Richard Dawkins Produces Another Theist

This is Dr. Laura Keynes, who returned to the faith of her childhood after reading the New Atheists and those who replied to them. (Click for credit.)
Dr. Laura Keynes grew up in Cambridge, arguably the intellectual center of the United Kingdom. She studied at the University College of Oxford on a full-ride scholarship and ended up earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Her doctoral thesis was on epistemology, the study of knowledge and justified belief. As her last name indicates, she is the great-grandniece of the famous economist John Maynard Keynes. She is also the great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin.

Why am I telling you about this young lady? Because she recently wrote an article entitled, “I’m a Direct Descendant of Darwin…and a Catholic.” Now the title didn’t surprise me at all. I know a lot of Catholics (and even more Protestants) who believe in evolution. Indeed, one of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement, Dr. Michael Behe, says:1

You can be a good Catholic and believe in Darwinism. Biochemistry has made it increasingly difficult, however, to be a thoughtful scientist and believe in it.

However, as I read the article, I couldn’t help but smile. You see, Laura was raised Catholic but drifted away from the faith after her mother became a Buddhist and her brother rejected all organized religion. By the time she was studying for her Doctor of Philosophy degree, she was an agnostic. During that time, however, Richard Dawkins had opened up an international dialogue on the existence of God with his thoroughly awful book, The God Delusion. Well, Laura decided to read Dawkins and his fellow New Atheists, and she says:

I expected to be moved from agnosticism to atheism by their arguments, but after reading on both sides of the debate, I couldn’t dismiss a compelling intellectual case for faith. As for being good without God, I’d tried and didn’t get very far. At some point, life will bring you to your knees, and no act of will is enough in that situation. Surrendering and asking for grace is the logical human response.

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An Experiment From My New Book

I have been posting a couple of videos of me doing experiments from my new book, Science in the Beginning. You can find them at the publisher’s YouTube channel. However, one of the Australian mothers who field-tested my book, Jen McFall, posted on her Facebook page some pictures of her son, Ryan, doing a few of the experiments. She has graciously allowed me to use the pictures to show other people how much fun the experiments can be. Here is one about how light can do multiple things when it encounters a new substance:

Step 1: Fill a glass bowl with water:

Step 2: Lay a utensil (like a spoon) on the bottom of the bowl:

Step 3: Arrange the bowl so it is at the edge of a counter, and then look up through the side of the bowl:

Notice that you see the spoon lying on the bottom of the bowl, but you also see an image of the spoon upside down on the surface of the water! This is because when light encounters a new substance, it can do more than one thing. You see the spoon lying at the bottom of the bowl because light passes through the bowl, passes through the water, reflects off the spoon, passes back through the water, passes back through the bowl, and travels through the air to hit your eyes.

You see the image of the spoon upside down on the surface of the water because light passes through the surface of the water, travels through the water, reflects off the spoon, travels back through the water, reflects off the air at the surface of the water, travels back through the water, passes through the bowl, and then travels through the air to hit your eyes. Nevertheless, when you look straight down into the bowl, you can see the spoon lying there (see step 2). That’s because some of the light passes through the surface of the water, travels through the water, reflects off the spoon, travels back through the water, and passes back into the air so it can travel through the air and hit your eyes.

So in the experiment, you see that when light hits the surface of the water after reflecting off the spoon, it can do two things. (1) Some of it passes back into the air, which is why you see the spoon lying at the bottom of the bowl when you look down at the bowl from above. (2) Some of it reflects off the air so you can see the upside-down image of the spoon when you look through the side of the bowl from below.

People Weren’t The First to Develop an Internet!

This microscope image shows an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus in a clover plant's roots.
(Click for credit.)

