Reasons to Believe

Connections 2003, Vol. 5, No. 1



Gamma Rays Burst Biological Evolution
By Hugh Ross, Ph.D.

The energy released during a gamma ray burst strains the imagination. With the power of 10 billion billion suns, gamma ray bursts are the most brilliant photon emitters in the universe. By comparison, supernovae emit (at peak) the energy equivalent of 100 billion suns. If such a gamma ray burst occurred closer than millions of light years away and lasted longer than a few minutes—or in some cases, milliseconds—humanity would be wiped out.

Until recently, astronomers presumed that all threats to life on Earth lay within a few hundred light years of the solar system. A new generation of telescopes has proved otherwise. Most, if not all, gamma ray bursts arise from the rapid collapse of ultra massive stars into black holes.1 A few may result from the merging of black holes and/or neutron stars. Researchers discovered that gamma rays from thousands—even tens of thousands—of light years away can disturb life on Earth.
Death Rays or Evolution Boosters?

University of Texas astronomers John Scalo and Craig Wheeler report that supermassive stars frequently form in close proximity to one another both in nearby galaxies and in the Milky Way.1 Such star formation episodes lead to the kind of rapid collapses and mergers that produce gamma ray bursts. Scalo and Wheeler calculate that at least one thousand of these radiation events (powerful enough to disturb or destroy life) have taken place during the 4-billion-year history of life on Earth. In other words, such an event occurs, on average, at least once every 4 million years. Humanity exists on Earth in a window between these deadly bursts.

The Texas astronomers’ main interest lies in the effect of gamma ray bursts on animal life throughout geologic history and in the related implications for possible past life on Mars. They define a “biologically significant” gamma ray burst as a radiation dose strong enough to double the mutation rate in animal species. A lethal dose is three to ten times stronger, depending on the animal species. A conservative estimate suggests that Earth has experienced 50 or more lethal blasts during the past 4 billion years.

Evolutionists see episodes of mutation rate increase as a good thing. They assume that higher mutation rates spurred the development of new survivable species from old, dying ones. The weakness of their assumption is in the numbers, however; at least ten thousand deleterious or harmful mutations occur for every (conceivably) beneficial one, whatever the radiation environment. In some cases, the ratio reaches as high as 10 million to one. Except in tiny body-size, high-population, short-generation species,2 increasing the mutation rate simply hastens the extinction of a species.3

Because Mars’ atmosphere is thin, biologically significant (as well as lethal) gamma ray bursts affect Mars more frequently than they do Earth. According to one study, a lethal gamma ray dose strikes Mars on the average of once every 2.5 million years. Such frequent radiation doses give scientists one more reason out of many to conclude that, apart from the stray Earth life that occasionally gets carried to Mars as a result of meteorite impacts, Mars remains a sterile planet.
Resolving Fossil Record Mysteries

This study of gamma ray bursts may help solve some mysteries in the fossil record. For example, extinctions sometimes appear in one hemisphere and not the other. Since a gamma ray burst lasts an hour or less (ten seconds, on average), a single burst could impact only one hemisphere. The more powerful or nearby repeated gamma ray bursts may account for some of the global extinctions paleontologists observe in the fossil record.

Studies of distant galaxies show that gamma ray bursts were much more prevalent 3-5 billion years ago. (At that time, the star formation rate in galaxies, including the Milky Way, was much higher.) The higher rate of gamma ray bursts may explain why Archaean organisms (single-celled bacteria-like organisms with many gene products, distinct from all other life forms) dominated life’s earliest epoch on Earth. Such organisms are the most radiation resistant life forms. Archaean organisms can withstand radiation levels a hundred times higher (some, up to ten thousand higher) than can other animal species.

While these deadly gamma ray bursts represent a potent challenge to evolutionary theory, they do seem consistent with the Reasons To Believe speciation model.4 RTB’s model describes God’s efficient removal of old species to make room for newly created ones. This extinction-replacement process would be part of God’s step-by-step preparation of Earth for humanity.5 That is, gamma ray bursts played a significant role in making Earth fit for human life. A biblical creation model also gives assurance that God will fulfill His plans for life on Earth relatively soon, at least in the few million years or less before the next deadly gamma ray burst.

