Religious Students Earn Better Grades

A bit more than a week ago, I spoke at an education event focused on those who were considering homeschooling. One of the talks I gave focused on why you should educate your children from a Christian worldview. Afterward, a woman came up to me and asked if I had seen the studies that show that being religious improves a student’s academic performance. I told her I had not, and later on, she graciously sent me some examples. I was amazed that I had not seen this research before, because it conclusively demonstrates that more religious adolescents are simply better students than those who are less religious.

For example, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth performed in 1997 collected a “…nationally representative sample of 8,984 men and women born during the years 1980 through 1984.” It collected “…extensive information on respondents’ labor market behavior and educational experiences.” Analysis of those data indicated that the more frequently a student attended religious services, the better his or her GPA:

While these data are a bit old, a review article published just last year surveyed 42 studies that have been published from 1990 to 2020. They all show that the more religious a student is, the better his or her academic achievement.

Now, of course, correlation doesn’t mean causation, so it is possible that religion doesn’t directly affect academic achievement. However, the first conclusion drawn by the review article is:

First, research has advanced from correlational studies to methodologically rigorous designs suggesting religion can play a causal role in academic success.

One of the more interesting of those “methodologically rigorous” studies compared children in the same family. It found that even within a given family, the more religious siblings had higher grade point averages than the less religious siblings. It also found (in agreement with other studies not focused on siblings) that the more religious siblings completed more years of education than the less religious ones. Thus, even with the same parents and family structure, religious adolescents are better students.

Why does being religious produce better grades? One study suggests that going to religious services broadens the students’ social network, giving them better access to adults other than their parents, peers who also share similar views, and extracurricular activities that are education focused. Others suggest that religion encourages students to be cooperative and conscientious, and such traits are positively correlated with academic achievement.

While those reasons might help explain the well-known fact that religious students have higher academic achievement, I think I can offer at least a couple of other suggestions. As a Christian, I have been taught that God gave me certain gifts, and it is my duty to Him to develop those gifts as much as possible. Most of my motivation for doing well in college and getting my Ph.D. was because I knew God had given me gifts in science and teaching, and it would be an affront to Him had I not concentrated on honing those gifts to the best of my ability. While not everyone has God-given gifts in academic subjects, it is clear that a good education (especially through high school) helps you develop any gift better.

However, there is another reason. It was given by the father of the Scientific Method, Roger Bacon, nearly 800 years ago. He wrote:

For the grace of faith illuminates greatly, as also do divine inspirations, not only in things spiritual, but in things corporeal and in the sciences of philosophy
(The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon, Robert Belle Burke (trans.), Russel & Russell, Inc. 1962, p. 585)

Faith illuminates all areas of life, including academics.

So, in addition to the reasons I gave in my talk about why you should educate from a Christian worldview, I must add this:

A Christian Worldview Produces Greater Academic Success.

How Well Do You Know The Bible?

May 1940 British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation. (click for credit)

NOTE: According to a historian I respect a great deal, the beginning of this article (in brackets and italics) is not correct. Apparently, the first mention of the message “But if not” seems to be from sources that occur in the 1990s. Thus, the phrase “But if not” as it relates to Dunkirk is almost certainly an urban legend that fooled me. I am keeping the post up, because I do think the last four paragraphs are important. However, I have also added this to the Christian Myths category so that people might find out that this oft-repeated story is not verifiable.

[You are a high-ranking officer in an army that is at war. You receive a three-word message from a large contingent of your soldiers who you know are about to face the enemy:

But if not

Would that mean anything to you? Fortunately, it meant something to British commanders in World War II. In 1940, more than 350,000 Allied soldiers were trapped at Dunkirk, and the German forces were on their way. The soldiers stood no chance of defeating the enemy, and an officer wanted to communicate the situation to his superiors in London. However, he didn’t want to give away any vital information. As a result, he sent those three words. They spoke volumes…to anyone who knows the Bible well.

