Posted tagged ‘scientific’

Build a Better Engine

April 17, 2014

Over the last few years, I have talked to a lot of people who spew propaganda claiming Bible-believing Christians are “anti-science.” Because people like me are skeptical of the history claims of evolutionists and futurology claims of global warming alarmists, we are labeled “anti-science.” Fortunately, discerning between what is and is not a scientific claim is as easy as understanding a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Unfortunately, some refuse to acknowledge the differences, using the “Christians are anti-science” fallacy to create political division. For others,  it’s just another excuse to hate their neighbor.

One pattern I’ve noticed among the “Christians are anti-science” crowd is that the most outspoken individuals tend to have little or no background in science or engineering. When God gives me an opportunity to talk to unbelievers that promote this agenda, I have learned to 1) let them know Christians like me are most assuredly pro-science, 2) present the Gospel, and 3) encourage them to stop doing what they are doing and get into a science and engineering field.

Something I have encouraged more than one unbeliever to do is “build me a better engine.” Promoting the idea that fossil fuels are causing catastrophic global warming is foolish. In spite of increased atmospheric CO2 levels, there has been no warming for 17 years and 8 months now. If, instead of promoting unscientific future climate ideas and labeling those who disagree as “anti-science,” why not do something meaningful?  Why not be actively involved in designing less expensive, more fuel efficient engines, ones that could reduce air pollution and provide better lives for the poor? Wouldn’t a pro-science, love-your-neighbor mindset be better than an unscientific, hate-your-neighbor one? Well, of course it would, but the former is a difficult concept for those who don’t believe the foolishness of God is wiser than men (I Corinthians 1:25).

Unless God changes their hearts and they repent and turn to Christ, foolish actions are to be expected from unbelievers (Psalm 14:1). Fortunately, there are young Christian men and women out there who love God and His creation, and want to “build a better engine” for His glory. Listen to this testimony from David K., a homeschooling senior that is currently using our DIVE Calculus course (bold emphasis mine):

“Thank you also for all the work you have put into the DIVE CDs. Your teaching is clear, easy to understand, and you explain everything really well. Your lectures have helped me immensely, and I don’t know where I would be in math with out them. I definitely agree with you, in that God has allowed us to understand math so that we can get to know Him better. I love looking in Creation and seeing God Himself! I am a senior in high-school, and I plan to go to college to study Engineering Physics, with mechanical emphasis. I want to eventually perform engine research to produce a more financially feasible engine. I would do this by creating a new energy conversion process that does more work per unit of fuel than engines today. I have always had a love for science and math, and I really look up to people like you who know so much and use it for the glory of God. Thank you for being a great example for me to follow.” 

While David K’s words are incredibly kind and humbling to me, I hope they are an encouragement to you! A lot of people are surrounded by hopelessness and despair, but there’s also a lot of hope out there, too!

Are you a young person like David K who loves the Lord and wants to take what God has made and use it to design things that will serve others? Are you currently an unbeliever? Whoever you are, it is important to be intellectually honest and spread the word that Christians are pro-science. History proclaims this truth, as do present actions of humans all over the world.  So, enough of this blog post, get out there and build a better engine!

Homeschool Biology or Public School Biology?

October 3, 2013
While liberals promote anti-creationism hysteria, a generation of public school students could be handicapped with outdated science textbooks.

While liberals promote anti-creationism hysteria, a generation of public school students could be handicapped with outdated science textbooks.

In November, the Texas State Board of Education will vote on, among other things, whether to adopt new biology textbooks. Meanwhile, liberal media and political groups are having dinosaur costume parties, instead of working hard to correct the obvious lack of modern science in textbooks up for adoption.

Irrational liberals are fond of using the logical fallacy “conservatives are ant-science” strawman. But a quick look at the liberal activist group called the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reveals a vastly different story. Sounding more like a villain of science than a hero, NCSE leader Eugenie Scott actually discourages teaching of 21st Century science to highschoolers, using the pathetic excuse that it is “too difficult“! Another NCSE leader, Josh Rosenau, told me he just doesn’t think the topic of epigenetics should be “mandatory,” as if we need to legislate common sense! In the 21st Century, the study of genetics and epigenetics go hand-in-hand. Genes are made of DNA, and epigenetic factors switch genes on and off at certain times and places during growth and development. Epigenetic changes can also be inherited, allowing offspring to adapt to changing environments without changing their DNA.

