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Volume 3, Number 4 July / August 1998
A bimonthly newsletter of the Creation Research Society.

CRS Home Page

This Web version of Creation Matters lacks the "Creation Calendar" as well as photos and special announcements found only in the print version. The latter is automatically sent to members of the CRS along with the peer-reviewed CRS Quarterly.


Contents:
A “Closet Christian" Steps Out

Speaking of Science — Commentaries on recent news from science
Ancient DNA Update
RNA-Based Origin of Life?
Horse Chestnuts
“Skullduggery”?

A Letter from Grandpa
CRS Board Meets at ICR


A “Closet Christian" Steps Out
by John Cimbala, Ph.D.

I began my teaching career in July of 1984, fresh out of graduate school. I was already a Christian at that time, having accepted the Lord several years before. During my first few years of teaching, however, I kept my Christianity quite separate from my job. Christianity, although the most important thing in my life, was something to be practiced at home and at church; my Christian beliefs were not displayed in the office or in the classroom. This is not to say that I acted immorally or in any way condemned Christianity while at work. It's just that my Christian beliefs were not openly displayed or discussed. You might say that I was a “Closet Christian.” It would be fair to assume that none of my students and few of my colleagues even knew I was a Christian, except for those few who happened to attend the same church.

    My “closeted” condition lasted until January of 1987, when I attended a seminar sponsored by Christian Leadership Ministries entitled “The Christian Faculty Workshop” (which has since been updated and renamed “Relating to Students”). This workshop was the catalyst that permanently changed my outlook about my role and purpose as a Christian faculty member. In particular, the workshop motivated me to begin to share my faith with my students and with my colleagues.

    I started by displaying a few Christian posters and wall hangings in my office. I then began to introduce myself as a Christian on the first day of each class. After telling the students my name and educational background, I would tell them a little about my personal life, such as “I am married and have two boys, I like to swim for exercise...” Then I’d say “I am a Christian, and that's the most important part of my personal life.”

    I remember the nervousness and sweaty palms the first time I did this; but looking back, those few words spoken on the first day of class set the tone for the rest of the course. Once I had identified myself as a Christian, it was then very easy later on in the semester to announce lectures by Christian speakers, to state my views on certain topics, and, where applicable, to mention God in my lectures. For example, when I teach the second law of thermodynamics, I explain how the entire universe is winding down like a giant windup clock. “How did the clock get wound up in the first place?” I ask the students, and continue, “Does this prove the existence of God?”

    In the past couple years, I have developed a lecture of my own on science and the Bible, stressing in particular the conflict between creation and evolution, and the evidences for the existence of God. I generally present this lecture several times a year to various churches or campus Christian groups. I always announce these lectures to my classes, and several of my students have attended. In many cases, the mere announcement of the lecture prompts some students to ask questions after class. I can recall several instances when I've had the opportunity to explain my faith and to witness to nonChristian students after class. I feel that the Lord is using me as His ambassador to engineering students; this is my ministry, and the classroom is my mission field.

    I have some simple advice for Christian faculty who may be in the same situation as I was in 1987, wanting to start to share your faith in the classroom, but not knowing exactly how to begin.  First, pray for boldness to announce your Christianity to your students.

    Second, and most importantly, be a good teacher. I have learned that in order to become an effective witness to your students, you must first become an effective teacher. You must be willing to put sacrificial time into course preparation, with well-organized lectures. Students can really sense when this is (or is not) done. If your teaching is poor, students will not look to you as a role model, nor will they take your Christianity seriously. It is critical that you show genuine concern for the students, learn their names, and show them that they are important to you.

    In closing, I quote from some letters I received from students in one of my classes in the fall semester of 1992, after I had asked for feedback about my lectures, homework, etc. One student wrote the following:  “Your class is the only class I enjoy day in and day out. I feel that your lectures are easy to follow, neatly outlined on the board... You are the first instructor I've had at PSU in three years who openly leads a Christian way of life. That means a lot to me, since most of my professors don’t.”

    Another student wrote: “Your lectures are great! They are very clear and easy to follow (which is a big compliment because not all profs are good at this). The homework requires thought, yet is not impossible... Actually I’m glad you gave us a chance to comment, because I have been wanting to since the first day when you said you were a Christian. I am, too, and I thought it was quite a courageous thing to do. You see, students often get frustrated and annoyed with teachers, and to continue the rest of the semester as a testimony knowing that we all know you're a Christian I thought would not be easy. But you are excellent, and people respect you. Thanks, because my friends know I'm a Christian. Actually I'm probably the only one they know besides you, and I'm glad they know you are too, because we can tell you’re fair and care about us.”

    Such letters have encouraged me to continue to share my Christian faith in the classroom, and I hope they are as motivating to other faculty as well.

John, whose Ph.D. degree is in Aeronautics, is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State University. During the academic year 1993-94, he worked at NASA Langley Research Center, where he advanced his knowledge of computational fluid dynamics and turbulence modeling.

Used by permission of the author. This article is slightly modified from its first appearance at http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9601/cimbala.html.