References:

  1. Jan van Paradijs, “From Gamma-Ray Bursts to Supernovae,” Science 286 (1999): 693-95.
  2. John Scalo and J. Craig Wheeler, “Astrophysical and Astrobiological Implications of Gamma-Ray Burst Properties,” Astrophysical Journal 566 (2002): 723-37.
  3. Unless the species has an enormous population base (typically, in excess of a quadrillion individuals), a tiny average body size (typically, smaller than one centimeter across), and a short time period between the birth of an individual and its capacity to reproduce (typically, briefer than three months), so as to give natural selection enough material from which to efficiently select (in the time available), increasing the mutation rate hastens the extinction of the species.
  4. Mark Ridley, Evolution, 2d ed. (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Science, 1996), 247-52; Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question, 2d ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), 52-54.
  5. Scalo and Wheeler close their paper by announcing that they will soon publish similar studies on the life-disturbing impact of other galactic events. They mention these five: (1) ultraviolet bursts associated with supernova shock breakouts, (2) ultraviolet, x-ray, and gamma ray radiation from peak eruption phases of supernova eruptions, (3) soft gamma ray repeaters, (4) flare stars, and (5) massive O-type stars. Apparently, these coming studies may provide more detailed confirmations for biblical teachings about extinctions, speciation, and the history of life on Earth.
  6. See Psalm 104:24-30 and Hugh Ross, “The Faint Sun Paradox” Facts for Faith 10 (Q3 2002), 27-33.


Carbon Monoxide Kills Hopes for Primordial Soup
By Fuz Rana, Ph.D.

Carbon monoxide (CO), a toxic gas that quickly causes death, is the ironic focus of a recent attempt by some researchers to resuscitate ailing naturalistic explanations for life’s origin. However, at the latest pulse check, that attempt appears vain.

Textbook origin-of-life scenarios suggest that chemical reactions in early Earth’s atmosphere produced small organic molecules (prebiotic compounds) that accumulated in Earth’s oceans to form the famed “primordial soup.” Within the soup, prebiotic compounds hypothetically reacted to generate life’s building blocks—key steps in the origin-of-life pathway.[1]

Impetus for this idea came from the legendary spark-discharge experiments first conducted by Stanley L. Miller in the 1950s. This twenty-two-year-old graduate student ostensibly showed that energy discharges passing through early Earth’s atmosphere could have sparked the formation of amino acids and other organic compounds. Miller’s experiments launched countless prebiotic simulation experiments all seeming to indicate that life’s building blocks could form in a primordial soup.

Few textbooks as yet acknowledge, however, that most origin-of-life researchers now consider Miller’s experiments irrelevant. The consensus view of atmospheric constituents has changed since the 1950s. Then they were thought to be hydrogen, methane, ammonia, and water vapor.[2]  Now, scientists believe early Earth’s atmosphere was composed of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water. This gas mixture does not yield organic compounds in prebiotic simulation experiments (hence, no primordial soup)—a devastating blow for the naturalistic origin-of-life scenario.[3]

In response to this blow, Miller and collaborators recently appealed to CO-based atmospheres as a possible matrix for the production of prebiotic materials.[4] According to this alternative scenario, CO, not carbon dioxide, was present in the primordial atmosphere. Miller and his team maintain that if early Earth’s crust were in a more reduced state than today, and if cool temperatures prevailed on the planet’s surface, their scenario makes sense. These researchers also think that comets may have delivered CO to early Earth.

Miller’s team showed that gas mixtures comprised of CO, nitrogen, and water do produce organic compounds, including amino acids, when bombarded with high-energy protons (a component of cosmic rays). On the surface, this finding seems to indicate that if CO were present in the primordial atmosphere, cosmic rays could have stimulated the production of primordial soup ingredients.

However, no evidence exists to indicate that CO was ever present in the primitive atmosphere. Even if CO were introduced through cometary delivery or through the outgassing of the crust, Earth’s water vapor would have removed it. Further, the flux of cosmic rays to the Earth (necessary to break apart CO’s highly stable chemical bond) is insufficient to produce the levels of prebiotic materials necessary to keep up with their subsequent chemical decomposition in any primordial soup.

