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Saturday Selections – Feb. 25, 2023
Each one of your cells has its own protective shell that has to be able to let food in, allow garbage out, and repel invaders. And there was no time for these abilities to evolve separately because a cell needs all these abilities from the get-go... otherwise it will die.
When the world throws slurs at the church - "Why are you guys so obsessed with sex!" – we might be tempted to deny the attack. But as Rebecca McLaughlin notes "Whenever people ask me why Christians are so weird about sex, I first point out that we’re weirder than they think. The fundamental reason why Christians believe that sex belongs only in the permanent bond of male-female marriage is because of the metaphor of Jesus’s love for his church."
Parents worried about how their kids are going to embarrass them are focused more on their "spiritual reputation" than their children's actual spiritual sanctification.
Another secular critic is rejecting the world's approach to sex and love and marriage, because of all the damage done. But while secular folks like this are starting to see through the lie, they still need someone to point them to the Truth.
The focus of this article is on pictures of Jesus in story bibles, but the point being made is relevant too, to the popular The Chosen TV drama about Jesus's disciples, but which also features Jesus Himself. Some Christians argue it is different to portray the incarnate Jesus – rather than the invisible Father or Holy Spirit – because He did have a physical body. This article offers up what the "Westminster Divines" thought.
There are also practical considerations: when Jesus is portrayed, there's the matter of accuracy. Historically, European artists have portrayed Him as European, making it easy to forget His Jewishness... and might that have contributed to anti-Semitism? In making a visual representation of Christ it seems unavoidable to, at least in part, recast Him in a contemporary hue. In keeping with our time, The Chosen's producers have given women a more prominent placement than they have in the Scriptures, with perhaps the most notable being the healing of the paralyzed man of Luke 5:17-25. It was men that arranged for their friend to be lowered through the ceiling; in the series two women, Tamar and Mary Magdalene, are credited with the idea.
Every election cycle there's a push to get everyone to vote. But why are we trying to make it easier (with mail-in ballots) for uninterested people to vote?
“good” vs. good
Our political leaders think they know what’s best for us. But by what standard are they judging what’s good? ***** Why should Christians part...
Saturday Selections – Feb. 18, 2023
Recycling plastic is bad stewardship (7 min) Recycling paper and cans can make sense. Despite what we've been told, recycling plastic most often does...
Soup and Buns
Friends or acquaintances?
Loneliness can make you pretty sad. In lonely times, you may ponder your relationships and realize that they are superficial. Perhaps you have wanted ...
Pro-life - Abortion
A day in the life of a pro-life intern
A summer internship gives young people an opportunity to build friendships and grow in courage while speaking up for the unborn **** It’s 5:30 AM. My alarm clock goes off. Groggily, I turn it off and roll out of bed. It’s time to get up, go out, and start working to save babies. An hour later finds me driving to today’s postcarding location. I chat with Kim – one of our summer interns – about each other’s weekends. It crosses my mind how if it wasn’t for this awful issue of abortion, I probably never would have met Kim. I hate abortion – but I’m glad I know Kim. Getting the truth out We get out of the car, grab stacks of postcards, and set out. I walk up to the mailbox of the first house and put the postcard in. Back to the street and then up a second driveway. Up and down, back and forth, spreading the truth. It’s a bloody, gory, awful truth, but it’s truth nonetheless, and that’s why we spread it. People need to know. Babies’ lives depend on it. As we enter one neighborhood, children start coming out of their homes. Boys and girls, sleepy-eyed and yawning, lugging backpacks that seem almost as big as they are. I watch them trudge to the bus stop, the number of them growing. We’re here because there should be more of them, I think to myself. For every three children walking to the bus stop, there should be one more. I imagine a fourth child for every three and am struck by how those children did exist – they were just killed before they had a chance to wait for the bus on a sleepy weekday morning. Several hundred houses later and we meet up with the rest of our team. Next on the schedule is a “Choice” Chain; here, we hold signs showing abortion and engage pedestrians in conversation. Afterward, we debrief as a team, sharing conversations that culminated in changed hearts and minds. It’s always encouraging getting to talk to a culture and to watch people shift their views on abortion. It’s encouraging to be with so many young people who are a part of making that change. At the end of the day, we unpack our supplies and everyone heads off to their own homes. I’m about to go home myself when I hear something. Back in the room where we keep our supplies, on the floor amidst scattered postcards, I see Kim, crying. I sit down, put my arm around her, and stay. She keeps crying. “Whose idea was this?” she sobs. Now I’m crying too. “Whose idea was it to kill babies?” We sit. We cry. We look at the postcards around us and think of all the babies who died today. Just two girls, surrounded by so much evil, so much death. Afterward, I can’t remember exactly what else we said to each other, just that there was brokenness, and grief, and longing for a better day. Anger and courage Later, I reflect on the supply room, the postcards on the floor, and crying with Kim. I think of a quote by Augustine: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” As I pack lunch and pick out clothes for the following morning, I pray and I plan for courage. Courage to face another day filled with the tragedy of abortion; courage fuelled by the hope we have as we see the results of our efforts in our country day after day; courage as we lean on each other, cry together, and work together. I hate abortion. I’m glad I know Kim. The Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform is a dynamic pro-life group working to end the ongoing slaughter of 300 unborn Canadian children that happens every day in our country. They are offering a unique summer job opportunity to come help them in this fight. You can learn more about this paid position at EndTheKilling.ca/internships. Deadline to apply is March 18th. Devorah Gilman worked for the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform from 2013-2019 (Picture courtesy of CCBR). ...
