Researchers at the University of Minnesota say that they will soon be making voice simulations of someone so close to the actual person that they will “be able to accurately imitate those who have died.” The claim is that “we will be able to continue to interact with them as if they continued to live.” There is a test called the Turing Test which allows researchers to tell whether a response is from a human or a machine. Some of the simulations have passed the Turing test. In other words, you could be talking to a simulation of your father who died ten years ago, and you would not be able to tell that you were talking to a computer. Family history, mannerisms, voice inflections, patterns of choices can all be built into the computer simulation.
In an article by Muhammad Ahmad from the Minnesota department of computer science in Saturday Evening Post (March/April 2017 page 10), a shocking question was asked. The question was, “Would such a system have a soul?” Ahmad responded that his work would allow experiences OF a deceased person, not experiences WITH the deceased. Ahmad says that “in the future, you would still be able to spend time laughing and reminiscing with a simulation so similar to your loved one that it would be difficult to tell the two apart.
One thing that seems to never go away is the incredible stupidity of human beings. Every day we see people do things that not only don’t make sense but in many cases are clearly wrong. Scientific American (March 2017, page 10) has some data that shows just how close the world has come to annihilation due to the failures of humans to manage nuclear resources wisely.
The article states that both the United States and Russia have about 900 nukes ready to launch. In 1983 the Russian detection system said the U.S. missiles were on their way. A Russian military officer had a gut feeling that it was a false alarm, and didn’t push the button that would have plunged the world into a nuclear war. It turned out he was right. In 1979 a similar situation developed in the United States which activated ballistic missiles and nuclear bomber crews. Satellites could not verify the alert, so the retaliation was not ordered. It turned out that training software which had a simulation built in had found its way into the alert system. In 1974 during his impeachment proceedings, President Nixon said to reporters: “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.” There were those who were worried that he would do just that.
It has been said that if you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything. Many teenagers today have been turned off by religion. For a large number of these kids, the problem is that religion doesn’t make sense. They see adults preaching one thing and living in diametric opposition to what they are preaching. They find that when they ask questions, those questions are not being answered.
Recently someone sent us a copy of a teen magazine which is also on the web. One of the articles that caught my eye was highlighted with “people are trying to grasp on to something higher than themselves.” The article then quotes the Pew Research Center data we have discussed in this journal saying that Americans are becoming less religious. They then promote “rock stars” which are crystals which they say will “de-stress, boost energy, and brighten your mood.” The minerals they list are hematite which they say will help you sleep and rose quartz which they say “will open you up to platonic and romantic love” (and they don’t explain how love can be both platonic and romantic). They also have amazonite which has turquoise which they say will help with accountability, and amethyst which will cure addictive behaviors. These, of course, are all common minerals which you could find in your backyard. To call them “magic stones” and promote their use as a solution to teenage issues in the twenty-first century is an out and out lie.
Most of us know what a Swiss Army Knife is. The one I had as a kid had a knife, can opener, bottle opener, nail file, corkscrew, screwdriver, and scissors all built into one six-inch container. You pulled out of the container whatever you wanted to use. While it didn’t always work well, it did a large number of things.
The mangrove is a tree which God has created to do a large number of different things. The design of the tree is ingenious. The roots of the plant filter out 90% of the salt from seawater so the plant can grow along any ocean shoreline. The leaves of the plant are waxy and thick so that the water inside the plant is stored efficiently. The roots make the plant look like it is on stilts, but their design gives stability even in the worst of storms. Those same roots sequester carbon four times more effectively than tropical rain forests.
In addition to all of those things, the mangrove is home to a wide range of living organisms. The root system is a protective breeding ground for many different species of fish as well as crustaceans, mollusks, barnacles, and turtles. Many varieties of sea birds such as egrets and warblers nest in mangroves. There are about 60 species of mangroves in the world, and they are all beneficial. Not only do they protect the shorelines from beach erosion and shelter fisheries, but the wood is used in a variety of ways.
