Around the web 8/11/2013 — YEC problems with poop, having the flying spaghetti monster for lunch, and more

coprolite
https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndfossil/poster/hellcreek/Hellcreekp2.asp

YEC ARGUMENTS BURIED IN DEEP DOO-DOO — The Natural Historian has written a post I wish I had written: Dino Doo-Doo (Coprolites) and the Genesis Flood. Coprolites are pieces of fossilized excrement (and back when I was in graduate school, also the name of my geology department’s intramural softball team). The fossil record has an abundance of fossil turds: fecal pellets from all those invertebrates, fish poop, bird droppings, and rather large dino patties.

How would these have been deposited and preserved in the global deluge? Wouldn’t the sediment-rich slurry of the flood waters have disintegrated your average turd? How would poop piles end up in the same layers as their respective poopers?  After all, there are no dino turds in the Cambrian, and as far as we can tell, dinosaurs never stepped in dog doo-doo.

PSYCHOLOGICALLY SOUND — It is good to see a fellow Montanan writing a solid defense of Christianity: The Apologetic Professor. The author is a psychology professor at the University of Montana. But he is very wrong about one thing, so I’ll say “Go Cats!”

FEELING A BIT LIKE HEZEKIAH — The big boom in natural gas production in the United States is driven by production from shale, by the new technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has produced a chart showing the past and projected future production of natural gas in the United States:

nat_gas_production_1990-2040-(large)

So, at least we won’t run out of natural gas in our lifetimes. That means we can go on with the status quo: drill baby drill. We can just kick back like good ol’ King Hezekiah:

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” — 2 Kings 20:16-19 (ESV)

HT: Geology News

HAVING THE SPAGHETTI MONSTER FOR LUNCH— Some clever atheists came up with the idea of the Flying Spaghetti Monster a few years ago to try to discredit arguments for the existence of God. For example, if Christians say that a certain piece of evidence points to the existence of God, the pastafarian (a follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) would say that the same piece of evidence points to the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. The arguments for the existence of something/someone who is the uncaused cause, the origin of order and design, and the giver of moral laws, are in a completely different category than the arguments for an FSM. Put quite simply, there is no evidence for the existence of an FSM, and there is evidence for the existence of God.

Greg Koukl briefly discusses the FSM on the Stand to Reason blog: http://www.str.org/videos/the-flying-spaghetti-monster#.UghP-ZKcd8F

Less oil and more oil

Two petroleum articles from Yahoo News…

The first article is about declining petroleum outputs from Saudi Arabia: WikiLeaks: Saudis running out of oil

The latest startling revelation to come via documents leaked to Julian Assange’s muckraking website and published by The Guardian should give pause to every suburban SUV-driver: U.S. officials think Saudi Arabia is overpromising on its capacity to supply oil to a fuel-thirsty world. That sets up a scenario, the documents show, whereby the Saudis could dramatically underdeliver on output by as soon as next year, sending fuel prices soaring.

The cables detail a meeting between a U.S. diplomat and Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration for Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, in November 2007. Husseini told the American official that the Saudis are unlikely to keep to their target oil output of  12.5 million barrels per day output in order to keep prices stable. Husseini also indicated that Saudi producers are likely to hit “peak oil” — the point at which global output hit its high mark — as early as 2012. That means, in essence, that it will be all downhill from there for the enormous Saudi oil industry.

The second article is about a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracing” or “fracking”) that is used to enhance production from oil and gas wells: New drilling method opens vast oil fields in US

Companies are investing billions of dollars to get at oil deposits scattered across North Dakota, Colorado, Texas and California. By 2015, oil executives and analysts say, the new fields could yield as much as 2 million barrels of oil a day — more than the entire Gulf of Mexico produces now.

This new drilling is expected to raise U.S. production by at least 20 percent over the next five years. And within 10 years, it could help reduce oil imports by more than half, advancing a goal that has long eluded policymakers.

“That’s a significant contribution to energy security,” says Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Credit Suisse.

The first article is bad news for the world if we just sit back and do nothing. The second article is good news for America’s economic and military security, at least in the short turn. In the long term, of course, we need to find alternatives.

Grace and Peace

Renewable by 2030?

From National Geographic: Going “All the Way”: With Renewable Energy?

In a world where fossil fuel provides more than 80 percent of energy, what would it take to go completely green? Could the world switch over to power from only the wind, sun, waves, and heat from the Earth in only a few decades?

The article explores what it would take to get 100% of the world’s energy needs by 2030, and looks at a few of the obstacles. The researchers highlighted in the article propose doing all of this without reliance on biofuels or nuclear energy.

I believe that we must switch to renewable energy sources, and the sooner the better. Our present over-dependence on fossil fuels is bad for the economy, bad for the environment, and bad for national and world security. The solution isn’t “drill baby drill,” and it isn’t just sitting around and letting the market take care of our problems (the market tends to be rather blind to the future on things like this). We need energy policies that have our great-great-great grandchildren in mind, not just the next election.

