Reasons to Believe

Connections 2000, Vol. 2, No. 2



Planet Quest — A Recent Success
By Hugh Ross

Using the world’s largest optical telescope, the 400-inch KECK, three American astronomers recently discovered two Saturn-sized planets outside our solar system. Both orbit “main sequence” stars (stable, hydrogen-burning stars) like our sun.1 Discovery of these two planets, smaller than any extra-solar planets previously discovered, has led to excited speculation that Earth-sized planets may be plentiful.2 The speculation continues, of course, that an abundance of Earth-sized planets means an abundance of life sites in the universe.

Geoffrey Marcy, Paul Butler, and Steven Vogt did not actually “see” the planets. Rather, they established the planets’ existence by carefully measuring tiny wobbles in the positions of the stars they orbit. When a planet is between us and its star, the planet’s gravity tugs the star slightly toward us. When the planet is on the opposite side of its star, it pulls the star slightly away from us. The more massive the planet, the bigger the wobble it causes and, thus, the easier it is to detect.

Until now, all the planets discovered (the list includes over 40 to date) outside our solar system have been huge, half the mass of Jupiter or larger (Jupiter = 317 Earth masses). According to Butler, new instruments now give us the capacity to detect planets as small as five percent the mass of Jupiter (about 17 Earth masses).2 So, we can expect to find many more in the months ahead. Detection of Earth-sized or Mars-sized planets will require new technology, however.

One of the two newly discovered planets has about 75% the mass of Saturn (22% the mass of Jupiter); the other is a little larger, about 84% the mass of Saturn (25% the mass of Jupiter). Neither is a candidate for life support. Like other planets discovered thus far, both reside too near their stars and have orbital paths too eccentric (too elongated, non-circular) to permit life. These and other characteristics rule out the possibility of life anywhere within the planetary systems to which these two planets belong.

Whether or not Earth-sized planets prove plentiful, scientists have no rational basis for assuming that such planets will have the capacity to support life. Size is only one of over 100 different planetary characteristics that must be fine-tuned for advanced life support.3 The estimated probability that a non-designed, Earth-sized planet will have the capacity to support life is less than one in 10150 (the number 1 with 150 zeros following it).3 And that is not to mention the larger problem of life’s “spontaneous” origin.4 Christians, however, have a rational basis for excitement. As these discoveries advance our understanding of solar system formation, they underline the uniqueness, the divine and purposeful design, of our own solar system and planetary home.

References:

  1. Ron Cowen, “Less Massive than Saturn?,” Science News, 157 (2000), pp. 220-222.
  2. Cowen, p. 220.
  3. Hugh Ross, “Design Evidences for Life Support,” (Pasadena, CA: Reasons To Believe, 2000).
  4. Robert Shapiro, Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (New York: Summit Books, 1986), p. 128.


Close Encounters of a Deadly Kind
By Hugh Ross

Recent studies of the Edgeworth-Kuiper asteroid belt reveal the “amazing circumstances” required to make our solar system a suitable place for life.1 The belt itself is a recent discovery. It consists of thousands of asteroids orbiting beyond Neptune. In January 2000, an international team of astronomers recognized that the orbits of these asteroids faithfully record our sun’s close encounters with other stars over the past 4.6 billion years.

The team’s calculations show that another star approached our sun during the first hundred million years of our sun’s existence and came within ten billion miles of it. (For perspective, note that Pluto, the most distant planet, resides four billion miles out.) They also show what would have happened to our solar system if it had received additional close encounters: Many of the asteroids would have been ground into dust. This dust interacts with gas giants (such as our Jupiter) in such a way as to cause them to drift inward toward their stars. This drifting would destabilize other planets’ orbits, thus ending all possibility for life in such a system.

