Book Review: No Christian Silence on Science

No Christian Silence on Science: Science from a Christian Perspective, Margaret Helder.  Edmonton: Creation Science Association of Alberta, 2016.  Softcover, 110 pages.

Many people have heroes.  Also when it comes to science, there are names held in awe:  Galileo, Newton, and yes, for some, Darwin.  I have a scientific hero too, but she’s not as well-known as the other scientists I just mentioned.  For many years, my scientific hero has been Dr. Margaret Helder, a Canadian botanist and prolific writer.  I’ve always admired not only her faithfulness to biblical truth, but also her courage and passion for that truth.  I’m thankful for what God has done through her efforts.

No Christian Silence on Science is a collection of essays illustrating how Christians should think about science.  Dr. Helder helps readers recognize that Christians are up against a clash of worldviews.  She points out some of the pitfalls that inevitably threaten believers who venture into science.  She lays out lessons to be learned from history — for instance, a self-taught naturalist named Philip Henry Gosse.  In his opposition to Darwin, Gosse “showed more zeal than common sense” (page 108).  Dr. Helder also tackles the question of whether Christians who take the Bible seriously can make any accommodations for biological macro-evolution or geological old-earth positions.

This little book is especially going to be helpful for university students taking advanced science courses.  There are sections that are quite technical.  I don’t have any formal science education beyond high school and an intro physics course in university, so the discussion in chapter 2 about “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats” (CRISPRS) was a bit beyond my ken.  For Christian post-secondary students, chapter 4 is explicitly directed towards equipping them for navigating the academic scientific environment.  Not only is there a helpful academic orientation, but also concrete advice.  For example, Dr. Helder reminds students that at first glance it may appear that creation-based resources are inadequate for answering the challenges encountered at a secular university.  But:  “What the student must remember is that there are conservative scholars who support a young earth position, and there are technical documents in this genre as well” (page 85).  Seek and ye shall find!

However, I don’t want to leave the impression that this book is going to be an impossible read for the non-scientists.  There’s plenty here that’s both accessible and fascinating.  Take two of the appendices to chapter 2.  One is about the echolocation abilities of bats.  The other is about a favourite food of some bats:  tiger moths.  Some species of bat use sound to locate their prey — and this echolocation system is quite sophisticated.  In fact, “some echolocating bats can control the width of the ultrasonic beam which they emit” (page 52).  The tiger moth, on the other hand, is able to evade bats 93% of the time.  One of the ways it does this is through its own generation of high-pitched sounds.  These sounds actually jam the bat’s echolocation system.  Dr. Helder’s conclusion:  “This is clearly a matter of programming in the insect brain as well.  This creature is clearly designed.  Without the hardware, the software would be irrelevant, and vice-versa” (page 56).

If you know a young Christian who’s studying science, this book would be a great gift.  After all, the author takes the Bible seriously as God’s Word and our ultimate authority in life.  She also has the scientific expertise to demonstrate how Darwinian explanations of origins are inadequate.  That one-two punch makes this book highly recommended.

 

The Secrets of Insect Flight

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 11.48.45 AM.pngBusy bees. Dazzling dragonflies. Meddlesome mosquitoes. They all have the most amazing flying abilities. How do they do it? We are happy to offer a new article about God’s marvellous creation which explains some of the secrets of insect flight, supplied to us by Mr. Martin Tampier.

Martin is a professional engineer and energy consultant in Laval, Quebec. He is also a hobby photographer fascinated by insects, as the amazing close-ups of flying insects in the article demonstrate. He has already published elsewhere on God’s amazing creation. We thank him kindly for this article and trust that readers will praise God as they learn more about how insects fly.

Martin concludes,

Research around insect flight is on-going and many mysteries still need to be solved. However, some of the complicated features of insect wings are already being copied for man-made technology, including the development of micro-aerial vehicles—ironically modelled after the ‘primitive’ flying of dragonflies.

So while they may not recognize insects as divinely designed, researchers are confirming that they are incredibly complex and use extremely sophisticated physical mechanisms. To date, even the most amazing modelling software is insufficient to properly show how they achieve all of their amazing feats.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.48.09 PM.png

To read the entire article and enjoy the exquisite photographs, click here.

The Big Bang and Genesis

bigbangWhen I was a seminary student, we had the privilege of having Dr. Margaret Helder as a guest speaker.  Having grown up in Edmonton, Dr. Helder was not a stranger to me.  She had occasionally been a guest speaker at our Christian school in Alberta.  However, on this particular occasion at the Canadian Reformed Seminary in Hamilton, I heard her say something that I couldn’t recall having heard before.  I don’t remember if it was part of her original presentation or in reply to a question, but she pointed out that the so-called Big Bang and Genesis are incompatible.  I don’t remember the exact reasons she gave as to why that was, but it sounded quite reasonable to me at the time and, since then, I’ve kept it in the back of my mind.

