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Hemoglobin from Dinosaurs is evidence against Macroevolution June 24, 2017

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Science.
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Macroevolution is a very difficult thing to test in a scientific experiment. Among other difficulties, the time scale upon which this process might happen is simply too large. So, lacking direct evidence, scientists generally point to the experimental results from other evolutionary mechanisms that work on smaller time scales as proof that macroevolution did indeed occur.

But did it? The truth is that evidence for one type of process is only evidence for that one type of process. (For more information see my post, What is Evolution?) So whether macroevolution actually happened remains an unproven hypothesis. Now a series of amazing discoveries over the past decade has shed new light on this debate. What has been unearthed is nothing short of amazing and it is evidence on the scale of millions of years.

Hammond-1

I’m referring to the modern recovery of dinosaur soft tissue. What was once the realm of science fiction and the basis for a very popular series of novels and movies from the 1990s has become science fact. Well, sort of.

In his book, Dr. Fazale “Fuz” Rana goes into detail about this amazing discovery, how no one ever thought it possible and so no one ever actually searched for soft tissue remains from dinosaurs. And to be honest, this discovery is controversial but Dr. Rana makes a strong case — with all the appropriate references to the scientific literature — that we should believe that these scientists were in fact successful in recovering actual dinosaur remains. (For that story I refer you to Dr. Rana’s book, “Dinosaur Blood and the Age of the Earth“.)

Now let us turn our conversation to an implication of this discovery. What the scientists investigating the soft tissue remains of dinosaurs have shown is that dinosaurs most likely had the same biological systems that we use today. Specifically, these scientists believed they recovered hemoglobin from dinosaurs which is the same molecule that all vertebrates use in their blood. Thus dinosaurs were just like us in their biology.

Someone with a shallow understanding of this discovery may misinterpret this as evidence for macroevolution by common descent. However, it is really evidence against macroevolution. The key here is the timescale plus our understanding of how macroevolution is expected to work and our understanding of genetic codons.

First, a little bit about codons. All DNA is composed of four base molecules: Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine (C), and Guanine (G). Conveniently for our discussion these are referred to as the genetic “letters”. The informational layer above this is the codon level in which combinations of three bases form a “word”. Given any three bases from our set of four results in exactly 64 combinations. Thus there are 64 different codons.

dna-codon-table

It is this “glossary” of words that encodes the information found in DNA. Amazingly, this arrangement of 64 codons shows incredible design. It has been deconstructed by modern computer programmers and was found to be highly efficient at storing information given the complexity of the 3D structure of DNA. What looks like redundancy in the encoding is actually highly efficient error-avoidance functionality.

So here is the million-year-old question: If macroevolution is true and evolution is essentially an undirected random process, how is it that this glossary of codons has remained unchanged over the millions of years that evolution has supposedly operated while evolution is also responsible for evolving dinosaurs into birds over the same time frame?

The discovery of hemoglobin from the preserved soft tissue of dinosaurs begs this question.

What is Evolution? June 24, 2017

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Science, Interpretation, Apologetics.
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In this video, biochemist Fazale “Fuz” Rana explains evolution for a non-scientist christian. His approach challenges the idea that evolution is somehow a deathblow to the concept of special creation in Christianity. Dr. Rana does this by defining the five major categories of biological change and then dividing them into two groups, those that are a challenge to Christianity and those that are not.

Knowing what is being referred to when scientists talk about evolution is helpful in making sense again of the evolutionary paradigm, learning how to think about it. But one thing we all have to be careful about as we’re looking at the evidence for evolution is to not allow yourself to be sucked into what I’ll call the ‘shell game of evolution’. – Dr. Rana, “What is Evolution?” <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BMvxTb0I6U&gt; (7:28)

Dr. Rana’s Five Categories of Biological Change (All commonly referred to as evolution)

  • microevolution
  • speciation
  • microbial evolution
  • macroevolution
  • chemical evolution (a.k.a. abiogenesis)

Put simply, Dr. Rana argues that what is evidence for one specific type of biological change is only evidence for that specific type of biological change. Scientists generally have good evidence for the top three on this list (which coincidentally are not strong challenges to the christian faith) but lack strong evidence for the bottom two (which generally are).

