Stars, Cells, and God

Stars, Cells, and God

Join our scholars as they discuss new discoveries taking place at the frontiers of science that have theological and philosophical implications, as well as new discoveries that point to the reality of God’s existence.

Podcasts
September 29, 2022 Listen

Join Jeff Zweerink and Fazale “Fuz” Rana as they discuss new discoveries taking place at the frontiers of science that have theological and philosophical implications, as well as new discoveries that point to the reality of God’s existence.

Cognitive Bias Studies

Research demonstrates that people remember the challenges they face more than the benefits they enjoy. This “headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry” helps explain why both political parties see the electoral college as favoring the other party, why most people see their favorite team as having the most difficult schedule, and why children routinely characterize parents as favoring other siblings. Unfortunately, this asymmetry contributes to a darker side of human behavior in that people who perceive greater challenges and obstacles are more inclined to endorse morally questionable behavior. The Bible helps prevent this asymmetry and provides a prescription to encourage moral behavior.

Fine-Tuned DNA Structure

Every detail about the structure of DNA is precisely as it must be for life to be possible, reflecting a type of molecular fine-tuning. This fine-tuning comes into focus when biochemists ask “why” questions, such as: Why is DNA made up of the four nucleobases, (adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine) and not some other set of nucleobases? A chemist from Trinity University Dublin provided insight into this question by demonstrating that the set of nucleobases in DNA uniquely minimizes the harmful impact of a phenomenon called tautomerism, revealing a rationale for the composition of this important biomolecule. This insight raises additional questions: How should we account for the ingenuity and fine-tuning of DNA’s structure? Is it the outworking of a historically contingent evolutionary process, or do these features point to a Creator’s handiwork?

Jeff and Fuz discuss these important topics in this episode of Stars, Cells, and God.

References:

“The Headwinds/Tailwinds Asymmetry: An Availability Bias in Assessments of Barriers and Blessings,” S. Davidai and T. Gilovich, https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fpspa0000066

“Tautomerism as a Constraint on the Composition of Alternative Nucleotide Alphabets,” D. A. Mac D´onaill, https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.297.1424&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Additional Resources:

Fazale Rana, Fit for a Purpose, https://support.reasons.org/category/featured-products/fit-for-a-purpose

Fazale Rana, The Cell’s Design, https://support.reasons.org/purchase/the-cells-design

“DNA: Designed for Flexibility,” Fazale Rana, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design/dna-designed-for-flexibility

“DNA Soaks Up Sun’s Rays,” Fazale Rana, https://reasons.org/explore/publications/articles/dna-soaks-up-sun-s-rays

September 22, 2022 Listen

Join Fazale “Fuz” Rana and Jeff Zweerink as they discuss new discoveries taking place at the frontiers of science that have theological and philosophical implications, as well as new discoveries that point to the reality of God’s existence.

Neanderthal Brains

Are human beings unique and exceptional? A large collaborative team from Germany recently explored this question by examining the behavior of three proteins that play a role in cell division and are expressed at high levels in the developing cells of the brain’s neocortex. As it turns out, the modern human versions of these proteins have small but significant differences in their amino acid sequences compared to the mouse, Neanderthal, and Denisovan versions. The research team determined that, because of these differences, the cell division process in human brain cells occurs much more reliably than in the corresponding cells in mice, Neanderthals, and Denisovans. This discovery points to differences in brain development in modern humans and Neanderthals, suggesting cognitive differences between the two.

First Exoplanet

The James Webb Space Telescope recently imaged its first exoplanet, and researchers found that the telescope was ten times more sensitive than expected. What have we learned about this exoplanet, and how will those learnings inform the search for extraterrestrial life?

Fuz and Jeff discuss these important topics in this episode of Stars, Cells, and God.

