A British couple have been denied the privilege of caring for foster children because they hold biblical views on homosexual behavior.
Owen and Eunice Johns of Derby, England, had applied to their local city council to provide respite care, but the process came to a halt when a social worker discovered the apparently shocking truth: as Christians, the Johns said that they couldn’t tell a child that a homosexual lifestyle was acceptable. The High Court has upheld the decision that they be denied foster parenthood on the grounds that laws preventing discrimination against homosexuals take precedence over laws protecting the couple’s religious values.
The court defended the decision against claims that it represented a threat to religious freedom: “No one is asserting that Christians—or, for that matter, Jews or Muslims—are not fit and proper persons to foster or adopt. No-one is contending for a blanket ban.” But apparently there now can be a blanket ban against Christians who hold biblical views on homosexual behavior. In fact, it seems that the court is almost being disingenuous: if most Christians hold biblical views on homosexuality, then ipso facto there is a blanket ban against most Christians fostering or adopting.
As would be expected in any high-profile case, a number of parties have made comments on their pleasure or displeasure with the decision:
Naturally, we understand that foster children must be protected from not only physical mistreatment, but also from other forms of mistreatment such as encouraging hostile attitudes toward others. For example, we agree that anyone advocating violence against homosexuals—on religious grounds or otherwise—would not be fit for fostering, just as anyone advocating violence in general would not be fit for fostering!
But several things worry us about the High Court’s ruling. First, there is the obvious concern about a “slippery slope” whereby many religious views may become “dangerous” to foster children. Can a foster parent tell children that we are all sinners, condemned to hell without God’s grace—or might that be “frightening” and “destructive” and impede their development as free individuals? Can a foster parent express belief in Christ’s resurrection, or is that spreading a “pseudoscientific” lie? Ultimately, what if “child welfare” continues to be re-defined such that any parent, foster or natural, cannot teach their child religious morals?
This goes along with concerns about Christian views on homosexual behavior being censored. If stating that homosexual behavior is sinful is cast as “dangerous,” then not only may Christians effectively be silenced from speaking their beliefs on that topic, but what’s to stop the government from denying Christians to teach that any behavior is wrong? For example, could parents teach their children that sex outside of marriage is wrong, or is that “offensive” and “endangering the child’s welfare”?
And how was the risk to children measured? For example, did the Johns go out of their way (in required interviews as part of their application) to say that they would castigate homosexuals in front of foster children? Or did a chance thread of conversation lead the discussion to a point where the Johns were effectively cornered into saying that, yes, if the subject of homosexuality came up with a foster child, they would say that they accepted the Bible’s teaching on the subject.
Also troubling is the fact that, as The Telegraph reports, the government suggested the Johns attend a “re-education” program.
What is genuinely most frustrating, however, is that both the Derby city council spokesman and the executive for the homosexual-cause charity fail to distinguish being a good and loving foster parent from holding certain views. For example, the charity executive implies that the Johns couldn’t provide foster services “fairly” to children, while the council spokesman suggests they couldn’t encourage and support children. This is akin to the illogical implication that to love homosexuals one must love homosexuality, while hating homosexuality necessitates hating homosexuals. Non-Christians fail either to see how or to acknowledge that we can love homosexuals while hating homosexual behavior.
And in the end, perhaps the biggest tragedy is that it appears society as a whole is missing out on at least two qualified and badly needed foster parents (the Telegraph reports a shortage of 10,000) simply because of the increasing legal dominance of anti-biblical views.
Darwinists are quick to insist that humans evolved. But do they think we’re still evolving?
In this case, the question is interpreted as, is natural selection still operating on humans? BBC News discussed the question with a few scientists whose research speaks to the question. The report also discusses some areas of recent human “evolution,” such as changes in metabolism and the ability for adults to digest lactose. (But more on that in a moment.)
University College London geneticist Steve Jones tells the BBC,
“In Shakespeare’s time, only about one English baby in three made it to be 21. All those deaths were raw material for natural selection, many of those kids died because of the genes they carried. But now, about 99% of all the babies born make it to that age. Natural selection, if it hasn’t stopped, has at least slowed down.”
