Reasons to Believe

Connections 2000, Vol. 2, No. 1



Big Bang Buttressed
By Hugh Ross

Belief that the universe was created a finite time ago by a transcendent Creator has been strengthened by evidence yet again. A new piece of astronomical research brings good news for Christians and bad news for anyone denying God’s existence or equating God with the universe itself.

In the last Astrophysical Journal of 1999, four American and two Ukrainian astronomers strengthened an old proof for the creation event, aka the hot big bang model.1 Using the Multiple Mirror and Keck telescopes, these astronomers made measurements on the two most heavy-element-deficient galaxies known (blue compact galaxies I Zwicky 18 and SBS 0335-052).

What were they looking for? Primordial helium, that is, helium that was produced before any stars had formed. Why? If the hot big bang model is correct, we can expect helium to comprise about 25% of the mass of certain galaxies. Again, why? According to the hot big bang theory, the universe starts out infinitely or almost infinitely hot. But, as the cosmos expands, it cools, much like the combustion chamber in a piston engine.

By the time the universe is one millisecond old, it has cooled down into a sea of protons and neutrons. The only element existing at this time is “simple” hydrogen, a single proton. For a span of about 20 seconds, when the universe is not quite four minutes old, its temperature is just right for nuclear fusion to occur (that is, for the protons and neutrons to fuse together to form elements heavier than simple hydrogen).

The hot big bang theory predicts that about one-fourth of the hydrogen, by mass, will be converted into helium (and tiny amounts of lithium, beryllium, boron, and deuterium, or “heavy” hydrogen) during those twenty seconds. All other elements that exist in the universe (plus a small amount of additional helium) form much later, produced in the nuclear furnaces of stars’ cores.

What did the researchers find? The two galaxies they studied contain 24.62% helium ± 0.15%, by mass. After subtracting the additional helium produced by the stars in these galaxies, the figure is 24.52% ± 0.15%, a perfect match with the hot big bang modelprediction.2 As an added bonus, they determined from their measurements that the number of “species” of light neutrinos (that is, low mass neutrinos) = 3.0 ± 0.15%, further substantiating the model. I’ll bring you details of this discovery in a future article.

References:

  1. Yuri I. Izotov, et al, “Helium Abundance in the Most Metal-Deficient Blue Compact Galaxies: I Zw 18 and SBS 0335-052,” Astrophysical Journal, 527 (1999), pp. 757-777.
  2. Izotov et al, p. 776.


"Junk" DNA Not So Junky
By Fuz Rana

A recent report by researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) provides new evidence that non-coding DNA (typically referred to as “junk” DNA or “selfish” DNA) is not useless. Instead it appears to serve an essential function in complex cells.1

The DNA content of complex cells (cells that possess a nucleus and internal membrane-bound organelles and compartments) varies enormously (as much as 80,000 times) among protozoans, fungi, animals, and plants. The widely varying DNA content results from the presence of non-coding DNA. Non-coding, or “non-specific,” DNA can make up anywhere from 30% to nearly 100% of an organism’s total DNA content (genome).2

Those seeking to explain life as the outworking of strictly natural processes have suggested that non-coding DNA is produced randomly. Either it is “junk” carried along with functional genes simply because it is physically attached, or it is “selfish,” a type of functionless parasite in the organism’s genome.3, 4 The “junk” or “selfish” DNA exemplifies the imperfection one would expect from random natural processes and is the preferred view among evolutionary biologists.

As far back as 1978, however, some researchers suggested that non-coding DNA may actually have a functional role. They developed a model in which the non-coding DNA determines the volume of a cell’s nucleus.5 As overall cell volume increases, the nuclear volume, and hence DNA content, too, must increase to give the cell’s nuclear contents room to communicate effectively with the cell’s cytoplasm (stuff outside the nucleus).

