For the Vatican, the question of whether “sentient life forms exist on other worlds” has yet to be answered.
In May 2008, we reported on an article titled “Aliens Are My Brother” by Father Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory. Funes speculated that there could be many forms of intelligent life throughout the universe, and that some could be “free of original sin.” The Vatican recently concluded a five-day conference on the topic of astrobiology, a field studying the question of life beyond earth.
One attendee, University of Arizona astronomer Chris Impey, claimed we may discover alien life within only a few years. According to Funes, eliminating the possibility of alien life would “put limits on God’s creative freedom.” He continued, “The questions of life’s origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration,” and added that the question has “many philosophical and theological implications.”
The Vatican also hosted a conference this year on Darwin’s The Origin of Species, which—the AP notes—“snubbed proponents of alternative theories, like creationism and intelligent design, which see a higher being rather than the undirected process of natural selection behind the evolution of species.” We continue to find it stunning that some of even the highest officials and leaders of the Roman Catholic Church consider the notion of an intelligent designer to be flawed.
The Associated Press mistakenly portrays a false dichotomy at work in the situation, saying that Pope Benedict XVI wants to “[strengthen] the relationship between faith and reason” and that the Vatican Observatory is working hard to “bridge the gap between religion and science.” Not only do we reject that dichotomy (admittedly a common one) as false; we also reject the idea that leaving the question of alien life for evolutionary astrobiologists to answer is a way of serving both faith and reason. First, although the Bible doesn’t state it outright, the absence of intelligent alien life is implied (see the links below). Second, the idea that there could be intelligent life in outer space is almost entirely based on evolutionary presuppositions: namely, that life can appear wherever the correct material factors exist. Yet almost totally absent from this proposition is any compelling scientific evidence.
It seems the effects of the Galileo affair have had a permanent impact on the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude toward science.* Now, they are so unwilling to give the appearance of interfering in otherwise secular science that they reject even fundamentally Christian views.
*Readers may wonder why our Christian ministry would bring up what some critics say is an embarrassment to Christianity: the bad treatment of Galileo by the religious leaders of his day. The often-heard claim is that Christianity was anti-science during the time of Galileo because the Catholic Church accepted an earth-centered solar system and persecuted Galileo for his contrarian belief in a sun-centered one. However, the Church’s belief was based on the acceptance of ancient thinkers like Aristotle and Ptolemy, not what the Bible actually teaches. Much pagan thinking had seeped into Catholic teaching, and the Church's acceptance of the ancients’ beliefs of the universe was the cause of the Galileo affair, not the Bible’s teaching.
Thousands of years ago, God parted the Red Sea. Is He parting Ethiopia now?
In the middle of the Ethiopian desert, a 35-mile-long (56 km) gash cuts through the earth, the product of tectonic activity in 2005. A team publishing in Geophysical Research Letters argues that the rift is an analogue for what happens on the ocean floor, where volcanic activity pushes tectonic plates apart in sudden, massive geologic events. This idea runs contrary to slow-and-gradual notions of tectonic movement that were previously accepted.
Much of the work was led by Addis Ababa University’s Atalay Ayele, who gathered seismic data from the time the rift was formed. From that, University of Rochester earth scientist Cindy Ebinger assembled a more detailed model of how volcanoes trigger rapid tectonic activity.
“We know that seafloor ridges are created by a similar intrusion of magma into a rift, but we never knew that a huge length of the ridge could break open at once like this,” Ebinger said. “Seafloor ridges are made up of sections, each of which can be hundreds of miles long. Because of this study, we now know that each one of those segments can tear open in a just a few days.”
One obstacle to studying the topic is that geologists are unable to monitor the entire seafloor ridges simultaneously. Thus, earth scientist Ken Macdonald of University of California–Santa Barbara, who was not involved with the study, noted, “This work is a breakthrough in our understanding of continental rifting leading to the creation of new ocean basins.”
While the team continues to devote further study to the Ethiopian region (additional seismometers have been installed), we are reminded of how many times the slow-and-gradual, uniformitarian approach to geology has been upended by scientists’ observations of catastrophic events. The speed with which the Ethiopian rift appeared is a suggestion of just how rapidly tectonic events may occur on earth now. How much more rapidly could tectonic events, even large-scale ones, have occurred during and immediately after the catastrophic Flood year?
Fossilized soft tissue has been found in a salamander fossil said to be 18 million years old.
The salamander fossil hails from what is thought to have been an ancient lake bed in southern Spain. During analysis, researchers saw a “sinewy texture visible under the microscope” that they immediately identified as muscle tissue, according to Patrick Orr of University College Dublin. The discovery is reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Geologist Maria McNamara, also from University College Dublin, explained, “After first sighting the material, we completed a series of highly detailed analyses to limit the possibility that it was simply an artefact of preservation or something unrelated to the biology of the animal.” She continued,
“We noticed that there had been very little degradation since it was originally fossilised about 18 million years ago, making it the highest quality soft tissue preservation ever documented in the fossil record.”
