In an eye-opening article concerning the Vatican’s views on science, a Discover magazine reporter takes an insider’s look into the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Sadly, the fruits of an old-age mentality are on display.
Reporter Michael Mason spent some time discussing the scientific policy and direction of the Roman Catholic Church with Brother Guy Consolmagno (a Vatican astronomer), other Catholic officials, and members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, a group that Mason describes as “a surprisingly nonreligious institution as well as one of the Vatican’s least understood.” Although the account begins with interesting research activities being undertaken, Consolmagno leaves little doubt as to what he considers the source of true authority.
“A hundred years ago we didn’t understand the Big Bang,” he says. “Now that we have the understanding of a universe that is big and expanding and changing, we can ask philosophical questions we would not have known to ask, like ‘What does it mean to have multiverses?’ These are wonderful questions. Science isn’t going to answer them, but science, by telling us what is there, causes us to ask these questions. It makes us go back to the seven days of creation—which is poetry, beautiful poetry, with a lesson underneath it—and say, ‘Oh, the seventh day is God resting as a way of reminding us that God doesn’t do everything.’ God built this universe but gave you and me the freedom to make choices within the universe.”
Before moving on, it is important to stop and consider what the lesson “underneath” a poetic interpretation of Genesis would be. If Genesis is not the literal account of God’s creative actions, then does that mean that God is deceptive? After all, if we are to read Genesis as a poetic rendering of the big bang, then the order of creation would be completely wrong. For example, in the big bang model, stars existed before the earth, but God’s Word emphatically tells us that the earth existed first. That’s quite a big error. So, is God’s supposed message in a “poetical” rendering that He doesn’t know how He created?
Further down, the author claims that the reason for the Vatican’s “scientific caution and hesitancy” is because of the lessons learned from the trial and condemnation of Galileo in the 1600s.” There’s only one problem. Galileo, a Christian, was not the martyr of science he has been made out to be; instead, his arrogance and the envy of his colleagues (as well as politics) likely led to his trial. Unfortunately, the Galileo myth is so ingrained that historical facts are often overlooked. (By the way, and as is not commonly known, Galileo’s ideas were not in opposition to the Bible, as is sometimes believed, but to the Ptolemaic astronomical belief of an earth-centered universe; as such his main opposition came from the scientific establishment of his day and the Roman Catholic Church had made the error of adding Ptolemaic theories to its theology.)
While we can certainly applaud the Academy for getting input and ideas from many different people, religious or not, the disturbing aspect is the weight given to human opinions over the teachings of the Bible, which the Church declares as the Word of God. Italian physicist Nicola Cabibb, who presides over the academy, for example, has claimed that the understanding of the origin of life does not require a belief in God—allowing only that science cannot answer questions about “why things exist and what their purpose is.” So, why would someone who doesn’t see a need for God in the origin of life be leading such a prestigious group in the Catholic Church? Sadly, the answer may be found in the comments of Father George Coyne, the retired head of the Vatican Observatory.
“There is no science in the Bible. Zero, none,” Coyne says. “The Bible was written in different times by different people. Some of the books are poetry, some of them are history, some are stories.”
“Are you saying that the Bible should not be held up to scientific scrutiny?” I ask.
“That is correct,” Coyne says. “Absolutely.”
Consider Coyne’s claim: there is no science in the Bible. To test this claim, first, let’s list some fields of science to consider—cultural anthropology, archaeology, psychology, astronomy, and biology. If Coyne is right, none of those fields should apply or even be represented in God’s Word. Cultural anthropology is the study of human social structure, language, law, politics, and much more. Does the Bible make statements about any of these? The books of Judges and Kings describe the social structure of the unified and divided kingdoms, how the kingship arose, and many statements about the politics of the day. These are testable observations, but, alas, they can’t be science, right? What about archaeology? The Bible is filled with observations about the location and origin of of many cities and people groups. But, again, these surely cannot be scientific statements. Psychology? The Bible offers a wealth of case studies about behavior and motivations. Too bad they cannot be counted in Coyne’s view.
