Category: The Meaning of Life


Tails up all those who think we’re related to chimps, or descended from ape-like creatures. No monkeying around now…

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Despite all the propaganda and speculation foisted onto me at school and through television I have never for a moment believed that I was descended from ape-like creatures. As a kid I wondered why pre-humans would shed all their ape-like fir and then shiver in the cold and start making clothes. I must admit though, that sometimes I can’t help appreciating why some people believe they have ape in their ancestry…

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Here are a few related tails tales. This post is an edit of something I wrote four years ago, and which I thought deserved another airing.

ONE

At a creation seminar I attended, given by ex-evolutionist Dr. Tommy Morton, the audience was shown part of a PBS (equivalent and sister to BBC TV) “Nova” special on Lucy, one of the alleged evolutionary links between an ape-like creature and humans. For us all to see and hear, Nova’s narrator explained how scientists had decided that when fossilized, the hip had somehow been fused in the “wrong” position, so that the remains made the animal look like it walked too much like an ape, and not much like the link they believed it to be. So, in front of the camera, the scientist cut the joint and fixed it in the position he believed it was originally, and hey presto…it’s a genuine missing link, touted and promoted by public television for millions to see! Don’t think for a minute that this type of scientific “research” is rare…

TWO

A few years ago I played escort for a party of people on a trip to the “Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute” at Central Washington University. The institute’s website makes the claim that chimps living there have “acquired the signs of American Sign Language (ASL), and use those signs in conversations with each other and their human companions”. This “accomplishment” apparently has resulted “in a better understanding of ourselves, as well as our place and role in nature”. The site also refers to the chimps as “our fellow apes” (hey-speak for yourself and count me out!)

I can remember seeing the first chimp to “acquire a human language”, on TV in the UK. Her name was “Washoe”, born in 1965. Washoe was the matriarch of the CHCI family at CWU. Even at the age of twelve it seemed to me that there was something not quite right about the link they were making between us and the chimp’s mimicking of gestures.

Anyway, when my party and I arrived at the institute, and before being allowed to see any of the chimps, we were given strict instructions on how to behave in front of them. We were told to stoop and not to stand erect, in a gesture of peace and deference.  We were given one or two simple hand signs in order to have some basic communication with them. And we were told not to reveal our teeth: a toothy smile was a serious no-no, as this is a sign of aggression to chimps (wait a moment – I thought they were supposed to be becoming more like us, not us more like them!)

Once inside the enclosure, we were all extremely relieved to bear in mind that there was a thick, shatterproof glass wall between us and those rather large chimps, because with one accord they decided that instead of having a nice chat about the weather, or the latest football scores or stock market report, they were going to make us jump out of our skins by charging at the glass and hammering on it with all their might. The glass boomed… everyone gasped and jumped back, then after a few seconds laughed nervously, realizing and hoping that that glass barrier would keep us apart from animals which were capable of ripping our limbs off.

Sahelanthropus may have inhabited the gallery forest

THREE

In 2002, researchers at Plymouth University in England were so inspired by the belief that a million monkeys poking away at typewriters for a million years would generate the entire works of Shakespeare, that they decided to go at least some way towards proving it. They left a computer in a cage with six macaque monkeys at Paignton Zoo for a month.

The best that could be said about the following achievements of the monkeys is that they had a very effective stint at typing S’s – pages of them. However, rather than sitting down to get to work on a literary masterpiece, the lead male decided to “bash the hell” out of the keyboard with a rock, as one researcher put it. The male and the other five also took great pleasure in urinating and defecating on it.

As Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt remarked,

“Even the simplest English sentence of the “See Spot run” type is beyond the capabilities of real monkeys, no matter how long you give them” 1

FOUR

As far back as the 1960’s, there were a number of individual not involved in scientific research, who had independently arrived at the conclusion that they were indeed close relatives of chimpanzees. In fact, they were so sure of it that they formed an association to affirm their heritage, aptly named “The Monkees”. Before long they had written an anthem to celebrate their shared beliefs and characteristics:

Hey!

Hey!

We ARE the monkeys!

People say we monkey around,

But we’re too busy singing

To put anybody down!

We’re only trying to be friendly…!” (2).

My Wife with her boyfriend

FIVE

The research on this topic has progressed since I wrote the summarized info below four years ago. Please see note 7 for a link to a 2017 update. This is slightly technical: sorry about that.

For several years now we’ve been told there is conclusive evidence that human and chimp DNA is 95 to 99 percent similar. The evolutionary concept is that apes, particularly chimpanzees and humans, descended from a common ancestor.