The UBC team has found experimental support for the usefulness of non-coding DNA in their study of cryptomonads (algae).6 The non-coding DNA appears to have kept the volume of the nucleus proportional to overall cell volume. Additionally, they found evidence refuting the “junk” or “selfish” model. A specialized cell part called the nucleomorph behaved opposite to what the naturalistic model predicts and exactly as the “purposeful” model predicts.

We still have much to learn about genome organization and non-coding DNA. Clearly, though, the more we uncover, the less likely the notion that an organism’s genome (including non-coding DNA) has been assembled by blind, chance processes, and the more likely it becomes that the genome is the work of an Intelligent Designer.

References:
  1. Margaret J. Beaton and Thomas Cavalier-Smith, “Eukaryotic Non-Coding DNA is Functional: Evidence from the Differential Scaling of Cryptomonad Genomes,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 266 (1999), pp. 2053-2059.
  2. Wen-Hsiung Li, Molecular Evolution, (Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates, Inc. Publishers, 1997), pp. 379-401.
  3. W. Ford Doolittle and Carmen Sapienza, “Selfish Genes, The Phenotype Paradigm and Genome Evolution,” Nature, 284, (1980), pp. 601-603.
  4. L. E. Orgel and F. H. C. Crick, “Selfish DNA: The Ultimate Parasite,” Nature, 284 (1980), pp. 604-607.
  5. T. Cavalier-Smith, “Nuclear Volume Control by Nucleoskeletal DNA, Selection for Cell Volume and Cell Growth Rate, and the Solution of the DNA C-Value Paradox,” Journal of Cell Science 34, (1978), pp. 247-278.
  6. Beaton and Cavalier-Smith, pp. 2053-2059.


Earth's Carefully Crafted Crust
By Hugh Ross

Researchers have discovered still more indicators of divine design in Earth’s fine-tuned geophysical processes. These indicators belong to an intricate, life-essential cycle (called the carbonate-silicate cycle). This cycle compensates for the ongoing gradual increase in the sun’s brightness.

As more and more of the sun’s fuel (hydrogen) ignites, the sun glows brighter and brighter. At the same time, heat-trapping gases in Earth’s atmosphere (carbon dioxide and water vapor) get transferred, by organisms, from the atmosphere to the crust. In this amazing “double coincidence,” Earth’s decreased heat trapping efficiency exactly compensates for the increased solar brightness so that Earth’s surface temperature remains ideal for life.

For some time scientists have been aware that this cycle demands fine-tuned balancing of erosion rates, plate tectonic activity, volcanic activity, and, of course, the quantity and kinds of life on the planet through time. The most recent research reveals, in addition, the delicacy of the rate at which Earth’s crust plates, particularly the ocean-floor crust plates, move beneath, or “subduct,” below the plates they collide with.

This “subduction” rate, in turn, is governed by the rate at which minerals in the subduction zone (the place where two underwater plates crash together) remove water from the ocean via the hydration process. Both the chemistry of ocean floor rocks and the volume of ocean water must be fine-tuned.

Again, research produced a bonus. It just so happens that a dehydration process at work in the downward-moving slabs leads to production of a talc layer that both lowers and stabilizes the sliding friction of adjoining tectonic plates. This friction reduction and stabilization lowers the earthquake risk to advanced life.

The more we learn about what is required to keep life going for the past 3.86 billion years, the more evidence we see that a Supernature shaped nature.

Reference:
  1. Stephen H. Kirby, “Taking the Temperature of Slabs,” Nature, 403 (2000), pp. 31-34.


