Reasons to Believe

Connections 1999, Vol. 1, No. 4



Live Here or Nowhere
By Hugh Ross and Guillermo Gonzalez

In the latter half of this decade, science revealed the importance of our solar system’s position in the galaxy between two spiral arms, where certain life-disturbing phenomena rarely occur and where our view of the galaxy and of the universe beyond is unobstructed.1 A new piece of research by two Russian astronomers shows that our position is special in yet another respect.2 Our sun and its satellites stay between the spiral arms.

The stability of our position is possible because the sun is one of these rare stars with a “galactic co-rotation radius.” Let us explain. Typically, the stars in our galaxy orbit the center of the galaxy at a rate that differs from the rate of the trailing spiral arms. Thus, most stars located between spiral arms do not remain there for long. A star revolving around the galaxy’s center at a slower or faster rate than the spiral arm structure itself will eventually be swept inside a spiral arm. Only at a certain precise distance from the galaxy’s center, the “co-rotation radius,” can a star remain in its place between two spiral arms, orbiting at precisely the same rate as the galaxy arms rotate around the core.3,4

As people in the real estate business say, “Location is everything.” The fact that the sun’s location is fine-tuned to permit the possibility of life - and even more precisely fine-tuned to keep the location fixed in that unique spot where life is possible - powerfully suggests divine design.

(For a fuller discussion of this topic, see our first issue of Facts for Faith.)

References:

  1. Hugh Ross, “A Window to God’s Glory,” Facts & Faith, v. 10, n. 2 (1996), pp. 1-2.
  2. Yu N. Mishurov and L. A. Zenina, “Yes, the Sun is Located Near the Corotation Circle,” Astronomy & Astrophysics, 341 (1999), pp. 81-85.
  3. Guillermo Gonzalez, “Is the Sun Anomalous?” Astronomy & Geophysics, in press (1999).
  4. Guillermo Gonzalez, “Solar System Bounces in the Right Range for Life,” Facts & Faith, v. 11, n. 1 (1997), pp. 4-5.


Making Mountains Move
By Hugh Ross

Geophysicists have known for years that the energy moving Earth’s crust pieces toward and away from one another (plate tectonics) comes from the flow of heat from the core up toward the surface. Recently, however, planetary physicist David Stevenson, of the California Institute of Technology, has shown that plate tectonics, oddly enough an essential for life (though earthquakes may be hard for most people to appreciate), need more than just an energy source. They need a lubricant.1 This added complication to a life-essential physical process represents added support for divine “engineering” of Earth for life.

Earth’s lubricant is its huge quantity of surface water. As ocean plates sink into the mantle (ocean plates are denser than continental plates), they carry water into the mantle and, in doing so, lower the melting point of that mantle. The result is increased volcanic activity and a softening of the mantle layers on which tectonic plates slide. In other words, Earth’s just-right-for-life level of volcanic and plate tectonic activity depends crucially on its enormous—and notably rare—quantity of liquid surface water.2

The connection between life’s survival and volcanic and plate tectonic activity is this: such activity distributes life-essential nutrients relatively evenly across Earth’s surface. Erosion alone would concentrate nutrients in Earth’s basins and deplete them everywhere else.

Support for Stevenson’s analysis comes from studies of the planet Venus. Venus has internal heat sources comparable to Earth’s. Yet Venus lacks any observable plate movement. Apparently, the lack of a lubricant accounts for the lack of tectonic activity. The conclusion: Fine-tuning the energy source behind a planet’s plate tectonics and vulcanism is not enough to guarantee life-sustaining conditions. One must also fine-tune the quantity and the quality of the tectonic lubricant.

References:
  1. Richard A. Kerr, "Making New Worlds With a Throw of the Dice," Science, 286 (1999), p. 69.
  2. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 2nd ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1995), p. 137.


Life Zones in Space
By Hugh Ross

Life is hardy, but it needs some basics—conditions which can only be found in systems of planets orbiting stars. No wonder these systems hold such fascination for scientists, for everyone! In October 1999, Science focused an entire edition on planetary systems. It featured a dozen papers on the topic, including one entitled “Expanding the Habitable Zone.”1 The habitable zone is that special region within a planetary system where conditions might be right for life to exist.

