Scientists Are Almost Sounding Religious

There’s an anti-religion website called Disbeliefnet, evidently created by comedian Bill Maher, which trumpets the motto, “You won’t believe what people believe.”

He’s right. People buy into a lot of outlandish and fantastical stuff that defy common sense and the laws of nature – in a word, miracles. Such propositions are so foreign to our five senses that it’s no wonder that so many academics and other highly educated people have no tolerance for them.

Here’s a sampling of bizarre, other-worldly, and downright fanciful notions that some people believe:

* There are other dimensions beyond our own.
* Certain entities can move through solid walls.
* Some things can be invisible.
* Certain things can travel back and forth through time.
* The same entity can be in multiple distinct locations at the same time.
* Certain entities can communicate instantaneously with other entities – that are billions of light years away.

Bill Maher could have a field day with this stuff.

In centuries past, people believed in the supernatural because they didn’t have science to explain things. Now, we’re nicely ensconced in the age of science and reason; if it’s not explainable by science, goes the thinking, then it can’t be true.

Or maybe not.

It turns out that the strange notions described above are championed by top physicists.

That’s right. The weirdness falls into the realm of quantum physics – the branch of physics that seeks to explain how subatomic particles behave.

Physicists often use the adjectives “bizarre” or “weird” when describing quantum physics – because things happen that defy classical physics or common sense. And they admit they can’t explain how such things happen.

So let me get this straight. The secular elite disparages religion because they find silly the notion that there are spiritual beings that can exist in different dimensions, be invisible, go through solid walls, time travel, and carry out other seemingly miraculous activities.

Yet, renown scientists are telling us that subatomic particles can do all of these things.

If one accepts that, then it’s by no means a stretch to infer that there is a spiritual world in which similar things occur.

Far from being in conflict with each other, science and religion are complementary. Twentieth-century physicist and Nobel Prize-winner Eugene Wigner pointed out that materialism – the atheistic worldview that reality only consists of physical matter – is not “logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.”

Another Nobel Prize winner, neuroscientist John C. Eccles, posited that the spiritual mind and physical brain are independent entities, and that the two interact through quantum physics.

In quantum physics there are systems, laws, and observers. “There is something about observers like us that’s not reducible to (classical) physics,” said University of Delaware physicist Stephen Barr. He explained in a 2012 Research on Religion podcast interview that once you accept the nonphysical reality of our own minds, then it’s easier to accept the reality of greater minds, such as that of God. And given how incredibly orderly the universe is from a mathematical standpoint, which suggests a supreme designer, “Modern physics ought to make every particle physicist in the world get down on their knees,” he remarked.

The dictionary defines the term supernatural as “not existing in nature or not subject to explanation according to natural laws.” It’s also defined as “of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe.”

If that’s the case, then to this reporter, modern science indicates that the supernatural must exist. “An order of existence beyond the visible observable universe” immediately evokes dark matter and dark energy. Astrophysicists widely agree that the visible observable universe only makes up about 4 percent of all matter. The rest is matter that is invisible to us, known as dark matter, as well as dark energy. Scientists know it’s there because without the gravitational effects of dark matter, galaxies would fly apart.

Some physicists, notably Lisa Randall at Harvard, theorize that dark matter comes from higher dimensions, and that gravity is “leaking” from these dimensions. Apart from that, string theory has long predicted hidden dimensions. And at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, they’re working hard on finding evidence of other dimensions.

Oxford physicist David Deutsch considers there to be vast numbers of parallel (albeit not spiritual) worlds, and that perhaps someday we’ll be able to contact them using quantum computers.

To be sure, scientists very rarely use the term supernatural when describing quantum physics. If there are other dimensions, most physicists consider them to be physical – not spiritual – dimensions. Whatever the case, all this talk of other dimensions blurs the lines between the definition of physical and spiritual.

And one thing is certain: for evidence of the supernatural, the theologians have a much stronger case than the secular elite. Science confirms it.

 

(Originally published in Newsmax.com)

 

NatGeo’s Missing Info on China’s Mysterious Mountains

towerkarstNational Geographic magazine has some good articles, but it has some bad articles too – either containing misleading information, or containing a lack thereof. Regarding the latter, the latest issue of NatGeo has an article on the famous and mysterious tower-like mountains of southern China and the associated caves, near the city of Guilin.

