The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Despair.com

Welcome to The GeoChristian. Out of over 600 posts on my blog, this one on demotivational posters is the one people find most often via search engines. The purpose of The GeoChristian is twofold: 1. To enhance science literacy within the Evangelical Christian community. 2. To present a Biblical Christianity that is hostile to neither science nor the environment. I invite you to browse around and read some other posts.

I was never really motivated by motivational posters, but I get a good laugh out of demotivational posters from despair.com. Here are a few samples:

despair1.jpg

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Grace, Hope, and Peace

November 30, 2007 Posted by | Fun | 1 Comment

Stem cells from adult skin cells

This is very important news.

After years of having abortion advocates and liberal politicians pushing embryonic stem cells on us—despite the greater promise all along of other stem cell techniques— researchers have found a way to coax human adult skin cells to become stem cells. This takes care of both the ethical problems of using human embryos and the difficulty of getting a human body to accept cells grown from another individual. It will soon be possible to grow stem cells from your own skin; no risk of rejection there.

I have no doubt that the pro-abortion industry and lobby will continue to press for embryonic stem cell research for some odd reason.

Read more:

Stem Cell Holy Grail — World Magazine

Stem Cell Vindication — Charles Krauthammer (quoted at Cyberbrethren)

Praise God, and keep on praying.

Grace and Peace

November 30, 2007 Posted by | Ethics | Leave a comment

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 5

Chapter 5 of For the Beauty of the Earth, by Steven Bouma-Prediger is called “How should we think of the earth? A theology and ethic of care for the earth.”

The most promising ecological ethic is one that asks not primarily, What do we need to do? but Who do we need to be?

Neither cosmocentrism, with its “ethic of adoration,” nor anthropocentrism, with its “ethic of exploitation,” is adequate since both tacitly assume a dualism between nature and history, differing only in which has priority. Only a theocentric perspective, which refuses to accept such a dualism, is able to cultivate a proper “ethic of responsibility.” For these and other reasons Richard Young concludes that “the Christian Scriptures, when interpreted through a theocentric perspective, offer the most satisfying and realistic solution of the environmental problem.”

It is as false to claim that concern for the earth is not a legitimate feature of authentic Christian discipleship as it is to claim that care for the earth is the sum total of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. As the “Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation” puts it, “We resist both ideologies which would presume the Gospel has nothing to do with the care of non-human creation and also ideologies which would reduce the Gospel to nothing more than the care of that creation.”

The challenge ahead is to persuade Christians that care for the earth is an integral feature of authentic Christian discipleship.

Jesus Christ is Creator, Integrator, and Reconciler; yet many who call on his name abuse, neglect, and do not give a care about creation. That irony is there for all to see. Honoring the Creator in word, they destroy God’s works in deed. Praising God from whom all blessings flow, they diminish and destroy God’s creatures here below. The pieces of this puzzle do not fit! One piece says, “We honor the Great Master!” The other piece says, “We despise his great masterpiece!” — Calvin DeWitt

Grace and Peace

November 30, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | 1 Comment

BCA Seniors’ Personal Mission Statements

The seniors at Bucharest Christian Academy recently wrote personal mission statements, some of which are posted on BCA’s Virtual Refrigerator site. Here is my oldest son’s statement:

missionstatement.jpg

Click here to see more statements.

Grace and Peace

November 30, 2007 Posted by | Misc | Leave a comment

An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

In Physics, we just finished a unit on Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Relativity is counterintuitive at first, but most high school seniors can grasp the basic concepts once some groundwork is laid. After going through time dilation, length contraction, the twin paradox, and E=mc2, we took three days to watch “The Elegant Universe,” a PBS/NOVA episode on string theory (available online here).

String theory is an attempt to explain how gravity relates to the other fundamental forces: electromagnetism, the strong force, and the weak force. In its current form, it requires that there be eleven dimensions (the three of space we are familiar with, time, and seven hidden dimensions), plus alternative universes that parallel our own. It is highly speculative and difficult (or impossible in some respects) to test by experiment.

