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Trouble in Cosmologyland

Underneath the veneer of certainty portrayed by TV documentaries about the universe are deep questions and controversies. Some of these briefly appear on publicly-available news stories, only to be covered by new coats of certainty. Are the new veneers fixing the problems or, instead, whitewashing serious weaknesses in current cosmological understanding? Here are some quick looks under the veneer.

Psychotherapy: Needs Reboot? or Just Boot?

The word “reboot” assumes a prior boot. You can’t reboot something that never booted up in the first place. The American Psychological Association is calling for “rebooting psychotherapy.” Is it even booted up? The press release begins with an admission that questions whether psychotherapy ever got powered on.

Are Embryonic Stem Cells Obsolete?

Adult stem cells can apparently do everything embryonic stem cells can – and they are moving regenerative medicine forward faster, with more results. Since the use of human embryos for research is ethically repugnant to many people, what motivations remain to continue the practice? Here is a rapid-fire list of stem cell news this month:

Science Supports Traditional Values

It is well known that liberals outnumber conservatives in academia, but sometimes, scientific studies support traditional values, not leftist ideology. Imagine the surprise of some of these researchers who went looking and found that conservative Christian family organizations have evidence to support their views.

Are Biological Clocks Like Paley’s Watch?

What is a clock made of? We think of springs, gears and moving parts made out of metal. But a clock could, in theory, be designed with almost any material. There are water clocks, sundials, and electromagnetic oscillators that all function to tell time. What difference does it make if the parts are made of liquids, laser beams, or plastic? What if a clock was made of biological material—would it be any less a device for keeping time? Would it surprise you that such clocks exist in your body and in every living thing?

Man on a Darwin Mission

When you think of helping people in the inner city, do you think of Darwin? Probably what comes to mind are religious missions, government social workers, the Red Cross, the Peace Corps, or UNESCO. David Sloan Wilson, author of Evolution for Everyone, who has spent a lifetime studying evolution, had a “Damascus moment” a few years ago; the idea that Darwinism is so powerful and productive, it can improve people’s lives. Like an apostle, he has taken his faith to the streets of Binghamton, New York.

Secularists Lured to Paganism

If man is hopelessly religious, what happens when society’s scientific elites teach that religion is groundless? G. K. Chesterton once said, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.” The new atheists claim to base their beliefs on scientific evidence. They have no need for religious teachings or rituals. Is it not strange, then, to see the attraction of secularists to movements that give the appearance of new religious forms? Is there something innate in human nature that cries out for the sense of ultimate purpose and connection to the divine that religions have traditionally provided? Three recent examples of near-cult experiences may be illuminating.

Book Review: The Days of Lamech

To Biblical creationists, the period before the Flood lasted some 2,000 years – an immense span of time for humans with an explosive mix: high intelligence and a murderous sin nature. Yet the Bible provides few details about this period. How far did civilization proceed? What technologies did they develop? We know from Genesis they lived long, built cities, worked metals, made musical instruments, and mastered farming. We also know that the world was filled with violence. A new novel explores the possibilities of that tantalizing past. Building on the success of his first novel The Days of Peleg, novelist Jon Saboe has just published the long-awaited prequel, a drama set in the height of the antediluvian civilization: The Days of Lamech.

When Science Gets Political

The classic view of the scientist as an unbiased observer of nature was shattered with the development of the atomic bomb. Suddenly, it became apparent to the physicists working out the equations of nuclear fission could not absolve themselves completely of responsibility for the political uses of their research. Yet since the days of the French Academy of Sciences in the 17th century, kings and other rulers have called on natural philosophers to inform their decisions. These days, scientific institutions state political opinions at will. Some recent news items show them inserting their opinions beyond what the data alone might indicate.

Pagan Gods Launched into Space

The latest Jupiter probe from NASA is named Juno, after the name of the wife of Jupiter, Roman chief of the gods. Launched today (August 5), the Juno spacecraft will use Earth for gravity assist in a complex path, to arrive at Jupiter in 2016, where it will study the largest planet from a polar orbit. As “part of a joint outreach and educational program developed as part of the partnership between NASA and the LEGO Group to inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” according to a press release from the Jet Propulsion Lab, the spacecraft carries 1.5-inch likeness of three figures: Galileo Galileo, who discovered Jupiter’s moons, the Roman god Jupiter, and his wife Juno.

Brave New Chimeras

Tampering with human embryonic stem cells has been at the forefront of ethical debates for a decade. Behind it, though, lurks an even more alarming prospect: the creation of human-animal hybrids. As with embryos, the appeal has been to improve human health. But ethicists ask if there is any benefit worth blurring the line between humans and animals. Pro-chimera advocates admit there is a certain “disgust” factor that could arouse public anxiety, and agree that experimentation would need to be regulated. But who would regulate the regulators, and on what moral grounds?

Norway Killer Cultural Christian, Practical Darwinian

Initial news reports about mass murderer Anders Breivik, who slew over 90 civilians in his home country on July 23, described him as a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian.” Now that his 1500-page manifesto has been published, it is clear that any associations with Christianity were cultural and political, not personal. His prime motivation was to halt the Islamization of “Christian” Europe brought on by political correctness and multiculturalism. A review of his writings show him closer to secular science and the social Darwinists than to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Texas Press Perpetuates ID Myths

Some reporters refuse to listen. Advocates of intelligent design (ID) have clarified their definitions, their evidences, and their goals for years now, with numerous books, essays, web articles, papers and lectures, but the secular mainstream press continues to misrepresent their positions, and divert discussion from the issues to red herrings. A vote by the Texas School Board concerning supplementary materials to match science standards offered the latest example. The Associated Press story is filled with talking points and generalities; the Discovery Institute response is detailed and to the point, citing scientific journal references for support. Will intelligent design ever get a fair hearing in the mainstream media?

Plant Patterns Prolong Perplexity

Plants perform a wonder that has attracted the admiration of scholars from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome to modern times: the ability to reproduce mathematically perfect patterns. This ability, called phyllotaxis, can be described mathematically with the Fibonacci Series and the Golden Angle. The beautiful spirals in sunflowers, artichokes, cacti, dandelion heads and other plants continue to fascinate children and adults today, but those are not the only examples. Leaves on a stem can emerge in phyllotactic patterns like a spiral staircase, and depending on the environment, plants can switch patterns at different stages in development. Scientists have learned a lot about the players in the phyllotaxis game, but still do not understand the script. The details of how genes and proteins produce the patterns remain elusive.

NOMA Still Isn’t Working

Science journals and websites continue to act as if religion is a subcategory of the science department.  If Stephen Jay Gould thought that NOMA was a good idea to keep peace between science and religion (see 11/05/2006), nobody paid any attention.  Scientism has taken over the world. Teen religion:  In “Teens Maintain Their Religion,” Medical […]
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