Cambrian Flash
By Fuz Rana

From two independent teams of paleontologists working in Yunnan, China, comes powerful support for the creation model and, at the same time comes further serious challenge to the naturalistic model for the origin of animals.1, 2

Fossils previously found in Yunnan province (at sites discovered nearly 100 years ago) and in the Burgess Shale deposits of the Canadian Rockies tell us that all animal phyla (more than 70) ever to exist in Earth’s history appeared “at once” about 540 million years ago. (Some 40 phyla have since disappeared and not a single new one has appeared.) This “burst” of life is called the Cambrian Explosion, and the “at once” refers to an extremely narrow window of geologic time (~5-10 million years).3, 4 The latest reports from the Chinese sites narrows this window to less than 3 million years.5

The most widely accepted idea among naturalistic biologists has been that chordates arose from echinoderms (sea stars, sand dollars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, etc.) and that chordates in turn gave rise to vertebrates. Echinoderms are also believed to have spawned hemichordates as an evolutionary side branch.6

This scenario predicts that echinoderms, hemichordates, chordates, and vertebrates will appear sequentially in the fossil record—and that the sequence will cover a long time span, given the extensive anatomical and physiological differences among these phyla. Naturalism would not anticipate hemichordates, chordates, or vertebrates appearing together in the early Cambrian fauna. But in recent years, researchers have found hemichordates and chordates together in the Cambrian event.7, 8 These discoveries, in and of themselves, create an insurmountable problem for the naturalistic model.

Most recently, however, paleontologists have discovered craniate chordates (animals with a stiff rod-like structure along their back and a hardened or mineralized brain case) and vertebrates in early Cambrian layers.7

In other words, the general features of the Cambrian Explosion, as well as the emerging details of this event, such as the sudden and simultaneous appearance of echinoderms, hemichordates, chordates—even craniate chordates—and vertebrates, fit perfectly the predictions of RTB’s biblical creation model while contradicting naturalism.

Readers who want to learn more about the latest scientific discoveries in Yunnan and their importance to the Christian faith should watch for an interview with Dr. Paul Chien in an upcoming issue of Facts for Faith . Dr. Chien, a leading invertebrate biologist active in Christian outreach, has visited the Chinese Cambrian sites himself and brings back a first-hand report.

References:
  1. D. G. Shu et al., “Lower Cambrian Vertebrates from South China,” Nature, 402 (1999), pp. 42-46.
  2. Jun-Yuan Chen, Ki-Ying Huang, and Chia-Wei Li, “An Early Cambrian Craniate-like Chordate,” Nature, 402 (1999), pp. 518-522.
  3. Richard A. Kerr, “Evolution’s Big Bang Gets Even More Explosive,” Science, 261 (1993), pp. 1274-1275.
  4. Richard A. Bowring et al., “Calibrating Rates of Early Cambrian Evolution,” Science, 261 (1993), pp. 1293-1299.
  5. Personal interview with Paul Chien, February 26, 2000.
  6. Cleveland P Hickman, Sr., et al., Integrated Principles of Zoology, 6th ed. (St. Louis, Mo.: The C. V. Mosby Company, 1979), pp. 476-481.
  7. J. Y. Chen et al., “A Possible Early Cambrian Chordate,” Nature, 377 (1995), pp. 720-721.
  8. D. G. Shu, X. Zhang, and L. Chen, “Reinterpretation of Yunnanozoon as the Earliest Known Hemichordate,” Nature, 380 (1996), pp. 428-430.


FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH
Do You Have the Will Power?
By David Madeira

When people take deliberate action they are said to be “exercising their will.” Each year thousands of individuals do just that: they will to designate gifts through their estate plans for charities they believe in and support. In fact, in a typical year nearly 80% of the monies given to charity come from bequests by wills and other estate plans. That’s what I call will power!

A will is a powerful instrument enabling individuals to create their own legacy for family and for charities, rather than allowing the state and federal governments to determine what happens to their assets upon death. Yet, nearly 70% of Americans die without preparing a valid will, and the government determines their legacy. A deliberate act of the will is all a person needs to avoid this loss and to make well-thought-out distributions to family, ministries, and other causes. Why substitute “Uncle Sam’s” will for your own in deciding what to do with your estate?

A good will affords you the opportunity to:

  • specify which property is to be distributed to whom;
  • direct when and how such distributions are to be made;
  • choose the individual or institution you trust to carry out your wishes;
  • select a guardian for minor children; and
  • preserve as much of your estate for your heirs as possible through judicious use of tax-savings devices.