We watched the movie (which is very well done and entertaining) and then discussed it. My students didn’t have a problem with there being extra dimensions (nor do I), but expressed skepticism about the possibility of parallel universes (as do I). Perhaps the reason some physicists are so willing to accept this whole theory is that it attempts to explain the big bang (origin of the universe) without a creator. But, of course, even if string theory could explain what caused the big bang to occur, it still hasn’t answered the big questions:

  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • Where did the laws come from that govern the universe?

Because of the whole multiple parallel universe thing, many Christians have problems with string theory. An alternative to string theory has recently appeared, proposed by a surfer/snowboarder physics PhD named Garrett Lisi. His model is based on an elaborate geometric model called E8. Its math is way beyond most of us, but is simpler than the math that goes into string theory. It has received positive reception within the physics community, but has not yet been thoroughly evaluated.

New Scientist has an article on Lisi’s proposal here: Is mathematical pattern the theory of everything?

Lisi’s paper is posted online: An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything (609 kb pdf). I look at the math in this paper and am amazed that anyone can follow it, but I guess that’s why God made physicists. And this is simple compared to string theory!

In the 1500s and 1600s, the reason that heliocentrism was accepted by scientists over geocentrism was because the mathematics of planetary motion was much simpler if one placed the sun at the center of the solar system rather than the Earth. If E8 (or whatever it ends up being called) passes initial scrutiny, it could replace string theory as the “theory of everything” that physicists seek.

Thanks to: Glenn at Be Bold, Be Gentle.

The E8 system, with each point corresponding to a particle, some of which have not yet been observed:

e8.jpg

Grace and Peace

November 30, 2007 Posted by | Physics | Leave a comment

Mass Movement Videos

I’m doing a section on mass movement in Earth Science, and showed a couple videos to introduce the topic:

Landslide — someone knew this one was coming, and were ready with cameras.

Colorado debris flow — a mixture of rock, soil, and water after heavy rains.

Grace and Peace

November 30, 2007 Posted by | Geology | Leave a comment

Venus — Lightning, Solar Wind

The European Space Agency has animations of lightning on Venus and the interaction of Venus’ atmosphere with the solar wind.

venus-lightning.jpgvenus-solar-wind.jpg

Grace and Peace

November 29, 2007 Posted by | Astronomy | Leave a comment

Google Maps — Terrain

Google maps (maps.google.com) has added a “terrain” option. Until now, one could view maps, aerial images, or both together. Now there is a terrain option, which allows viewing of a shaded relief map. It looks pretty good; my only complaint is the green-yellow-brown-white color scheme they included with it. When viewing maps at a state-wide scale, these colors correspond to vegetation and land-use types. When one zooms in, however, they become large color splotches that don’t correspond to anything on the ground. Nonetheless, it is cool.

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I would like to see something like the color-scale relief that NASA World Wind has for the Moon, Mars, and Venus.

Thanks to: The Map Room

Grace and Peace

November 29, 2007 Posted by | Maps | Leave a comment

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care by Stephen Bouma-Prediger is called Is there a connection between scripture and ecology? — Biblical wisdom and ecological vision.

Some lessons from Genesis 1-2:

God is the creator of all things.

Humans are given the delegated, royal responsibility of ruling the earth.

The chaotic, to be sure, exists, but the universe is a place of order and structure, purposefully and lovingly designed by God.

Creation is good. The universe originates not out of struggle or battle or conflict, as portrayed in so many ancient creation stories, but through a seemingly effortless and struggle-free divine speaking and making.

The earth is a home for all earthly creatures. The earth is created as a habitat not only for humans but for all living things.

The sabbath reminds us, among other things, that the world is in God’s loving hands and, therefore, will not fall to pieces if we cease from our work.