And it’s this “change without a DNA change” part of epigenetics, among other things, that has some folks in a panic. But why? Descent with modification is a scientific fact, and if you want to call that “evolution”, fine, although I prefer “adaptation.” But the problem is that some people then confuse the scientific forms of descent with modification with the historic/religious version, better known as “evolutionism”, a component of naturalism. And it’s the threat to naturalistic beliefs, not the threat to science, that has some folks in a panic over 21st Century science findings.

Like millions of other families around the world, my family homeschools. And like a lot of other homeschool families, God has given us the faith to believe the self-evident truth that a creation requires a Creator. We are happy to discuss dinosuar history, the Flood, Genesis, Jesus’ virgin birth, etc. with others. But these are historical truths, not testable, repeatable science. There is a difference between a historic thing and a scientific thing.

Unfortunately, it seems that liberal ideologues are more interested in attempting to protect their sacred cow of naturalism than they are about advancing learning for the next generation of students. Advancing learning for all kids should be something liberals and conservatives should agree on. Apparently, for liberals who realize modern science runs counter to their beliefs about history, disagreement is mandatory. Oh well, all the more reason to homeschool!

What does EVOLUTION really mean?

September 30, 2013
This AP Biology laboratory activity works just fine without the controversial word

This AP Biology laboratory activity works just fine without the controversial word “evolution” included. “Population Genetics and Inheritance” would be a better title.

The Evolution of “evolution”

The word “evolution” can mean a lot of things, which in turn leads to a lot of confusion! A brief look at the etymology reveals that “evolution” was originally a Latin word for “an opening of what was rolled up,” as in the growth of a plant from a seed. Charles Darwin actually used the word only once in Origin of Species, as he preferred “descent with modification.”

Today though, “evolution” is not so easily defined. Now, evolution might refer to anything from Darwin’s idea of descent with modification, to the idea that the whole universe is a progression of interrelated phenomena. Or, it may just mean “change,” which is the way I used it to describe how the term “evolved,” or changed over the years. The many faces of the modern definition have obvious scientific, historic, and religious implications. Let’s briefly explore these implications, and see how they may or may not relate to the creationism/evolutionism battle.

Evolution and Science

Evolution does indeed have a scientific component to it. For example, there are creationists who have PhD’s in evolutionary biology and actively work in this field. Some of you are probably thinking “how can a creationist be an evolutionist?!” Well, think about it. Darwin’s idea of “descent with modification” does occur, right? We are not all clones, right?

You look similar, yet also different, from your parents. You are walking proof that limited descent with modification is real. There is some obvious “phenotypic plasticity”, or more simply, built-in flexibility, that, within limits, allows organisms to adapt and change. So, a creationist can be an “evolutionist” in the sense that he/she is conducting research on mechanisms of inheritance. The problem is not that the creationist is being a heretic and rejecting the Genesis account, where God clearly says He created different kinds of organisms. The problem is the many faces of the word “evolution,” and applying the “universal progression” idea of evolution in this instance is improper.

The photo above is from my DIVE Biology curriculum. Lab activities designated “AP” are recommended by the College Board, creators of the AP exams that high schoolers can take to receive college credit for high school work. However, because of the confusion over what “evolution” means, tagging on that word alongside “population genetics” is unnecessary. If, by evolution you mean the “universal progression” idea, then it is laughable if you think this lab activity is going to prove that. The lab is actually just a card-type game that uses multiple forms of the same gene, called alleles, to show the effects of a lethal mutation on a population. It also teaches students about the inheritance mechanism known as genetic drift.  However, if by “evolution” you mean the self-evident truth that limited “descent with modification” occurs, then this lab does a pretty good job of showing how some genetic mechanisms of inheritance work. Because of confusion over the word evolution though, it would be more appropriate for the College Board to title the lab simply “Population Genetics”, or “Population Genetics and Inheritance.”

But what happens when an evolutionary biologist, who is not a creationist, finds out creationists oppose the teaching of “evolution” in schools? Well, they may end up saying pretty crazy things! For example, take evolutionary biologist Dr. Justin Bahl, who in a recent opinion article in the Houston Chronicle, claimed that creationists opposed research on pathogenic viruses!   Obviously, his confusion is over the word “evolution.” Creationists object to the naturalistic “universal progression” idea of evolution. However, I have yet to hear of a creationist who opposed research on how diseases develop resistance! Instead, a creationist who is also a scientist would use every inheritance mechanism currently known in an effort to discover disease cures.

Viruses, bacteria, etc. develop drug resistance. This is self-evident. It is also self-evident that viruses and bacteria almost never show the “universal progression” idea, which would require they create new, functional information, and lots of it. They have never displayed anything more than a limited “descent with modification.”