Saturday Selections – Feb. 11, 2023
Overpopulation isn't a problem (4 min) Two secular economists differed in how they saw people, the first seeing people as a burden on the planet, the other seeing them as a benefit (or as we might put it, a blessing). So whose worldview better aligns with what God has told us? The second, right? And which of these two economists warned of a coming collapse of civilization? Hint: it wasn't the second. Triggering the tingles What if you could get a feeling of love and companionship at the press of a button? As John Stonestreet explains, that's a temptation that's going to become more potent as technological advances show artificial ways of inducing pleasant feelings. But as tempting as these technologies will be, they will fail to deliver what they promise because we were not created to simply feel as if we were in relationship, but to actually know God. Top 10 evilest people of all time Whether most evil, or simply most destructive, these are 10 you should know. Canadians owe $1,300 a year to pay for gov't interest payments On average every Canadian owed $1,300 this year just to pay interest on provincial and federal debt. Check out an infographic here for how much you owe depending on your province. Click the link above for the longer report. 7 financial tips from Proverbs This article is remarkable for the helpful collection of financial wisdom it shares from the book of Proverbs and for how studiously it avoids any mention of who the Author of that wisdom is. Budgeting advice from Saturday Night Live (2 min) As one commenter put it, "This is Dave Ramsey's favorite sketch." ...
Economics - Home Finances
Simple steps for living generously
Jesus says: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). It should go without saying that our giving is a reflection of our devotion to Him. God calls on us to share His wealth, for all you have is in fact His. And if you don’t, might that mean that you don’t belong to Him in the first place? In today’s climate of “earn more to buy more,” it can be hard for Christians to focus on any other uses for their time, talent (skills) and treasure (material resources). Regardless of this challenge, Scripture clearly calls believers to a life of giving and living generously. “Do we have to?” misses the point In the Old Testament, the tithe was introduced as a 10% minimum for Israelites to give back to God to show their thankfulness and dependence on Him. This practice is shown in both Abraham and Jacob’s life (Gen. 14:19-20 and 28:20-22), and then introduced into Israelite law in Leviticus (27:30). Additional giving – the freewill offering – was also encouraged (Lev 22:18 and Num 15:3). Giving at this level would have been very difficult at times; the Israelites frequently went through seasons of war and poverty. The word tithe literally means “a tenth” and denotes the minimum amount that Israelites were required to give to God. The nature of the type of gift God desired is described as the first fruits (Prov. 3:9, Lev. 19:23-25). Giving of the first fruits was meant to be a gift of the first and best that God provided. It is important to understand that giving of the first fruits is an exceptionally sacrificial act. It is the small harvest at the beginning of the season that follows a long winter and spring filled with the sweat and labor that goes into the growing season. There was often hunger and self-denial involved in this sacrifice. The Israelites would have had a strong recognition that the rest of the harvest, the part that would provide for their family’s daily food and provisions for months or maybe even the remaining year, was still pending and not at all guaranteed. This required much trusting in God for His provision. Whether tithing is mandated today is a hotly debated topic in Christian circles. But what should not be in question is the discipline and sacrificial nature of giving that the tithe and first fruits promoted, and the generosity Christ put on display by giving up His life for us. Making regular giving a natural and normal part of your financial routine is critical to promoting a life of generosity. Also, the recognition that God has blessed you with what you have, and you are entirely dependent on His provision, is a difficult but necessary reality for Christians to live within. Getting giving going Many have good intentions to give regularly and generously, but often those intentions are not fully acted upon. Sometimes all that is required is the creation and implementation of a good financial plan. Practically speaking, this includes the application of sound financial principles, such as: Spend less than you earn and do it for a long time. This requires you to know where your money is going, to communicate effectively with family members, and to be a disciplined spender. Live in a home you can afford. Do not presume upon the future. God provides for your needs, but He does not guarantee you a smooth journey. Be very careful with your use of debt and avoid it if possible as a form of slavery (Prov. 22:7). Strive purposefully to provide for your family’s needs (1 Tim. 5:8). Build into your life financial accountability, especially in areas where you may struggle. To give deliberately and sacrificially, some practical steps to implement might include: As soon as income is received, remove a portion to give. This could mean transferring it to another bank account, immediately writing the check for Sunday’s service, or even e-transferring to your church if that is an option. Take regular (quarterly or annual) inventory of your personal and business net worth and give on the growth. This includes a portion of the return on your investment portfolio, inheritances received, and dispositions in property and business. Devise and implement a plan to give of your time and skills as well as your material wealth. If you have a spouse and children, get them involved and make it a family plan. Teach your children to give with paper money and not with coins since God is not a God of leftovers (Mal. 1:8; Luke 6:38). Consider the challenge contained in the concept of the first fruits. What will you give to feel the sacrifice of the gift? Would you still give at the same financial level if a tax incentive was not offered? Is your lack of intentionality and organization preventing you from giving at a level that is truly worshipful? Consider including your time and your talents as part of your giving plan. Do not offer God worthless gifts. Give deliberately, sacrificially and excellently. This has been a father-daughter collaboration: Rev. Hank Van der Woerd (MDiv) is an emeritus minister (URCNA) and past president of the Mortgage Brokers Association of BC; Maria Dawes CIM CFP is a Portfolio Manager for Capstone Asset Management (www.capstoneassets.ca)....