Here are a few of my thoughts and questions:

  • Why try to go 100% without biofuels?
  • Why try to go 100% without nuclear? I’m not a huge fan of nuclear energy, but recognize it as a useful transitional energy source.
  • Being that wind/solar/waves/geothermal only account for 3% of our energy now, is it realistic to aim for 100% renewable by 2030?
  • For a more realistic target, could we aim for 50% (or some other number) dependence on renewable energy sources by 2030?
  • Many of these renewable technologies require other resources that are in short supply, such as rare earth elements. What will the negative consequences of a rapid move to 100% renewable be? (And what are the negative consequences of the status quo?)

Grace and Peace

HT: The Green Life

Operation World — missions and the Earth and environmental sciences

One of the most significant influences that directed me into missionary service (my family served with ReachGlobal—the international mission of the Evangelical Free Church of America—from 2002 to 2008) was when we purchased a copy of Operation World back in the early days of our marriage. This book is a day-by-day prayer guide to the nations. For example, April 4 is Chile, and June 19-July 4 is India. This book helped open our eyes to both the needs and opportunities to advance the Kingdom of God through evangelism and related ministries around the globe.

The 7th edition of Operation World came out just a few months ago, and God is using it to get me thinking more about missions.

The first section (January 1-11) contains an overview of what is going on in the entire world. As on the pages for individual countries, the section on the world begins with answers to prayer:

  • “The unprecedented harvest of new believers continues across Africa, Asia and Latin America, in contrast to the relative stagnation or decline in the rest of the world.”
  • “The concept of Christianity as a European ‘White-man’s religion’ is demonstrably a myth. Though sometimes small in number, all but concealed, or mostly members of a minority people group, there are now Christians living and fellowshipping in every country on earth.”
  • “Evangelical Christianity grew at a rate faster than any other world religion or global religious movement.”
  • “The gospel took root within hundreds of the world’s least reached people groups.”
  • “Give thanks for… A more holistic understanding of evangelical mission within the Church. Ministry that cares for orphans and widows, uplifts the poor, brings liberty to the oppressed and sets captives free reflects the heart of God.”
  • And many other answers to prayer: the growth of non-western missions, cooperation between missionaries from different countries and denominations, Bible translation (95% of the world has access to the Bible in a language they know).

Being that this is “The GeoChristian,” I want to draw attention to some ways that Christian ministry around the world is affected by the Earth and environmental sciences (and thus how Christian Earth and environmental scientists can minister to the world). Here are some Earth and environment-related quotes:

Increased levels of consumption, especially when adopted by the billions of people in Asia, may push the already-stretched resources of the world over the brink. The world must be weaned off its reliance upon fossil fuels and extraction economies (mining, logging, fishing, others), and more sustainable alternatives must be developed, especially as massive new economies in the Majority World push hard to catch up to the West.

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Threats to human health, including disease. HIV/AIDS has been the high profile disease of the past 20 years, but treatments, increasing awareness and changing behaviour patterns see infection rates declining. Cancer continues to take many lives all over the world. New, resistant strains of old diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, are spreading. HIV, SARS and H5N1 are examples of recent pandemics; fears abound of new ones, more virulent and deadly. Less glamorously, diseases associated with malnutrition, poverty, unclean water supplies and lack of sanitation are even greater threats to children—pneumonia, diarrhoea, TB and others. Included in this is malaria, which kills as many people globally as AIDS and has a similarly devastating effect on economies. Air and water pollution probably contribute to as many deaths annually as all of these diseases combined.

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Energy research is possibly the highest profile and most globally important area needing technological progress. Fossil fuels are highly polluting, nuclear power dangerous and alternative energies—such as bio-fuels, solar, wind and wave—are as yet inefficient and inadequate. More than ever before, finding efficient, safe, non-polluting, renewable energy sources is attracting greater research and investment. A breakthrough in energy technology would transform the world’s economy and ecology.

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Water will be among the world’s most crucial issues in the future. Given that sufficient fresh water exists globally to sustain humanity (even if the locations of water sources and human population do not match up well), the salient issues on a global level are more about ethics, equity, distribution and consumption.

a) Access to clean water. Already, around one in six people lacks access to safe drinking water; by 2025, it is estimated that three billion will lack access to fresh water. Additionally, nearly one in three lacks access to adequate sanitation, and this in turn contributes greatly to disease, malnutrition and mortality, especially among children.

b) Current wastefulness. The developed world uses more than 30 times more water per person than the developing world. And the vast bulk of water waste is through inefficient agricultural systems, which account for 70% of humanity’s use of fresh water. Even diets (such as high consumption of red meat) that require much more water are a source of inequitable water use; the aspirations of most of the world to Western lifestyles, consumption levels and industrial output will generate even more waste and place even greater stresses on water supplies.

c) Future societal and demographic changes. The large majority of future population growth will be in areas where safe water is in short supply. This, combined with ever greater industrialization (greater demands for water) and urbanization (population moving further from clean water sources), means that demands on water supplies will be even more intense in the future.

d) Over-exploitation of limited water resources is poised to become a serious problem in the USA, Australia, southern Europe, South Asia, China and much of Africa. Aquifers are overtapped and rivers are running dry. Water-rich countries such as Canada and Russia are moving to secure their own vast supplies of fresh water. Tension and even conflict already exist over:

i. The Amu Darya/Oxus of Central Asia.

ii. The Tigris-Euphrates (Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran).

iii. The Jordan (Israel, Syria, Jordan).

iv. The Nile (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia).

v. The nations to the north and south of the Sahara Desert.

These factors combined spell out the inevitability of increasing tensions over limited water supplies, of greater pressure to reduce waste and make desalinization more efficient and of the drive behind massive levels of migration

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Demands for other natural resources, when combined with population growth and increasing levels of consumption, are at the core of what will make or break human civilization’s progress in the 21st century.

a) Energy consumption is still vastly dominated by non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels. Until greener and more renewable sources can be developed to a level that makes them feasible alternatives, nuclear power might be the only other alternative.

b) Food production is another area where great changes are afoot. Genetically modified crops, the environmental impact of current agricultural systems and current trends in global dietary patterns all raise serious economic, environmental and ethical questions—from organic foods to raising cattle to fishing. The existence of food is not a problem for the world’s masses; at the heart of most problems are the amount of waste and the cost and difficulty of production and distribution. Growing crops for fuel, rather than food, intensifies these troubles.

c) Other natural resources are also being rapidly depleted. Some resources, such as old-growth hardwood trees, can be renewed, though not nearly at the speed demanded by consumption. Others, such as minerals, are non-renewable, yet they are being extracted and used at increasing rates.

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Climate change is now generally accepted as having a human causal component. Population growth, rapid industrialization and increasing consumption have an undeniable environmental/ecological impact. The negative implications of possible global warming are: desertification, soil exhaustion, greater frequency of natural disasters such as flooding and drought, water table salinization, flooding in low-lying coastal systems, massive loss of habitat for millions of species and unprecedented human migration. The staggering scale of waste and pollution—from plastics to pesticides to hormones and more—affects our water systems, our climate and even our biology. Despite the fact that humans still know little about these complex dynamics, green ethics have almost become a religion in themselves, the adherence to which is demanded in much of the developed world. However, it has also fostered in the Church the rightful and necessary development of a theology of Creation stewardship and compelled Christians to reconsider how biblical our lifestyles are.

Water, energy, food production, climate change. These are critical subjects that will effect the church and the entire world in the 21st century. Will Christians be right in the thick of research, action, and advocacy, or will we leave that to someone else (while billions suffer)?

Operation World can be purchased from Amazon.com and many other places. Buy it and pray for the nations.

Grace and Peace

What Obama has done right (or at least better than the Republicans have done)

I go to a Republican church, and I vote almost exclusively Republican. When I lived in St. Louis, I also went to a Republican church, but the church next door was a Democrat church. You could tell by bumper stickers on the cars. This kind of bothers me. Would a Democrat feel comfortable in my church? I would hope so, because one can certainly hold to many principles of the Democratic Party, such as universal health care, gun control, or stronger environmental regulations, and be a Christian. I shouldn’t even have to say that. Many of these Christians would argue that their liberal positions flow from Biblically-based concerns.

I was in a discussion with a group of men from my church last week. We were discussing Philippians 2:14 (“Do everything without complaining or arguing” NIV),. This question was asked: Is it acceptable to complain or argue about President Obama and his policies? I stuck out my neck and stated that there are things that Obama has done in his first 100 days that I actually liked. Most shook their heads in disbelief; some were shocked and almost confrontational: “Name one thing Obama has done right! One thing!”

I didn’t say anything, and was relieved when the topic got back to Philippians 2.

Here are some things that I think Obama has done better than the previous Republican administration:

  • Environmental policy: McCain had the potential to be a good environmental president, but seemed to be caving in to the other side in his campaign. Clean air and clean water are precious. So are unspoiled land and wetlands. Overall, these were threatened by the Bush administration. There is nothing Biblical about endless growth in consumption or poor stewardship. Republicans for Environmental Protection has some excellent positions on environmental policy, but unfortunately these are not held by a majority of Republicans.
  • Energy policy: The Obama energy policy is much more sophisticated than the short-sighted “drill baby drill” mantra of the Republican campaign. It includes a breadth of renewable energy resources that have been on the backburner for way too long.
  • Torture: Yes, Al-Qaeda is bad. Very bad. But reading about the torture policies of the Bush administration makes me think I’m reading The Gulag Archipeligo, and it doesn’t make me happy. We are supposed to be better than our enemies. (John McCain, who knows about torture from personal experience, was opposed to torture as well).

Don’t take me wrong; I have some grave concerns about the Obama agenda. I didn’t vote for him, and I wouldn’t vote for him now. It is foolish to spend a trillion dollars to rescue companies that made horrible business decisions (would McCain have done any differently?), and his radical abortion agenda is offensive to me. But here they are, three things that Obama has done right.

Grace and Peace

P.S. Christian philosopher John Mark Reynolds gives his reasons for opposing torture here. HT: Cruchy Con.

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