What about astronomy and biology? Ah, now here’s where the real rub is. Archaeology and psychology are one thing, but origins are another. It is likely that what Coyne really means is that the Bible cannot be allowed to comment on these areas, since science has shown the “real answers” about the history of the universe. While we would agree that the Bible does not offer an exhaustive look at any one field of science, God has given us some testable, verifiable accounts of history, biology, and human nature. One can examine what it says about the ancient world and discover that these statements are accurate. If it is accurate in those areas, then why would we suddenly disconnect it from the real world when it, quite obviously, makes testable statements about geology (the Flood), the universe, and the origin of life?
This disconnect is sadly symptomatic of the problems in much of Christianity. When the millions-of-years mentality creeps in and usurps the clear teaching of Scripture, Christians must either compartmentalize their faith as what is and is not the realm of science (i.e., naturalism masquerading as science) or reduce the Bible to the status of just another book with some truths. As Coyne says, the parts that don’t line up with current human opinion are conveniently tossed aside as “poetry” and “stories.” If that’s the case, then humans decide when God is and is not saying what He means based on perhaps the trendy ideas of the week. This can readily be seen in a later comment by Monsignor de Toca:
“When there are convincing reasons, we must interpret the Bible in a different way,” de Toca explains.
The author of the article rightly points out what this implies (and points out how compromise weakens a Christian’s witness):
When science posits a truth that seems to contradict Scripture (lack of evidence of a global flood, for example), the Bible’s inherent elasticity simply envelops the new finding, and any apparent contradiction is relegated to the realm of parable (where Noah’s ark resides, in the view of many Catholics).
If the Bible is not the starting point, as it is not for many in this article, then anything can be tossed out when there are “convincing reasons.” However, this argument is flawed in many ways. First, naturalists would say that there are “convincing reasons” to assume that Christ could not have physically risen from the dead, since that is not possible in a naturalistic framework. But if that’s the case, if He did not physically rise from the dead, then we are all dead in our sins, and those quoted in this article have a worthless faith that cannot save them (1 Corinthians 15:12–19) . Second, what if the “reasons” for rejecting what the Bible teaches turn out to be wrong? For example, there are many geologists who do unequivocally see evidence of a global Flood in the millions of dead things in rock layers all over the world. They, too, are scientists, but they are ignored simply because they do not toe the Darwin party line. Finally, if God did not mean what He said in the Bible, if He spoke in such a way that the “interpretation” can change with the winds of current thought, then what good is the Bible to us? There may be “moral lessons” hidden in the parts that conflict with what “science” tells us, but who decides what those moral lessons are? Do they simply shift along with what humans assume is best? Is God really God if He can’t speak clearly enough that we can understand Him or if He doesn’t provide concrete, unchanging truth?
The sad reality is that the more Christians give ground to the supposed “revelations” of Darwinists and old-earth scientists, the more the Bible, which claims to be God’s Word to us, is tossed aside. That in itself should give these men pause. If they really do trust in God as they claim, then why do they not trust Him to tell us the truth?
Darwin fans fret no more. From the climes of Canada comes definitive proof of evolution in action. At least, that’s what the headline says.
Dr. Diana Robson, the curator of botany at the Manitoba Museum in Canada, has discovered a new species of water lily. Although the species had already been documented in Saskatchewan, this is the first population found in Manitoba. According to the report, the species is relatively new and is a hybrid between two common species of water lily: Leiberg’s Water-lily (Nymphaea leibergii) and Fragrant Water-lily (Nymphaea odorata). In many cases, hybrid plants like this are sterile, but this new hybrid is able to reproduce and is, thus, a completely new species.
Still waiting for the proof of evolution? Well, according to Robson, you have to look past the prosaic nature of this find to the idea that “[n]ew species evolve when individuals obtain new genetic material that makes them well adapted to new habitats. Mutation is one way that organisms obtain new genetic information, and hybridization is another.” Furthermore, because this species has only been around for the “last 2,000 years,” this is proof that evolution is happening now.
If you are underwhelmed by this supposed “proof” of evolution, you aren’t alone. While we would certainly agree with Robson that evolution (in the particles-to-people sense) would require organisms to obtain new genetic information (something that does not occur), this new water lily falls far short, which makes it much more ridiculous that the Manitoba Museum website claims this is “Proving Evolution.”