References:

“Longer Metaphase and Fewer Chromosome Segregation Errors in Modern Human than Neanderthal Brain Development,” Felipe Mora-Bermúdez et al., https://www.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abn7702

Additional Resources:

“Brain Organoids Cultivate the Case for Human Exceptionalism,” Fazale Rana, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design/brain-organoids-cultivate-the-case-for-human-exceptionalism

“The JWST Early Release Science Program for Direct Observations of Exoplanetary Systems I: High Contrast Imaging of the Exoplanet HIP 65426 b from 2-16 μm,” Aarynn L. Carter et.al., https://arxiv.org/abs/2208.14990

September 16, 2022 Listen

Join Fazale “Fuz” Rana and Jeff Zweerink as they discuss new discoveries taking place at the frontiers of science that have theological and philosophical implications, as well as new discoveries that point to the reality of God’s existence.

How Mars Lost Its Water

Of all the solar system bodies, Mars is the place most likely to have hosted life in the past. However, compared to Earth, Mars now has a small atmosphere and minimal water. The reasons Mars lost its water and atmosphere highlight the seemingly unique capacity of Earth to support life.

Adaptation & Providence

Recently, a large team of collaborators headed up by researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz highlighted another mechanism that they think contributes to organisms’ ability to adapt: introgression—the introduction of genetic material into the gene pool of another species through interbreeding or hybridization. Insights such as this latest one are often viewed as prima facie evidence for life’s evolutionary history. Can discoveries such as this be viewed as legitimate from a creation model standpoint?

Fuz and Jeff discuss these important topics in this episode of Stars, Cells, and God.

References:

“How Did Mars Lose Its Atmosphere and Water?,” Bruce Jakosky, https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/PT.3.4988

“A Polar Bear Paleogenome Reveals Extensive Ancient Gene Flow from Polar Bears into Brown Bears,” Ming-Shan Wang et al., https://www.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-022-01753-8

“Scientists Sequence Genome of 100,000-Year-Old Polar Bear,” Sci News, https://www.sci.news/genetics/polar-bear-paleogenome-10914.html

Additional Resources:

“Evidence that Humans Are Evolving Is Not Evidence for Human Evolution,” Fazale Rana https://reasons.org/explore/publications/articles/evidence-that-humans-are-evolving-is-not-evidence-for-human-evolution

Thinking about Evolution by Anjeanette Roberts, Fazale Rana, Sue Dykes, and Mark Perez

September 8, 2022 Listen

Join Fazale “Fuz” Rana and Jeff Zweerink as they discuss new discoveries taking place at the frontiers of science that have theological and philosophical implications, as well as new discoveries that point to the reality of God’s existence.

AI for Scientific Research

Scientists have sought to utilize machine learning techniques—those that undergird most AI advances—for decades. While many interesting possibilities surface, they never seem to materialize examples of machine learning working better than human driven algorithms. Will humans always outperform AI options in scientific research, or have we just not found the right approach to AI yet?

RNA Assembly on Glass

Recently, a research team from the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution (FAME), led by origin-of-life researcher Steve Benner, demonstrated that ribonucleotide building blocks could be assembled into RNA polymers (around 90 to 300 subunits in size) by glass catalysts. The research team maintains that their findings add fresh support for the RNA world hypothesis, making it that much more reasonable to think that life arose on Earth via chemical evolution. Is their conclusion valid?

In this episode of Stars, Cells, and God, Fuz and Jeff discuss these important topics.

References:

“DeepLSS: Breaking Parameter Degeneracies in Large-Scale Structure with Deep-Learning Analysis of Combined Probes,” Tomasz Kacprzak and Janis Fluri, https://journals.aps.org/prx/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevX.12.031029

“Catalytic Synthesis of Polyribonucleic Acid on Prebiotic Rock Glasses,” Craig A. Jerome et al., https://www.doi.org/10.1089/ast.2022.0027

“Scientists Announce a Breakthrough in Determining Life’s Origin on Earth—and Maybe Mars,” Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, https://phys.org/news/2022-06-scientists-breakthrough-life-earthand-mars.html

Additional Resources:

“Prebiotic Chemistry and the Hand of God,” Fazale Rana, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design/prebiotic-chemistry-and-the-hand-of-god

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September 1, 2022 Listen

Join professor of nutrition Dr. Jim Painter and Hugh Ross as they discuss new discoveries taking place at the frontiers of science that have theological and philosophical implications, as well as new discoveries that point to the reality of God’s existence.

