Reasons to Believe

Connections 2000, Vol. 2, No. 3



Water on Mars: What Does It Mean?
by Hugh Ross

On June 22, NASA astronomers held a press conference to announce their discovery of “recently” cut gullies, indicators of flowing water, on the Martian surface.1, 2 The discovery stirred excitement for several reasons—some practical, some ideological, and some (perhaps) political.

First, some background: More than a year ago, the Mars Global Surveyor, which began orbiting Mars in 1997, confirmed the validity of old Mariner 9 photos (from 1972). Those photos showed flood channels cut previous to 3.5 billion years ago, that is, before Mars lost most of its primordial atmosphere to outer space. Since that time, Mars has been too cold and too dry to hold liquid water on its surface for more than a second or two.

These newly observed channels, however, seem to have formed more recently than a few million years ago.3 Asteroids and meteorites have not yet pocked them with craters, nor have the famous Martian dust storms filled them in or worn them down. What’s going on?

The scenario proposed by the discovery team is this: A small amount of the water that either existed on Mars four billion years ago or that arrived more recently (from infalling comets) managed to seep underground into an aquifer. A recent crustal episode, such as a volcanic or other geothermal event, forced the underground water to the surface. The first water to hit the surface instantly froze, forming a dam to hold back the rest of the water. Eventually, the built-up pressure behind the dam caused it to break, unleashing a torrent. A torrent unleashed high up on a steep slope, where these channels were observed, could make their mark in a few seconds before evaporating or freezing.

In practical terms, the discovery suggests that undisturbed aquifers may still exist on Mars. Such aquifers, though hard to reach, might help sustain future astronauts exploring the Martian surface. On the other hand, water contained in the planet’s frozen polar caps (predominantly frozen carbon dioxide with a tiny amount of frozen water) would likely be easier to locate and cheaper to mine.

The ideological reason for the excitement is the popular (though illogical) notion that “liquid water means life.” While no one disputes the necessity of water for life, science has shown that liquid water is merely one of many requirements for life, not the only requirement. Researchers have identified more than a hundred different requirements, independent of water, for life to exist on any given planet in any given planetary system.4 Most of these requirements reflect substantially greater fine-tuning than does liquid water.

Even if all the other requirements were met on a planet, the presence of liquid water is not enough to support life. Living creatures need an abundance of water in all three states (gas, liquid, and solid) available for a long time. Land life additionally demands an abundant and stable water cycle. That Mars never had one, the Mars Global Surveyor affirms. As Genesis 1:6-8 declares—and scientific evidence demonstrates—the existence of an abundant, stable water cycle constitutes a miracle.5 (Incidentally, comets, which are mostly frozen water, carry at least some water to virtually all solar system bodies. Even the moon has some of this comet-delivered water.6)

Will NASA ever find evidence of life on Mars? I expect so, if NASA searches with sufficient diligence.7 Just as meteors travel from Mars to Earth so also do they travel from Earth to Mars. Over the past four billion years at least several billion tons of Earth material, much of it life-carrying material, has landed on Mars. Spread over the Martian surface, this deposition adds up to a very low density of life material, and given the harshness of the Martian environment, almost all this material will have been broken down into molecules untraceable to life. Nevertheless, NASA has a shot at discovering life’s remains on Mars. Such a discovery would testify to certain species’ marvelous, God-given capacity to survive the frigid, near zero vacuum, radiation-riddled trip.

A possible political reason for the stir over the water channel discovery is that NASA’s Mars missions are up for funding consideration. A well-timed “spectacular” Mars discovery might influence legislators’ generosity, some cynics suggest. Personally, I am in favor of unmanned Mars exploration. The track record of the past three decades has been good for Christian apologetics. The more we learn about Mars the more evidence we uncover for the divine design of Earth.

References:

  1. Maggie Fox, “NASA Photographs Show Signs of Water on Mars,” Reuters/Yahoo! News, June 22, 2000, http://daily news.yahoo.com/b/nm/20000622/ts/space_mars_dc.html
  2. Sharon Begley and Erika Check, “NASA: Mars Is All Wet,” Newsweek, July 3, 2000, 48-50.
  3. M. C. Malin and K. S. Edgett, “Evidence for Recent Groundwater Seepage and Surface Runoff on Mars,” Science, 288 (2000), 2330-5.
  4. Hugh Ross, “Design Evidences for Life Support,” a two-page list (Pasadena, CA: Reasons To Believe, 2000).
  5. Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998), 31-36.
  6. Hugh Ross, “Ice on the Moon,” Facts & Faith, vol. 11, no. 1 (1997), 6.
  7. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos , 2nd edition (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1995), 154-155.