The point of this article and several others is that planetary systems may be more hospitable for life, i.e., the survival zone might be wider, than design theorists suggest. The point behind the point seems clear: Maybe the divine Designer isn’t really as obvious or necessary as recent design theory suggests.

As I look at the data on which these articles are based, I see the arrow of implication pointing in a different direction. Worldview assumptions do, indeed, influence our interpretation of facts, and a statement of these assumptions can be helpful. One “given” behind the notion of a wider habitable zone is that life requirements are extremely simple and few—liquid water, radiation protection, and an energy source—and that wherever these requirements are found, life can or will be found.

This assumption has been fueled by discoveries of bacteria in virtually “impossible” environments, such as two-mile deep gold mines and deep underwater steam vents. At the same time, planetary formation computer models demonstrate that deep underground pockets of liquid water (5 to 25 miles below the surface) may be more common than researchers previously speculated. In light of such findings, the chances for “chance” life seem significantly improved.

Scientific rigor, however, demands a closer look, a more careful and thorough evaluation of the data. A less “wishful” consideration of the data may yield a different conclusion. For starters, life in extreme environments on Earth depends on prolific and diverse life everywhere else on the planet. Taking away abundant life in ideal environments effectively destroys the possibility of life in the extreme environments. For example, the life found deep in gold mines and underwater steam vents relies on carbonates and oxygen compounds produced by photosynthesis at the planet’s surface. Only as efficient, long-lasting plate tectonic activity drives life and its nutrients underground can this deep-level life exist.

We know, too, that the more extreme the environment, the smaller the organism's body size must be for survival and the slower the metabolic reactions. These characteristics, in turn, diminish the capacity of such life forms to repair any molecular damage and to adapt to environmental change. In other words, life in extreme environments is microscopic, very primitive, and prone to rapid extinction.

A second point is that the more extreme the environment, the more difficult becomes the self-assembly problem. Even in the most ideal environment, the odds against life’s spontaneous generation add up to a virtual zero.2 The odds certainly cannot be expected to improve under severely hostile conditions.

The popular assumption that life needs only water, radiation protection, and energy flies in the face of accumulating data. The science journals of the past decade have identified more than a hundred characteristics of our solar system that must be fine-tuned for life to survive on Earth—once it is here.3 The more advanced the organism, of course, the higher the degree of fine-tuning its survival requires.

Given the range of sensitivities, I see the basis for proposing a number of distinct habitable zones in our solar system (or any other). The broadest zone would accommodate primitive, microscopic, low-metabolism, short-lived organisms. The narrowest zone would accommodate advanced, large-body, high-metabolism, long-lived creatures.

The test of my position lies in what happens to the list of characteristics requiring fine-tuning. If my view is correct, that list should continue to lengthen. If the naturalistic view is correct, the list will shorten. Thus far, at least, the trend line supports divine intervention.

References:
  1. Gretchen Vogel, “Expanding the Habitable Zone,” Science, 286 (1999), pp. 70-71.
  2. Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998), pp. 39-42.
  3. Hugh Ross, Design Evidences for Life Support, a monograph (Pasadena, CA: Reasons To Believe, 1999).


UP (AND AWAY) From the Apes
By Fuz Rana

In response to a widely publicized change in the Kansas standards for science education,1 Time magazine published a cover story touting human evolution. The August 23 (1999) issue reports “amazing new discoveries” that add to the already “convincing” evidence of humans’ evolving from an ape-like ancestor over the last 4 to 6 million years.2 The writers assert that man is nothing more than the latest ape “served up on the evolutionary palette,” and to support their assertion, they cite four recently discovered hominid “species.”

A closer look at the research findings, however, reveals a different picture. First, it shows that the Time authors exaggerated both the importance and the response of paleoanthropologists to these newly identified species. Second, this closer look shows that the discoveries present severe problems for the evolutionary paradigm.

As a case in point, the Time article describes the discovery of Homo antecessor , dated at approximately 800,000 years ago, as a pivotal breakthrough. This hominid has been presented as a new species, a key transitional fossil, an ancestor species for both Neandertals and modern humans.3, 4 These grandiose claims rest, as it turns out, on a mere fragment of evidence: the partial face of a juvenile, the likelihood of delayed dental maturation, and a crude estimate of the creature’s brain volume.5, 6, 7, 8

Many paleoanthropologists have expressed concern not only because Homo antecessor’s designation as species is based on just one partial skull, but also because it is based on a juvenile specimen. With so little to go on, researchers have insufficient information on potential variations occurring across the species and through the developmental process.9, 10 The possibility still remains, that this sample is actually a Homo erectus specimen. If it is not, J. M. Bermudez de Castro and others suggest, this finding adds additional support to the idea that Homo erectus does not belong as part of an evolutionary pathway leading to modern man and Neandertals, but rather should be viewed as a side lineage without descendents.11, 12

Evidence is insufficient as yet to declare the divorce between modern humans and Homo erectus final. Even so, the significance of this possibility cannot be overstated. Neandertals and Homo erectus are the two hominid species that have the most fossil evidence associated with them. Morphological and DNA evidence have clearly severed the evolutionary tie between Neandertals and modern humans13. Now the possibility that the same outcome awaits Homo erectus is very real. If Homo erectus is not part of the “evolutionary path” to modern humans, then nothing more than a few skull and jaw fragments connect modern humans with the australopithecines. This disintegration of proposed links hardly allows for the declaration that human evolution is fact. On the contrary, the theory explaining how it happened seems to be unraveling.

References:
  1. Constance Holden, “Kansas Dumps Darwin, Raises Alarm Across the United States,” Science, 285 (1999), pp. 1186-1187.
  2. Michael D. Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman, “Up from the Apes. Remarkable New Evidence Is Filling in the Story of How We Became Human,” Time, August 23, (1999), pp.50-58.
  3. Ann Gibbons, “A New Face for Human Ancestors,” Science, 276 (1997), pp. 1331-1333.
  4. J. M. Bermudez de Castro et al ., “A Hominid from the Lower Pleistocene of Atapuerca, Spain: Possible Ancestors to Neandertals and Modern Humans,” Science, 276 (1997), pp. 1392-1395.
  5. A. Gibbons, pp. 1331-1333.
  6. J. M. Bermudez de Castro et al ., pp. 1392-1395.
  7. B. Bower, “Human Growth Displays Ancient Roots,” Science News, 155 (1999), p. 212.
  8. A. Gibbons, pp. 1331-1333.
  9. Eric Delson, “One Skull Does Not A Species Make,” Nature, 389 (1998), pp. 445-446.
  10. A. Gibbons, pp. 1331-1333.
  11. A. Gibbons, pp. 1331-1333.
  12. J. M. Bermudez de Castro et al ., pp. 1392-1395.
  13. Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question , (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998), pp. 112-114.


FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH
By David Madeira

As a boy in Sunday school, I sang, “...the wise man builds his house upon the rock...” I understood that I needed a solid foundation for my life through faith in Christ. As I grew older, I learned that the need for a solid foundation applies to many areas of life, for individuals and for organizations. Successful ventures, businesses, and, yes, ministries require a solid basis: clear vision, sound plans, committed leaders, and faithful supporters - in other words, a foundation of spiritual and physical resources.

Securing and shoring up the financial base for success often consumes too much of a ministry leader's time, thought, and energy. Except in the rare case where finance and fund development are among the leaders’ primary talents, such activity distracts them from focusing on the core purpose of the ministry.

As the leader of Reasons To Believe through more than a decade of remarkable growth, Hugh Ross has struggled with this distraction and longed to devote himself more fully to his God-given strengths. Last summer, believing that RTB had reached a level of organizational maturity that would make it possible, the board of directors unanimously voted to create a Reasons To Believe Foundation. The sole function of this Foundation is to provide for the financial well-being of the ministry, freeing Hugh to devote more time and attention to research, writing, speaking, and creating new communications tools.

