The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Humor for the week

I was in need of some humor this week. Here are a few things that have made me laugh:

1. Church Reduces Carbon Footprint; Worships in the Dark (from The Sacred Sandwich). Here are a few quotes:

In an effort to stem the tide of global warming, Raintree Christian Fellowship began worshipping in the dark this month by turning off the earth-destroying electricity to their building. Though temporarily blinded by the decision, the congregation has seen a sharp increase in spirituality and stubbed toes.

“Turning off the lights has really forced us to find God and each other by using our other four senses,” said Pastor Mike Gruber. “Thankfully, since most of us also reject the use of cancer-causing deodorants, it wasn’t really hard to find each other in the dark. At first I wondered who brought the dead possum in here, but then I realized it was just Bob.”

In recognition of their sacrifice to save the planet, former Vice President and noted global warming expert Al Gore made a surprise visit to Raintree last Sunday to support them in their efforts. “He did?” remarked a dumbfounded Pastor Mike. “Well, crud, I didn’t even see him. Come to think of it, I can’t see anyone in here.”

2. Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife (I got this from my friend Glenn at Be Bold, Be Gentle)

3. Onion News: Kim Jong Il Announces Plan To Bring Moon To North Korea

4. Onion News: Are Violent Video Games Preparing Kids For The Apocalypse?

Grace and Peace

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Fun | 1 Comment

Required reading for science majors

The geoblogosphere (as well as the broader world of science blogs) has a meme going around:

Imagine: YOU are asked to assign a half-dozen-or-so books as required reading for ALL science majors at a college as part of their 4-year degree; NOT technical or text books, but other works, old or new, touching upon the nature of science, philosophy, thought, or methodology in a way that a practicing scientist might gain from. [This is the wording from Highly Allochthonous, but there are many other blogs which are doing the same]

Here’s my list of a book collection that would be beneficial for an undergraduate in any science major. I have included a couple books by Christian authors, as these would help both Christian and non-Christian students to have a fuller understanding of the relationship between science and faith than they would get from reading Dawkins or Sagan.

  • Geology: The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Young and Stearley. This is not only a polemic against young-Earth creationism, but an excellent introduction to the science of geology, with sections on the historical development, philosophy, and major subdivisions of the science.
  • Environment: Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. Christianity is not the enemy of the environment, but Christians sometimes are. Schaeffer saw clearly that we are in a massive ecological crisis, and pointed to a Christian world view as the solution rather than the source of the problem.
  • Biology: The Creation by E.O. Wilson. The author is a skeptic, but recognizes the need to have religious people involved in the fight to preserve biodiversity, which is the theme of the book. This book opened my eyes to the wonder of Genesis 1:20-25, where the waters, skies, and land swarmed with swarms of living creatures, and it was good. We now live in an impoverished world.
  • Physics: Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman. This physics professor was able to explain foundational physics topics like no other.
  • Chemistry: Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs by Joe Schwarcz (or another book by him; this is the one I’ve read). This book is proof that even chemists can have fun and a sense of humor.
  • Philosophy of Science: What is This Thing Called Science? by Alan Chalmers. Every science undergraduate should read a philosophy of science book, and this one is a good overview of the various philosophies of science, such as those of Popper, Kuhn, and others. My one critique: like most other philosophers of science, Chalmers focuses on the experimental sciences. Geology doesn’t operate by all of the same rules as do chemistry and physics.
  • Plus anything by Stephen Jay Gould, just to read some really good science writing.

Grace and Peace

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Reading | 1 Comment

Reading — February 2009

Here are a couple books I finished in February:

  • The Bible, Rocks, and Time, by Young and Stearley. This is the best book I’ve read on the relationship between geology and Christian faith. It is much more than a Biblical and scientific polemic against young-Earth creationism, though that is certainly a big part of the book.
  • Living the Cross Centered Life, by C. J. Mahaney. I had a post with a few quotes from this book a couple weeks ago.

Here are some additional books I’ve been working on this month:

  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll. The first sentence of this indictment of Evangelical thinking reads, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Ouch.
  • The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. What would happen to Earth if we humans suddenly all disappeared?
  • A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson.

Grace and Peace

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Reading | 1 Comment

Wasteful spending on volcano monitoring?

I did not watch President Obama’s State of the Union Address, but the geoblogosphere is abuzz about something Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal had in his Republican Party response:

But Democratic leaders in Congress — they rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history, with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. [This includes] $140 million for something called “volcano monitoring.” Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.

That was a rather clueless statement. Has he never heard of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, or other major Cascade Range volcanoes, each of which is capable of killing hundreds or thousands of people, and causing hundreds of millions or multiple billions of dollars of damage? Or the threat of volcanoes in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to aviation? Or the even greater, though more remote, threat of giant calderas such as Long Valley in California, or Yellowstone? We can debate about the budget for “volcano monitoring” but to put it in the category of “wasteful spending” as Jindal did is just plain ignorance.

Perhaps we should axe the National Weather Service’s budget for tracking tropical storms. After all, who would ever need to know that a hurricane was about to hit, ummm… Louisiana.

HT: This is in many places in the geoblogosphere. The Volcanism Blog has a list of geobloggers who have commented on this.

Grace and Peace

P.S. Here are two useful articles:

Scientific American: Bobby Jindal and volcano monitoring: What was he talking about?

Fox News: Geologist Erupts at Jindal’s Volcano Question

Volcano monitoring likely saved many lives — and significant money — in the case of the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines (where the United States had military bases at the time), according to the USGS. The cataclysmic eruption lasted more than 10 hours and sent a cloud of ash as high as 22 miles into the air that grew to more than 300 miles across. The USGS spent less than $1.5 million monitoring the volcano and was able to warn of the impending eruption, which allowed authorities to evacuate residents, as well as aircraft and other equipment from U.S. bases there. The USGS estimates that the efforts saved thousands of lives and prevented property losses of at least $250 million (considered a conservative figure). [emphasis added]

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Geology | , | 11 Comments

More Google Earth — Car on side of building

Car on the side of a building, The Hague, Netherlands:

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Fun, Geography | | Leave a comment

More Google Earth — iPod Indian

Indian with ear buds, east of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada:

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Fun, Geography | | Leave a comment

More Google Earth — hippos

Hippos in the mud, west of Sitalike, Tanzania:

Grace and Peace

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Fun, Geography | | Leave a comment

Found on Google Earth: Atlantis (no) and pink bunny (yes)

The release of Google Earth 5.0 included better bathymetry of much of the ocean floor. (Bathymetry is the study of ocean and lake depth)

Some have claimed that this pattern on the Atlantic sea floor west of the Canary Islands is the ruins of the mythical island of Atlantis. The area is over 100 miles across, and the lines would represent roads or something.

Credit: Google Maps

Credit: Google Maps

My response: baloney. The lines are artifacts of the processing of digital sonar data collected by a ship that surveyed the area by making a grid-like pattern. The Google bathymetry data has various processing artifacts just about anywhere you look; this is just a little more obvious.

Not that interesting things aren’t found from time to time on Google Earth. Here’s one of my favorites: the Giant Pink Bunny of Artesina, Italy:

Credit: Google Maps

Credit: Google Maps

New York Times article: Fabled City of Atlantis Spotted on Google Earth

Google Maps: Atlantis grid

Google Maps: Pink Bunny of Artesina

Grace and Peace

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Fun, Geography, Maps | , | 1 Comment

Bad arguments for Christianity

C. Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen has 14 Examples of Really Bad Apologetics.

There are many good arguments (apologetics) for the truthfulness of Christianity:

  • Historical evidence for the resurrection
  • Historical evidence for the reliability of Scriptures
  • Philosophical arguments for the existence of God, such as the cosmological argument

Some of the bad arguments for Christianity listed by Patton are:

  • “I believe Christianity is true because I read this book where someone died, went to heaven, and came back.”
  • “I believe Christianity is true because there are secret codes found in the Scriptures.”
  • “I believe Christianity is true because I heard that this guy’s pancake was miraculously in the shape of Jesus.”
  • “I believe Christianity is true because God spoke to me and told me ______”

I would add a few to the list of bad arguments, such as:

  • Much of what comes out of the end-times industry. I stopped reading this stuff after reading 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I haven’t even cracked the cover of the Left Behind books. Every few years, the arguments have to be changed because the predictions just don’t come true. (I write this as a premillenialist).
  • Most of what comes out of the young-Earth creationism movement. I view much of this as unnecessary Biblically, not essential for a proper understanding of sin and salvation, and an unfortunate barrier to faith for many, especially scientists. (There are also some bad arguments that I’ve seen come out of the old-Earth/ID movement, but not nearly as many).
  • Much of what comes out of the “Biblical archeology” movement.