The article mainly discusses the authors’ and rock climbers’ experiences there. As always, there are good photographs. And there’s a cool diagram of the caves. But if you want to know how the tower-like mountains were formed, you’re in for a letdown. That should be the first question in any discerning reader’s mind. Apart from a couple of comments about erosion over the eons – just in the captions no less – nary a word is written about how the geology of that region came to be.

So allow me to plug in some of the gaps in the NatGeo article, borrowing from this web page. The type of geologic feature is called tower karst formations. In addition to the southern China region, they’re also found in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Honduras, Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. It forms through the erosion/dissolution of limestone, of which the whole region consists.

The limestone base was formed when the area was at the bottom of the ocean, when calcium carbonate in the water settled to the bottom, building up layer upon layer over millions of years. When the seas recede or when the rock is uplifted, water easily percolates through the limestone and dissolves it, forming caves and other features.

Tower karst only develops in humid, tropical areas with a lot of rainfall. That water reacts with the vegetation to erode the limestone. But at the beginning of the process, certain spots are resistant to erosion. So those spots or mounds remain intact while the area immediately around them erode away. There is much less soil or vegetation on the slopes, which means less acidity on those slopes when it rains, making the slopes also resistant to erosion. They form into steep, erosion-resistant surfaces, while the base of the structure erodes away. So the landscape is peppered with these steep mounds, while the flat area erodes. Over millions of years the flat area keeps eroding to a lower and lower elevation, while relative to the surrounding countryside, the mounds turn into tall, thousand-foot-high towers.

Meanwhile elaborate caves develop within the towers, as the limestone dissolves inside.

Science and Circumstantial Evidence of the Existence of God

Whittaker Chambers was an American who spied on behalf of the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 30s. He stunned the world after he abandoned communism and outed Alger Hiss, a high-level U.S. government official who was a communist agent.

What made Whittaker Chambers abandon Communism? It was a newfound belief in God, given that Soviet Communism prohibited religion. What made him start believing in God? His daughter’s ear.

He wrote in his book Witness,

“My daughter was in her high chair….My eyes came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear – those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: ‘No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.’ The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. But I never wholly forgot it or the occasion.”

To Whittaker Chambers, his daughter’s ear was evidence of God’s handiwork, such compelling evidence that it prompted him to believe in God, become a Christian, and abandon Communism.

I’m not so easily convinced that the human ear was directly designed by God. I’ve always assumed that evolution designed it. That’s the consensus in this day and age. Everything can be explained by science, or so it seems. Back in pre-modern times, people attributed unexplainable or seemingly miraculous things to God or gods. They didn’t have the concept of evolution or chemistry to explain life and the origin of life. Then beginning around age of the Enlightenment in the 1700s, people frequently questioned the Church and the Bible in terms of explaining the natural world, and instead use science to do so.

So now science explains everything. Or does it? Actually things are coming full circle. Science is has progressed so much that we’re finding out extraordinary things about the natural world that science can’t seem to explain. It’s really intriguing stuff; the deeper you delve into the science of it, the more it seems that a super-intellect was involved in not only the creation of the universe, but of biological life.

To be sure, these sorts of scientific discoveries, or more accurately scientific inferences, aren’t required to form the basis of one’s faith in God; after all, billions of people are and have been strong believers even though they’ve never heard of such scientific developments. And should scientists sometime down the road produce convincing evidence that the universe and/or biological life originated through purely physical processes – which is highly unlikely – then that should by no means shake one’s faith in God. But still, for believers and nonbelievers alike, these developments in the world of science are very, very intriguing.

Custom-Designed Big Bang

One of those developments involves what they’re finding out about the Big Bang and how exquisitely fine-tuned it had to be in order to produce a physical universe that can support life.

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To be sure, let me put to rest the notion that the Big Bang is “just a theory”. Physicists, astronomers and cosmologists now almost universally agree that the universe started about 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang. There’s plenty of evidence to support that, including Edwin Hubble’s discovery 90 years ago that the universe is expanding and Penzias and Wilson’s discovery 50 years ago of the cosmic microwave background radiation or CMBR, which scientists think only could have come from the Big Bang.

Prior to the Big Bang theory, scientists from Newton to Einstein accepted the so-called steady state theory in which they thought the universe always existed and was infinite. That theory clashed with the biblical account that the universe had a beginning.