How to have a proper conversation
or, Confessions of a Loquacious Person ***** Loquacious: tending to talk a great deal We might all think that we know how to have a conversation, having learnt a particular style of conversing from how we were raised. But conversational styles differ greatly from family to family, anything from the children being almost afraid or forbidden to say a word (i.e. “children should be seen and not heard”), to everyone at the dinner table talking at the same time. Family members may have had to wait a long time to be heard if their extroverted siblings hadn’t learned conversational etiquette – “manners” may or may not have been taught, depending on whether the parents ever learned them, or whether they considered free-for-all conversations to be a problem! In my case, I thought that it was normal for family members to talk over one another. But my husband found it completely disorienting as my side of the family got louder and louder, switching subjects frequently and repeating anecdotes when someone in a separate conversation caught a snatch of it and requested to hear all of it right then. Since we loved to hear ourselves talk, we were most happy to oblige, even if we didn’t realize at the time that “talking” was what was most important to us. Loquacious people love to share details about their lives. After church, they might go from person to person telling the same stories and bits of information about their week, their trip, their surgery, or their job challenges. It’s what’s on their mind so they share it with others. But what about the people they are talking to? Do they ask about what happened in other folks’ lives during the past week? When they get home, do they even remember whom they “conversed” with since they did the majority of the talking? This article began with a bit of blaming: “This is how my family did things.” But there’s more to it than that. So let’s take a closer look at why a person talks too much and is not a good listener because, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” It’s not simply a learned habit. Self-centeredness When we talk too much, as mentioned already, it is because we like to hear ourselves talk and we – rightly or wrongly – imagine that others are entertained, inspired, or enlightened by what we have to say. The first consideration should be whether our subject matter meets those criteria! We can all think of people whose conversation could bless us for hours, and others with whom we would be bored. We have probably all been the talker in both situations! We also ought to realize that we like to talk because we like to be in control. Celeste Headlee points out in her TED talk Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation that we control the conversation so that “we won’t have to hear anything that we are not interested in.” It makes us the center of attention, and perhaps is essential to “bolstering” our own identity. Ouch! But as Headlee concludes, “Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.” Did we even realize that we were being self-centered? We need to, because self-centeredness is destructive to relationships, whereas love for others is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Being a good listener In order to have a proper conversation, we need to be intentional and attentive listeners. One of the most difficult challenges is to realize that when people are relating their experience, that conversation is not about us. As Stephen Covey has said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.” While someone is talking, we automatically think of our experience that we think parallels theirs, and eagerly formulate how we will present our information. My parent also died. I also have knee/car/kid/plumbing trouble. I also took a vacation to Timbuktu and here’s what I did. To launch directly into our somewhat connected experience shows that to us, their commentary was merely a catalyst to get ours started. And whether we realize it or not, we may be, as Headlee suggests, taking that moment to prove how amazing we are or how much we have suffered! Self-centered. When we truly listen, we should squelch those thoughts because our experience, even with grief, is not the same as theirs. Squelch them, and instead ask follow-up questions, seeking to understand what their experience was like and how it affected them. Think about what they say. Ask them how it affected them and what they think about it now. Tell them you’d love to hear more about it. Tell them how wonderful (or awful) it sounds. Sincerely offer prayer or assistance if the situation calls for it. A proper conversation includes and indeed emphasizes listening. It takes energy and effort to truly listen to the point of caring about the speaker and the content, and not just planning our response while we wait for them to finish, or even worse, interrupt them as soon as they take a breath. To interrupt is to declare that you consider yourself and what you want to say more important than the other person’s words. There may be a good reason to share some of our experiences later, but only after we have sufficiently listened, and only if it may truly benefit the hearer. Listening to your children It is particularly important to learn to listen attentively to your children. Parents need to learn to listen to what their children are saying and to ask questions that show a desire to understand and appreciate them. Listening needs to be done in a non-judgmental manner where the kids aren’t afraid that a rebuke or lecture will flatten them as soon as they speak their mind and open their heart. It may be that an issue will have to be addressed laterif wise counsel or discipline are necessary. But a thorough listening should come first. Proverbs 18:13 gives the admonition that, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Half-hearing or speeding through the conversation so that we can go do something “more important” is not really listening. We sometimes think as parents that we need to have “the answer” immediately. We are not perfect and it may be best on some occasions to state that we are going to think about a matter for a while before we fully respond. Of course, this takes more time and effort than giving a quick answer while multitasking. But it is time well spent. There’s a popular adage that nobody when growing old will say, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office” or, as a companion to that remark, “I wish I’d cleaned my house better when the kids were young.” But we may wish we had listened more attentively. Scripture says… The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about our speech. Proverbs 10:19 states: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” and 17:28 says: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” We are taught that our speech is to be truthful (4:24, 6:12), noble and straightforward (8:6-9), wise (10:31), gentle (15:1), knowledgeable (15:7), righteous (8:8; 16:13), and pleasant (16:24). We are commanded that our speech should not be devious (4:24), destructive of our neighbor (11:9), rash like sword thrusts (think about that image!) (12:18), a scorching fire/perverse/slanderous (16:27-28). Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” In 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, Paul says: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” Jesus and Paul taught us to love our neighbor as ourself. Should this not include listening carefully with a desire to learn and understand, rather than just popping off the first connection that comes to mind? We can learn to not be self-centered. Quick to listen In James 1:19, we read, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” What if we would rush in to listen to others, instead of to talk? These verses show us that we should analyze our recent conversations, and perhaps ask friends, family, and the Lord if we have been “too loquacious” and not a good listener. We should ponder Paul’s words from Philippians 2 which certainly apply to how we converse with others: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3-4)....
Saturday Selections - Feb. 4, 2023
How different athletes act at home (4 min) Some fun goofiness to share with the kids... though only if you don't mind some imitation. Jack Phill...
Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics
Economics in One Lesson
by Henry Hazlitt 1946 / 193 pages Universal basic income, a four-day work week, and government-funded daycare are just a few big-ticket proposals ...
Articles, Book Reviews, Interview with an artist
Stephanie Vanderpol has a zoologist in the house
Interview with an artist Stephanie Vanderpol is the author and artist behind RP’s “Come and Explore” children’s pages, and she’s also the author of a new picture book, "Cheetahs Eat Cantaloupe." If this title sounds a bit odd to you, that’s because it’s an example of the various other animal “facts” that you’ll find inside. I had a chance, recently, to ask the author how her book came about. – JD ***** Jon Dykstra: In the opening of “Cheetahs Eat Cantaloupe” you explain that it was “inspired by the comical ‘animal facts’ as stated by my daughter Scarlett.” It sounds like you had a zoological expert in the house. What sorts of animal facts was she sharing? The author and her inspiration Stephanie Vanderpol: Scarlett has always been interested in animals. When she was two, she had a pet spider, a bucket of worms, and a collection of snails that she would play with on the regular. Outside, of course! Between the ages of six and seven she started sharing animal “facts” like in the book, things like “chipmunks stuff their cheeks because they cannot climb when their hands are full.” The facts were mainly born out of curiosity, sort of her way of answering her own questions of “why does that animal do that?” Sometimes she would write them down and I would find them, or I would overhear her teaching her brother the ways of these animals, or, sometimes, she would outright just tell me. JD: What prompted you to turn it into a book? SV: I had been illustrating my daughter's animal facts and posting them to Instagram at the beginning of COVID thinking that people could use a little bit of joy in their day. A few months in, the winter was looming over me and I knew I needed some sort of project to keep me sane through the winter. I actually got on my knees and asked God to direct my ways, to give me a project that would give Him glory and keep my head above water. He led my heart to the book project. It was initially just for my daughter Scarlett's 8th birthday, one copy, just for her. But as I posted about it, people got excited and by printing date I had a fair amount of pre-orders. I never would have thought! JD: What did Scarlett think of how you illustrated each of her “facts”? SV: Either she would giggle, at which point I knew she liked it, or she'd critique it and tell me what to change. She was very involved in the sketching stage, so it was a cool bonding moment. Maybe I hit the "cool mom" stage with her…though, of course, she never said that out loud. JD: What was involved to turn this from idea to finished book? SV: It took over a year to go from the first sketch until I held the final copy in my hands. During the day I would be doing my regular mom job, folding laundry, making meals, keeping the house clean, and then once my kids were tucked into bed at night, I’d whip out all my art supplies, sit on the couch, open up my folding table and get to work. My husband is a school teacher so it worked out well. He’d be sitting with me, marking tests and prepping for the next day, and I’d be playing with my pencils and watercolors, with baby no. 4 kicking away in my belly. JD: What was the process for a single two-page spread? SV: Each page had a similar process: Take one of Scarlett’s animal facts and imagine what it could look like. Sketch the image onto paper until it came out right (sometimes this took up to 15 different tries). Run the sketch for approval under the careful eye of Scarlett for laughability, my husband, for common sense and continuity, and my best friend Breanna for accuracy in facial expressions and other artistic critiques. Trace the sketch onto watercolor paper using a lightpad and a waterproof pen. Using my watercolors, paint the image. This was my favorite part! Scan the images into the computer and arrange them and the text in Photoshop, creating the pages as they are in the book. Once all the pages were done, I ordered a proof copy of the book to go through final edits, including text, done by my editor, Julia. After many edits and proof copies, I ended up with the final copy! Snuggle up on the couch and read the final book to my kids! JD: We’ve got your book in the school library down here in Lynden, WA. Where else has it reached? And how can people get a copy? SV: Cheetahs Eat Cantaloupe has made it all across Canada and into the United States, and there’s even a copy in Scotland, too, which is pretty cool. I have a few copies left of the first print run that can be purchased through my website, www.stephanielorinda.com, or on Instagram @stephanielorinda. And if I run out, I’m happy to take pre-orders for the second edition....
Saturday Selections – Jan 28, 2023
British comic on climate change (7 min) Comedian Konstantin Kisin went viral in mid-January for his common sense counter to climate change hysteria. What we can learn about sacrifice from John Calvin’s "School of Death" "If any of our seminaries today were nicknamed 'The School of Death,' they would be empty!" Denmark secretly inserted IUDs in Greenland's women for decades In a 15-year span, from 1963 to 1978, Greenland's fertility rate dropped from 6.74 births per woman to just 2.21, and it was due in part to Danish doctors secretly and systematically chemically sterilizing Greenland women. While the world doesn't know how such a widespread evil like this is even possible, John Stonestreet offers an explanation above. Lord Acton offers another: "all power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." A Christian response to an arrogant government's abuse is to urge citizens to minimize its powers. Instead of expecting our governments to run not only justice and defense, but healthcare, education, the overall economy, and even whether we should have children, we should demand our elected leaders control much less. When a government is forced to acknowledge it doesn't know better than its own citizens how best to run their lives, that humility can counter the temptation to abuse its powers. And should it still succumb, a smaller government won't have the power to do harm on this scale. 8 ways we normalize the abnormal The world is normalizing certain sins, but as Paul Tripp notes even Christians – orthodox Bible-believing Christians – are busy normalizing our own sins. 8 times C.S. Lewis displayed brilliant political commentary in the Chronicles of Narnia Peter Jacobsen shares "what Narnia can teach us about politics in our own world." A key difference between social justice and biblical justice (4 min) Voddie Baucham says that one big difference between the two is how they each define "injustice." ...