In the “chromosome 2 fusion  model”, researchers claimed that two small chimpanzee chromosomes fused at some time in the not so distant past, forming one large stable chromosome, which is “why” the great apes have 24 chromosomes and humans have 23. The evidence that led them to make this conclusion was that there was a cluster of “telomere” sequences in the middle of human chromosome 2. Since telomeres were originally considered to be only at the ends of chromosomes, and that they serve only as a kind of “cap” on the chromosome, researchers concluded that this cluster was evidence for the fusion model.

At the Institute for Creation Research, Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins, with a PH. D. in genetics, and Dr. Jerry Bergman, a professor at Northwest State College in Ohio, have been following the secular research and resulting claims closely, and have carried out extensive studies of their own from the standpoint of the creationist. In 2011 they reported that they had found that telomeres are not unique structures only present at chromosome ends, but that there are in fact many telomeres, telomere clusters, and telomere repeats throughout the genome, often within internal regions of human chromosomes (3).

In 2012 Tomkins and Bergman authored reports in the Journal of Creation on the human-chimp DNA question. The first reviewed relevant secular science literature. Their own analysis detailed many differences in genomic DNA, gene regulation, regulatory DNA features, micro DNA code and gene splicing.

The second paper examined secular research methods and discarded data. It concluded that:

“All analyzed cases of reported human-chimp DNA sequence similarity is based on biased data selection and exclusion techniques. DNA sequence data that is too dissimilar to be conveniently aligned are omitted, masked, or completely excluded. Furthermore, gap data within DNA sequence alignments are typically omitted, further biasing similarity estimates”

The report continues:

“These highly selective data-discarding techniques, fueled by Darwinian dogma, lead to the commonly claimed 98 percent similarity between human and chimp”

The authors concluded at that time from their own analysis that the two are not more than 81-87 percent similar (4).

In January of 2013, Dr. Tomkins wrote a report titled “Epigenetics Proves Human and Chimp are Different”.

Epigenetics is the study of how DNA has been modified in such a way that its chemistry has changed, but not the actual base pairs that make up the genetic code of the sequence. Recent studies have shown dramatic differences in human and chimps in regard to epigenetics, particularly in a process known as “methylation”. This difference is recognized by secular researchers (5).

In February of 2013, Tomkins’ article, “Chromosome Comparison Shows More Chimp-human Differences”, discussed ICR’s ongoing research. Tomkins wrote:

“For the primary chimp chromosomes (autosomes), the amount of optimally aligned DNA sequence provided similarities between 66 and 76 percent, depending on the chromosome…”

Continuing, Tomkins noted that only 69 percent of the chimpanzee X chromosome and only 43 percent of the Y chromosome were similar to human DNA. His conclusion:

“These results illustrate the genetic and biblical fact that humans are not just another primate, but are uniquely created in the image of God” (6).

This Bible passage comes naturally to mind, in which major signs of the decline of a civilization are outlined:

“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised, Amen” (Romans chapter 1, especially verses 22, 25).

NOTES

1 Benjamin Wiker & Jonathan Witt: “A Meaningful World” (Pub. Inter Varsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., copyright 2006 by authors) pg. 32.

2 The Monkees: “Hey-hey we’re the Monkees” (written by Tommy Boyce& Bobby Hart)

3 “Acts and Facts”, a monthly publication of the “Institute for Creation Research”, Dallas Texas, (www.icr.org) May, June and November 2011 copies

4 “Acts and Facts”, June 2012

5 “Acts and Facts”, January 2013

6 “Acts and Facts”, February 2013

7 http://www.icr.org/article/dna-variation-widens-human-chimp-chasm/

ICR gives you a free subscription to Act and Fact – a great creationist magazine:

http://www.icr.org/icr-magazines/

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“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels AND NOTHING YOU DESIRE CAN COMPARE WITH HER”

(Proverbs 3:13-16).

And it would be wrong of me to omit the source of such wisdom, so here it is:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).

 

 

Suffering is a universal problem: sooner or later, it grips the lives of all of us in one way or another.

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Welcome to an updated and improved series I first published six years ago…

Why do we suffer? Surely, if there’s a loving God, there should be no suffering, or it should be short-lived and quickly fixed…

The problem of suffering is used by atheists, agnostics and unbelievers as a reason (or excuse) to ignore God or to preach against his existence. If there really were a God, particularly a loving God, they reason, either there would be no suffering, or he would show up at the first sign of any trouble and put things right. We would all be free to live our lives just as we want, without hindrance, trouble or problems of any kind.

