Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend (Part 1)

Darwin Day
Darwin Day
Colleges, schools, museums, and other groups are calling February 12, the birthday of Charles Darwin, “Darwin Day” to honor his life and work. Also, the weekend of February 10-12 has been designated as “Darwin Weekend” in hundreds of churches to promote a better understanding of the relationship between religion and science. Michael Zimmerman, who is credited with initiating Darwin Weekend, states that a critical goal is to “demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.” The Clergy Letter promoting Darwin Weekend says, “Those that claim that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.”

We applaud the goal of promoting a better understanding of the relationship between religion and science. We also applaud the objective of demonstrating that people do not have to choose between religion and science. The problem with Darwin Day and Darwin Weekend comes from the views of those who are leading these events. Anytime you have people with a background in theology trying to address a scientific subject or people with a scientific background trying to explain religious principles and applications; you are bound to have difficulties. Many religious leaders wish to make science and faith so separate and distinct from one another that laymen get the idea they have to decide between one of the two and avoid conflict by never letting the two come in near proximity. Over the five decades that I have been involved in talking about science and faith, I have had many instances where a preacher tells me you just have to believe what the Bible says, and that is that. They insist that all science is the work of humans, is flawed, and not worth your time. The problem is that they think their interpretation of what the Bible says is correct and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. In the meantime, they enjoy the benefits of modern science. Most young people have seen the benefits that science has brought, and they are not willing to embrace an interpretation of the Bible that seems to be mystical. I have also had people who consider the latest evolutionary theory to be sacred, and any questioning of their understanding of the theory to be an indication of religious bigotry. They relegate religion to the geriatric dump as a relic of historical value and nothing more.

As Darwin Day approaches, we need to consider what Darwin actually discovered and what it means for science and for faith. We will look into that as we continue tomorrow with part two.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Giant Dinosaur Footprints

Dinosaur Footprint
Dinosaur Footprint
How big can an animal get? Science fiction frequently shows animals of enormous size, and yet in reality land mammals can only get so big. The amount of oxygen in the air, the type of muscle development needed to run, the limitations of reproduction by live birth, and a host of other technical problems are involved in limiting the size of land mammals. This is not just true of mammals, but it is true of birds which are also warm-blooded. Reptiles, on the other hand, never stop growing. An 80-year-old T. Rex was still growing, but I can tell you from personal experience that an 80-year-old man is not. This issue has a lot to do with whether the dinosaurs were birds, and whether dinosaurs and humans could have lived at the same time.

Over 20,000 footprints of dinosaurs have been discovered in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. In late 2016, one was found that was 42 inches long and 30 inches wide. In an American shoe size that would be a size 104. Researchers are interested in how the dinosaur was able to stand and walk with such enormous size. One thing seems certain–the conditions on the Earth were different than they are today. Almost certainly there was a higher oxygen content in the atmosphere. God was preparing the Earth for humans, and certain conditions were required to form the materials humans would need for advanced civilization. “In the beginning, God created the earth” just says that God did it. How he did it may have involved far more than we can understand, even today. Reference: The Week, October 21, 2016, page 19.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Evolution in Action: The Incredible Goldfish

Bubble Eye Goldfish
Bubble Eye Goldfish
In Ocean Park in Hong Kong there is a “Goldfish House” which features some 300 different varieties of fish that appear to be creatures from another world. The Red Bubble Eye for example has two cheeks that bulge out like huge balloons with a yellow color bridging off from an orange body. The tricolor Dorsal-Finned Bubble Eye looks similar, but it has a large dorsal fin and its body is black and white and it has a long flowing black and white tail. The tricolor Ranchu has a face like a bulldog and a multicolored body and the Black Dragon Eye has two huge eyes that protrude from the body and large, delicate fins. All of these fish that look so different from one another descended from the Prussian carp, also known as Gibel carp, which were raised by Chinese Buddhists in the Tang Dynasty. By the tenth century these fish which we call “goldfish” were prized as pets.

The Japanese took many of these very different kinds of goldfish back to Japan where raising unusual looking fish became a hobby of many people. By 1850 breeding clubs were formed in the United States and in Great Britain, there is a Goldfish Society with a large number of members. Goldfish have two sets of chromosomes from each parent, which means that mutations are preserved and expressed in many ways. Over 300 varieties exist at the present time.

Our local breeder of goldfish calls this “evolution at its best.” There are practical uses for this hobby. Most of these fish are small–four to ten inches–but there are varieties that grow to 25 pounds. I can remember crappie fishing in the 1960’s with goldfish minnows, which were raised by a fish farm in Martinsville, Indiana. They were effective as bait because of their visibility, but the rapid growth of these fish makes them ideal as a food source in some areas of the world.