Population of the world’s largest country begins to decline
For the first time since the early 1960s, deaths have outnumbered births in the world’s largest country – over the course of 2022 China’s population shrunk by 850,000. This development was a long time coming, as the country has seen a steady decrease in births since the 1970’s. That is thanks in part to China’s One-Child Policy, which stayed in force till 2015, and which penalized parents for having more than one child. The Communist government has been trying to reverse the downward trend since then, but with no success. China’s fertility rate is a dismal 1.28 children per woman, and still decreasing each year. To simply stay stable, a country’s fertility rate needs to average out to 2.1 children per woman, the two children to take the place of their two parents in the next generation, and the .1 to account for the fact that not all children reach adulthood. According to the Globe & Mail’s coverage: “no country has successfully reversed birth-rate decline, which tends to track with development, as wealthier, urbanized populations choose to have less children.” “China’s demographic and economic outlook is much bleaker than expected,” demographer Yi Fuxian commented in response to these findings. China is realizing quickly what Psalm 127:3 proclaims: “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from Him.” However, even as China is being confronted by this truth, Canada and much of the Western world continues to discourage children and is relying on immigration to keep the population and economy stable or growing. But where are these immigrants coming from, and what happens when these countries too need people? And if no country has been successful with reversing a decline, what happens when the world’s population begins to decline, as is expected later this century? Through birth, fostering, and adoption, Christian families have an opportunity to show to the world the gift that life is....
Science - Creation/Evolution
How does the world explain the origin of life?
or, highlighting the problems with a Naturalistic explanation ***** Naturalism can be defined best by what it doesn’t believe: in the Supernatural; it denies the existence of God. That means that all naturalists are left with to explain all that exists, why we exist, and how we came to be is Nature and natural laws. And that presents them with a problem. Nature cannot provide us with an explanation for abiogenesis – life coming from non-life. You don’t have to take my word for it – this is also acknowledged as a foundational problem by many scientists, sometimes explicitly, and sometimes only by the irrational arguments they’ll offer as an alternative to acknowledging God. In what follows I’m going to share both the publicly acknowledged problems with naturalistic abiogenesis, as well as some of the theories the world has proposed to address those problems. Both are revealing. The RNA problem In paleontologist Peter Ward’s book Life As We Do Not Know It, he addresses how RNA (or ribonucleic acid) – because it is simpler than DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) – is theorized as an evolutionary step in the development of DNA. But, Ward notes: Amazingly, one of the major criticisms of RNA life…the hypothesized last common ancestor of all DNA life, is that it probably did not exist because it would have been impossible to build RNA through natural chemical processes. Paul Davies notes: .… ”without a trained organic chemist on hand to supervise, nature would be struggling to make RNA from a dilute soup under any plausible prebiotic condition.” Or, as organic chemist Clemens Richert wrote in the Dec 12, 2018 edition of Nature Communications: Experimentalists in the field of prebiotic chemistry strive to re-enact what may have happened when life arose from inanimate material. How often human intervention was needed to obtain a specific result in their studies is worth reporting. When Diego Maradona was asked about having used his hand to score a goal in the quarter-finals of the 1986 soccer World Cup, he initially claimed that there had been divine intervention, and the term “Hand of God Goal” was coined. – There had been manual intervention, and there had been an understandable interest of the player not to admit it. – Organic chemists, if not all experimentalists in the field of prebiotic chemistry, are faced with a similar dilemma. We do our best to perform experiments that we believe re-enact possible steps of prebiotic evolution, but we know that we need to intervene manually to obtain meaningful results. Further, the ideal experiment does not involve any human intervention. He also frankly said: Understandably, this has drawn the ire of those who feel that no or only minimal intervention is allowed for a process to be called prebiotically plausible. After all, it is not easy to see what replaced the flasks, pipettes and stir bars of a chemistry lab during prebiotic evolution, let alone the hands of the chemist who performed the manipulations. (And yes, most of us are not comfortable with the idea of divine intervention in this context.) Whether divine intervention or human intervention, there’s a conscious entity doing the intervening. So even if our friends were to succeed in creating life in the lab, that would only demonstrate that intelligence and deliberate intent are needed to create a living thing. I'm glad this issue is explicitly acknowledged. Every honest Origin of Life (OOL) researcher will agree fully. It’s one thing for highly trained chemists to create RNA in a lab, but another thing entirely for unaided Nature to accomplish the same. Especially considering that Nature is not trying to make RNA, and has no intention of doing so. The multiverse “solution” But, if the researcher is committed to Naturalism and atheism, then he has no choice but to maintain a strong (and unrealistic) faith that Nature did it anyway, even though he knows it’s not possible. One such researcher, Eugene Koonin, resorted to “an infinite multiverse” as a potential way out of this problem. This is the view that supposedly, anything that can happen will happen in an infinite multiverse, and this would also include the chance origin of life. In a 2011 book, The Logic of Chance: the Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution, he added this: The origin of life is one of the hardest problems in all of science, but it is also one of the most important. Origin-of-life research has evolved into a lively, interdisciplinary field, but other scientists often view it with skepticism and even derision. This attitude is understandable and, in a sense, perhaps justified, given the “dirty” rarely mentioned secret: Despite many interesting results to its credit, when judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching (or even approaching) the ultimate goal, the origin of life field is a failure – we still do not have even a plausible coherent model, let alone a validated scenario, for the emergence of life on Earth. Certainly, this is due not to a lack of experimental and theoretical effort, but to the extraordinary intrinsic difficulty and complexity of the problem. A succession of exceedingly unlikely steps is essential for the origin of life, from the synthesis and accumulation of nucleotides to the origin of translation; through the multiplication of probabilities, these make the final outcome seem almost like a miracle. “Almost like a miracle” is a frank admission of what OOL entails. Nevertheless, in the same book, Koonin continued to cling to the multiverse hypothesis as a guaranteed solution to the problems involved with OOL. Here’s the summary of Koonin’s argument, in his own words: Simply put, the probability of the realization of any scenario permitted by the conservation laws in an infinite universe (and, of course, in the multiverse) is, exactly, one.... Thus, spontaneous emergence of complex systems that would have to be considered virtually impossible in a finite universe becomes not only possible but inevitable under MWO … What he’s saying is that if you have an infinite number of universes then anything, no matter how improbable, not only can happen, but will happen… in some universe somewhere within the multiverse. Including naturalistic abiogenesis. According to Koonin (and some “Many Worlds” physicists who agree with him), in some universe somewhere right now, there’s a guy who’s a practicing neurosurgeon, a janitor, and the lead actor in a recent blockbuster movie – simultaneously. He owns 271 cars, and is married to his high school sweetheart (who happens to be a princess from a tribe of highly-advanced super-beings). Their son adopted a pet chimpanzee named Wilson, while their twin daughters are ballistic missile experts in the local galactic army. No, this isn’t a hypothetical story I just made up. Or, rather it is, but according to Koonin’s logic these things are actually going on right now as we speak, in some universe somewhere. The pet chimp is also very clever, and has learned how to fly a helicopter, among other things. Now think about this trained monkey trying to synthesize life in a chemistry lab. What are the odds of him succeeding?? Exactly. But even the monkey has a better chance than a prebiotic Nature which has no intent or purpose whatsoever. In any case, simply postulating an infinite multiverse in an attempt to overcome the problem does not help – Koonin doesn’t put forth any mechanism whereby life could be naturally synthesized, but just makes the bold assertion that it must certainly happen given a multiverse. Time is no solution Another factor that is usually seen as a possible helper for abiogenesis is Time. If Nature has billions of years to work with, she should be able to eventually get the right combination to the safe, right? No, not at all. That would be akin to claiming a blind engineer could invent a BMW, or a Model-T Ford, given billions of years to live and try. It’s clear why time isn’t the problem. The blind engineer actually has better odds in this analogy than Nature does, since he at least knows what he’s attempting to accomplish. The language/information problem The origin of life gets all the more complicated when we realize it also necessitates the origin of information, and the origin of a language to convey that information. I could employ many quotes here concerning what information is, but I like how physicist and information theorist Hubert Yockey put it in this simple statement: The meaning, if any, of words, that is, a sequence of letters, is arbitrary. It is determined by the natural language and is not a property of the letters or their arrangement ... For example, "O singe fort!" has no meaning as a sentence in English, although each is an English word, yet in German it means, "O sing on!" and in French it means "O strong monkey". Like all messages, the life message is non-material but has an information content measurable in bits and bytes. Or, as chemistry professor Michael Polanyi already noted way back in 1958, in his book Personal Knowledge: Information in the DNA could no more be reduced to the chemicals than could the ideas in a book be reduced to the ink and paper: something beyond physics and chemistry is encoded in DNA. The origin of encoded genetic information is also assumed to have just happened miraculously under the multiverse scenario. Information here isn’t just the physical nucleobases, or even their sophisticated ordering alone, but the ribosomes’ understanding of the language, and their ability to decode and use those instructions to build the specified proteins. And then we have multiple regulatory genes in addition, which are all information networks. There’s actually a $10 million challenge out there still ongoing, for anyone who can demonstrate a set of coded information that didn’t originate from a mind, i.e., that can be spontaneously generated by Nature. The judges include well-respected biologists George Church and Denis Noble, and the Royal Society has also gotten involved recently. No one has claimed the prize (find out more in the 2 minute video below). The complexity problem Most of us don’t actually know, much less appreciate, the number of things that need to be done in order to arrive at the “simplest” cell. Nature has no goal or aim or plan to create a cell. The fact that highly trained, highly intelligent chemists still can’t do it, speaks volumes. So how is it that some lay naturalists and even some with degrees think all that’s needed is lots of time, and then Nature will eventually produce a living cell? The sheer amount of intellectual effort that goes into OOL research is more than impressive, and we still can’t make life ourselves – we can’t pull it off. But a mindless prebiotic Nature with no intention of creating a cell somehow did? Consider the ingredients needed to make a basic candy. Here’s the list for Skittles: Sugar Corn syrup Hydrogenated palm kernel oil Citric acid Tapioca dextrin Modified corn starch Natural and artificial flavors Colors (Red 40 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Red 40, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake) Sodium citrate Carnauba wax Now consider just a miniscule piece of a Skittle. Would Nature alone be able to synthesize and assemble the ingredients needed to make a tiny piece of a Skittle? No. Never. Not in ten billion years! But many adults believe Nature somehow synthesized and assembled everything that’s needed to make a living, metabolizing, self-replicating cell. The extraterrestrials “solution” But what if we were to claim that life on earth resulted from panspermia – that Extraterrestrials (ETs) seeded the first life on Earth? This is indeed what some among our SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) friends propose. Well, then they’d have the problem of explaining how Nature produced those ETs. As Richard Dawkins wrote in The God Delusion: …there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century…In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? In a very important sense…the crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn’t start that way…They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution. Saying ETs put the first life on Earth still keeps us inside the box of Naturalism. And then Nature still has to create and evolve the ETs, so the abiogenesis problem – how life can ever have come from non-life – remains. Then there’s at least one scientist in peer-reviewed publication who also thinks panspermia by ETs isn’t a good enough proposal. Brig Klyce concedes