They are the first words of Daniel 3:18, which contains the response Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego gave to King Nebuchadnezzar when the King threatened to throw them in the furnace if they didn’t worship the golden image that he had constructed in Babylon:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:16-18, KJV)

Those three words became a rallying cry that caused a rag-tag group of fishermen, pleasure boaters, merchant mariners, and yacht racers to sail to the shores of Dunkirk and evacuate the trapped soldiers. In the end, they saved more than 338,000 of the soldiers in what is commonly known as The Miracle of Dunkirk. A 2017 film tells the story, albeit without the three words that inspired the entire event.

Now think about that for a moment. The officer who sent the message knew the Bible well enough to recall the passage, and he expected the commanders in London to know the Bible well enough to recognize the passage and realize what it meant. Fortunately, they did.] Do you think they would today? Almost certainly not, because most Christians today don’t really know the Bible.

I recall sitting at a lunch with a well-known politician, a group of Christian homeschooled seniors, and their parents. One senior was telling the politician that he wasn’t concerned about attending a secular university, because he knew the Lord would protect him. The politician smiled and said, “The paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, huh?” All the seniors and all their parents looked at the politician with blank stares. There was an uncomfortable silence, and I had to tell them what he meant. It’s a quote from 1 Samuel 17:37, in which David tells Saul that he is not afraid of Goliath: “The Lord who saved me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, He will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” (NASB)

I am sure the parents of these seniors spent a lot of time discussing the Bible in their homeschools. They probably even read books on having a “Biblical Worldview.” Nevertheless, none of them recognized what I would consider to be a very important passage from the Old Testament. Why? I can’t give you a definitive answer, but I can at least say this: Far too many Christian homeschools study books about having a “Biblical Worldview” but don’t spend enough time studying the Bible itself. In my opinion, there is only one way to have a Biblical Worldview, and that is to know the Bible so well that you can quote large sections of it from memory and recognize phrases like “But if not” and “the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear.”

After all, having a Biblical worldview means evaluating everything you encounter through the lens of the Bible. If you don’t know what the Bible says, you won’t be able to use it as a lens! So if you want a Biblical worldview, don’t read books that tell you how to have one. Don’t attend talks that tell you what it is. Spend that time studying the Bible so well that you know it backward and forward. That’s the first step in developing a Biblical worldview.

William Lane Craig on Adam

William Lane Craig’s latest book.
In September of last year, a reader asked me to review William Lane Craig’s In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration. Well, I finally got around to reading it, and I have to say up front that I was disappointed. Not with his conclusion; I predicted that ahead of time. I was disappointed with Dr. Craig’s intellectual inconsistency. I expected more of a philosopher with his credentials and track record.

But I am getting ahead of myself. In the first part of the book, Dr. Craig spends a lot of time comparing the Genesis account to creation myths of the Ancient Near East (ANE). He claims that there are many parallels between the ANE myths and the Genesis account. To demonstrate this “fact,” he discusses a lot of those myths. The problem is, they sound nothing at all like the creation account of Genesis. Consider the following:

In the Sumerian myth Enki and Ninmah 24-37 we read that Enki enjoins the mother goddess Namma to knead clay so that the birth-goddesses could nip off pieces with which she could fashion human beings. How is the story of God’s forming man from the dust of the earth in Gen 2 functionally distinct from such a story simply in virtue of the fact that Yahweh is the sole diety? (Chapter 3)

I don’t know about you, but I find quite a bit of functional distinction. For example, Yahweh had actually made the dust. There is no indication that anyone in the Sumerian myth made the clay. This is a huge distinction. Yahweh is the Creator of everything in the Genesis account. In the ANE myths that Dr. Craig discusses, there is no sense of the gods (or a single god) being the creator of everything. Also, people have experience using clay to make things. The Sumerian myth makes it sound like the gods are doing typical human activities, but they just have some magic added in. That’s not the way the Genesis account reads at all. Nevertheless, based on what I would call very questionable “similarities” Dr. Craig decides that the Genesis account has all the trappings of a myth. However, since it does have historical overtones, he says that the Genesis account belongs in a category called “Mytho-History.”

Of course, he takes great pains to reiterate what C.S. Lewis made abundantly clear quite some time ago: The term “myth” does not mean the story is false. Myths can be used to teach deep truths. It just means that the setting and many of the details aren’t meant to be taken literally. In Matthew 13:3-9, for example, Jesus tells the story of a sower who is planting seeds. He doesn’t intend for you to believe this sower actually existed. Instead, he wants you to hear the truth in his story. In the same way, the Genesis creation account is mythical but teaches a very important truth.

Now, even though Dr. Craig thinks the Genesis account is mythical, he says we have to take its historical overtones seriously, especially when we read the New Testament. In the book of Romans, Paul writes of Adam as a real, historical person. So based on the New Testament (not the Genesis account), Dr. Craig says that Adam must have actually existed. However, since the Genesis account is mytho-history, we can’t assume that he was created exactly as is discussed in the myth or that Eve was actually made from his rib. The details of the account are mostly mythological; his existence is the important historical element.

With this conclusion, Dr. Craig decides to go searching for Adam using the historical and scientific tools we have at our disposal. Not surprisingly, he slavishly follows the scientific consensus, up to a crucial point. Thus, as far as Dr. Craig is concerned, the earth is billions of years old, biological evolution happened essentially as the High Priests of Science have proclaimed, and the standard tales told by anthropologists are true. Based on all this, Dr. Craig concludes:

Adam, then, may be plausibly identified as a member of Homo heidelbergensis living perhaps >750 kya. He could even have lived in the Near East in the biblical site of the Garden of Eden – though vastly earlier than usually thought, of course. (Chapter 12) [Note: kya means thousand years ago]

Of course, the basic concept here is neither new nor surprising. Lots of Christians have decided to accept the scientific consensus and say that God used evolution to produce the human race. However, most who accept this view think that Adam and Eve are mythological beings; they didn’t actually exist in history. Dr. Craig comes to a different conclusion. How? By being utterly inconsistent.

He accepts the scientific consensus on the age of the earth, biological evolution, anthropology, etc., etc. However, he then throws scientific consensus out of the window by writing:

Such an identification is fully consistent, both temporally and geographically, with the data of population genetics, which does not rule out the existence of two heterozygous, sole genetic progenitors of the human race earlier than 500 kya. (Chapter 13)

What does he use to back up this idea? A reference to the journal BIO-Complexity, which is well outside the scientific consensus! Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against that journal. In fact, I think an incredibly important genetic study can be found in it.

Here’s the problem: The scientific consensus says that there is simply no way evolution could produce the genetics of the human race from just two people. At minimum, it needed to start with a group of 2,250 people. However, since Dr. Craig wants to believe that Adam existed in history and is the father of the human race, he must believe that the scientific consensus is invalid on this point. As a result, he looks outside the scientific consensus to find science that backs up his view.

Now to be sure, he tries to justify this view by reporting that a few consensus-driven scientists (like S. Joshua Swamidass) say that if you push Adam’s existence far enough back in history (more than 500,000 years), then science cannot rule out the possibility that he and Eve could be the genetic origin of all humanity. However, the vast majority of geneticists would disagree with that. Thus, it is still an idea that is well outside the scientific consensus. Indeed, S. Joshua Swamidass himself doesn’t agree with it.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have no problem with going against the scientific consensus. Indeed, nearly every important scientific advance that has happened was the result of doing just that. What I am saying is that if Dr. Craig has the courage to question the scientific consensus when it comes to the genetics of the human race, perhaps he could find the courage to question the scientific consensus when it comes to other issues, such as the age of the earth and biological evolution. If he does that, he might find a much more satisfying way to believe in a historical Adam.

Should Your Homeschool Graduate Go to College?