But with the confirmation of the Big Bang, evidence was overwhelming that the universe actually did have a beginning – just as was stated in the Bible.

Robert Jastrow was a renown astrophysicist who called himself an agnostic but who struggled with his agnosticism. Here are some quotes from him:

“Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

“That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

But what is most extraordinary about the Big Bang is the incredible fine-tuning that went on. Scientists discovered that the rate of expansion during the first seconds of the Big Bang was so finely tuned that had that rate been even one quintillionth of a second slower or faster, the universe either would have collapsed in on itself into a black hole, or expanded too rapidly for stars and planets to form.

And the rate of expansion was just one of many factors that had to be exquisitely exact in order for the universe to develop and life to eventually form.

Physics expertRobert Spitzer and Catholic priest Robert Spitzer, in a talk titled “Science, the Origin of the Universe, and God”, discusses some of these factors.

One is that you need a so-called low-entropy universe. The odds of this happening as a result of the Big Bang is on the order of one in 10 raised to the 10 raised to the 123, which is for all practical purposes infinitely remote. Other factors that had to be finely tuned include our physical constants or laws of physics. They include the force of gravity, the speed of light, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and the electromagnetic force. The value of these constants could have been anything as a result of the Big Bang. But they just happened to be the exact amount in order for life to develop.

It’s truly extraordinary that all of these laws of physics happened to be exactly right for life to develop. That this happened by chance is, to take an oft-used analogy, like saying a monkey can type the entire corpus of Shakespeare in two weeks just by randomly tapping the keys. Of course that’s highly, highly unlikely – essentially impossible. The obvious conclusion is that there had to have been a superintellect, i.e. God, who designed the Big Bang.

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Sir Fred Hoyle is a famous scientist who went from atheism to theism after finding that something called resonance levels in chemistry had to be an exact amount in order to have carbon bonding. Achieving that amount was highly improbable through random chance.

Hoyle compared the development of life in the universe by pure chance to a tornado sweeping through a junkyard assembling a Boeing 747 ready for flight, and I may add, complete with the Boeing logo painted on.

Most scientists acknowledge this fine-tuning of the universe, and to come up with a natural, as opposed to supernatural explanation, they’ve proposed the multiverse hypothesis, in which ours is one of zillions of universes. Their reasoning is that if you have enough universes popping into existence, then there’s a chance that among quadrillions and quadrillions of bubble universes, each with different laws of physics, then one of them may just happen to have the right laws of physics suitable for life. But that theory is speculative, and as physicist Paul Davies quipped, “To invoke an infinity of other universes to explain one is surely carrying excess baggage to cosmic extremes.” And besides, a multiverse would need a creator, too.

Bio-Engineering the Primordial Soup

So the field of cosmology reveals strong circumstantial evidence of God. There’s strong circumstantial evidence of God in the field of biology as well.

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I’m no scientist. I was a history major and studied economics after that. But I’ve been delving into biology a lot lately. And the more I learn about it, the more fascinated I become with the amazing biological processes that go on within the cell. It’s truly stunning, especially with regard to DNA and cell replication. To get a flavor for what I’m talking about, you can see a great 5-minute animation at www.unlockingthemysteryoflife.com

Think of a factory, such as a snack cake factory or a bubble gum factory, and the complex automated processes used to mass produce those products. Human ingenuity is truly amazing.

Well those complex automated processes that humans set up pale in comparison to the complex automated processes that go on inside the cell, especially with regard to DNA and cell replication. You mean to tell me that no one conceived of or set up all of that sophisticated engineering? That everything randomly fell into place over the course of millions of years? That’s what Darwinists believe. To be sure I’ve always been a strong believer in evolution and still am, but I’m finding out that there are limits to evolution. It doesn’t explain everything, such as how DNA and protein production originated. It’s like saying all the components of that snack cake factory gradually and randomly just fell into the right place over time.

The way DNA creates new proteins is remarkably similar to CAD-CAM processes – computer-aided design and manufacturing. A 3-D model of a part, for example an automobile part, is created on a computer screen, and that information is stored with binary code. Then another computer program translates that binary code into a machine code. That in turn directs the machinery such as a robotic arm to make the part. It takes a lot of intelligence to set up a process like that, wouldn’t you agree? Well the similarities between that process, and the process by which DNA makes parts for the cell (i.e. proteins), are striking.

