examinescience

A personal journey into the world of Science and Human History

Month: May, 2016

Choosing the Right Bible for the Journey

If you’re a Christian and you’re like me, you are struggling with the scientific data coming to you. Sometimes it seems like Christianity, and the traditional reading of the scriptures, can be defended fairly easily. Then there are times that make you doubt what you believe. This is normal (at least I hope it is) and you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it.

You have to have the right tools for this journey. A family doesn’t usually just jump in a car and drive across country (believe me, that would be a disaster). As a military family, we’ve moved plenty of times, and every time we’ve done it, we’ve had to have a plan. Where will we stop? What supplies do we need for the trip? Where are the gas stations and bathrooms along the planned road? Do we have time to make a stop at that cool place to explore? Yes, the questions are plenty.
And if you’re embarking, or have embarked, on a journey like the one I’m on, to discover as much as possible about the truth, you need to have the right supplies. For a long time, I have existed with a study Bible on my iPad. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. More than anything, I like having my notes electronically. That way, through the Olive Tree app, I can access my notes on my iPad, my iPhone, or my MacBook. No matter where I am, I can always get to my notes.

Another reason I have tried not to buy another physical Bible is that I think we, particularly in the western world, are inundated with Bibles while so many overseas are too poor to afford one or don’t have access to one. So as my old KJV Thompson Chain wore out, I held out buying a new one. That one was a gift from my church in my hometown when I graduated from high school, so no shame that it couldn’t last. It’s been 20 years! I do still go to it periodically, but it’s time to retire it.

But I’m an old soul in an aging body, and I still like to turn pages. Even more than that, I like to have research notes handy. That’s why my wife and I both decided it was time for a new Bible. I ordered the ESV Study Bible after reading a great article on choosing a study Bible. I highly recommend the article!

My Review:

The ESV Study Bible is big (4.2lbs)! I usually don’t take it to church because of its size, but I did this weekend and, as I had expected, it was really too big to be toting around. I don’t regret buying it, though. It’s big for a reason. It has more notes than I can hope to absorb and a lot of study guides. All of that information comes for a price though, and it’s size is the price.

Update (August): I’ve started taking the Bible to church more often because, with the lighting system our church has, the overhead lights glare off of my iPad screen. I’m concerned sometimes that I might be blasting my worshipping neighbor with the glare!

Speaking of information, the notes are amazing! As a sailor stationed aboard the USS Hue City (CG 66), it helps immensely. I was able to take the notes on Matthew 6, for example, and teach a class on the Lord’s Prayer to a few fellow sailors. I’ve had a lot of Bibles over time, most of them including some form of notes, and this is the best I’ve seen.

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As the picture to the left shows, the notes come complete with drawings as well. As with many,probably most, study Bibles,  the ESV Study Bible comes with maps also. I found them to be more than adequate. It is the drawings that I find most useful, however.

The notes are listed in order of verse number. Inside the verses themselves is a letter combination system that cross-references other passages with the same theme. Those are found on the inside margins.

Another thing I found particularly useful was the concordance. I’m doing a word study on forgiveness (I’m sure that’s something I’ll blog about at some point) and having such a large listing without going to another source is very helpful. I still plan to go to outside sources like commentaries and my trusty copy of Strongs that my grandparents used to have in Kansas, yet I’m more than pleased with the ESV Study Bible.

I’ve never had a daily reading plan before in a study Bible, and I found it both interesting and helpful. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to mark out the passages as I read them or keep track of what I do another way, but it’s nice to have. As I go through the Bible, however, I think I’ll stay with my daily readings from the Olive Tree app that I use on my iPad and iPhone.

Update (August): Here’s how I’ve started working the electronic and physical copies of my Bible. I have started using the physical book for actual research while using the electronic Bible to record my notes and run searches for words and phrases. When I’m at church, to avoid the glare that my iPad screen produces, I use my iPhone to update the Olive Tree app if the pastor says something I want to keep hold of.