In May of 2016 astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (called TRAPPIST) announced the finding of three planets orbiting a single star which has been labeled “TRAPPIST-1.” On February 22, 2017, astronomers released to the media a report stating that they have discovered four more planets orbiting Trappist-1. The planets are small, and their location in relation to the star they orbit indicates that they could have liquid water on them. The media has picked this up and USA Today (February 23, 2017, page B1) has headlined “Newly Discovered Network of Planets Could Harbor Life.”
This is just another example of media sensationalizing and misapplying a scientific study. Let us point out before going any further that we have repeatedly said that there may be life elsewhere in the universe. We have also pointed out that chance is an unworkable explanation for the creation of life anywhere. The Bible doesn’t say this is the only place where God has seen fit to create life, so the question of life in space is moot.
On February 23, 1987, a historic explosion was witnessed by astronomers on Earth. A massive star known as Sanduleak -60 degrees 202 exploded. What was previously classified as a supergiant star became a supernova. For the first time since A.D.1054, there was a supernova close enough to the Earth for scientists to observe first-hand what was happening.
Students in high school physics and earth science classes study a diagram known as the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. It is simply a scattergram of the temperature of stars plotted against their luminosity. Stars begin as very hot blue giant stars. As they cool, they turn white hot, then red, then brown. Then they may become a cinder. In the case of larger stars, the internal processes change, and they become giant stars which in some cases explode. Because these processes require a very long time, we don’t live long enough to see a single star go through all of these phases. But we can see stars in all of these stages. Seeing a star explode is a very rare event (about once a century), and Sanduleak -60 degrees 202 was thus a fantastic opportunity to see in detail what happens when a star explodes.
There is much to learn from Supernova 1987A. Exploding stars seed space with the heavier elements. We are learning how the elements that make up our world were formed. For those of us who believe God is the engineer of all of this, we can see how God made iron, copper, gold and the materials of the Earth’s crust. The incredible energy and power of the process testify to God’s power and creative wisdom. As we compare this supernova with the one that happened in A.D. 1054, which produced what is now called the Crab Nebula, we see it is different in many ways. In 1 Corinthians 15:41 the Bible tells us that “one star differs from another” and we now know that is true even of exploding stars. This supernova also gives us another tool to measure the size and age of the universe. We have several methods of measuring how far away this supernova is, but they all give us the same answer. The explosion took place 160,000 light years away from us, or 160,000 years ago. We are safe from the incredible radiation because of the huge distance.
This journal has generally taken a skeptical point of view. What we mean is that we do not accept something unless there is evidence to support it. All of our presentations deal with evidence, and we have had numerous articles dealing with and debunking all kinds of claims in various areas of life that do not have evidential support. That has included scientific claims, claims in the paranormal, and claims of a religious nature.
In the early 90’s an organization was founded called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Its stated objective was “to promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.” In 1995 they began a bimonthly with articles from skeptics about all kinds of issues. In the beginning, their articles were fairly even-handed, and they did a great job of looking into all kinds of bogus claims including some religious claims. In recent years their treatment of religious issues has drifted into constant attacks on any claim for evidence of the existence of God with a heavy bias against Christianity.
Many people regard Richard Dawkins as the leading atheist in the world. His books such as The God Delusion have been touted as the best atheism has to offer. We have reviewed many of Dawkins’ arguments in this journal as have writers like Alister McGrath (The Dawkins Delusion) and others. Several years ago Dawkins began his own organization called The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science to promote his radical atheism.
As of January 1, 2017, these two organizations have merged with Dawkins being on the Board of CFI and RDFRS becoming a division of CFI. One stated objective is to “continue the struggle for the full equality of atheists and other religious dissenters.” Secularism is the religious viewpoint of this merger, and the number of attacks on churches and individuals who argue for God’s existence will certainly escalate. There is a need for an unbiased investigation of all claims, secular and religious. However, personal comments against belief in God and ridicule of religion which has been typical of both organizations makes this merger an affront to those who want even-handed and fair investigations of all claims. Data from Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 2017, pages 4 and 5.