Few people doubt that a properly drawn will serves as the cornerstone of estate planning. However, many are daunted by the multiple considerations that go into preparing even the simplest of wills. If you would like to receive more information on how to create a will, one that will put your desires into effect, ask for our brochure, “Planning Your Will for All It’s Worth.” Do you have the will to provide deliberately for your loved ones, for your church, and for ministries such as Reasons To Believe?


PRESIDENT’S LAPTOP

Dear Friends,

For a year now, Connections has stood alone. It has been our only periodical bringing you new faith-supporting evidences from the frontiers of science. We needed an entire year to prepare for the launch of our full-fledged apologetics magazine, Facts for Faith. At long last, we can bring people more than just a few brief paragraphs of apologetics news.

Connections will continue to bring you these brief updates, along with ministry highlights and RTB’s calendar of events. In future months, we hope to make it available by e-mail to anyone who would prefer to receive it that way.

Facts for Faith, available only by subscription, will bring you 56 pages of apologetics news and information, with full-color graphics. We have tried to write clearly and comprehensibly so that people with little or no advanced science education can understand, enjoy, and make use of it.

Even at 56 pages we won’t have room for all the new discoveries and evidences we want to share with you. That’s why we’re developing more than one new communication tool. The list includes our new radio program, the Message of the Month, and the June conference (see flyer attached).

You deserve a big THANK YOU, for you have been our inspiration. Your comments and requests have led to the creation of these new resources. The whole (overworked) staff joins me in praying that you will find these resources personally uplifting and will put them to effective use, as the Lord leads you.

SINCERELY,

Hugh Ross


FIELD REPORT
By Kathy Ross

We’re on the air—and on the web—live! On Saturday, February 12, at 9 A.M. God widened our “field” to include radio listeners in Denver, Houston, and Seattle and web radio listeners around the globe. The “introductory” broadcast was taped, but since then the program has gone live, with time allotted for callers’ questions. So far, the response has been wonderful, and already Los Angeles and Dallas stations have signed on for live broadcast.

We’re on the press, too, with our new Facts for Faith magazine! As I write, the ink is still wet. As soon as it dries, the first issue will be on its way to the several thousand people who ordered it—and from there, we hope, to others. The response from Connections readers has buoyed our spirits in this huge under-taking.

Travel to new territory continues. Hugh Ross and Fuz Rana gave an intensive apologetics training course to business leaders gathered in Montana. They also addressed church groups in northern California and Texas. Kenneth Samples and Fuz wrapped up their course at Christ Reformed Church, Anaheim, and teamed up with Hugh for the year’s first two Open Forum luncheons in Pasadena.
Pictured: Kenneth Samples and Key Payton working on FACTS for FAITH

Other new territory included Winthrop University, Columbia International Bible College and Seminary, and the University of South Carolina, where Hugh gave outreach talks to faculty, students, and guests from the community. This same trip included a return visit to the University of Florida, Gainesville, and a remarkable event in Virginia, where Hugh was invited to serve as an “expert witness” in the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association re-enactment of the famous (or infamous) Scopes trial. Videographers were on hand to capture the drama, and we look forward to viewing (perhaps offering) this tape as soon as it becomes available.

Hugh was especially encouraged by three things on this east-coast trip: first and foremost, by the testimonies of many who said RTB was instrumental in their decision to follow Christ; second, by the groundswell of interest in launching RTB chapters in the Carolinas; and, third, by interest expressed by a number of university science faculty members for conducting research that tests our creation model predictions.

For a list of upcoming events, please check the calendar on the back page or go to our web site for updates as more events are confirmed. We value your participation and your prayers.


PRAY-ERS
What It Takes to Watch and Pray
By Kathy Ross

The Navigators’ recent launch of Pray! magazine documents the spread of a “prayer movement” among Christians worldwide. My response: “Hallelujah!” It goes without saying, but I’ll write it anyway, that prayer is as vital as breathing.