Update (August): This is a blog on creationism and evolution, so how does the ESV Bible handle the issue? Very well, I’m pleased to say. I was concerned about how a relatively conservative group of scholars might work through Genesis 1, but I’m very excited. A full two pages are devoted to the ideas of Genesis 1, including a discussion on the different ideas of how Christians explain the creation. Day-age, the gap theory, and others are all given their due here. Most importantly, the scholars report that none of the five major creation theories are in conflict with Genesis 1. Theistic evolution, however, is not mentioned in that group and therefore must be considered suspect by those scholars (Dr. Miller would be upset I’m sure).

The scholars also discuss the issue of genealogies, which means they have probably accepted the idea that Ussher inadvertently miscalculated his time of creation. Go to that post for specifics on the matter.

I’m very excited about having the ESV Study Bible for this research project because it will give me the ammunition I need as a theologically conservative Christian while encouraging me in the freedom I have in Christ to learn and expand my horizon.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask about the ESV Study Bible, please do so in the comments and I will do my best to answer them as I use the Bible. Thanks!

 

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The difficulty of remaining unbiased in Research

I struggled at points in my graduate work because I already had presuppositions about things such as the pretribulational rapture, the role of baptism in the Christian life, and yes, even creation. While I “survived” my graduate work, I did struggle (please don’t look up my GPA!).

That struggle continues as I conduct research in the scientific world of modern evolution science. It started with cystic fibrosis, wherein I noticed a time gap between when cystic fibrosis started to appear and when the causal agent started to appear. My presupposition was that evolution could not have caused cystic fibrosis because its agent wasn’t “available.”

I may or may not be right about that; the research continues. I want to find holes in the evolutionary natural history that only biblical events could explain. That’s my problem. No matter how unbiased I attempt to be, I struggle with my preconceived notions.

I’m certainly not the first person to struggle with this. In the 1700s, natural historians started realizing that the world had to be older than we first thought. Georges Cuvier, the 18th Century French naturalist who conducted a lot of work in the field of paleontology, never left his Protestant roots as he learned more about the development of nature around him. In fact, he remained a Protestant to his death. He reviewed the ideas on evolution at the time (no, Darwin wasn’t the first to think of it), and “found it wanting.”[1] Like Cuvier, I have been reviewing the theory of evolution and have my issues.

And also like Cuvier, I have my biases against evolution. I DON’T WANT IT TO BE TRUE! Is that so wrong? Probably not, but what is wrong is that I claim to want to review the scientific data on its own without my biases so that I can find the truth for my kids. I don’t want them confused in school or ridiculed unnecessarily for beliefs that I have always taken for granted. Yet I struggle hard with these presumptions about evolution and creation which I must get past.

So today we try again. Again we look at science as modern scientists want us to. If anything, I need to see the current scientific study from their perspective, which is the presumption that the theory of evolution is correct and time will give us the answers that we’re seeking (such as in the case of transitional life forms).

I can’t promise that I’ll always be unbiased, but I’m hopeful that I can proceed with the correct mindset. Click HERE to stay on top of the research project.

[1] Larson, Edward J. Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Random House. New York, NY, 2000, pg 10.

The Fall of Man, Microevolution, and the Cruelty of Nature

As I review the scientific literature, I become more and more convinced that some microevolution occurred and probably still occurs. I also believe that this microevolution could be the result of the fall of man. The end of this argument postulates that the fall of man created the petri dish of the current natural order.

Let me give you an example:

Darwin made the case for evolution based in part on how cruel the world was, including how vicious animals were in the wild (humans too really). This was to counter the idea that God’s creation was perfect and that, even in its fallen state the natural order continued in the design of almost benevolence.[1]

I think that the fall of man demands cruelty in the natural world. When Adam and Eve fell, the world order crumbled under the weight of their sin. Natural order that had existed suddenly didn’t. Replacing it was the necessary reality that many animals continued to eat plants, but some animals became adapted to eating other animals, and humans adapted to eating both. Teeth structures, digestive systems, instincts, etc, need time to adapt, so it would probably have been several generations for this fall to fully come to pass. During that adaptive process, mutations of other sorts also occurred, such as my nemesis, cystic fibrosis.

I realize that I’m speaking as an apologist in this post. I am, at my core, a believer in Jesus Christ who is wrestling with the natural history of the world. I am simply a husband, father, and believer seeking to find answers. The answers I’m finding so far, however, don’t tell me that evolution is true as natural selection suggests.