By Dr. Robson’s definition, any hybrid that is capable of reproducing is a new species. Ironically, speciation is generally defined as the inability to reproduce with the parent population. Granted, we do not know if this new hybrid can reproduce with the Lieberg’s or Fragrant Water-lily, but we find it interesting that the viability of water lily species in hybridizing does not cause Robson and others to question the very definition of species that they rely upon.
For a biblical creationist, what we see with this new water lily hybrid, like everything else, has nothing to do with Darwin’s hope to turn slime into sapiens. In fact, we think Robson is looking at this “proof” upside down. The fact that two water lily species can reproduce to make a new hybrid suggests that species may not be the best way to categorize such plants and animals. For a much more cogent method, you have to go back to the original kinds that God created in Genesis 1. God made all plants with a wealth of genetic information. Over time, the descendants of the original kinds have become specialized for particular environments and either lost information, or certain information is not expressed. Although many have lost the ability to hybridize, some have not—such as these rare water lilies. Hybrids, then, would not be breaking new ground; instead, a hybrid would simply be interbreeding between two descendents of the same biblical kind.
We find the same thing in the animal world. For example, many members of the horse kind can still reproduce, which is how a zonkey and a zorse, such as the ones at the Creation Museum petting zoo, came about (although they are infertile). These aren’t new species that show evolution; they are reminders of the original kinds—and the creativity of God.
A lot of rain, a lot of water, and a gorge transformed in a matter of minutes. What can a ruptured earthen dam tell us about the formation of the Grand Canyon?
Around 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 17, the Redlands Earthen Dam near Grand Canyon National Park broke, overwhelmed by the heavy rain that this area in Arizona had received. The dam itself was located upstream from Supai, a village of the Havasupai Tribe (called the Hualapai in the report). There have been no reports of injuries, but several tourists and tribe members (around 170 people total) had to be evacuated by helicopter.
Fortunately, Supai village is located on high ground, and the rain-swollen rivers and sudden flood did not cause any reported damage. However, the low-lying areas did suffer from the overflowing waters. The gorge, located off the Grand Canyon, was reported to have been “devastated” by the flood. While information is slow to come, park officials say that hiking trails and footbridges have been washed away and trees have been uprooted.
The Grand Canyon has become iconic for the millions-of-years timescale of the earth (although just how many millions is a matter of debate). The basic story is that this massive scar in the earth was formed by the gradual flow of the Colorado River over a long period of time. Despite the major difficulties with this view, evolutionists require deep time in order to give their conjecture the veneer of respectability. But as Dr. Andrew Snelling, AiG–U.S., has pointed out about the claimed radioisotope dates of many millions of years for Grand Canyon rocks:
The calculated ages for all the individual samples from the same geologic formation [in the Grand Canyon] using the same dating method turned out to be vastly different . . . even for those closely spaced samples from the same outcrop of the same lava flow. The results are not even close to each other, although the samples should all have given the same age. . . .
Indeed, none of the isochron “ages” corresponds to the “date” for any theorized geologic event—neither the original lava eruptions nor the subsequent metamorphism. Clearly, the calculated ages are useless for dating any event.
Dam breaches like the one this week remind us that rather than forming over millions of years, the Grand Canyon is a testament to the amazing power of a lot of water over a little time (and a testament to the God who made this happen). Water can transform entire terrains in minutes, but without an eyewitness account, one might be tempted to think that such damage took a long period of time. Now, imagine what would happen if a dam that was much greater in size than the Redlands Earthen Dam were to rupture and let loose a barrage of water. What type of scar that would leave behind?
Most secular scientists look at that damage (what we call the Grand Canyon) and assume that such a monument must be old because of its massive size and because they refuse to believe that there is an objective source of information on how the canyon actually formed. But thanks to God’s Word, the Bible, creationists know that the Grand Canyon was likely formed after the waters of the worldwide Flood receded and a much larger dam gave way—the floodwaters making quick work of the ground in the way.
And for those who believe that the Flood mentioned in the Bible was local and not global, what would you say to the Havasupai who evacuated their homes because of something God said He would never do again (Genesis 9:8–17)? Would you tell them that God lied or didn’t know what He was saying? Doesn’t it make more sense that the Flood in the Bible was truly unique and global?
It may not have an impressive name, but minor planet 2006 SQ372 has a big role to play. Could this be the answer to the old-age comet conundrum?
