Neptunian Influence

Neptune Photo from Voyager 2 - NASA
Neptune Photo from Voyager 2 – NASA
The planet Uranus was observed by scientists as early as 1690. For over 100 years astronomers watched this “last planet” in the solar system with wonder. The problem was that the orbit of the new planet did not follow the rules. The eccentricity of Uranus’ orbit told the astronomers that there was something very large and forceful that was having a real impact on what Uranus did and how it behaved. As time went by, better telescopes were built. Astronomers had watched Uranus long enough to know where the great influence was, so they turned their instruments to that part of the sky and were astounded to see still another planet–Neptune! The orbit of Neptune was established and studied, and it too did not quite obey the rules, so astronomers turned their most powerful instruments even further out and discovered Pluto. Most modern discoveries in astronomy are related to influence. We know where to look and what to look for because we see the influence of an object long before we see the object itself.

The same principle applies to human relationships and Christ. If people are Christians, their influence should be obvious to a stranger long before that stranger knows the source of the strength in the Christian’s life. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another.” Jesus also said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Scientists would never have thought of looking for the planet Neptune until they saw its influence on Uranus. Many people will never think of looking for Christ until they see his influence in the lives of Christians. We should not have to tell others we are Christians, but they should suspect it by the way we live and how we treat one another.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Extinct Animals in the Bible

Lascaux Painting of Aurochs
Lascaux Painting of Aurochs
In Discover magazine (March 2017, page 24) there is a reference to a species of wild cattle called aurochs that lived in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The article says that the aurochs was the first recorded animal to become extinct. The last aurochs died in Poland in 1627. These animals are portrayed in the ancient cave art of Chauvet-Pont d’Arc and Lascaux in southern France. They have been called “supercattle.” Julius Caesar saw aurochs and said of them, “In size these are little but inferior to elephants. They spare neither men nor beast.”

In the Bible there are animals described that we do not find examples of in the living biosphere of today. In Job 40:15-24 there is a description of an animal which in the Hebrew is called behemoth. This word is the plural of the word behema used in Genesis 1:24 and many later verses throughout the Old Testament. Behema is usually translated as livestock or cattle, and there is no question but that this is the intent in Genesis 1. Behemoth would be a large, massive example of behema. It cannot refer to a dinosaur, even if we ignore the scientific evidence because the word always referred to an ungulate, which is a mammal. Suggestions that it was a hippopotamus are unlikely since there was another word for the hippo. It could refer to a giant sloth which also became extinct. However, the aurochs probably fits the description better.

Our point is that animals that lived at the time of Job and Moses may not be in existence today. While we cannot be sure what they were, there is no reason to suggest that this is an error by the author of Job. It is also no reason to say that the Bible describes mythical animals or that it refers to dinosaurs. Like every other argument that attempts to denigrate the integrity of the Bible or put it at odds with scientific evidence, better information shows the Bible to be true and accurate. (Hebrew word discussion from The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdman’s Publishing.)
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Human Embryos-People or Property?

Fetal Development
Fetal Development
A Missouri appeals court has ruled that a couple’s frozen embryos are joint property, not children. The woman sued her ex-husband for the right to implant the embryos they conceived through in-vitro fertilization. The court ruled that the embryos are joint property so both the woman and the man must consent to their use. This is in spite of Missouri state law which says that life begins at conception. The inconsistency of this ruling and of the mentality of the court is incredible. What would be the ruling if the embryos in question had been allowed to develop to nine months and the husband wanted to abort them in spite of the mother’s objection? Most pro-abortion politicians when asked the question of when an embryo becomes a human have responded by saying they haven’t investigated the issue, and yet that is fundamental to this entire debate. When the sperm meets the egg and fertilizes it, what is left if not a property or some other animal, it is a human being. We would suggest that the baby so conceived is a human and should have all the rights that you and I have. The court case was reported in Christianity Today, January/February 2017, page 20.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Darwin Day and Darwin Weekend (Part 4)

Darwin Day
Darwin Day
For the last few days, we have been talking about the annual Darwin Day (February 12) and Darwin Weekend (February 10-12). Darwin Day is a commemoration of Charles Darwin’s birthday by various groups and organizations. Darwin Weekend is designed for churches to promote a better understanding of the relationship between religion and science. That is a worthy goal, but we have some cautions. Yesterday we said that since the Bible and creation have the same Author/Creator, they cannot conflict. If there is a conflict, there is either bad science, bad theology, or both. We have had plenty of both.

One negative aspect of Darwin Weekend comes when people use evolution to promote destructive social agendas. Peter Singer, Princeton University’s Ira W. Decamp Professor of Bioethics, building on naturalistic evolution suggests that we should destroy “unfit human life.” Singer would have us empty prisons, mental institutions, care facilities for the mentally challenged, and hospitals by simply eliminating the unfit. Here are his words from an interview with the New York Times, June 6, 2010. “How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world? We spend most of our lives with unfulfilled desires, and the occasional satisfactions that are all most of us can achieve are insufficient to outweigh these prolonged negative states…If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone.” Further applying the evolutionary concept of survival of the fittest has led to grave injustices. There were those who justified slavery by claiming that unfit people could be used to serve more fit people. Wars have been justified by saying that superior species had the right to overpower less advanced civilizations.

Perhaps Darwin Weekend needs to promote Einstein’s statement about science and religion where he said: “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” From science we learn how God works and has worked in creation. Science has made great discoveries, but what science cannot do is determine how we should use its discoveries. Will we use genetic engineering to solve human problems of food shortages, disease, and suffering; or will we use it to produce diseases that destroy massive numbers of people? Science can be used to benefit life or to destroy life. How to use scientific discoveries and knowledge is not an area which science can address.

It is a good thing to carefully and accurately promote the compatibility of science and faith. Using Darwin Day as a reminder that this applies to all aspects of science and faith is a good use of a day that can do some mending and building and reduce hostility between disciplines that need each other.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Darwin Day and Darwin Weekend (Part 3)

A Variety of Bird Species
A Variety of Bird Species
We have been thinking about the upcoming Darwin Day on February 12, and Darwin Weekend February 10-12. We have considered the wonderful way in which life was designed to change and adapt–that is, to evolve. Let’s consider what this means to biblical faith.

When the Bible talks about different kinds of living things, it does not indicate a fixity of species. Consistently the Bible refers to large groupings of animals as “kinds.” Genesis 1:20-26, Genesis 6:20, Genesis 7:3 and 14, 1 Corinthians 15:39, and James 3:7 all share similar groupings. I am told that there are 126 different varieties of chickens in the world, but the Bible doesn’t describe each of them. In fact, all fowl seem to have a common origin. Fish are described as an independent kind, but new species have been cultivated by humans, and the number of fish in the waters of the world is huge. The Bible also agrees that living things can change. Jacob’s management of Laban’s flocks is a clear use of what Darwin later described. The fact that all races of humans in the world today can be genetically traced to a single female ancestor is an indication that even humans can change.

We don’t find unity between science and faith by compromising what the Bible says or by embracing bad science. Since the Bible and creation have the same Author/Creator, they cannot conflict. If there is a conflict, there is either bad science, bad theology, or both. We have had a lot of both. Tomorrow we will talk about what that means and give some examples.
–John N. Clayton © 2017