The Infinite Complexity of Cells/Is Following Jesus a “Politic”?

Two essential reads from this morning’s mail:

Excerpt — The Infinite Complexity of Cells

Is Following Jesus a “Politic?”

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And this on “White Fragility”

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/dehumanizing-condescension-white-fragility/614146/

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User-friendly Reorganization!

You may have noticed (or if you haven’t, please do) that the website has been reorganized by subject area.  Formerly it was merely chronological, which was pretty useless in finding anything unless you already knew when it was published.  Now, you can find archived material much more easily.

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What is “Systemic Racism”?

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Existential Reasons for Believing in God

Everyone should check out Paul Copan’s web site, Worldview Bulletin Newsletter (https://worldviewbulletin.substack.com/), and in particular, in the July 26 edition, Clifford Williams’ “Existential Reasons for Believing in God.”

I am provoked to think: If God exists; if He created us; and if He loves us; then it is more likely that discovering what He wants for us will lead to our fulfillment.

Does believing in God solve all our problems?  Of course not!  But is there any peace in relief from guilt, shame, and fear?  Is there any joy in beholding the exalted character of the Son of God, or from imagining ourselves becoming like him?  There is!  And when we experience that joy and peace, it confirms what our reason has already shown us: God is with us!

 

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Fine-Tuning for High-Tech Civilization

Astronomer Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (reasons.org), of whom much is heard in these pages, has long emphasized that all of natural history prior to mankind was fine-tuned to prepare the cosmos not for mankind simply, but for mankind and his development of high-tech civilization.  He even categorizes the features of the physical universe by their tendency to foster either simple, single-celled life, or large, air-breathing organisms, or human civilization, or – high-tech human civilization.

I have long wished for some elucidation from Ross as to the reasons he considers high-tech civilization in particular to be the goal in God’s creative activity.  An answer has occurred to me; and while I can’t say I actually heard this from Ross, it strikes me as something he would probably readily endorse.

The last 70 years has seen an explosion of scientific discovery, fueled, to a large extent, by the development of science technology that has enabled us to study the cosmos in ways that were not possible until now.  That science technology – the space telescopes, the super-colliders, the computers – would never have been developed by itself, apart from the advance of technology generally.  Modern science is indeed the invention of a broadly high-tech civilization.

And what have we discovered with our sophisticated and very expensive new kit?  Everywhere we look, we find the unequivocal signs of active intelligence.

So I think Ross would say that God prepared a planet for advanced civilization so that we would find him.

It gives a fuller understanding, it seems to me, of Romans 1:20:

[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Those invisible divine attributes – God’s existence, his divinity, and his power – were evident even to primitive man.  Our study of Creation continues to make God’s power, genius, wisdom, and love more and more obvious; yet somehow men still deny him.  Can judgment be far off?

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Toward an Epistemology of Love

N. T. Wright, Loving to Know: The 2019 Erasmus Lecture (First Things Magazine, February 2020, pp. 25-34.)

 

To transcend the divided field of knowledge – the antitheses between fact and value, objective and subjective, reason and faith, science and religion – requires an epistemology of love – a love, that is, which recognizes the material universe for what it is, “the loving gift of a wise creator.”

N. T. wright places the origin of these antitheses in ancient Epicurean philosophy, which held that “The gods may exist, but they are in an entirely different sphere to ourselves, taking no notice of us and certainly not intervening in our world.” He traces this view of the cosmos through the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution to the present.  To this day, he says, “most Westerners – including, alas, many Christians! – don’t realize that they are looking at the world through Epicurean spectacles.”

The intellectuals of the Enlightenment were receptive to Epicurean philosophy because it justified their “antipathy to  [hierarchical] top-down social, political, cultural, and religious systems . . . which were perceived as denying a proper aspiration for freedom.”  What they failed to realize, and what many today also do not realize, is that Epicurean cosmology is just as “top-down” as divine creation.  It says, essentially, that since the gods are not involved in mundane things, the universe must therefore create itself – “so that the evolution of species was approached not simply as a newly discovered bit of inductive knowledge from below but as the necessary postulate from . . . the Epicurean assumption that if the gods do not act within the world then the world must make itself.”

Wright’s observations help explain how it is that modern science acquired its naturalistic bias.  It is indeed a thing requiring some kind of explanation.  It is completely evident, after all, that naturalism – the prejudice that the material world of space, time, matter and energy is all that exists – is not something that science has discovered.  It was not found in a test tube, or on a distant planet.  Where did it come from?

Epicurean philosophy pre-dates modern science by more than 1800 years, so it was ready and waiting when the Enlightenment philosophers needed it.  Wright says that this helps to show that “modern Western culture is not a new thing based on modern science as is so often assumed, but an ancient worldview with some modern twists and footnotes.”

