Science is not the threat to faith; postmodernism is

A study of college students has found that science majors do not lose their religion as much as humanities students do, suggesting that science is not as corrosive to faith as postmodernism is. From

Results from a recent study on the impact of a college student’s major on their religiosity have led researchers to conclude that postmodernism, rather than science, is the greatest antagonist of religiosity.

“Because we consider both the Humanities and many of the Social Sciences particularly strongly imbued with Postmodernism, we take this as evidence for a negative effect of Postmodernism on religiosity,” they state in their report, which was released last month.

Meanwhile, majoring in the Biological Sciences and the Physical Sciences has a much smaller negative or no effects on religiosity.

“My coauthors Colter Mitchell, Arland Thornton, Linda Young-DeMarco and I speculate that Postmodernism (Relativism) has a much bigger negative effect on religiosity than Science because the key ideas of Postmodernism are newer than the key scientific ideas that challenge religion. Religions have had 150 years to develop resistance or tolerance for the ideas of evolution, for example,” said economist Miles Kimball, who co-authored the study.

In the study, postmodernism is defined as a commitment to relativism and to the idea that truth and morality are not absolute but are determined by those who are powerful. It is associated with “epistemological doubt” or the idea that knowledge and certainty are extremely difficult to attain. This conflicts with religious beliefs suggesting the existence of absolute knowledge, truth, and authority rooted in God’s revelation and teachings to human beings.

“Most religions have not gotten as far at developing resistance or tolerance for the ideas of Postmodernism, though one can see it happening, as some religions warn their member about Relativism, while others argue that Postmodernism means that religious belief cannot be disproved,” Kimball noted.

Much of the debate between Christians and atheists has been over science, with evolution and creationism pitted against each other, and both sides trying to use logic and evidence to make their cases. But how do you persuade someone who doesn’t believe in logic, evidence, or truth itself? What would be a good apologetic strategy to reach postmodernists, convincing them that there is a truth and that the truth is Christ?

iPS cells as alternative to embryonic stem cells

Here is a new word for you: iPS cells (induced pluriponent stem cells), which work just as well as stem cells taken from killed embryos, as Chinese scientists have proven:

In papers published online Thursday by two scientific journals, separate teams of researchers from Beijing and Shanghai reported that they had for the first time created virtual genetic duplicates of mice using skin cells from adult animals that had been coaxed into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells.

The findings were welcomed by supporters and opponents of human embryonic stem cell research as a long-sought vital step in proving that the cells could be as useful as embryonic cells for studying and curing many illnesses. . . .

“This gives us hope for future therapeutic interventions using patients’ own reprogrammed cells,” Fanyi Zeng of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who worked with Zhou, said during a telephone briefing for reporters. . . .the work is “proof that iPS cells are functionally equivalent to embryonic stem cells,” [Shaorong] Gao said in a telephone interview.

Other researchers agreed, praising the work as a long-awaited confirmation of the cells’ equivalence.

“This clearly says for the first time that iPS cells pass the most stringent test,” said Konrad Hochedlinger, a stem cell researcher at Harvard University.

Back to the moon

Today is the 40th anniversary of a human being walking on the moon. Charles Krauthammer says we simply must go back to the moon. In the course of his argument, he recounts that “Michael Crichton once wrote that if you told a physicist in 1899 that within a hundred years humankind would, among other wonders (nukes, commercial airlines), “travel to the moon, and then lose interest . . . the physicist would almost certainly pronounce you mad.”

It so happens that we have another moon vessel up there now. Its mission is interesting in itself, though it shows how inhospitable the moon is to human life:

The 13-ft.-long, 2-ton spacecraft is not designed for a landing, but rather will settle into a low lunar orbit just 30 miles (48 km) above the surface, or about half the altitude at which the Apollos flew. The ship will be fairly stuffed with scientific instruments, one of the most important — if least sexy sounding — of which will be its laser altimeter. The altimeter will bounce laser beams off the lunar surface and, by measuring the speed at which they reflect back up, calculate the moon’s topography to within inches. That’s critical since long-term lunar stays require finding not only hospitable places to land, but also hospitable places to establish a home.

“We’re going to measure the topography with the level of detail civil engineers need when they’re building a building,” says Jim Garvin, one of the lead developers of the LRO and the chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which will run the mission.

Just as important for choosing where to homestead is knowing the local weather — or at least the local temperature. Nobody pretends that the moon will be a thermally comfortable place to live, but few people realize just how punishing its climate extremes are — a torch-like 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 Celsius) during the day and a paralyzing -382 Fahrenheit (-230 Celsius) at night. What’s more, says Garvin, “the moon goes through this dance every 28 days.” Those kinds of cycling extremes can be murder on hardware, and until we know more about the hot-cold rhythm, we can’t build properly to withstand it.

Easily the most exciting piece of hardware aboard the ship, however — for lay lunarphiles at least — will be the camera. Even the best reconnaissance photography before the Apollo visits missed things, which is why Apollo 11’s landing almost came to grief when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin found themselves piloting their lander over an unexpected boulder field just seconds before touchdown. That’s less likely to happen this time, thanks to a camera that can visualize objects as small as a few feet across. What’s more, since the LRO will be in a polar orbit instead of an equatorial one — or, vertical rather than horizontal — the moon’s 28-day rotation will eventually carry virtually every spot on the surface beneath the camera’s lens.