So the search continues. Click HERE to sign up for updates.

[1] Larson, Edward J. Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Random House. New York, NY, 2004. Pg 90.

The Day that God Created the Heavens and the Earth

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The next several verses detail that creative act that takes place, from a literal reading of the Bible, in six days. Yet in Genesis 2:4, the writer says, “these are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”

So did he take six days or one day? Traditionalists, fundamentalists, and most evangelicals will believe that an old earth creation is just not possible because God took six days to create the earth, not billions, and that there are generations for only six thousand years or so.

Here’s the problem with that thinking. If you’re willing to read the Bible literally, and I certainly believe there are parts that should be read that way, then you have to decide if God made the earth in six days, as Genesis one says, or in one day as Genesis two says.

I don’t personally see a problem because I don’t think it should be read literally. I think Genesis one shows that God was intimately involved in the creation of the world and everything in it, and I believe that Genesis two is the general brush strokes that show his artistic style.  I think, by the way, that this is another summary statement, much like Genesis 1:1 and 2:1. If anything, the “day” in Gen 2:4 suggests an “age” of creation, which denotes a progression, but I digress.

Also, there may very well be two writers of Genesis, with a second writer expanding on the first. This really upsets my more traditional brethren and sisters because it suggests Moses didn’t write Genesis with his own hand. I’m sure that I’ll write on that at some point, but I just don’t have time at the moment.

The point of this post isn’t to drive a wedge between Moses and the book supposedly authored by him, but to show my fellow fundamentalists that the traditional reading of scripture isn’t necessarily plausible and never was. Genesis tells us that God made everything, but even by chapter two of the first book of the Bible we have word problems.

In closing, I’m not saying that this is a problem. Instead, it is a fresh drink of cool water as it shows us that we can open up the scriptures and take a look at them, and see how God might have used the fossil record to fill in his gaps in creation. I’m very excited for this, and I hope you are too!

Sign up HERE for more updates.

Creation, Evolution, and Cystic Fibrosis (Part Five)

May is the month for cystic fibrosis awareness. It is also the month we conduct our annual Great Strides walk, which seeks to raise funds and awareness to combat this deadly disease. As I am a husband and a father before I am an amateur scientist, my loyalty is always going to be to my family.

I’ve said it before…we all have our biases. These are the presumptions that we bring to a particular issue. This can apply to everything from how we handle conflict at work to how we approach a research project. It also comes with us as part of our morality. Flawed though I am, I carry a certain moral code in me, just like you do, that I bring to the issue of cystic fibrosis.

At first, I was intrigued about the decline of cystic fibrosis in Brittany, a region of France. I’m not a mathematician, so wrapping my head about a formula that could show the increase or decrease in cases in any region just about blows my mind. I just don’t see how two people who haven’t been tested for a disease can prevent the future chances (roughly 1 in 4 according to Mendelian genetics) of the mutations being passed down. So when the cases were being reported in a decline in Brittany, I looked into it.

“We show, in this study, that the birth incidence of CF has dropped in our area following the implementation of prenatal diagnosis.”[1] It’s so clinical…so sterile. We have found a drop in CF since we learned how to predict if a baby in the womb has CF. Well, there’s only one way that ends, isn’t there? So here are the numbers according to the Scotet study: A full 35.8% of CF children were aborted on the sole basis of them having CF. Not allowed to live. Killed in the womb. Let it sink in for a minute.

This is evolution at its finest. Humans, the current evolutionary peak in nature, have decided to conduct evolution for themselves. After all, in mid-century 1900s and before, people with CF didn’t usually live into their teenage years anyway. This is just speeding up the process. And why have a child who suffers when you don’t have to?

This doesn’t just apply to CF either. “They both now take part in both premarital and prenatal testing, and even though every one in five pregnancies is abnormal, they can determine which embryos carry two copies of the same mutation and choose to terminate.”[2] This is in regards to Samaritans who can suffer from a wide array of genetic conditions. Yes, that’s the same Samaritans that Jesus talked about as being a good neighbor.