This video is the first in a series about evolution. If you’d like to learn more, explore the “Through the Lens” playlist on YouTube.

Why Christians Must Use Good Science August 22, 2016

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Favorite Verses, Science.
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How many times have you known this to happen?

Johnny Gentile came to church with his friend today. His mother had died and he was looking for answers.

The preacher spoke about life and death and Johnny said, “Good. Good.”

Next the preacher spoke about Jesus’ blood and payment for sins and Johnny said, “Good. Good.”

Then the preacher spoke about how Jesus’ blood was inherited from God in heaven and that His body was inherited from Mary. He explained that Jesus had divine blood and that’s why his death was payment for our sins and Johnny said, “No. Bad science.”

Finally the preacher asked if there was anyone there who needed their sins forgiven but Johnny Gentile was gone.

For you see, Johnny had learned in his basic high school biology class about genetics. He knew that children inherit half of all their genetic traits from one parent and half from the other so the preacher’s explanation about Jesus didn’t ring true. Since the preacher’s scientific basis was wrong, Johnny Gentile figured that the rest of what that preacher said was wrong too and left.

The moral of the story is that Christians should use and practice good science rather than build a case for Christ on a faulty foundation. 1 Peter 3:15-17 (NIV) tells us that we should always be ready to give an account of our faith.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Phillipians 4:8-9 (NIV) also tells us to cling to what is true.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Therefore, as followers of the God of truth let us speak only truth. If we are to fulfill the great commission and compel the lost to come to God, then the burden is on our shoulders to represent Christ appropriately.

Surveillance Cameras and Revelation 11:9 November 5, 2015

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in End Times, Prophecy.
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Temple Mount

A view of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem taken by photographer Andrew Shiva

Because of recent violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, the nations of Israel and Jordan have agree to put surveillance cameras on the Temple Mount. In an unusual situation, it is the Jordanian Wakf who is responsible for the al-Aksa Mosque and other muslim holy sites in Jerusalem–not the Palestinian Authority.

Some choice quotes:

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has agreed to what I think is an excellent suggestion by King Abdullah to provide 24-hour video coverage of all sites on the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif,” Kerry said.

“This will provide comprehensive visibility and transparency, and that could really be a game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site,” Kerry said.

This also seems to be another piece of the End Times puzzle that is moving into place. If Revelation 11 is to come to pass, there must be a way for verse 9 to happen. This prophetic chapter concerns two witnesses who will prophesy in Jerusalem:

7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8 Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city–which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt–where also their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.

11 But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

Revelation 11:7-12 (NIV)

The plan struck between Israel and Jordan appears to include a requirement that the footage be streamed live over the Internet to guarantee transparency among the different stakeholders. So 24-hour video coverage of Jerusalem would enable this prophecy to literally come true.

Source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Kerry-Netanyahu-has-agreed-to-maintain-the-exclusive-Muslim-prayer-right-on-Temple-Mount-429951

Reason and Faith October 2, 2015

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Uncategorized.
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“our local sukkah at night” by giveawayboy

Full Article: Sukkot: Reason and Faith by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

I came across this article yesterday. It explains how we need both faith and reason in a novel way–via parallel with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. A few choice quotes are included below:

There are essentially two Sukkot – two dwellings to celebrate during this time. The manmade tents that our ancestors built and the G-d made canopy that G-d conjured. Why did they need both? If they had the manmade one, why did they need the G-d made cloud and if they had the G-d made cloud why did they need the man made tent?

We relate to G-d in two ways. There is the track of reason and the track of faith. Reason is manmade, faith is G-d made. Reason and faith are parallel tracks. Utilized correctly they should not contradict. The problem is that if you ride two horses on parallel tracks, one foot on one horse and one foot on the other, the horses need to keep pace with each other or you will be in for a nasty fall.

Definitely worth a read.

Science and Christianity are not Enemies March 27, 2015

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Favorite Verses, Science.
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Historic Christianity birthed modern science.

This is a fact attested to by many modern researchers and historians yet almost no one alive today is aware of it. Today, Science and Christianity (almost always stated as ‘science and religion’ but there’s really only one religion in this debate) are seen as opposites. Worse, people with a scientific background erroneously believe that science has somehow disproven the existence of God and many Christians are afraid to study science for fear they will lose their faith.

Neither position is accurate. Christians who have a weak foundation for their faith may indeed lose it but this is hardly a foregone conclusion. And how can science disprove something that has no tangible parts? I mean it’s not like you can bottle faith in a test tube and subject it to tests.

So how did historic Christianity birth modern science?

It goes back to an issue of worldview. In the ancient world, many cultures had the potential for birthing science. The ancient Chinese knew about magnetism, the ancient Arabs gave us number systems, the ancient Egyptians knew about astronomy, etc. Every major culture of the past had a something to contribute yet modern science was always “stillborn”. It did not arise in its modern form of “test everything” until the middle ages of Western Europe.

Why?

The answer lies in Christianity and in no small part to the following verse:

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. – 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (KJV)

The differences between Christianity and all the other religions before it are many. It was a combination of several of these that led to modern science. Christianity posits a single Creator God that is personal and all-powerful. (The topic of the Trinity is another conversation.) Most all ancient religions had a pantheon of gods that usually did things arbitrarily. So there was never any cultural push to understand how the world worked. If there was a lightning storm, then Zeus/Jupiter/Thor was simply angry. But in the Christian worldview, followers were taught:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (KJV)

So there must always be a purpose in everything. Thus, curious people poked about and prodded the natural world until it revealed its secrets.

And because God was personal and had created all things. And because we were made in His image as the following verse states:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. – Genesis 1:27 (KJV)

Then our creative capacities and tendencies derive from God as well. Just as God must derive great pleasure from creating, so too do we. And modern science as we know it was birthed. All this came about because of the particular worldview that Christianity had instilled into the people living in western Europe during the middle ages.

‘God and Suffering’ Video September 25, 2014

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Morality.
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The best explanation I’ve ever heard for how God can still exist even though human beings experience suffering in this life.

Honest to God on the Issues #002: Evolution and Creationism November 16, 2012

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Honest to God on the Issues.
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There are fundamental questions capable of changing the direction of the entire human race.

  • Where did we come from?
  • How did the universe come to exist?
  • Is there a God?

By and large, there are only two real alternatives – Creation or Evolution – though some individuals would discount either one or the other. Furthermore, the Creation-Evolution controversy is well known but it’s also incredibly complex in ways that most people are not familiar.

First, let’s talk about Evolution which is actually an umbrella term. It can refer to any of several different and specific scientific processes acting at different zoom levels of our world. It’s a common tactic for a proponent of evolution to provide an example from one area, say the mutation of a virus into a new strain at the micro level, and then claim that proves evolution is the explanation for what happens in a different area, like Man evolved from an ape-like ancestor at the Macro level. Dr. Rana of Reasons to Believe likens it to the Shell Game.

It takes someone trained in the sciences to understand such details and to provide a way to refute the truth-claims of evolution (that Man evolved from an ape-like ancestor) without mucking up the science. Which brings me to a particular bible passage, Romans 1:18-23:

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” – Romans 1:18-23 (NKJV)

This amazing passage states that the universe (the heavens) reveals God’s handiwork. What the bible says about God creating the universe cannot be separated from scientific facts. God is both Lord and Creator. Thus the Evolution – Creation debate is in fact a “false” debate. Modern Christianity has stepped right into a trap that C. S. Lewis warned us about long ago:

“[The Devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.” – C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

Young-Earth Creationism is the other error because it denies that the physical world, which God created, is the way that science says it is. Scientists merely observe the physical world and make interpretations and inferences about how it works. The scientific process itself is very pragmatic: whatever works is kept and built upon to create a fuller and more complete model.

Now, I am not proposing that the evolutionary explanation for the origin of humanity and the universe is correct. Far from it in fact. As a Christian, evolution is the obvious error in Lewis’ comparison. But Romans 1:18-23 merges belief in God with an accurate understanding of the world God made. The bible states that humans are fallen and sinful. How much more then must our own interpretations, both of scripture and of science, be treated with suspicion?

I cannot help you make the choice to accept this conclusion but I can point you to the organization which helped me. I spent years working through trying to find an integrated approach to science and scripture and I found it in Reasons to Believe. Do not believe all the lies you might have heard about them. They are honest, professional, and trustworthy. More to the point, they’re also logical and consistent. They’re scientists and Christians so they understand the particulars of this debate in ways that the rest of us cannot. I’ve looked at the alternatives and found them illogical and God is a God of logic, of sense, of consistency.

So I urge you, my brothers and sisters, to look to Reasons to Believe. Contact them. Subscribe to their podcasts. Read their books. According to I Thessalonians 5:21, test what they say and hold on to the good. I have followed them for 15 years and they have never faltered or failed to offer an explanation for all of the challenges posed by so great a debate.

Your science apologetics will soar through the roof when based on real science. Another tool in the Master’s toolkit to minister, counsel, and encourage.

Honest to God on the Issues #001: Violence November 14, 2012

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Honest to God on the Issues.
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Violence.

It’s not a pretty sight. So, what does scripture say? Remember that I am writing a story. It includes some violent plot developments so I am specifically looking for what to include and how much to incorporate. Is there a limit?

My Pre-Existing Beliefs

I think scripture is clear on one point: violence is part of life. The ancient Israelites waged war, people died, people murdered, and people were killed all in a variety of ways. Playing the sheep all the time will more than likely get you maimed or killed. That said, violence should be considered a last resort. Generally, the violence is not described in graphic detail. It seems more objective like a news report: Sampson and the foreskins of the Philistines, etc. I remember a female judge killing a foreign general (and thus ending a way) by driving a tent stake through his eyes. Torture is not promoted but it is described: sending children through the fire, etc.

My Questions

  • What is violence? Is there an operative definition?
  • Should violence be met with violence?
  • Are there exceptions to portraying violence in a graphically explicit way?
  • What is torture? Is there an operative definition?

Definitions

Wikipedia seems to have a good definition albeit a lengthy one:

Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation. This definition associates intentionality with the committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces. – Wikipedia

I recently read a book on the subject: Violence: A Writer’s Guide by Rory Miller. It’s available as a self-published ebook only but I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly. I understand from external sources that the author is a Buddhist,  but my reading of this particular book is that he is anti-Christian. There is a particular diatribe near the end that’s wrong on many levels and has nothing to do with the topic of the book. Read with caution. Nonetheless, the author is a martial arts master and has been a corrections officer and tactical team leader. The book was an eye-opener for me. Among the many great insights into violence are the following gems:

The fact is that some things, especially dangerous things happening very fast, can ONLY be solved by violence.

Why do people use violence? Because it works.

[Levels of Violence:] Nice-Manipulative-Assertive-Aggressive-Assaultive-Murderous.

People tend to define violence as the level above the level they are willing to use. The strategies for dealing with any given level do not work and often backfire when attempted on a higher level of conflict.

This is reality. The bible was written by real people about real events. It’s reality too. So there should be some common ground between the words of scripture and violence as it relates to our modern society.

Next, the Torture issue. How does torture differ from violence, the more general term. Is there an operative definition? Sadly, the answer is no. There are many definitions but few are satisfactory. I prefer the wording of the following from Amnesty International:

Torture is the systematic and deliberate infliction of acute pain by one person on another, or on a third person, in order to accomplish the purpose of the former against the will of the latter. – Amnesty International, (1973) Torture in the Eighties.USA Edition. Amnesty International Publication.

Torture is systematic and always deliberate, a battle of wills, more mental than physical. ‘Cruel and unusual punishment’ comes to mind. By contrast, violence is messy, sometimes accidental. More physical than mental.