Evolution is not a synonym for “man from monkey.” Evolution is a tool for producing new varieties of life which can benefit us in many ways. In the case of the goldfish there is aesthetic value in these changes, but also economic and nutritional value. When young people study biology in high school, they learn about how these genetic processes work and why. The design of the genetic materials that allow all of this is incredibly complex. In the Bible, Jacob used evolutionary change. The flocks of Laban were modified in a beneficial way by Jacob using these same principles. (See Genesis 30.)

All of the goldfish in the world are from the one species. It takes a creative imagination to visualize how some of these strange looking varieties of fish can form, but the changes do not involve adding organs or making massive changes in biological digestive processes.

God is the author of this process, and trying to understand how all of this was designed and how it came to be applied to all the life forms that exist on the earth today is an enthralling field of study for young biology students. Everywhere we look in the natural world we find that a wonder-working hand has gone before. Changes like those shown in the goldfish speak eloquently about how beautiful and creative the genetic design of life can be.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Translation Problems

Bible
Bible
One of the frequently raised issues concerning the Bible is the question of translations. We have maintained that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and have quoted 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” and goes on to say that using it can make us complete. Those who denigrate the Bible, view such a claim as nonsense not only because it’s an ancient book, but also because they say it contains internal contradictions.

The truth is that if a person looks at who wrote a particular passage, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people of the time would have understood it, most of the claims of error will vanish. The ancient time of the writing is not an issue in the case of the Bible because the subjects the Bible deals with are not time dependent. How to get along with others is not a new issue. How to handle sexual temptation is not peculiar to the modern day. How to raise a child is not a topic confined to the present century. How to deal with failure and grief are not time-dependent questions. The question of race relations and rights for women are topics not just making the headlines today but are questions handled with compassion, wisdom, and common sense in Scripture. It is difficult to read the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5–7 and not see the great wisdom and practical value of what Jesus taught for today, not just for that group of Jews on a hillside.

The claims of internal contradictions are also easily handled if a little time is spent looking at who wrote it, to whom, why, and how the people of the time would have understood it. The contradiction between Matthew and Luke in giving the genealogy of Christ, for example, is easily explained by looking at who wrote it and to whom. Matthew is a Jew writing to a Jewish audience. He uses the Jewish symbol of seven and its multiples to give the genealogy with 14, 14, and 14 being used as an indication of completeness (See Matthew 1:1-17). In Luke 3:23–38 the genealogy is given in over in 55 “begats,” but this was written by a Greek author to a non-Jewish audience, so the cultural difference is easily seen. (For more on this see “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word” on our doesgodexist.org website.)

Another example we have discussed is in Genesis 6 where the Hebrew word nephilim is translated in different ways by different translators. The literal meaning of nephilim is “fallen ones,” and this is the flood chapter of Genesis. That means it is not talking about aliens or spirit creatures. It refers to humans who rejected God’s teachings and lived selfishly and destructively. The context and the literal meaning of the word are clear. In this case, the King James translators were in error in how they translated the word nephilim. This part of the King James came from the Latin Vulgate translation where nephilim was translated with the Latin word gigantus. The King James translators didn’t know what to make of the word, so they translated it as “giants.” There are many such errors in the King James and other translations. Some of them are obvious, and some are not. In Hebrews 4:8 the King James says, “For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.” If you read other translations of Hebrews 4:8 you will find that it is Joshua, not Jesus that the passage is talking about. The names “Jesus” and “Joshua” are the same in Hebrew. Jesus means “Savior, ” and “Joshua” means “The Lord Saves.” The King James translators simply got it wrong. By looking at what the passage is about, who it was written to, and why, the error is easily corrected.

Second Timothy 2:15 says to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” You don’t have to be a Hebrew or Greek scholar to do this, but you do need to invest some time and energy in looking at who wrote the passage, to whom, why, and how the people it was written to would have understood it.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Morality

Right or Wrong
Right or Wrong
We live in a time of moral confusion, but every generation has felt that the question of morality was confused in their day. I can remember as a teenager in the 1950s feeling very confused about what was right and what was wrong. As an atheist, I had no real reason to bring my life into conformity with anyone else’s ideas of right or wrong, but I found that most of my friends who claimed to be religious were not a whole lot different than I was. In recent years we have seen an increasing number of religious/political figures involved in incredible moral turpitude. Atheists capitalize on these incidents to claim that religion has no relationship to morality.

