Another Confirmation of Quantum Mechanics

Some Christians don’t like quantum mechanics. More than 20 years ago, one Christian writer called it “the greatest contemporary threat to Christianity.”1 Eleven years ago, R. C. Sproul wrote a book entitled Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology. In that book, he attacked quantum mechanics. A Christian group called “Common Sense Science” champions an absurd model of elementary particles in order to get away from quantum mechanics.

Why all this Christian angst directed against quantum mechanics? Well, some Christians think that quantum mechanics is inconsistent with their view of God. For example, one of the fundamental conclusions of quantum mechanics is that the behavior of elementary particles and atoms is statistical, not mechanistic. This means that even if you knew everything there is to know about an atom, you could not predict exactly what that atom would do. You could make statistical statements like, “There is a 12% chance that it will do this and a 45% chance that it will do that.” However, there is no way to pin down exactly what an atom will do, regardless of how well you know the atom and everything that is affecting it.

This, of course, bothers many Christians, especially those of the Calvinist persuasion. Indeed, in the book I mentioned above, Sproul really seemed to think that quantum mechanics was somehow a threat to God’s sovereignty. If nature really is statistical at some level, then even God would not know exactly what His creation will do, and that just doesn’t work for a Calvinist!

Others don’t like quantum mechanics because, inherently, it doesn’t make sense. There is a lot in quantum mechanics that goes against common sense (as you will see in a moment), and since some people are under the mistaken view that science has to be rooted in common sense (as demonstrated by the website linked above), they think that there must be something wrong with quantum mechanics.

The problem is that when quantum mechanics is tested against the data, it passes with flying colors. Thus, even if you don’t like quantum mechanics, you must appreciate its scientific value. The experiment I will discuss below the fold is another clear example of this.

Continue reading “Another Confirmation of Quantum Mechanics”

Thank God for Whale Poop!

Sperm whales are amazing divers (Scarred Giant by artist Chris Harman, click picture for reference)
Whales are incredible creatures. They are perfectly designed for a life in the water, even though they breathe air. They can dive to depths that would kill human beings, because their ribcage and lungs are designed to change as they dive deeper. This allows the whales to adapt to water pressures that are simply incredible. Sperm whales, for example, can dive more than a mile underwater.1 At that depth, the pressure the whale experiences is well over 150 times atmospheric pressure!

Many whales have an intricate method of communication that allows them to be highly social. Most social mammals rely on visual cues for communication, but because the water they live in inhibits the effectiveness of visual cues, whales mostly communicate with vocalizations. Dolphins, for example communicate with clicks, whistles, and other sounds. A few years ago, researchers learned that dolphins use their whistles to identify other dolphins by name. Two dolphins that are “talking” might even refer to a third dolphin by name as a part of their “conversation”!2

Well, it seems there is another thing to add to the ever-growing list of what makes whales so amazing: they also have great poop!

Continue reading “Thank God for Whale Poop!”

Climate Heretic Dr. Judith Curry

Dr. Judith Curry is the latest scientist to be branded a heretic by the climate community.
(Image from Wikipedia)
Dr. Judith A. Curry is the chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a member of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Committee, and she currently has 144 refereed publications to her credit. An active climate researcher, Curry is considered an expert on hurricanes, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, and air-sea interactions. She is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and has won awards from both NASA and the American Meteorological Society for her excellent climate research. She has also been officially branded a heretic by Scientific American.. What horrible offense has caused her to be labeled this way? She actually started thinking for herself rather than blindly following the reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Curry’s story is a classic one and is very similar to my own in many ways. She says that when she reviewed the parts of the IPCC’s third report that were related to her expertise:

I told them that their perspective was far too simplistic and that they didn’t even mention the issue of aerosol impacts on the nucleation of ice clouds. So it’s not so much as finding things that were wrong, but rather ignorance that was unrecognized and confidence that was overstated.

In other words, she had doubts about the IPCC’s report when it came to the areas in which she had serious expertise. However, when push came to shove, she says:

I had decided that the responsible thing to do in making public statements on the subject of global warming was to adopt the position of the IPCC. My decision was based on two reasons: 1) the subject was very complex and I had personally investigated a relatively small subset of the topic; 2) I bought into the meme of “don’t trust what one scientists says, trust what thousands of IPCC scientists say.”

As time went on, however, she began to question her supposedly “responsible” position.

Continue reading “Climate Heretic Dr. Judith Curry”

How Bacteria Talk

Evolutionists have always wanted a “simple” life form to exist. After all, to make the leap from nonliving chemicals to living systems, there must be something that is alive in every sense of the word, but at the same time, is reasonably simple. For a long time, evolutionists wanted bacteria to represent that “simple” life form.

As I make clear in my biology textbook, however, there is no such thing as a simple life form, and that holds true for bacteria as well. The more we learn about them, the more we learn how complex they really are. One of the surprises that has emerged in the past few decades is that bacteria actually talk to one another. They have an incredibly complex means of communication, but Dr. Bonnie Bassler (a professor at Princeton University) does an excellent job of describing it in the following video:

Even though it is 18 minutes long, it is worth watching. She not only tells you how important bacteria are to nature and to you, she explains bacterial communication in a very easy-to-understand manner.

What I find interesting about it is how she and I take such a different view of what the data really mean. She says that because we now know bacteria have one language to talk to other members of their own species and a second language to talk to the bacterial community as a whole, it is clear that bacteria really “set up the rules” for communication between cells. Thus, the communication that makes your cells able to work together so that you survive is simply a more advanced version of what bacteria were able to evolve billions of year ago. I look at the same data, however, and see incredible evidence for design. Just as a common genetic code tells us there is a common designer for creation, the fact that cellular communication is common amongst all the cells in creation tells us that cellular communication is the result of a preplanned design.