The microscope picture above shows you a clover root (the mostly transparent material in the picture) whose cells have been “infected” with a fungus (the thick, dark material in the picture). At first glance, you might think the fungus is a parasite that takes nutrients from the plant, but that’s not really true. While the fungus does take nutrients from the clover, it also supplies the plant with critical nitrogen- and phosphorus-based chemicals that the plant has a hard time extracting from the soil. This is a mutually-beneficial relationship, which is often called a mutualistic relationship.

As anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, I am fascinated by such relationships. I have blogged about them many, many times before (see here, here, here, here, here, and here, for example). In fact, I have blogged about this specific kind of mutualistic relastionship before. It is called a mycorrhiza, and it is very, very common in nature.

About 95% of all vascular plants develop mycorrhizae,1 and these relationships come in many different forms. For example, in the relationship shown above, the fungus forms a highly-branched structure called an arbuscule, which comes from the Latin word arbusculum, which means for “little tree.” This arbuscule is formed inside the walls of the root’s cells, and the fungus is called an arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungus. Such fungi cannot exist by themselves. They can only exist as a part of a mycorrhizal relationship. There are other forms of mycorrhizae as well, but the study I want to discuss is specifically about AM fungi.

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The Blue Planet

The blue dot pointed out in this picture is the earth as seen from Saturn.
(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute) Click for a full-sized version.

Astronomers call earth “the blue planet,” because when you look at it from space, it often appears blue. That’s because most of the earth is covered with water, which reflects blue light better than the other colors of light. So when white light from the sun hits the earth, more blue light is reflected than any other color (as long as there isn’t an enormous amount of cloud cover).

The Cassini space probe that is currently in orbit around Saturn recently had a chance to photograph the earth. It appears as the tiny blue dot pointed out in the photo above. Please click on the photo to get the full-sized version. It really is magnificent. At the time the photo was taken, the earth was 898 million miles away from the Cassini space probe. Nevertheless, it appears as a vivid blue dot on a mostly dark background. In addition, if you “zoom” in close enough, you can actually see the moon orbiting the earth:

The earth (left) and moon as seen from 898 million miles away.
(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute) Click for a full-sized version.

Notice the differences between the earth and the moon. The moon is smaller, but more strikingly, it appears a stark white next to earth’s blue.

The earth has been intricately designed as a haven for life. Its blue color is a beacon proclaiming that, and the beacon can be seen from nearly 900 million miles away!

More Evidence That Earth Is Designed to Resist Warming

This map shows the extent of permafrost in the Arctic. The dark purple represents glaciers, while the lighter purple represents nearly continuous regions of permafrost. The other colors represent less continuous regions of permafrost. (Click for a higher resolution image from the USGS.)

The earth’s polar regions have large amounts of permafrost, a thick layer of soil underground that stays frozen throughout the year. It has been suggested by climate alarmists that as the earth warms, this permafrost will begin to melt, and that will lead to disastrous consequences. Why? Well, there is a lot of organic material in this permafrost, and it doesn’t decompose much, because decomposition is slowed significantly due to the soil being frozen. As the permafrost thaws, decomposition will increase, and that will lead to a significant amount of carbon dioxide and methane being released into the atmosphere. The release of these greenhouse gases, of course, will further accelerate global warming. This affect is known as the permafrost carbon feedback, and here is what the United Nations Environment Programme says about it:1

If the permafrost thaws, the organic material will also thaw and begin to decay, releasing CO2 and methane into the atmosphere and amplifying the warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions…The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales. Warmer conditions and increased atmospheric CO2 will enhance plant growth that will remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but this can only to a small degree compensate for the much greater carbon emissions from thawing permafrost.

Notice how strongly this is worded. The effect is “irreversible,” and even though a warmer climate will result in more plant growth, this will not come close to offsetting the devastating amount of greenhouse gases released by the thawing permafrost.

Well, the results of a 20-year experiment have been published in the journal Nature, and not surprisingly, they show that the effect is precisely opposite of the nonsense quoted above.

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Contrasting Schools and Homeschools on College Preparation

This is one result from the ACT National Curriculum Survey of 2102. (Click for source)

ACT, Inc. is a non-profit organization best known for its standardized college entrance test: the ACT. However, the company does a wide range of assessments for educational institutions, policy makers, and researchers. Every three to five years, they perform the ACT National Curriculum Survey. In this survey, they sample educators at the middle school, high school, and college level, asking them several different questions that are aimed at discovering trends in United States Education. Honestly, I am not all that interested in such reports, but a colleague of mine send me a link to the latest ACT National Curriculum Survey, mentioning the graph reproduced above. I thought it was worth discussing.

In the survey, ACT contacted a representative sample of educators in both public and private educational institutions across the U.S. They received results back from 2,943 high school teachers and 3,596 college teachers. That’s a fairly healthy sample. They don’t go into the details of how they ensured that the sample was “representative,” but let’s assume that their methodology was reasonably correct.

They asked high school teachers how well their students would be prepared for college (in the subject matter they were teaching) after leaving their classes. As you can see, in 2012, 89% said “well” or “very well.” They asked college instructors how well prepared their incoming students were for the classes they were teaching, and as you can see, only 26% answered “well” or “very well.” The numbers were slightly different in 2009, but not significantly so.

While high school teachers think they are providing good college preparation in the courses they are teaching, college instructors disagree. In the end, they find that very few of their students are actually prepared for the classes they are teaching. As the report puts it:

A stark contrast still exists between high school teachers’ perceptions of their students’ readiness for college-level work and college instructors’ perceptions of the readiness of their entering students.

To anyone who has taught at the college level for a while, this isn’t really surprising. Most high school teachers don’t seem to agree with college instructors when it comes to determining how to prepare students for collegiate-level studies.

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My New Elementary Science Series

I swore I would never do it. I would never write an elementary science course. After all, I have no experience with the age group. We adopted our only daughter when she was in her teens. I have taught at the university level and the high school level, but never at the elementary level. I simply couldn’t imagine any scenario in which I would write an elementary science series.

Well, God clearly has a sense of humor, because over the past three years, I have been doing just that! It wasn’t my idea. Honestly. When I left my previous position three years ago, I tried to write a math program. I worked hard on it for about two months, and when I looked at it critically, I realized that it just wasn’t very good. I showed it to a math teacher I respect and admire, and he quickly agreed!

As I prayed about what I should be doing, a conversation I had with a brother in Christ kept coming back to my mind. He suggested that I should write an elementary science course that used the days of creation as detailed in Genesis to introduce scientific concepts. The more I prayed about it, the more comfortable I became with the idea, so I started writing a course I originally called Science in the Creation Week, a title my lovely and patient wife never liked.

I decided to change the title of the course when I started seriously praying about what the rest of the series would cover. It seemed to me that the Lord was leading me to write a series that introduced scientific concepts in historical context. Since the creation account in Genesis is the beginning of history, it made sense to call the course Science in the Beginning. Now that I have spent three years writing, I can present an overall plan for the series.

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Proof of Heaven

The cover of the book
Dr. Eben Alexander is an academic neurosurgeon. He has taught at esteemed institutions such as the Duke University Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He has also done surgery at world-renowned hospitals like Boston Children’s Hospital, the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Obviously, his academic credentials are impeccable, and he seems to be a very well-respected surgeon by many health care professionals. Of course, the reason I am telling you about him is that he wrote a book called Proof of Heaven, in which he details a Near Death Experience (NDE) he had. This NDE radically changed him from a materialist who believed that the human mind is simply a product of the brain’s physiology to a theist who believes that our consciousness is a supernatural gift from our Creator.

I decided to read the book because I have always been skeptical of NDEs. At the same time, however, I really haven’t done much reading about them. My skepticism, then, is based largely on ignorance, and I am happy to admit that. It seemed to me if anyone could provide a good, scientific analysis of a NDE, it would be a neurosurgeon who actually experienced one. I read the book, hoping to be persuaded by the evidence. However, I have to say that I finished the book a bit more skeptical about NDEs than when I started.

In brief, Dr. Alexander came down with a very rare case of Escherichia coli meningitis, which he maintains completely shut down his cortex, the portion of the brain that is associated with “higher” functions such as thoughts and actions. He maintains that for all intents and purposes, he had no consciousness, since the part of the brain associated with consciousness was simply shut down by the bacteria that were attacking it. Despite this complete lack of higher brain function, he had a vivid experience of completely different places: An underworld he calls “The Realm of the Earthworm’s Eye View” (p. 30), a glorious land of beauty he calls “The Gateway” (p. 38), and the realm of God Himself, which he calls “The Core” (p. 45).

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The Inquisition Strikes Again – Twice!

This is 19th-century artist Cristiano Banti's interpretation of Galileo before the Inquisition in Rome. (public domain image)

In March of this year, I wrote a post about an article that would later appear in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Histochemica. It was an exciting report about soft tissue recovered from a fossilized Triceratops horridus horn. Unfortunately for the lead author, Mark Armitage, it was too exciting for the High Priests of Evolution. According to Creation Ministries International:

Until recently, Mark served as the Manager for the Electron and Confocal Microscopy Suite in the Biology Department at California State University Northridge. Mark was suddenly terminated by the Biology Department when his discovery of soft tissues in Triceratops horn was published in Acta Histochemica.

He is currently seeking relief in a legal action for wrongful termination and religious discrimination by the University.

Now, of course, the exact details of why Armitage was fired from California State University Northridge are not publicly known. However, the timing of the event speaks volumes. It’s not every day that a university employee gets fired right after publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal!

If the article was the motivation for Armitage’s termination, it wouldn’t surprise me. As more and more evidence against the ruling scientific dogma of the day continues to accumulate, the only thing the fervently faithful can do is call out the Inquisition in an attempt to squelch that evidence.

That’s what happened when Grand Inquisitor Jerry Coyne decided that Dr. Eric Hedin at Ball State University had to be silenced. He called in the attorneys and forced the university to cancel a course that introduced students to Intelligent Design, as well as the arguments against it. Obviously, the university had to give in to the attorneys, since there was no way it could afford to face an easily-avoided lawsuit. The only good news that comes from this Orwellian situation is that Dr. Hedin will not be fired.

Of course, squelching competing ideas is incredibly anti-science, and it never works. The evidence will win out, and science will eventually correct itself. Thus, the High Priests of Evolution are fighting a losing battle. The only thing their Inquisition can do is delay the inevitable.

More Anti-Science Behavior From Bill Nye

Not long ago, I wrote a post discussing the anti-science views of “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” In that post, I discussed how anti-science it was for Nye to tell people to blindly accept the scientific consensus and stop arguing about whether or not life is the product of evolutionary processes. Well, I recently came across another example of Nye’s anti-science actions. He has no problem lending his name to an experiment that was brazenly faked.

At the 0:47 mark in the the video above, Nye suggests a “simple experiment” to show that carbon dioxide causes global warming. He says to put two thermometers into two identical bottles, add excess carbon dioxide to one bottle, put both bottles under identical heat lamps, and watch the thermometers. Over time, you will see the temperature in the excess-carbon-dioxide-containing bottle rising more quickly than the temperature in the bottle that contains no excess carbon dioxide. The video he is narrating supposedly shows the experiment and its results, proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that carbon dioxide causes global warming.

Now before I start discussing the article that shows that the experiment was faked, I want to make a quick point. I have students do a similar experiment in my award-winning text Exploring Creation with Physical Science. Unlike the one in the video, the experiment I have the students do works for most students, because carbon dioxide does, indeed, trap infrared light and produce an increased temperature in its surroundings. However, the “simple experiment” shown in the video does not demonstrate this, and anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the physical sciences should understand that.

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