Why should there be such a thing as morality? The more you investigate this question, the more you realize that the issue is rooted in the uniqueness of humans as being created in the image of God. Animals do not have a sense of right ideals or principles. Animals are controlled by instinct. A lion does not think of the morality involved in eating another animal. A beaver does not consider the moral issues involved in building a dam that floods a meadow and drives hundreds of other animals from their homes. On the other hand, humans may oppose a dam on the moral grounds of environmental impact.

The first step in discussing this issue has to be a consideration of the existence of free moral choice in humans. It is our freedom of moral choice that gives us the ability to change the direction of our future. Given a set of rules to govern life, every person must decide whether or not to conform to those rules. A burglar is not controlled in his criminal activity by the lock on the door or the presence of the police. These deterrents may temporarily delay the activities of the burglar, but they will not stop him from breaking into a house. The choice is up to the burglar. If his inner restraints do not stop him, he will break in and steal. Building jails and increasing police department rosters will never completely stop crime.

Free moral agency is one of the most important and most underrated capacities of humans. It is our freedom of choice that allows love to exist. I can enjoy the love of my wife because she has the option of not loving me. If she had no choice in the matter, there could be no love. Sexual love without choice is called rape and is recognized as a perverted, distorted, ugly substitute for love that bears no resemblance to the real thing. Without the freedom of choice, we become animals operating totally by instinct to fulfill our own selfish needs and desires.

If you think through this to any depth at all, you begin to see why we are having a difficult time establishing moral guidelines in our day. If we accept the idea that we are merely animals, totally and completely driven by those instincts and drives that govern all other animals, then morality does not exist! Belief in mechanistic, opportunistic evolution of human beings removes morality and all that goes with it. That includes the family, marital fidelity, family responsibility, integrity, and responsibility toward others. Even the most vociferous atheist will attempt to deny this assertion because we all realize it leads to a dog-eat-dog, jungle aspect of existence.

The starting point of morality is recognizing that we were uniquely created by God with an eternal soul created in God’s image. The consequence of that is free will which has implications in all areas of our lives. Human suffering, the proper standards of how we should live, and our view of how we fit into God’s plan are all rooted in our understanding of who we are and the value we have. The “naked ape” hypothesis cannot adequately deal with this aspect of our existence which is so vital to social order and peace.

Christians must speak out on the foundations of moral issues and teach the uniqueness and value of the human soul. We have a proven guide of conduct. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Rose, Mixed Blessings, and Life

Roses
Roses
There is probably no flower in America that gets more notoriety than the rose. Our music is full of songs about roses–“I Want Some Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” “Paper Roses,” etc. We send roses to people for virtually all special occasions and to convey and emphasize all kinds of messages.

Those of us who grow roses are keenly aware of another side of roses–they have thorns. I love to grow roses because they are so easy to grow. Roses are very forgiving to “klutzy” gardeners like me. They do fairly well even when you forget to fertilize them. Even when you forget to spray them until the bugs have eaten off all the leaves or the black spot has covered the foliage, they seem to rebound and carry on. The only thing I do not like about caring for roses is weeding them. Every time I reach to get the weeds out of my rose garden, one of those treacherous thorns catches me and penetrates even my work gloves to draw blood. There is a tendency to castigate the plant for stabbing you when all you were trying to do is help it.

Many things in life are like roses–children, for example. They are beautiful in many ways, and in many ways a joy to help them grow and nurture. When you try to weed out the things you know may strangle and hurt them, you frequently get wounded by the child. Marriage is another beautiful thing that can bring incredible joy, pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment into one’s life. But there is always some pain in marriage too. The Church is beautiful and a joy to work with, but it is almost impossible to get involved in helping the Church grow without getting hurt in some way–usually by the ones you are trying to help.

The skeptic might look at this circumstance as an illustration of God’s ineptness. If God exists, why should there be thorns among the roses? It is the thorns in marriage and child raising and the Church that cause many to abandon these institutions. Even in our limited ability to understand, I believe we can see the answer to this question which, on the surface, seems to be a flaw in the design. The rose is not only a thing of beauty, but it is also an excellent source of vitamin C. One of the frustrations of growing roses is the fact that a variety of animals and birds like to eat the flowers. It is only the thorns that protect the plant from predation that would destroy it.

In the same way, our dealings with one another have to be conducted so that each person has a certain amount of protection. When I hear a parent bemoaning the independent streak in their teenager, I sometimes ask them if they really want a child who is dependent on them for life. When someone is complaining about their spouse having a different viewpoint on things, I wonder if perhaps their spouse may be right at least part of the time. Sometimes a different perspective prevents us from making foolish mistakes. When I see struggles in the Church over whether my choice of an action or activity is best for another person, I have to ask whether I want the responsibility of always having to have the right answer for every situation.

The writer of Hebrews said, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11). Anything really worthwhile takes effort and demands a price. Do not let the thorns of life keep you from the real beauty.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Lord or Rabbi?

Jesus saying, "This is my body."
Jesus saying, “This is my body.”
At the Passover feast the night before his crucifixion, Jesus broke bread and gave it to his disciples telling them, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the Passover cup and told them, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Those words are recorded in Matthew 26:26-29. In the preceding verses (20-25) Jesus is telling his twelve disciples that one of them will betray him. One-by-one eleven of them ask, “Surely not I, Lord?” They were concerned about what Jesus had said. They had not yet been tested, and so they were not sure if they would remain faithful under persecution. If the time came to give their lives for their Lord, would they be able to do it? They didn’t know, but Jesus knew. After eleven of the disciples had asked the question, it was time for Judas to ask. Judas said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Notice the difference in his question. The others said, “Surely not I, Lord?” Judas said, “Surely not I, Rabbi.”

To the questions asked by the first eleven disciples Jesus gave a vague answer saying, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.” I suspect that many, if not all of them had dipped bread into the same bowl with Jesus. He then followed with a warning to them, But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” That would have given each of them something to think about. But when Judas asked his question. Jesus replied with a clear answer, “Yes, it is you.” Jesus knew who would betray him. It was the one who called him “Rabbi” not the ones who called him “Lord.”

To eleven of the disciples, Jesus was Lord. All eleven of them remained faithful to their Lord, even when it led to their martyrdom. Judas saw Jesus as merely a teacher. He betrayed his teacher and then in despair took his own life. One word indicated a world of difference in the attitude of these men. One word led to tragedy. The other led to glory. Think about this—do you call Jesus a good teacher, or do you call him Lord?
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Evolution of Big Bang Theory Sounding More Like the Bible.

Big Bang-Artist's Concept
Big Bang-Artist’s Concept

In 1931 a Belgian astronomer named Georges Lemaitre proposed that the universe emerged from the decay of a single supermassive particle which he called “The Primeval Atom.” Since that time there have been a variety of similar explanations with the “Cosmic Egg” proposal being popular in the 1950s. The Big Bang was a label conceived by Fredrick Hoyle as measurements of the temperatures of various regions of space became known, and as radiation from the start of the cosmos confirmed a very hot singularity at the beginning of the cosmos. Hoyle’s label was actually making fun of some of the theories of his day, but the label stuck.

As more and more data has become available, the evolution of thought about the origin of the cosmos has changed. Quantum mechanics is now suggesting a whole new physics to describe the creation. While this has been happening, the evolution of words and their meaning has also taken place. A “singularity” is no longer understood as a point in space and time. It is not a single particle or kind of object. It is a condition of the cosmos in which space and time came into existence, containing ultra-hot and ultra-dense particles. The current theory says that a trillionth of a second after the singularity came into existence the temperature was a billion times hotter than the core of the Sun, and the energy density was more than 10 to the 36th power kilograms (that’s 10 followed by 36 zeros) in every cubic meter of space. To make it that dense, you would have to compress the Sun to the size of a marble.

Jeremiah 10:12 is typical of the descriptions the Bible gives of God’s creative acts. “He has made the earth by his power, he established the world by his wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” Just as physics now turns to quantum mechanics to comprehend processes at a subatomic level beyond what we can physically see with our eyes, so too does the Bible describe God not in human terms, but in multidimensional terms. Acts 17:28 is a good example with the description of God being totally non-anthropomorphic, “In him we live and move and have our being.” Other passages such as Jeremiah 23:23-24 and 2 Chronicles 2:6 give a similar view of the nature of God as a being outside space and time.

All Big Bang cosmologies have a common problem–explaining what banged and who banged it! What the evidence supports is the fact that the creation came from an entity outside of space/time. This entity wasn’t “nothing” but an entity that had a purpose for what it did and had great wisdom in how creation was accomplished. God fits those properties, and no chance process does. For more on this topic, we encourage you to read the booklet titled “A Help in Understanding What God Is” which is on our doesgodexist.org website. (http://www.doesgodexist.org/Pamphlets/Flatland.html)
Data from Astronomy magazine, February 2016, page 34.
–John N. Clayton © 2017.