How Far Tells How Old
by Hugh Ross

The strength of cosmologists’ model for the origin and development of the universe rests in part on the certainty of astronomers’ distance measurements to stars and galaxies. The only direct measurements researchers have had for stellar distances are those based on trigonometry (specifically, a method called “trigonometric parallaxes”). Applying the ancient Greek theorem of plane geometry, the diameter of Earth’s orbit forms the base of a triangle. The sides of the triangle are the lines of sight from each end of that base (six month’s apart) to a particular star. Measuring the angles formed by those lines enables astronomers to calculate the distance to that star, the triangle’s vertex.

Because stars are so far away, the angles are nearly 90 degrees, so nearly that they are difficult to measure accurately. Until recently, this measuring technique could only demonstrate with certainty that starlight is more than 400 years old. Using “statistical parallaxes,” measuring trigonometric distances to say 10,000 stars all at roughly the same distance (as, for example, stars in globular clusters) astronomers extended their certainty to about 40,000 years.

With the help of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a string of radio telescopes stretching around the globe, astronomers have now measured the distance to the galaxy NGC4258, some 23.5 million light years away.1 Even since I began writing this article, the Astrophysical Journal published a report by two American astronomers who made a direct measurement of the distance to quasar 3C 279. It is 5.9 billion light years away, hence 5.9 billion years old.2 Details of the discovery and of its implications for divine design of the universe, as well as for settling disputes about the age of the universe, will be discussed by astronomers Rogier Windhorst and Kyle Cudworth in an upcoming issue of our new magazine, Facts for Faith.

References:
  1. J. R. Hernstein, et al, “A Geometric Distance to the Galaxy NGC4258 from Orbital Motions in a Nuclear Gas Disk,” Nature, 400 (1999), 539-41.
  2. D. C. Homan and J. F. C. Wardle, “Direct Distance Measurements to Superluminal Radio Sources,” Astrophysical Journal, 535 (2000), 575-85.


DNA Study Cuts Link with the Past
by Fuz Rana

The slender thread of hope held by paleontologists and anthropologists for establishing a link between Neandertals and modern humans has been severed at last. This conclusion comes from studies reported by two research teams, one from the University of Stockholm and the other from the University of Glasgow, and it carries profound implications for the evolutionary hypothesis.1

Neandertals were bipedal primates, living from 150,000 to 30,000 years ago in Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.2 Because Neandertals appear in the fossil record immediately before modern humans and possess some shared anatomical features with modern humans, scientists have long regarded Neandertal as the transitional intermediate between modern humans and the more primitive “ Homo” species of bipedal primates.

The 1992 discovery of pronounced anatomical differences between Neandertals and humans, differences from genes rather than from environment and lifestyle, first frayed the evolutionary link.3, 4 Then, in 1997, a landmark article appeared in the journal Cell. Comparing a sequenced fragment of Neandertal mitochondrial DNA (painstakingly drawn from a 40,000- to 100,000-year-old skeleton found in West Germany) with the corresponding fragment of human DNA, researchers showed that Neandertals made no contribution to the genetics of modern humans.5, 6

This work, an example of science at its best, received high acclaim and little criticism; yet the fear of contamination that always accompanies analysis of ancient DNA made scientists uneasy about fully embracing the conclusions. That uneasiness was all but erased when a second study—on a different fragment from the specimen—yielded the same result.7

The Glasgow and Stockholm research teams made the decisive cut. They independently isolated and sequenced mitochondrial DNA from a second Neandertal specimen, a 29,000-year-old skeleton (an infant) found in the easternmost part of the Neandertal range. Both teams reported identical results, and these were consistent with the results of the earlier studies: no genetic link between Neandertals and humans.

Given that tests were performed on different specimens from the extremes of the Neandertal range and separated in time by more than 10,000 years (one dated very close to the advent of modern humans), these results are extraordinarily convincing. One candidate remains as a “possible” but improbable transitional intermediate: Homo antecessor , a bipedal primate dated at 800,000 years ago and known only from the partial jaw bone of a single specimen.9, 10 A preponderance of evidence, however, points toward fiat creation of humans by the hand of the Creator.

References:
  1. Matthias Hoss, “Studying Ancient DNA,” Nature 404 (2000) 453.
  2. Roger Lewin, Principles of Human Evolution (Malden, MA:Blackwell Science, Inc., 1998) 365.
  3. Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie, African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity (New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1996) 85-114.
  4. Stringer and McKie, 85-89.
  5. Matthias Krings et al., “Neandertal DNA Sequences and the Origin of Modern Humans,” Cell 90 (1997) 19-30.
  6. Hugh Ross, “Neadertal Takes a One-Eighty,” Facts and Faith Vol. 11, No. 3 (1997) 4-5.
  7. Matthias Krings et al., “DNA Sequence of the Mitochondrial Hypervariable Region II from the Neandertal Type Specimen,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 96 (1999) 5581-5585.
  8. Igor V. Ovchinnikov et al., “Molecular Analysis of Neandertal DNA from the Northern Caucasus,” Nature 404 (2000) 490-493.
  9. J. M. Bermudez de Castro et al., “A Hominid from the Lower Pleistocene of Atapuerca Spain: Possible Ancestor to Neandertals and Modern Humans,” Science 276 (1997) 1392-95.
  10. Fuz Rana, “Up (and Away) from the Apes,” Connections 1, No. 4, (1999) 3-4.


PRESIDENT’S LAPTOP

Dear Friends,

My grandfather on my father’s side emigrated from Scotland to Alberta (Canada) and my great-grandfather on my mother’s side from Scotland to Nova Scotia. When my father celebrated his eightieth birthday this spring, he decided the time had come to visit the home of his ancestry. To his amazement he discovered that the Ross family farm, situated on the north side of a highland inlet called Cromarty Firth, lay directly across from the Murray family farm, situated on the south side!

During my growing-up years, my relatives used to debate who was thriftier, the Ross clan or the Murrays. According to my Dad, both had to be thrifty to eke out a living on those highland farms. By one account, though, I must give the edge to the Rosses. One foggy morning, my great-grandfather perished as he tried to cut “just one more furrow” along the sea-cliff.

Perhaps this background will help you understand why Reasons To Believe (by my decision) waited fourteen years to join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. It’s not that RTB lacked commitment to financial integrity; it’s just that we couldn’t afford the annual audits required for ECFA membership.

The staff has worked diligently through the years to develop a software database sophisticated enough to bring down our audit costs. We have also sought ways to be both accurate and thrifty in maintaining our records and accounts.

During the past quarter, the ministry has achieved success on both fronts. Our audit costs are now half what we were quoted when our organization was half its current size, and while the number of donors and gifts has increased nearly twenty-fold, the accounting staff has merely doubled.

In pursuing these goals, I reflect the values of my forbears. I want every donor to know that the dollars you give to RTB will be carefully spent. Please pray for me, however, that I do not go too far in trying “to get the last furrow.”

Sincerely,

Hugh Ross


FIELD REPORT
by Kathy Ross

For the first time since the ministry’s founding in 1986, the “field” came to RTB. Nearly 700 people from all over the United States attended our inaugural conference, “Putting Creation to the Test,” at Grace Church (see photos). The June skies over our three days in Cypress were warm and bright to match the conference mood. What a joyful confabulation!
Pictured: "Putting Creation to the Test" Conferees Interact

One goal of the conference was to mobilize more people to work in the fields around them, extending both the reach and the impact of our message. To that end, staff and volunteers led workshop and poster sessions on how to develop skeptic’s forums, youth and kids classes, web sites, chapters, discussion groups, etc. The “results” of this training will be the measure of our success, and we look forward to reports we can pass on to you. Till then, be encouraged that at least one skeptic who attended the conference said his life and views had been changed forever by what he learned.

Prior to the conference, Hugh traveled to Japan for the release of two new translations—the Journey Toward Creation video and The Genesis Question book. Lead translator for these resources, Timothy Boyle, is RTB’s representative in Japan. He coordinated events for Hugh in and around Osaka, Nagasaki, and Tokyo, all of which drew overflow crowds and a positive response.

Board member and volunteer apologist Alan Graas arranged a series of RTB outreaches in Fresno and Oakhurst, California. The leader of a local Buddhist group attended Hugh’s Sunday morning talk at Sierra Pines Church. One week later she gave her life to Jesus Christ. Since then, she has been attending worship and bringing her former students with her.

The manager of a local Barnes & Noble bookstore invited Hugh to address a session of the store’s weekly reading-and-discussion group. Attendees represented a wide range of belief systems from Mormonism to young-earth creationism to eastern religions to atheism. The lively question-and-interaction time extended late into the night. More meetings like this one are planned for the months ahead.

Major science discoveries, such as the evidence for flowing water on Mars and the mapping of the human genome, led to interviews on Christian radio across the country, and our own radio program continues to air on eight stations, drawing more listeners and callers week by week.

The second issue of Facts for Faith went to press in June and was delivered to post offices early in July. Some delays in mailing may have occurred, however, due to delays in the processing of our “periodical postage” classification.


FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH
The Gift That Gives Back
by David Madeira

Many individuals want to give more to their favorite charities, but they are on limited incomes or need to retain assets for future security. They need to be assured of steady monthly income so they can live independently. This is particularly true for retirees.

For these people, the charitable gift annuity is the perfect answer, for it is the gift that gives back. It provides the donor with guaranteed income for life or for a designated term of years. The gift annuity is among the oldest, simplest, and most popular methods of making a charitable gift. In exchange for a contribution of cash, marketable securities, or (under certain circumstances) real estate, a charitable organization contractually agrees to pay a specified annuity to a donor and/or another beneficiary of the donor’s choosing.

The amount of the annuity received by the donor depends on the age of the beneficiary (or beneficiaries), the amount of the cash or property transferred, and the frequency of the payments. The donor can claim a current charitable income tax deduction for the portion of the transfer which represents the charitable gift, i.e., the amount by which the value of the property transferred to charity exceeds the value of the annuity received by the donor. A further benefit to the donor is that a portion of each annuity payment is treated as return of the original principal and is therefore free of income taxation.

For information on charitable annuities and on other planned giving opportunities which can benefit you and Reasons To Believe, please write for our free booklet, A Guide to Creative Planned Giving Arrangements, or call Yolanda at the Reasons To Believe Foundation, 626-335-1480.


LETTERS
Encouraged in the Faith

I just wanted you to know how inspired and semi-euphoric I’ve been this past week, reading The Genesis Question . I’ve had enough of my questions answered (in the past) to support my faith in the unanswered ones. But you have answered about 90% of them (those left) in this book, many for which I never ever expected tangible explanations.

-- Dan, Los Angeles, Clifornia
From a Young Supporter...

I am 17. I appreciate your books. Also, your web site is awesome. I am very glad that you and Reasons To Believe are here!...I just wanted you to know that I think there are lots of reasons to believe. And that is a great name for an outreach!

-- Robyn, Chicota, Texas
From Our Conference...

Reading Dr. Ross’s books and hearing him lecture helped me rethink the relationship of my Christian beliefs to the world of science. The exposure to RTB the last few years has been the single most significant occurrence in my Christian experience. It changed my view on faith vs. science. There is no more “vs.” in my faith/science worldview.

-- M. D., Springfield, Virginia

Coherence! Finally a model that articulates the coherence between nature and scripture that I always knew must be there.

-- John, Sandiego, California

This conference was my first thorough exposure to the arguments behind old earth creationism. I felt that the information presented was explained well, professionally, and with an attempt to remember those of us with extensive scientific or philosophic backgrounds. I purchased a number of resources and look forward to the next conference!

-- Martha, Temple City, California

The conference helped me settle in my mind once and for all that an old earth creationist model is the one that best integrates the teachings of the Bible and the evidences of cosmology and physics.

-- Art, Lancaster, California

I have especially appreciated the release from a fear-based approach to the issue of creation. It is tempting to want to have a model that is static and complete, one that is impenetrable to difficult questions. Dr. Ross’s admonition that our model must constantly be revised to accommodate new scientific and theological evidences is a breath of fresh air which has exponentially increased my joy in the Lord and freed me to delight in the exploration of His revelation in His word and in the creation.

-- Laurie, Santee, California

The creation model as presented at this conference provides the basis for the only consistent worldview [in that it] adequately explains the world around us and gives us meaning and purpose in life.

-- Ed, Alto, Michigan


FOR FURTHER STUDY

Who Wrote the Bible Code? (book)    
NEW BOOK!

Randall Ingermanson realized that touting such things as bible codes could lead many well-intentioned people astray. In Who Wrote the Bible Code? he probes these important questions: Does the Bible really contain some embedded or encoded patterns? If so, who wrote them? Using his training and skill as a computational physicist, Ingermanson takes the reader on an understandable, meticulously planned investigation of the evidence found in the Hebrew text as well as in other books and articles. By applying a new statistical test, he evaluates the truth of the so-called bible code and provides his readers with authoritative and credible answers to the questions he addresses.
LEVEL: ALL READERS (PAPERBACK)
Item No.: B0002 (12 oz.) $11.95 +S/H


"Putting Creation to the Test" video series    
NEW VIDEO SERIES!

Astronomer Hugh Ross, biochemist Fazale Rana, philosopher Kenneth Samples, and host Mark Clark give viewers an outstanding overview of the Reasons To Believe approach to integrating the record of nature with the record of science. Reasons To Believe’s testable creation model uses all the biblical passages on creation as the basis for construction of a scientifically supportable, biblically faithful account of creation. This six-hour video series on three videotapes presents an exciting alternative to the naturalistic model and gives Christians a valuable tool for sharing the evidence for the God of the Bible.
LEVEL: ALL VIEWERS COLOR. 120 MINUTES EACH
Item No. V0002 (24 oz.) $69.95 +S/H

Purchase these and other resources at http://store.reasons.org


IN THE WORKS
Renovations Continue
by Bonita Connoley

As the calendar page turned to 2000, the ministry’s growth created a need for more office space. Renters who had used some of the suites in RTB’s office building were asked to make plans to locate elsewhere. One by one, they moved away.

The vacated areas were refitted to accommodate the RTB staff. The customer service group moved into Suite A at the front of the building. While Suite B remained the conference room, contractors divided Suite C into work areas for Hugh’s assistant, for the RTB webmaster, and for the radio/recording studio. Workers then rearranged Suite D for use by the accounting staff, plus apologetics volunteers and part-time assistants.

Meanwhile, on the second floor, the magazine team moved into Suite K. Their new space serves as the editorial hub for planning and directing the expansions in publications. Next door to them, Suite L became the work area for the magazine interns, correspondence staff, and editorial assistants. Amid whirring saws and pounding hammers, the work rolled on.

Neighboring Suite M became offices for the correspondence and communications coordinator, the volunteer apologists coordinator, and our science-apologetics vice president. The last room on the second floor, Suite N, is now taking shape as RTB’s library. The shelves stand in place waiting for books and journals. (Big hint: we need resources to fill them.)

Changes continue downstairs, as well. Our warehouse expanded first into suite H, and then into I. Finally, the last suite, J, was outfitted to be the home of the new Reasons To Believe Foundation.

As the ministry continues to grow, work areas will need to be reallocated and work assignments may change, but today the RTB building is filled, for the first time, with RTB staff.


MESSAGE OF THE MONTH

Become a Message of the Month (M.O.M.) member. Receive monthly audiotaped updates of faith-affirming scientific discoveries and ministry events. Call 800-482-7836 or sign up via the Web.


COMING SOON IN FACTS FOR FAITH

BIOLOGICAL INFORMATION AND THE DESIGNER
A philosopher and a biochemist discuss the theological implications of biological systems being information systems.

A CHRISTIAN SEARCHES FOR SMALL PLANETS
Scientist and believer Bijan Nemati, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, discusses the excitement over the soon-to-be launched Terrestrial Planet-Finder.

NO VOTING REQUIRED!
Scholar Dennis Ingolfsland critiques the Jesus Seminar with a rational, historical defense of the New Testament’s accounts of Jesus in the four Gospels.

NOW OR FOREVER?
A theologian and an astronomer search the Scriptures for answers to this crucial theological question: Will the universe be restored or replaced?