there’s one of two possibilities: “supernatural intervention or intelligence” (aka God) or that cellular life has existed from eternity This concession appeared in a paper (“Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic?” in the August 2018 edition of the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology) that Klyce co-authored with more than a dozen other scientists. He believed “that the complexity and sophistication of life cannot originate (from non-biological) matter under any scenario, over any expanse of space and time, however vast.” But if that’s so, then how is life here? Rejecting the possibility that God was involved, Klyce then proposes this: A strictly scientific way around this dilemma would be to amend or tweak the big bang theory to allow for life from the eternal past. After all, the big bang theory is relatively new and still occasionally amended. Therefore, it seems unready to forever overrule the unviolated principle and consistent evidence that life comes from life. Yes, that’s an actual suggestion from a peer-reviewed secular scientific paper – that life started here from a universe before the big bang. So either God did it, or self-replicating microbes have always existed. The difference between the two proposals is that: God is an eternal Supernatural This is logically consistent and plausible, and even a metaphysical necessity to avoid an infinite regress of causes. On the other hand, proposing an eternity of replicating microbes, each of which had a beginning and an end, is trying to say that abiogenesis never happened because there was no “first ever microbe.” But things that have a beginning still need to have an explanation for that beginning. Trying to hide that behind an infinite regression isn’t an answer to this problem. Conclusion For decades, highly trained experts have been striving to create life from scratch, using the raw materials found in nature. They have yet to succeed. Even if they did eventually succeed somehow, that would only demonstrate that a high level of intelligent input is needed to create biological life; which is what we’ve been saying the evidence has always shown. Proposing an infinite multiverse where “anything that can happen will happen” is an unsubstantiated assertion with no empirical evidence whatsoever, and doesn’t offer a mechanism for abiogenesis or even address the issue that Nature has no intent to create life. The suggestion that microbial life has always existed and self-replicated is a logical absurdity, since there can be no such thing as an infinite regress of causes. Thus in the question of God vs Naturalism, there is no question as to which answer is absurd. Kenechi Okoli is a Christian who loves science, and in his free time he enjoys reading, music, and cooking. While he lived for over a decade in the US, he now resides in Nigeria....
Saturday Selections – Jan 21, 2023
Should we force all men to get vasectomies? (3 min) Since the overturning of the US Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision – the ruling that originall...
Crypto companies losing employees, losing public trust
In early January, several firms involved in crypto-currency announced that they would be reducing the size of their workforces significantly. Genesis, Coinbase, Blockchain.com and Crypto.com are all seeking to cut costs as they experience fallout from the huge decline in the value of various cryptocurrencies in 2022, and from the well publicized collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Some of these firms are laying off employees just a few months after their last round of downsizing in the fall. Public trust in companies involved with cryptocurrency has been steadily dropping, after several high-profile firms were found to have defrauded investors of billions of dollars: some of these companies operated very much like old-fashioned “Ponzi” schemes – guaranteeing rates of return much higher than could be realistically expected, and paying out investors “profits” with funds deposited by new investors, without any underlying real business activity. Some analysts are predicting huge returns for crypto investors this year, while others predict a decline. Just days apart, CoinShares’ chief strategy officer predicted a $15,000 to $30,000 range for Bitcoin, while Skybridge Capital’s founder foresaw prices from $50,000 to $100,000 per Bitcoin in two or three years. Why the huge fluctuations, and price uncertainty? A recent paper by the investment firm Starkiller Capital observed that: “cryptocurrencies have very little intrinsic value in the sense that a long track record of… valuing these assets using a generally agreed upon set of fundamental variables does not exist.” While a Christian could perhaps use cryptocurrency as a payment system, using is not the same as investing. Because cryptocurrency has “little intrinsic value,” putting your retirement money into it is simply speculative, gambling rather than investing. In Proverbs, Solomon reminds us of the value of hard work and diligence, and the foolishness of seeking shortcuts: “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” – Prov. 12:11 “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” – Prov. 13:11 “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” – Prov. 14:23 If an investment looks “too good to be true,” or promises something that no one can guarantee, perhaps we could read a few chapters from Proverbs to keep us from a foolish path....
Sperm counts plummet
An Oxford Academic journal has found that human sperm concentrations have dropped an average of 51.6% in the past 45 years, from 104 million to 49 million sperm per milliliter of semen. The findings are based on data from 223 papers that looked at sperm samples from 57,000 men from 53 countries worldwide. Declines in concentration were seen throughout the world, and the rate of decline seems to be increasing – to 2.64% annually since the year 2000. According to a report from the Guardian, previous studies suggested that sperm count begins to affect fertility when it decreases beneath 40 million per ml. Reactions to the study have been mixed, with some experts arguing that we need better data to determine with certainty that sperm counts are decreasing. There also isn’t clarity on what may be causing the decline, with suggestions including chemicals or environmental factors that are impacting the development of preborn boys. Others suggest that smoking, drinking, and a poor diet all contribute. It's important to note, though, that while the fertility rate has been plummeting throughout the world since 1963 – when it was 5.3 children per woman, compared to about 2.3 today – this decline is not because couples are unable to have children. Rather, through abortion and birth control, children simply aren’t welcomed into many lives any more. Canada’s rate is a dismal 1.4, meaning that our population would be plummeting if not for immigration. The very first command God gave to humanity was “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Young men and women, let’s not get old trying to discern God’s will for our lives when much of His will is printed in black and white in His Word. Find a godly spouse, get married, and embrace the gift of children if you are able. He knows what is best for us....