Doug Axe of the Biologic Institute recounted a story where in college and grad school he first studied engineering and then switched to biology. He remembers a professor in a lecture hall describing an elaborate control circuit on how the cell turns on and off a chemical called tryptophan. In a very clever way it switches a suite of genes on if it doesn’t have enough and off if it has enough. Having studied control systems theory at engineering school, he remembers sitting there and being blown away. “I realized I was looking at the product of engineering – remarkable engineering.” While things like this were given a Darwinian explanation, he didn’t find that at all compelling.

DNA double helix

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Scientists have attempted to explain what gave rise to such biological processes from a scientific perspective. But based on what I’ve been reading, their explanations fall woefully short. Just as the Big Bang needed a designer, so did life on earth. Biologists including Michael Behe of Lehigh University and Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute are putting out some very compelling stuff on intelligent design. For a good overview of the ideas here, watch The Case for a Creator or other DVDs available at Illustra Media. If you’re willing to get into the nitty-gritty of cell biology, read Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell.

And then there’s question of how life originated in the first place. One of the most famous scientific experiments was the Miller-Urey experiment in 1953, in which Stanley Miller and Harold Urey tried to recreate the primordial soup of the early Earth to see if it would lead to life. It didn’t – it only lead to some amino acids, which are among the building blocks of life but by themselves are woefully inadequate to lead to life. Statistically, as detailed in Signature in the Cell and elsewhere, the odds of amino acids coming together to form functional proteins are infinitely remote.

Even Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA and a committed atheist his whole life, recognized this. He wrote in his book Life Itself,

“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears to be a miracle, so many are the conditions which have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”

So did that shake Crick out of his atheism? No. He proposed that the seeds of life were sent here on a spaceship by some alien civilization.

Scientifically Unexplainable Phenomena

Apart from cosmology and biology, yet more proof of the existence of God, of an afterlife, and of higher dimensions are near death experiences (NDEs), which we’ll only lightly touch on here but of which there is vast literature including many peer-reviewed academic papers. Whereas the other categories can be viewed as circumstantial evidence, NDEs and other such accounts can be viewed as eyewitness evidence

Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences by Jeffery Long examines NDEs from a scholarly/scientific perspective. The book lays out nine lines of evidence of the afterlife, based on evaluating NDEs from thousands of people. They are:

1. It is medically inexplicable to have a highly organized and lucid experience while one is unconscious or clinically dead. Blood doesn’t flow to brain, and brain activity stops.

2. NDEs may involve seeing and hearing actual earthly events in an out-of-body state, and what they perceive is nearly always accurate.

3. NDEs often occur during anesthesia when no form of consciousness should be taking place.

4. Blind persons who’ve had NDEs described actual visual objects and colors in earthly physical locations.

5. Life reviews are often associated with NDEs, in which the person recalls events completely forgotten.

6. Virtually all beings encountered during NDEs are deceased, and most are relatives.

7. The striking similarity of children’s and adults’ NDEs strongly suggests the content of NDEs is not due to preexisting beliefs.

8. There’s a remarkable consistency of NDEs around the world.

9. Those who’ve had NDEs often are transformed in many ways for life.

In addition to NDEs, there are many reports of other types of mystical experiences, such as seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary or seeing Jesus in a dream. Former Clinton administration official Kirsten Powers claims that she saw Jesus in a dream, in which he said, “Here I am.” That helped prompt her to go from being an atheist to a Christian. She describes her experience in an article in Christianity Today.

You Won’t Believe What People Believe

So what does the atheist comedian Bill Maher say about these miraculous or extraordinary phenomena? You may have heard of the website Beliefnet. He has a website called Disbeliefnet where he mocks believers. The website has the tagline, “You won’t believe what people believe.”

Here are some extraordinary things that people believe.

Some physical entities can:

  • go through solid walls,
  • be invisible,
  • travel through time,
  • communicate instantaneously with other things that are a billion light years away,
  • exist in many more dimensions beyond our own, and
  • a single entity can be in multiple locations at the same time.