The prayer movement brings people together to pray. The importance of this togetherness cannot be overstated. For one, from a spiritual standpoint, togetherness, or respect for one another as “members” of one body is essential to fulfilling God’s purposes for us. Praying together allows us to hear and consider many aspects of a spiritual challenge, more than just the one (or ones) that occur to us individually as we pray.

For two, from a practical standpoint, togetherness helps keep us awake. Yes, I mean physically awake as well as spiritually alert. If you are now or ever have been sleep deprived, you know what I mean. When you bow your head and close your eyes to pray in silent solitude, how long do you stay awake and focused? How soon do you drift into dreams?

The connection between adequate sleep and prayer came home to me in two ways last week. First, I heard a news report about the damaging effects of sleep deprivation on marriage. The divorce rate is much higher than the national average in households where one or both partners run too long on too little sleep. (Let’s all pray for couples with babies or shift work.) Analysts suggest that lack of sleep leads to a lack of in-depth communication, among other problems. Hmmm. Could this apply to my walk with God?

Then I noticed how much different, as in better, my prayer time went on the one morning I awoke well rested, having slept for as long as my body needed. I was able to listen as well as to talk. I was able to praise and rejoice as well as petition. I had the energy and clarity of mind to be specific and insightful both in my confessions and requests. What a rich and all-too-rare experience!

Here is my request, of you and for you: May I/we be disciplined enough, by the Holy Spirit’s power, to get enough sleep to stay awake in prayer. Right now I’m heading to bed.


LETTERS
From A Young RTB Supporter...

I am a senior at Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas, and a fan of your work. In my English honors class we were given an assignment to write to someone famous whom we admired. I thought of you. Your books had a huge impact on my personal walk. At a time when I had lost nearly all faith in religion, religious people, and God, your books helped me regain my footing. They boldly defended the claims of the Bible from a scientific standpoint, something I had never come across before. They rejuvenated my relationship with God, and for that I am very grateful to you. Your books enabled me to defend my faith and to witness to atheist friends. ...You helped me see through the propaganda of both science and religion to glimpse the truth. You are a great example to me of someone who is a very intelligent and logical Christian...I greatly appreciate the work you are doing and I hope you realize that you are making a difference in people’s lives.

-- Bill, Abilene, Texas
Encouraged in the Faith...

After having been roundly attacked by Young Earth Creationists who are otherwise fine Christians, I was almost afraid to express out loud what I knew God’s book of creation was saying. I knew that creation and Scripture were both written by his hand and could never contradict one other, but my YEC friends could not get past the hermeneutical construct of six literal 24-hour days. What a relief to find other Christians who are as committed to the truth and inerrancy of Scripture who also accept the truths God’s universe tells us about itself. I’ll go on attending star parties and talking with unchurched astronomer friends about how God created it all some 15-odd billion years ago. Alan Guth may not have ever read Isaiah 40:20ff, nor Job 9:5-10, but the inflationary universe is there. My little girl can spot Jupiter and Saturn in the sky at age two and a half. She sees them through the eyepiece and asks to look at the stars almost every night. I ask her, “Kasia, who made Jupiter?”

“God made Jupiter,” she answers in her little voice.
“And who made Kasia?”
“God made Kasia.”

It’s not very advanced, but what a profound statement by a toddler...Just wanted to...let you know how glad I am there are kindred spirits out there.

-- Rob, Denver, Colorado


MEET OUR PEOPLE
When We All Pull Together
By Krista Bontrager

Reasons To Believe volunteers come in all ages. Sharon Stuart and grand-daughter Amber Flint (age 10) lend us their helpful hands at least one day a week. Together they assist Sharon’s husband, Bob, who coordinates our ever-growing volunteer apologists team, plus special projects. Bob oversees the apologetics training program, tracks the progress of students, helps organize regular round table discussions, and encourages newly trained apologists to exercise their skills. Sharon and Amber, a vital part of Bob’s efforts on behalf of RTB, multiply the ministry through their family teamwork.
RTB Volunteers Amber Flint and Sharon StuartPictured: RTB Volunteers Amber Flint and Sharon Stuart

CONNECTIONS: Let’s begin by learning about your spiritual background.

