Caveat Emptor!

 

August 30 2019

As you may gather, I’ve taken a keen, active interest in testing out binoculars with an aim to providing my readers with good quality products that won’t break the bank. As part of that process, I needed a few entry-level models to compare and contrast them with other products purporting to provide better optical quality. In one transaction, I purchased an Eyeskey labelled 8 x 32 roof prism binocular on August 5 2019 from eBay. It was brand new and set me back £37.79, taking about two weeks to ship directly from China to my home in Scotland.

Here is a photo of what I received:

The Eyeskey Package.

Here is a close-up photo of the Eyeskey binocular; the reader will note the texturing of the armoring and distinctive tripod adaptor cover

The Eyeskey 8 x 32 roof prism binocular.

Here is what it looks like from the ocular end:

Note the plain 8 x 32 & Bak4 Prism labelling on the focus wheel.

And here is a photo of the tethered rubber objective lens covers as well as the thumb indentations on the underside of the binocular:

Note the tethered rubber objective covers and thumb indentations on the Eyeskey.

After inspecting the Eyeskey binocular and its accessories, I recalled another binocular, marketed by a company called Avalonoptics.co.uk, which I had come across in a previous internet search.

Here is Avalon’s 8 x 32 Mini HD binoculars( all images taken from their website):

Avalon 8×32 Mini HD Binoculars BLACK

Here is an image of the entire package:

Here is an image of the writing on the focusing wheel:

Note the thumb indentations on the under side of the barrels on the Avalon:

And here is an image of the tethered objective covers on the Avalon:

 

Next, I took a look at the specifications of both models.

You can view the Avalon specs here

And here are the Eyskey specs( source eBay):

8561-8X32_01

Both claim to be fully multicoated, are nitogen filled and fog proof, but there is no mention of a phase coating on either model.

There is a few differences in the quoted specifications. The advertised field of view is 6.78 degrees for the Eyeskey and 6.9 degrees for the Avalon model; quite close. Eye relief is quoted as 18mm for the Eyeskey and 15mm for the Avalon, but these figures can often be incorrect or at least misleading(as I will explain in another up-and-coming binocular review). The Eyeskey has an advertised weight of 18.3 oz = 519 grams, whereas the Avalon has a quoted weight of 416 grams.

Weight can also be misleading though, as it can vary according to whether you include the lens covers and strap etc.

The boxes look pretty similar with just different logos on them, same goes for the neck strap and generic instruction sheet.

Now for the price comparison:

Eyeskey 8 x 32: £37.79

Avalon 8 x 32 Mini HD: £119(recently discounted 20% from £149)

Finally, have a look at this youtube presentation of the said Avalon Mini HD binocular here.

Is the Eyskey 8 x 32 model worth the £37.79?

I suppose for what you get it’s a bargain.

But what about the Avalon?

I’ll leave that up to you to decide!

Caveat Emptor!

 

Update: September 16 2020

I have been monitoring a website that sells Avalon binoculars and noted a number of irregularities that continue to concern me. If you click on this link, you’ll see a model called the Avalon Titan ED 10 x 42. If you scroll through the marketing blurb and the specifications of the binocular, its main feature is ED glass. But there is no mention of phase coatings, type of multi-coating, or dielectric coatings, the material out of which the chassis is constructed etc which I would expect given the very high price of the binocular; a whopping £1099 UK! You will also note that the packaging looks very similar to the Eyeskey model featured above, with a generic (one page) instruction sheet. To say the least, I would have expected far more technical information about such an expensive binocular, especially when it retails for more than top branded models from Zeiss and Leica, for example.

I dispatched an email to the said company a week ago, where I asked why the Titan model(weighing a whopping 1.3 kilos) was so much more expensive than their other models given the very sparse information provided on the website. I received no response. I sent another email to the company yesterday and it too has fallen on deaf ears!

 

The company has also produced a number of dodgy youtube videos  and have even used a ‘mathematical ecologist’ ( ooooh) to flog their gear.

The same website sells Zeiss Terra ED binoculars at greatly marked up prices. For example, the Terra ED pocket ( 8x 25) glass is on sale for £489 UK in comparison to nearly all other retailers( ~£250).

Needless to say I am deeply suspicious of this company and would continue to caution customers to tread carefully in order to avoid disappointment.

 

 

Neil English debunks many telescopic myths in his new historical work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy.

 

De Fideli.

 

Paradigm Shifts.

The Story of the Solar System: The Primordial Earth - skyatnightmagazine

Originally Published in Salvo Magazine Volume 50

“Life should not exist. This much we know from chemistry. In contrast to the ubiquity of life on Earth, the lifelessness of other planets makes far better chemical sense.” So writes Professor James Tour, one of the world’s foremost synthetic organic chemists, based at Rice University in Texas. Intimately acquainted with the latest research in prebiotic chemistry, Tour has expressed severe skepticism that a plausible naturalistic mechanism for the origin of life will be found any time soon. But he goes even further:

 

“We synthetic chemists should state the obvious. The appearance of life on Earth is a mystery. We are nowhere near solving this problem. The proposals offered thus far to explain life’s origin make no scientific sense. Beyond our planet, all the others that have been probed are lifeless, a result in accord with our chemical expectations. The laws of physics and chemistry’s Periodic Table are universal, suggesting that life based upon amino acids, nucleotides, saccharides and lipids is an anomaly. Life should not exist anywhere in our Universe. Life should not even exist on the surface of the Earth.”1

Dr. Tour’s views have surfaced at a time when astronomers have been peering into the depths of space, searching for intelligent signals from hypothetical alien civilizations. Yet although they have been listening for more than half a century, ET has not chimed in. The quest to detect life beyond the Earth is admittedly in its infancy, but the negative results thus far produced have caused more than a few scientists to question the underlying assumptions made by the early pioneers in the quest to find extra-terrestrial life: Frank Drake and Carl Sagan.

Despite what the general media report, there are a number of serious problems with the standard origin-of-life models, for which their proponents have failed to provide good answers. For example, life on Earth requires a source of homochiral molecules, that is, molecules that are capable of rotating the plane of polarized light either to the left (L) or to the right (D). Specifically, life invariably requires L amino acids and D sugars. But so far, chemists have been unable to identify a plausible natural mechanism by which these left- and right-handed biomolecules can be generated at the high level of purity necessary for the first cells to form. Indeed, such molecules can only be synthesised under highly constrained laboratory conditions, using purified (read bought in) reagents, which have little or no relevance to the environment of the early Earth. And while meteorites have been found that contain small amounts of amino acids, they invariably are shown to contain equal amounts of L and D isomers (technically known as a racemic mixture).

In short, no conceivable naturalistic scenario could result in the generation of the large, stable ensembles of homochiral ribose and homochiral amino acids that all naturalistic origin-of-life models require, affirming why no such natural sources have ever been found.2 I recently asked Dr. Tour directly if the problem of homochirality had been solved, and he firmly responded, “No; it is far from solved.”

 

The Phosphorus Conundrum

The element phosphorus is vital for the proper functioning of living cells, being a constituent of both RNA and DNA, as well as of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the universal energy currency of all known life forms. But recent work conducted by Cardiff University astronomers suggests that phosphorus could be scarce in many parts of the universe. “Phosphorus is one of just six major chemical elements on which Earth organisms depend,” says Dr. Jane Greaves, and it is crucial to the compound ATP, which cells use to store and transfer energy. Astronomers have just started to pay attention to the cosmic origins of phosphorus and found quite a few surprises. In particular, phosphorus is created in supernovae—the explosions of massive stars—but the amounts seen so far don’t match our computer models. I wondered what the implications were for life on other planets if unpredictable amounts of phosphorus are spat out into space and later used in the construction of new planets.3

 

The Cardiff team used the UK’s William Herschel telescope, situated on La Palma in the Canary Islands, to measure the levels of phosphorus and iron in the Crab Nebula, a well-known supernova remnant. They compared those figures to measurements taken earlier from another supernova remnant known as Cassiopeia A (Cas A). Their preliminary results proved very surprising. While the measurements of Cas A showed relatively high levels of phosphorus, those from the Crab Nebula showed far lower levels. “The two explosions seem to differ from each other, perhaps because Cas A results from the explosion of a rare type of super-massive star,” said Dr. Phil Cigan, another member of the Cardiff team. “If phosphorus is sourced from supernovae,” added Greaves, and then travels across space in meteoritic rocks, I’m wondering if a young planet could find itself lacking in reactive phosphorus because of where it was born? That is, it started off near the wrong kind of supernova? In that case, life might really struggle to get started out of phosphorus-poor chemistry on another world otherwise similar to our own.4

 

Re-evaluating the Drake Equation

Ever since the American astronomer Frank Drake introduced his famous eponymous equation in the early 1960s, astronomers have produced widely varying estimates of the number of extant extra-terrestrial civilizations present in the Milky Way Galaxy. Until fairly recently, the estimates varied from 10,000 to a few million. Countering these estimates, some scientists have re-examined the so-called Fermi Paradox, posed by the distinguished Italian physicist Enrico Fermi in the form of a question: If the universe is so large, with innumerable habitable planets, then why have we not detected any sign of ET?

A team of scientists and philosophers based at the Institute of Humanity in Oxford University has taken a new look at the reasoning behind the Drake equation, and found that its optimistic expectations are linked to models like the Drake equation itself. The problem, as these researchers point out, is that all such models “implicitly assume certainty regarding highly uncertain parameters.” Indeed, following an analysis, they concluded that “extant scientific knowledge corresponds to uncertainties that span multiple orders of magnitude.” When these uncertainties are introduced, the outcome is strikingly different: “When the models are re-cast to represent realistic distributions of uncertainty, we find a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it.” This result, they assert, “dissolves the Fermi paradox, and in doing so removes any need to invoke speculative mechanisms by which civilizations would inevitably fail to have observable effects upon the universe.”5

 

Questioning the Mediocrity Principle

Over the past few decades, astronomers have discovered thousands of exo-planets orbiting nearby stars, so that now there is little doubt that the number of planets in the observable universe likely exceeds the number of stars. Exo-planet hunters have discovered that many of these planets orbit their stars within the so-called habitable zone—that narrow annulus around a star that allows for the stable existence of water on a planet’s surface. Nevertheless, as geologist Peter Ward and astronomer Donald Brownlee argued in their highly influential book, Rare Earth; Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe,6 many of the features of planet Earth that have made it suitably equipped to allow both microbial and complex life to flourish on it over billions of years are likely very rare in the rest of the Universe.

For instance, the vast majority of potentially habitable exo-planets orbit low-mass red dwarf stars, which make up 75 percent of all the stars in the galaxy.7 These stars are much more active than sun-like stars, thus exhibiting higher rates of flaring than does the Sun. Many such stars also generate strong stellar winds that could strip away the atmospheres of their planets.8 And many planets are located so close to their parent stars that they have become tidally locked, meaning that they do not rotate on an axis but constantly present the same face to their stars as they move in their orbits. Yet another issue pertains to the potential of gravitational perturbations of a habitable planet by its neighbouring planets. Even small changes to the orbital characteristics of a planet could extirpate any developing life that might exist upon it. All these conditions raise many problems for the development of any hypothetical life forms on the surface of these planets over long periods of time.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is currently being utilized in a special program called HAZMAT—Habitable Zones and M Dwarf Activity Across Time. And the early results from the program do not look encouraging. Preliminary data on just a dozen young red dwarf stars show that the frequency of flaring is much higher in them than in stars like the Sun; they typically emit flares with energies that are between 100 and 1,000 times higher than those of their elder counterparts. The most energetic red dwarf flares, dubbed Hazflares, are far more energetic than the most energetic flares ever to come from the Sun. “With the Sun, we have a hundred years of good observations,” says Parke Loyd, a member of the scientific team involved in the project.

And in that time, we’ve seen one, maybe two, flares that have an energy approaching that of the Hazflare. In a little less than a day’s worth of Hubble observations of these young stars, we caught the Hazflare, which means that we’re looking at superflares happening every day or even a few times a day.9

So-called super-earths—worlds larger than the Earth but smaller than Neptune—have recently been identified as possible candidate worlds for the development of life, but there is as yet no scientific consensus on whether they can maintain or even allow plate tectonic activity to occur in their crusts. Without plate tectonics, there will be far less efficient nutrient re-cycling, which would greatly hinder the flourishing of hypothetical life forms.

In March 2019, a team of astronomers based at the Australian National University dealt yet another blow to the prospects of finding viable exo-planetary biosystems. Modelling the magnetic fields of a large number of exo-planets, the astronomers concluded that planets with a strong magnetic field, like Earth, are likely to be very rare. “Magnetic fields appear to play an essential role in making planets habitable, so I wanted to find out how Earth’s magnetic field compared to those of other potentially habitable planets,” says Sarah Macintyre, the lead author of the paper.10 “We find most detected exo-planets have very weak magnetic fields, so this is an important factor when searching for potentially habitable planets,” she added.

Life on Mars or Venus?

Scarcely a year goes by without the question arising of whether or not Mars has microbial life. This issue was brought into sharp focus in June 2018, when NASA scientists announced the discovery by the rover Curiosity of organic matter in the soil of an ancient lakebed.11 But “organic matter” means different things to different people. Simply put, matter that is carbon-rich is not necessarily derived from biogenic sources.

More broadly though, if evidence of either extant or past life on Mars is uncovered, it might well also be discovered that such life originated on Earth. Indeed, it is estimated that over the 4-billion-year history of life on Earth, so much terrestrial soil has found its way to Mars that the Red Planet can boast an average of 2 kilograms of terrestrial soil per square kilometre of its surface (or about 11.3 pounds per square mile).12 It is certainly possible that some microbial life was delivered there along with the soil—in fact, the discovery of either extant microbial life or microfossils on Mars or the recent claim of life in the clouds of Venus might well be anticipated. If that happens, astrobiologists will need to consider the possibility that it came from Earth before claiming that any such life originated on these worlds. The popular media, pushing sensationalism, would never be so cautious.

Questioning Biosignatures on Exo-planets

Oxygenic photosynthesis by plants is the mechanism that produces the vast majority of the molecular oxygen in the terrestrial atmosphere. So for several decades, astrobiologists have speculated that the detection of oxygen in the atmosphere of an exo-planet would provide good evidence that life must exist there.13 While the detection of substantial levels of this gas would certainly be suggestive of the presence of plant life as we know it, it pays to remember that there are established abiotic mechanisms (mechanisms derived from non-living sources) that also can generate substantial molecular oxygen.

A group headed by Chinese astronomer Feng Tian of Tsinghua University published two interesting papers in 2009 that show that stars having less than 50 percent of the mass of the Sun (i.e., the majority of stars) emit copious quantities of hard UV rays and soft X rays throughout their long nuclear burning phases of up to 10 billion years.14 They also showed that when a lifeless exo-planet possessing carbon dioxide in its atmosphere is irradiated, the rays can break down the CO2 into carbon atoms and molecular oxygen. Over time, the carbon atoms, being less massive, escape into space, leaving the molecular oxygen behind. Tian’s calculations show that this molecular oxygen can reach concentrations of a few percent and so might be confused with a genuine biosignature.

 When a team of chemists from Johns Hopkins University simulated the atmospheres of exo-planets beyond the solar system, they found that they could create simple organic molecules and oxygen under various scenarios without the mediation of life.15 “Our experiments produced oxygen and organic molecules that could serve as the building blocks of life in the lab, proving that the presence of both doesn’t definitively indicate life,” says Chao He, assistant research scientist in the Johns Hopkins Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “Researchers need to more carefully consider how these molecules are produced.” Up-and-coming missions, such as the highly anticipated ones utilizing the James Webb Space Telescope, would need to take results like these into account before jumping to any firm conclusions about the habitability of a candidate planet. As a case in point, the recent flap in the media about the detection of phosphine on Venus, upon further analysis, showed that the biomarker in question was not,  in fact, present in statistically significant levels.

In a recent development, a team of planetary scientists led by Li Zeng at Harvard University estimated that as many as 35 percent of exo-planets may have impenetrable water oceans hundreds of kilometres deep.16 But while NASA has long adopted the mantra, “follow the water,” the same scientists caution that these planets are very unlikely to be habitable. Their fathomless ocean worlds would generate pressures millions of times greater than those found on Earth, resulting in exotic, rock-like ice formations many kilometres deep (such as ice VII) covering their floors. Such conditions would prevent any nutrient recycling from occurring, thus rendering these planets sterile.

Call for Caution

Investigating whether extra-terrestrial life exists or not is a profoundly important and interesting scientific endeavor, but at this point, there are good grounds for remaining skeptical about whether it actually exists. Given the arguments raised in this article, it is entirely reasonable to think that life might be extraordinarily rare in the universe, perhaps even unique to Earth. Only time will tell.

 

Notes

  1. James Tour, An Open Letter to My Colleagues (August 2017): http://inference-review.com/article/an-open-letter-to-my-colleagues.
  2. Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana, Origins of Life (RTB Press, 2014).
  3. “Paucity of phosphorus hints at precarious path for extraterrestrial life” (Apr. 4, 2018): eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/ras-pop040318.php.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Anders Sandberg et al., “Dissolving the Fermi Paradox” (June 8, 2018):

https://arxiv.org/pdf/1806.02404.pdf.

  1. Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth; Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe (Copernicus Books, 2000).
  2. “Superflares from young red dwarf stars imperil planets,” NASA News (Oct. 22, 2018):

https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/news/1527/superflares-from-young-red-dwarf-stars-imperil-planets.

  1. O. Cohen et al., “Magnetospheric Structure and Atmospheric Joule Heating of Habitable Planets Orbiting M-Dwarf Stars,” Astrophysical Journal 790 (July 2014): doi:10.1088/0004-637X/790/1/57.
  2. Ibid., note 7.
  3. “Strong planetary magnetic fields like Earth’s may protect oceans from stellar storms,” Royal Astronomical Society (Mar. 14, 2019): https://m.phys.org/news/2019-03-strong-planetary-magnetic-fields-earth.html.
  4. Jennifer L. Eigenbrode et al., “Organic Matter Preserved in 3-Billion-Year-Old Mudstones at Gale Crater, Mars,” Science 360 (June 8, 2018): https://doi:10.1126/science.aas9185.
  5. Ibid., note 2.
  6. Carl Sagan et al., “A Search for Life on Earth from the Galileo Spacecraft,” Nature 365 (Oct. 21, 1993): nature.com/articles/365715a0.
  7. Feng Tian, “Thermal Escape from Super Earth Atmospheres in the Habitable Zones of M Stars,” Astrophysical Journal 703 (Sept. 2, 2009): https://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/96200/Tian-2009-THERMAL%20ESCAPE%20FROM.pdf;sequence=1; Feng Tian et al., “Thermal Escape of Carbon from the Early Martian Atmosphere,” Geophysical Research Letters 26 (Jan. 31, 2009): https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2008GL036513.
  8. Chao He et al., “Gas Phase Chemistry of Cool Exoplanet Atmospheres: Insight from Laboratory Simulations,” ACS Earth Space Chemistry (Nov. 26, 2018): https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsearthspacechem.8b00133.
  9. Li Zeng et al., “Growth model interpretation of planet size distribution,” PNAS (Apr. 29, 12019): pnas.org/content/early/2019/04/23/1812905116.

 

 

Neil English has been following developments in pre-biotic chemistry and astrobiology for the last 25 years. He holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and a BSc(Hons) in physics & astronomy. His latest book, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy (Springer, 2018), explores four centuries of visual astronomy. The article first appeared in Salvo Magazine Summer 2019. You can support his ongoing work by making a small donation to his website. Thanks for reading!

 

 

De Fideli.

A Short Commentary on the NIV Bible.

My Largeprint NIV 2011 (Anglicised)Reference Bible.

‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
    and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
    and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.

                                                                                    Jeremiah 23:5-6

Preamble

There’s an old Chinese saying, “May you live in interesting times.”  There’s no doubt that we do and then some. At a time in history when humanity is at its most creative, its most technologically advanced, a time when scientific knowledge has been increasing exponentially, it is also a time when mankind has begun to unhinge itself from the timeless truths and morals rooted in the Judeo-Christian faith, which held much of the western world together through a common culture and creed for centuries and millennia. Church attendance began to decline in the mid-20th century, slowly at first and then more rapidly, when in the twenty first century, many of these beautiful and age-old centres of Christian worship have been transformed into pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. This is part of what the Bible calls the ‘great falling away,’ where the end of days is characterised by a small, healthy, recalcitrant Church of true believers walking the narrow path, loyal to God’s unchanging message. I believe these trends to be no accident; this falling away was augured from the foundation of the world.