Rapid evolution” is another growing area of “evolution” research that interests creationists. A Google search of the phrase “rapid evolution” produced 130,000 results! So what is “rapid evolution,” and how is that different from just normal evolution? Well, the difference lies in Darwin’s idea that evolution requires millions of years of “numerous, successive, slight modifications” (Darwin’s own words in Origin of Species). But Darwin’s “gradualism” is really part of the unscientific “universal progression” idea.

Darwin said his theory would “absolutely break down” if it could be demonstrated that a complex organ formed without involving gradualism. Well, that’s exactly what happened in a transplanted population of wall lizards, who developed a “brand new structure”, without any known genetic changes! But, they are still just wall lizards, with no change of kind.

So what is “rapid evolution”? Well, it is exactly what scientists like Dr. Bahl study! “Rapid evolution” is about studying fairly significant changes in populations that occur in just a few generations. It occurs in everything from the viral pathogens Dr. Bahl researches, to plants, to trout and more. To a creationist though, “rapid evolution” is mainly just adaptation, and the more we learn about it, the more it confirms what creationists already knew, that life was designed to adapt! Also, “rapid evolution” is what creationists sometimes refer to as “microevolution.”

Evolution and History

Creationists have no objections to testable, repeatable science. So what is this creationism/evolutionism battle about then? Well, it is a battle over how to interpret history. Scientific research is about conducting experiments and verifying the results with further experimentation. Natural history research is ultimately about interpretation, not verification. It really boils down to storytelling. In fact, a common phrase geologists like to use is “every rock has a story.” Under what conditions was it formed? What is it composed of? When was it formed? Geologists and other naturalists can perform a variety of scientific tests that can then be used to help them write a story about the past. However, any story they come up with, creationist or otherwise, is still an interpretation, not a verification, of the past.

But if history is about interpretation and storytelling, while scientific endeavors are about repeatability and verification, then why is history part of a supposedly scientific course like biology? Well, history does matter, so you cannot completely exclude it. However, when a biology textbook writer inserts the unscientific “universal progression” idea of common descent from single-celled organisms, to the exculsion of ideas related to uncommon descent, then that’s a problem. In a biology textbook, the natural history component should be very minor, and should not dogmatically assert the “universal progression” idea, using descriptions like “animals arose from bacteria,” etc. One focus of any historic component in a biology course should be on using the body of past scientific research to further unlock the mysteries of the various mechanisms of inheritance.

Evolution and Religion

Ironically, while confused scientists like Dr. Bahl are making false claims that creationists are “anti-science,” it is actually the evolutionists who are stifling scientific progress! A glaring example is Eugenie Scott, the soon-to-retire director of the evolutionist propaganda mill known as the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Behaving like a villain of science, Scott recently proclaimed that the 21st Century Science of epigenetics was too hard for high school students  to learn! This is completely false. Epigenetics relates to the set of biological information that directs the genes, switching them on and off at certain times and places. Epigenetics is like the captain that directs the “ship” known as the genome. This is an analogy a 5-year old could understand! Epigenetics is also another mechanism of inheritance that is contributing to our understanding of human health-related topics like those Dr. Bahl studies.

But why would an organization like NCSE, whose purpose is supposedly to defend the teaching of evolution, be opposed to teaching evolution? Once again, it depends on what you mean by “evolution”. The evolution NCSE is defending is the “universal progression”, naturalistic form, and they make this abundantly clear. As dogmatic Darwinists, they presuppose a simple cell filled with one-dimensional (linear) DNA that randomly mutates and magically generates new information.

But 21st Century science reveals that the cell is anything but simple, and DNA actually works in 3-dimensions (4 if you include time), not one! To say a cell is “simple” is as false as saying the infrastructure running New York City is “simple.” Since dogmatic naturalistic beliefs also presuppose gradualism, they often feel a need to suppress new discoveries related to cell complexity.

And yes, naturalism is a religious belief system. As a recent lawsuit filed in a federal court states, naturalism directs one to ask “ultimate religious questions” such as “where do we come from?” Ultimate questions like this are not scientific questions, because we can’t use scientific methods to answer them. There really is no conflict between science and religion. The “battle” is about religious belief systems, like naturalism and Christianity. And it is a battle, not a war, because the war has been won through Christ!

While secular humanists and atheists almost always have naturalism and its related components like evolutionism as core tenets of their religion, many other religious people view God as using evolutionism to bring about life. So, it is not just atheist/humanist folks who incorporate the “universal progression” form of evolution into their religious beliefs. Many theists do as well, which is why it is right to say that it is a violation of the 1st and 14th amendments when a public school uses naturalism in an effort to address origins questions.

Should scientists drop the word “evolution?”

Journalists, who are typically not scientists, are almost always confused about evolution, to the point that some even think Texas has banned the teaching of evolution! Of course, that is as false as Dr. Bahl’s claims that creationists are against the study of diseases. But, because so many are so confused about evolution, mainly because it can mean so many different things, wouldn’t it be better to just stop using the word in scientific circles? Instead of “evolutionary biology”, we could have “hereditary biology.” This wouldn’t change Dr. Bahl’s job a bit, as he would still be studying how pathogens use different mechanisms of inheritance to develop drug resistance. And instead of studying “rapid evolution”, scientists could study “adaptation” instead, as this is mainly what is happening. Environmental conditions change, and organisms adapt.

So yes, scientists should drop the word “evolution,” and put the “universal progress” form of it in a philosophy, history, or religion class. In America, the time is past due to take the religious, “universal progress” form of evolution out of the public school science classroom where legally, it doesn’t belong.

Will TFN Stand Up for Science?

September 12, 2013

TFN range rider dino photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably not.  Next Tuesday (Sep. 17, 2013), the Texas State Board of Education will hear public testimony regarding new textbooks for Texas’ state-run schools. Unfortunately for some, promoting quality science materials for all children will take a back seat to TFN-sponsored anti-creationism and global warming hysteria. TFN will lead the charge, with yet another irrational dinosaur history protest scheduled for noon outside the William B. Travis building in Austin, TX.

Anti-creationism hysteria

Many people do not know that a basic principle of the scientific method is repeatability. If you can verify a claim through repeated experimentation, then it is a scientific claim. But think about the “battles”. The creation/evolution battle is not over scientifically verifiable claims, it is a battle over how to interpret unrecorded history. The last time I checked, most thinking people define the study of the past as history, not science! People have different interpretations of the past, but so what? Why do we need to protest that? Can’t we just discuss it? All indications are that TFN and their allies are not interested in standing up for science, they are interested in defending their dogmatic interpretation of history, at all costs. How irrational and misleading!

Global warming hysteria

And think about global warming hysteria. Meteorologists can still barely produce a decent 10-day weather forecast, yet many have been suckered into “believing” long-term climate models that are not easily verifiable. Global warming hysteria is really fueled more by “futurology” than anything scientific. Fortunately, now that the hysteria has been around for a while, we have real observations to compare to speculative models. The verdict is in: the models overwhelmingly predicted higher-than-actual temperatures over the last 30 years.

A disregard for real science

But what about testable repeatable science? What about the study of epigenetics, a field that is revolutionizing all of the biological sciences? If you think of the genome (set of all your DNA) as the “ship”, it doesn’t do anything without a captain. And what is the “captain”? It’s the epigenome, a separate set of information stored in a variety of forms inside cells. Epigenetics has implications for everything from cancer to the effects of diet on human health.

Recently, I reviewed some of the Texas biology textbooks up for adoption. Amazingly, not one of the textbooks I reviewed contained information on epigenetics! In 2011, when I reviewed online materials for Texas schools, I had to go against my entire review team just to get one lousy paragraph on the epigenome into the curriculum!

Why the disregard for teaching 21st Century Science? Well, it doesn’t come from scientists, but from dinosaur history protesters. You see, epigenetics has been proposed as “an outright counterpoint to purely Mendelian inheritance” and as “the study of heritable changes in cellular phenotype, or gene expression that is initiated by factors other than changes in the DNA sequence.” (from The Epigenetic Landsape, an article in the Spring 2012 issue of In Vivo, published by the University of Texas Department of Biological Sciences). For close-minded Darwinists, “change” comes from DNA mutations alone, which is why epigenetics “raises hackles” for the irrational, unscientific horde.

Will 21st Century science be suppressed in Texas textbooks? Time will tell. All scientists would agree that 21st Century biology students should learn about epigenetics. But what about political activists, shouldn’t they agree, too? Yesterday, I called and emailed Texas Freedom Network (TFN), asking them to support teaching epigenetics in Texas textbooks. I have not heard back from them, and am not too optimistic that I will. I think they would rather spend time photoshopping dinosaurs riding horseback than pushing for better math and science education in Texas.

Pray for TFN and their allies, that they would see their folly and turn from it.  Pray that they would repent and promote liberty through Christ alone, the Author of all knowledge, and the #1 Advocate of good education for all children!