Fasting & Brain Metabolism

Fasting is beneficial for many reasons. As would be expected, eating less is associated with weight loss. Fasting has also been utilized in treating cancer, reducing heart disease risk, and treating irritable bowel disease. For many years it was thought that once a brain cell is lost, it could never be regrown. But recent research has shown that fasting improves brain function and is involved in neuroplasticity, the growth of new brain cells. Fasting upregulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is the compound responsible for the brain’s ability to regrow damaged tissues.

Aquatic Dinosaurs

A creation principle proclaimed throughout the longest of the creation psalms (Psalm 104) is that God packed Earth with the maximum biomass and maximum biodiversity. Such maximal creation activity ensured that humans had all the biodeposit resources they needed to launch and sustain global civilization. A new research study shows that large carnivorous dinosaurs prowled the shallow seas that covered much of the continental landmasses 230–66 million years ago. Only when extensive shallow seas existed on Earth was it possible for land animals as massive as the largest dinosaurs to live and thrive.

Jim and Hugh discuss these important topics in this episode of Stars, Cells, and God.

References:

“Subaqueous Foraging among Carnivorous Dinosaurs,” Matteo Fabbri et al.,  https://www.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04528-0

August 26, 2022 Listen

Join Hugh Ross and Fazale “Fuz” Rana as they discuss new discoveries taking place at the frontiers of science that have theological and philosophical implications, as well as new discoveries that point to the reality of God’s existence.

Mass Extinction & Enduring Life

The Chicxulub impact event occurred when an asteroid at least 10 kilometers in diameter struck the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico 66,038,000 years ago. The impact energy, equivalent to three billion times the combined energies of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, immediately ignited massive volcanic eruptions around the world. A new study shows that the impact resulted in huge amounts of sulfur aerosols ejected into and above the stratosphere. This ejection caused severe global cooling lasting for several years, which amplified the mass extinction of life. There is now no doubt that the Chicxulub impact event drove at least 75 percent of Earth’s species to extinction. This mass extinction and the mass speciation event that quickly followed compensated for the Sun’s increasing brightness. This paved the way for the introduction of the advanced plants and animals that would make global human civilization possible, and provided an example of God’s creation activities described in Psalm 104:29–30.

Biochemical Finite State Machines

In June of 2021, a team of life scientists reported the discovery of the first-ever biochemical finite-state machine (FSM) when they characterized the gait of the single-celled ciliate Euplotes. This discovery makes it possible to present a revitalized Watchmaker argument for God’s existence and fulfills the Watchmaker prediction. It also leads to a new way to view biochemical systems that has profound theological implications.

In this episode Hugh and Fuz discuss these important topics.

References:

“Massive Perturbations to Atmospheric Sulfur in the Aftermath of the Chicxulub Impact,” Christopher K. Junium et al., https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.2119194119

“A Unicellular Walker Controlled by a Microtubule-Based Finite State Machine,” Ben T. Larson et al., https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.26.433123

“Single-Celled Organism Has Evolved a Natural Mechanical Computer,” Michael Le Page, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2285141-single-celled-organism-has-evolved-a-natural-mechanical-computer/

August 18, 2022 Listen

Join Pat McGuire and Hugh Ross as they discuss the science behind human flourishing, energy, CO2, and food and the theological and philosophical implications.

Genesis 1:28 tells us to subdue the earth and rule over every living thing. How do we balance energy and food needs in light of CO2 emissions? What does the climate change data show? What actions should we take, or not take, to be good stewards of planet Earth? How do these issues point to the reality of God’s existence?

Pat and Hugh discuss these important questions in this episode of Stars, Cells, and God.

References:

“U.S. Inflation Hits Food Staples Hardest,” Katharina Buchholz, https://www.statista.com/chart/26006/cpi-increase-by-item-united-states/

“Empirical Evidence of Declining Global Vulnerability to Climate-Related Hazards,” Giuseppe Formetta and Luc Feyen, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.05.004

“Global Disasters: A Remarkable Story of Science and Policy Success,” Roger Pielke Jr., https://rogerpielkejr.substack.com/p/global-disasters-a-remarkable-story

“US Annual Tornado Death Tolls, 1875-Present,” Harold Brooks, https://inside.nssl.noaa.gov/nsslnews/2009/03/us-annual-tornado-death-tolls-1875-present/