People can come to genuine and lasting faith in Christ through bad arguments. But many are turned away needlessly by bad arguments as well, and we cannot have a pragmatic “the end justifies the means” approach.

Ultimately, faith is a work of God. I cannot claim to have come to faith in Christ by my own wisdom. Theologically, I know that if I have faith in Christ, it is a work of God. But God does use sound arguments as part of drawing people to himself.

HT: Tough Questions Answered

Grace and Peace

February 21, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Young-Earth creationism | 3 Comments

YEC B.S. in geology program

Cedarville University of Cedarville, Ohio has added a Bachelor of Science in Geology program. From the Cedarville announcement:

Cedarville University’s Board of Trustees recently approved the formation of the Bachelor of Science in geology degree, set to begin in fall 2009.

Faculty will equip students for lifelong scientific leadership in career fields such as hydrogeology, environmental geology, petroleum geology and numerous other areas of expertise.

“The degree will offer a whole host of new opportunities for graduates,” shares Dr. John Whitmore, associate professor of geology. “Geologists help us find clean drinking water, petroleum, natural gas, coal and valuable minerals.”

The program will be unique in that no other Christian school, that holds to a literal six-day account of Genesis offers geology as a major for undergraduates. The course of study will be taught from both naturalistic and young-earth paradigms of earth history.

[emphasis added]

This was discussed by e-mail exchanges a week or two ago in a group of Christian geologists I am part of. Most of them were rather skeptical of the the final statement about teaching “both sides” of the age of the Earth and evolution debates.

I wish them well, and I hope the program evolves over time. One question: will they produce geologists who can get jobs in industry or go on to graduate school?

Grace and Peace

P.S. One can also get a B.S. in geology from the following Evangelical Christian schools: Wheaton College, Calvin College, Olivet Nazarene. These schools all have a commitment to the truthfulness (some use the word inerrancy) of Scriptures, and yet see no conflict between the Bible and acceptance of an old Earth.

P.P.S. Why are all of these schools in the Midwest (Illinois, Ohio, Michigan)? Sure, there is some interesting geology there, but not a whole lot in the way of structure or lithologic diversity.

P.P.P.S. How will the science department handle a student who either 1. accepts an old Earth, 2. accepts evolution, or 3. loses his/her faith? How many of the students in this program will have a crisis of faith when they see that young-Earth creationism doesn’t work?

P.P.P.P.S. The Cedarville science department has only one geologist. John Whitmore has an M.S. in geology from the Intitute for Creation Research, and a PhD in biology. This isn’t much of a foundation to build a geology major on.

February 18, 2009 Posted by | Geology, Science Education, Young-Earth creationism | | 4 Comments

Digital Topo Maps

I used to go to Topozone when I wanted to just browse around an area with topographic maps. It is no longer free. Here’s a free alternative: digital-topo-maps.com:

digitaltopomaps

If you want the complete topo map as a PDF, you can still get those from the USGS Map Locator.

Grace and Peace

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Geography, Geology, Maps | 1 Comment

Nuclear challenges

Here are two challenges for using nuclear energy as part of our world’s energy future:

  1. Uranium, like fossil fuels, is a limited, non-renewable resource. It is mined from the Earth, and consumed by nuclear fission. Breeder reactors can make some additional fuel, but that too is of a limited quantity. In Arizona, uranium could be declared to be a renewable resource by legislative action. That is sort of like making a law that says cows can fly or that people can breathe on the moon. A law doesn’t make it so. (Arizona Geology: Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?)
  2. The waste problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Not for a few hundreds of thousands of years anyways. The Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada is over a decade behind schedule, so waste is still mostly being stored at the nuclear power plants where it was used. (Earth Magazine: Wanted: Interim nuclear waste storage site.

I’m not totally opposed to the building of new nuclear power plants (and I find the technology to be fascinating), but it is only a piece of the energy pie. I am in favor of it being a smaller piece rather than larger.

See also Time magazine’s Nuclear’s Comeback: Still No Energy Panacea.

