Sophia the Robot Speaks at DePauw University

Sophia the Robot
Sophia the robot carries the title of the world’s “first artificial intelligence-fueled android.” She became a citizen of Saudi Arabia in October, has a face that can show expression, metal hands, and a clear skull that shows the working wires of the artificially intelligent brain. An AP news report said that “in past interviews, Sophia has expressed a desire to be immortal, a mother, and smarter than humans.”

Dr. David Hanson is the creator of this interesting computer, and he owns a company called Hanson Robotics. This robot functions through a Wi-Fi connection and has a large memory for storage of information and a large vocabulary. At DePauw University Dr. Hanson was showing what robots can do. He predicts that robots can be designed to look and function in very human-like ways making them a part of the lives of humans in the future.

The definition of “human” is the real issue here. If you define humans in terms of what they can do, then in the future robots might be considered human. The fact that this robot has been made a citizen of Saudi Arabia shows that the government there has a mechanical definition of what a citizen is, and Sophia can do everything their test requires. What is interesting is that this robot did not happen by chance. It is the product of an intelligence, David Hanson, who worked as a designer with the Walt Disney Imagineering team.

The biblical definition of a human is a living being created in the image of God. That image allows spontaneous expression of guilt, sympathy, self-sacrificing love, and the capacity for creativity in art and music. In this case, being human allows the creation of an interesting computer that copies much of what humans possess. However, neither Sophia the robot nor any other android will ever possess those things that make humans special.
(Watch an interview with Sophia in Saudi Arabia.)
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Church of Scientology: A Dangerous Cult

Church of Scientology: A Dangerous Cult
Actress Leah Remini was a member of the Church of Scientology since the age of nine. She left the cult in 2013 and has actively campaigned against it since then.

Remini wrote an article in the November 27, 2017, issue of Us Weekly (page 48). She told of her many years as a follower of Scientology and how mind control and extreme coercion were a part of her experience. She has gone on a mission to make people aware of the dangers of this organization through books and documentaries and a TV series on the A&E network.

The Church of Scientology, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has some big Hollywood names associated with it. Scientology claims to be scientifically supported and that a human is an immortal, spiritual being called a thetan. Before coming to Earth and taking up residence in human physical bodies, thetans lived in extraterrestrial cultures. Thetans supposedly have had innumerable past lives that can be sighted by a process called auditing. The human spirit according to Scientology is the creator of all things. Scientology teaches that people have innate, suppressed power and ability which they can reclaim if cleared of enforced and unwanted behavior patterns and discomforts.

The Church of Scientology requires that all members sign a legal document waiver before engaging in Scientology services. Remini’s article gives some personal insights into the control and deception that she discovered in her many years in the organization.

The difference between a cult like Scientology and biblical Christianity can be seen in what people are required to do. In Christianity, people can read the teachings of Christ for themselves and decide either to accept it and live by it or to reject it. They can change their minds at any time. In a cult like Scientology, one person tells you what to do, and the cost of trying to leave the cult is huge.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Yeti or Yogi Bear?

Yeti or Yogi Bear
The Yeti is a legendary creature of the snow-covered Himalayas. He has been described as an ape-like creature taller than a man and covered with white fur. In the 1920s a reporter for a newspaper in India gave the creature the nickname of “the abominable snowman.”

The general public continues to be fascinated with stories about Yeti or his temperate-weather cousin Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Some of the fascination is that there are folks who suggest that this creature offers a proof or disproof about the evolution of humans. The fact that Bigfoot continues to be a show on the Animal Planet network indicates that the value of these mythical creatures is more for entertainment than education.

The first point that we would like to make is that if a human-like creature existed, that science had not discovered yet, it would not have evolutionary implications. Neo-Darwinists would say it was just another dead-end in hominid evolution. Creationists would say that God had created another creature that was previously unknown. Quite often previously unknown species of various creatures are discovered somewhere in the world.

