have known that they do not. Instead, the Ediacaran fossils cannot be connected in any reasonable way to the fossils found in the Cambrian. To emphasize this, I quoted from N.S. Sharma’s book, Continuity and Evolution of Animals:1

Although the stratigraphic distribution of Ediacaran fossils is clear enough, their biological interpretation remains controversial, providing what amounts to a Rorschach test. Several distinct body plans are represented. Most radially symmetric fossils plausibly represent polypoid organisms or the inflated holdfasts of colonial, dipoblastic animals–mostly unrepresented in the modern fauna. More complex fossils include a range of forms built of repeated, tube-like units. In a stimulating, if controversial proposal, Seilacher grouped such fossils into a clade that he christened the Vendobionta and viewed as an extinct experiment in multicellular organization. Others have questioned that interpretation, assigning various forms to colonial diploblasts or to stem members of several bilaterian clades. It is genuinely difficult to map characters of Ediacaran fossils into the body plans of living invertebrates. Long viewed as the principal problem of interpreting Ediacaran assemblages, this difficulty increasingly appears to be their central point. (emphasis mine)

A paper that was recently published online by the journal Nature demonstrates that Sharma’s characterization of these fossils is right on the money.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Not God’s Type

Posted by jlwile on December 17, 2012

I read an incredibly interesting book about another atheist-turned-Christian. In this case, it’s Dr. Holly Ordway, and while her conversion was quite different from mine, she was also heavily influenced by the objective evidence that supports the validity of the Christian faith.

My review was published by Apologetics 315. You you can read it there.

Paleontologists Found What They Were Looking for….NOT!

Posted by jlwile on December 12, 2012

A picture of a mineral formation that was widely interpreted as an animal fossil (Click for credit)

The Cambrian Explosion presents a serious headache for evolutionists. After all, the fossils found in Cambrian rock are supposed to be about 540 to 485 million years old. However, when you look at the complex animals preserved in such rock, you find every major body plan that exists in today’s animals. Worse yet, when you look in layers that are supposed to be older than Cambrian rock, you don’t find the supposed ancestors of these complex animals. Evolutionists have desperately tried to explain around the problem, but so far none of their explanations work.

In 2004, a ray of hope appeared. The journal Science published an article claiming to have found animal fossils that are 40-55 million years older than the Cambrian fossils. They also seemed simpler than the animal fossils found in Cambrian rock. These simple animals were called Vernanimalcula guizhouena, and the authors thought that they helped to mitigate the evolutionary headaches caused by the Cambrian Explosion. As the authors state in their paper:1

The morphology of Vernanimalcula demonstrates that the evolutionary appearance of developmental programs required to generate a multilayered bilaterian body plan preceded the entrainment of the growth programs required for macroscopic body size. Furthermore, the organization of these fossils, taken together with their provenance, indicates that the genetic tool kit and patter formation mechanisms required for bilaterian development had already evolved by Doushantuo times, long before the Cambrian. Therefore, the diversification of body plans in the Early Cambrian followed from the varied deployment of these mechanisms once conditions permitted, not from their sudden appearance at or just before the Cambrian boundary.

So these fossils showed that the Cambrian Explosion wasn’t an explosion at all. Instead, simpler versions of the complex animals that appear in Cambrian rock existed previously, and the Cambrian era simply represented a rapid diversification of a basic body plan that had already existed in a simpler form.

Of course, like many evolutionary propositions, once this claim was thoroughly analyzed, it was shown to be utterly false.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Young, Faint Sun Is Still a Problem

Posted by jlwile on December 10, 2012

More than three years ago, I wrote about the young, faint sun paradox. The problem is fairly simple: Based on everything we know about the thermonuclear reactions that power the sun, it is getting more luminous over time. In other words, the sun is producing more light now (on average) than it did in the past. As a result, the farther you go back in time, the dimmer it should have been. This presents a problem, because the dimmer the sun is, the cooler all the planets (including the earth) are. According to what we know right now, the earth would have been too cold to support life 3.6 billion years ago. Modern paleontology assures us, however, that there was life on earth at roughly that same time.