Grace and Peace

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Energy, Geology | | 3 Comments

Geoblogosphere News

How does one keep up with over 100 active blogs in the geoblogosphere, including The GeoChristian? By keeping an eye on Geoblogosphere News from Stratigraphy.net.

If I subscribed to all of these in Google Reader, I would soon be overwhelmed. I have 384 unread items in Google Reader right now the way it is. But in Geoblogosphere News I can quickly scan for items I am interested in.

Grace and Peace

P.S. I guess the “Grace and Peace” that shows up in the tag cloud at the top of the page is my fault:

graceandpeace

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Geology | | Leave a comment

Atoll image

From yesterday’s NASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day: Tetiaroa Island, French Polynesia.

Credit: sss

The formation of atolls was first properly described by Charles Darwin during his voyage on the Beagle, one of his contributions to the science of geology (Time magazine 1947).

Grace and Peace

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Geology | 1 Comment

Presidents Day and Republican environmentalism

For Presidents Day, The Evangelical Ecologist points to the environmental legacy of Republican Presidents, even George W. Bush.

See also the Republicans for Environmental Protection web site.

Grace and Peace

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Environment | | Leave a comment

Frozen waterfall

wyowaterfallThe Billings Gazette has a great picture of a frozen waterfall in northwest Wyoming: Waterfalls draw many to winter festival. Go to the article for a larger picture.

I love winter!

Grace and Peace

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Geology | | Leave a comment

Australia fire images

From NASA’s Earth Observatory: Brushfires in Southeast Australia:

Redish areas are burned; green represents unburned forest.

Redish areas are burned; green represents unburned forest.

australiafires2

Grace and Peace

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Environment | | Leave a comment

Amazing Grace

amazinggraceposter1I don’t watch very many movies, but I watched a great one with my family tonight: Amazing Grace. This is the story of William Wilberforce, the English Member of Parliament who fought for years to outlaw the slave trade in the British Empire.

Here’s what I thought about as I reflected on the movie:

  • The movie didn’t water down the fact that Wilberforce’s anti-slavery convictions flowed out of his Christianity.
  • Great causes take deep commitment and decades of patience. This should encourage us in the fight against abortion and other injustices in the world.
  • One doesn’t have to be a missionary or other “full time Christian worker” to have an impact on the world. Wilberforce’s vocation was politics. My vocation is, well, I don’t know right now… but I hope soon to know how I’ll be serving the world through and in the workplace.
  • This wasn’t another cheesy Christian movie (a lot of you know what I’m talking about). It was very well done.

Grace and Peace

February 15, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | Leave a comment

Living the Cross Centered Life

I recently finished reading Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney. Here are some quotes:

In the midst of our various responsibilities and many possible areas of service in the kingdom of God, one overarching truth should motivate all our work and effect every part of who we are: Christ died for our sins.

The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history: it is the only essential message in all of history. —Jerry Bridges

We never move on from the cross, only into a more profound understanding of the cross. —David Prior

Only when we understand God’s wrath toward sin can we realize that we need to be saved from it. Only when we hear the bad news that we’re deserving of judgment can we appreciate the good news that God, through His Son, has provided salvation and full, continuing forgiveness for our sins. Only those who are aware of God’s wrath are amazed at God’s grace.

The glory of the gospel is this: The one from whom we need to be saved is the one who has saved us. —R.C. Sproul

Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice. —John Stott

We all carry in our pocket His very nails. —Martin Luther

And the inevitable result of preaching the gospel to yourself will be a pronounced joy, and infectious joy, a consitent joy. Like nothing else the gospel creates joy; it’s both the source and the object of our joy.

What joy the gospel gives me! I can approach the throne of God with confidence—not because I’ve done a good job at my spiritual duties, but because I’m clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Because of the gospel’s power you can be completely free of all condemnation. Not mostly free; completely free.

Here’s how to beat condemnation: Confess your sin to God… then believe in Him.

When we pray to God for His blessing, He does not examine our performance to see if we are worthy. Rather, He looks to see if we are trusting in the merit of His Son as our only hope for securing His blessing. —Jerry Bridges

Grace and Peace (and Joy)

February 14, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | 3 Comments

Landslide videos

Dave’s Landslide Blog has videos, like this one:

and this one:

There are more at the blog.

HT: Geology.com News

Grace and Peace

February 14, 2009 Posted by | Geology, Videos | | Leave a comment