On November 28, 2017, the Proceedings of The Royal Society B, released a report of genetic studies of the remains of bones, teeth, skin, and hair that people claimed were from Yetis. All of them turned out to be from bears. The genome of a bear is distinctive enough that scientists can know with great certainty what creature left the sample. While the report probably won’t cancel any TV series on Bigfoot or interest in Yeti, it does give a rational answer to some of the claims.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Science Standards Battle

Science Standards
During September and October of 2017, the New Mexico Public Education Department was embroiled in a battle over what was called The Next Generation Science Standards. Those standards were edited by the department to weaken the treatment of evolution, climate change, and the age of the Earth. There was a major outcry led by the National Center for Science Education against the attempts to weaken the standards.

This battle over science standards continues in state after state, with religious groups and creationist organizations trying to stop the teaching of these concepts. The battle is unnecessary, and the attempts to stop the teaching of these subjects is misguided. The opposition is often based on denominational beliefs that are not biblical, and a poor understanding of science. Taking the three subjects that were the focus in New Mexico:

Evolution: The subjects being taught are factual change in living things which is the basis of agriculture and animal husbandry. The Bible speaks about these things in the story of Jacob and Laban in Genesis 30. There is little if any emphasis on theories about human history in the standards, and atheistic concepts are not in the textbooks.
Climate Change: The climate of planet Earth is changing, and it has changed in the past. Much of the area where Jesus walked and taught is different climatically today than it was in His day. Global warming has happened in the past, and all evidence shows us it continues to happen. The Bible makes no statements about climate change. The fact that humans have caused much suffering by our mismanagement of what God has given us is not contestable. This certainly includes the wastes that we put in our waters and our atmosphere.
Age of the Earth: There are major Protestant denominations that have a doctrinal position called dispensationalism. This doctrine teaches that the planet has seven dispensations that are each roughly 1000 years. The doctrine is that Jesus will come to Earth to war with Satan, and establish a political kingdom in Jerusalem on David’s throne for 1000 years. This denominational teaching does not take the Bible literally and contradicts what Jesus said His kingdom was about. (See John 18:36.) For a review of this teaching see “Destructive Dispensationalism” in our journal for November/December 2008, page 11.

We bring reproach to Jesus and the Bible when we oppose things that are clearly factual in educational science standards. There is no battle between science and the Bible. Human creeds and misunderstandings contradict facts and are eroding the faith of many of our young people. We need to follow 1 Peter 3:15 by understanding what the Bible teaches. We also must avoid false science and atheistic traditions.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Great Pyramid of Giza Hides Secrets

Great Pyramid of Giza
Egyptians constructed the Great Pyramid of Giza around 4500 years ago. Ever since then people have admired it, and in recent generations, they have speculated about its construction. Some have maintained that aliens built it because of the complexities of its structure and its relationship to the Sun, Moon, and other planets.

The main interior section of the pyramid is called the “grand gallery.” It is a sloping corridor in the heart of the pyramid linking the burial chambers of the king and queen. Egyptologists have established many facts about the ruler who built the pyramid, and there is now very little question about how they constructed it and how it fits into the religious views of the ancient Egyptian culture.

As scientific tools become more refined, we discover new information about the pyramid. Recently muon radiography has allowed scientists to investigate areas within the pyramid that they were not able to explore. What they found was a room above the grand gallery that is 98 feet (29.3 m) long and 26 feet (7.9 m) high. Scientists don’t know why the room is there and what, if anything, might be stored in it. Unfortunately, they cannot get access to the room without damaging the structure of the pyramid. What it does show is that the engineering and architecture of the Great Pyramid of Giza are even more amazing than we had understood in the past.

We tend to think that our technology and engineering skills are solely a product of our recent evolution. We overlook the fact that ancient people had the same intellectual capacity that we have today. We stand on their shoulders and have the blessing of the foundations they gave us to advance our technology. That does not mean that we are superior in any way.

We must remember God’s comment in Genesis 11:6 that humans have “nothing that will be restrained from them.” God stopped the construction of the “Tower of Babel” by problems in communication when He confounded their language. Language is still a limitation today, but one that we can largely overcome. What we need is unity in purpose and a guide as to how to treat one another. That is the missing part that the teachings of Christ can provide.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI)

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Since 1960, scientists have been using radio telescopes to search for signs of intelligent life in the universe. The program is called SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). So far it has been 57 years of listening without any positive results. Scientists have now entered the next phase of the search called Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI).

