The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Environmental Awareness on Christian College Campuses

Christianity Today has an article entitled Christian Colleges’ Green Revolution. Here are a few quotes:

“When I was exposed firsthand to the impact that poor environmental care can cause, I was shocked,” Semenyuk says, recalling a protest he witnessed in Nicaragua. “The people were field workers on banana plantations where extremely powerful chemicals are used to make a ‘perfect banana’ for consumers in the U.S. The chemicals are outlawed in the U.S. and in other developed countries.” The people protesting had permanent chemical burns, Semenyuk says, and their children suffered birth defects. Semenyuk realized that his own consumption patterns—even ones as simple as buying a banana—had a significant impact on people living elsewhere.

Connecting the environment with other issues, such as poverty and evangelism, has helped environmental initiatives gain support.

Semenyuk, who is now doing graduate work in environmental engineering at Johns Hopkins University, says he considered studying medicine, but realized he would only be helping one person at a time. “Through engineering,” he says, “I can help [whole] communities at a time, be able to train others, and relieve people from the need of seeing a doctor by solving the problem that is causing disease in the first place.”

There is also an evangelistic dimension. Lowe notes that some of the 40 members of Wheaton’s student chapter of A Rocha, an international conservation organization, volunteer at the county’s forest preserves each week. “People who are not in contact with a church or who are frustrated with Christians or don’t view Christians as caring about the environment see us caring for creation,” he says.

For many students, creation care is grounded in soul care. When people ask Semenyuk if he is a “tree hugger,” he replies, “I’m a people hugger.”

He explains, “By taking care of the environment, I am taking care of people. I feel called to missionary work in preaching and evangelizing, but if people will not live to hear my message by the time I arrive because of my poor environmental decisions, the Word is preached in vain.”

I’m always pleased when Christians give more than lip service to “creation care,” “stewardship,” and “conservation.”

Grace and Peace

May 29, 2007 Posted by | Environment | Leave a comment

Limburger Cheese

This was yesterday’s Wikipedia picture of the day, with a description from the article on Limburger Cheese:

The description of limburger cheese (which truly does smell awful):

Limburger cheese originated in Limburg, Belgium. It is also made in the United States and Germany. Limburger is especially known for its pungent odor. The bacteria used to ferment Limburger cheese and other rind-washed cheeses is Brevibacterium linens; this same bacteria is found on human skin and is partially responsible for human body odor. A likely reason for this is that the monks of Limburg who created the cheese would originally mix the milk and curds into cheese by stomping it with their feet.

When I was in 10th grade at Billings West High School, someone stuck a piece of limburger cheese in the radiator at the end of the hallway. I was in Mr. Peckham’s World History class right just two doors down—this all left a strong impression in my mind—and I remember trying to figure out what had happened out in the hallway. Perhaps someone had diarrhea and didn’t make it to the restroom? Perhaps someone died? I cannot imagine eating the stuff!

Grace and Peace

May 29, 2007 Posted by | Fun | 1 Comment

World Population Density

A good map is a work of art. This graphic shows a computer generated map of population density, with the tall spikes representing the large cities of the world. The map is from the National Geographic Atlas of the World, and can be viewed at the ESRI Map Book Gallery Volume 20.

worldpop

Grace and Peace

May 29, 2007 Posted by | Geography, Maps | | Leave a comment

Creation Museum Open in Kentucky

At the risk of getting myself in trouble…

Today is the grand opening of the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. For the record, I think this is a bad idea. I could write a rather long critique of the philosophy and “science” behind this museum, but I’ll save that for some other time. Here’s my short version:

The museum has been built by Answers in Genesis, a young-earth creationist organization headed by Australian science teacher Ken Ham. To their credit, they are gracious with opponents, and avoid some of the really, really bad arguments used by some creationists, such as Kent Hovind (“Dr. Dino”). I often point my young-earth creationist friends to the AiG page Arguments we think creationists should NOT use. Additionally, all the reviews of the museum I have seen say that it is well-done, which is a nice contrast to a lot of what is produced by Evangelical Christians (think of most of the “Christian” movies you have seen).


Image from the Creation Museum

As I have stated before, I am an old-earth creationist. By this, I mean that I have no difficulty in accepting the authority and truthfulness of the opening chapters of Genesis, as well as accepting an old age for the earth and the universe as a whole. Some time I’d like to share my reasons for holding to this position. I think I can defend an old earth (~4.5 billion years) both Biblically and scientifically. I hold to the position that all truth is God’s truth, whether it is truth as revealed in the Bible, or truth that is revealed in nature. When the two seem to conflict—and I believe that conflict is much less common than many think—then either our understanding of nature is wrong, or our understanding of the Bible is wrong. In the end, there will be no conflict between the two.