Grace and Peace

November 13, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | 1 Comment

Lynn White on Francis of Assisi

In my previous post, I referred to Lynn White’s 1967 essay “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” Here is an extended quote from the end of the article regarding Francis of Assisi:

Possibly we should ponder the greatest radical in Christian history since Christ: Saint Francis of Assisi. The prime miracle of Saint Francis is the fact that he did not end at the stake, as many of his left-wing followers did. He was so clearly heretical that a general of the Franciscan Order, Saint Bonaventura, a great and perceptive Christian, tried to suppress the early accounts of Franciscanism. The key to an understanding of Francis is his belief in the virtue of humility — not merely for the individual but for man as a species. Francis tried to depose man from his monarchy over creation and set up a democracy of all God’s creatures. With him the ant is no longer simply a homily for the lazy, flames a sign of the thrust of the soul toward union with God; now they are Brother Ant and Sister Fire, praising the Creator in their own ways as Brother Man does in his.

Later commentators have said that Francis preached to the birds as a rebuke to men who would not listen. The records do not read so: he urged the little birds to praise God, and in spiritual ecstasy they flapped their wings and chirped rejoicing. Legends of saints, especially the Irish saints, had long told of their dealings with animals but always, I believe, to show their human dominance over creatures. With Francis it is different. The land around Gubbio in the Apennines was being ravaged by a fierce wolf. Saint Francis, says the legend, talked to the wolf and persuaded him of the error of his ways. The wolf repented, died in the odor of sanctity, and was buried in consecrated ground.

What Sir Steven Ruciman calls “the Franciscan doctrine of the animal soul” was quickly stamped out. Quite possibly it was in part inspired, consciously or unconsciously, by the belief in reincarnation held by the Cathar heretics who at that time teemed in Italy and southern France, and who presumably had got it originally from India. It is significant that at just the same moment, about 1200, traces of metempsychosis are found also in western Judaism, in the Provencal Cabbala. But Francis held neither to transmigration of souls nor to pantheism. His view of nature and of man rested on a unique sort of pan-psychism of all thing animate and inanimate, designed for the glorification of their transcendent Creator, who, in the ultimate gesture of cosmic humility, assumed flesh, lay helpless in a manger, and hung dying on a scaffold.

I am not suggesting that many contemporary Americans who are concerned about our ecologic crisis will be either able or willing to counsel with wolves or exhort birds. However, the present increasing disruption of the global environment is the product of a dynamic technology and science which were originating in the Western medieval world against which Saint Francis was rebelling in so original a way. Their growth cannot be understood historically apart from distinctive attitude toward nature which are deeply grounded in Christian dogma. The fact that most people do not think of these attitudes as Christian is irrelevant. No new set of basic values has been accepted in our society to displace those of Christianity. Hence we shall continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.

The greatest spiritual revolutionary in Western history, Saint Francis, proposed what he thought was an alternative Christian view of nature and man’s relation to it: he tried to substitute the idea of the equality of all creatures, including man, for the idea of man’s limitless rule of creation. He failed. Both our present science and our present technology are so tinctured with orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature that no solution for our ecologic crisis can be expected from them alone. Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not. We must rethink and refeel our nature and destiny. The profoundly religious, but heretical, sense of the primitive Franciscans for the spiritual autonomy of all parts of nature may point a direction. I propose Francis as a patron saint for ecologists.

I certainly don’t agree with everything either Francis or White says—I don’t agree that there is a “Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man”—but it is all worth thinking about.

Grace and Peace

November 12, 2007 Posted by | Environment | 3 Comments

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 3 — Complaint #4 and “Some Better Explanations”

“The ecological crisis is the fault of Christianity.”

I’m continuing to read For the Beauty of the Earth, by Stephen Bouma-Prediger.

The fourth complaint against Christianity given by environmentalists is that because the Christian worldview is largely responsible for the rise of science and technology, Christianity is to blame for the ecological crisis that is upon us. This idea was promoted by a widely reprinted essay by historian Lynn White entitled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.” Here is White’s summary:

We would seem to be heading toward conclusions unpalatable to many Christians. Since both science and technology are blessed words in our contemporary vocabulary, some may be happy at the notions, first, that, viewed historically, modern science is an extrapolation of (Christian) natural theology and, second, that modern technology is at least partly to be explained as an Occidental, voluntarist realization of the Christian dogma of man’s transcendence of , and rightful mastery over, nature. But, as we now recognize, somewhat over a century ago science and technology—hitherto quite separate activities—joined to give mankind powers which, to judge by many of the ecologic effects, are out of control. If so, Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.

White’s thesis is accepted without question by most environmentalists, but Bouma-Prediger points out the weaknesses of the argument:

  • While Christianity had a role in the rise of science and technology, it was not the sole factor
  • “Ecological crises are not peculiar to Christian-influenced cultures. Non-Christian cultures have also caused severe or irreparable harm to their ecosystems.” — quoted from James Nash.
  • In general, environmentalists accept White’s critique of Christianity but ignore the section where White points out that there has always been a stream of thought in Christianity that affirms the value of the Earth. White proposes St. Francis of Assisi as the patron saint for ecologists.

So, perhaps Christianity isn’t singlehandedly to blame for the ecological crisis. We may need, however, to admit that we have been partially to blame, either by our sins of commission, or our sins of omission. Bouma-Prediger goes on to suggest some causes of our environmental predicament.

  • The church is partly to blame.
    • “The church is captive to modern Western culture.” This includes being conformed to the world in the areas of consumption and wealth.
    • “The church has accepted the anthropocentrism of modernity.”
    • “We in Western culture have made technology into a god.”
    • “The church has forgotten creation.
  • Materialism:
    • “Success, therefore, is defined in terms of material possessions and economic productivity.”
    • The natural world has no intrinsic value or value irrespective of its usefulness to humans; rather, “a thing has value only when and if it serves some direct human use or can be exchanged for something else that has value.” (Adam Smith)
    • “The natural world is scenery, not habitat. Individual freedom is paramount. Self-interest is natural. Wealth is the greatest good. Nature has no value in itself.

In summary, the ecological crisis is not due to Christianity. There are many factors that have contributed to our current world of pollution, biodiversity loss, and resource degradation. Christianity has, at times, been part of the problem, but there have been other factors as well. When Christianity has been part of the problem rather than part of the solution, it is because Christians have been conformed to the world rather transformed by the Scriptures.

The rest of the book is focused on developing a Biblical perspective on the environment.

Grace and Peace

November 12, 2007 Posted by | Environment | 1 Comment

Woolly Pocket Change?

woolly_mammoth_coin.jpgA few weeks ago I noted that the Royal Canadian Mint is issuing a series of $4 coins for collectors featuring dinosaurs (click here). They have also minted a one ounce platinum coin with a face value of $300 with a picture of a woolly mammoth. You better order it soon, however, as they only produced 400 pieces. They are available from the mint for a mere $2999.95.

Grace and Peace

November 9, 2007 Posted by | Fun, Geology | 2 Comments

Cool Ski Areas

It is time to start thinking about snow. Famous paintings of ski areas, produced for use as the base for trail maps, can be found at James Niehues — Resort & Panoramic Illustrator. This image is of Vail, Colorado
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Grace and Peace

November 9, 2007 Posted by | Fun | Leave a comment

Sand Sculptures

Cool sand sculptures.

sandsculpture.jpg

Grace and Peace

November 9, 2007 Posted by | Fun | 1 Comment

Giant’s Causeway

A cool geology picture:

geol_giants_causeway1.jpg

Giant’s causeway is a feature along the coast of Northern Ireland with hexagonal columns of basalt. Columnar basalt is common, and forms when a lava flow contracts as it cools, forming polygonal columns. These are usually six-sided, but the columns can have anywhere from four to eight sides.

