The headline reads “Study fails to show healing power of prayer.”
Has science proven that prayer makes no difference? Here are a few preliminary thoughts:
- God cannot be put in a box. I believe He acts in answer to prayer, but as He pleases, and not necessarily to prove Himself through a $2.4 million scientific study.
- Praying to God is not like giving Him our Christmas gift wish.
- All pray-ers prayed a standard prayer. I’m not necessarily opposed to written prayers, but it would be interesting to know what that standard prayer was. In addition, the pray-ers were free to pray additional prayers. It would be interesting to know what those prayers were, though of course there is no way of knowing.
- Two of the groups that prayed for the patients were Roman Catholic. I don’t have a big problem with that. The “Protestant” group was unitarian. I do have a problem with that.
- I’ve never been too excited about TV evangelists who ask their viewers to send in their prayer requests, with the assurance that they will be prayed for. I can picture a large pile of envelopes with a generic “God bless these prayer requests” kind of prayer. Were these prayers any more heart-felt?
- Certainly some in the “not prayed for” group were prayed for by friends, relatives, doctors, nurses, or themselves. What impact did this have on the results?
We (those with faith in Christ) have all prayed, and seen powerful answers to prayer. Not every time, but that is OK—God knows better than us. I don’t think this “scientific” study is going to shake the faith of those whose trust is in God and his powerful sovereignty.
Grace and Peace
Prominently displayed in the back of my science classroom at Bucharest Christian Academy is an oversized poster showing biochemical pathways—the enzyme-mediated processes that occur in all cells, in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. The poster presents an incredible amount of information, outlining processes such as electron transport in the mitochondria (in eukaryotes), and the synthesis and degradation of amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleotides. The poster is a little overwhelming to my middle school and high school students, but that is part of my purpose for having it. Even the most simple living cells are incredible machines, and I want them to have a glimpse of what that means.
For the web site of the week, I have chosen a similar metabolic pathways poster from the ExPASy Proteomics Server. By clicking on individual tiles on the poster, you can zoom in to see details of various processes, with the names of the enzymes that control molecular transformations in blue.
From discussions with biochemists, my understanding is that the simplest cell that could perform the basic functions of life (such as respiration, digestion, reproduction—processes that define life) could do without some of the processes diagrammed on this poster. However, this primitive cell would still have to include about 60% of the processes depicted on these types of posters. This defines the magnitude of what needs to be explained in any naturalistic explanation for the origin of life.
Grace and Peace
I did find one article (I’m sure there are many) on the internet that puts a lower limit on the number of proteins in the most primitive cell at 300. Note that on the metabolic processes poster I have here, only the blue names, the enzymes, are proteins. The other substances are all substances that are produced or modified by those enzymes.
Galaxies, Hubble Space Telescope ultra deep field, NASA/JPL
There are an estimated 1021 stars in the universe. Doesn’t this make Earth, and the humans who inhabit it, seem rather insignificant? Yes, and no. Consider this quote from John Piper:
“Sometimes people stumble over this vastness in relation to the apparent insignificance of man. It does seem to make us infinitesimally small. But the meaning of this magnitude is not mainly about us. It’s about God… The reason for ‘wasting’ so much space on a universe to house a speck of humanity is to make a point about our maker, not us.” –John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.
With the advent of Spring, it may be time to clean out the garage. Leaves that blew in over the winter are piled in the corner, mud has been tracked in, and the lawnmower is buried beneath the kids sleds. Being highly motivated, you may want to clear the garage of all the old paint cans, pesticides, and used motor oil from your car or lawn mower. What do you do with all this stuff? I used to let all my poisons pile up for years, because I knew that it wasn’t right to put it in the trash or pour it down the drain or in the soil.
Many communities have either regular or occasional means of disposing of your household chemicals. For St. Louis, I went to Google, typed in “st louis county household hazardous waste” and found this site from the St. Louis County Health Department. For St. Louis County, they have locations to drop off household toxins on April 9th, May 6th, and May 20th. Materials that may be dropped off include:
“Paints, stains, varnishes, pesticides, herbicides, poisons, gasoline and other fuels, solvents and strippers, aerosols, motor oil and filters, gas cylinders (BBQpit size or smaller), fluorescent tubes, rechargeable batteries, anti-freeze, brake and transmission fluids, pool chemicals and other acids and bases, car batteries, wood preservatives, drive sealant, and mercury-containing items (thermometers, thermostats, salts).”
