College Professors’ Impressions of Homeschool Graduates

A happy college graduate (click for credit)

A happy college graduate (click for credit)

Many of my readers probably know that I started working with homeschoolers because of my experiences with homeschool graduates when I was on the faculty at Ball State University. As a group, they were not only academically superior to their peers, but they were also significantly more well-adjusted. I often share this fact when I am speaking to homeschool audiences, so it didn’t surprise me when a homeschool blogger (Michelle) sent me some questions about my experiences with homeschool graduates at the university level. As I indicated to her, I have experienced homeschool graduates at both a secular university (Ball State) and a Christian university (Anderson University). Based on my experiences, I can state with some confidence that, on average, homeschool graduates excel at the university level, be it in a secular or Christian environment. Several studies back up those experiences (see here, here, here, here, and here).

Michelle told me that she was writing a blog post about professors’ impressions of homeschool graduates, and she asked me four specific questions. I answered them as best I could and then (like many things) promptly forgot about it. Yesterday, I received another email from Michelle, telling me that she had finished the project and had published her post. After reading it, I decided that I had to share it. I think it provides some really valuable insights, especially for parents who are currently homeschooling and want their children to pursue higher education.

Unlike the studies that I spend a lot of my time discussing, the results of her survey of college professors is not scientific. It has a tiny sample size and makes no attempt to be representative of the population of college professors as a whole. Nevertheless, it is incredibly valuable, because the college professors who were surveyed offer some excellent advice to homeschooling parents, and they provide perspectives about homeschool graduates in higher education that would be hard to measure in a more scientific survey.

I strongly encourage you to read the entire article, but I do want to offer a bit of “color commentary.”

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More Archaeological Evidence Supporting Scripture

An aerial view of Khirbat Qeiyafa, which is most likely the Biblical city of Shaaraim. (click for credit)

An aerial view of Khirbat Qeiyafa, which is most likely the Biblical city of Shaaraim.
(click for credit)

It has become fashionable among many Biblical scholars to doubt the historical veracity of the Old Testament. In particular, whereas the Old Testament characterizes Israel at the time of King David as a large empire with active trading over long distances, some popular Biblical scholars characterize it as a simple, agrarian society. In addition, while the Old Testament speaks of King David as a civilized king who ruled over an impressive empire, these same scholars claim that he was more of a tribal war chief. National Geographic, for example, describes how Dr. Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, characterizes Israel and its king:

During David’s time, as Finkelstein casts it, Jerusalem was little more than a “hill-country village,” David himself a raggedy upstart akin to Pancho Villa, and his legion of followers more like “500 people with sticks in their hands shouting and cursing and spitting — not the stuff of great armies of chariots described in the text.”

Like many of today’s scholarly ideas, Finkelstein’s view is completely at odds with the scientific evidence, but that rarely stands in the way of a popular ideas, especially among those who study the Bible!

More than three years ago, I wrote about excavations taking place at a city called Khirbat Qeiyafa. The city has been dated to the 11th-century BC, and in that article, I discuss the fact that it contains a palace that the archaeologists think might have belonged to King David. Whether or not the palace belonged to David, the remains of the city clearly indicate a sophisticated kingdom like the Old Testament describes, and the archaeological evidence found in the excavation indicates that it was most certainly an Israelite city.

New archaeological evidence from that excavation goes further in debunking views like those of Finkelstein and adds even more evidence for the historical veracity of the Old Testament. Interestingly enough, this new evidence was first discovered by an amateur!

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Ark Encounter Attendance Reported to be High

A view of the Ark Encounter (click for a larger image)

A view of the Ark Encounter (click for a larger image)

In early August, I toured the Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter. Overall, I was impressed with the facility, and I thought that regardless of your view on origins, it would be a very interesting place to tour, if you can afford it. Of course, there are those who aren’t as favorably disposed towards the Ark Encounter, and they have a different view. Because I try to read all sides of an issue, I visited several anti-Ark websites prior to and after my visit, and many of them claimed that The Ark Encounter wasn’t getting a lot of visitors (see here, here, here, and here, for example.). I didn’t quite understand that, because the day I went (a Thursday in August), the place seemed pretty crowded. As I noted in my article, I had to wait 20 minutes to see one exhibit, because of the long line of people.