BBC News also spoke with Yale University evolutionary biologist Stephen Stearns, who argues that natural selection is still working because some people choose to have fewer children than others. A study of the medical history of Framingham, Massachusetts, showed that the inhabitants of Framingham “are still evolving,” in the report’s wording, with decreases in height and increases in weight over time. (Apparently overeating was ruled out as a factor.) Stearns’ interpretation of the study is that
“we are continuing to evolve, that biology is going to change with the culture and it’s just a matter of not being able to see it because we’re stuck right in the middle of the process right now.”
In other words, the rate of human evolution may increase, in spite of how technology protects us from environmental dangers, because the forces of globalization, culture, and the like influence reproductive rates. But as we often point out, this sort of “evolution” is quite different from the sort invoked to explain the origin of humans, with information-adding mutations over time. (For more, see our note at the end of this week’s item #4.) For example, the “evolution” of adult lactose tolerance is actually due to a mutation that fails to turn off our already-existing ability to digest lactose. In this sense those of us who can digest lactose as adults are “degenerate mutants”!
In related news, scientists have determined that “smaller changes in multiple genes may have been the primary driver of changes in human phenotypes” rather than “a new, advantageous gene [that] appears and quickly spreads through the population.” While not direct evidence against “information adding” mutations, the research does align with our perspective that small “horizontal” genetic changes as well as degenerative changes, not information-adding changes, account for the majority of our biological diversity.
Thinking of taking a GPS-powered navigational device on your next road trip? Why not let a shark “ride shotgun” instead?
Research published in the Journal of Animal Ecology describes the “mental maps” that certain shark species rely on to find exact destinations with pinpoint accuracy. According to the study, the sharks can locate specific food sources from as far as 30 miles (50 km) away. The finding comes from acoustic transmitters attached to the sharks.
Confirming the ability exists in varying degrees in both tiger sharks and thresher sharks (but not in blacktip reef sharks), the scientists ran statistical tests to confirm that the accuracy wasn’t just an accident; the sharks were indeed “navigating” to the destination. And although sharks see fairly well, many of the precise journeys took place at night—in total darkness beneath the waves.
While the researchers have several hunches, it isn’t clear how the sharks are able to find their way around so well. One possibility is that the sharks rely on their ability to sense the earth’s magnetic field, but the team also suggests that water temperature, smells, or signals from ocean currents may play a role. Whatever the case, “[t]hey have to have a pretty good navigation system because the distances are great,” noted research leader Yannis Papastamatiou of the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The more we learn about the animals we share the earth with, the more we can see God’s hand in the incredible designs that allow some animals to exhibit sophisticated behavior almost unfathomable to us. Although sharks’ predation reminds us of the consequence of the Fall of man, their built-in “GPS” reminds us of Creation Week.
They’re not quite peppered moths, but might black swallowtail butterflies be a new icon of evolution?
University of Texas–Austin biologist Larry Gilbert has spent years studying butterflies of the genus Heliconius, dramatically colored creatures that are common throughout tropical and subtropical America. Because they sport both diverse coloring and a range of behaviors, the butterflies are giving Gilbert’s team an ideal chance to observe the workings of natural selection—and perhaps see a new species form.
The scientists, funded by a U.S. government grant, have studied a population of Heliconius butterflies in Ecuador that come in two main varieties: some with yellow on their wings, others with white. While the team believes the coloration evolved to help the butterflies avoid predators, the colors also play a role in mate selection. Even though both variants are able to mate with one another (thus meeting the traditional definition for a single species), the scientists discovered that only the yellow-winged butterflies prefer to mate with others with yellow wings. (The white-winged butterflies don’t seem to care who they mate with.) Eventually, if each variant stops recognizing and mating with the other, the two may be considered separate species.