Your community (if you are in the United States, Canada or western Europe) likely has a program for environmentally safer disposal of household wastes as well. If you live elsewhere… (I brought my rechargeable nickel batteries back to the States with me so I could dispose of them properly rather than having them end up in the Bucharest landfill).
Grace and Peace
Christianity Today has an online poll, surveying its readers with the question “Should evangelicals lobby on global warming?” The results of the survey so far are:
I’ll just make a few comments:
- I’m encouraged by signs of a growing awareness among Evangelicals about environmental issues. By far, the most common answer was, “Yes, it is our job to care for creation.” For too long, to be if favor of environmental regulations, recycling programs, and wilderness areas meant one would be lumped in with “tree huggers.” I no longer feel out of place when I advocate various forms of “creation care” among believers.
- The results of the survey could easily be misinterpreted. Just because I answered “Yes, it is our job to care for creation,” doesn’t mean that I necessarily endorse specific policies, such as the Kyoto Protocol.
- I wish that there had been more options, such as, “Yes, even though the science is still a little ambiguous.”
How would you have voted in this survey?
Grace and Peace
For my web site of the week, I have chosen Arguments we think creationists should NOT use, published by Answers in Genesis, the young-Earth creationist organization led by Ken Ham. I am not a young-earth creationist, but have friends and coworkers who are, some of whom are trained in the sciences. This AiG page reports a number of invalid or questionable arguments that have been—and continue to be—used by creationists. I appreciate this page, and refer my young-Earth friends to it often.
Some of the numerous faulty arguments that are discussed on this page are:
- Darwin renounced evolution on his deathbed (he didn’t)
- The thin layer of dust on the moon proves it is young (the original data for this was from the 1950s and was way off)
- The 2nd law of thermodynamics began at the fall (there was no Biblical basis for this, and all processes that involve energy transfers operate under the 2nd law, and this is not due to the curse)
- It did not rain before the flood (the Bible doesn’t say this)
Many well-meaning Christians continue to use these arguments on the internet, in books, and in classrooms. The dangers of doing so include:
- Turning away non-Christians who see the weakness of these arguments.
- Raising children who have a weak foundation in apologetics. If they someday see the falsehood of the arguments they were raised on, they could easily reject their Christian faith as well.
Grace and Peace
I got an “F” on a test today.
I have become increasingly aware that, for whatever reason, some of my children do not have a good grasp of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of this, I am directing more conversations in our family to this critical topic. Before one can comprehend the good news of the Gospel, they need to really understand the bad news about sin.
One purpose of the “Law” portions of Scripture is to point us to the fact that we are sinners. This morning, my family read the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and then took a quiz out of the book Tell the Truth, by Will Metzger. Here’s the quiz:
GOD’S TEST FOR EVERYONE: MEASURE YOURSELF BY GOD’S LAW
- (Yes or No) I have never put anything else before God in my life. I have always given God first place in my thinking, affections and actions.
- (Yes or No) I have never had any wrong conceptions about God nor worshipped Him in a way not recommended by Him. I have always rejected any wrong imaginations or images of God that I’ve seen or thought and refused to remake God according to my liking.
- (Yes or No) I have never slighted or abused the character of the true God by using His holy name as a swear word or using it in a thoughtless manner, such as by calling myself a follower of God yet not obeying. I have always held the name of God, which signifies His character, in highest respect, invoking it with thoughtfulness and reverence.
- (Yes or No) I have never done less than a full week’s work, and never done any of my normal work on the day set aside to worship God. I have always worked hard and willingly at whatever task is set before me, seeing it as a God-given service each day, and consistently remembered to set apart one day weekly to worship God with others.
- (Yes or No) I have never disobeyed nor dishonored my parents or any others in authority over me. I have always respected and been thankful for my parents and given them honor and willing obedience, as well as other authorities over me.
- (Yes or No) I have never murdered anyone nor had hateful thoughts or taken the slightest pleasure in seeing harm done to another human. I have always thought more of others than I have of myself and practiced the highest regard for human life and justice.
- (Yes or No) I have never practiced any sexual impurity, either physically engaging in sex before marriage or mentally having impure thoughts about someone. I have always treated others’ sexuality with respect and dignity in both my physical actions and mental attitudes.