I send my young-earth friends to the “Arguments we think creationists should NOT use” page as a starting point, to help them avoid the most serious errors. But I would go much further myself, and say that the entire model presented by Answers in Genesis (or the Institute for Creation Research) doesn’t work. This includes their arguments for a young earth, and their arguments for most of the geological record being formed by Noah’s flood. If this is so, then what is being presented at the Creation Museum is bad apologetics (apologetics being the defense of Christianity and the Bible). People may come to faith in Christ through this museum, and for this I rejoice (Phil 1:18). But many others, including scientists I know, can see that the AiG/ICR arguments are not sound, and they will reject Christianity because of the poor arguments offered.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who don’t believe. I can accept that. But let it be the foolishness of Christ that people reject, not the foolishness of bad apologetics.

I know that many of my readers are young-earth creationists. I could be wrong in my assessment of the Creation Museum, but I don’t think I am. Thanks for your patience in reading what I have written here. I love you as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Grace and Peace

May 28, 2007 Posted by | Christianity, Origins | 2 Comments

Volcano blows a smoke ring?

This isolated volcano (Klyuchevskoy) on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia looks like it is blowing a smoke ring!

Here’s a few more images of the eruption:

More great images of the eruption can be found here.

I got the link from Geology.com News.

Grace and Peace

May 26, 2007 Posted by | Geology | Leave a comment

Shrinking Dead Sea

Fresh water is a limited resource. It is constantly renewed, but it is not unlimited. This is especially an issue in arid and semiarid areas, such as in the area of Israel and its neighbors. One of the concerns that triggered the 1967 Six Day War, in which Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, was the possibility that the Arabs would cut off much of Israel’s fresh water supply.

The Dead Sea itself is not only the lowest place on the surface of the Earth, it is also one of the saltiest bodies of water. Its waters are nearly saturated with magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, as well as a bit of the more familiar sodium chloride. This salty mix is what makes it the “dead” sea; nothing can live in it except a few salt-loving bacteria.

The Dead Sea is shrinking. Most maps in the back of Bibles show the shoreline as it existed in the 1950s:


Moody Bible Institute map from the back of my ESV Bible

The Dead Sea has no outlet, and its only consistent source of water is the Jordan River. The Jordan and its tributaries, however, have been diverted upstream for a variety of agricultural, industrial, and domestic uses. The result is that the Jordan is often reduced to a trickle by the time it reaches the Dead Sea. In past decades, the elevation of the surface has dropped from -395 m (-1295 ft) to -418 m (-1371), and it continues to drop at up to one meter per year. The image below, from NASA Worldwind, shows the present shoreline, with salt evaporators occupying the southern portion of the basin.

The governments of Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority have held talks on the possibility of pumping sea water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea basin in order to stabilize the Dead Sea. This could include the generation of hydroelectric power, which could be then used to desalinize some of the sea water.

BBC News Article: Obstacles to Peace: Water

Grace and Peace

May 26, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Geography, Geology | Leave a comment

Knowing God — Chapter 6 Quotes

Chapter 6 of Knowing God by J.I. Packer is called “He Shall Testify”, and is about the Holy Spirit.

It is the sovereign prerogative of Christ’s Spirit to convince men’s consciences of the truth of Christ’s gospel; and Christ’s human witnesses must learn to ground their hopes of success, not on clever presentation of the truth by man, but on powerful demonstration of the truth by the Spirit.

In our witness: do we remember that the Holy Spirit alone, by His witness,can authenticate our witness, and look to Him to do so, and trust Him to do so, and show the reality of our trust, as Paul did, by eschewing the gimmicks of human cleverness? If not, we dishonour the Holy Spirit.

Grace and Peace

May 14, 2007 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment

Boys and the Army

Albert Mohler has written an article called “The Army We Have” — Young Men, Responsibility, and Leadership for the Twenty-First Century. He writes about the difficulty of recruiting soldiers for today’s volunteer army. It seems the problem isn’t just that the Iraq war is scaring off recruits, but that it is awfully difficult to find qualified recruits in the first place. Here are some quotes, from Mohler and another writer whom he quotes:

[T]he Army doesn’t have the luxury of selectivity in filling its expanded rolls. It needs 80,000 new soldiers this year and must find them in a populace that is in many ways less willing and less able to serve than earlier generations were. Young people are fatter and weaker. They eat more junk food, watch more television, play more video games, and exercise less. They are more individualistic and less inclined to join the military. And with the unemployment rate hovering near historic lows, they have other choices.

–Brian Mockenhaupt

At the same time, [Army Colonel] Shwedo sees today’s recruits as the product of a society that can’t quite figure out how to raise its children. “Most kids coming into the Army today have never worn leather shoes in their life unless it said Nike, Adidas, or Timberland. They’ve never run two miles consecutively in their life, and for the most part they hadn’t had an adult tell them ‘no’ and mean it. That’s bizarre,” he says. “Our society says you can’t count in a soccer match, because you might hurt somebody’s feelings. Every kid is going to get a trophy, whether or not you ever went to practice or ever won a game.” But these societal shortcomings can be leveraged in the training environment, Shwedo says. “If you go up and do something as simple as slap a soldier on the back and tell them they are doing a good job, you are giving them the recognition that society hasn’t given them besides those cheap trophies.”

–Brian Mockenhaupt

Fatter. Weaker. Less willing and less able to serve. Junk food. Television. Video games. Individualistic. Never been told “no.” Meaningless rewards.