Despite such extensive and intensive efforts, origin-of-life researchers have again (and consistently) failed to identify relevant sources for prebiotic compounds.[5] Without prebiotic materials, there can be no primordial soup, and without a primordial soup, naturalistic origin-of-life scenarios remain “dead in the water.”
Resources:
  1. For example, see Richard Cowen, History of Life, 3d ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Science, 2000), 5-12.
  2. Stanley L. Miller, “A Production of Amino Acids under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions,” Science 117 (1953), 528-29; Stanley L. Miller, “Production of Some Organic Compounds Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions,” Journal of American Chemical Society 77 (1955): 2351-66.
  3. François Raulin, “Atmospheric Prebiotic Synthesis,” presentation at the 12th International Conference on the Origin of Life and the 9th meeting of the International Conference on the Origin of Life, San Diego, CA 1999; Stanley L. Miller, “The Endogenous Synthesis of Organic Compounds,” The Molecular Origins of Life: Assembling Pieces of the Puzzle, ed. André Brack (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 59-85.
  4. Shin Miyakawa et al., “Prebiotic Synthesis from CO Atmospheres: Implications for the Origin of Life,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 99 (2002): 14628-31.
  5. For example, see Fazale R. Rana, “Sea Vents Closed As Life-Origin Site,” Connections vol. 4 no. 2 (2002), 1,5.


FIELD REPORT
Equipping the Educators
By Jamie Warner

With an eye toward the upcoming conference, “Who Is the Designer?” in June 2003, RTB scholars traveled and spoke at various events, conducted media interviews, and prepared manuscripts for book projects. Some of their stops included . . .

Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia—Hugh Ross and Fuz Rana spoke at a one-day seminar entitled, “Facts, Faith, and Evolution,” attended by 170 graduate students, professors, and other people from surrounding communities. Hugh and Fuz lectured on how to resolve the creation-evolution controversy and answered questions from the enthusiastic audience. Regent founder, Pat Robertson, also invited Hugh to appear on The 700 Club to give his perspective on the UFO phenomenon.

The King’s College and Seminary, Van Nuys, California—Fifteen hundred pastors from across the U.S. and around the world learned about RTB’s message at an annual conference. Jack Hayford expressed his support for Hugh and RTB and urged the pastors to pursue further study.

At the end of that week Fuz, Kenneth Samples, Krista Bontrager, and RTB volunteer apologists Jeff Zweerink and Erica Carlson joined Hugh in offering a three-day, credit course on Creation and Evolution. A similar course will be offered in February in Long Beach, California, at Long Beach Christian Fellowship.

Azusa Pacific University—Christian Educator’s Association and RTB jointly sponsored a Saturday workshop at APU geared to helping teachers bring biblically and scientifically sound creation concepts into their public school classrooms—within appropriate legal boundaries. Participants expressed keen enthusiasm for what they learned and asked for more events like this one.

Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell—Guest host Barbara Simpson interviewed Hugh about Lights In the Sky and Little Green Men on the late-night radio show. After this two-hour dialogue, Hugh handled calls from those who wanted help in understanding their UFO experiences.

Increased media exposure and speaking opportunities have contributed to robust sales of Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, released in June 2002. Navpress recently ordered an additional print run.

PRESIDENT’S LAPTOP
Northwest Impact

One of my great joys in serving Christ with RTB is hearing stories—amazing stories—of how God uses our books and tapes in the process of bringing people to faith in him.

One story concerns a man who works in a wrecking yard. His job is to remove all nonmetal components from a vehicle before it gets squashed into a little cube. In the trunk of one vehicle he found a beat-up copy of The Creator and the Cosmos. Something on the cover caught his attention; so instead of throwing the book away, he took it home to read. By God’s grace, the book’s message prompted him to commit his life to Jesus Christ. In the back of the book he saw our Web address, and through our Web site found out about local RTB chapters. He promptly contacted the chapter near him and now is being discipled. He is already close to completing the apologetics training course!

Another account involves a long-time Christian who decided to undertake that same training course. He had been particularly concerned for his son who, although familiar with Bible stories and Christian doctrine, remained skeptical and noncommittal. To the father’s surprise, the son showed interest in the course lectures and asked if he could listen to the tapes. After listening, the son told his dad “My doubts and reservations have been answered.” This son has been set free to worship Christ as Creator, Savior, and Lord, and now does so with his father.