Wright’s antidote is to view the cosmos as a gift from a loving Father, and he has an answer for those who charge that theism’s openness to divine activity in the universe discourages scientific inquiry:

An epistemology of love, seeing the creation as the outflowing of divine creative love, must pay attention to that creation.  It isn’t enough to know that it is God’s creation, and so to infer that we already know all that’s important to know about it.  Love demands patient curiosity.  Love transcends the objective/subjective divide, because as the image-bearing stewards of creation, as liturgists of creation’s praise, as prophets called to speak creation’s reality, we humans are called not to a cool, detached appraisal of the world, nor to a self-indulgent grasping of it, but to a delighted exploration and exposition, in which respect and enjoyment go together.

. . . .

. . . Our delighted, sensitive, respectful, and curious exploration of creation is the response of love to the love we have received.

 

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Climate Change Notes

Here are the notes I took while listening to Dan Britt’s lecture.

21:00 When India collided with China, the uplift of the Himalayas resulted in greatly-increased rock weathering, which pulled 80% of the CO2 out of the atmosphere, rending the climate very sensitive to the changes in solar input that result from the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit around the sun.

Climate results from oscillations in:

Eccentricity of the earth’s orbit around the sun, a cycle of 100,000 years;

The tilt of the earth between 21 and 24 degrees, a cycle of 41,000 years; and

Precession, which is the movement around the earth’s orbit of the time of year when the earth is closest to the sun, a cycle of 23,000 years.

Presently we are closer to the sun in the winter, producing cooler summers and warmer winters.  Cooler summers allows snow to accumulate, producing glaciation – an ice age.  Also, warmer winters tend to be snowier.

But our glaciers are nevertheless melting.  Greenhouse gases are delaying the next ice age.

It’s the interplay of these factors which, by causing variations in the amount of solar radiation which reaches the surface of the earth, causes ice ages and periods of warming.

If you put global average temperatures on a graph, you can see all of these cycles.  The net effect is known as the Milankovich cycle after the Bulgarian scientist who discovered it in the 1920s.

For the last million years, our climate has been characterized by long glacial periods and short warming periods.

Global temperature followed the path predicted by these factors until about 8,000 years ago, when agriculture was introduced.  We cleared the forests and planted crops.

And 5,000 years ago we invented rice cultivation and terracing and domesticated livestock.  Cows are a major source of methane.

In the preindustrial period we put all the carbon in 10% of the global biomass into the atmosphere, which increased the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere from 260 parts per million (ppm) to 280 ppm.

Despite all of this, solar radiation was still declining, so that in the middle ages the climate was actually getting colder.

Starting in about 1850 we began tapping fossil fuels – first coal, then oil, then natural gas.

The pre-industrial atmosphere had about 600 billion metric tons of carbon.  (A metric ton is 2205 lb.)  By burning fossil fuels, we are presently adding about 8 billion metric tons per year.  (He doesn’t say whether that’s in addition to the agriculture and livestock contributions.)

Volcanoes are the largest natural input, at about 0.2 gigatons/year, 1/45th of the contribution of fossil fuels.

39:30 In the short term we are heading into a period of increasing sunspot activity, and he predicts that for the next 4 or 5 years we are going to have extremely hot summers.

There has been strong warming in the last 150 years.

In 1950 we were putting out about 1.3 gigatons of carbon per year and atmospheric carbon was 310 ppm.  Now we are putting out about 9 gigatons, and it is 390 ppm.

China’s GDP has exploded.  They want the same things we do.  They are producing a gigawatt-sized coal-fired power plant every two weeks.

We are in an ice age.  Continental glaciation is very unusual.  Human action has increased atmospheric CO2 by 25% and has stopped the currant Milankovich cycle in its tracks.  We should be seeing glacial advance, and what we are seeing is glacial retreat.

“If you don’t have continental glaciation, you don’t have Miami.”

2.5 to 6.5’ rise in the ocean by 2100.

The Greenland ice sheet will melt.  We don’t know how fast.

 

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Climate Change

Much is being said about climate change: is it real?  Are we causing it?  What can be done?  I have recently come across three fascinating discussions of how human-caused increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide may relate to various natural cycles, and how, too, it provides an amazing object lesson in the fine-tuning of the Earth and solar system.   Essential reading/listening.

How Ice Ages Happen: https://youtu.be/iA788usYNWA.

The Hiawatha Asteroid: https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/12/17/did-a-giant-collider-help-give-us-extreme-climate-stability

Geologist Dan Britt, Orbits and Ice Ages: the History of Climate (2012): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yze1YAz_LYM&feature=youtu.be

 

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Pray for the Church in the Middle East

May God strengthen and protect our faithful brothers and sisters.  Read this message from Martin Accad of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, here.

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