The Reasons To Believe Foundation is now established and operational. It is headed by Stephen C. Scheele, a California businessman who helped Hugh and his wife, Kathy, found RTB. In addition to serving as the Foundation’s president, he remains as an officer and member of the ministry’s Board. I will assist Steve as the Foundation’s vice president, and Mary Soop will serve as Director. Our role is to develop the financial base for the ministry and to manage its financial affairs. We are thankful for this latest development in the growth of RTB and eagerly anticipate the impact it will have on furthering this vital ministry.

David Madeira, a Wheaton graduate with advanced degrees in education and law, has distinguished himself in service to the University of Illinois at Chicago, The Newberry Library, Chicago, Wheaton College, and Messiah College.


PRESIDENT’S LAPTOP

Dear Friends,

If you have heard me speak in person or on the radio (perhaps on the internet, since that’s where many of you now listen to radio interviews), you know that my message tends to draw some strong emotional responses, positive and negative. When I first started in ministry, such responses surprised me. I hoped that some people would find joy, and I expected some people to get upset, but I was unprepared for the fury I faced from some Christians.

I learned the hard way the importance of making the effort to dialogue, to understand and be understood, to explore beneath the surface of others’ views and my own. For example, once I understood that young-earth creationists count on Darwinian mechanisms to generate rapid change after Adam’s fall and again after the Flood, I understood why they hated the idea of billions of years. If Darwinism were operating efficiently over billions of years, natural processes—apart from God’s creative intervention—would seem to explain the progression of life on Earth. On the other hand, some young-earth creationists, having come to understand that I believe Darwinian mechanisms extremely inefficient, now accept that I believe in special creation, not some form of deistic evolution.

Nontheistic evolutionists, theistic evolutionists, young-earth creationists, and old-earth creationists all hold different views on the constancy of physical laws. If we fail to understand each other’s perspective, we debate the wrong issues. We frustrate and offend one another. At best, nothing gets clarified or resolved.

Given that we all have some growing and learning to do, I think we can accomplish more by asking good questions than by scoring debate points. Those who differ from us or even oppose us are more likely to benefit, as we will too, from sincere interest than from clever arguments. God calls us to speak louder with character than with words.

SINCERELY,

Hugh Ross


FIELD REPORT
By Kathy Ross

Autumn has been action packed for RTB speakers. Kenneth Samples and Fuz Rana offered a six-week apologetics course (continuing through December) at Christ Reformed Church, Anaheim. Fuz flew to West Linn, Oregon, for a weekend of outreaches while Hugh addressed his quarterly Open Forum in Sierra Madre, proving that RTB science apologists now can be in two places at once!
[Image]Pictures: Hugh and Kathy Ross and a group of volunteer apologists at the RTB picnic.

Thanks to Alejandro Field and other international volunteers, we can also do outreaches in two (or more) countries at once and in two (or more) languages at once. If you received our fall catalog, you know that RTB has just released El Creador y El Cosmos , expanding our ministry to Spanish-speaking people everywhere.

 
[Image]Between campus lectures (including Kent State and Wheaton), church outreaches, television appearances, and radio interviews, Hugh enjoyed the fall colors in St. Louis, Akron, Chicago, Seattle, and Vancouver. In Greensboro, North Carolina, he crossed paths (unharmed) with Hurricane Floyd to address students and faculty at UNC.

Presentation of a biblically-based, scientifically-testable creation model continues to open people’s minds and hearts to the Gospel. With the dream of equipping more Christians to use that model as an evangelistic tool, RTB has begun forming plans for a conference on the subject. Look for announcements in upcoming issues.

In September Fuz accepted an invitation from National Public Radio to dialogue on the air with noted atheist Michael Shermer. In October Hugh had a similar opportunity to discuss creation-evolution issues with Eugenie Scott and program host Mike Rosen on station KOA, Denver. A tape of the latter can be heard via our web site at www.reasons.org.

For readers interested in contacting (or referring others to) our international representatives, please see the directory in the column to the right (actually, below).
Australia

Mike and Linda McLerie
c/o Riverview Church
Phone/Fax: 61-8-9447-1307
E-mail: mclerie@iinet.net.au
Africa

Dr. and Mrs. David Block
Phone: 27-11-672-1298
Fax: 27-11-672-3791
E-mail: igalaxy@iafrica.com
Canada

John Duerksen
Phone: 250-245-0012
Fax: 250-245-5889
E-mail: Canada@reasons.org
Japan

Rev. and Mrs. Timothy Boyle
Phone/Fax: 81-298-55-1907
E-mail: za3t-byl@asahi-net.or.jp
New Zealand

Mr. Philip Bennett
Phone: 64-4-902-2575
Fax: 64-4-902-2577
E-mail: rtb@paradise.net.nz

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Hugh and Kathy Ross will take part in a scenic white-water rafting trip on the Salmon River in Idaho. Rafters will enjoy the majesty of God’s creation each day, and Hugh will lead campfire discussions each evening. Date: August 15-20, 2000. If you want to be among the 30 people on this outing, make your reservation right away. Contact Margaret at 888-201-3638.


NEW FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM!

“Message of the Month” will be coming your way in 2000. This is a special program for you ministry partners who keep us going and growing all year with your generous support. If you participate in this group, you will have the opportunity to receive a 60-minute cassette tape each month, something you can enjoy at your leisure (or as you drive), giving you the latest faith-building news from science as well as news about ministry happenings and upcoming activities.

Our hope is that these messages will provide you with a convenient way to track the impact of your gifts and to share faith-building discoveries with family and friends, skeptics and believers alike. Message of the Month may be a wonderful way to encourage busy college students, a loved one who’s no longer able to get out and around, or a missionary who’s eager for new outreach tools and personal refreshment.

Watch your mailbox for a letter introducing Message of the Month.


LETTERS
About Outreach Events...

In March of 1995 I was invited to hear you speak in Birmingham, Alabama. It started a professed agnostic on a journey that finally led me back to Christ. . . . I will never be able to repay you for upsetting my “comfort zone” and leading me back to God.

-- Charles, Birmingham, Alabama

I am now a Tokyo University student. I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to Mr. Hugh Ross, who addressed a seminar, revealing the close relationship between Christianity and science, in my campus. This has strengthened my Christian faith personally, and hopefully brought the light into the dark world of the university students.

-- Iwan, Tokyo, Japan
About RTB Resources...

. . . Your work and books revived my soul. In the field of public education, I often battle the discouraging results of a system guided by relative truth. Struggling with intellectual questions of my own and not finding answers was beginning to discourage me. Reading your books on creation and the extra dimensionality of God was like water in a desert. Your newsletters, magazines and books have greatly encouraged me.

-- John, Email

I just finished The Genesis Question . Thank you so very much for the first truly balanced, scholarly, and believable work on the question of the age of the earth, evolution, and the providence of God in it all. As a pastor and one previously torn in three directions (science, biblical creationism, and liberal critical analysis), . . . thanks for a new, scientific, biblically centered interpretation.

-- Larry, Fresno, California

Overnight I have become a fan. I ordered the 18-cassette tape set and have listened to five tapes. My wife and I have kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids, and I am thinking some of your materials would make great Christmas gifts. I have a daughter who is a schoolteacher, and she and her husband have a Sunday School class of youngsters ranging from 5th grade to junior high. Becky can make good use of your materials.

-- Don, Silverdale, Washington
About RTB's Web Site...

I recently discovered your program and try to now catch it regularly. You have a wonderful ministry and after looking over your web site I had no idea how extensive it is. More people need to know about you because you truly have the ability to answer the hard questions of science and theology.

-- Bob, Email

Today my daughter had a radio station on from Lincoln, Nebraska. The DJs were conversing about what they believed—one more evolution based, the other more on the creation side. I called in and was able to share with them your web site. I’m so thankful that the Lord has your organization available to direct people to. Today I only had a few words I could share on this secular station. Your web site has much to offer these people.

-- John, Milford, Nebraska

After watching Dr. Ross on TBN, I am thankful for your informative website. My husband and I are raising two children in the public school system, which is not inherently bad, but has its faults when it comes to teaching the Bible. I will use your website frequently, not only for my personal understanding but also for the questions asked by children and skeptics.

-- Jane, Email