Thursday, June 28, 2012

Survival on the Fringe

Pompeii Worm


 Did you know that scientists have found micro-organisms that can survive and even thrive under extreme conditions of heat, pressure, radiation, salt and yes, even high acid concentrations. These organisms represent a new biological category that was discovered only 40 years ago. The new term for such organisms is ‘extremophiles’ (philo is the Greek word for ‘love of’). At first, bacteria were discovered thriving at temperatures of 50oC in the hot mineral pools of Yellowstone National Park. Today, scientists like Karl Setter have identified organisms that thrive at temperatures of 100oC. Numerous organisms have been found near volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean, where there is no oxygen or light.

What is even more amazing is that scientists have found life at 1.6 kilometers below the ocean floor. Similar discoveries have found organisms that can survive high acid concentrations or so called ‘radioduran’,  that can survive 1000 times the level of radiation that would kill a human!

This new science of extremophiles has now identified acidophiles (acid lovers), halophiles (salt lovers), piezophiles (pressure lovers) xerophiles (dryness lovers) and many others. The science of extremophiles is still in the research stage but one can see its enormous potential for mankind, especially for the pharmaceutical industry.

Once again we see God’s wonders in creating life freely and abundantly, in all its forms, anywhere in the world, and under probable and improbable conditions, to teach us of his boundless creativity and ingenuity. Psalm 104:24,25 declares: “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.”

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Two Dark Mysteries

A Star Nursery: 
A baby star is being born in the midst of a nebula, an interstellar cloud of gases.


One of the ways the heavens declare the glory of God is through the many mysteries He has hidden in the universe, waiting to be found by astronomers and cosmologists. Today cosmologists are searching for answers to several baffling mysteries in the universe.

Dark energy is considered to be the most profound and puzzling of all these mysteries. Dark energy, discovered in the early 1990’s by two groups of astronomers (one at UC Berkeley and the other at Johns Hopkins University), is postulated to be the energy behind the mystery of the expansion of the universe. The Big Bang theory, which is now widely accepted, states that the universe had a beginning, some 14.7 billion years ago, when matter and time began. It would be logical to expect that as the universe expanded the rate of acceleration would slow down, much like an explosion. When an explosion (like fireworks) eventually runs out of energy the particles slow down and in the case of fireworks, fall to earth. Surprisingly, the opposite has proven to be true – the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. The term given to explain this phenomena is Dark Energy. Some astronomers call dark energy the fifth force or ‘quintessence’ that may be responsible for this acceleration.

A second mystery is the recently discovered dark matter that seems to be holding galaxies together. Dark matter, unlike the matter we see around us, does not send any electromagnetic signals and therefore its nature remains unknown. Dark energy and dark matter together constitute 95.4% of the known universe, limiting our knowledge of what makes up this vast universe to a mere 4.6%!

In the Bible, Job 38 records what God says about human’s knowledge and power: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?...Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons?... Do you know the laws of the heavens?”  Indeed, these mysteries, together with a number of others, speak to us of the wonders that God has placed in his creation. Wonders that mankind continues to explore using all the wisdom and insight God has given his creatures.

To wonder, to search, to explain these mysteries leads us to worship the Almighty and Glorious Creator.

(The other mysteries astronomers are exploring have to do with the inability to account for all the ordinary matter that makes up the 4.6%; the exact mechanism of stars exploding to form supernovas; the source of energetic cosmic rays; and why is our solar system made up of such diverse planets, not one of them being similar to the others, including their respective satellites.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Looking at the World with Two Lenses


When considering a problem, one needs to look both at the surface causes as well as the root causes. Both are necessary; one without the other becomes necessary but not sufficient, for determining the causes of the problem.

The AAAS Journal Science devoted its May 18, 2012 issue to analyzing the causes of human conflict.  Eleven articles present detailed studies of what causes human conflict, such as fights, wars, terrorism, etc. However, after describing these problems, the authors describe only the surface causes of these problems, because they base the causes of these conflicts in our evolutionary development and history, offering answers based solely on ‘scientific/materialistic’ data. These scientists write from a perspective of ontological naturalism. They believe that the material is all that exists and there is no spiritual aspect to existence. This ‘faith’ limits their analyses to natural causes only, implicit in a person’s physical body and his psyche, and transmitted to the present state from our so-called evolutionary struggles for survival of the human species.

Their ontological materialism prevents these scientists from going deeper into root causes best described by the British philosopher C.E.M Joad, as pathological to the human nature, rooted in his alienation from the Creator. The scientists who authored these articles on violent conflict and terrorism refrain from using the term ‘evil’, afraid to bring in anything that smacks of the spiritual – an area of inquiry that lies beyond the competence of empirical verification.

In his writing, Joad concludes that the Bible has the best insight into human’s pathological tendencies towards evil, by attributing it to a person’s ‘fallen nature.’ Other explanations like Freud’s attribution of ‘evil to the human libido, or Marx’s view of evil as social/economic injustices, Joad finds weak.

The causes of human conflict analyzed in the 11 articles in Science do represent necessary conditions, but fall short of dealing with the sufficient condition that points to a person’s fallen (sinful) nature. Looking at the spiritual/philosophical aspects is an approach which is beyond the purview and competence of the scientific method.

Paul says in Ephesians 4 18 “They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself.” (The Message) God has given us two lenses to use when perceiving reality. Let’s use them both, otherwise our conclusions are one-sided and insufficient.