- (Yes or No) I have never taken anything that doesn’t belong to me nor been deceitful in any attitudes or unwilling to work for my needs. I have always respected the belongings, rights and creations of others and been completely truthful and fair.
- (Yes or No) I have never lied nor slandered another person or group of people. I have always told the truth in every situation regarding every person I have known.
- (Yes or No) I have never been greedy for something that wasn’t mine, nor jealous even of the abilities, looks, or status of others. I have always shared and given of my possessions and myself to others and I have been thankful in my heart for what they have and content with my possessions and situation.
(from Metzger, Will, 2002, Tell the Truth, A Training Manual on the Message & Methods of God-Centered Witnessing, 3rd ed., InterVarsity Press)
I scored 0/10 on this one.
Praise God that I have one who speaks to the Father in my defense: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2 ESV).
Grace and Peace
For those of us who follow the global warming debates, there have been some interesting blogs on the Scientific American web page. The first post was called “Are You a Global Warming Skeptic?” and it has 170 comments that reflect the range of arguments against human-caused global warming. The follow-up post is called “Are You a Global Warming Skeptic? Part II,” which is a summary of the arguments in the comments from Part I.
I’m not committing either way on the global warming debate, but this is a refreshing break from the “All scientists are convinced by global warming” vs. “Global warming is a socialist enviro-wacko plot” nature that the discussion can degrade into.
Grace and Peace
Science story of the week: Cosmic ‘DNA’: Double Helix Spotted in Space, reported at Space.com.
Using the Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered a massive gaseous nebula near the center of the galaxy that is slowly spinning and shaped like the famous double helix of DNA. The Space.com article uses the phrase: “What we see indicates a high degree of order.” It also states, “The double helix shape is commonly seen inside living organisms, but this is the first time it has been observed in the cosmos.” Some in the Christian blogosphere are quite excited about this, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.
Christians have jumped on this as one more evidence for the existence of a designer. Well… yes, as all creation points in one way or another to its Creator. This cosmic gas cloud, however, does not point to the Creator of the universe in the same way that biological molecules, such as DNA, do.
The double helix recently discovered in space apparently owes its existence to intense magnetic fields which occur near the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. It occurs because matter and energy are obeying laws of nature, such as the laws of magnetism. High degrees of order occur throughout the universe, in things like mineral crystals or whirlpools, as matter and energy obey different laws of nature. Does this point to a creator? Yes, as those laws, the matter, and the energy had to come from somewhere.
This is different from what we see with biological DNA. The living world reveals a type of order and complexity that is not present in things like nebular double helices and mineral crystals. Unlike information-bearing biological molecules, the order in these non-biological structures is explainable by the laws of physics and chemistry.
For now, I am willing to look at the double helix nebula much like I look at patterns produced by erosion and deposition in a stream and say, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” I look at the complexity of a cell, with its DNA and all the systems that surround it, and say, “It is absolutely incredible that one could believe that this came about apart from the work of a Creator.”
Grace and Peace
Astronomy Picture of the Day has been a favorite of mine for some time. There have been several other attempts at “Science Picture of the Day” sites, but they have all fallen short, at least in my mind. Botany Photo of the Day, however is an excellent site, with a beautiful image from the world of plants every day. Just as “the heavens declare the glory of God,” (Ps 19:1 ESV), so also do the plants declare his glory. The only shortcoming of the site is that it is not aimed as much at a general audience as is the Astronomy Picture of the Day, and this somewhat reduces its educational value.
Grace and Peace
Q: With tens of millions of blogs already out there, why am I creating another?
A: Because I have something to say, and hope I can say it better than much of what is out there.
Q: What will this blog be about?
A: My interests are broad, so I might comment about anything. But the focus will be on science, science education, and Christianity.
Q: What are my qualifications to write on these topics?
A: I have an M.S. degree in Geology, and am working as a science teacher at a school for children of missionaries.
Q: Why the title “The Earth is Not Flat?”
A: Some people lump anyone who believes that God created the universe in with flat-earthers. An example of this is the editorial “Okay, We Give Up” in the April 2005 edition of Scientific American, where Intelligent Design is lumped in with a belief in a flat Earth and other untenable positions. The Bible, however, doesn’t teach that the Earth is flat, and this has never been a position of the church.
Q: Will anybody read this?
A: I have no idea. Perhaps I’ll make my students read it from time to time.