A research team, led by University of Washington astronomer Andrew Becker, has discovered an unusual object in the solar system. The object, a minor planet in the same class as demoted Pluto and recently discovered Sedna, is unusual because its orbit is so elongated that it will eventually take it 150 billion miles away from the sun in its 22,500-year journey there and back. Right now, however, the icy rock is around the same distance from earth as Neptune.
According to the team, this tiny rock, around 60 miles in diameter, is more than just a random speck in space: it’s a comet without the tail. “It's basically a comet, but it never gets close enough to the Sun to develop a long, bright tail of evaporated gas and dust,” Becker told the press.
But wait—there’s more. Although the research team has limited observation data to go on, this didn’t stop them from speculating about how the object formed and what it could mean. “It could have formed, like Pluto, in the belt of icy debris beyond Neptune, then been kicked a large distance by a gravitational encounter with Neptune or Uranus.” Or, “More likely . . . it came from the Oort Cloud, a distant reservoir of icy, asteroid-like bodies that orbit the Sun at distances of several trillion miles (km).”
Let’s rewind for a moment. What did the team actually observe? An icy object with a measurable velocity in a long elliptical orbit around the sun. What does this prove empirically? An icy object orbits the sun with a measurable velocity in a long elliptical orbit. Look as closely as you like, and what you won’t find is any evidence whatsoever for the “extra facts” that the researchers give. Perhaps these are forthcoming in Astrophysical Journal, where it’s said that the researchers will publish their findings, although one would think more details would be given to support the more-sensational title of this piece.
But no flight of fancy through the solar system would be complete without a trip to the Oort cloud, that “distant reservoir of icy, asteroid-like bodies.” There’s only one problem. The Oort cloud is a hypothetical field that has never been shown to actually exist. The reason that secular astronomers want—and need—such a cloud of asteroids to exist is because they know that comets are a thorn in the side of the idea of billions of years. A comet, which is mainly dirt and ice, loses mass every time it draws close to the sun (that’s what gives it the tail we sometimes see from earth). This observable loss of mass gives an upper limit to the age of the solar system. If the solar system were billions of years old, there would be no comets left.
Knowing this to be an issue, secular astronomers have devised a means to sidestep the problem. We’ll let AiG astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle explain:
Since comets can’t last that long [4.5 billion years], secular astronomers must assume that new comets are created to replace those that are gone. So they’ve invented the idea of an “Oort cloud.” This is supposed to be a vast reservoir of icy masses orbiting far away from the sun. The idea is that occasionally an icy mass falls into the inner solar system to become a “new” comet. It is interesting that there is currently no evidence of an Oort cloud.
This discovery is a great example of how different observational and historical sciences can be. The observations were clear and exciting: a new “minor planet” has been found. But the presuppositions and historical assumptions were plentiful: this object is likely from an unobserved, undocumented, hypothetical asteroid field around the solar system. While there is always a small possibility that an Oort cloud could exist, there’s no reason for invoking such an object except for the researchers’ prior commitment to a universe that created itself. Doesn’t it make more sense to trust the eyewitness account of the One who was actually there—and who said He made the universe in six days about 6,000 years ago?
Scientists at the University College London (UCL) and the University of Melbourne (Australia) may not have counted on such a discovery, but their research suggests humans possess innate numerical skills.
To test humanity’s ability to know numerical concepts without knowing words for them, the researchers worked with Australian Aborigine children, “who have very restricted vocabularies for numbers,” from both Tanami Desert and Groot Eylandt. Although the languages that the children speak have words for one, two, few, and many, the children did not know the words for higher values.
The lead author of the study from UCL, Professor Brian Butterworth, explained the difficulties in developing a means to test the children compared to native English-speaking children. “In our tasks we couldn’t, for example, ask questions such as ‘How many?’ or ‘Do these two sets have the same number of objects?’ We therefore had to develop special tasks.”
The researchers relied, instead, upon visual and auditory cues that the children were asked to link to number values. For example, after hearing sticks being banged together a certain number of times, the children would have to come up with the correct number of counters. Although lacking words for the numbers, the Aborigine children “performed as well as or better than the English-speaking children on a range of tasks, and on numerosities up to nine.”