A portion of the Brooklyn College campus (click for credit)

I just got back from the Texas Homeschool Convention, which took place in Round Rock, Texas. I gave three talks and spent a lot of time speaking with homeschooling parents and homeschooled students. I always enjoy my time at conventions like this one, and I am sorry to say that I am done with my convention appearances this year. However, I am already scheduled to speak at all Great Homeschool Conventions next year, as well as the ICHE conference in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

During one of my talks, I got a question that I was happy to answer at the time, but I thought I would also answer it here. As near as I can remember, the question went like this:

With all the anti-Christian sentiment that exists on college campuses, should we even send our children to college? If so, should it be only to Christian schools?

Let me start by saying that while the mood on many college campuses (including several that call themselves “Christian”) is definitely anti-Christian, it doesn’t really affect the students that much, at least not in terms of their commitment to their faith. As I have discussed previously (here and here) studies show that those who go to college are more likely to retain their faith than those who do not. Thus, if you are worried about your child “losing faith” in college, that is the exception, not the rule.

Now having said that, let me also say that there are way, way, way too many students attending college these days. As someone who has been teaching at the university level for more than 30 years, I can assure you that MOST students should not go to college, because they don’t need it. In my opinion, there are two reasons a student should go to college:

1. The student is just a natural scholar and loves to learn.

2. The student has a career path planned that requires a college degree.

If a student doesn’t meet one of those two criteria, the student is mostly likely wasting his or her time, along with a few buckets of money. Most students would benefit more from going to a trade school or joining the workforce. Some of them might eventually go to college, after their real-world experience ends up giving them one of the two criteria listed above.

So…let’s suppose your child meets one of those two criteria. He or she should go to college, but should it be a Christian college or a secular college? That depends on the student. Some students (myself included) experience an enormous amount of spiritual growth at secular colleges, mostly because we thrive when our faith is challenged. There are others, however, who will grow more at Christian colleges.

This is where you, as a homeschooling parent, have a distinct advantage. You know your children much better than most parents. Thus, you are in a perfect position to help them in choosing their college environment. Ask yourself how your student will react to having his or her faith challenged pretty much on a daily basis. That will tell you what kind of college your child should attend.

Also, please note that you cannot believe a college is Christian simply because it says it is. Over the years, I have experienced many “Christian” schools promoting decidedly anti-Christian ideologies. Thus, if you think your college-bound child will thrive best at a Christian college, you should make it a point to visit the campus, ask the officials hard questions about social and theological matters, and have your child ask some current students about their evaluation of the Christian nature of the school.

I will end with this piece of advice, which is probably the most important: Regardless of the type of college you choose for your college-bound student, make sure he or she is an active part of an ON-CAMPUS Christian fellowship group (like Intervarsity, Navigators, Cru, etc.). This doesn’t replace church, but it is vital for your child to have access to likeminded brothers and sisters who have experienced “that professor” or “that situation” and can help your child deal with it. In my opinion, being an active part of an on-campus fellowship group is significantly more important to your student’s spiritual life than whether the college is Christian or secular.

Dr. Allan Sandage: An Astronomer Who Found What He Was Looking for in Christianity

Dr. Sandage at the Carnegie Observatory (credit:The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, courtesy of AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Tenn Collection)

Dr. Allan Sandage is a giant in the field of astronomy. He published the first reliable measurement of the universe’s expansion rate. Unfortunately, we aren’t sure how close he was to the correct value, since it is still controversial. He amassed more than 500 papers in the peer-reviewed literature and received numerous awards for his work, including the prestigious Crafoord Prize, which at the time was worth 2 million dollars.

What was the motivation behind this impressive scientific career? According to “Negotiating the Boundaries of Science and Religion: The Conversion of Allan Sandage”, Sandage knew he had to be an astronomer at age 8, because he thought the world was magical, and he wanted to know WHY. As he matured, he had a desire to replace this “magical” perception of the universe with something more tangible. He wanted to see the universe as an analytical machine. Unfortunately, the more he learned, the harder it was to do that. The article linked above quotes him as saying:

As scientists…we have to try everything to discover how the world works. But the deeper you dig, the more complicated the thing becomes. There are layer upon layer of the intricate gears of a watch; and you keep uncovering layer upon layer, and finding more and more connections.