“US Tornado Damage 1950 to 2021,” Roger Pielke Jr., https://rogerpielkejr.substack.com/p/us-tornado-damage-1950-to-2021

“Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis,” https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/

“Arctic Sea Ice Decline,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_sea_ice_decline

“Global Troposphere Temperatures,” Roy Spencer, https://www.drroyspencer.com/

“Hooray! Some Scientists Honestly Reporting That Climate Models Run ‘Too Hot’,” Anthony Watts, https://climaterealism.com/2022/05/hooray-some-scientists-honestly-reporting-that-climate-models-run-too-hot/

“Global Warming–So What?,” http://www.globalwarming-sowhat.com/food-impacts-/

“The Countries Reliant on Nuclear Power,” Anna Fleck, https://www.statista.com/chart/22405/nuclear-powers-share-of-total-electricity-generation/

Additional Resource:

Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas—Not Less, Alex Epstein, https://www.amazon.com/Fossil-Future-Flourishing-Requires-Gas-Not/dp/0593420411

August 12, 2022 Listen

Join Jeff Zweerink and Sean Oesch as they discuss new discoveries taking place at the frontiers of science that have theological and philosophical implications, as well as new discoveries that point to the reality of God’s existence.

Whether it’s being used to suggest the next movie you should watch on your favorite streaming network, determine whether a bank should give you a loan, or to steer the self-driving car next to you on the freeway, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a pervasive part of our daily lives. But how do we determine when AI crosses an ethical boundary and invades our privacy, manipulates our opinions, or perpetuates injustice? And how can Christians think ethically about using AI to make disciples of all nations? In this episode, we discuss a way to think ethically about AI and how Christianity can inform AI ethics, and we walk through a case study applying these ethical principles to an AI-driven discipleship app.

References:

“Experts Doubt Ethical AI Design Will Be Broadly Adopted as the Norm within the Next Decade,” https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/06/16/experts-doubt-ethical-ai-design-will-be-broadly-adopted-as-the-norm-within-the-next-decade/, by Lee Rainie, Janna Anderson, and Emily A. Vogels, Pew Research Center, June 16, 2021.

“Artificial Intelligence: Discerning a Christian Response,” https://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2019/PSCF6-19Schuurman.pdf, by Derek C. Schuurman

“Artificial Intelligence: An Evangelical Statement of Principles,” https://erlc.com/resource-library/statements/artificial-intelligence-an-evangelical-statement-of-principles/, by Russell Moore and the ERLC

“FaithTech’s Missional Tech Trends Report on AI,” https://faithtech.com/product/artificial-intelligence/

July 29, 2022 Listen

Join Hugh Ross and Jeff Zweerink as they discuss new discoveries taking place at the frontiers of science that have theological and philosophical implications, as well as new discoveries that point to the reality of God’s existence.

The fine-tuning of the rates, magnitudes, depths, and locations of ocean currents is crucial for the existence of global human civilization. Using chemical tracers, oceanographers are discovering that undersea mountains and ridges play a vital role in governing these currents. To what degree do these initial studies reveal that Earth’s presently existing continents, oceans, and undersea mountains and ridges are fine-tuned to make global, high-technology civilization possible? Do they promise to help us respond well to global warming and to help restore climate stability?

AIs continue to pass increasingly challenging benchmarks related to language translation, image recognition, and even poetry generation. Some of these benchmarks already exceed human capabilities. Are these AIs getting closer to being human, or are they just growing more adept at mimicking human behavior?

In this episode Hugh and Jeff discuss these important topics.

References:

“Undersea Mountains Stir Up Currents Critical to Earth’s Climate,” https://www.science.org/content/article/undersea-mountains-stir-currents-critical-earth-s-climate, Paul Voosen (article)

Additional Resources:

Designed to the Core, (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2022): chapters 15 and 16, by Hugh Ross

“Taught to the Test: AI Software Clears High Hurdles on IQ Tests but Still Makes Dumb Mistakes. Can Better Benchmarks Help?” https://www.science.org/content/article/computers-ace-iq-tests-still-make-dumb-mistakes-can-different-tests-help, Matthew Hutson (article)

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