May 2013

Nigerian HouseIn contrast to the trend of countries and states legalizing same-sex marriage, today Nigeria voted to ban same-sex marriage in their country.  The bill goes much further than that, as well.  It also outlaws the organization of any group supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage, and criminalizes any public show of affection between same-sex couples (10 year prison sentence). Gay sex is already banned in the country, which is common in many African countries.

Newborn babyKermit Gosnell just got three life sentences for killing newborn babies in his abortion clinic because the law does not permit infanticide.  Most people, even those who support abortion, recognize that infanticide is morally wrong.  But some bioethicists disagree, and they are being increasingly vocal about it, advocating for infanticide in prominent scholarly journals. 

Recently, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva wrote an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics titled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?”  This caused a stir in the press, to say the least.  In response to the outcry, the Journal of Medical Ethics has dedicated their May 2013 edition to responses, both pro and con, to the article. 

Philosopher and ethicist Michael Tooley added his voice to the mix in an article titled “Philosophy, critical thinking and ‘after-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’”  Tooley says we ought to question our basic beliefs, including the belief that infanticide is murder, and hence morally wrong.  


In March of this year, China’s health ministry released abortion data.  Approximately 13 million abortions are performed in China every year.  That’s 25 abortions every minute!  They estimate that since 1971, ~325 million abortions have been performed.  That’s the population of the United States.  Tragic!

In the Beginning We MisunderstoodMost books dealing with the proper interpretation of Genesis 1 attempt to do one of two things: show how Genesis 1 cannot be reconciled with modern science, or show how Genesis 1 can be reconciled with modern science.  Some try to show that Genesis presents us with a young universe, while others try to show that Genesis presents us with an old universe.  Either way, it is presumed that Genesis 1 intends to present us with a scientific description of how God created (order, duration, etc.). 

In their new book, In the Beginning…We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context, coauthors Johnny Miller and John Soden argue that this presumption is false, and concordism is a misguided hermeneutical approach to Genesis 1.  Discussions over the meaning of Genesis should not be driven by scientific questions, but by literary questions.  Our interpretation of Genesis should not be determined by our views about science, but by the text itself.  Why even think that God meant to provide a scientific description of creation?  The most important question to ask is what Moses meant when he wrote the creation account, how his readers would have understood it, and what practical impact it would have for them given their unique historical situation.  How did it prepare them for the theology and religious practices they were familiar with in Egypt, as well as those they would encounter in Canaan? 


The State of the Plate just released a report on the characteristics of tithers.  Their report is based on a five year study of 4,413 people.  They found that 

  • 77% of tithers give more than 10% (between 11-20%)
  • 70% base their tithe on their gross, rather than net income
  • 63% started tithing in their twenties or before
  • “Tithers carry much less debt than most people and are financially better off than Christian non-tithers — 80% of ‘tithers’ have no unpaid credit card bills; 74% have no car payments; 48% own their home; and 28% are completely debt-free.”
  • Only 10-25% of churchgoers tithe, which constitutes 50-80% of a churches funding.

Reasons cited by non-tithing Christians for not tithing include the lack of finances (38%), too much debt (33%), and lack of spousal approval (18%). And yet, State of the Plate found that those who tithe are “distributed almost equally across all income brackets.”  It seems that one’s personal debt may be one of the best indicators regarding their likelihood to tithe.


HT: Scot McKnight

ObfuscationNow that cloning is back in the media again, the media is once again demonstrating their ignorance of the science, or blatant attempt to pull the wool over the public’s eyes about what is really being done in the lab.  They either:

  1. Leave out the fact that what is produced is a human embryo (going straight from enucleated egg with the nucleus of an adult cell, directly to stem cells)
  2. Or they admit that an embryo is created, but claim it’s not a human being
  3. Or they deny that the embryo is a human clone (redefining human clone to refer to a cloned human who is allowed to be born. 

They are leaving out important details, and redefining scientific words to fit their purposes.  It’s all rhetoric and propaganda, and obfuscates the science and biology behind it. 

For the last time: somatic cell nuclear transfer does not produce embryonic stem cells.  It creates a human clone, and that human produces stem cells.  To extract the stem cells, the human clone must be killed! 

Wesley J. Smith has some nice posts demonstrating how the mainstream media continues to get it wrong: 

Same Sex Marriage Cake Tops

Lou Dematteis/Reuters

Rhode Island

On May 2, Rhode Island became the 10th state to permit same-sex marriage. The House approved the bill by 56-15 (the RI Senate approved the bill on April 24 by a 26-12 vote), and the governor signed it the same day. Same-sex marriages will be legal starting August 1, 2013. 

Rhode Island had just approved civil unions two years ago, and now the new law will replace these civil unions with marriage.  The Fox News article noted that “few couples” sought civil unions.  I wonder why they think many more will seek marriage.  What people fail to understand is that most gays do not want marriage.  What they want is social acceptance of their orientation and behavior, and permitting same-sex couples to partake of the institution of marriage is one of the best ways to accomplish this. 



Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health & Science University

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health & Science University

Researchers at The Oregon Health & Science University have just announced in Cell that they successfully cloned 21 humans, and then killed them to extract their stem cells at the blastocyst stage (although they didn’t describe it as “killing”).  This is the first time stem cells have ever been derived from a human clone.  

Welcome to the brave new world of cloning.


HT: Wesley J. Smith

Vermont legislatureOn Monday, the Vermont House approved a bill to legalize assisted suicide in the state by a vote of 75-65 (the VT Senate passed it previously by a vote of 17-13).  The governor supported the bill and will surely sign it, making VT the 4th state in the nation to legalize assisted suicide.  

There’s nothing like sending a message to the most vulnerable people among us that we think their lives are of such little value that they can be disposed of at will.  Our moral decline continues….


HT: Wesley J. Smith

Michael Patton has a nice article detailing 12 ways we can prepare children for times of doubt in their Christian life.

Jesus CounselorThe modern approach to evangelism is to tell people how much God loves them, and that He can fix their broken lives and heal their emotional wounds. While this is true, too many Christians stop here. They make no mention of Jesus’ lordship over our lives, the coming judgment, or the forgiveness of sins.

No one continues to visit their counselor after their emotional problems have been resolved. When we only present Jesus as the solution for our emotional needs – a divine counselor – we should not be surprised when people try Jesus, and then move on to other things once they “feel” better.

thinking manPhilosohpers David Bourget and David Chalmers recently surveyed 931 philosophy faculty members to determine their views on 30 different issues.  Here were some of the more interesting results:

God: atheism 72.8%; theism 14.6%; other 12.6%.
Metaphilosophy: naturalism 49.8%; non-naturalism 25.9%; other 24.3%.
Mind: physicalism 56.5%; non-physicalism 27.1%; other 16.4%.
Free will: compatibilism 59.1%; libertarianism 13.7%; no free will 12.2%; other 14.9%.
Meta-ethics: moral realism 56.4%; moral anti-realism 27.7%; other 15.9%.
Normative ethics: deontology 25.9%; consequentialism 23.6%; virtue ethics 18.2%; other 32.3%.
Science: scientific realism 75.1%; scientific anti-realism 11.6%; other 13.3%
Time: B-theory 26.3%; A-theory 15.5%; other 58.2%.
Truth: correspondence 50.8%; deflationary 24.8%; epistemic 6.9%; other 17.5%.

Notice that although 72.8% of respondents are atheists, 56.4% are moral realists. This goes to show the strength of our moral intuitions. While atheists do not have a sufficient ontological grounding for objective moral values, they still believe in them nonetheless.

I was surprised that only 13.7% believe in libertarian free will. I would expect it to be much higher.  Perhaps this correlates with the high rates of physicalism.

HT: Scot McKnight

Adult stem cellsI haven’t been reporting on stem cell research lately, but there has continued to be a flurry of advances in the field.  None of them, however, involve embryonic stem cell research.  All of them involve adult stem cells, cord blood stem cells, or induced pluripotent stem cells (adult cells reprogrammed back to an embryonic state). 

The latest advance was announced earlier this month.  Scientists extracted stem cells from a two year old girl’s bone marrow and created a new windpipe with it in less than a week.  Growing one organ from the cells of another body part is truly astonishing work!  

Here are some other recent medical advances in non-embryonic stem cell research that I have not reported on: 


Shroud of TurinThe Shroud of Turin – the purported burial cloth of Jesus which contains the faint image of a crucified man – was the subject of intense scientific examination in the mid 1980s.  Based on a carbon-14 dating of the fibers, scientists dated the shroud to A.D. 1260-1390.  For most, this was all the proof they needed to conclude that the shroud was a medieval forgery.

Other evidence, however, suggests that it is genuine.  One theory put forward to explain the medieval date determined by C-14 dating is that the fibers used for the test were either contaminated (from either the lab, or from the fire in 1532 that nearly destroyed the Shroud), or were not part of the original Shroud (the Shroud was patched by weaving new threads into the old threads).

Recently, a group of scientists in Italy conducted tests on the fibers using three different dating methods and concluded that the Shroud dates to 33 BC, ±250 years.  These dating methods utilized infra-red light, Raman spectroscopy (“the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths”), and a mechanical process utilizing electricity.

I cannot speak to the accuracy of these dating methods, but given the fact that three different dating methods all arrived at dates more than a Millennium earlier than the C-14 dates is quite interesting.  It gives evidential backing to those who questioned the accuracy of the C-14 tests.  At the very least, the authenticity of the Shroud can no longer be dismissed out-of-hand based solely on the C-14 tests.  The new data fits perfectly with a first century dating of the Shroud.  It will be interesting to see how other scholars respond to this new data.

Sylvia BrowneHow many times will this so-called psychic be proven wrong and people still believe her nonsense?  In 2004 Sylvia Browne told Amanda Berry’s mom that Amanda was dead and on the other side.  Apparently the spirit who speaks to Sylvia Browne forgot to tell Amanda since she was just discovered alive this week.