Sounds like what we associate with angels and the supernatural, right? Yes, but that also describes quantum physics, which looks at how subatomic particles behave. So if hot-shot Ivy League scientists verify that such things happen in the quantum physics world (and they admit they can’t explain how it happens), then it’s not a stretch to believe that such things happen involving the spiritual world.

In fact, given the similarities between quantum physics and supernatural experiences, much has been published on the convergence of science and religion. See YouTube videos such as Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism or The Simulation Hypothesis. Also see YouTube lectures by Professor Keith Ward on quantum physics, as well as “Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God?” by Stephen Barr.

So in a sense, science has come full circle. Previously, science explained away popular religious conceptions, such as what causes the sun to travel across the sky or what causes differences in species. Now, as our knowledge of science becomes even deeper, science is leading many to religion, such as those scientists shaken from their atheism or agnosticism, referred to above.

Let me conclude by recounting a mystical experience described by Whittaker Chambers, which took place in his Baltimore home after coming down his stairs. Here’s how he described it in Witness.

“Then there came a moment so personal, so singular and final, that I have attempted to relate it to only one other human being, a priest, and had thoWhittaker Chambers Witnessught to reveal it to my children only at the end of my life…One day…I found myself stopped. A voice said with perfect distinctness: ‘If you will fight for freedom, all will be well with you.’ What was there was the sense that, like me, time and the world stood still, an awareness of God as an envelopment, holding me in silent assurance and untroubled peace.”

And later he writes,

“Henceforth, in the depth of my being there was peace and a strength that nothing could shake. It was the strength that carried me out of the Communist Party, that carried me back into the life of men. It was the strength that carried me at last though the ordeal of the Hiss Case. It never left me because I no longer groped for God; I felt God. The experience was absolute.”


Also see:

Evidence for the Divinity of Christ and Authenticity of the Gospels

 

When Protestant Ministers Turn Catholic

 

The Cosmos is Neither All That Is, Nor Ever Was, Nor Ever Will Be

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Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the new Cosmos series, is great. But the Carl Sagan quote at the open of the program was a curious choice: “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be”. The show contradicts that quote early on by pointing out that the universe wasn’t always here – that it started with the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago.

To say that the cosmos “is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be” is so old-school. From Isaac Newton in the 18th century to Albert Einstein in the 20th, scientists subscribed to the “steady state” theory in which they thought the universe always existed and was infinite. But now, cosmologists almost universally agree that the universe started with the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. Evidence for that includes Edwin Hubble’s discovery 90 years ago that the universe is expanding, and Penzias and Wilson’s discovery 50 years ago of the cosmic microwave background radiation or CMBR, which scientists think only could have come from the Big Bang. With the confirmation of the Big Bang, evidence was overwhelming that the universe did in fact have a beginning. And there’s a widespread belief among cosmologists that, thanks (or no thanks) to dark energy, the universe will continue to expand to the point that no galaxies will be visible to other galaxies because they’ll be too far away. And that all stars eventually will burn out. And some cosmologists subscribe to the “Big Rip” theory, where everything will be blown apart by dark energy.

So it is not the case that the cosmos is all that ever was or ever will be. Moreover, to say that the cosmos is all that is, is extraordinarily atheistic.

Why the Bible Doesn’t Explain Evolution or the Big Bang

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I only got to see snippets of the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate on evolution versus biblical creationism, but upon first glance it appeared that winning over the audience wasn’t going to be as easy for Bill Nye as I would have expected.

Evolutionist Bill Nye had a disadvantage right out of the starting gate: Ken Ham is Australian. He speaks with a polished Australian accent. Most viewers I’m sure thought he was British, because most Americans can’t distinguish between British and Australian accents, even though there is a difference. Whether it’s a polished British or a polished Australian accent, people think such accents sound “smarter” or more intelligent to most Americans. That’s why when a TV or radio advertisement contains a British accent, the advertiser often wants to convey the impression that it’s coming from someone who is wiser or more schooled.

There’s tremendous evidence that the universe began with the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago. Physicists, cosmologists and astronomers almost universally agree that the universe started with the Big Bang. Key evidence includes the observation that most galaxies are moving faster and faster apart from one another (except those close enough to be held together by gravity, such as the Milky Way and Andromeda), and the cosmic microwave background radiation or CMBR, which is a low-level radiation that’s uniform throughout the universe and that scientists think only could have come from the Big Bang.