SHARON: I was not raised in a Christian home. I became a Christian when I was 32 when I read Romans 10:9-10. Soon after that, some Baptist missionaries came to my door and invited me to church. Eventually, I began attending church regularly and grew in my faith. Bob was raised in Christian Science. He became a Christian during his college years when some students from InterVarsity visited him, shared the Gospel, and then prayed with him.

CONNECTIONS: How did you first learn about the ministry of RTB?

SHARON: In the late 1980’s Bob and I were working full time at his chiropractic office. Bob heard about and attended a nearby outreach where Hugh spoke. He came home extremely excited. I went to hear Hugh speak shortly after that. We fell in love with the ministry and began to volunteer. A few years later Bob had to leave his practice because of a disability. Shortly after that, Hugh invited Bob to come on staff at Reasons To Believe to coordinate various “special projects” for the ministry. That was in 1994.

CONNECTIONS: So being at Reasons To Believe is really like a second career for you and Bob. How about you, Amber?

AMBER: I started volunteering at Reasons To Believe in 1995 when I was 5 years old. I came here with my Nana and my Papa to help in the office. Now I am in 5 th grade, and I am home-schooled by my Nana. On my last report card, I got an “A+” for my ministry grade. I even have a special category on my report card called “Reasons To Believe.”

CONNECTIONS: Sharon, what prompted you to take time out of your busy schedule to volunteer at RTB?

SHARON: From the beginning Bob and I were impressed with Hugh’s approach of putting forth evidence to support the inerrancy of the Bible. Hugh also impressed us because of the kind of person he is. Sometimes talking to an intellectual person can be very intimidating. But Hugh is a humble, kind person. He genuinely cares about people. I remember going to hear him speak many years ago and noticing how he stayed after the lecture for over an hour just to answer everyone’s questions. And he still does that even today!

AMBER: I like to volunteer at Reasons To Believe because the people are nice here.

CONNECTIONS: Have you always had an interest in apologetics?

SHARON: No, not really. Bob had more interest than I did. Over the years, however, as I have learned more my interest has grown.

CONNECTIONS: What kind of work do you do here, Amber?

AMBER: I help copy tapes for the apologists and help scan documents for my Papa. I also work with Hector in shipping. Sometimes I put together notebooks for the apologists. I do lots of different things.

CONNECTIONS: Amber, do you know what you would like to be when you grow up?

AMBER: Either a children’s doctor or a first grade teacher.


RESOURCES FOR YOU
The following items are available upon request. Visit us at www.reasons.org or telephone 1 (800) 482-7836. Allow four weeks for postal delivery.
    
STATEMENT OF FAITH
In this brochure Reasons To Believe spells out its position on Scripture, creation, God, the person of Christ, the person of the Holy Spirit, mankind, redemption, justification, the Resurrection, the Church, future events, and the Great Commission.
    
PROVIDING REASONS TO BELIEVE
This colorful, ten-page brochure acquaints readers with the work and services of the Reasons To Believe ministry. It includes a return-mail, postage-paid card for requesting additional information.


MESSAGE OF THE MONTH

If you would like to join “Message of the Month,” becoming a sustaining supporter of the RTB ministry and receiving monthly apologetics updates on audiotape, please contact us or click here.


FOR FURTHER STUDY

LIKE NO OTHER MAN
Alex Metherell, a physician with a doctorate in physics, explains why Christians have a symbol of execution—the cross—as a focal point of their faith. Why commemorate a crucifixion? Metherell investigates the importance of Jesus’ death and recounts the physical and spiritual onslaught Christ endured during his trials and execution, including the trauma that His body experienced. Two points become clear: the suffering was great, and Christ’s response was supernatural. Metherell reminds readers that the cross signifies God’s incomprehensibly marvelous gift to humankind.

Order on-line at http://store.reasons.org/