“The moon will essentially walk around underneath the orbiter,” says Garvin. “With the detail we get in the photographs, every picture will be like a mini-landing.” That includes photos of the Apollo sites, all half-dozen of which should have their portraits snapped. If NASA gets lucky, Garvin believes the first such images could be in hand by the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, on July 20.

For all of the LRO’s versatility, one thing it can’t do with much precision is look for water. That’s a problem, since astronauts living on the surface will need plenty of the stuff, and bringing it all with them is out of the question. (A single pint of water weighs about a pound, and every pound you fly to the moon costs about $50,000.) The LRO, however, will not be traveling alone. Launched on the same booster will be another entire spacecraft known as the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS).

Shortly after the paired ships enter space, the LCROSS will separate from the LRO and embark on its own trajectory toward the moon. The LCROSS will lag behind, spending four months in a sweeping orbit that will carry it around both Earth and the moon; throughout its flight, it will remain attached to its upper stage rocket, separating from it only during its final approach to the moon. The rocket stage will then speed ahead, aiming for a deliberate crash in one of several craters in the south lunar pole in which the LRO’s sensors will have detected signs of water ice. The collision will send a debris plume as high as 6.2 miles (10 km) into space and the LCROSS itself, trailing four minutes behind, will fly through it. As it does, its instruments will analyze the chemistry of the plume, looking particularly for water ice, hydrocarbons and other organics that will break down as they are exposed to their first flashes of sunlight in billions of years. Shortly after that, the LCROSS, too, will complete its suicide plunge, smashing into the ground just miles from the first impact site.

It will take about a year before the surviving LRO completes its more leisurely mission, and then another decade at least before humans are once again treading lunar soil.

Since those words were written, the vehicle has arrived at the moon and is sending back pictures, such as these of the original landing sites.

What do you think? Should we go back to the moon, launch off to Mars, and send manned expeditions into outer space?

Towards a new scientific worldview, part 4: Why I bring it up

Let me just repeat for all to see what I replied to tODD when he asked me why I was so fascinated with Dr. Lanza and his book Biocentrism:

I’m not fascinated with the man and his book, I’m fascinated at how even some atheist scientists are trying to form a new worldview that is non-materialistic to account for intelligent-design observations such as the Goldilocks effect and the strange findings of quantum mechanics. I am also fascinated that a Biblical worldview can account for these observations–the way the universe supports life and the necessity of an observer–in a better, Occam’s razor, kind of way, than having to jump to all of this New Age, it’s-all-in-your-head kind of silliness.

Two scientists and two nominations

President Obama has nominated Francis Collins to be director of the National Institute of Health. Collins led the project to sequence human DNA. He is an outspoken evangelical, though he is also a theistic evolutionist. Click the link for an interesting discussion of his ideas and the controversy he elicits from all sides.

Then again, President Obama’s nomination for the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, John Holdren, has written a book, entitled Ecoscience back in 1977, in which he argues for the following:

— Women could be forced to abort their pregnancies, whether they wanted to or not;
— The population at large could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into the nation’s drinking water or in food;
— Single mothers and teen mothers should have their babies seized from them against their will and given away to other couples to raise;
— People who “contribute to social deterioration” (i.e. undesirables) “can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility” — in other words, be compelled to have abortions or be sterilized.
— A transnational “Planetary Regime” should assume control of the global economy and also dictate the most intimate details of Americans’ lives — using an armed international police force.

Mollie Hemingway, to whom I am indebted for this information, asks, after some very interesting discussion, why is the media presenting Francis Collins as a controversial pick for being an evangelical Christian (though one who is pro-evolution, pro-stem cell research, and pro-abortion) but not John Holdren?

Towards a new scientific worldview, #3: Changing the past

More weird science: A quantum entity, such as a photon of light or an electron, behaves either like a particle or a wave, but not at the same time. Which way it behaves depends on how it is being observed. That’s weird enough, an example of what we have been talking about the last few days of the evidence that reality requires an observer (or Observer).

In 2007, a team of physicists found a way to change the mode of observation of beams of photons in the course of the experiment AFTER they have already entered the measuring apparatus. Somehow, the observation in the present affected how the photons behaved in the past. As one of the authors of the study put it, as quoted in a physics forum,
“In the present, one can change something that has already happened in the past.”

The experiment was published in Science, with this abstract:

Wave-particle duality is at the heart of quantum mechanics. Particles and photons can display both properties, and which property is measured depends on the type of measurement made. What if the experimental setup changes when the photon or particle is “in flight” and has already entered the experimental apparatus? Jacques et al. (p. 966) report an almost ideal realization of such a “delayed choice” experiment as formulated by Wheeler. A triggered single-photon source provides a mechanism for precise timing of the experiment within laboratory conditions. The behavior of the photon in the interferometer depends on the choice of the observable that is measured, even if that choice is made when the photon is already in the system.

Go here for the entire original article.

Go here for a simple classroom experiment–that I have witnessed doing a class observation of our college’s excellent physics class–that shows how we know that light can be either a particle or a wave and that can help you visualize this more sophisticated experiment, in which the light apparently entered the two slits (as it were), which would involve starting to act like a wave, but then when one slit was closed reverted to acting like a particle as if the wave “decision” (the experimenters’ word) never happened.