Contrary to biblical creationists’ contention that the earth is 6,000 years old, the earth actually started to form about 4.5 billion years ago – shortly after the birth of the sun – through rocks and planetesimals colliding with and sticking to one another.

So why would the Bible indicate that God created the earth in seven days, and that it’s only about 6,000 years old?

Physicist and Catholic priest Robert Spitzer has a good explanation for that. He notes that the Bible isn’t meant to reveal scientific truths. In 500 BC let alone 1500 AD, readers of the Bible wouldn’t have understood anything about the Big Bang.

Says Spitzer, “Quite frankly in 500 BC not a single person would have understood the scientific account. They didn’t have the mathematics. They didn’t have the scientific methodology. They didn’t even have the conceptual basis to conceive of the scientific account of creation.” He explains that the biblical author wrote in language that the people of the time could understand.

The whole point of scripture is to reveal truths that are necessary for salvation. Back then for example, many people believed in multiple gods – gods that treat humans like mere playthings and cannon fodder for the gods.  Contrary to educating the people back then about science, scripture aimed to educate them that there’s just one God, that the whole of reality is a creature of God, that humans are created in his image and likeness, and that humans have a divine dignity that stems therefrom.

“That’s the reason why we can say in one breath that the biblical account is correct for the truths of salvation, and that the scientific account is correct – the 13.7 billion-year-old universe with all the various stages of development,” he observes.

Is it OK for Christians to believe in evolution? Of course. Spitzer indicates that Pope Pius XII developed a doctrine stating that any Catholic can believe in evolution so long as science supports it in a probative way – i.e. in a way that has enough proof to be valid or at least persuasive. So Christians can indeed believe that humans descended from non-human species such as ape-like creatures. (Remember that we didn’t descend from modern apes, but modern apes did descend from the same ancient species from which humans descended.)

As long as you don’t reduce human beings to physical material organic beings alone, evolution is fine. In other words Christians cannot deny that there’s a trans-physical or trans-material soul that survives bodily death.

In this particular talk, Spitzer didn’t address Adam and Eve, but we can draw similar conclusions to which Spitzer refers. People back then didn’t have the scientific framework to understand evolution. Moreover the Bible wasn’t meant to be a scientific treatise. It was meant to help people achieve salvation. So it was written in language to which people could relate, like the story of Adam and Eve. Few if any people back then would have understood let alone believed in the concept of evolution. It merely would have been a distraction from the Bible’s main task at hand.

National Geographic’s Pseudo-Scientific Centerfold

natgeo-risingseasWhile plausible arguments can be made that anthropogenic global warming is happening, many proponents thereof often resort to demagoguery and pseudoscience. Hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods, for example, are demagogued to death as signs of global warming, even though the same has been happening since time immemorial.

National Geographic just pulled a whopper in the demagoguery department. Its current feature article is on rising sea levels. There’s a fold-out map, called “If All the Ice Melted,” on what the world would look like if all polar and glacial ice melted – with sea levels some 200 feet higher than present.

The map – which many families will no doubt post up in their homes and many teachers post up in their classrooms – is groundless and very unscientific fear-mongering.

It conveys the impression that if we continue on our current course, the world will look like that at some future date. In fine print they say it could take 5,000 years for all of the ice to melt. But even this is absurd. For one thing, it is estimated that it would take anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 years for all of the ice just on Greenland to melt – and that would raise sea levels by just 20-25 feet. Antarctica, which holds the most ice, isn’t even melting; perhaps that’s because even if global temps rise a bit, it’s so cold there that temps will still remain well below freezing.

More significantly, within a couple of thousand years, we’re due for another ice age. It’s been about 11 or 12 thousand years since the last one and ice ages have been the norm over the past 2.5 million or so years, with “interglacials” such as the one we’re in now lasting around 12,000 years. And with a new ice age, sea levels would drop several hundred feet as happened during the last one.

While someone could speculate that mankind will delay the next ice age due to increased CO2 emissions, the NatGeo article doesn’t go near that – probably because it’s so speculative.

So the NatGeo map is depicting an absurdity.

A scientifically grounded map would depict the likeliest scenario: an ice age a few thousand years hence, with ocean water levels a few hundred feet lower, not higher. In that case they could have mentioned the far less likely scenario of all the ice melting, but then they would have had to argue that mankind will prevent or delay the next ice age through carbon emissions. And they certainly don’t make that argument.