Human stem cells have been injected into pig and cattle embryos resulting in a human-pig or human-cow hybrid called a chimera. The name “chimera” comes from a fire-breathing monster in Greek mythology that had the head of a lion with a goat’s head coming out of its body and a tail with a snake’s head. The claimed purpose of producing a chimera of a human with some other animal is to find a way to grow organs for transplants. This kind of research is banned in some countries, and federal money is not allowed for this research in the United States. Animal rights people are already complaining about this research. Bioethicist Francoise Baylis says that chimera work is unethical “because it is based on the faulty assumption that human life is more valuable than that of nonhuman beings.” One researcher raised the possibility of pigs being given human brains. For Christians the question would be the definition of what it means to be human. The biblical definition of a human is a being created in the image of God. That definition avoids the kind of questions that animal rights ethicists are asking. The bigger question involves what happens when the research goes astray or creates environmental chaos. Data from Science News, February 18, 2017, pages 6-7.
I try to read a book every week, and people help me in that attempt by sending me books on about every topic that you can imagine. Atheists and religious fanatics send me their books to attempt to convert me to their view or at least to get into the “Book of the Month” review in our quarterly publication. Recently a Christian and an atheist both sent me a copy of the same book titled Fountain of Fairytales and subtitled A Scholarly Romp Through the Old Testament. This book is an attempt to discredit the Bible and is a product of The Barnes Review. Begun by Harry Elmer Barnes, the Barnes Review claims that their mission is: “To separate historical truth from propaganda and to bring history into accord with the facts.” The problem with this group is not their mission, but the fact that their view of the facts means to make sure the views stated support secular humanism and atheism. Fairness, accuracy, and credibility of sources is not a part of their mission, and this book shows that rather clearly.
One giveaway as to the intent of this book is shown in the bibliography, author, pictures, and structure of the book. Major misunderstandings of the Bible are clear before one even starts to read the book itself. The story of Jonah is titled “Jonah’s Whale” when even atheists should know the Hebrew word doesn’t say whale. It says “fish” and whales are not fish. Pictures are lifted from twentieth-century Hollywood productions and denominational publications. The bibliography is very short and almost totally dominated by atheist and secular humanist writers. The author John Tiffany is not a scholar and has no advanced degrees or recognition from the academic community. His credit line says he did graduate work in biology and studied law but apparently didn’t graduate in these areas and has done no peer review work.
The tone of the book is one of ridicule, denigration, and sarcasm. There are no footnotes and documentation is marginal at best. In some cases deliberate misrepresentation is clear. One example is the “contradiction” between, Numbers 20:22-29 and Deuteronomy 10:6. Numbers says Aaron died and was buried at Mount Hor and Deuteronomy says Aaron died and was buried at Moserah. This is cited as a discrepancy in the Bible. Moserah is the area where Mount Hor is located. There are a large number of similar misrepresentations in the book. We wrote an article in our printed journal about misrepresenting the facts of the Old Testament titled “Maligning God in Ignorance” dealing with some of these issues. It was published in the January/February 2009 issue page 7 and you can read it online at http://www.doesgodexist.org/JanFeb09/MaligningGodinIgnorance.html
When my oldest daughter married and moved to West Texas, I worried about how a young lady born and raised in Indiana would fare in an area that was essentially a desert. Leaving a state full of lakes, streams, trees, and fruit and vegetable crops for a world of cactus and yucca seemed to be quite an adjustment. When my daughter and her husband showed us a lot they were buying high on a butte, I worried even more. They were miles from town and surrounded by nothing but thorn-covered plants, mesquite trees, and bare rock and dirt.
Our first visit after they built their new house was during a time when they had been blessed with a great deal of rain. I was amazed at the transformation that had taken place in the landscape. Everything was green, and most things were blooming. Even the obnoxious cactus I always managed to get scratched by was covered with beautiful flowers.