This drift pattern is exactly what we see in the orbits of the forty extra-solar planets discovered so far. This drift pattern, caused by close stellar encounters, is the norm for planetary systems, the team concludes. Our solar system had the extraordinary “good fortune” of forming in a very small and loose star cluster situated well away from a spiral arm where stars are more densely packed. And, because our solar system revolves around our galaxy’s core at just the right distance/rate, it remains in this safe zone, this sparsely populated area of our galaxy.2

Such “good fortune,” I would argue, combined with the many other fine-tuned characteristics that make our solar system, specifically our planet, habitable,3 can better be explained as the handiwork of God.

The research team’s calculations also show that if our solar system had received no stellar encounters, gas giants such as Uranus and Neptune would have formed beyond the orbit of Pluto. Exactly what impact these faraway gas giants would have had on the comets and asteroids in their vicinity (not to mention on the survivability of life on Earth) has yet to be determined.

References:
  1. Shigeru Ida, John Larwood, and Andreas Burkert, “Evidence for Early Stellar Encounters in the Orbital Distribution of Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Objects,” Astrophysical Journal, 528 (2000), pp. 1351-356.
  2. Guillermo Gonzalez and Hugh Ross, “You Must Be Here,” Facts for Faith, vol. 1, no. 1 (2000), pp. 36-41.
  3. Hugh Ross, “Design Evidences for Life Support,” (Pasadena, Calif.: Reasons To Believe, 2000).


Whale Ankles — No Support for Neodarwinism
By Hugh Ross

Proponents of gradualism often trot out so-called “transitional” whale fossils as evidence supporting their view.1, 2 In my book, The Genesis Question, I explain why no other animal has a higher risk of rapid extinction and a lower chance of natural advancement than the whale.3 My short explanation for the fossil record’s “transitional” whales is simply that God likes whales. He repeatedly made new ones to replace those that went extinct.

A new challenge to the claims of naturalists and Darwinists comes from the first-time discovery of some relatively complete ancient whale ankle bones.4 Theorists have insisted that modern whales descended from either artiodactyls (archaic hippos) or mesonychians (archaic ungulates). Thus, expectations ran high that this discovery would settle the question. The surprising answer is that ancient whale ankles do not look anything like artiodactyl ankles or mesonychian ankles—or any other known ankles, for that matter. The Bible’s claim that God specially created the great sea mammals receives further affirmation.

References:
  1. Hugh Ross, “A Whale of a Change,” Facts & Faith, v. 10, n. 3 (1996), p. 3.
  2. Hugh Ross, “Creation on the Firing Line,” Facts & Faith, v. 12, n. 1 (1998), pp. 6-7.
  3. Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998), pp. 50-52, 55-57.
  4. J. G. M. Thewissen, S. I. Madar, and S. T. Hussain, “Whale Ankles and Evolutionary Relationships,” Nature, 395 (1998), p. 452.


New Challenge to the Bird-Dinosaur Link
By Fuz Rana

In the Liaoning Province of The People’s Republic of China, researchers are combing an extremely rich fossil site, the Yixian Formation. It contains remarkably well-preserved remains of plants, insects, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and dinosaurs.1 Arguably, the most interesting fossils from the site are theropod dinosaurs–-some of which have been interpreted as bearing feathers.2,3 These specimens have been touted by evolutionary biologists as key transitional intermediates linking birds to dinosaurs.

The initial dating of the The Yixian Formation seemed to support that possibility. Using the method called biostratigraphic correlation, scientists identified the fossils as late Jurassic (more than 135 million years old), making the “feathered” theropod dinosaurs contemporary with and thus a possible progenitor of archeopteryx, the oldest true bird. (This dating technique uses index fossils to estimate the age of one formation by comparing it with a formation of known age that contains the same index fossils.4)

Because of its importance, several research teams have focused with more robust and demanding methodologies on the dating of the Yixian Formation. Two recent studies used a radiometric dating technique, 40Ar-39Ar. Each study measured the age of the Yixian Formation to be between 121 and 125 million years old.5,6

These new dates place the Yixian Formation within the early Cretaceous period, making archeopteryx at least 20 million years older than the so-called “intermediates” leading up to it. The theropods from the Yixian Formation, like all theropods, now fall within the “temporal paradox.” That is, all theropods, despite their declared status as progenitors of birds, show up in the fossil record well after the first appearance of birds.7

Order of appearance in the fossil record remains important in establishing the validity of the evolutionary paradigm. Thus, the re-dating of the Yixian Formation has profound implications. It significantly weakens the theropod dinosaur-to-bird connection and renders the origin of birds unaccounted for by the evolutionary model.

References:
  1. Paul M. Barrett, “Evolutionary Consequences of Dating the Yixian Formation,” Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 15 (2000), pp. 99-103.
  2. P-J Chen et al ., “An Exceptionally Well-Preserved Theropod Dinosaur from the Yixian Formation of China,” Nature, 391 (1998), pp. 147-152.
  3. Q. Ji et al ., “Two Feathered Dinosaurs from Northeastern China,” Nature, 393 (1998) pp. 753-761.
  4. Barrett, pp. 99-103.
  5. Barrett, pp. 99-103.
  6. Carl C. Swisher III, et al ., “Cretaceous Age For the Feathered Dinosaurs of Liaoning, China,” Nature, 400 (1999), pp. 58-61.
  7. Alan Feduccia, The Origin and Evolution of Birds , 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 382.

PRAY-ERS
By Kathy Ross

Having a yard for the first time in my adult life has given me a whole new appreciation for flowers, trees, and plants. This appreciation has, in turn, enhanced my capacity to enjoy and appreciate biblical imagery involving these amazing and beautiful creations.

Today, for example, Hugh sent our younger son outside to do some weeding. Forgetting that this weed-vs.-plant concept is new to David, Hugh handed him a shopping bag and had him go to work. About twenty minutes later, David declared he was “finished.” That’s when Hugh and I discovered that “finished” applied to a large section of our newly landscaped garden. In the bag we found two weeds and about two dozen freshly-uprooted purchases from the local nursery—life lessons for David, as for us, and an opportunity to reflect on Matthew 13:24-30, the parable of the weeds.

About a half-hour later, the phone rang. It was the kind of call we all dread, the call that brings news of a friend’s death. In recent weeks, three such calls have come. One about Carl Ragoza, another about Dorothy Beisner, and now, this one about Alice Cole, all personal and ministry friends. After the call, as I quietly cried and prayed, thanking God for Alice’s loving friendship and asking Him to comfort Alice’s family (which includes our friends the Scheeles), my thoughts turned again to Jesus’ words about plants and seeds.

Jesus speaks of mustard seeds and grains of wheat, magnificently transformed through the planting process, their “death.” I picture the bulbs I placed in the ground just a few days ago. I can hardly wait to see them again—more accurately, to see the beauty that will spring from them, up through the dark ground and into the light of day.

I know that when such beauty appears, the pain of “death” and of the waiting it requires, will utterly vanish. Lord, I see your point. Thanks for speaking to me in word pictures.


PRESIDENT’S LAPTOP
Dear Friends,

Many of you, I am sure, saw the April 10 issue of Time presenting 25 anticipated breakthroughs in science and space for the 21 st century. What particularly grabbed my attention was the debate between physicist John Horgan, author of The End of Science (1997), and Paul Hoffman, former editor of Discover magazine and past president of Encyclopedia Britannica.

You may be amazed to learn what Horgan argues. He claims that “science in its grandest sense—the attempt to comprehend the universe and our place in it—has entered an era of diminishing returns.” He laments, “Scientists will continue making incremental advances, but they will never achieve their most ambitious goals, such as understanding the origin of the universe, of life, and of human consciousness.”

Not once in their exchange did either Horgan or Hoffman question the presuppositions of naturalism, though the scientific method demands a new hypothesis when the old one fails to produce significant results. Horgan’s gloom reflects his mind-lock on naturalistic answers to the three big questions.

In other words, what Horgan observes is not the end of science; rather, it is the end of a naturalistic model for the origin of the universe, of life, and of human consciousness. In saying this, I am not accusing either man of being a bad scientist. Like other good scientists, they resist abandoning a failed model until they find another plausible, testable model to take its place.

This clinging to a failed model among my scientist peers is one of the reasons I feel so passionate about our conference this June. I believe a key to secularists’ acknowledgement of the death of naturalism lies in the demonstration of a creation model that not only withstands all the tests science can throw at it but also successfully predicts future scientific discoveries. People need to know such a model exists. (The right kind of media attention would surely help us get the word out.)

Please pray for this and for every aspect of the conference. Pray especially that those who attend will be equipped and motivated to take what they’ve learned to those who need it.

SINCERELY,

Hugh Ross


FIELD REPORT
By Kathy Ross

With one painful exception, RTB’s field of ministry continues to widen and deepen. It widened again this quarter as Hugh, Fuz, and other speakers brought our message for the first time to Michigan Tech, UCLA, and the University of Texas; to Baptist, Christian, Covenant, Presbyterian and interdenominational congregations in Alabama, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Texas; and to radio and web audiences from east coast to west and beyond.

It deepened as we brought new information and inspiration to people in places we’ve already visited, such as the University of Northern Colorado, the Prayer Breakfast in Greeley, Southern Gables Church in Denver, Evangelical Presbyterian Fellowship in Littleton, and the University of Alabama and University Baptist Church in Huntsville.

As you can see from the article on p. 6, our radio audience has expanded to include several more stations. Each week, the number of callers during the broadcast increases. More and more people, believers and seekers, tell us, emphatically, “Thanks for being there!”
Drs. Fuz Rana and Hugh Ross address guests at our annual open house in Glendora, CA.Pictured: Drs. Fuz Rana and Hugh Ross address guests at our annual open house in Glendora, CA.

The first issue of Facts for Faith is now in the hands of subscribers, despite frustrating delays at some post offices. The second issue is nearly ready to go to press. Delivery should go more smoothly once we qualify for periodical postage. So far, response to the magazine has been overwhelmingly positive.

I’m sad to report that our opportunity for ministry to home educators has suffered a setback. The Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California has barred us from participating in its annual convention, a huge and wonderful meeting place for many of our friends and eager inquirers. (CHEA board members say we exalt science above Scripture.) We owe special thanks to Sonlight, a major home-school curriculum provider, for choosing to recommend and distribute our resources.

Meanwhile, preparations proceed at a feverish pace for our first-ever conference, “Putting Creation to the Test,” June 22-24, in Cypress (near Long Beach), Calif. If you haven’t signed up already, we hope you’ll make plans to join us for this exciting event. Register on the web or call today! Look for a report and photos in our next issue.


FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH
Trust in the Living Trust
By David Madeira

Trusts are important financial and estate planning tools with unique characteristics to meet a variety of personal and financial objectives. As the name implies, a trust involves trust, putting assets in the name of a trustee who will oversee and manage your property according to the terms you, as the “grantor,” set forth. Several types of trusts exist, and they can be created to take effect during your lifetime (a living trust) or after your death (testamentary trust).

One particular trust, a “revocable living trust,” offers certain benefits, including these:

PRIVACY - The provisions of a living trust are a private matter. By contrast, a will becomes a matter of public record once probated. If privacy for your financial affairs is important to you, consider a trust.

FLEXIBILITY - Living trusts allow you to amend or revoke any of the provisions of your trust to meet changing life circumstances. For example, the changing circumstances of your children may prompt you to amend the amount of money each receives from your estate. Or, if your charitable interests change through time, your trust may be easily amended to account for those changes.

ECONOMY - Costs of estate administration are determined by the size of a person’s estate. Since a trust legally owns the assets it holds, the assets you place in a trust are not considered part of your estate at death. In this way, the trust reduces both the expense and time of probate, and it transfers assets more quickly to your beneficiaries.

CONTROL - You may name yourself as trustee of your trust. Thus, while you gain all the benefits of a trust, you remain in command of your financial affairs for as long as you wish. At any time you may choose to name a spouse, a friend, or a financial professional to manage the trust for you, as God in His wisdom directs.

A living trust, together with a simple will, can be the foundation of an effective estate plan. For more information on how trusts may help order your financial affairs and provide for your beneficiaries, ask for our brochure, The Living Trust: A Trust for Life. Call Yolanda at (626) 335-1480 x105.


LETTERS
RE: Dr. Ross and Dr. Rana Lecture

Thank you so much for your recent presentation at First Baptist Church in Midland, Texas. As a 39 year old, Christian, petroleum engineer and Sunday school teacher, I thought your presentation was fascinating, helpful, encouraging and inspirational. It was a great opportunity for me to hear a real-live, Christian, “Rocket Scientist,” (and it wasn’t all over my head). I am grateful that God has blessed you guys with incredible intelligence, and that you are giving him glory with your gifts.

-- Dave, Colorado
Looking Ahead to the Conference

Dr. Ross, I am looking forward to having the chance to meet you at the RTB conference in June so that I can thank you in person for what you have done for me. My friend, Dennis, spent several years talking with me about the Bible but I was unable to believe that it was a reliable source of truth because of the apparent conflict with science. One day he brought in your testimony on tape, which he had just received from his brother. That started me down the road of studying all of your books and most of your tapes. Your arguments and evidence were persuasive. The Holy Spirit did the rest of the work, and I asked Christ to come into my life shortly afterwards. Thank you and God bless you.

-- Steve, Massachusetts
Responding to Young Earth Creationism

Please let Dr. Ross know that I appreciate his ministry and especially his books. His insights into the minds of YEC’s [young earth creationists] were a tremendous help to me in the past several weeks. My wife and I attended a lecture Dr. Ross gave at the University of Cincinnati last year. We are grateful for his humility as well as knowledge. It is gratifying to see him maintain a cordial attitude with YEC’s and evolutionists alike when they don’t seem to respond in kind to him. I learned as much from his demeanor as his words...We have had the sad experience of seeing several young people grow up in the church under the strict and unyielding YEC teaching, only to have them abandon the faith when let loose in the world, largely due to the false dichotomy between faith and reason which the YEC position engenders. We have worked with high schoolers for many years and my heart goes out to these young people who honestly struggle with these issues.

-- Dan, Email
Web Site Resources

I am a 20-year-old undergraduate physics major at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. I have read many of your books and have studied much of the material that is on your web site...what you are doing is wonderful. Indeed, much of this material has helped me to stay strong in and defend my faith during two years of relentless and often bitter assaults from university “authorities” and religious essayists.

-- David, Email

I just wanted to express my thanks for your work in the area of Christian apologetics, without automatically discounting what science tells us about God’s creation around us. I was brought up during a time in the Christian community when anything scientific was immediately suspect, largely due to the backlash from the advent of Darwinian evolution theory. I get a great deal of use out of your top-notch web site. I have listened to probably half of the TV shows on it, and many of the radio shows.

-- Randy, Email


FOR FURTHER STUDY
Book: Rare EarthNEW! RARE EARTH

Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, researchers at a secular university, question Carl Sagan and Frank Drake’s conclusion that extra-terrestrial civilizations number in the millions. With observations that reach from volcanic hot springs on ocean floors to the surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, the authors argue that, while microbial life may be prevalent, conditions for the survival of higher life forms are too complex to arise in many other places. Though the authors do not go as far with their arguments as we at RTB would, Rare Earth offers food for thought to those who like to ponder the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. Life on Earth may be a more “remarkable coincidence” than anyone knew.

LEVEL: UNDERGRADUATE (HARDCOVER)
Item No. B0008 (27 oz.)
$27.50 plus shipping and handling

Purchase @ http://store.reasons.org
Book: Night Comes to the CretaceousNEW! NIGHT COMES TO THE CRETACEOUS

James Powell tells the dramatic story of the scientific work that ultimately affirmed the theory proposed by physicist Luis Alvarez and his son, Walter. In 1980 the Alvarezes claimed that a huge comet or asteroid had hit the earth some 65 million years ago. That impact, they said, eventually caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and other species that roamed the earth at that time. While their theory challenged the geological orthodoxy of their day, the 1990 discovery of an immense crater beneath the Yucatan peninsula proved them right. In Night Comes to the Cretaceous Powell treats both the hard work of scientific research and the politics of scientific inquiry in a manner that makes his book an intriguing detective story.

LEVEL: ALL READERS (PAPERBACK)
Item No. B0003 (15 oz.)
$14.00 plus shipping and handling

Purchase @ http://store.reasons.org


IN THE WORKS — AND NEEDING YOUR HELP
By Bonita Connoley

RADIO

Launched on February 15, the RTB radio broadcast has aired every Saturday morning since then. Originally on three stations, the program now airs on eight stations across the country:

    WNIV-AM 970 & 1400, Atlanta
    KIXL-AM 970, Austin
    KWRD-FM 94.9, Dallas
    KRKS-FM 94.7, Denver
    KTEK-AM 1110, Houston
    KFSG-FM 96.3, Los Angeles
    KKMO-AM 1360 and KGNW-AM 820 (rebroadcast @ 11 A.M.), Seattle

Production Director, Krista Bontrager, with her husband, Technical Director, Robert BontragerPictured: Production Director, Krista Bontrager, with her husband, Technical Director, Robert Bontrager

While the number of listeners and callers grows, so does the opposition. Station managers have begun to receive “hate mail” from believers who oppose our views. PLEASE WRITE or PHONE the station(s) in your area to let them know you’re glad they carry our program.

If you live near our office/studio in Glendora, please consider volunteering some time on Saturday mornings from 9 to noon handling off-air calls. Most callers simply want information about RTB, our publications, and our other resources. All they need is someone to write down their name, address, and telephone number on forms we provide. Call Jackie at (626) 335-1480 x113 if you can help.

Wherever you live, we invite you to support the program financially. Air time is costly! Mail gifts to Reasons To Believe, P.O. Box 5978, Pasadena, CA 91117. All radio contributions, large or small, will be put to good use “spreading light at the speed of sound.”
RTB CONFERENCE: PUTTING CREATION TO THE TEST

Registration for “Putting Creation to the Test,” June 22-24, in Cypress, Calif., is filling up fast. So are the “to-do” lists of everyone involved in conference preparation. The more volunteers we can recruit, the merrier. Whatever your skill—walking, talking, breathing, driving—Elaine will probably find a task for you. Please call her at (626) 335-1480 x141.
ARE YOU A M.O.M. SUPPORTER?

Become a Message of the Month member and get monthly audiotapes of exciting new faith-confirming scientific discoveries. Call us at 800-482-7836 or click here.
COMING IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF FACTS FOR FAITH
FACTS for FAITH MagazineSCIENCE SWITCHED SIDES, PART 2

People need to know that scientific research, not religious hysteria, has delivered the knock-out blows to basic tenets of gradual, spontaneous evolution. Life provably demonstrates design, planning, and intervention on the part of a Creator, and only the God of the Bible matches the characteristics we see.
MOTORS IN MY MOLECULES (& YOURS)

New technology allows researchers to explore the intricacies of life molecules. What they see are tiny, finely-designed “motors” propelling cellular (and sub-cellular) activity! Art—and engines—imitate life!!
PAUL CHIEN: FINDING OLD LIFE, AND NEW

In interview and pictures, this distinguished scholar gives his personal story of faith and describes recent findings in China that are turning paleontology upside down, literally.
THE TOUGH QUESTIONS

Bible scholar Ron Nash asks — and answers — “What is a worldview? Why is worldview important in our personal outreach endeavors?”
AND MUCH, MUCH MORE.
CALL 800-482-7836 OR VISIT OUR WEBSITE TO ORDER YOUR
SUBSCRIPTION AT $24 FOR ONE YEAR OR $40 FOR TWO YEARS.