Wikipedia article on Giant’s Causeway.

Grace and Peace

November 9, 2007 Posted by | Geology, Science Images | Leave a comment

Wiping away environmental guilt

From grist.org: The Wipe Stuff: Which recycled TP brand is best? We wipe away all doubt.

Deciding what kind of toilet paper to buy is a delicate issue. Perhaps most significantly because you want to protect those delicates—but what about this delicate planet of ours?

According to the NRDC, if every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll (500 sheets) of virgin-fiber toilet paper with 100 percent recycled TP, we’d save almost half a million trees. So the question becomes: Is it possible to protect both the earth and your bum?

Read the whole article for reviews of individual products, and find out “the bottom line” on which ones are easy on both the Earth and your tush.

Grace and Peace

November 6, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Fun | Leave a comment

For the Beauty of the Earth — Chapter 3 — Complaint #3

for_the_beauty.jpgI’m continuing my summary and review of For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care by Steven Bouma-Prediger.

The third reason that many environmentalists blame Christianity for the ecological crisis is eschatological: If this world is going to burn, why take care of it? If Jesus is coming back soon, why be concerned about what the world will be like 100, 1000, or 10000 years from now?

Environmentalists commonly point to a supposed statement by James Watt when he was Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan:

God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.

It is debated whether or not Watt said this, but to many in the environmental movement, this quote sums up their perception of Christianity.

Bouma-Prediger’s acknowledges that the complaint is at least partially valid because there are a number of Christians whose behavior and statements reflect this kind of attitude. His main counter-argument is based on 2 Peter 3:10, in which most translations say the Earth will be “burned up” when Christ returns. He argues that a better translation would be that the Earth will be “found,” “disclosed,” or “discovered.” The English Standard Version reads:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” [emphasis added]

According to Bouma-Prediger—and I think this is consistent with Premillennialism as well as the other eschatological viewpoints—the Earth will not be destroyed at Christ’s return, but be redeemed and transformed into what it should be. Therefore the return of Christ affirms the goodness of creation rather than denying it.

I’ll add a thought of my own. I believe in the literal return of Christ, and that it could happen at any time. This does not negate my responsibility to take care of the Earth any more than it negates my responsibility in any other area. I take care of my body, even though I believe that some day I am going to get a new one; a body without aches and pains, sore hips and graying hairs. It would be foolish for me to abuse my body, even though my resurrection body will be even better. The same goes for the Earth. It is foolish for us to consume resources at unsustainable rates, pollute the air and water, and force thousands of species into extinction when we could live otherwise.

Grace and Peace

November 6, 2007 Posted by | Environment, Quotes | Leave a comment

Geologic Map of Montana

The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology has produced a new geologic map of the state. I own a very worn-out copy of the previous edition, which was published in 1955. The geology of the state hasn’t changed since then, but our understanding of the state’s geology has grown considerably in a half century. The previous edition showed 76 different geological units; the new one shows 324.

montanageologic.jpg

With dimensions of four feet by seven feet, I’m not going to have a copy shipped to Romania, but next time I’m in Montana, I’ll want to buy this work of geologic art.

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology

Billings Gazette article

Grace and Peace

Thanks to: The Map Room

November 5, 2007 Posted by | Geology, Maps, Montana | 1 Comment

Where in the Bible World? #1

I’m re-focusing my “Where in the World?” Google Earth search on Biblical locations for a while.

Where in the Bible world is this? How did this peninsula form?

biblegoogle01.jpg

Grace and Peace

November 5, 2007 Posted by | Where in the world? | 2 Comments

Unicorns, the Bible, and education

This item was originally posted in November, 2006. It is now part of my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries. This entry about “unicorns in the Bible” points out the silliness of some arguments against the reliability of the Biblical text.

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Fresco in Rome, probably by Domenichino, 1602, from Wikipedia

What do you make of a statement like this comment by a person who goes by the display name “kwatson?” It is from a discussion on World Magazine Blog regarding extraterrestrial life:

[I]n the case of aliens and extraterrestrial life, far less crazy than talking about a mythical being who looks like us, who created the universe in seven days, and sacrificed his only son (virgin born) to allow us the opportunity to live in paradise forever.

At least one can have an intelligent conversation about how many planets in our galaxy may harbor life, or about how many millions of years it would take a spacfaring [sic] species to fill the galaxy. In contrast, a conversation about, say, heaven and hell, is based on revelation from a two thousand year old book that features, among other things, dragons, unicorns, and a talking donkey.

I find it humorous that the question is, “might it be time for the church to figure out what to do with this stuff?” What you need to do is get a science education so you know how to use evidence to evaluate such claims. Otherwise you risk looking foolish. (emphasis added)

This guy (I’m asuming its a “he”) believes (1) that supernatural religion is irrational, (2) that the Bible contains rediculous things, and (3) that we Christians are a bunch of ignorant, fools in need of a science education.

Here was my response:

kwatson (#14) states What you need to do is get a science education so you know how to use evidence to evaluate such claims.

Some of us do have science educations, and yet have a strong belief in the truthfulness of the Bible and faith in Jesus Christ. I have an M.S. in geology, and have been strengthened in my faith by understanding the creation. Christians at times say foolish things about science, and non-Christians sometimes say foolish things about the Bible (e.g. kwatson’s comment about unicorns). I would rather ignore the foolishness and get down to the heart of the matter. The problems between science and Christianity then become much smaller.

Grace and Peace

Kwatson replied with:

Kevin N,

I’m sorry, but your [sic] mistaken about unicorns in the bible, see Isaiah 34. So, perhaps you should do a little double-checking before you call someone foolish, or else you risk looking foolish yourself.

At this point, I had him cornered, but he didn’t know it yet:

kwatson (#29):

I’ll stick with what I said. The KJV translates the animals in Isaiah 34:7 as “unicorns,” but modern translations have “wild oxen.” This is clear in the Hebrew Old Testament. The KJV translators apparently took the Greek Septuagint word, which is “monokeros,” and translated it as “unicorn” even though it could have also been translated as “rhinoceros.” But the Hebrew word clearly refers to a two-horned animal, and “wild oxen” is a much better translation.

Even atheist Isaac Azimov agrees with this explanation in his book Azimov’s Guide to the Bible. See the explanation at Apologetics Press if you are really interested in an explanation.

When something seems wrong in the Bible, I’ve found that digging deeper clears up the problem.

Grace and Peace

Why do I do get involved in discussions like this? Why do I blog at all? Here are a few thoughts:

  • On a site like World Magazine Blog, there is a mix of Christians and non-Christians. The non-Christians need answers to silly statements like this.

But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)

  • Christians need answers as well. I’m sure that there are plenty of Christians who hear a mocker talking about unicorns in the Bible who have no idea how to answer.
  • Additionally, this points out the value of education. I was able to answer this accusation against the reliability of the Bible because I have a broad background. After discussing this exchange about unicorns with my 12th-grade physics students this week, I told them that the function of education is not to get them to remember for forever all this stuff they are learning. What I want to establish in their lives is a pattern of learning, and a way of thinking about the world. When I read kwatson’s entry, I remembered that I had heard something, somewhere about unicorns in the Bible, and that it had something to do with a poor translation in the KJV. But I had to do research; I couldn’t give the complete answer on the spot. But that was OK. I knew the answer was out there, and that it would not be difficult to find. Much of the value of education is in giving us a framework in which to live. That is my hope and prayer for my children and the students God has placed under me.

Grace and Peace

November 3, 2007 Posted by | Apologetics, Blog Recycling, Christianity | 4 Comments