On October 16-18, 2017, scientists beamed a message toward a red dwarf star known as GJ 273 in the hope that there might be someone there listening. Of course, there are always radio and TV signals of various kinds going out from transmitters all over the Earth, but this attempt is a concentrated signal beamed toward this specific system. The transmission contained mathematical and scientific information as well as music. The reason scientists chose GJ 273 is that there are two planets orbiting the star that they hope might be able to support life. And it is the closest possible potential life-supporting location.

Picking one random star to direct a communication signal toward may seem like shooting in the dark–and it is. However, a METI team member said that this is just a prototype of what they want to do “one hundred times, or one thousand times, or one million times.” In other words, this is just the beginning.

So when will the results of this experiment be in? GJ 273 is more than twelve light-years from Earth. So in about 2030, the signal will reach its destination. If there is intelligent life there listening and they respond right away, we might hear something by 2042 or 2043. Translation will be a challenge. If Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence continues to send out signals to other potential inhabitable planets, they will be farther away, and thus it will take longer to hear anything back.

Some scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, have criticized this effort because they are afraid it might wake up hostile extraterrestrial beings to the fact that we are here. Perhaps the aliens will not like our music style and decide that they want to put an end to it. They could send their “storm troopers” to start a Star Wars type of scenario. Of course, since they would not be able to travel at anything close to the speed of light (if Einstein is correct), they might arrive here centuries from now to find nobody left on this planet.

We have three observations on this project. First, all indications are that the chances of life existing anywhere in space are very slim. There are far too many variables needed to make life possible on any planet or moon. Secondly, the resources going into SETI and METI could better be used helping people right here on our own planet. Thirdly, as we have said before, whether or not life exists anywhere else in the universe has no bearing on whether God exists. God can create life anywhere He chooses.

When it comes to messaging extraterrestrial intelligence, we believe that there is Intelligence out there. We also believe that He would like to hear from us. We further believe that He has been to Earth to communicate with us. And we believe that if we choose to communicate with Him, we will not be limited to the speed of light. He can hear us instantaneously.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Alcohol and Cancer Data

Alcohol and Cancer
There is new data on alcohol and cancer. Perhaps the most frequently asked question we get is why God allows a disease like cancer to exist. There are multiple answers to this question, and no one has all the answers.

My younger brother is battling cancer as I write this, and no answer that anyone could give will make his war with pain and potential death any easier. However, if we can back away from our own anxiety and frustration, there are some answers to the question of cancer. One major factor is what mankind has done to us and what we have done to ourselves. In my brother’s case, exposure to Agent Orange when he was in the military is a likely contributor if not the total cause.

A new study released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology gives some data on alcohol and cancer. There are connections between alcohol consumption and malignancies of the head, neck, breast, liver, esophagus, colon, and rectum. The data shows that drinking is responsible for 5.5% of all new cancers and nearly 6% of all cancer deaths worldwide.

Our bodies metabolize alcohol into acetaldehyde which can cause mutations in DNA that lead to cancer. The lead author of the study, Dr. Noelle Lo Conte, says, “The message is if you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less.” “But if you don’t already drink, don’t start” she adds.

The word “intoxicate” has a simple meaning. When we take a poison (a toxic) into our bodies, we suffer the long-term effects of the poison. Most cancer is directly or indirectly related to what humans have done, and sometimes it is what we alone have done to ourselves. How can we blame God for what we have done?
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: The Week, November 24, 2017, page 19.

Continental Drift and Recycling

Continental Drift
In 1910 an Arctic explorer by the name of Alfred Wegener coined the term continental drift. Wegener saw the same fossils in South America that he had seen in western Africa, and he proposed that the two continents had been connected at one time. Wegener’s proposal was ridiculed by the scientists of that day who saw the Earth’s crust as too solid to allow any model of that kind to work.

Over the years studies of earthquake epicenters have shown that there is movement of huge slabs of rock called tectonic plates. The rock material bends more and more steeply until the slabs eventually melt into the mantle–the molten interior of the earth. These slabs and everything on them do in fact move.