Legalizing Marijuana and Being a Convicted Christian

Marijuana
As of November 11, 2016, the number of states in the US that have legalized medical marijuana is 28. The Gallup poll tells us that 60% of all Americans approve the legalizing of marijuana. Celebrities like Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog now have their own marijuana lines. Tech companies like Microsoft have developed software for cannabis growers. In Colorado, nearly half of all marijuana sales are for THC-infused items. Pot shops sell ice cream laced with THC as well as cannabis-infused breath spray, energy shots, and bacon brittle. There are now marijuana massage oils, body lotions, and lip balms.

There are some reasons why one might support making marijuana legal. Criminalizing the use and sale of drugs has produced the violent drug cartels and has filled prisons with people who were not in power positions with the cartels. Legalizing marijuana allows the states to tax it. In Colorado, the income to the state has generated 2.4 billion dollars in economic activity and has created 18,000 full-time jobs. Promoters of marijuana now point to scientific data showing that marijuana is less dangerous to the individual than alcohol or tobacco. From a political and economic standpoint, it may seem that the legalization of marijuana is a good thing.

From a purely political standpoint, however, there are some good reasons to oppose the legalization of marijuana. In Washington State, the number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for THC rose by 48% between 2013 and 2014 when legalized marijuana hit the market. Also in Washington, the number of DUI arrests during the first six months after the legalization of marijuana nearly doubled. The number of patients hospitalized in Colorado for accidentally ingested marijuana rose from 809 patients per 100,000 to 2,413 after marijuana was legalized, with a large percentage of the victims being children. The use of marijuana by Americans has more than doubled in the last 12 years to 8.4 million people. The long-term effect of marijuana use is just beginning to be studied, but the adolescent use of marijuana has been shown to cause significant losses of IQ points and an increased risk of psychotic illness. In my hippie days, LSD was said to be harmless by its proponents, but we now know that certainly was not true. It is undoubtedly not true for marijuana.

You may have noticed that the title of this article includes the term “convicted Christian.” First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that our bodies are “God’s temple” and that the Spirit of God lives in us. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him: for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” A little later in chapter 6:15-20 Paul goes on to repeat the concept that our bodies are members of Christ himself and raises the issue regarding uniting with a prostitute. He concludes the discussion by saying “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Paul encourages Christians to “abstain from every appearance of evil.” The question becomes, “What is our first priority?” Is it serving God or finding pleasure while trying to avoid getting in so deep that we lose our souls.

Saying that marijuana is less dangerous to the human body than alcohol or nicotine is an incredibly poor argument to justify using marijuana. Just as Christians should oppose the use of marijuana, we should oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. Do we really mean what we say when we talk about “dying to sin” in the language of Romans 6? It is important to understand that what we are addressing in this discussion is the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. Are there medical uses of marijuana that can make it a positive tool of medical science? The answer is yes. That answer is also true of alcohol. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul tells Timothy to “take a little wine for your stomach’s sake.” Paul certainly wasn’t telling Timothy to get drunk. The use of alcohol in the time of Paul to fight contaminated water and infection was not the same as an alcoholic drink used to take the drinker to non-reality. Marijuana may have some great uses in treating cancer, pain, and any number of ailments. To be used medically, for the most part, the marijuana would not be smoked. The medical use of anything God has given us is certainly not at odds with the teaching of the Bible. There are may be good uses for marijuana, but there are also destructive uses. Data from The Week, November 25, 2016, page 11.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mormons Teach that God Has a Wife.

Mormon Temple in San Diego, California
One of the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormons) is that “All human beings, male and female, are beloved spirit children of heavenly parents, a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother.” (Quoted from the LDS.org website.) They teach that God is a mortal from another world who was resurrected and Mormons are told they too will become gods. These teachings and many others of the LDS church are in direct contradiction to the Bible and the teachings of Christianity. They are also completely without justification. If you would like to learn more about how to counter the false LDS teachings for yourself or someone you know, we recommend getting a copy of The Salt Lake City Messenger of the Utah Lighthouse Ministry. You can check the article index at: www.utlm.org/navnewsletters.htm. You can also subscribe for free. These Mormon doctrines fly in the face of the Bible and deny the very nature of God. If you are interested in learning more about God, you can read our free pamphlets online at www.doesgodexist.org. A good place to start is with the pamphlet “Who Created God?” www.doesgodexist.org/Pamphlets/WhoCreatedGod.html
–John N. Clayton © 2017