This brought him to the conclusion that every sensible scientist should make: the universe is the result of design. However, he decided that science cannot tell us many details about the Designer, and more importantly, it cannot tell us anything about why the universe was made and why we exist in it. Thus, in his quest to learn as much as he could about the “magical” world he remembered from his childhood, he had reached the limit of science. Science told him the universe is the result of design, but in order to truly understand the universe, he had to understand its Designer.

This led him to start looking into religion. He read not only the Bible, but also some of the great thinkers of Christianity, including Blaise Pascal. He was particularly struck by Pascal’s Wager, which essentially says that if you simply try to believe in Christianity, you have everything to gain and nothing worthwhile to lose. As a result, Christianity is the “best bet.” Dr. Sandage decided to make the wager. As he is quoted in The Seattle Times:

I could not live a life full of cynicism. I chose to believe, and a peace of mind came over me.

This reminds me of an engineer I wrote about roughly three years ago, who also came to Christianity partially as a result of Pascal’s Wager.

In the end, Dr. Sandage’s remarkable scientific research laid the foundation for his conversion to Christianity. It didn’t prove the existence of God, but it prepared him to believe in God. Reading the Bible and some of Christianity’s great thinkers then convinced him that Christianity was the only way he would find the answer to the question he had been asking himself since he was a boy. As he was quoted in Newsweek:

It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science…It is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.

“Silent” Mutations Might Require “Re-examination of Numerous Biological Conclusions”

A recent study on yeast indicates that mutations which do not lead to a change in the protein produced are not silent after all.

Genetic mutations are important. They can result in genetic diseases, and those who fervently believe in evolution as a creation myth think that they can be a source of novel genetic information, despite the fact that the balance of the scientific evidence shows it is not possible. However, there is one kind of mutation that has long been assumed to be “silent”: the kind that doesn’t change the protein produced by the mutated gene. To understand the reasoning behind this assumption, you need to know a bit about molecular genetics.

A gene is a stretch of DNA that gives the cell a “recipe” for making a molecule. Often, that molecule is a protein. A protein is a large molecule formed when many smaller molecules, called amino acids, are linked together in a very precise way. DNA tells the cell how to make a protein by listing the amino acids needed and the order in which they should be linked. It does this using a code, called the genetic code.

There are four chemical units in DNA called nucleotide bases, and they are represented by the letters A, C, G, and T. When put in groups of three, those letters specify a particular amino acid. For example, the sequence CTC specifies one amino acid, while the sequence CAC specifies a completely different amino acid. A gene, then, can be represented by a string of letters that, when grouped three at at time, specify a bunch of amino acids in a specific order. The cell “reads” that sequence and then puts those amino acids together in that order, and the result is the protein that the gene specifies.

The most common mutation that can occur in DNA is a point mutation, where one of those letters changes. For example, consider the two sequences I just gave. If DNA has the sequence CTC in it, but a point mutation changes the “T” to an “A,” it now has CAC in it. As a result, the protein produced by the gene now has the wrong amino acid in it. In fact, this is what causes sickle-cell anemia. If the gene that tells the cell how to make hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen in the blood) experiences that mutation, the protein produced is no longer correct, which leads to health problems.

But the genetic code is redundant, which means there are multiple sequences that code for the same amino acid. For example, CTC and CTT both specify the same amino acid. So, if the gene for hemoglobin experiences a point mutation that turns CTC into CTT, the amino acid specified doesn’t change. What should happen as a result? Nothing. After all, the whole problem in sickle-cell anemia is that a point mutation turning CTC into CAC means the protein was made with the wrong amino acid. A point mutation that turns CTC into CTT shouldn’t result in any ill effects, because the protein produced has the correct amino acid in it. Thus, it has always been thought that these kinds of mutations are harmless, since they don’t affect the protein being made.