We rejoice with the angels in heaven over such news. We also recognize that you may have (or know of) similar stories. RTB’s Pacific Northwest chapter has asked that we collect more of these stories. So, at their suggestion, we’ve set up a phone line (866-782-7234) for just that purpose. You can call that number any time to record your stories. Please make the call (or nudge someone else to do so). These stories bless the entire staff, plus volunteers and financial partners. Hopefully, someday soon we can pass the blessing on to a much wider audience. Thanks for your help with this project.

Sincerely in Christ,

Hugh Ross

EDITOR'S WORD
“Daddy, That Fire Truck Is Broken”
By Joe Aguirre

Applause down the road signaled the first entries in the brief parade. Not your average Fourth of July parade, this procession consisted of local police cars, fire trucks, and a couple of flatbeds: one carrying rubble from the World Trade Center, the other a New York City fire truck damaged in the attack. The caravan had trekked through eighteen states.

As the fire trucks rolled by, the crowd applauded and cheered, but there was a solemn character to the appreciation. I held Corey in my arms for a better view and he kept saying, “Look, Daddy, another fire truck.” Momentum built with each passing fire vehicle and police car—everyone knew what was coming.

When the flatbeds finally neared, cameras clicked left and right. The first carried two twisted, rusted columns from one of the twin towers—not much to look at from an aesthetic sense, but staggering once the mind considered their history. The crowd hushed as the wreckage rolled by and applause was measured. Few people moved. I got a lump in my throat and was glad I wore sunglasses. The second truck carried a disabled fire truck damaged at Ground Zero. At this my three-year-old Corey, oblivious to the ideologies and events of the adult world, exclaimed: “Daddy, that fire truck is broken!” The lump in my throat grew larger, and I nearly lost all composure.

My son’s senses were right: he saw a badly broken fire truck. But how—and when—would I complete the picture for him? As he grows how will I help him understand good and evil and why they get mixed up for some people. Suddenly my parental responsibility to educate my child overwhelmed me. I realized that God had entrusted to me the charge of guiding the development of this precious little life, my son’s ideas and values. Maybe I’ll start by playing with Corey and his fire truck.

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH
What Is Planned Giving?
By Michael Kearin

Planned giving is more than just the opposite of unplanned. The term refers to a particular kind of giving: that which comes from one’s assets rather than one’s income. Planned giving achieves two donor objectives: maximizing philanthropic benefits and maximizing tax benefits.

A planned gift to Reasons To Believe helps ensure our long-term financial stability and enables us to reach more people with our message. Some RTB constituents—partners in ministry, really—have wondered how they could impact more people for Christ. Planned giving represents one way.

Such giving can also offer the donor one or more of the following:

    Increased cash flow from an asset, sometimes at more favorable tax rates
    Preservation of an asset's appreciation in value coupled with the elimination, reduction, or deferral of capital gains tax
    Professional management of assets relied upon for income
    Gift and estate tax savings
    A current income tax deduction

Examples of planned gifts include appreciated securities, real estate, equipment, furnishings, vehicles, life insurance policies, savings bonds, commercial annuity contracts, IRA funds, and even cash. These assets can be given in various ways, depending on the donor’s wishes, and the tax benefits can be substantial.

I would be happy to answer your questions about planned giving and furnish you with information that can help you decide what options may be appropriate for your charitable goals.

Please call me, Michael Kearin, at 626-335-1480 ext. 121.

RTB CHAPTERS
Spokane Chapter to Take Part in Conference

RTB’s Spokane Chapter will participate in the annual Spokane Christian Workers Conference, March 20-23, at the Spokane Convention Center. The theme of this year’s conference is “Preparing God’s People.” RTB Spokane will have a booth set up and chapter members Daniel Bakken and Ray Luse will present talks on astronomy and Bible-science issues. Contact Daniel Bakken for more information at 509-466-2693 or dan@runway.net.
Chapter Contact Information:

Charlotte, North Carolina Chapter
Contact: Charles Lucas
Phone: (803) 327-7181
E-mail: singlesminister@fbcrockhill.org
Dallas, Texas Chapter
Contact: Jim Turner
Phone: (817) 275-6833
E-mail: fah1@aol.com

Denver, Colorado Chapter
Contact: Mark Jacobson
Phone: (303) 363-7327
E-mail: Denver@reasons.org
Des Moines, Iowa Chapter
Contact: Ed Greer
Phone: (515) 274-3175
E-mail: wgreer@mchsi.com

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: mkyle@mn.rr.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: Greg Moore
Phone: (425) 257-8991
E-mail: gregrtb@earthlink.net

Spokane, Washington Chapter
Contact: Daniel Bakken
Phone: (509) 466-2639
Email: dan@runway.net

INTERNATIONAL

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: 64-4-902-2575
E-mail: rtb@paradise.net.nz

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

Vancouver, B.C.
Contact: Hugh Grant
Phone: (604) 575-1516
E-mail: hhgrant@shaw.ca

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

LETTERS
Heartfelt thanks

I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you are doing. I feel that your quest to demonstrate the absolute truth of God in his creation and in his word is so critical to the Christian faith today.