That’s why I was interested to read the December 31st entry on Ken Ham’s Blog. In that post, Mr. Ham lists seven ways that God blessed Answers in Genesis in 2016, and number three is:

Number of guests at the Ark. We’ve seen nearly 500,000 guests visit the Ark Encounter since it opened. Almost half a million people—including skeptics—have been encouraged to trust God’s Word and the gospel through the Ark!

The Ark Encounter opened on July 7, 2016. As of December 31, then, it had been open for a bit less than half a year. Thus, it seems likely that by July 6, 2017, the Ark Encounter could have as many as a million guests, perhaps more.

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Another Atheist Who Became a Christian

Dr. Yingguang Liu is on the faculty at Liberty University. (click for source)

Dr. Yingguang Liu is on the faculty at Liberty University. (click for source)

I recently read a very interesting interview with Dr. Yingguang Liu, who was born and raised in rural China. From as early as he remembers, he was taught atheism, and he didn’t know anyone who had religious beliefs. He lived an impoverished life but was an excellent student. Upon graduating high school, he was accepted into medical school and ended up earning his Bachelor of Medicine degree. Because he had experienced patients with hepatitis, he wanted to find a cure, so he earned his Master of Medicine degree in order to do medical research. However, he quickly became disillusioned. In his words (which are similar to those of Dr. Judith Curry):

During those years, I learned something about the negative side of science. The equation for a scientific career was: Science + politics = grants = fame + fortune. I was disillusioned by the monopoly and hypocrisy of the scientific community.

As a result of his disillusionment, Dr. Liu decided to work as a physician. He spent four years as an infectious disease expert at Jinan Infectious Diseases Hospital. He then moved to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. at Ohio State University, and that’s where he first met Christians.

A Chinese Bible Study group had printed advertisements for a picnic, and he attended it, not really knowing what the group was all about. He said that he was he was attracted by their friendliness and welcoming smiles, so he started attending their Bible study. During their first winter break, he went to a Chinese Christian Conference in Chicago with the group, and at the end of one of the messages, he accepted Jesus Christ as his “Saviour, Master, and Friend.”

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Climate Scientist Resigns Because of the “Craziness” of the Field

Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry (click for source)

Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry
(click for source)

Dr. Judith Curry holds an earned Ph.D. in geophysical sciences from The University of Chicago. For the past 14 years, she has been on the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and for the majority of that time, she was the chairperson of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She has authored 186 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has two books to her credit. By any objective measure, she is a giant in the field of climate science.

I wrote about Dr. Curry more than six years ago, when Scientific American branded her a heretic. What was Curry’s heinous crime against science? She didn’t toe the party line when it came to global warming. She didn’t claim that global warming wasn’t occurring, and she didn’t claim that people aren’t responsible. Instead, she simply started stressing the real uncertainties involved in climate science. That, of course, is an unpardonable sin, and as a result, she is routinely demonized by those who know significantly less than she does about climate.

Why has she decided to resign, even though she has not reached traditional retirement age? She discusses this on her blog, and I encourage you to read the entire article. Like most of the entries on her blog, it is thoughtful and revealing. She mentions several factors that have contributed to her resignation, and then she says this:

A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide… [emphasis mine]

The sad fact is that her observations are 100% accurate, and they can be applied to at least one other field of scientific inquiry – the investigation of origins.

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Lichen Kept This Secret from Scientists for Almost 150 Years!

The stringy stuff hanging on this tree is a lichen from the genus Bryoria. (click for credit)

The stringy stuff hanging on this tree is a lichen from the genus Bryoria.
(click for credit)

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am fascinated by mutualism – the phenomenon where two organisms of different species work together to benefit one another (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example). Creationists expect such relationships to be common throughout nature, and at least one line of research seems to indicate that some organisms are designed to produce them. I suspect that we understand very little about this amazing process, and it is probably more common than most scientists think.

Consider, for example, the longest-studied mutualistic relationship. Way back in 1867, Swiss botanist Dr. Simon Schwendener proposed that a lichen (like the one pictured to the left) is not a single organism. Instead, it is composed of two different organisms, a fungus and an alga (the singular form of algae), that work together so that each benefits. His hypothesis was rejected by the scientific consensus, but as has been the case throughout the history of science, the consensus was demonstrated to be wrong, and Dr. Schwendener was vindicated. Nowadays, the lichen is one of the most common examples given to explain the concept of mutualism. The alga does photosynthesis and shares its food and oxygen with the fungus, while the fungus supports the alga and supplies it with water and salts.

You would think that since Dr. Schwendener proposed this mutualistic relationship nearly 150 years ago, scientists would know pretty much everything there is to know about lichen. However, there was one major mystery that hadn’t been solved over that entire timespan – how can genetically similar lichen be so wildly different? The picture above, for example, is of a specific lichen, Bryoria fremontii. Another lichen from the same genus, Bryoria tortuosa, is composed of the same species of fungus and the same species of alga. From a genetic standpoint, the fungus and alga in both lichens are virtually identical. Nevertheless, one lichen is brown while the other is yellow. In addition, one produces a chemical known as vulpinic acid, while the other does not.

How can two lichen composed of genetically-identical partners look and behave so differently? We may now know the answer, which has been hiding in plain sight for almost 150 years!

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An Atheist Becomes a Christian After Reading The Lord of the Rings

The view from inside Bag End. (Photo by Kathleen Wile)

The view from inside Bag End. (Photo by Kathleen Wile)

If you hadn’t already guess it by now, I am a nerd. As a result, you will probably not be surprised by the fact that I have been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings since I first read the series in the late 1970s. More importantly, however, I am married to one of the world’s biggest fans of the trilogy. She knows pretty much everything about the books and their talented author, and in her mind, they tell the best fictional story ever told. She also liked the movies that were made based on the books, even though she had some issues with them. As a result, when we went on a speaking tour of New Zealand several years ago, we wanted to see at least some of the sites where the films were made.

Pretty much the only place that looks anything like it did in the movies is Hobbiton, the town where Bilbo Baggins lived. My wife and I toured it eagerly and were thrilled to learn that we could actually go into Bilbo’s “home,” Bag End. In actuality, the inside of Bag End seen in the movies wasn’t at the Hobbiton set. It was on a sound stage somewhere else. However, the owners had excavated a small cave behind Bag End’s entrance. We went in, and she took the photo you see above, allowing us to always remember the view from Bag End.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I ran across a very interesting article entitled, I Was an Atheist Until I Read “The Lord of the Rings.” The title alone is intriguing enough, but longtime readers of this blog are probably aware that I collect stories about atheists who became Christians. If this story isn’t a perfect fit for my blog, then, I don’t know what is!

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Evolutionists Couldn’t Have Been More Wrong About Antibiotic Resistance

A colony of bacteria similar to the one analyzed in the study being discussed.  (click for credit)

A colony of bacteria similar to the one analyzed in the study being discussed. (click for credit)

Back when I went to university, I was taught (as definitive fact) that bacteria evolved resistance to antibiotics as a result of the production of antibiotics. This was, of course, undeniable evidence for the fact that new genes can arise through a process of mutation and natural selection. Like most evolution-inspired ideas, however, the more we learned about antibiotic resistance in bacteria, the more we learned that there was a problem. It turns out that some cases of antibiotic resistance in bacteria were not caused by antibiotic-resistant genes. Instead, they were caused by the deterioration of genes that exist for other purposes. For example, the Anthrax bacterium can develop resistance to a class of antibiotics called quinolones, but it is the result of a mutation that degrades the gene that produces gyrase, the enzyme that those antibiotics attack. This allows the bacterium to survive the antibiotic, but the degraded gyrase gene causes the bacterium to reproduce much more slowly.

There are, however, specific genes found in bacteria that do produce proteins which fight antibiotics. It was generally thought that these genes arose through mutation and natural selection in response to our development of antibiotics. However, we now know that this just isn’t true. Antibiotic-resistant genes existed long before people developed antibiotics. I first wrote about this more than five years ago, when researchers found bacterial, antibiotic-resistant genes in permafrost alongside mammoth genes. Obviously, people weren’t making antibiotics when mammoths were alive. Thus, those genes existed long before human-made antibiotics. Later, I wrote about researchers who found bacterial, antibiotic-resistant genes in fossilized feces from the Middle Ages. Once again, this shows that antibiotic-resistant genes have been around long before our development of antibiotics.

Now an even more impressive study has been released. In it, researchers analyzed the DNA of a bacterium from the genus Paenibacillus. These bacteria form colonies, such as the one shown in the image above. The colors in the image indicate the density of bacteria – the brighter the yellow color, the higher the density of bacteria. While this genus of bacteria has been found in many, many environments, the specific species analyzed in the study was special: it has been living in a cave that has been isolated from the modern world. In fact, the cave is so isolated that no animals had ever ventured into it. When the researchers analyzed the DNA of this bacterium, they found all sorts of antibiotic-resistant genes.

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Confirmation of Feathers On A Dinosaur?

Image of a remarkable feathered fossil preserved in Amber.  (from the paper being discussed)

Image of a remarkable feathered fossil preserved in Amber. (from the paper being discussed)

At university, I was taught (as definitive fact) that the scales on reptiles slowly evolved into feathers. While you can still find this idea in popular literature, serious evolutionists no longer suggest it, because there is simply too much evidence to the contrary. Most evolutionists today suggest that feathers, scales, and hair all evolved from a common ancestral structure. I am sure that if serious scientists are still discussing flagellate-to-philosopher evolution in 50 years, there will be yet another idea of how these structures evolved.

Because evolutionists no longer think that feathers evolved from scales, the currently-fashionable thing to teach as definitive fact is that at least some (if not all) dinosaurs had feathers. The problem is that solid evidence to back up this “fact” has been sorely lacking. There are some dinosaur fossils that give hints of feathers, but there are alternate interpretations of what those hints mean. There are other fossils that clearly show feathers, but it’s not clear the fossils are of dinosaurs.

Now all that has changed, at least according to some sources, because of a recently-reported fossil. The remarkable specimen (pictured above) is part of a tail that has been encased in amber. The amber has preserved both the bones in the tail and the feathers that covered it, giving paleontologists a superb sample to analyze. While the results of the analysis are not conclusive, I do think that they add to the case that at least some dinosaurs had feathers.

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Memes: Spreading False Ideas Since 1980

heisenberg

If you have spent much time on the internet, I am sure you have seen memes like the one shown above. They usually contain a picture and some sort of message. I really enjoy the funny ones, but I typically don’t like the serious ones. It’s not because I don’t enjoy being serious. It’s because you rarely know whether or not the information in the meme is trustworthy. Consider, for example, the meme shown above. It attributes a quote to Dr. Werner Heisenberg, a giant in the field of quantum mechanics. Indeed, his work continues to guide our understanding of the atomic world. I fully agree with the quote, and I deeply respect Dr. Heisenberg. There is only one problem: the meme is almost certainly false.

A Facebook friend posted it on my wall because she knew that I would agree with it. However, I had read a lot of Heisenberg’s work, and the quote didn’t seem to fit the person who I had come to know through my reading. Consider, for example, his main work on the relationship between science and religion. It is called “Scientific Truth and Religious Truth,” and it was published in 1974 (two years before his death) in Universitas, a German review of the arts and sciences. In that work, he seems to argue that science and religion each arrive at truths, but the truths are unrelated to one another. Consider, for example, his own words:

The care to be taken in keeping the two languages, religious and scientific, apart from one another, should also include an avoidance of any weakening of their content by blending them. The correctness of tested scientific results cannot rationally be cast in doubt of religious thinking, and conversely, the ethical demands stemming from the heart of religious thinking ought not to be weakened by all too rational arguments from the field of science.

This is a common view among religious scientists. It often called the “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” (NOMA) view, and it was championed by Dr. Stephen Jay Gould, an ardent evolutionary evangelist who died in 2002. I strongly disagree with the NOMA view, so when I read Dr. Heisenberg’s work, I was disappointed that he seemed to hold to it.

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