I need to ask myself: “What am I doing as a parent and teacher to counter these cultural trends?”

The article is an incredible piece of cultural insight and analysis, and it should spark thousands of worthy conversations among parents, pastors, youth ministers, and others concerned with today’s boys and young men.

The emergence of a generation of boys and young men who have never been told ‘no’ by an adult who meant it, who include a large percentage who had no father in the home, who were put on Ritalin instead of taught and disciplined, tells us a great deal about ourselves as a society.

–Mohler

How about the church? How is the Church faring in its own challenge to reach this generation of young men — the same generation described by Colonel Shwedo above? Are we reaching the boys and young men in our own churches? Are we seeing them transformed from boys into men, from followers into leaders, from undisciplined young males into faithful disciples of Jesus?

If anything, our challenge is greater than that faced by the Army. Beyond that, the stakes are even higher for the church than for the military. The church needs more than a few good men. What are we waiting for?

–Mohler

Grace and Peace

I got this link from Glenn at Be Bold, Be Gentle.

May 14, 2007 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment

Atoms in motion

Here’s a nice, simple graphic showing the motion of particles in a gas. Some are moving faster, some slower; the average velocity is a function of the temperature.

Here’s the caption from the Wikipedia article on temperature:

The temperature of a gas is a measure of the average kinetic energy of its atoms or molecules as they move and collide. Here in this animation, the size of helium atoms relative to their spacing is shown to scale under 136 atmospheres of pressure. These room-temperature atoms have a certain, average speed (slowed down here two trillion fold).

I like the graphic because it is simple, yet it clearly communicates the concepts of transfer of kinetic energy from one particle to another, and average speed.

Grace and Peace

May 14, 2007 Posted by | Chemistry | Leave a comment

Good Days/Bad Days

This item was originally posted in May 2006. It is one of the best quotes I have come across in my reading, and is certainly worth repeating

Here’s a quote from The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges:

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.

This sums up our daily dependence on Christ and his grace. Every day we need to come to him for forgiveness and strength, and we will never outgrow this.

Grace and Peace

May 12, 2007 Posted by | Blog Recycling, Christianity, Quotes | Leave a comment

Mississippi Meanderings

A skilled artist or craftsman creates things that are not only functional, but beautiful. Here is a geologic map of the lower Mississippi River published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1944, and it is a work of art.

mississippi1

The map depicts changes in the meandering course of the Mississippi River over time. At present, the channel of the river is not allowed to change much. For the sake of river transportation, agriculture, and the communities along the river, the course of the river is stabilized by dredging and manmade levees. In the past, however, the path taken by the river changed often, sometimes dramatically. Since the late 1700s, these changes have been tracked by historical and surveying records. Changes prior to that time can be deduced through studies of aerial photography coupled with soil surveys.

mississippi2

Do you see a man skillful in his work?
He will stand before kings;
he will not stand before obscure men.
–Proverbs 22:29 ESV

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver–by any sort of workman or skilled designer.
–Exodus 35:30-36:1 ESV

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
–2 Timothy 1:6 ESV

What are your gifts? Are you using them well, for the blessing of others?

More detailed map from the same series (3.6 MB)
NASA Earth Observatory

Grace and Peace

May 12, 2007 Posted by | Geography, Geology, Maps | 1 Comment

Monuments to God and Man

This image is from the 1896 edition of the Rand McNally Universal Atlas of the World, and shows the 50 tallest manmade structures of that time:


From the University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection, click here for a larger (613 kb) version.

It is interesting that in 1896, many of the world’s tallest structures were churches. The list of the top fifty structures includes eighteen churches (the two tallest structures were the Eiffel tower, at 1000 feet; and the Washington Monument at 555 feet).

The world is currently in the midst of a skyscraper-building binge. The current tallest building is the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, which is 1671 feet tall with 101 floors. There are a number of super-tall skyscrapers under construction, including the Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which will be between 2651 and 3317 feet tall, with between 162 and 216 floors!

Tall structures are always about someone’s glory; think about the Tower of Babel. I suppose even when the building craze was the erection of taller cathedrals, that to some it was more about the prestige of the cities that were putting them up than about the glory of God.

What are you building, and who are you building it for?

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV).

Grace and Peace

May 10, 2007 Posted by | Misc | Leave a comment

Anti-smoking videos on YouTube

In Biology (9th/10th grades) we just finished the unit on the circulatory and respiratory systems. Here are a couple of short anti-smoking videos from YouTube:

Smoking Through a Hole in Her Throat

Cigarettes and Arteries

Grace and Peace

May 7, 2007 Posted by | Health | Leave a comment

NOVA and Frontline programs online

PBS has made some of its NOVA and Frontline programs available online:

NOVA Online

Frontline Online

I watched “Life’s Greatest Miracle” last night, which is about human sexual reproduction (It is a remake of the older “Miracle of Life” video). It was excellent; though I wouldn’t want to show the extended bikini-babes-on-the-beach scene in class.

Grace and Peace

May 7, 2007 Posted by | General, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment