The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

No smoking

A bumper sticker on a sign on the Mt. Evans Highway, Colorado:

Grace and Peace

August 29, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Fun | Leave a comment

Hurricane Gustav

Speaking of New Orleans, here is the NOAA prediction for the most likely path for Hurricane Gustav (actually, it is Tropical Storm Gustav right now, but it should strengthen and become a hurricane again soon).

It is unlikely that Gustav will be a category 4 or 5 hurricane like Katrina, but it could still do a lot of damage wherever it hits. This map is called a 5-day cone, with the stippled area from south Texas to the Florida panhandle indicating the possible landfall area, and the black dashed line being the most probable path.

MSNBC article: New Orleans asks: Will levees hold (HT: Geology News)

Grace and Peace

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Meteorology, Natural Disasters | Leave a comment

India’s Katrina

Heavy monsoon flooding in India has claimed close to 1000 lives, and millions more have been displaced. The most dramatic event has been the abrupt change of course of the Kosi River in northern India. The Kosi River flows from the Himalaya Mountains into the Indian state of Bihar. The flood-swollen river has broken through its banks and re-occupied a channel it had abandoned over 200 years ago, resulting in a 60 km shift in its course.

NASA’s Earth Observatory site has two images. The top image shows the new course of the river on August 24th following the channel shift; the bottom image shows the river a few weeks before.

ReliefWeb has a good article on this disaster: Kosi devastates Bihar; 2 million homeless. The first two paragraphs read:

This is India’s Katrina, only the challenges could be bigger. Like the Mississippi breached the levee to drown an unsuspecting New Orleans in the US, the mighty Kosi river in north Bihar has broken its embankment to pick up a channel it had abandoned over 200 years ago, drowning towns, numerous villages and rendering over a million homeless. Many are reported to have died.

Officials here say it’s a catastrophe unlike annual floods. The brimming river has breached its embankment near the Bhimnagar barrage, close to the Nepal border, and is rushing down as a miles-wide stream to the Ganga, over almost 100km south. Unlike floods, this is not calm water but an angry torrent, making relief work very difficult.

In some ways, the situation on the Kosi Plain is similar to the Mississippi River delta in Louisiana. As sediments pile up around the mouth of the Mississippi, it naturally changes its course every few hundred years. The Mississippi is overdue for a channel change, which makes New Orleans increasingly vulnerable to flooding. Likewise, the Kosi River naturally changes its channel, but on a more frequent basis. The map below shows how the Kosi has changed its course numerous times since 1730.

As the Kosi exits the Himalayas, it creates a broad alluvial fan, well over 100 km across. Since the 1730s, the river has migrated from the east (#1 on the map) to the west (#2), and now seems to have taken an abrupt move back to the east.

As Indian officials respond to this crisis, they will need to take geological reality into account, just like planners in Louisiana need to take into account the fact that the Mississippi River would rather take a shorter path to the sea. We humans like things to stay constant. We like sea level to stay the same. We like climate to stay the same. We like rivers to behave and not change course. But the fact of the matter is that all of these things change. At times we can be the masters over nature, but at other times nature will be the master over us. We need the wisdom to know when to conform nature (such as the course of rivers) to our wishes, and when to adapt to the forces of nature that are still greater than us.

Grace and Peace

(Map from Leeder, M.R., 1982, Sedimentology: Process and Product, London: George Allen & Unwin, p. 148)

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Environment, Geology, Imagery, Maps, Natural Disasters, Why Earth science matters | Leave a comment

Cell transformation

Once again, news reports are showing that using human embryonic stem cells for research is not only immoral, but perhaps scientifically unnecessary. An article in the science journal Nature reports that ordinary pancreas cells in adult mice have been transformed into cells that produce insulin. Here are the first few paragraphs from an article on Yahoo news:

Talk about an extreme makeover: Scientists have transformed one type of cell into another in living mice, a big step toward the goal of growing replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases.

The cell identity switch turned ordinary pancreas cells into the rarer type that churns out insulin, essential for preventing diabetes. But its implications go beyond diabetes to a host of possibilities, scientists said.

It’s the second advance in about a year that suggests that someday doctors might be able to use a patient’s own cells to treat disease or injury without turning to stem cells taken from embryos.

The advantages of using a patient’s own cells, rather than cells from an embryo, are numerous. Not only do we avoid the ethical problems of destroying a human embryo, the genetic match is perfect. We can be thankful for this type of research.

Grace and Peace

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Biology, Ethics, Health | Leave a comment

The Bible Rocks

Back in the 1980s, a key book providing both Biblical and geological evidence for an old age for the Earth was Christianity and the Age of the Earth by Davis Young, professor of Geology at Calvin College. It is still a useful book, but it is about to be superseded by The Bible, Rocks, and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth, authored by Davis Young, who is now an emeritus professor, and Ralph Stearley, who is also a professor of Geology at Calvin.

The original book, Christianity and the Age of the Earth, played an important role in my education as a Christian geologist. I switched my major to geology my junior year of college because I was fascinated with the Earth and its history. At the same time, I attended a church where young-Earth creationism was the norm; anything else was considered to be a cave-in to godless evolutionism. Through Young’s book (and also through Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict? by Pattle Pun) I came to see that one could make a strong argument from the Scriptures for allowing an old age for the Earth. This saved me, perhaps, from a crisis of faith that others have gone through when they see that the arguments of young-Earth creationism don’t work.

This new book has four sections:

  1. Historical Perspectives — A look at the historical development of the concept of a very old age for the Earth, including the emergence of modern geology, and 19th century harmonizations between nature and Scripture.
  2. Biblical Perspectives — I assume the authors will look at Biblical and theological arguments for an old Earth, and answer objections given by young-Earth creationists. Most Christians are surprised to learn that there are a number of arguments for an old age for the Earth that flow out of the pages of Scriptures, including from Genesis 1 and 2.
  3. Geological Perspectives — The chapter titles indicate that the authors look at stratigraphy (the study of the layers of sedimentary rocks), fossils, ancient environments, and radiometric dating. I’m especially looking forward to the chapters which present case studies, which I believe will take a look at the geology of specific regions (the Michigan Basin and the Sierra Nevada) and give reasons why the geology of these areas cannot be explained by the flood geology of young-Earth creationism.
  4. Philosophical Perspectives — Catastrophism vs. uniformitarianism; empiricism, creationism, apologetics, and evangelism. If young-Earth creationism is wrong, then it is a bad idea to use it in evangelism or apologetics. I look forward to seeing how the authors go beyond this, presenting a positive apologetic that can be used to strengthen faith and proclaim the case for Christianity to a scientific and educated audience.

The Bible, Rocks, and Time will be available from Amazon for $19.80 the beginning of October. It is also listed at Barnes and Noble and I’ve pre-ordered my copy, and look forward to every page.

[Update 9/10/08: The book is available now from Amazon]

Grace and Peace

August 25, 2008 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Geology | 3 Comments

Albert Mohler on “Nature-Deficit Disorder”

Albert Mohler writes about “Nature-Deficit Disorder” on his blog: Aliens in Creation — A Generation of Nature Know-Nothings. Here are a few quotes:

BBC Wildlife Magazine reports this month that only half of a sample of nine to eleven year old children in Britain could identify a daddy long-legs. A mere 62% rightly identified a frog. Less than half could recognize a tree as an oak.

The findings prompted Sir David Attenborough, the famous British naturalist, to lament the alienation of children from nature. “The wild world is becoming so remote to children that they miss out,” he explained. It turns out that many children gain whatever minimal knowledge of nature they acquire through watching television — not by first-hand observation.

Attenborough went on to argue that this alienation of children from nature could lead to ecological disaster, since these children would grow to adulthood without developing a sense to wonder and appreciation for the natural world.

The BBC Wildlife Magazine study also revealed that playing outside was the least valued pastime for the nine to eleven year olds. Twice as many children preferred time with the computer.

Author Richard Louv has described this phenomenon as “nature-deficit disorder.” In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Louv told of a young boy in San Diego who explained that he preferred to play inside, rather than outdoors, because the electrical outlets are found indoors. Life temporarily apart from electrical devices was, to this boy, an unattractive (or unknown) thought.

God reveals His glory in creation. How can we read the Psalms with insight if we never look and see that the heavens really are telling the glory of God? Something precious is lost when children — or adults — are alienated from the created world. This choice for alienation is a choice to cut ourselves off from what God has given us to enjoy and to appreciate.

Lots of good stuff here. I praise God for Christian leaders like Mohler who point us back to the value of nature as God has made it.

Grace and Peace

August 17, 2008 Posted by | Environment | Leave a comment

49 F in August. Ahhhhh.

After a long streak of days in the 90s here in Denver, it is 49 degrees Fahrenheit (9 C) at noon, and raining. Ahhhhhh.

August 16, 2008 Posted by | Misc | 1 Comment

Is that Georgia or Georgia?

Oops. Someone in the news business doesn’t know the difference between Georgia and Georgia. This is from a news report about the Russian invasion of the Republic of Georgia. Take a look at the accompanying map:

The story is reported here.

HT: The Map Room

Grace and Peace

August 15, 2008 Posted by | Geography, Maps | Leave a comment

X-ray of a cat’s eye

Yesterday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day: a combined visible light/x-ray image of the Cat’s Eye Nebula.

This is a planetary nebula (which has nothing to do with planets). A sun-like star (in the center) is in its dying phase, and is expelling large amounts of extremely hot gas. The purple areas in the center are where the gases are so hot–with temperatures in the millions of degrees–that they emit electromagnetic radiation in the x-ray portion of the spectrum.

Grace and Peace

August 5, 2008 Posted by | Astronomy | Leave a comment

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn dead at 89

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died yesterday, at the age of 89. I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich back in high school and volume one of The Gulag Archipelago in college. These books portray the savage brutality that is all too common in human experience, and yet offer glimpses of hope as well. Here is a quote from the second volume of The Gulag Archipelago from John Piper’s blog this morning:

It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts…. That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” I…have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!

Suffering is an ordinary part of life, and as a Christian I might suffer more in this life than I would have if I were not a Christian. May I accept suffering and trials with God’s peace and joy.

Grace and Peace

August 4, 2008 Posted by | Quotes | Leave a comment

Quotes on atheism 2

I posted “Quotes on atheism” a few days ago, and it has generated a good discussion in the comments section. If you are all interested in atheism in light of the Christian arguments for the existence of God, take a look at the string on comments, and feel free to jump in.

Here are some more quotes on atheism from the March/April 2008 issue of Modern Reformation magazine. All of these are from C.S. Lewis:

Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.

Now that I am a Christian I do not have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.

And his classic statement on Christ:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for  a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any  patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.

Grace and Peace

August 4, 2008 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | 5 Comments

Water vapor distribution

From NASA’s Earth Observatory, a global (or at least oceanic) water vapor distribution map:

Dark blue areas have high levels of water vapor in the atmosphere. As expected, these areas are primarily over warm tropical oceans. This satellite-derived data is used to correct sea level information determined by radar from space.

I include it here because it is a cool map.

Grace and Peace

August 1, 2008 Posted by | Maps, Meteorology | Leave a comment