Speaking of Science
Commentaries on recent news from science

Ancient DNA Update

Some scientists have hoped that snippets of DNA from ancient (multimillion-year-old) organisms might be recovered from organisms preserved in amber. A recent letter in ASM (American Society for Microbiology) News succintly summarizes the current state of affairs. First, an earlier article published in ASM News (Gerhardt, 1998) cited the claims by some scientists that they have recovered and sequenced ancient bacterial DNA, and that they have even cultured bacterial spores from amber-preserved fossil bees. Gerhardt issued a challenge to other investigators to verify these reported findings.

    In their well-documented response, Kane and Braun (1998) remind readers that such reports of ancient DNA have first of all been questioned “because of theoretical concerns on the rate of DNA degradation.” [This objection was earlier reviewed in Creation Matters (Wood, 1996).] Secondly, they point to the “inability of other groups to replicate these results.” And finally they note the erroneous gene sequencing methods and results employed in some of these ancient DNA reports.

    It has been suggested that contamination from modern sources has been responsible for these reports of ancient DNA. Holden (1997) reported on the efforts by scientists to replicate these results. They started with a brand-new laboratory, used specimens of amber-encased organisms from the same collections, and worked for two years — but to no avail. Holden said that “many scientists had already doubted these claims” since DNA usually begins to degrade within hours of death.” An exception might be DNA that has been preserved in areas that are dry and frozen, such as was the case for the 5,000-year-old “Ice Man” discovered in the Tyrolean Alps.

Gerhardt, P. 1998. Survival of ancient bacteria desiccated within amber: Believe it or not? ASM News 64:68.
Holden, C. 1997. “No go” for Jurassic Park-style Dinos. Science 276:361.

Kane, M.D. and M.J. Braun. 1998. Microbes in amber. ASM News 64:250.

Wood, T. 1996. Ancient DNA? Creation Matters 1(6):1.

— contributed by Glen W. Wolfrom

RNA-Based Origin of Life?

In a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stanley Miller and a colleague report their investigation of the stability of the nucleobases (components of RNA and DNA) to high temperatures (>100 degrees C) and low temperatures (0 degrees C). Evolutionists often suggest that early in earth’s history, various gases gave rise to the building blocks of life, including the nucleobases. For such a theory to be valid, the proposed building blocks of life must be stable at high temperatures. It was reported that at 100 degrees C the decomposition half-lives of the RNA bases were approximately 1 year for adenine and guanine, 12 years for uracil, and, in the case of cytosine, 19 days — much too short to sustain life at high temperatures.

    The article states, "Therefore, unless the origin of life took place extremely rapidly (< 100 yr), we conclude that a high-temperature origin of life may be possible, but it cannot involve adenine, uracil, guanine, or cytosine." This is an extremely important finding! When mainstream scientists find tangible, testable evidence disproving this far-fetched theory of the abiogenic origin of life, it is certainly worth noting. An abstract of the article is available at: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/95/14/7933.

Matthew Levy and Stanley J. Miller. 1998. The stability of the RNA bases: Implications for the origin of life. PNAS 95(14):7933-7938.

— contributed by Joe Blumer

Horse Chestnuts

No, not the ornamental shade trees which produce an inedible nut. Rather, I am referring to the markings located on the inside of a horse’s legs. Since their size and shape are unique to each horse, they have been used traditionally by some horse breed associations to assist in identification of individual horses. However, because these can be surgically altered, modern means such as freeze branding and microchips are sometimes recommended as more sure means of identification.

    The issue for us, however, is that some people assert that these structures are evolutionary “leftovers.” I phoned an acquaintance, who is an equine veterinarian, about these structures called chestnuts. The standard line taught to vets, she said, is that these are rudimentary (i.e., vestigial) digits, left over from the multi-toed ancestor of the horse. Yes, I know it sounds strange that something near the knee (forelimb) or hock (hind limb) can be considered the remnant of a toe, but she read it to me from one of her books.

    According to Evans, et al. (1990), the chestnuts are semi-horny growths derived from the epidermal layer. Similar structures, called ergots, are located on the posterior-ventral (back, lower) surface of the fetlock (the joint just above the hoof). The size of ergots, generally hidden by tufts of hair, is breed-dependent. These authors clearly state that:

“...there is no evidence for the theory that [chestnuts] represent vestiges of missing digits from extinct species of horses.” (p. 128)
“There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the chestnuts or ergots are reduced vestiges of toes.” (p. 688)

    No specific function of these structures is noted by the authors. A veterinary student has pointed out that the chestnuts have an odor that is similar to that of the secretions that surround the genitals of male horses, and that builds up between the teats of mares. In any event, it is clear that they do not represent vestiges of multi-toed ancestors.

Bergman, J. and G.F. Howe. 1990. “Vestigial Organs” Are Fully Functional. CRS Books, St. Joseph, MO.

Evans, J.W., A. Borton, H.F. Hintz, L.D. Van Vleck. 1990. The Horse, 2nd Ed. W. H. Freeman Co., New York.

— contributed by Glen W. Wolfrom

Skullduggery”?

No malfeasance is implied by the title to this note. However, the reconstruction of a human face based upon a fossil skull is, in fact, one of those areas where science meets artistic license. One immediately thinks of the famous (or not so famous) series of reconstructions of Zinjanthropus, now known as Australopithecus (Custance, 1968; see Figure 1).

cm9807zinj.jpg (19180 bytes)

Fig. 1.  Three different reconstructions of the same fossil Zinjanthropus.  Reprinted by permission.

    The “difficulties” of the art of reconstruction were illustrated in a recent news report (Holden, 1998). Because the man’s race was not known, the thickness of facial muscles was the average of that for Caucasians and Asians. The size of the nose was calculated from measurements made on the skull, but it “looked too big” and was made smaller. The type of mouth, eyelids, and ears was determined by guessing.

    One could stipulate, as is done in the article, that a general shape can be derived by reconstruction. This should be especially true when the species is known (human in this case) and the skull is complete. With respect to the details, however, the report indicates that “[s]uch reconstruction is ‘still a cross between art and science,’ especially with a fossil this old.” The skeleton in question is dated by conventional methods at only 9300 years. Imagine, then, how accurate reconstructions are when the species is one that has never been seen before, and when the skull is alleged to be hundreds of thousands of years old, and is incomplete or highly fragmented.

Custance, A.C. 1968. Fossil man in the light of the record in Genesis. CRS Quarterly 5:5-22.

Holden, C. 1998. Kennewick Man realized. Science 279:1137.

— contributed by Glen W. Wolfrom

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Letter from Grandpa
by John R. Meyer, Ph.D.

Dear John Paul,

I suppose that from time to time you must wonder about who this guy is that you call "Grandpa" and why he does what he does.

I don't expect that, at your age, you will understand a lot of what I am saying, but perhaps you will understand enough that reading it will be worthwhile. I hope the day will come when you understand in more depth the issues I discuss.
My motivations for being involved in the origins issues are in part as follows:

1. I am a Christian. It does make a difference to Biblical Christianity as to the age of the universe, the age of the earth, and the reality of a universal, worldwide flood at the time of Noah. After many years of trying, I finally realized that I could not fit the major features of macro-evolution (I have no problem with most aspects of “micro-evolution”) into the Genesis account without destroying it. It (Genesis) is the historical, foundational, and fundamental basis for all that follows in Scripture. The profound relationship between atheism and raw evolutionism can hardly be denied.

2. I am a scientist. Einstein once said that what it really took to be a scientist was an intense curiosity about the natural world. Unfulfilled curiosity is a powerful motivating force in what may otherwise be long, hard, and tedious research. I am simply intensely curious about the origins of the physical world and the origin of life. Few people outside of the scientific and engineering realms understand this drive. But if you have it you are not satisfied without at least some fulfillment of it.

3. I am a biologist. It does make a difference to the profession regarding the age of the earth, the origin of life, the origin of information in molecular biology, and the possible genetic relationships among all organisms. Thus, if I see weaknesses in the general theory of evolution, in order to be true to my chosen professional career, I have an ethical obligation to set the record straight. This is an obligation that serious scientists must hold with regard to their chosen discipline. This is true regardless of the presence or lack of religious implications.

4. I am your grandfather. Secular humanism is the most insidious and pervasive philosophy that you and my other grandkids will have thrown at them in an anti-Christian culture. The primary cornerstone for secular humanism is evolutionism. I thus have an immense responsibility to my grandkids and to generations yet unborn.

I hope the above is helpful.

With all of my love,
Grandpa

John is director of the CRS Van Andel Creation Research Center located at Chino Valley, Arizona.


CRS Board Meets at ICR

On May 21-23, the 35th annual meeting of the Creation Research Society Board of Directors was graciously hosted by the Institute for Creation Research. [1] This provided a unique opportunity for the CRS Board and the ICR staff to interact informally at a Friday night reception sponsored by ICR. For several Board members, this was their first visit to ICR. The evening’s events culminated in a personal tour of ICR’s excellent museum. On Saturday evening Dr. Henry Morris, founder and President-Emeritus of ICR, and his wife were invited to join the CRS board members and their wives for dinner.

    Though this was his last Board meeting, it was very special for Dr. Duane Gish. In the CRS’ 35-year history, he has never missed a Board meeting. Drs. Morris and Gish were among the original “team of ten” who founded the CRS in 1963. Dr. Morris resigned from the Board in 1982 due to his expanding speaking and administrative responsibilities at ICR.

    The Board convened on Thursday evening to review the agendas of the various committees. Then, throughout the day on Friday the committees met and prepared their recommendations for Board action. Finally, the Board met together on Saturday to hear the various committee reports, act on motions, nominate Board members, and elect officers for the following year. The minutes of the meeting will be published in the Creation Research Society Quarterly.

[1] Institute for Creation Research, 10946 Woodside Ave. North, P.O. Box 2667, Santee, CA 92021 (619)448-0900



ISSN 1094-6632
A publication of the Creation Research Society
Volume 3, Number 4
July / August 1998

Copyright 1999 Creation Research Society
All rights reserved.

General Editor: Glen Wolfrom

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Articles published in Creation Matters represent the opinions and beliefs of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Creation Research Society.

 


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