In 1952 an ocean cartographer by the name of Marie Tharp began making profiles of the Atlantic Ocean floor going from west to east. Her profiles showed a ridge down the center of the Atlantic with younger material in the center and older material on both sides. She proposed that molten material was coming up from the mantle and pushing the two slabs of ocean floor material away from each other. Where the slabs hit the edges of the continent, the material is deflected downward making trenches in the floor of the ocean.

All of these discoveries flew in the face of the accepted geological theory at the time, and Tharp was ridiculed. In time scientists came to understand that the Earth is made up of plates sliding along the surface and sliding down into the mantle when a continent is reached.

There is a message in all of this that what is considered to be scientifically impossible, sometimes turns out to be true. At the same time, a pet theory can ultimately be proven incorrect. One of the beauties of science is that eventually it cleans up its own mistakes.

Another message is that sometimes God addresses a problem long before humans know there is a problem. This whole process is one of the greatest recycling systems of all time. As nutrients and minerals get eroded off the continents, they are deposited on the ocean floor. The movement of the ocean floor ultimately returns this material to the mantle to be recycled back to the Earth’s surface.

No elements are lost from the Earth’s reservoir by this system, and it assures us that there is no waste in the resources of the planet as a whole. Jeremiah 10:12 speaks of God preserving the Earth by His wisdom, and continental drift is one of tools by which He does that.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Animals Farming and How to Define Humans

Animals Farming
When I was in high school in the 1950s, a human was defined in terms of making tools and cultivating food. The idea that tool use is unique to humans has been disproven many times. Birds, apes, and some fish have all been shown to use tools. We even have examples of animals farming.

In 1967 studies were released showing that Attine ants were gathering fungi into groupings, and then using the fungi as their sole food source. Recent studies have verified that Attine ants get the amino acid arginine from the fungus that they grow in plots. The ants provide the moisture the fungus must have, and the fungus provides the arginine the ants need. This symbiotic relationship is one of many in the natural world that show a critical balance in the processes and workers that allows complex life to exist on Earth.

The definition of what is “human” from a scientific standpoint is very difficult, because complex chemical relationships exist in both the plant and animal kingdoms. These processes can duplicate what is considered to be unique to humans. Things like brain size also cannot be used because of the huge variations that exist among all living things.

Since we have observed animals farming, we know that even that is not a human peculiarity. In recent months scientists have found human remains with brain sizes smaller than what is usually ascribed to humans. So how do we define humans? Humans were created in the image of God, and that definition is the only one that really works. You can see it by observing a human’s ability to create art and music, to worship God, to feel guilt and sympathy, and to be able to learn to think and reason.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: Science News, November 11, 2017 page 4.

Doomsday Predictions Misguided

Doomsday Predictions
Just about every day you will see a headline in some periodical saying that the world will soon end in catastrophe. These doomsday predictions come from tabloids and church bulletins and always bring some kind of data to support them. Religious periodicals usually quote from Revelation and tabloids will take something out of context from a scientist or political figure.

The fact is that the major possible causes of global catastrophe do not come from periods of unusual natural activity. Earthquake numbers for the past ten years have been much smaller than 50 years ago. Hurricane frequency and intensity are not higher than in the past, although human mismanagement of shorelines has increased the damage even a small hurricane can produce.

The Sun is not becoming more active. The current cycle of solar activity is the lowest it has been in 100 years. In 1990 solar activity peaked at almost 300 sunspots. In the next maximum which happened in 2000, there were just over 200 sunspots. The last cycle which was in 2014, had 100 sunspots. In the December 2017 issue of Astronomy magazine, the lead article by Bruce Dorminey (page 20) is titled “Why Has the Sun Gone Quiet.” He suggests that the Sun will be relatively quiet for a long time.

In spite of the doomsday predictions, the biggest threat to our survival does not come from the natural world. God has designed a world that is remarkably stable. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and solar activity may cause problems, especially where humans have built vulnerable structures and removed natural safeguards, but our greatest danger is from each other. Our biggest problems come from humans refusing to do what Jesus told us would lead to our safety and security now and in eternally. You can read about it in the “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7.
–John N. Clayton © 2017