Here is an interesting story about history, technology, and Christianity. It seems that these days every device uses a technology called “Bluetooth.” Our phones, computers, tablets, sound systems, drones and security systems use Bluetooth to communicate with headphones, speakers, keyboards, mice, printers, and controllers. To most people, Bluetooth is a mystery, but it works amazingly well. What many people don’t know is the connection between the name Bluetooth and Christianity.
Bluetooth technology gets its name from Danish King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson. Before I get to why his name got connected to the technology, or how he got his nickname, let me tell you about King Harald’s life.
King Harald’s reign lasted from about 958 to 986. He built fortification and the first bridge in Scandinavia. He brought together the people of Scandinavia in a way that they had never been connected before. He united areas that are now Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and Norway. King Harald converted to Christianity in the 960s and brought that faith to the people of Denmark for the first time. In honor of his parents, he erected a monument known as Jelling Stone in the Danish town of Jelling. The inscription on the stone (shown in the picture) says:
“King Harald bade these memorials to be made after Gorm, his father, and Thyra, his mother. The Harald who won the whole of Denmark and Norway and turned the Danes to Christianity.”
How did King Harald get the nickname Bluetooth? It was probably because he had an obvious discolored tooth. Why was the modern technology named after a tenth-century Danish king? In 1997 Jim Kardach of the technology company Intel needed a name for a new technology that could unify communications protocols. He had been reading a book that told about the way King Harald Bluetooth had unified Scandinavia. Kardach decided that Bluetooth would be a good name for the technology. The Bluetooth logo consists of a combination of Harald Bluetooth’s initials H and B from the Scandinavian alphabet of his day.
I like to think of the fact that Bluetooth brought Christian faith to a pagan land. Perhaps that helped him to bring diverse people together. I think we can learn something from that. Every time we use a Bluetooth device (which is perhaps every day) let’s remember King Harald with the blue tooth and see what we can do to bring people together by sharing the message of Christ. Bluetooth and Christianity can go together. Bluetooth technology and the devices using it can help us to spread the message of Christ’s love.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
My first master’s degree was in psychometry, which is the study of tests and measurements. I worked under Dr. David Segel who was a pioneer in that field. One of the interesting things I learned in my studies was that IQ and intelligence are two different things. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is a measure of your ability to perform on a certain kind of test. My mentally challenged son Tim scores very poorly on a Stanford Benet IQ test and very well on a Wechsler Bellevue IQ test. The Stanford Benet test measures an individual’s ability to manipulate and control shapes and spaces. The Wechsler Bellevue is a verbal test. The two tests measure different things, and Tim’s scores were wildly different depending on the type of test.
IQ and intelligence should not be confused. Webster’s dictionary defines intelligence as “the ability to learn and understand,” which has nothing to do with any test. IQ is radically affected by access to education, healthcare, food, living conditions, and the kind of test used. The average IQ in Kenya in 1948 was 72, and today the average is 97. A 25 point gain is not an indication of a change in intelligence, but rather a change in the ability of the people to better answer the questions on the chosen test.
It isn’t possible to compare the intelligence of humans on the basis of race or to compare humans with animals. Some animals do very well on some IQ tests. Koko, the gorilla that we have mentioned in previous issues of our journal, scores a 95 on some IQ tests according to articles in several popular magazines. Crows have high intelligence in solving certain types of problems. A food morsel floating on water in the bottom of a graduate frustrates children under eight years old because the can’t figure out how to get to it. A crow, however, will add pebbles to the graduate until the food floats up to a place where the crow can reach it. Who has the most intelligence?
Human uniqueness is not in our intelligence. It is our spiritual nature that sets us apart and allows us to do things such as art, music, worship, etc. Mentally challenged humans do these things, but intelligent animals do not. Animals may be intelligent and even score high on some IQ tests, but they do not have the capacity to feel guilt, to be sympathetic, or to create. IQ and intelligence aside, humans are unique because of our spiritual nature. We are created in the image of God, and that uniqueness is embodied in what the Bible calls “the soul.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Popular Science, Spring 2018.
With all that science knows about the human body, it is truly amazing that they have just made a new human organ discovery. Scientists at the New York University Langone School of Medicine have announced the discovery of a previously unknown organ in the human body. They gave it the name “interstitium.”
The human body is about 60% water, most of which is in the cells. The interstitium is a network of fluid-filled spaces, and it holds about 20% of all the fluid in the human body. The reason this organ wasn’t detected earlier is that researchers treat and dehydrate the tissue samples before they put them under a microscope. That causes the interstitium to collapse. Until now researchers saw the interstitium as a dense wall of the protein collagen. They now realize that it is not a wall but an “open, fluid-filled highway” supported by a lattice of collagen.
The interstitium organ plays a major role in the immune system. Interstitial fluid is the source of lymph, which sends out white blood cells to fight infection. The interstitium’s role in the body’s battle against infection is significant, and this discovery may change how some difficult infections are treated.
Medical researchers discovered the interstitium by using a new imaging technique called probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy (pCLE) to examine living tissue. They found interstitium tissue under the surface of the skin, in the lining of the digestive tract and lungs, and surrounding the muscles. This new human organ discovery helps explain how cancer cells spread throughout the body.
We still have much to learn about the design and function of our bodies, but we see God’s wisdom and the complexity of His creation as we grow in our understanding of how our bodies work. David said it best in Psalms 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works God, and my soul knows that very well.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018
The general media and scientific journals have given great attention to something called CRISPR (pronounced like the name of the refrigerator drawer where you stash fresh veggies). CRISPR was first reported in scientific journals and papers in 2012. Now it is being used by scientists all over the world as a method to modify human embryonic stem cells and answer questions about basic biology and development. Here is a sample of what Wikipedia says about it:
“CRISPR is an abbreviation of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats… A simple version of the CRISPR/Cas system, CRISPR/Cas9, has been modified to edit genomes… CRISPR/Cas genome-editing techniques have many potential applications, including medicine and crop seed enhancement. The use of CRISPR/Cas9-gRNA complex for genome editing was the AAAS’s choice for the breakthrough of the year in 2015. Bioethical concerns have been raised about the prospect of using CRISPR for germline editing.”
That last statement about this technique concerns many people. Are we “playing God” feeling that we can improve on what God has created? Is human genetic engineering going to threaten a catastrophic mistake in the future? Hollywood is already on this with dramas like Netflix’s Luke Cage.
CRISPR exploits something that microbes commonly do in the natural world. Bacteria defend themselves against viruses and other DNA in the environment by having snippets of foreign genetic material as molecular spacers which serve as borders. What scientists are doing is to pick those characteristics that CRISPR can use to eliminate a bad gene and insert a good one in place of it. We are taking something that God has designed into nature and using it to eliminate genetic disorders that may have been caused by human abuse of the environment.
This could be the tool to eliminate nerve damage and give quadriplegics and paraplegics full use of their arms and legs. Trials are already going on to eliminate cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, muscular dystrophy, many forms of cancer, sickle cell anemia, beta thalassemia, and leukemia. This is not replacing God’s original design but rather using some of the tools God created to repair things damaged by time and human abuse. Scientists are harnessing an ancient biological process to edit the code of life. God’s design is what makes this possible and offers great hope for the future of people afflicted with disorders which have not been within our medical reach in the past.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Notre Dame Magazine, Spring 2018, pages 22-27.
There is a new twist to the question of whether an employee has to serve a customer in a way that violates the employee’s moral convictions. It involves nudist colony mail service at a resort in Florida. Leonard Rusin is a resident of Eden RV Resort, which is a nudist RV park. A package delivery had to be signed for by Rusin. That meant the mail carrier had to go to his RV. The postal employee marked the package “Undeliverable” rather than go into the nudist resort.
We have reported on other cases where business owners refused to violate their moral convictions, such as the cake decorator who would not create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. In this case, a government employee is involved. Mr. Rusin says, “I pay for a service, and I expect that service.” We can see a police officer having the same dilemma. The nudist colony residents maintain that the U.S. Postal Service is discriminating against them just because they don’t like to wear clothes. Nudist colony mail service is a relatively simple issue. As our society becomes more secular and vacates the principles of Jesus Christ, moral conflicts like this will grow in number and complexity.
When I talk to Christian young people about their dress and entertainment, I try to avoid absolute standards. I don’t set rules such as whether the skirt should be one inch or four inches below the knee. My argument is that if a man and a woman are both Christians, they are going to choose dress and entertainment by a standard that takes into account their faith and the needs, emotions, and sensitivities of the other person. The standard should be,“How will what I wear affect the person I am with, as well as others?”
Jesus has solutions to moral struggles. They involve a lack of selfishness and concern for the needs of others.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Original story in The Week, March 9, 2018, page 6.
How would you like to have your brain uploaded before you die so that your consciousness could be preserved? That is the goal of a brain uploading company called Nectome.
The company wants to deliver a “100-percent-fatal” service to terminally ill patients. They are developing a process that fills the patient’s arteries with embalming fluids. The result is that the patient will die, but the brain will be preserved. Their process is supposed to preserve the links between the neurons in full detail. Then Nectome will view those links with an electron scanning microscope. Their goal is to preserve those links to revive the consciousness of the deceased person. The company hired lawyers to work out the legality of this process under California’s physician-assisted suicide law.
Nectome was founded by graduates of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received funding from a famous Silicon Valley startup incubator. The brain preservation project involved a collaboration with MIT and received a grant of almost a million dollars from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). They also received a prize of $80,000 from The Brain Preservation Foundation for preserving a pig’s brain using their process. MIT severed ties with Nectome just a few days ago after previously publishing a favorable article in the MIT Technology Review on March 13.
After the article in MIT Technology Review, several leading neuroscientists criticized the idea of brain uploading after preserving a brain from a live person. Nectome has removed a statement about being able to “back up” people’s minds from their website. They are now saying that they have no plans to do this in “the foreseeable future.” Robert McIntyre, the co-founder of Nectome, recently said, “…we don’t mean to imply that electron microscope image data is the only thing we would need to reconstruct consciousness or even memories.”
We have said for a long time that there is more to humans than just the physical body or the neurons in our brains. There is a spiritual aspect that cannot be preserved by any scientific means. By its very nature, it cannot even be adequately studied by any scientific means. We are created in the image of God with a soul that can live forever. Brain uploading, if it ever works, can never preserve the essence of who we are. Only God can do that. We must place our hope in Him, not in a company no matter how prestigious or well-funded it might be.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
The element phosphorus is used to make matches. Molecular phosphorus has two common forms. There is white phosphorus which is dangerously combustible and is used to make fireworks and weapons. The more stable red phosphorus is used on the side of any box of safety matches. When you strike the match against the red phosphorus, a small amount of it is changed to white phosphorus to ignite the match. But phosphorus has more important uses than starting fires. Life needs phosphorus. The average human body contains about 26.5 ounces (750 grams) of phosphorus. Most of it is in our bones.
Phosphate is a compound of phosphorus and oxygen. It combines with sugars in living tissue to form the backbone of DNA, which is the blueprint for life found in every living cell. Phosphate is also part of a complex organic chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) found in every living organism. ATP releases energy so that cells can function. Life needs phosphorus and could not exist without it in an abundant supply.
Recent research presented at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science on April 5, 2018, indicates that phosphorus may not be widely available in the Milky Way. The research indicates that it is more random than scientists had previously thought. That means even if one of the recently discovered exoplanets had all of the conditions required to support life, it still might be lifeless without phosphorus.
We have often referred to the many conditions required to make a habitable planet. Here is one more to add to the list. Life needs phosphorus, and apparently phosphorus is less widely distributed than we thought. Phil Cigan, one of the astronomers involved in the study, said, “It’s not a guaranteed thing to have phosphorus abundant everywhere, ripe for the picking. It seems to look like luck plays a bigger role in this.”
Is it just one more chance coincidence that planet Earth has the phosphorus needed for life? We don’t think it is a matter of luck. We think this is another evidence of God’s design for life.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
The United States Department of Justice has filed documents against a group of people who have conducted a scam that has taken $500 million from seniors using what is claimed to be “world-renowned psychics.” The scam involved a promise of the seniors winning money in a lottery and gave them various supernatural objects or personalized astrological services to achieve the predicted wealth. It seems that elder fraud schemes are showing up every day.
U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “We will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are.” The most common scam is called “the grandparents’ scam.” The elderly person receives a call from someone who claims to be a grandchild. The fake grandchild claims to have been arrested on a traffic charge and needs bail money wired to them. A similar version is a call from a person who claims to be an IRS agent demanding immediate payment of a mythical tax obligation.
Skeptics accuse religion of being the source of the gullibility that seems to exist among seniors. There is literature from atheists claiming that Christianity makes people vulnerable to these scams. The truth is that the Bible has always opposed psychic claims and warned people about the severity of this kind of activity. The old law even prescribed death for those who practiced sorcery or mystic arts. (See Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10, and 1 Samuel 15:23.)
In the New Testament, this kind of activity is listed along with murder, adultery, fornication, and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21). In Acts 8:9-20 Peter confronted Simon the sorcerer and told him to repent of his wickedness. In Acts 19:13-16 when “vagabond Jews” tried to use Christianity to promote their commercial exorcisms the result was disastrous.
Seniors should rely on Jesus Christ to express their spiritual needs, and on the Church to help them in their spiritual as well as their physical problems. In the Christian system, we help one another. If we are faithful in doing that, the elder fraud schemes will fail.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
God has designed humans to have a unique relationship with God and each other. The terms “brother” and “sister” in the New Testament are a reflection of this relationship. We need each other as we face the challenges of life. When God created man, He said: “It is not good that man should be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).
Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder conducted a study of 22 heterosexual couples who had been together for at least a year. They wanted to see how the simple act of a human touch affected various scenarios in life. To conduct this test, they divided the couples into different groups at different times. In one grouping they held hands. Another group sat nearby but didn’t touch. In a third group, the people were in different rooms.
The researchers used brain scans to study each of the groups. They conducted scans before applying a mild pain and again after applying the pain. The tests indicated that holding hands reduced the intensity of the pain by 34%. When the couples held hands, their brain waves became synchronized, especially when the women were in pain.
The conclusion of the researchers was: “We have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world, and we have fewer physical interactions. This research illustrates the power and importance of human touch.”
This experiment gives scientific proof of what we probably already knew from experience, that we need each other.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Sources: ScienceDaily.com and The Week, March 23, 2018, page 19.
Yesterday we discussed an article by atheist Michael Shermer in which he stated that as atheism replaces belief in God “we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.” (Scientific American, April 2018, page 77). At the same time Shermer’s article came out, we received a report on prison suicide rates.
NewLife Behavior Ministries issued a report of an increase in suicides in Texas prisons. The data came from the University of Texas Medical Branch saying that attempted suicides in Texas prisons jumped from 65 to 150 in the past four years. Statistics on suicides are very complicated, but every study we have seen has shown a huge increase in attempted suicides. The increase applies to all segments of the population, not just prison suicide rates but the general public as well.
The secular sources for morals and values that Shermer recommends would include people like atheists Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. They advocate euthanasia for the “unfit” in society including Down Syndrome, mentally ill, and mentally deficient people. Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He advocates for infanticide to eliminate defective children and for animal rights. In his book Practical Ethics, he concedes that the question of why we should act morally “cannot be given an answer that will provide everyone with overwhelming reasons for acting morally.”
The biblical perspective is that all humans have value because they are created in the image of God. That is radically different from the secular view that we are just animals with no more value than any other animal. Suicide is directly connected to what we understand a human to be. The Christian view is that there is no such thing as “worthless human trash” or “unfit people.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018