But that doesn’t work for Manipulators. They are mentalists, not fighters.

On second thought, it shouldn’t matter. Torture can’t be compared to the earlier levels. By definition it should only be compared to the Assaultive and Murderous levels. I think there is a control aspect to torture that isn’t part of violence generally. One person is the other’s prisoner. Being held against one’s will plus the systematic pain. So here is my initial operative definition of torture:

Torture is the systematic and deliberate infliction of acute pain by one person on another being held against his or her will in order to accomplish the purpose of the former against the will of the latter or a third party. (Draft 1)

Can the pain be mental or emotional or is it only physical? Given that we can only interact directly with other humans at a physical level and we can only interact indirectly in terms of our mental and emotional states, I think it’s safe to clarify this as physical pain.

And think again. Waterboarding – which I believe is torture – is not based on physical pain. Counterexamples are very useful things, aren’t they? I would describe it as cruel and unusual treatment so let’s visit our definition again:

Torture is the systematic and deliberate infliction of acute pain (usually physical but can be mental or emotional) often using cruel and unusual methods by one person on another being held against his or her will in order to accomplish the purpose of the former against the will of the latter or a third party. (Draft 2)

To be continued…

This is more complicated and time-consuming than I expected so I will continue these thoughts another day. Sometimes sleeping on an issue is the best way to move forward on it. And maybe I can reword that awful definition. It’s getting out of hand.

Honest to God on the Issues #000: Ground Rules November 13, 2012

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Honest to God on the Issues.
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With the success of my previous post and the utter lack of understanding on the so-called Christian right regarding how Romney lost the election, I find myself inspired to post. The voices that are being heard are mostly talking heads, pundits, and the like. There are few true Christian voices out there and most are not speaking from a position of understanding. None of the talking heads quote scripture or they cherry pick verses that support their claims without including verses that speak the contrary. My recent article about John MacArthur and Romans 13 is unfortunately a very typical example.

Let’s begin by establishing some ground rules. I may return to this post and clarify these at a future date but for now here is a good starting point:

  1. References: Every statement must reference specific scripture passages and the quote must be included in the post. All scripture will be taken from online sources and a link included in the post. I shall use KJV and NIV since they are two of the most popular versions and because they have a history of their proponents being antagonistic toward one another. Any scripture in support of our points must agree across these two versions. Agreement is important. For more information read Authorized King James Version and New International Version on Wikipedia.
  2. Biblical Accuracy: This author assumes the bible, as composed of the old and new testaments, is the complete and accurate written word of God. Therefore, the bible speaks from a position of authority on all topics. Where versions differ we will drill down for a deeper understanding. Where the bible is silent we will attempt to infer its position indirectly. For more information read Biblical Infallibility on Wikipedia.
  3. Biblical Inerrancy: This author assumes the bible, as composed of the old and new testaments, is without error. Some may laugh at this claim, but I’m making it and I can reasonably back it up even scientifically. For more information on this position read Biblical Inerrancy on Wikipedia. For more information on the harmony between science and scripture visit Reasons to Believe.
  4. Others TBA

What follows is a short list of topics. My intention is to return to this post to flesh out the list and provide links to topics. You can think of it as a list of political issues too.

Future Topics

  • Violence
  • Homosexuality and Gay Rights
  • Taxes
  • Environment (Stewardship)
  • Creation and Evolution
  • Universal Health Care and Socialism
  • Religious Tolerance
  • Racism and Discrimination (sexual orientation, gender, disability, race, color, religion, or national origin)
  • Women’s Rights
  • Immigration
  • Education
  • Others TBA…

Finally, why am I so interested in this? I’m writing a book. I want to know where I stand anyway, but because I’m writing a book that will deal with some difficult topics I feel it’s even more important that my grounding be as secure as possible. My intention is to work out the details of my beliefs in this series of posts and translate that into my stories.

I may not get it all right on the first try so I welcome all comments. Constructive feedback is always useful.

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