Some people, having no answers to the questions we all ask in the middle of trouble, suffer to the point of losing any faith in God that they may have had. Others maintain their faith and even emerge stronger than they were to begin with. It seems that while most churches have some degree of ministry to those who are suffering, not many prepare the flock in advance, even though we all know it’s a universal problem. And we as individuals choose not to consider the prospect of trouble in our own future.

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All religions and philosophies either have an explanation for suffering, or attempt to sidestep it in one way or another (we don’t really exist and any suffering is caused by our own minds: that kind of thing). I intend to tackle the subject from a Biblical viewpoint. It’s my conviction that the Bible contains most (not all) of the answers to why we suffer, and that they are solid, logical, reasonable answers. While I freely confess that I’m no formally-trained expert, and that I’ve not suffered anywhere near as much as some people do-yet-I think I’ve grasped the main causes of suffering in our world-intellectually. I intend to go into some detail on each cause in following installments of my series, but here I will list them.

Some causes of suffering are of far more consequence than others: this list is not in any particular order:

  • The Curse. The choices and actions of man have brought a curse on a world which was once perfect. The curse affects our bodies, our minds, and all of nature. Nature is running down.
  • God’s judgment. God is patient with us, but eventually sends judgment and trouble upon a rebellious nation, city or individual.
  • Testing. We’re all tested to assess and reveal the condition of our hearts.
  • The consequences of rejecting God. By consistently rejecting Him, we’re not protected by His providence. This also applies to nations, cities and individuals. By going our own way, we are inviting trouble.
  • We reject God’s guidelines for a healthy, successful life.
  • Satan and the spirit beings who have sided with him are against us. We all have an enemy who hates God, his children, humanity in general, and His creation.
  • Free will. God chose to give humans the capacity to choose between right and wrong, rather than create a race of robots who were incapable of true love. Free will necessitates wrong choices and consequential suffering.
  • Discipline. God ‘disciplines those he loves’ in order to make us more like Him.
  • Humbling. Sometimes only suffering breaks our pride.
  • A wake up call. Sometimes only suffering gets our attention. Our refinement is more important than our comfort and ease.
  • Suffering may be allowed to teach dependence on God
  • We harm ourselves with bad choices. For example, we’re too eager to get romantically involved with a person we don’t really know, or we throw our money into a dishonest or suspect business deal;
  •  We harm others with our actions. We may be violent, selfish or greedy.  If we drive while intoxicated we’re risking lives. When we steal, we’re taking what belongs to other people and what they may have worked hard for.
  • We harm ourselves with bad attitudes. For example, we may wallow in destructive self pity rather than looking to God and being thankful.
  • We harm others with our words. The old ‘sticks and stones’ rhyme is not valid: words can be very destructive.
  • We harm others when we fail to love them. Children in particular are in great need of expressed love and kindness.
  • We harm others when we keep them from the truth, and when we teach them the inventions of man, such as evolution.
  • Suffering may be allowed to bring glory to God, in the long or short term. We are His servants-not the other way around.
  • Murphy’s Law/ Sod’s Law/ Fate/ Determinism/ Bad luck. (See my post on Murphy’s Law).

Who are you? What are you made of? Have you been in touch with yourself lately? I don’t want to contribute to the “me” mentality raging all around us and in us, but staying in touch seems like an important thing to do…

I’ve been realizing how relevant staying in touch with my roots is to living a meaningful life. For many years I failed to pay attention to the benefits or even the concepts of roots and beginnings. The results of my attitude can be seen in the multitude of broken relationships and hurt people strewn along the path of my life; the missed opportunities, the blunders, and the consequential festering pool of regrets swilling around in my brain.

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As they say though (whoever “they” are) better late than never. I’ve been in touch with a few good friends I once had and lost, and attempted to right a few wrongs. Except for one, they all give the honorable reply that there were no wrongs: it was all good. I’ve given time to thinking about people who were important to me when I didn’t realize it, and places, and events I never appreciated or reflected upon until now. And I’ve been taking another look at some of the things I enjoyed about the culture I once lived in, in another country and another time. Yes, there is some of my old, “B.C.” life which needs to and will remain buried in that baptism I experienced as a new believer, but others are of great worth.

For example, I’ve always had a very progressive taste in music. I could never tolerate sameness or cliches: I wanted to hear something new and experimental. But in the last couple of years I’ve been listening to some of the music I enjoyed in my teens, and hey- some of it was pretty amazing. I don’t think I’ll ever get into an “older guy” habit of saying that nothing new is worth listening to-that’s just silly. And after all, even nostalgia isn’t what it use to be (joke). Similarly in the world of art I’ve been rediscovering some tremendous works and styles I once found stimulating.

The value I’ve discovered lately in those things and others is that they’re what I’m made of. They all contributed to my character, my view of life and the world, and my part in it. They’re inextricably related to some of the events of my past-my childhood, my teens, my life. They remind me of friends, family, loves, dreams, laughs, styles and a thousand other things which make up my personality and my experience on this earth.

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The Bible speaks of the importance of being in touch with our roots, particularly as they relate to family, traditions, commitments, values, society, and most importantly our faith. A failure to stay in touch with those things will lead to catastrophe just as surely as pulling out the foundation of a house will collapse the whole building:

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3 KJV).

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But I’m speaking here more about an understanding of ourselves. We can’t have a clear view of our future and our direction in life without being aware of the people and the things which made us. Knowledge of our self, and of what makes for a good and meaningful world, produces what was once called “wisdom”. Wisdom guides us into a better life-one without regrets.

In short, I’m saying that by being in touch with all points of my past, including the ugly, painful ones, I am in fact staying in touch with…me. Not in any narcissistic, obsessive, selfish way-I hope, but in a way which will lead to a better life, a fuller appreciation of life, a better testimony, and fewer regrets.

Here’s the long-awaited third part of my series, “Why I Believe in God”, outlining some of the supporting reasoning behind my faith. There are some believers who think you should “just believe”. Looking for evidence, they say, is “not of faith”, therefore it’s sin. With respect, I disagree…

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Didn’t Jesus reason with his disciples on the road to Emmaus, when he “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27 ESV)? God created an orderly universe in which facts can be established. Truth is verifiable, and since God is Truth, truth cannot be sinful. Faith and reason go hand in hand.

So here’s my third acronym, designed while I’m in good shape, as a hedge against the days when I will not be. The third acronym, like the second, specifically concerns the God of the Bible.

66 JELL WAST-MUSH! Is it an insect repellant, a conducting lubricant, or hippy face paint? Is it a video game based on Darth Sidious’ ascent to power? No!

66!

The opening part of my acronym is borrowed from the introduction to Chuck Missler’s radio show (“66/40”), since it succinctly and eloquently captures a profound truth missed by those who ignore the possibility of divine authorship of the Bible:

The Bible contains sixty-six books written by forty different authors over thousands of years, and yet it’s an “integrated message system” from beyond our own time domain.

The Bible wasn’t contrived by one man sitting down on a boring Sunday afternoon, wondering how he could start a new religion and fool everyone. It was experienced, contributed to and recorded by many generations of people from different backgrounds, yet it tells one incredible story: the story of the Messiah and the nation he entered the world in. The Bible claims in many places to be inspired by God himself, and authenticates that claim in ways such as those I’ve outlined in all parts of this series.

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J!

J IS FOR JUSTICE. Biblical justice works beautifully, when it’s applied.

Yes, astute reader, the word “justice” was in my first acronym, but there it referred to the fact that we can only have an innate sense of justice if we are more than animals, and if we’ve been designed and created to love truth and fairness. Here the word “justice” refers more specifically to the Biblical model. God is given a bad rap these days by those who want us all to forget about Him. They say he’s vengeful, hateful, misogynous, and a whole host of other derogatory terms which really do not stand up to honest scrutiny. They ignore the fact that since God is the creator and sustainer of all things, he has every right to do as he pleases: we have no rights but only his mercy and kindness, and we are entirely at his mercy. I’ll outline a few examples.

First, those who claim that God must be vengeful and hateful to have told the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites aren’t looking at the whole picture. God reluctantly commanded the eradication of the Canaanites only after hundreds of years of mercy and patience towards them (Genesis 15:16) because they had descended to such degrading practices as burning their own children as sacrifices to their idols. The time had come for their evil to be stopped, and God has every right to judge.

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Biblical justice is said to be hard in the Old Testament-the time of the Law, and soft in the New: this is seen as a contradiction. The truth is that the “Old Testament God” while setting hard and fast guide lines, showed his mercy in many ways. For example, the establishing of “cities of refuge” (Numbers 35:6-34), where people who had either accidentally killed someone in a fight or an accident, or who were accused of murder falsely, could go to be immune from vengeance. God sent a prophet to a decadent and violent Nineveh because he did not want to judge the city (Jonah 4:10-11), and when Cain killed Abel and feared retribution from his brothers, God put his seal of protection on Cain as an act of love and mercy (Genesis 4:15).

The “New Testament God” actually warns of the same ultimate judgment upon his enemies as the OT God did, but extends his mercy to its greatest extent by making a way for anyone willing to respond to escape that ultimate judgment, through the sacrificial death of his own Son. Jesus forgave the adulteress, the thief on the cross, and Paul who had persecuted Christians to the death.

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Through the gospel of Jesus Christ God’s love and mercy are clearly seen to be available to all of us-until the final Judgment. The same love is supposed to be seen in his followers, by way of forgiveness, mercy, kindness, compassion and so on, without negating the fact that wrong is still wrong and must be corrected, disciplined or even judged if not repented of. Love and mercy come first-consequences only follow if there is no change in our hearts. This is real love and fairness. I would say it’s fairer that any human system of judgment. If the police catch you breaking into a bank once, you’re going to prison, and the judge isn’t going to forget your crime even if you say you’re sorry and that you won’t do it again.

However, our judicial system is based on the Biblical notion that some things are wrong and that other people are to be protected from criminals: you pay for your crime. How many other “animals” have such a system?

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E-L

The Bible adequately Explains the meaning of Life, and the origin and reason for evil, suffering and death. Without claiming to have all the answers (I do not), I wrote about these extensively in a recent post, “The Meaning of Death” and in an eight part series I wrote called “Why Do We Suffer?”

L

L is for Literature. The Bible has been seen by millions over many centuries as the apex of all literature, and more copies of it have been printed and sold than any other book despite the endless attempts to eradicate it. Again, it claims to be the inspired Word of God: his message to humanity. So many examples could be picked, but here’s a well-known one:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” (Psalm 23: 1-4).

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WA

The Bible tells the stories of “warts-and-all” characters. If the Bible were written by men to draw converts to a club or religion its central characters would all be faultless, unfailing supermen. There is no attempt to whitewash the sins of its heroes and heroines: we hear about their weaknesses as well as their triumphs and their righteous acts.

As examples, read about God’s mercy towards Cain who killed his brother Abel. Read how Abram lied about his wife being his sister in order to save his own skin. Jacob deceived his father and essentially robbed his brother of his inheritance. Moses fell into a bad temper a few times. Elijah, the powerful and bold prophet, was afraid of a female ruler and fell into a depression. David had an innocent man killed and committed adultery. His family was “dysfunctional” because of his many relationships and, his bad example, and his inability to control his step-children.

In the New Testament Peter, the most enthusiastic disciple of Jesus, denied him in his hour of need, and Paul and Barnabas fell out during their missionary journey together.

ST

ST IS FOR STORIES.  Though the Bible was written by many different authors over a long period of time, it has several central themes running all the way through it, including both testaments. The most significant is the story of the Fall of man and God’s plan of redemption-his commitment to providing salvation for humans who would otherwise be beyond his perfection and holiness. The first mention of the gospel, known as the “proto-evangelion” appears immediately after the Fall (Genesis 3:15), and the gospel message continues all the way to the end of Revelation.

M

M IS FOR MORALITY. The Bible’s brand of morality is hated by the secularist, the atheist, the polytheist, the pluralist, the evolutionist, the Universalist, the existentialist, and just about every other “ist”, yet it’s loved by those who’ve accepted God’s mercy. God’s standards of right and wrong were loosely followed by Western culture until the last few decades. They are the “glue” which will hold everyone together, and they worked as far as they were followed. God’s plan for human relationships reflect true love and commitment. It included love and commitment within families; faithfulness within marriage; the recognition that each life-including the unborn-is to be protected and valued; honor and dedication towards community; religion and country, and the rejection of all that threatens the moral fiber of society and all that God said he hated. How dramatically things have moved in the opposite direction.

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U

U IS FOR UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is one of unconditional love from God to us-available for anyone who will accept it. This is not a human idea or quality: it’s entirely divine.

S

S IS FOR SIN. The Bible exposes man’s true nature. Yes, this one was in the first acronym also. But more specifically, the Bible describes the origin of sin, its effects and consequences, and its remedy. The answers the Bible gives are, for me, adequate, believable, true to life and beautiful in the light they shine on the human condition.

H

H IS FOR HOPE. The Bible not only describes man’s condition but provides the answer for it. It offers hope for everyone, not just for this life, but for eternity. Please see my post on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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