Reasons to Believe

Connections 2002, Vol. 4, No. 2



Sea Vents Closed as Life-Origin Site
By Fazale R. Rana

A mile and a half down, beyond the reach of sunlight, volcanic geysers spew 400°C water into the oceans. Life teems around these deep, hidden vents—pink sea cucumbers, eyeless shrimp, tubeworms, and more—creating underwater communities.

Hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor now play an important role in origin-of-life explanations. Microbes thriving there suggest to some origin-of-life researchers that life got its start at high temperatures.1 Laboratory experiments indicating that prebiotic molecules can form under deep-sea hydrothermal vent conditions further fuel these speculations.2

The appeal to deep-sea hydrothermal vents as a source of prebiotic molecules becomes even more important as researchers concede that Earth’s early atmosphere could not support prebiotic molecule formation.3 Without a source of prebiotic molecules, naturalistic origin-of-life pathways are blocked. This barrier prompts investigators to seek alternative locations where prebiotic molecule production could take place.

For the synthesis of prebiotic molecules at deep-sea hydrothermal vents (and for life to originate in this environment), ammonia (NH3) must be present. Ammonia serves as a key starting material in the synthesis of amino acids and other biologically important nitrogen-containing compounds. Researchers now recognize that ammonia did not exist on the early Earth. Therefore, high-temperature origin-of-life scenarios must be discarded unless ammonia somehow formed at deep-sea hydrothermal vents as a precursor to prebiotic molecules.

Penn State and SUNY-Stony Brook researchers recently evaluated the likelihood of ammonia formation under primitive hydrothermal vent conditions.4 In principle, ammonia (NH3) could form in such an environment from nitrogen (N2) gas via two possible chemical routes involving hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and iron (2) sulfide FeS.

Laboratory experiments conducted by the two researchers demonstrate that FeS-mediated reaction occurs far too slowly to have contributed to ammonia formation. Ammonia production by hydrogen sulfide occurs rapidly enough but yields insufficient quantities to sustain prebiotic molecule formation.

This lack of adequate ammonia production makes the origin of life at deep-sea hydrothermal vents unlikely. Moreover, it eliminates another possible source of prebiotic molecules on the early Earth. Each new discovery makes the origin-of-life problem more intractable for naturalists.

References:

  1. Karl O. Stetter, “The Lesson of Archaebacteria,” in Early Life on Earth: Nobel Symposium No. 84, Stefan Bengtson, ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 143-51.
  2. For example, see J. P. Amend and E. L. Shock, “Energetics of Amino Acid Synthesis in Hydrothermal Ecosystems,” Science 281 (1998): 1659-62.
  3. Francois Raulin, “Atmospheric Prebiotic Synthesis,” presentation at the 12th International Conference on the Origin of Life and the 9th meeting of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, San Diego, CA, 1999.
  4. Martin A. A. Schoonen and Yong Xu, “Nitrogen Reduction Under Hydrothermal Vent Conditions: Implications for the Prebiotic Synthesis of C-H-O-N Compounds,” Astrobiology 1 (2001): 133-42.


Bacteria’s Long Reign
By Hugh Ross

Why do stars twinkle? Why does God sometimes seem silent? Some “why” questions are more elusive than others.

When presented with RTB’s biblical creation model people often ask, “If God designed the Earth and its life to provide a home for humans, why did he waste so much time with bacteria?” This question arises from the new strong evidence that early bacteria, every bit as advanced as bacteria today, and dating back 3.5 – 3.9 billion years, remain the only detectable life forms on Earth until 2.3 billion years ago. Until about 0.8 billion years ago, bacteria maintained the status of Earth’s predominant life form. It appears to some that God was negligent, disinterested, or incompetent in preparing Earth for humanity.

No one can claim to understand all God’s reasons for waiting a billion and a half years to create anything on Earth besides bacteria. The conversion of poisons into metal ores offers one positive outcome.1 Another possible answer to the question comes from recent studies demonstrating that cyanobacteria (photosynthetic bacteria) take much longer than previously thought to pump oxygen into Earth’s atmosphere.2 In previous studies, researchers simply calculated how efficiently cyanobacteria produce and expel oxygen. They did not take into account how efficiently Earth’s crust and mantle absorbed the oxygen.

New calculations from geophysical modeling reveal that the crust and especially the mantle of the early Earth were rich in reducing minerals.3 These reducing minerals acted as a sponge, soaking up much of the oxygen in their vicinity. However, like a sponge, the earth could only soak up so much. Mantle material breaking through the Earth’s crust came into contact with whatever oxygen cyanobacteria had thrust into the atmosphere, reacted with it, and consequently lost some of its reducing strength. Over time, the quantity of reducing minerals in the mantle slowly diminished whereas the quantity of oxidizing minerals slowly increased.

Models demonstrate that between 3.9 billion and 2.7 billion years ago, reducing minerals in the mantle and crust mopped up almost all the atmospheric oxygen produced by cyanobacteria. Between 2.7 and 2.2 billion years ago, gases released from volcanic activity had lost much of their reducing capacity. From 2.2 billion years ago until the arrival of large oxygen-breathing animals (0.54 billion years ago), the oxygen level in the atmosphere slowly rose.

The rise in atmospheric oxygen did not immediately pave the way for advanced life. The increased atmospheric oxygen first stripped the air of methane. Though early Earth’s atmosphere probably contained only a small amount of methane, that small amount efficiently trapped heat from the Sun. Heat-trapping was critical for primordial life since the early Sun was about 35% dimmer.4 At 2.2 million years ago, the Sun was 20% dimmer than it is today. The removal of methane from Earth’s atmosphere led to a few snowball events—ice ages during which snow and ice covered virtually the entire surface of the planet.5 The last such snowball occurred just before the Cambrian explosion. At the Cambrian explosion, 543 million years ago, advanced, large body-size life forms began to appear.

We don’t always have the privilege of knowing “why” God does things. Yet, little glimpses into his ways reassure us of his great power and love.

References:
  1. Hugh Ross, “Bacteria Help Prepare Earth for Life,” Connections 3, no. 1 (2001), 4.
  2. Jon Copley, “The Story of O,” Nature 410 (2001): 862-64.
  3. Copley, 864.
  4. James F. Kasting and David H. Grinspoon, “The Faint Young Sun Problem,” in The Sun in Time, eds. C. P. Sonett, M. S. Giampapa, and M. S. Matthews (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1991), 447-50; see FACTS for FAITH 10 (Q3 2002) “The Faint Sun Paradox,” for more information on this dynamic.
  5. D. A. Evans, N. J. Beukes, and J. L. Kirschvink, “Low-Latitude Glaciation in the Paleoproterozoic,” Nature 386 (1997): 262-66; P. Hoffman, A Kaufman, G. Halverson, and D. Schrog, “A Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth,” Science 281 (1998): 1342-46; Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth (New York: Copernicus, 2000), 112-22.

PRESIDENT’S LAPTOP

Dear Friends,

Prior to founding Reasons To Believe, one of my roles as a pastor was to train teams of volunteers to go door-to-door with the gospel. Most first-timers expected the worst—slammed doors, angry insults, and heated debates. I often took the most terrified beginners with me, letting them simply pray and observe.

One Saturday afternoon I went into a run-down neighborhood with two apprehensive newcomers. In three hours we visited seven homes. No one answered the door at three homes. At four others we enjoyed pleasant conversations about the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the need for repentance and salvation.

While talking on doorsteps, I noticed a tough-looking man working on a beat-up old car in the street. He glared our way as we approached every door. When we prepared to leave, I felt an unusually strong inner tug to talk with him.

My companions trailing far behind me, I asked the man if he had ever prayed to God or read the Bible. He replied that he had never read the Bible but that for the last three hours he had been asking God to send us over to him. He said he really needed to know God but didn’t know how to get started.

Needless to say, He drank in every word we spoke. He eagerly received a New Testament and a packet of basic information about life as a Christian. Over and over, he thanked us for taking time to share Christ with him.

As we walked away, my companions confessed that they had been hoping and, yes, even praying throughout the afternoon, “Please, God, protect us. Don’t let Hugh go near that man.”

They saw that God overruled and supernaturally guided us to someone prepared to receive salvation. Our job involved simply showing up, prepared to offer some reasons for the hope within us, graciously and respectfully.

Now, as then, Christians shy away from outreach for lack of preparation and confidence. Good models are needed. Will you be one? The difference between then and now is that many more people are openly searching for answers today. Please join hands with me in taking reasons to believe into our hope-starved world.

Sincerely in Christ,

Hugh Ross


FIELD REPORT
By Linda Kloth

Interest in RTB’s soon-to-be-released book and video on UFOs and extraterrestrial life is building. A producer from the History Channel interviewed Hugh Ross for a special on “UFOs and the Bible,” scheduled for airing early in 2003.

Last year’s PBS series on evolution, with its negative portrayal of both Wheaton College and evangelical churches sparked fruitful interaction between RTB leaders and the Wheaton Provost, also between RTB staff and the pastors of Yorba Linda Friends Church in Orange County. Both discussions focused on correcting the false impression that Christians must choose to trust either the Bible or science, but not both, especially on the subject of origins.

Fazale “Fuz” Rana visited Prince George, British Columbia, in January to participate in talks at the University of Northern British Columbia. The chaplain’s office sponsors a Christian Worldview Lectureship each year to establish a positive Christian presence and perspective on this secular campus. In addition to giving three lectures, Fuz participated in a debate with a chemistry professor on the role of supernatural explanations in science.

During the latter event, held in the school’s “Winter Garden,” students gave Fuz a standing ovation for his response to an impassioned plea by the head of the physics department, to “leave the talk of religion off campus.” Fuz challenged his statement, saying that, on the contrary, the university is the perfect place to ask questions and examine important issues of faith and science.

Creation Update, RTB’s new Internet radio broadcast, has received a strong response since first airing in December 2001. Krista Bontrager moderates while Hugh, Fuz, and occasional guests report on recent research findings’ impact on faith issues and answer live questions from callers and e-mailers. The new format keeps listeners on the cutting edge of discoveries and provides more opportunities for people to interact personally with the scholars. During the most recent Web cast, more than a dozen people from various parts of the world made contact. Archives of broadcasts are available at www.oneplace.com.

A one-hour segment of the Creation Update program rebroadcasts after the apologetics.com radio show on Saturday mornings (Friday nights) at 1:00 a.m. In February, Hugh and Fuz participated in one of apologetics.com’s segments on Intelligent Design.

The Coral Ridge Hour, a television outreach featuring Dr. D. James Kennedy, interviewed Hugh and Fuz for a program about cloning. The producer commented that RTB was the only Christian source to offer some positive comments on the subject.

In addition to these speaking engagements, the scholars visited churches and schools, continued to work on three book projects, began taping a new MOM series on evolution, and recorded several new television programs. Watch for 13 new episodes on TBN about creation and evolution. This series will equip viewers with a framework for approaching creation and evolution issues.


FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH
A Valuable Gift
By David Madeira

Many people own life insurance because of its unique ability to protect individuals’ and families’ financial well-being. Over time, as children become adults, as adults retire, as mortgages are paid off, and so on, one’s need for life insurance may increase or decrease. Such changes in circumstance often cause policy owners to change coverage, or even terminate policies. Yet, while considering their options, people often overlook the opportunity to use life insurance as a wonderful gift to charitable causes they believe in.

Donors can make significant contributions to charity through life insurance in a number of ways. For example, rather than terminate a no-longer-needed policy, a person can name an organization such as Reasons To Believe as the primary beneficiary. Or, a donor can name RTB as a successor beneficiary, to receive the proceeds if the primary beneficiary is no longer living at policy termination. In each case, the donor can support a worthy endeavor and generate a charitable, estate tax deduction.

A donor desiring an immediate tax benefit may irrevocably assign interest in an insurance policy to a ministry of choice. Upon assignment, the donor receives an income tax charitable deduction for the lesser of the policy’s fair market value or the net premiums already paid.

Finally, one of the most important roles of life insurance in planned giving is its potential to replace the value of an asset given to charity. In this case, when a donor contributes to charity, the tax savings produced by the charitable deduction can be put into a trust to pay for life insurance premiums that will benefit his or her heirs. This arrangement ensures that the interest of family is not harmed by a parent’s gift to charity.

As these examples demonstrate, individuals who think they have insufficient means to provide major support to a charity find that they can, through careful use of life insurance, make a contribution with lasting impact. And, they can benefit their family at the same time.

For more information about the uses of life insurance and other ways to support the ministry of Reasons To Believe, please contact the Reasons To Believe Foundation at 626-335-1480.


RTB CHAPTERS
Unique Excursion

RTB’s South Africa Chapter has secured one of the PRIME SITES in the African bush to view the TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE on December 4, 2002.

The farm is pristine, on the Limpopo River, and right in the path of totality. The interplay between light and dark as totality commences is AWESOME, to say the least.