The human brain is an engineering marvel. Faster and more efficient than any supercomputer we can yet create, it can process copious amounts of information without overheating; retain images, data, and events without running out of space; and produce beautiful works of art. And yet, naturalists would have us believe that what we cannot match with our combined intelligence, natural selection produced with no intelligence at all.
The best computers do not suddenly develop the ability to count. That ability is there because we program it in. If this research is correct (more studies are needed), then our brains come pre-wired with numerical aptitude added at no charge.
The double standard of Darwinists is staggering. They admit that the complex machines and computers we use every day are the product of intelligence. None of them would claim that computers just sprang up from bits of silicon and copper. But the much greater complexity of the human body (and all of nature) is assigned to no intelligence at all. One can only point to 2 Peter 3 to understand why anyone would think this.
Want better grades? Go to church.
Researchers Jennifer Glanville of the University of Iowa and David Sikkink and Edwin Hernandez of the University of Notre Dame examined national data for 7th through 12th graders and discovered that students who went to church on a weekly basis had, on average, “a GPA .144 higher than those who never attend services.” In fact, the impact was slightly higher than for those whose parents had both obtained a college degree, which was an average of .12 higher.
The study suggests that the main reasons for the boost is because places of worship afford children social interaction that they might not have available otherwise through time spent with other adults and children who share similar interests. However, the researchers admit that the social interaction aspects “account for only half the predicted effect.”
On the other hand, the researchers also found that the importance of religion (also examined in this study) did not have a marked impact on GPA. To the researchers, this meant that the social interactions were most important, as they believe children in church are “more likely to have friends with higher GPAs who skipped school less often.”
If this study were an isolated benefit of attending church, we might be justified in dismissing it as an aberration. However, as the LiveScience article points out, church attendance has also been linked with breathing easier, a longer life, and having better-behaved, more socially adjusted children. While the researchers claim that it is merely the structure and social aspects that matter, perhaps they are refusing to ponder the more weighty considerations.
Obviously, there isn’t enough data to correlate an absolute connection between just church attendance and better grades, as more research is needed (though this would be a blow to those who claim that atheists are more intelligent than believers). They pointed out the observable aspects of going to church (social interaction, friendships, communication), but these alone did not account for the total bump in scores according to the researchers.
Perhaps the main reason for the improved scores, the better breathing, and the longer life are not simply manifestations of social interaction. Perhaps the main reason is something that the researchers refused to consider: God, who is in fellowship Himself, created us to be social and to interact with fellow believers. And attending church, being “religious,” and being a Christian can all be separate factors. As we said, there is not enough data to make firm conclusions. But it seems there’s more to this “church thing” than bake sales and Bingo after all.
Forget fieldwork. The trendy new way to discover fossils is as close as your Internet browser.
When Dr. Richard Harrington bought a fossil aphid preserved in amber from someone in Lithuania, he got more than he could have thought possible for £20. It turns out that the aphid belongs to a new species, according to an aphid expert in Denmark, Professor Ole Heie.
“He discovered that it was something that hadn’t been described before,” Dr. Harrington explained.
Although Dr. Harrington initially wanted to pay homage to the place where he found the species with the name Mindarus ebayi, Professor Heie named the bug Mindarus harringtoni in honor of the purchaser. As far as Dr. Harrington knows, this aphid, “encased in a 40–50 million-year-old piece of amber,” is the first such find of its kind.
Did you notice that subtle slip there? For the most part, this report is a rather light-hearted look at an interesting find. But what need is there to mention the supposed age of the amber? For one thing, there is no way to corroborate the claim, and the article writer seems to think we should just take it without providing any reason for such a claim to be true. For all the reader knows, this could simply have been what the eBay listing said:
Great piece of amber—really old—like, 40 million years. Cool insect thing inside.
The main point is that the savvy reader should expect more than just empty claims. Yes, the find is certainly good observation science, but what need is there to throw in just-so stories about the supposed age of the amber and what the insect ate? While this example may be more trivial, keep in mind that this is the same tactic Darwinists use when talking about human “ancestors,” dinosaurs, and other matters of the unrepeatable past. Perhaps they believe that if they say it enough with enough conviction that people won’t question their unsubstantiated “facts.”
Of course, starting from the Bible as foundational, there is certainly no need to worry when they make such claims.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!
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