I thought about this again recently as I encountered a book which suggested that the Big Bang and Genesis are compatible.  Gregory Koukl’s new book The Story of Reality is generally a recommended overview of the Christian worldview (a review will be appearing shortly on my blog Yinkahdinay).  In chapter 7, Koukl is answering two objections to the Christian view of God as Creator.  The second has to do with miracles.  After all, creation is a miracle.  He notes that all scientists “pretty much agree that the universe had a beginning.”  That beginning was the Big Bang where “all things exploded into existence in a fraction of an instant.”  Then he says this (page 51):

I know the Big Bang idea is controversial with some Christians, but I think that’s because they haven’t realized how well it fits the Story [the Christian worldview laid out in the Bible], which basically says the same thing.

So according to Koukl, the Big Bang fits with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  Reading this gave me occasion to look a little more into this and refresh my memory as to why Dr. Helder had told a group of seminary students and professors otherwise.

I found this article on creation.com to be especially helpful:  The Big Bang is not a Reason to Believe.  If you don’t have the time or inclination to read the whole article, this chart about sums it up — each flash on this chart represents a conflict between the chronology of Genesis 1-2 and Big Bang cosmology:

russ-humphreys-idea

Does the Big Bang really fit the story that well?  Perhaps if you define “Big Bang” in some way that doesn’t reflect how it’s really being used in astrophysics.  Maybe that’s what Koukl has done.  Or perhaps if you insist that Genesis 1-2 don’t give us a chronologically accurate, historic account of the origins of the universe.  Of course, that second option could find you up against Jesus Christ, who clearly taught that Adam and Eve were created at the beginning (Matthew 19:4).  No, I still think that Dr. Helder was right.  There’s no reconciling the Big Bang and God’s Word.

Brief Review: Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels

eahEvolution’s Achilles’ Heels
Creation Book Publishers, 2014
Edited by Robert Carter
Price $18.00

Several months ago, Jon Dykstra reviewed the documentary that was developed in conjunction with the book Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Richard Fangrad, CEO of Creation Ministries International’s Canadian branch. There was a book table at the event (which is always a draw for me), and this was one of many very worthwhile resources on offer. In his review, Jon gave the documentary a 10/10 rating, and I can only concur that the book is every bit as valuable in its own way as the documentary is.

There are eight “fatal flaws” to the theory of evolution that are addressed in depth by nine Ph.D. Scientists, including Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, Dr. Emil Silvestru, and others. As in the documentary video, the flaws dealt with are:

  • Natural selection
  • Genetics and DNA
  • The origin of life
  • The fossil record
  • The geologic record
  • Radiometric dating
  • Cosmology
  • Ethics and morality

In his foreword, Dr. Carl Wieland reminds us that the issue of origins is predicated on interpretation of the available evidence, and not on the evidence itself. His insights on this issue are important and worth citing:

“This whole controversy, incidentally, has never been about unearthing ‘facts for creation’ vs ‘facts for evolution’. When it comes to matters of history (as opposed to experimental or operational science, the science that concerns itself with how the world works), the issue has never been the facts so much as their interpretation. We all have the same world – the same ‘facts’… And philosophers of science have long reminded us… that raw, uninterpreted facts never speak for themselves. As the late Harvard professor, Stephen Jay Gould, once wrote, ‘Facts do not “speak for themselves”;  they are read in the light of theory.’”

The nine scientists who contributed to this book begin with the following presuppositional framework, in the words of Dr. Wieland: “the straightforward truth of the Bible, in particular the Genesis record, affirmed and taught by the Lord Jesus Christ and authenticated by His rising from the dead.” This starting point, even more than the PhD’s piled up behind the names of the authors of this volume, makes Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels a very worthwhile resource.

This is particularly true for Christian students who will certainly have to wrestle with these issues as they prepare to engage in post-secondary science studies, and deal with them on a foundational level, not merely on an issue-by-issue basis. Given the often technical content of the eight chapters in this book, the material is well-presented, neatly laid-out, and accompanied by a number of helpful graphs, charts, and illustrations. Highly recommended without reservation!

BOOK REVIEW: “How Should Christians Approach Origins?”

by John Byl and Tom Gossorigins
42 pages / 2015

Blaise Pascal once quipped that he had written a long letter because he hadn’t had time to write a short one. In this booklet it is evident that authors John Byl (who blogs on evolution and creation at Bylogos) and Tom Goss put an enormous amount of time and effort to boil down the key issues of the origin debate.

In just 42 pages they gave an overview of:

  • the difference between historical and operation science
  • why secular scientists deny miracles as a matter of dogma
  • why many professing Christian scientists do, but shouldn’t, deny miracles
  • the basics of materialism and naturalism
  • what the various origins positions are
  • why Christianity is incompatible with any form of evolution
  • how dating methods can be unreliable
  • what books would be good for further reading

And that isn’t even all of it!

Both authors are professors, and one, John Byl, is Canadian Reformed. He has his Ph.D in astronomy, and if this slim book has you ready for more, then you’ll want to take a look at his larger and more comprehensive God and Cosmos: A Christian View of Time, Space, and the Universe. But this smaller book, at just 42 pages, is an ideal size to give to any university student, or anyone looking for an introduction to the origins debate. You won’t find any better!

The book concludes with Resource Pages that list two dozen books – these are the very best books on various aspects of the origins debate. So not only is this is an excellent introduction, it also points you to where you can go for much much more.

You can pick up a copy – or two or three (these would make such a great give away!) – at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

This review first appeared on www.ReallyGoodReads.com.

Mutations: a problem for evolution

We’re breaking down.

As Dr. John Sanford outlines in this presentation, there are two conflicting worldviews at battle in out culture:

1) we as a species are naturally going up
2) we as a species are naturally going down

The first is the theory of evolution: Mankind is supposed to the end result of a long process of beneficial mutations that changed us, improved us, from our origins as a single cell, simple organism, to become the incredibly complex creatures that we are today. We as a species are improving.

The second is the Biblical worldview. After the Fall into Sin we know that the world was put under a curse. Things started off perfect, but are broken now. We as a species, like all of creation, are breaking down.

So which is it?

Well, what Dr. Sanford explains is that the supposed driver of evolution – mutations – are hurting, not helping us. While an occasional beneficial mutation can happen, Sanford discovered that the rate at which we are mutating, from one generation to the next, is so rapid that we, as a species, are not long for this world. These mutations are accumulating like rust does on a car. Just as a little rust doesn’t harm a vehicle, so too a few mutations won’t harm our genome much. But rust spreading across a car will eventually cause the whole vehicle to fall apart, and in this same way accumulating mutations are eventually going to do Mankind in. Roughly 100 mutations are being passed on per generation – we, as a species are going down. We are slowly rusting out.

To find out more, watch this very intriguing 1 hour presentation. Or you can visit www.logosresearchassociates.org, a site run by Dr. Sanford and a number of other scientists. Who is Dr. Sanford? He is a geneticist, a former professor at Cornell University, and one of the inventors of the gene gun. He was once an atheist and an evolutionist, but after bowing his knee to God he first investigated theistic evolution, then Old Earth Creationism, and finally settled on Young Earth Creationism.

 

Tim LaHaye Has Left Us Behind

Tim LaHaye (1926-2016)
Tim LaHaye (1926-2016)

Noted American evangelical pastor, author, and activist Dr. Tim LaHaye died on July 25 at the age of 90. LaHaye was best-known for his Left Behind series of end-times novels. However, he was also involved in the political sphere, cooperating with Jerry Falwell Sr. in the establishment of the Moral Majority movement in the 1970s.

Far fewer people remember him as a fervent supporter of the biblical understanding of origins but he was that too. In September of 1970, LaHaye asked Dr. Henry Morris to join him in founding an institution which would come to be known as San Diego Christian College. The name of Morris will be familiar to many RP readers since it’s associated with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Originally a department of the San Diego Christian College, ICR has grown to become one of the world’s leading creationist ministries. In its obituary for LaHaye, ICR acknowledged the significant influence he’s had on that ministry throughout its existence.

While we can be thankful for his contributions to the defence of God’s truth about creation, we also have to acknowledge that LaHaye was, like all of us, a fallible human being. When it came to the doctrine of the end times (eschatology), Dr. LaHaye was a premillennial dispensationalist and this came through clearly in his Left Behind books. Premillennial dispensationalism teaches that Jesus Christ will come back before (pre-) a literal 1000 year-reign on earth. By contrast, most Reformed theologians today teach that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 is symbolically referring to the present reign of Christ. LaHaye’s eschatological scheme also makes a marked distinction between the Church and Israel, whereas Reformed theology insists that the New Testament church is the continuation of Old Testament Israel.

Although some Reformed believers were perhaps duped into thinking that the Left Behind series was an accurate, biblical portrayal of things to come, the reality is that these books do not stand up to the scrutiny of what we confess from the Scriptures in places like article 37 of the Belgic Confession. While the Left Behind series authored by LaHaye (with Jerry Jenkins) cannot be recommended at all, resources from the creation ministry that LaHaye helped found can be very useful, but have to be used with discernment. The Institute for Creation Research does not feature premillennial dispensationalism in its “Core Principles,” but it does appear in some of their publications, such as the Henry Morris Study Bible. It’s good to be aware that while ICR gets many things right on creation (like the late LaHaye) there are other important areas in theology where they are less reliable.