None of us want to pass on bad genes to our children. We want them to have the best of us…we want them to be better than us. So the answer is this: “Doctors can test a fetus early in pregnancy and terminate it if it carries the mutation.” This is in regards to Huntington’s disease.[3] So that’s how we’re going to handle disease…terminate the mass of cells that just happen to be developing into a baby, just like we might cut out a cancer.

Look, it’s clear that I’m not a normal person when it comes to things like this. I’m a Fundamentalist when it comes to abortions. I love babies, though I’ve only fathered three of them myself. And though I am a Fundamentalist, I’m also very flawed. I’m sure everyone is a hypocrite about something, and I have played the role in my life too.

But this is tantamount to the Tower of Babel. We have decided to be gods. If a developing baby (we call it a fetus so that we don’t have to admit that it’s a baby) proves to have a genetic disease, we terminate (KILL) it. We have decided to take evolution into our own hands.

Alicia and I were very surprised to find out she was pregnant with our third child. We had decided long before to stop trying. At first, I was extremely hesitant to have another baby after our daughter was born with cystic fibrosis. I did not want more than one sufferer in our family. We had already dealt with one “tune up” and a minor CF-related surgery with Samantha. My heart couldn’t take another child with that. So I told Alicia I wasn’t going to have another child. We could adopt maybe someday, but that was it.

I came around at some point, but by then we had both gotten a little older and another child would change the dynamics of our family a lot. So even though I wasn’t as worried about the genetics anymore, we decided two children were enough.

Imagine my surprise then, when she told me we were going to have another child! We went in for our first meeting with her OBGYN and wouldn’t you know it, one of the first things we talked about was genetics. I don’t remember the exact conversation word for word, but here’s the gist:

Doctor: So I see you have cystic fibrosis in your family history.

Us: Yes. Our daughter has the disease.

Doctor: Do you want to test your baby for it?

Us: No thanks.

Doctor: It’s a relatively easy test.

Us: That isn’t the point.

Doctor: So I assume you’d keep the baby even if you found out it had CF?

Us: Yes.

Doctor: Ok, then we’ll approach this by checking via ultrasound as the baby develops to check for signs of CF so we’ll know how to handle the baby once he or she is born.

Us: That would be wonderful.

I’m not better than you, and this isn’t an attempt on my part to pretend to be better than you. The sins you struggle with are not the sins I struggle with and vice versa. But ending the life of a baby is not a sin I struggle with.

I am convinced that the vast majority of humans would not kill their newborn babies even if they found out immediately after birth that the child had a crippling disease. They just wouldn’t. So in order to combat that issue, humans kill the baby when it’s a fetus so they don’t have to admit that it was a baby. This is how modern evolution works.

We found out a few weeks after our youngest daughter, Hannah, was born that she carries the same mutation we do, but only from one of us (since we both carry the same cystic fibrosis mutation, we’ll probably never know which parent she got it from). She does not have cystic fibrosis, but she is a carrier. Theoretically, she, like her parents, are protected from tuberculosis, though I’m not going to put her in a position to test that theory.

I just don’t understand how researchers and writers can be so sterile when talking about abortions as if though they are the best way to handle genetic conditions like cystic fibrosis, Tay Sachs, sickle cell anemia, etc. Yet it’s true…staring me right in the face. The research proves it’s a tool being used in many parts of the world now.

This doesn’t mean that people who abort their babies are bad people any more than my sin makes me a bad person. Yet I do believe that it makes a person misguided and maybe shows a weakness on their part to look for the easy way out. Samantha has had three hospitalizations and two procedures since she has been born, all CF-related. And she has gotten off “easy” as it were. Many sufferers have gone through more.

Yet I wouldn’t have given her up for the world if we had known she was going to go through this. Instead, we work to find a cure by supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and raise awareness through talking to people about CF, my writing, etc.

To join our fight against cystic fibrosis, click HERE.

To stay up on the latest research on evolution and creation, click HERE.

[1] Scotet et al. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2012, 7:14

[2] Kenneally, Christine. The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape our Identities and our Futures. Viking Publishing Group, New York, NY. 2014. pg 300.

[3] Ibid – 293