Bob Reamer - email

We send you our heartfelt thanks for the work God is doing through you. It has been vital to our understanding and our witness. Your ministry has helped to remove all doubts from our minds that the Bible, as originally written, is the error-free Word of God, and the wonderful truth that God alone is the Creator of our glorious cosmos and its dimensions!

Doug and Kit Stevenson - Sun City, AZ

It disturbs me to know that some are calling you “dangerous” and misleading. But when I think of the people God has used over the centuries, you’re in good company. Know that at least one soul is fervently praying for you and for everyone who is trying to get the word out. I am certain you are on the right path and there is no reason to fear. I thank you for sharing your scholarship and faith.

Leonard W. Jaworski - Lackawanna, NY

I thank you for your efforts in the name of Christ. I came from a scientific background with a family of four doctors and was trained to have an agnostic/atheistic mindset almost from the start. I started searching when I got to college and found fuzzy arguments in many atheistic philosophies before I stumbled upon your book, The Creator and the Cosmos. I want you to know that your efforts are worth everything, for even if I am the only one saved, that one is worth all the letters painstakingly put in your book. I ultimately thank God, for it’s by his grace alone that I have been saved, but he revealed himself to me through your book.

Chris Case - email
*Letters may be edited for brevity or clarity.

PRAY-ERS
Don’t Hold Your Breath
By Kathy Ross

“I don’t need that. I’m fine!”

“Put it on or you’ll die!”

Tense moments ensue as the trainer makes sure the pilot-trainee’s head returns to the safety of a flight helmet, with its life-essential oxygen supply. In the 90 seconds or so that the trainee has been allowed to breathe unaided in atmospheric conditions simulating those at 30,000 feet elevation, the budding aeronaut has experienced no pain, no sense of confusion, no noticeable difficulty. What a shock, then, to discover later that written answers to the trainer’s verbal questions during that brief period, answers the trainee believed perfectly clear and coherent, are actually illegible and nonsensical!

Hearing this story the other day set my mental gears in motion. I hope it does the same for you. As the wheels turned, I pictured the wonderful, intelligent, kind people I know who answer life’s (and death’s) big questions in ways that seem so sensible to them but make no sense in light of God’s word. They live by faith, not in Christ, but in “the goodness of humanity.” They believe all dogs—and people—go to heaven as long as they’re trying to make the world a better place.

Many such folks may have put their heads inside the helmet momentarily, especially during the holiday season—attending worship services or hearing the story of Christ’s coming—but the helmet and its oxygen supply had no effect. After all, the wearer has to inhale the life-giving air to receive the benefit.

My prayer for the new year is that you and I will encourage many more people to take the helmet of truth the Trainer offers, put it on, and breathe. As we do, let’s be examples of steady respiration. Be assured, the Trainer will nudge us if He sees us holding our breath.

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.
        GLENDORA
            April 5
                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.

MICHIGAN

        NORTHVILLE
            January 22
                Hugh Ross will discuss “New Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God,” at Ward Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Contact Rev. Mike Gatliff at (248) 374-5937.

PENNSYLVANIA

        GROVE CITY
            March 24
                Grove City College will host a lecture along with a question and answer session with Hugh Ross. Contact Scott Powell at (724) 458-2191.

Creation Update

RTB scholars are available worldwide every week through the Internet broadcast Creation Update. E-mail your questions on Tuesdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (Pacific Time), to CreationUpdate@reasons.org. or call 866-RTB-Radio.

Message of the Month
Providing New Reasons

Join the team! Help meet RTB’s vital need for consistent support and expansion by giving a monthly gift. In return, you’ll receive a timely message on scientific discoveries and their apologetic significance. Call 800-482-7836 for information, or sign up via the Web.