If you want to CAMP IN THE AFRICAN BUSH in a fully assembled tented village, e-mail Liz Block for more information (igalaxy@iafrica.com). Interest is growing, so act soon.
Getting Started

RTB enthusiasts in Orlando, Florida, are looking to establish an RTB chapter in the area. Those interested in helping this new ministry get started can contact Phil Metzger at (407) 382-0088 or philtill@aol.com.
Chapter Contact Information:

Charlotte, North Carolina Chapter
Contact: Jay Hanna
Phone: (704) 938-8064
E-mail: jhanna@711online.net

Denver, Colorado Chapter
Contact: Dan Brown
Phone: (303) 363-7327
E-mail: Denver@reasons.org

Houston, Texas Chapter
Contact: Bryan Darwin
Phone: (281) 376-6530
E-mail: wbd2@netzero.net

Huntsville, Alabama Chapter
Contact: Rick Byrn
Phone: (256) 830-0996
E-mail: Huntsville@reasons.org

Minneapolis, Minnesota Chapter
Contact: Kyle C. Frazier
Phone: (952) 933-5578
Email: the_falconer@msn.com

Nashville, Tennessee Chapter
Contact: Mark Whorton
Phone: (615) 963-7327
Email: mark.whorton@msfc.nasa.gov
(This chapter is just getting started)

Orlando, Florida Chapter
Contact: Phil Metzger
Phone: (407) 382-0088
E-mail: philtill@aol.com
(This chapter is just getting started)

Raleigh, North Carolina Chapter
Contact: Don Markle
Phone: (919) 424-4555
E-mail: dmarkle120@yahoo.com
(This chapter is just getting started)

Seattle, Washington Chapter
Contact: Stan Lennard, M.D.
Phone: (425) 485-9712
E-mail: lennardjs@msn.com

Spokane, Washington Chapter
Contact: Daniel Bakken
Phone: (509) 466-2639
Email: dan@runway.net
(This chapter is just getting started)

Australia
Contact: Mike McLerie
Phone: 61-8-9447-1307
E-mail: mclerie@iinet.net.au

Canada
Contact: John Duerksen
Phone: (250) 245-0012
E-mail: Canada@reasons.org

Japan
Contact: Rev. & Mrs. Timothy Boyle
Phone: 81-298-55-1907
E-mail: za3t-byl@asahi-net.or.jp

New Zealand
Contact: Philip Bennett
Phone: 64-4-299-3040
E-mail: rtb@paradise.net.nz

South Africa
Contact: Dr. David Block
Phone: 27-11-672-1298
E-mail: igalaxy@iafrica.com

For additional chapter information, see www.reasons.org/worldwide.


LETTERS
Internet Encounter

I found Reasons on the Web a couple of days ago. I’ve been very ill and on medical leave since October. Chronic pain can really lend itself to depression. When I found your site, I listened to one of the interviews. Suddenly I was confronted with a tiny fragment of the magnificence of our God. Somehow, knowing that God has done so much to ensure that we are able to live his plan for us, made me feel mentally and spiritually well for the first time in a long time. Imagine my gratitude when I discovered the archived radio broadcasts. Just finished my third. Please tell Dr. Ross how much his optimism and his calm voice speaking of the scientifically proven facts about God’s creation has reminded me that God is so big that nothing, not even my illness or my depression, is bigger. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

-- Jana Lloyd, Greensboro, North Carolina
Special Thanks

My heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness for your wonderful ministry. You are a gift to the Christian community. My husband was saved as a result of your ministry and of the strong foundation it gave him for believing in the one and only true God. My own faith has been strengthened and confirmed as I’ve watched my husband find the answers to his many questions. I feel much more equipped to share my faith than ever before.

-- E. K., Los Altos, CA

I’ve been a born-again Christian for more than 41 years. Since reading some of your books and magazines, I have acquired a far greater appreciation than I ever had before of just how great, wonderful, powerful, and loving my Savior really is. Your book The Genesis Question makes so much sense and helped clear up the problem I’ve always had with the six, 24-hour days of creation. Also, articles such as the “Anthropic Principle” in FACTS for FAITH magazine and your book The Creator and the Cosmos have opened my eyes to the might and power and intelligence of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I deeply appreciate what you folks are doing at Reasons To Believe and I pray that the Lord will continue to bless your ministry. There is a real need in today’s world to correlate true science with sound biblical teaching and to get this message out, as you are doing.

-- George Neast, S. Williamsport, PA
*Letters may be edited for brevity or clarity.


PRAY-ERS
Intangible Influences
By Kathy Ross

Had Carl Sandburg known Meeko, he would have chosen a different metaphor for his famous “Fog” poem. Instead of gliding silently, my grayer-than-fog 14-pound cat walks with a noticeable footfall. Sometimes I mistake his padding through the house for the footsteps of a human family member.

I can barely suppress a knowing smile when people tell me that age is “creeping up on them.” I think to myself, Yes, it’s about as stealthy as Meeko. Some mornings the aging process resembles Meeko’s stomping across my stomach to request fresh food or water.

The list of good things about aging remains a short one for most people, including me. But somewhere near the top of the list is this item: more time—not to mention more faith and wisdom—for praying. Both my mother and my mother-in-law (before she died) chose to trade increased immobility for increased intercession. I’m eternally grateful to them and to the many other friends and relatives among you who have made, and are still making, that trade.

Prayer ministry glides along quietly and powerfully under all successful endeavors to awaken people’s faith in Jesus Christ. Every life Reasons To Believe visibly touches God first touches invisibly in answer to prayer. We who have the privilege of working at RTB realize that our ministry team is much, much bigger than the number of people on our staff roster (32 at last count). While we don’t physically see all those who undergird our efforts with prayer, the impact of all of you who pray reverberates resoundingly through these halls and beyond.


RTB IS COMING TO TOWN
Listed are upcoming outreaches and other RTB events. Check to see if one will be held near you.

CALIFORNIA

    SIERRA MADRE
        Sundays
            Hugh Ross leads the Paradoxes Class at Sierra Madre Congregational Church most Sundays, 11:00 a.m. Contact the church office at (626) 355-3566 for more details.
    PASADENA
        May 6, July 8, and September 9
            Hugh Ross, Dave Rogstad, Fazale Rana, and Kenneth Samples offer a Skeptics Forum at the University Club in Pasadena at noon. Contact Margo at (626) 796-2649.
    ONTARIO
        June 6
            Hugh Ross will speak at a gathering of Friends Inland Empire at the Ontario Doubletree Hotel from 6:45 to 8:00 a.m. Contact Paul Huddle at (626) 792-6270.
    ANAHEIM
        July 15 – 18
            RTB will host a table at the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) International convention. RTB will feature its new book Lights in the Sky & Little Green Men in the exhibit hall. Contact CBA at (800) 252-1950 or register online at www.cbaonline.org.
    FONTANA
        August 3 & 4
            Hugh Ross will give his testimony during three services at Water of Life Church. Contact Grace Wagner at (909) 463-0103.
    GLENDORA
        August 3
            A time of prayer and fasting will be held at the Reasons To Believe office. Contact Bob Stuart at (626) 335-1480 if you would like to attend.

INTERNATIONAL
MEXICO

    MEXICO CITY
        June 30 – July 6
            Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana will attend the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL) Conference.

ENGLAND

    CAMBRIDGE
        July 21-27
            Hugh Ross is scheduled as a plenary speaker at the C. S. Lewis Summer Institute’s conference. This year’s conference will focus on “Time and Eternity: The Cosmic Odyssey.” Hugh will also lead three breakout sessions that will address “Putting Creation to the Test.” Contact the C. S. Lewis Foundation at (888) CS-Lewis or register online at www.cslewis.org.


Creation Update

Let's do lunch! Join Hugh Ross and Fuz Rana every week for a two-hour dialogue about scientific discoveries that provide powerful new evidence for the God of the Bible!

Ask the experts your questions about science and the Bible during our LIVE broadcast. Call in at 866-RTB-RADIO or e-mail CreationUpdate@reasons.org.
Tuesdays, 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. (PT)

Listen to the exclusive Web cast at www.reasons.org or www.oneplace.com/ministries/creation_update.


Message of the Month

Providing New Reasons
Become a regular supporter of Reasons To Believe and receive monthly installments of this year’s hot-topic series, “Dissecting Evolution.” For information, call 800-482-7836 or sign up via RTB’s Web site, the Web.
Coming Soon in FACTS for FAITH
Membranes Under the Microscope

Cell membranes, seemingly simple cell walls, prove to be dynamically intricate biosystems. Thus, they present another hurdle for naturalistic origins, while evincing supernatural design. Fazale R. Rana
Noah’s Flood: A Bird’s-Eye View

A super-storm of unprecedented magnitude flooded Noah’s world. Geographer Steve Sarigianis gives an aerial view of the region, and issues, surrounding this biblical account of an historical event. Steve Sarigianis
The Faint Sun Paradox

How did life survive on Earth for such a very long time with 30% less sunlight? Everywhere scientists look for answers to the faint Sun paradox they are confronted with evidence for divine intervention. Hugh Ross
Jonathan Edwards

“A nurturing pastor, frontier missionary, and bold revivalist preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Jonathan Edwards is also widely considered the greatest evangelical thinker America ever produced.” Kenneth Richard Samples