“So what we are finding is the butterflies shift their color pattern to avoid predators, but it has this secondary consequence of causing them to no longer recognize each other as potential mates, and we think, actually causing speciation,” explained Harvard University biologist Marcus Kronforst, one of the team members.
Most observed cases of speciation occur when small differences between certain members of a population become magnified over time as those members stop mating with one another. The workings of natural selection can cause the two groups to diverge even more, possibly making interbreeding impossible, but usually just making it unlikely that members of the different groups will ever mate in the wild. This can be sufficient to identify a new species.
But notice what’s not happening: none of the individuals show signs of having developed new genetic information, which would be required if the new species were more “advanced” than the old species. Kronforst even notes that among the Ecuadorean butterflies, “[T]he only place on the whole genome where they are different is the gene that causes color, because everywhere else that we look, genetically they are exactly the same.” New species or not, this isn’t evolution* in action. Actually, it fits well with the biblical creationist model, because we see how the diversity of modern organisms could have rapidly developed since the biological “bottleneck” that occurred during the Flood.
In a final point to note, Gilbert describes Heliconius’s fascinating intelligence: “[T]hey are smart . . . . [T]hey are able to cruise around and show up at the same little inconspicuous flower at the same time every day. They run a very complicated route in the forest, and then they go roost in the same place every night.”
The Scopes “monkey trial” of Dayton, Tennessee, over eighty years ago, plays a unique role in the modern creation–evolution controversy. From the original media circus to the trial’s misrepresentation in the film Inherit the Wind, evolutionists have pointed to the trial as an example of creationist inanity. So should creationists be blamed for trying to advance our interpretation of the trial?
Much of today’s debate over the trial concerns the basic facts. Hollywood’s Inherit the Wind (based on a play of the same name) was a dramatic retelling of the event that distorted many of the basic facts, with those distortions uniformly weakening the creationist position. Unfortunately, many viewers never realized how much “dramatic license” the film took, mistaking caricatured creationists and their views for the real thing. (If you’re not sure about the real history of the Scopes trial, check out our articles on the topic or watch a detailed analysis.) In fact, even the “real thing” was in many ways a distortion; it was a ploy by local businessmen and the ACLU, who persuaded a local substitute (not science!) teacher-cum-football coach to stand for trial despite never having actually taught evolution. Furthermore, Tennessee’s teachers at the time of the trial were permitted to teach evolution, except that they were not allowed to discuss the possibility that humans had an ape-like ancestor. Contrary to the widely held myth, instruction regarding all other biological evolution was not forbidden in the state’s schools.
The latest twist is the invocation of John Scopes (and the Scopes trial by extension) by creationists to argue that teachers should be more free to discuss the creation–evolution controversy. Scientific American (which passes along at least one inaccuracy about the Scopes trial) reports that proponents of a proposed “anti-evolution” bill in Tennessee have argued that Scopes would support a bill giving teachers more academic freedom. Although this site has made analogies between the teaching restrictions evolutionists opposed then and the restrictions creationist teachers face now, Scientific American includes a quotation from a much older Scopes that suggests he would not support the latest legislation.
Unsurprisingly, Scientific American repeatedly characterizes the efforts in Tennessee and those in other states as “anti-evolution,” though it admits that the Tennessee bill, at least, “does not actually mandate the inclusion of creationist or [intelligent design] teachings.” Instead, the bill ensures that teachers are not restricted from “helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” Such a protection would certainly be uncontroversial were it not for opponents’ fear that it is a Trojan horse to facilitate the teaching of creationist views.
Answers in Genesis certainly applauds efforts to encourage open and honest discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory in the classroom. That said, even if such bills become law, parents should never be fooled into thinking their children will get a fair and balanced perspective on evolutionary ideas in the public school classroom. Christian youth must be raised by parents, pastors, and Sunday school teachers to understand the true account of origins as taught in Genesis, along with (ideally) an understanding of what evolutionists believe and why it contradicts both Scripture and sound science. Taught properly, the Bible-believing student can face science class confidently prepared to learn about and critically analyze evolutionary theories.
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, the 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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