How do those who believe both modern paleontology and our current understanding of the sun resolve this problem? Unfortunately, the all-too-often response is to deny that there is a problem at all. For example, one old-earth website claims that this used to be a problem, but it has since been solved. It cites a 2010 study1 that merely suggested a possible issue that might reduce the problem. Based on that single study, the website proclaims:

The solving of this paradox provides us with a clear answer that is easily understood, and should eliminate this paradox from being used as evidence of a young earth. Once again, science has prevailed over the claims of young earth creationism.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, in just over one year, the very same journal published a paper that categorically showed that the solution proposed by the 2010 paper was insufficient. Even giving the proposed solution the widest possible latitude, it fell short of resolving the paradox by a factor of two!2

In fact, this problem is still so difficult to resolve in the old-earth view that the Space Telescope Science Institute hosted a two-day symposium in hopes of starting to find a solution to it.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Is A Knee Replacement on That Playlist?

Posted by jlwile on December 6, 2012

The "brains" of this surgical device is an iPod (Click for credit.)

Last month, I wrote an article about an experiment involving spiders and an iPod touch. The results of the experiment were interesting, but I also thought it was really cool that an iPod was integral to the experiment’s design. Well, I just learned about something that I think is is even cooler. It turns out that an iPod touch is being used to assist in knee-replacement surgeries!

The system is called “Dash,” and it is made by a company called Brainlab. It consists of several accessories, such as probes, that attach to an iPod touch. Once everything is sterilized, the surgeon can use the probes to make measurements on the patient while the surgery is in progress. The iPod can then do some calculations on those measurements and show an image that will help the doctor install the artificial knee as accurately as possible. It can also use its WiFi capabilities to send those results to any other device, such as an iPad, if the surgeon wants a larger, more detailed image.

Why would a surgeon use a device like this? Well, in order for the replacement knee to function well, it must be aligned properly. In conventional knee replacement surgeries, the surgeon inserts a metal rod into the femur (the bone above the knee) to help with this alignment. Unfortunately, that process can increase the risk of certain side effects, such as fat embolisms. When using this iPod-based device, there is no need for an alignment rod. In addition, a surgeon who has been using it for more than a year says that the device provides better alignment than the conventional method. This leads to a larger range of motion for the artificial joint. Also, patients experience less pain and swelling after surgery.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

There is No Such Thing…

Posted by jlwile on December 3, 2012

This tiny, transparent roundworm has amazing neurons. (Click for credit)

In my high school textbook, I try to emphasize the fact that there is no such thing as a “simple” life form. Even the most basic living organism is a marvel of amazing complexity. Consider, for example, the tiny roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, pictured on the left. It is only 1 millimeter long, and because it is transparent, it is very easy to study. In addition, because it’s nervous system is considered “simple,” it has been examined extensively in order to understand how animal nervous systems work.

Why is its nervous system considered “simple?” Well, the functional unit of an animal’s nervous system is the neuron, a sketch of which is given below:

A simplified sketch of a neuron (Image in the public domain)

These individual cells receive signals in their dendrites and transmit them through the cell body and down the axon. Most animal nervous systems are made up of many, many neurons. For example, in the part of the brain known as the cerebral cortex, cats have about 300 million neurons, dogs have about 160 million neurons, and chimpanzees have about 6.2 billion neurons. The animal with the largest number of neurons in the cerebral cortex is probably the African elephant, topping off at about 11 billion neurons, but the false killer whale comes in as a close second, at about 10.5 billion. By comparison, the cerebral cortex of a person contains about 11.5 billion neurons.1

The entire nervous system of C. elegans is a mere 302 neurons. That’s really simple compared to people and animals isn’t it? Well…not exactly.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »