Science Fiction Convention – WOOT!

I will be speaking at PHILCON again this year. This has become a yearly tradition that just keeps getting more enjoyable. My good friends Richard Stout, Christopher Stout, and JJ Brannon will be there, and we always have an awesome time.

This should be a better-than-usual convention for two reasons:

1. My old college room mate, Frank Wu will be there. He has made quite a name for himself in fantasy art, and I haven’t seen him since college.

2. While I normally speak on how realistic the SCIENCE part of “Science Fiction” is, this year, I am especially excited to be on a panel about one of my obsessions, World of Warcraft. It should be a hoot. Philcon always gives you a sign to put in front of you when you speak on a panel, but I am thinking of making a special one for this talk:

Convertmaker, Champion of the Frozen Wastes

As that is my main character on World of Warcraft.

Because I spend most of my time people-watching (there is NO better place to do that than at a science fiction convention), I won’t have time to do any blogging. Look for something after Thanksgiving!

Darwin’s Legacy: A Biblical Worldview

I have a stack of journals and other periodicals that I read in order to keep up on what is going on in the world of science. Currently, I am working on the ones that came in late July. However, for some reason, the March 23 issue of Answers Update from Answers in Genesis got mixed up with the late July materials. As a result, I just read this:

The horrible school shooting in Finland in 2007 is a prime example. The killer stated: “I am prepared to fight and die for my cause . . .I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit…It’s time to put NATURAL SELECTION & SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST back on tracks!” This student was only carrying out in practice what he had been taught concerning origins, as well as the lack of purpose and meaning he found in life. Herein lies Darwin’s terrible legacy, which has affected all modern cultures. 1

In other words, Charles Darwin left behind a terrible legacy – one of violence and evil. Many other Christian works say similar things. For example, a book that claims to give people a “Biblical Worldview of God and Truth” says:

Darwin’s Tragic Legacy…his 1859 book…gave rise to the controversial theory of evolution. Sadly, 150 years later, modern evolutionary theory has become the basis for most biological studies and is taught as fact in our schools and universities, despite the truth that scientists are no closer to proving the theory after all this time. Meanwhile, the biblical account of God’s creation of the universe is no longer taught in most schools due to legal challenges brought by those who do not believe in God or the authority of His Word. 2

So according to this book, Darwin left behind a tragic legacy that has destroyed modern education.

Of course, both statements are seriously incorrect. Darwin certainly did not leave a “tragic” or “terrible” legacy. In fact, Darwin was a great scientist who left us a rich legacy of solid scientific data and conclusions. Sure, some of what he believed was wrong, but that can be said of almost every great scientist from the past. More importantly, a lot of what Darwin believed is correct. In fact, the great irony of all this is that both sources I quoted are from young-earth creationists, and without Darwin, it would be impossible for young-earth creationists to have a Biblical worldview!

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Poor PZ

As I have said before, PZ Myers is my favorite atheist. He says exactly what he thinks (no matter how stupid it is) and does so in an engaging, witty way. For example, this is probably my favorite PZ Myers piece I have ever read. It lampoons my position, but it is awesome!

So I had to feel a little sorry for him when someone with a BA in mathematics was able to fluster him during a Q&A session:

P.Z. Myers’ evolutionary equivocation

Of course, the physicist mentioned in the article also did a good job of showing how little evidence means to poor PZ.

I Get Mail

I get all sorts of E-MAIL and snail mail from students who have used one or more of my books and are now excelling at university. However, I thought this one was worthy of a post.

Bethany B. wrote (a real letter!) to tell me that she used four of my books in high school (at home) and then read another “for fun” over the summer after her senior year. When she went to Winthrop University, she decided to study music and nutrition. She noticed, however, that she was not only incredibly well prepared for her science courses, but those courses were also much more interesting than the courses related to her major.

In the end, she changed to a double major in biology and chemistry. She ended up graduating cum laude and was accepted into a biological and biomedical sciences PhD program at Harvard. It is students like Bethany – those who get serious training in high school, university, and graduate school – who will shape what science becomes in the future.

God Bless you Bethany, and I hope Harvard is ready for you!

40,000 Generations of Escherichia coli Data Support the Creationist View of the Genome

Jeffery E. Barrick and his colleagues have published the results of one of the most interesting evolution experiments I have ever read.1 Actually, the genius behind this experiment is Richard E. Lenski, who is on the author list as well. Lenski started an experiment with E. coli almost 20 years ago, and it is still producing excellent results. Essentially, the experiment followed twelve populations of E. coli over all those years. The focus of the paper was one of those twelve populations.

