Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wisdom of God

Seamus O’Regan is an MP for St. John's South, Mount Pearl. On St. Patrick’s Day of this year he made some statements about refugees in Canada. Now, whatever I may think of Seamus O’Regan, and I would not agree with everything he says, here, I think he makes a good point. He reminded us that in and around the year 1847, “One-hundred thousand destitute Irish immigrants, 'leaving a devastating famine behind them, fleeing terror and persecution,' arrived at a time when the Dominion of Canada numbered just 1.5 million, O’Regan noted.”
 “Some 38,000 Irish passed through Toronto in 1847. Toronto then, was a city of only 20,000 people.
 [We do well to remember] that in 1847, there were enough, just enough Canadians who rose above the frank, blatant, decades-long discrimination of the day, and gave those immigrants a chance to become Canadians themselves.”[1] It is hard for us to comprehend this, but in 1847, the Irish were viewed much like Muslims in our day. People were suspicious and scared of them and did not want them in their country.

By the world’s standards, it is foolishness to welcome 100,000 people into a country of 1.5 million people. It is foolishness to welcome 38,000 people into a city of 20,000 people. But, by God’s economy and God's wisdom, we are to welcome the stranger, the alien, the homeless. Deuteronomy 10:17-19 says,

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.”

When we read the Bible with God’s wisdom, when we read it as story that reveals God, rather than a rule book, we develop a relationship with the God of the Bible. It is not easy to read our Bibles like this. It is much easier to try to turn our Bible’s into rule books; but God calls us to something greater. We need constantly to read the Bible seeking to understand the heart of God. We need daily to ask God to be our wisdom as we read his word.

Daily, we need to pray,
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Otters, Shells, and Genomes

Science News is asking questions about animal intelligence in an article about otters and tool use in a March 21, 2017 article. The article entitled, “Tool use in sea otters doesn't run in the family,” suggests that using rocks to crack open snails and other shells to get at the rich food inside, may truly be a learned behavior that each generation must discover.

Those who read this blog regularly will know that I am fascinated with the intelligence of animals. (You can read a quick summary here and find links to other articles on this subject in the same place.) Most of the writing and reading I have done on this subject has emphasized the learned aspect of such behaviour. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that crows teach other crows the techniques related to breaking open mussel shells and staying away from strangers. So, it is not surprising that researchers are having a difficult time finding the gene responsible for tool use in otters. However, I would caution us that just because a gene carrying this propensity has not been found, does not mean that the gene does not exist. The author of the paper even admits this when she suggests that “sea otters may all be predisposed to using tools because their ancestors probably lived off mollusks, which required cracking open.” Could it be that all otters carry the gene for tool use and only use it when necessary?

I am thankful for authors who give us interesting summaries of research papers. At the very same time, I am cautious about how that data is characterized. I encourage us to read with great discernment, “wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Problem with Dark Matter

Theorists and observational astronomers alike have a problem: they can’t find Dark Matter! Einstein and others before and since have postulated that there is something out there that we can’t see. Theoretically, Dark Matter is just that, matter in the universe which is dark because it does not interact with electro-magnetic waves. Also, by definition, it interacts with gravity and constitutes more than 80% of the mass of the universe.

One might readily ask, how do we know that Dark Matter is out there? When mathematicians, theorists, and astronomers do the math, and here I am referring to massive calculations that start with principles and assumptions and end with a reasonable proof of how the universe might function, they find that there is not enough mass in the universe to account for the ways in which gravity is affected. Therefore, they introduce a material, an “X,” that must exist but cannot be seen to account for this. We call this “X,” Dark Matter.

True, it is not a very satisfying way to arrive at the existence of something. Many experiments have been done, or are in progress, to see if Dark Matter can be physically proven to exist. So far, every one of these experiments has been negative or inconclusive.

One answer, that is slowly being accepted by more and more of the research community, is that perhaps Dark Matter does not exist and we should simply stop looking for the material. The problem with this is that one must find some other way to account for “X.” If Dark Matter does not exist, how do we explain the gravitational effects on the regular matter of the universe?

It is tempting to invoke a “hand of God” explanation for this. The NIV translation of the Bible says in Psalm 8:3,
“When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,”
It sounds like God is simply holding the moon and stars and other heavenly bodies in their rightful place; but, this is not how we see God at work in the rest of his creation. He does not create black-boxes into which we cannot look or see the mechanism. Yes, God made the DNA molecule that accounts for the information transmission of living things, but he has allowed us to uncover the workings of DNA and even how to manipulate it for our own satisfaction and health. God created the “X” of the universe, but he likely has not put it out of bounds for us to research the “X.”

We await more experiments, more calculations, and more definitive studies to elucidate the nature of “X.” Is it indeed Dark Matter? Is it something else? Many will continue to work on the question, for certainly there is a Nobel prize waiting at the end of the search.

Friday, March 17, 2017

International Space Station

(Click on this thumbnail picture for a larger image)

The International Space Station (ISS) flew over my home a few minutes ago. When you know where to look it is easy to pick out of a clear sky one or two hours before sunrise or one or two hours after sunset. The ISS circumnavigates our planet in approximately 90 minutes and appears from earth as a fast-moving light traveling from a westerly direction to an easterly direction. Today, at 5:39 am, it was very close to the centre of the sky, halfway between north and south. An app such as Sky Guide helps me keep track of ISS flyovers and the location of planets in the night sky. You can also go to the ISS Astroviewer to get an image of the present location of the ISS.

It is fascinating to think of the six astronauts racing overhead at 7.66 km/sec. Presently, the crew consists of three Russians (Roscosmos), two Americans (NASA), and one French (ESA); under the command of Robert Shane Kimbrough (NASA). This crew represents Expedition 50 and has been assigned to study several human biomedical research questions. NASA states that the purpose of this mission is to “investigate how lighting can change the overall health and well-being of crew members, how microgravity can affect the genetic properties of space-grown plants, and how microgravity impacts tissue regeneration in humans.”. The crew are the test-subjects in their research work. As the present mission nears completion, the crew have been in space for 120 to 150 days and a crew change is scheduled to occur in early May, 2017.