As a point of terminology, this kind of mutation is called a synonymous mutation, because while the sequence of letters in DNA has been changed, the end result (the protein produced) is the same. Thus, it has long been thought that synonymous mutations are harmless. As a result, they are often called silent mutations or neutral mutations, since they shouldn’t be noticeable when it comes to the functioning of the organism that carries the mutation.

Well, scientists from the University of Michigan and Stanford University decided to test this idea, and they found it to be false in most cases. They used a genetic editing tool called CRISPR to make a bunch of mutant yeast cells. Each cell had a point mutation in an important gene. Many of those point mutations were synonymous. They then measured how quickly the yeast cells could reproduce. They found that 75.9% of the mutants with synonymous mutations were slower to reproduce than the yeast that had no mutations at all. In other words, the vast majority of synonymous mutations were not neutral! Instead, they actually caused the yeast to reproduce more slowly.

Now, of course, this study used only yeast. We don’t know for sure that its conclusion is true for all organisms. However, if these results are demonstrated for other organisms, the implications are incredible. Indeed, the authors state:

The strong non-neutrality of most synonymous mutations, if it holds true for other genes and in other organisms, would require re-examination of numerous biological conclusions about mutation, selection, effective population size, divergence time and disease mechanisms that rely on the assumption that synonymous mutations are neutral.

One thing that comes to my mind immediately is Dr. John Sanford’s work on genetic entropy. He has demonstrated that natural selection is not very efficient at weeding out mutations which reduce the information content in the genome. As a result, genomes decay over time. If it turns out that even synonymous mutations reduce the information content of the genome, it could mean that genomes decay even more quickly than Dr. Sanford has suggested.

Despite What You Have Read, Wildfires are NOT on the Rise

One of the more common myths associated with “climate change” (aka global warming) is the idea that wildfires are on the rise. Consider, for example, the article entitled, “How do we know wildfires are made worse by climate change?” It states:

In 2019 Australia was burning. In 2020 Siberia and California were burning. These are only the more recent examples of dramatic extreme wildfire. People are asking if forest fires are linked to climate change.

The experts tell us that yes, the growing extent and increasing severity of wildfires are indeed driven by climate change.

There is only one problem with such nonsense: wildfires are most definitely NOT increasing in severity. How do we know this? The European Space Agency has been using satellites to track global wildfires. At first, their data sets started in the year 2000, and those data sets show that over the past 20 years, there has been a slight decrease in the amount of land that was burned by wildfires.

However, they recently used historical satellite images to increase the length of time covered by their datasets. We can now trace the amount of land burned by wildfires all the way back to 1982. Thus, we have nearly 40 years worth of data that cover the entire world. What do the data show? The graph is at the top of the article. As you can see, there is no discernible trend. The amount of land burned by wildfires changes from year to year, but the average remains remarkably constant.

Like much of what you read about “climate change,” then, the idea that wildfires are becoming more severe or more frequent is just patently false. Unfortunately, no amount of data will stop this false claim from being promulgated, because most people writing about this issue care more about their agenda than they do about science.

Monarch Butterflies Provide a Lesson About Climate Change Hysteria

A cluster of monarch butterflies in Santa Cruz, CA (click for credit)

North American monarch butterflies perform an incredible migration from their summer breeding grounds to a place where they spend the winter. Most of the monarchs that are born east of the Rocky Mountains travel to Mexico, while those born west of the Rocky Mountains fly to the California Coast. Last year, the headlines about those that travel to California were dire:

Probably the most beloved and recognized butterfly in the United States, the western monarch is essentially on the brink of extinction, said Katy Prudic, co-author of a new report from the University of Arizona that found that the monarchs, along with about 450 butterfly species in the Western United States, have decreased overall in population by 1.6% per year in the past four decades.

Like much of what you read in science news, that’s just not true. The Xerces Society for invertebrate conservation does detailed surveys of western monarch populations, and here are their results for the “Thanksgiving Count,” which is done over three weeks around Thanksgiving:

Looking at the graph, you can see that Katy Prudic is simply wrong. In fact, the western monarch population has both decreased and increased over the past 24 years. Of course, you can also see why the headlines were dire in 2021. The monarch population is barely visible on the graph in 2020. It was the lowest seen in the entire period. So clearly, western monarchs were on the verge of extinction. However, last year’s count shows a population that is the eighth largest in that same time period!