USS Meredith Victory: the “Gallant Ship”
There was nothing about USS Meredith Victory that would make it stand out from the crowd. The ship was a cargo vessel, built as part of the merchant marine during the Second World War. It was 455 feet long from bow to stern. The width at the widest point was a mere 62 feet. To give that context, a Canadian football field is 450 feet long from the farthest part of the endzone to the tip of the other end zone, and 195 feet wide. The Meredith Victory was not an especially big ship. The ship, however, was destined for a brief moment of fame. During the Korean War, the vessel was sent to bring supplies for the troops of the United Nations forces. With the Chinese invasion in December 1950, United Nations and South Korean forces were pushed to the brink. Close to 100 ships, including Meredith Victory, were sent to the port of Hungnam to evacuate 100,000 troops and as many of the 100,000 civilians as possible. Leonard LaRue, captain of Meredith Victory, offloaded any cargo or weapons that had been on board and set off for the port in order to accommodate as many refugees as he could. Room for two dozen On December 22, his vessel was guided through the minefield in the harbor by a minesweeper, and was then left to load passengers. Meredith Victory normally had a crew of 35, with 12 officers, and bunks for up to 12 additional passengers. There was food, water, and sanitation supplies for only that small complement of 59. By the time the ship had been fully loaded, around 11 the next morning, Meredith Victory had brought on approximately 14,000 Korean civilian refugees. No one would have blamed the captain if he had left the port hours earlier, leaving many of the refugees behind. The ships that had escorted Meredith Victory safely in had left during the night, making the vessel’s trip out through the minefield extremely perilous. All around, United Nations ships were shelling the port in order to deny it to the enemy forces. Yet Captain LaRue stayed until his ship was, literally, standing room only. Left vulnerable without a military escort, the ship arrived in the port of Pusan on Christmas Eve. First Mate D.S. Savastio, with only basic first aid training, had delivered five babies en route. Despite the bitter December cold, the lack of light or heat in the holds, and the fact that many were forced to stand on the ship’s deck shoulder to shoulder due to overcrowding, there were no injuries. However, Pusan already had its own problems with refugees, and was only able to accept those injured before boarding the ship. Meredith Victorysailed another 50 miles to Geoje Island, where it was able to unload the refugees on Boxing Day, December 26. Seeing rightly begets bravery After the war, the South Korean government awarded the ship the Presidential Unit Citation. An act of the U.S. Congress gave the vessel the title “Gallant Ship.” And the Guinness World Records group has called the event the largest evacuation from land by a single ship. Considering when it happened, it’s tempting to look at this story as a Christmas Miracle, the kind you might find in a Hallmark movie. The description certainly fits. However, it’s worth noting that Leonard LaRue, the captain of Meredith Victory, said that he believed “God’s own hand was at the helm of my ship.” His words are backed up by his later decision to give up the sea in favor of a life in a monastery. While that was a wrong turn, it’s clear that LaRue saw his life, and the lives of these thousands of others, as gifts from God. So he cherished them. And took enormous risks to try to protect these fellow Image-bearers. Faith isn’t a guarantee of success, but trusting God fully can be the catalyst for us to show love to others – even at great risk to ourselves – because we know that come what may, God’s got us. James Dykstra is a sometimes history teacher, author, and podcaster at History.icu “where history is never boring.” Find his podcast at History.icu, or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts....
Saturday Selections – Jan 14, 2023
Blue hair as a death sentence? A few years ago headlines declared that Iceland had nearly eradicated Down syndrome. But they hadn't eradicated the syndrome - they were killing those with it. Paul Ehrlich: wrong on 60 Minutes and wrong for 60 years In Deut. 18 God provides a test for a prophet that's pretty simple: if what he says doesn't come true, then we don't need to worry about him. That's a principle that has ready application in the global warming debate as well, and specifically when it comes to Paul Ehrlich. He's a scientist who has been off the mark for almost 60 years now, always predicting imminent doom, but who was recently given a platform on the American news program 60 Minutes to make his same old predictions once again. As Peter Jacobsen explains, he gets it so wrong because he sees only the cost of having children, and overlooks how they are a blessing. What is music for in corporate worship? "Music is a gift of God, a unique way of connecting His revelation with our hearts and minds. St. Augustine is thought to have said, 'he who sings, prays twice.' The Church must recover a more robust understanding and practice of music." More concerns with projectors in church "Using screens for worship devalues Scripture and the Book of Praise as merely books we read and sing from. Not physically using a Bible may result in not knowing which books are OT and NT, where the Minor Prophets are, the five books of Moses, or the Four Gospels...." How competition got my third grader reading Boys don't read. Boys are competitive. So what if we pitted the boys against the girls in a reading contest? This would need to be carefully done, with, most likely, a lesson included about winning and losing graciously - ie. competition sans trash talk. But could it work? Jordan Peterson says no to Ontario's thought police Jordan Peterson is in trouble again, and this Australian article is a great outsider's perspective. Why so many movies have a "Christ-like figure" in them (10 min) Pastor Jake Mentzel explains why Christ-like figures pop up in so many blockbusters. And it's not, he notes, because these movies are so insightful. This could be a great one to share with the kids, to show them that when a story – film or book – features a self-sacrificing figure, that doesn't mean it is deep... or good. ...