In the experiment, the bacteria were grown on a minimal medium with glucose as a limiting nutrient. Each day, a small sample of the culture was removed and placed in a fresh medium. Periodically, samples were frozen so that they could be analyzed in detail at any time.

Thanks to the wonderful technology we have today, the entire genome of E. coli can be sequenced in a “reasonably short” amount of time. So this paper reports on the results of comparing the genome of the original bacterium to that of the bacteria after 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, and 40,000 generations. The results were “rather surprising,” according to the authors.

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Science’s Blind Spot – Part 2

In my previous post about this book, I discussed how the author, Cornelius Hunter, makes the strong case that reliance on naturalism alone in science causes a blind spot. If you restrict your science to only naturalistic processes, you will never be able to know whether or not what you are studying can possibly be the result of a naturalistic process. Instead, you will keep trying to force a naturalistic explanation onto systems and processes that might not be naturalistic in origin.

After establishing this fact, he discusses how it plays out in the biological concept of evolution. Since science is committed to only naturalistic processes, questions such as the origin of life and the origin of the various species must be the result of some natural process, regardless of whether or not the data indicate this. As a result, scientists are continually trying to force the data to indicate evolution, whether or not evolution is a good explanation of the data

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Science’s Blind Spot – Part 1

Cornelius G. Hunter has a Ph.D. in Biophysics and Computational Biology and is an Adjunct Professor at Biola University. He spends most of his time doing research, specifically in the area of molecular biophysics. His first two books (Darwin’s God and Darwin’s Proof) did not impress me. Don’t get me wrong – I essentially agree with the views presented in them. Darwin’s God said that evolution is not the same as atheism and, in fact, Darwin was actually trying to “glorify” God by removing Him from the sordid details of nature. As pointed out in that book, Darwin clearly didn’t believe in the God of the Bible, but he clearly did believe in God and sought to make this God more powerful by essentially saying that He created the natural laws that ended up allowing organisms to create themselves.

In his second book, Darwin’s Proof, he shows that common features in organisms don’t imply common ancestry, and he gives plenty of scientific evidence to show that the general principles of macroevolution (one kind of organism evolving into another kind) are clearly wrong. While both books present many truisms, neither added much to what is already known about Darwin or the misuse to which scientists have put his views.

Science’s Blind Spot is Hunter’s latest book, and it is superior to both of his previous ones. In this book, Hunter attempts to explore the benefits of naturalism in science as well as its limitations. Clearly Hunter has spent a lot of time thinking about this, and his insights are both interesting and refreshing.

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It Doesn’t Take Much to Destroy Dawkins

As The Irrational Atheist shows, it doesn’t take much to destroy the arguments of the New Atheists. The arguments of Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. are simply no match for a computer game designer armed with a few facts. Indeed, Dawkins couldn’t even hold his own against a former political speechwriter.

Well, it turns out that it doesn’t even take a computer game designer or former political speechwriter to make Dawkins look like an idiot. Even a radio talk show host can do it. Hugh Hewitt is an attorney who has a radio talk show that I have never heard. However, someone sent me the transcript of his discussion with Dawkins, and after reading it, I had to admit feeling sorry for poor old Richard. Of course, it’s not his fault. His position is so weak that such embarrassments are inevitable.

Kicking and Screaming

I am a nuclear chemist. I chose to be a nuclear chemist because studying the nucleus fascinates me. It’s amazing enough to study something we can never hope to actually see, but the fact that the nucleus is shrouded by clouds of electrons makes the job all the more fun.

Because I am a nuclear chemist, there are certain things I don’t want to believe. For example, I don’t want to believe quantum mechanics is wrong just because it is incompatible with general relativity. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want general relativity to be wrong, either. Black holes, white holes, and wormholes are just far to fun to ever want to give up! Nevertheless, if I have to choose one of those two theories to be wrong (because they are incompatible), I will to choose general relativity, because quantum mechanics works so incredibly well when it is applied to small things like the nucleus.

For a long time, there was something else I didn’t want to believe. I didn’t want to believe that the half-lives of radioactive isotopes could change. It seemed so clear to me at the time: radioactive half-lives depend on the energetics of the nucleus, and the energy levels in the nucleus are (roughly speaking) about 100,000 times that of the electrons in an atom. Thus, if nature exposes a radioactive atom to stress, the electrons should be the ones that deal with the stress, not the nucleus. The nucleus is under the electron cloud, and it deals in energies that are so much greater than electron energies, that the electrons effectively “shield” the nucleus from being affected by most of the stress that nature can throw at it.

Over the years, however, the data have drug me (kicking and screaming the entire way) to the point where I have to admit that radioactive half-lives can change, and in some cases, they can change quite substantially.

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