And honestly, anyone who studies these amazing migrations should not be surprised. After all, the population of the monarchs that migrate to Mexico experienced a similar dramatic drop in population back in 2014, but they also recovered from it.

What does this have to do with climate change, aka global warming? First, there have been the predictable attempts to cite it as a cause for the monarchs’ woes. More importantly, however, it shows how dangerous it is to use a trend in nature to make dire predictions.

In both populations, the number of monarchs increased and decreased, but the overall trend for more than 20 years was downward. Then, there was a sudden change, and the decline stopped. This is the way nature works. There is a lot of variation, and tenuous trends in those variations usually don’t mean much.

Now don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of value in collecting data like population counts and global temperatures, and it is important to be concerned about apparent trends. A good scientist, however, should understand that apparent trends are not necessarily actual trends. As a result, good scientists should not make definitive predictions based on them.

Scientist Who Prays for Insight Revolutionizes Recycling

Dr. James Tour in his lab with students. (click for source)

I have written about Dr. James Tour before. He is a giant in the field of synthetic organic chemistry. Because he spends his days making molecules, he knows that despite the bluster coming from evolutionary evangelists, we have absolutely no idea how the molecules of life could have been formed from nonliving matter. As a good scientist, he doesn’t rule out the possibility that it might have happened. However, he tries to educate people about how little we know regarding this hypothetical process so they are not fooled by the lies they hear from their teachers and read in their textbooks.

I am writing about him again because he and his group just published a paper that will truly revolutionize the recycling industry. In fact, it turns recycling into upcycling, because it makes the waste into something more versatile than the original products. The process described in the paper can take anything that is mostly carbon (like plastic) and convert it into graphene, which is many times stronger than steel but much more lightweight and flexible. This makes it ideal in many applications. As the University of Manchester says:

Transport, medicine, electronics, energy, defence, desalination; the range of industries where graphene research is making an impact is substantial.

Interestingly enough, graphene comes in two forms, and the form that Dr. Tour’s process makes is the easier one to use in most industrial applications.

The process involves taking any material that contains high amounts of carbon, grinding it into a fine dust, and zapping it with enough electricity to break every bond in the material. All non-carbon atoms form molecules that are vaporized, and the carbon is left behind in the form of graphene.

In their experiments, they used the plastic material from a truck’s bumpers, seats, carpets, and gaskets. They put it through their process and gave the graphene they produced to the Ford Motor Company, which then used it to make new plastic components for their trucks. These new components performed the same as components produced with unrecycled graphene.

According to their paper, published in the journal Nature:

A prospective cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment suggests that our method may afford lower cumulative energy demand and water use, and a decrease in global warming potential compared to traditional graphene synthesis methods.

This incredible achievement is noteworthy enough, but I want to spend a moment on the man behind it. Dr. Tour is a Christian and has written a detailed account of how his faith helps his scientific research in a document entitled Faith of a Scientist: The Impact of the Bible on a Christian Professor. In it, he states:

As a scientist, when posed with scientific mysteries that have presented themselves in my research, I have so often bowed my heart and prayed, “Lord, make your light shine on this darkness. When no others can see, please Lord, let me see.” On many occasions, when graduate students have brought their puzzling laboratory results and laid them on my desk, I have been as baffled as they. So remembering [Psalm 112:4], which I had long before committed to memory, I pray for light, and God answers. Surely, meditating on God’s word can cause light to arise in darkness even for the challenges that confront our secular careers.

While this might sound odd to closed-minded secularists, Dr. Tour is not alone in using his faith to aid his scientific work. In fact, the father of the scientific method (Roger Bacon) wrote1:

For the grace of faith illuminates greatly, as also do divine inspirations, not only in things spiritual, but in things corporeal and in the sciences of philosophy;

Copernicus put the sun at the center of what he called “the world” because that made the system more orderly, and he said that this made more sense, since the world was made by “the Best and Most Orderly Workman of all”2. Kepler use the Trinity as a basis for his model of the universe, with the sun at the center representing God the Father, the sphere that held the stars representing God the Son, and the space in between representing God the Holy Spirit. James Clerk Maxwell, the genius who discovered that light is an electromagnetic wave, also prayed to received scientific enlightenment.

There are those who say that Christianity and science are incompatible. In no uncertain terms, scientific luminaries from Roger Bacon to Dr. James Tour demonstrate that this notion is 100% false.

REFERENCES

1. The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon, Robert Belle Burke (trans.), (Russel & Russell, Inc. 1962), p. 585
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2. Nicolaus Copernicus, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, R. Catesby Taliaferro (trans.), Great Books of the Western World, (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1939), vol. 16, p. 508.
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Antievolution Views Are Global

The Anti-Evolution League at the Scopes Trial in 1925 (click for credit)

Over the years, I have documented a lot of ignorant statements made by someone who claims to be “The Science Guy” (see here, here, here, here, and here). However, the most ignorant statement I have ever heard Bill Nye utter is:

Denial of evolution is unique to the United States.

In several previous posts, I have reviewed how this statement is demonstrably false, but I was recently made aware of a peer-reviewed study that confirms this fact. Now, of course, I seriously doubt that any amount of data will change Bill Nye’s mind, since he doesn’t seem to use scientific data while forming his opinions. Nevertheless, I hope the data will be useful to others.

The study, published in the International Journal of Science Education, compared the views of Korean biology teachers to those of American biology teachers when it comes to evolution. It then did a literature review of studies done on science teachers in other countries. Before I discuss the specifics, let me give you their overall conclusion:

…it is clear that science teacher antipathy or ambivalence toward evolution is by no means a problem restricted to the USA

I am not sure they could make that any clearer. And note that since they call this a “problem,” they are clearly in Bill Nye’s camp when it comes to wanting everyone to genuflect at the altar of Darwinism.

The details of the paper are more interesting to me, however, because while they clearly show that many Korean biology teachers have doubts about evolution, those doubts are different from the ones held by American biology teachers. For example, when asked to evaluate the statement, “Much of the scientific community doubts if evolution occurs,” 52.4% of Korean biology teachers agreed, while only 6.3% of American biology teachers agreed. However, when given the statement, “The theory of evolution cannot be correct since it disagrees with the Biblical account of creation,” only 3.0% of Korean biology teachers agreed, while more than four times as many (12.1%) American biology teachers agreed. Similarly, almost three times as many Korean biology teachers as American biology teachers agreed that, “The theory of evolution is based on speculation and not valid scientific observation and testing” (36.3% versus 13.6%).

Now the group of Korean biology teachers studied was small – only 33 in total. However, data based group of 33 individuals is estimated to have a statistical error of about 17% (square root of 33 divided by 33), which means that when the percentages are close, you can’t tell if there really is a difference between the groups. For example, 75.0% of American biology teachers and 81.8% of Korean biology teachers agreed with the statement, “Evolution is a scientifically valid theory.” Those numbers are well within 17% of one another, so there is no way to know whether or not Korean biology teachers are more likely than American biology teachers to believe that evolution is a scientifically-valid theory. However, the differences noted in the previous examples are high enough to conclude that American and Korean biology teachers think differently when it comes to those questions.

If I look at the 20 questions the study asked Korean biology teachers and compare their answers to those of the American biology teachers, I am left to conclude that in Korea, biology teachers aren’t inclined to disagree with evolution based on religious ideas. They seem to disagree with evolution based on their understanding of the science that relates to it. I find that interesting, because that’s why I first doubted evolution as an origin story. I was an atheist who did not believe in evolution, because even as a young science student, I saw that evolution didn’t align with the data. To this day, if I were not a Christian, I would still not think that evolution is a valid explanation for origins, since the data speak so strongly against it.