Regardless of how you look at what these data mean, the facts are amazing, and Dr. Bassler does an excellent job of communicating them!

Genes aren’t Everything

These calves are identical twins
(Image in the public domain)
It is commonly assumed (quite incorrectly) that an organism’s genetics determine pretty much everything there is to know about the organism. For example, many people think that because identical twins have identical genes, they are nearly identical. Of course, ask a few identical twins whether or not they are identical people, and you will soon find out how naive a view that really is. Indeed, even something as straightforward as fingerprints are not identical between identical twins. If fingerprints are not even identical between those who have identical DNA, it is likely that very few traits are governed solely by genetics. Thus, there is clearly an interaction between an organism’s genetics and its surroundings. Genetics might give you a predisposition for some traits, but your environment will play a role in whether or not that predisposition is actually followed.

However, what if there is something more than genetics and environment? Could there be something else that affects an organism’s traits? Vicki R. Nelson and her colleagues decided to investigate this question in a rather elegant way, and the results they obtained were rather surprising.

Continue reading “Genes aren’t Everything”

Go to the Ant

This little ant scares elephants! (Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Acacia_collinsii3.jpg)
Proverbs 6:6 tells us, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise.” As this verse suggests, scientists who have studied the ant have learned all sorts of wonderful things. I mentioned previously the remarkable mutualistic relationship between Crematogaster (also called Cregaster) ants and certain Acacia trees. The trees provide food and housing for the ants, and the ants fiercely attack anything that tries to eat their tree. As I discussed in a follow-up post, scientists who thought they would “help” Acacia trees by fencing them in to protect them from large herbivores like elephants actually ended up hurting the trees. In the end, the scientists could not improve on the protection that the ants provide the tree naturally.

This intrigued the scientists who were bested by the ants, so they wanted to find out whether or not it is really possible for the tiny Crematogaster ants to actually defend the tree from the world’s largest land animal. Thus, they conducted a follow-up study, and the results were incredible!

Continue reading “Go to the Ant”

Fetal Study Shows Social Interaction IN THE WOMB

Ultrasound image of one fetal twin caressing the other's back (Image from PLoS One)
Those who want to say that a child inside the womb is not a human life have to ignore some very basic science. For example, they have to ignore the plain genetic evidence, which is found in the “blueprint” that makes each person. Of course, I am talking about the person’s DNA. While not all of a person’s characteristics are based on his or her DNA, most of them are. In other words, DNA contains the overall framework that makes a person who he or she is. More importantly, there is no other organism on the planet that has a genome like a human being’s genome. Thus, as soon as a person’s DNA forms, a human life has begun. When does that happen? It happens at the very moment of conception. At that moment, when the person is composed of just one cell, a human life has begun. Probably the best statement regarding this fact comes from Dr. Jermoe L. LeJeune, the brilliant geneticist who was the first to demonstrate a link between certain diseases and chromosomal abnormalities. While testifying before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee, he said:1

To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence

If you want to believe that a baby in the womb is not a person, then, you have to ignore the plain experimental evidence. LeJeune’s quote comes from 1981, and since them, more and more experimental evidence has been stacking up to show that a baby in the womb is most definitely a human being. The latest evidence to be added to the pile comes from ultrasound investigations of twins in the womb.

Continue reading “Fetal Study Shows Social Interaction IN THE WOMB”

“Goldilocks Planet” May Not Exist

Not too long ago, a commenter asked about a “Goldilocks Planet” that had recently been discovered by Steven Vogt and his colleagues. The term refers to a planet that is thought to be close enough to its star to be warm, but not so close that it is unbearably hot. In other words, it is supposed to have a temperature that is “just right” for the existence of life.

Steven Vogt and his colleagues thought they had found such a planet in Gliese 581g. It is supposed to orbit a red dwarf (Gliese 581) with a period of 37 days. While this puts it very close to its star, Vogt and his team think it is hospitable to life because the red dwarf is cool compared to the sun.

In response to the commenter, I expressed my skepticism, not because I have a problem with the idea of extraterrestrial life, but because astronomers have been wrong in their assignment of “Goldilocks” status before. In addition, even if the planet is at the right distance from its star, there are a host of other conditions necessary for a planet to be hospitable to life.

Well, now there is another reason to be skeptical. The planet may not exist!

Continue reading ““Goldilocks Planet” May Not Exist”

The Legacy of Anti-Vaccination Misinformation

It is sad that parents are misinformed by those who are against vaccination. It is sadder still that children are not as healthy as a result. The saddest thing of all, however, is how innocent children suffer because of anti-vaccination misinformation. This year, we are witnessing the fruits of this misinformation: the suffering and death of innocent children.

According to the California Department of Public Health, there have been 4,461 cases of whooping cough (pertussis) reported throughout the state so far this year. The majority of those are confirmed cases, but 19% are considered probable cases, while 18% are merely suspected cases. This is the largest number of reported cases since 1955. At least 217 of these cases resulted in hospitalization, and 9 resulted in death!

What is causing this sudden surge of whooping cough? Well, there are actually two effects. First, like most contagious diseases, whooping cough goes through cycles of years when it is not very prevalent and years when it is very prevalent. This year is in the “very prevalent” part of the cycle. Second, over the past few years, there has been a significant reduction in the vaccination rate, due to misinformation promulgated by those who are against vaccinations.

Continue reading “The Legacy of Anti-Vaccination Misinformation”