Likewise, their cover graphic of water levels reaching halfway up the Statue of Liberty – some 200 feet above current levels – depicts an absurdity as well.

— update – four months later —

NatGeo finally ran letters to the editor regarding the above cover story. Despite a letter from this observer echoing the above, and I’m sure letters from others making similar points, the magazine had zero letters critical of their cover story. Only only positive letters were featured. Now that’s shoddy journalism.

Two Oceans

If you look out at the ocean, you’re actually looking out at two oceans. One is an ocean of water, the other is an ocean of air.

Yes, we live in an ocean all right – what we call the atmosphere. It’s not as heavy as water, but it’s heavy nevertheless – with a total weight of something of the order of 5.7 quadrillion tons. Here at the bottom of the air ocean, there are 14.7 pounds per square inch pressing down on us – just like at the bottom of the water ocean, where the weight is greatest. Just as you can feel water as you rush your hand through it, you can feel air as you do the same. And just as fish can swim through water, birds can “swim” through air, and humans can do so using technology.

I was always bummed out as a kid that I couldn’t fly just by flapping my arms. But little did I realize that I could fly – through water. That’s what fish do thanks to their fins. You could say they’re flying instead of swimming. Meanwhile the bottom-dwelling sea animals are walking on the land – i.e. the ocean floor – just like we’re walking on the bottom of the ocean of air.

It is said that our evolutionary ancestors evolved in the ocean of water, and then evolved to adapt to air. So we actually come from both oceans.

And the ocean of air – like the ocean of water – is the ultimate life force. It holds our oxygen. It generates the water cycle. It blocks out the sun’s harmful radiation. It prevents us from dying of extreme heat during the day and extreme cold at night. This “thin blue line” is what distinguishes our planet that’s teeming with life, from the desolation and lifelessness of the other planets of the solar system, and probably of the trillions of other planets throughout the universe. (If there are trillions of stars there’ve got to be at least that many planets orbiting them.)

So next time you go to the beach to look out at the beauty of the ocean, be sure to appreciate the beauty of both of them.

Eat The Whole Seed

Quick: What is “bran”?

I bet you said a type of breakfast cereal, like raisin bran or bran flakes. That’s what I would have said up until a few days ago. Actually bran is the outer skin of the grain – i.e. a grain of wheat, a grain of rice, grain of corn, or grain of oat. Grain, by the way, is synonymous with “seed”.

And the bran of the seed is something you should be eating. In most grain-based foods, the bran along with the “germ” (the seed’s embryo) is stripped away during the processing, leaving only the endosperm or the seed’s food supply. But when you strip away the bran and the germ, you’re stripping away a lot of the nutrients. Click here for details.

No, stripping away the bran and the germ isn’t some evil plot carried out by the multinational corporations. It’s something that the multinational corporations, along with the mom-and-pop shops before them, do and did because that’s what people have always wanted. After all, wouldn’t you prefer French toast made with white bread rather than whole wheat bread?

Sometimes richer isn’t always better. In the Orient, brown rice has been associated with poverty; it’s simpler to process. The middle and upper classes generally consume white rice because they prefer the taste and texture thereof.  But they’ve been depriving themselves of the beneficial health effects of brown rice, which contains the bran and the germ. A similar situation has held true in the West. In days of old, grist mills refined grains down to flour consisting of just the endosperm because that’s what people wanted. It was a more expensive process, so mainly just the middle and upper-income classes could afford it. Ironically that often resulted in worse health among the upper classes. Captains of ships would come down with health conditions that the sailors avoided, because the sailors were eating foods made from the less-expensive whole grain flour.

Whole grain is just that – all of the grain: the bran, germ and endosperm. Ironically, because our food processing infrastructure is tailored toward non-whole-grain foods, whole grains today are usually (but certainly not always) more expensive.

Whole-grain foods include brown rice, oatmeal, breakfast cereals containing the word “bran” in their names, buckwheat pancakes, and other foods with “whole grain” or “whole wheat” written on their labels.

So avoid the fate of the middle and upper class people of the Orient, and don’t deprive yourself of whole grain foods.

Lactose Intolerant? You’re Normal

A recent page 1 WSJ article reports on China’s efforts to expand its domestic milk production capacity. But the article has a gaping hole. Reportedly, some 95 percent of Asians above the age of five are lactose intolerant (lactose intolerance doesn’t begin until around that age). So that begs the question: Where is all this demand for milk in China coming from?

Is it coming from the 5 percent? The five-and-under crowd? Is the lactose being removed during the production process? Are people drinking milk despite their lactose intolerance, and suffering the consequences? Is it just a myth that 95 percent of Asians are lactose intolerant? Questions like these needed to be answered in the article.

At any rate, the subject of lactose tolerance is most interesting. It’s evolution in action.

To be lactose intolerant isn’t an abnormality or aberration. It’s more of an aberration to be lactose tolerant. Humans weren’t designed to drink milk beyond the toddler years.

Lactose tolerance is said to have arisen in cattle-raising societies: in Europe around 6,000 or 7,000 years ago, and in East Africa around 4,500 years ago.

A gene mutation gave some people the ability to drink cow milk without getting diarrhoea, stomach aches and other symptoms associated with lactose intolerance. Observe the following advantages of milk amid harsh living conditions:

Milk is uncontaminated by parasites, unlike stream water, making it a safer drink. Also, if those that were intolerant of lactose tried to drink the milk, they would develop diarrhoea and vomiting – this could be lethal in difficult living conditions and they could therefore die of dehydration in the most extreme cases. Another suggestion is the benefit of having a continuous supply of milk as opposed to seasonal crops – cows will give milk all year round whereas crops can only thrive at certain times in the year. Also, milk has many nourishing properties – it is high in fat and calcium, amongst other nutrients. All in all, the ability to drink milk gave some early Europeans and East Africans a big survival advantage.

That was in Europe. Some 90 percent of Danes and Swedes are lactose tolerant. The farther south you go in in Europe, the less lactose tolerance. About 50 percent of Spanish and French are said to be lactose tolerant. And according to this same source, in non-pastoral societies such as China only 1 per cent of the population are lactose tolerant.

So if you’re lactose intolerant, don’t sweat it. You’re normal. Some 60 percent of adults fall into that category. If you’re lactose tolerant, you have your cattle-raising ancestors to thank.

Intelligent Life Out There? Maybe, But They’ll Never Come Here

Astronomers have concluded there could be billions of other planets in our galaxy capable of supporting life, and hundreds of them within just 30 light years of earth.

Just 30 light years? Get me my astronaut suit! If we were to set out for one of those planets in one of our 20,000-mph spacecraft, we’d reach it in a mere one-million-five-thousand years!

As far as ever reaching the speed of light or even just 1 percent of that speed, that’s impossible. Aliens from other worlds may exist, but they have never and can never visit us. All those stories you hear about UFOs and alien abductions? Total bunk. The distances are just too vast.

Cozying Up to One of the Only Campfires in Antarctica

A related but different subject: Next time you’re feeling miserable in the hot sun, just picture this: Antarctica during the dark season, with only a few campfires scattered throughout the whole continent, and you happen to be next to one of those campfires feeling its warmth (but not close enough to burn yourself). That’s how it is with us vis-à-vis our sun. We’re in the middle of trillions and trillions of cubic miles of emptiness and near-absolute zero and desolation, but happen to be just close enough to a star to feel its warmth but not close enough to burn up. (To put it into scale, if the sun were the size of a campfire, it would be about 1,000 km away from the next closest star.)

Likewise, next time you’re out in the cold, just remember that cold is only relative. You’re actually feeling heat from the sun, but less of it than you’re used to. You want cold? Try absolute zero, or 455 below zero on the Farenheit scale. That (or a couple of degrees above that) is the norm in this universe.

The potential temperature range is from near-absolute zero out beyond Pluto, to a thousand degrees near Venus (and of course a lot hotter closer to the sun). The temperatures most of us experience  – from summer to winter – are just a tiny, tiny fluctuation within that larger temperature range. A small blip downward makes us feel cold, and a small blip upward makes us feel hot.

We happen to be just the right distance from one of the huge nuclear reactors that are peppered throughout the galaxy, separated by unimaginably large voids of near-absolute zero.

So be thankful we’re living just close enough to a galactic campfire so that, most of the time, we’re neither too cold nor too hot.