The muscle tissue has been “organically preserved in three dimensions, with circulatory vessels infilled with blood,” a press release reports, adding that the researchers “claim that their discovery is unequivocal evidence that high-fidelity organic preservation of extremely decay prone soft tissues is more common in the fossil record.”
The amazing quality of preservation of many of the creatures in the fossil record continues to be evidence of catastrophic burial—before the bodies could degrade or be scavenged.
By the way, tomorrow evening the popular TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes will cover this fascinating topic of fossil preservation. The segment will deal with the contents of a T. rex bone supposedly over 65 million years old. The bone contains wonderfully preserved soft tissue, including blood vessels. This is compelling evidence that this dinosaur lived far more recently, for the blood vessels would surely have disappeared during the bone’s alleged 65 million years of preservation. (For more, see “Ostrich-Osaurus” Discovery?.)
Turkey is a nation uncertain of its identity, and that holds true in the creation/evolution debate.
Washington Post staff writer Marc Kaufman examines the rising tide of creationist teaching in Turkey, where the origins debate is in the context of Islam rather than Christianity.
“They said I was a liar if I called myself a Muslim because I also accepted evolution,” biology teacher Sema Ergezen told Kaufman. According to Kaufman, Ergezen’s negative experiences as an evolutionist are becoming more and more common in Turkey.
Kaufman writes, “With direct and indirect help from American foes of evolution, similarly-minded Turks have aggressively made the case that Charles Darwin’s theory is scientifically wrong and is the underlying source of most of the world's conflicts because it excludes God from human affairs.” A recent poll showed that less than a quarter of Turks consider evolution the explanation for life.
Widely known in Turkey and in much of the rest of the world is journalist Adnan Oktar (better known by his pen name Harun Yahya), a Muslim creationist whose organization produces creationist materials. “Darwin is the worst Fascist there has ever been, and the worst racist history has ever witnessed,” he says.
Kaufman quotes John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, a cousin ministry to Answers in Genesis: “Why I’m so interested in seeing creationism succeed in Turkey is that evolution is an evil concept that has done such damage to society,” Morris said. The article mentions that representatives of ICR have spoken at Turkish conferences.
According to Kaufman, “If Turks close their minds to evolutionary thinking, advocates say, it won’t be long before religion and politics shut off other scientific pursuits.” But this assertion seems to assume that “evolutionary thinking” is an effective synonym for science, which misses many of creationists’ points.
Do we feel solidarity with Muslim creationists? The question is largely similar to whether we feel solidarity with those in the Intelligent Design Movement. On one hand, we certainly use many of the same arguments and agree that evolution is an unscientific, by-faith explanation of origins from a naturalistic standpoint. Just as those in the Intelligent Design Movement may generate scientific research we agree with, and just as they may point out societal problems evolution has led to, so also may Muslims.
On the other hand, it is very easy to exaggerate the bond of Muslim and Christian creationists, as the Post article seems to do. The problem stems, first, from a focus on the creationist element of each group’s identity and, second, from forgetting that creationist views are intellectually submissive to religious views. Answers in Genesis is a ministry upholding God’s Word first and foremost—and, because of that, our mission is entirely incompatible with an organization promoting a Koranic worldview. Our position on creation is an outgrowth of a biblical worldview, and our mission is closely tied to defending that connection.
Thus, to even imply that we would find Muslim creationists more like-minded than evolutionists (Muslim or otherwise) misses the point. Any worldview that fails to begin with God’s Word is ultimately flawed, just as any individual without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ remains responsible for their sins before a just God.
An eight-year veteran of a Texas abortion center has resigned after watching an abortion on ultrasound for the first time.
“I just thought, ‘What am I doing?’” explained Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. “And then I thought, ‘Never again.’” Johnson is referring to her experience watching the abortion of a 13-week-old fetus on ultrasound. According to the Christian Post, seeing the fetus trying to move away from the abortionist’s probe was a particularly powerful moment for Johnson.
She added, “Over the past few months I had seen a change in motivation regarding the financial impact of abortions and really reached my breaking point after witnessing a particular kind of abortion on an ultrasound.”
For the last five years, the abortion clinic where Johnson worked has been prayed for by pro-life group Coalition for Life/40 Days for Life. According to pro-life activist Shawn Carney, director of Coalition for Life and a 40 Days for Life board member, “It’s truly been a testament to the power of prayer and the courage of Abby to leave a job she felt she could no longer do in good conscience.” Perhaps not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood sought a restraining order against both Johnson and the Coalition for Life, although a Judge, this week, did not grant it.
As for our thoughts, we think this news story speaks for itself!
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, New York Times or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard 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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