Deceived by silver-tongued atheist evolutionists (read fools) who disseminated their godless(and false) ideologies in best-selling glossy books and prime-time television documentaries proclaiming that we’re not made in the image of God, as the Bible uniquely attests, and that we are only highly evolved animals, our morality was destined to take a steep nose-dive. Abortion, once outlawed in all civilised nations is now fair game in many of the same nations, where today it has become the leading cause of death in the west, outstripping heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The same is true of homosexuality. Scarcely a quarter of a century ago, surveys consistently showed that the vast majority of people were firmly against it on moral grounds. Today, as activists in positions of power have lobbied(I would say bullied) our governments to normalise it, it’s now all over our television screens – morning, noon and night. And while one or two per cent of people identify as such, I find it truly alarming that nearly every second programme beamed into our living rooms has a theme or story related to these deviant sexual lifestyles. What’s more, for a career in modern showbizz, being openly gay has almost become a prerequisite!

So I don’t watch TV anymore and carefully vet all programmes my kids choose to watch, lest their minds be caught up in this campaign for immorality.

Men are now marrying men, and women do the same. They are raising children in homes where the traditional roles of father and mother are no longer considered important. With single-parent families now the norm, children grow up without the steadying influence of a mother or a father. Small wonder so many of our little ones grow up confused. And if the present trends in society are anything to go on, polyamory will become widespread and bestiality will also be normalised.

Our entertainment industries; Hollywood, sports, gaming and pornography, take centre-stage in many of our lives and have done much to erode traditional Christian moral values. Our children learn to kill efficiently and mercilessly with their joysticks, the films they watch are filled with gratuitous violence, infidelity, and blaspheming. Pornography is ubiquitous, tearing families apart. Our sports men and women and other types of celebrities have been elevated to the status of idols and we’re on our iphones more or less constantly, bombarding our senses with as much meaningless drivel as we can possibly soak up. Instead of seeking the true God, we lose ourselves in drug-induced trances. Who needs God when you have alcohol, cannabis, heroin, crack cocaine, crystal meth and so-called ‘prescription drugs’ to dope you into a false utopia?

While childhood used to be a relatively happy and carefree time of life, our young ones are now sexualised to the hilt. Indoctrinated by depraved activists with no respect for traditional values about gender or the family, the number of children receiving puberty-blocking drugs has skyrocketed in recent years, as has the number of teenagers and adults undergoing transgender hormone therapy and/or surgery. And yet, all the while, there has been an avalanche of such transgender individuals reporting that they regret undergoing such life-changing therapies, triggering severe depression in many cases and a commensurate rise in suicides among their members. This only serves to reveal the truth in all of this; transgenderism is a mental disorder, pure and simple, and many clinicians working in the field would agree with me.

With increasing wealth comes increasing materialism. We have larger disposable incomes than at any other time in human history, and yet our propensity for greed spirals ever upward and out of control. The ugly sceptre of human covetousness has led to great deteriorations in the salubrity of the natural world, with the collapse of whole ecosystems, the decimation of animal and insect populations, and all-out extirpations of hundreds of land-based and aquatic species. Without a shadow of a doubt, humans have proven to be irresponsible stewards of the planet and we won’t be given another one.

Many forms of counterfeit Christianity have emerged in recent decades. False  teachers are a dime a dozen and very effectively disseminate their lying doctrines to their sleepwalking congregations, who have ever shorter attention spans and who resent being challenged or rebuked. Whatever you believe, however unscriptural it may be, you’ll soon find a pastor willing to tickle your ears. The internet is crawling with them!

Curiously though, all of this has occurred in lock-step with increasing knowledge of our significance in the Universe. Naive and ill-thought-through faith in Darwinian evolution led many scientists to suppose that extraterrestrial life would be the rule rather than the exception. But we are now more certain than at any time in the past that our planet is extraordinarily rare, if not unique in the Universe, and that all terrestrial life is far too complicated to have evolved naturally from the everyday laws of chemistry and physics that govern everything else in the inanimate cosmos. No, life comes from the mind of God. To deny this fact is sin. Life on Earth is God’s ‘Ace card,’ and human life His Royal Flush. We ain’t going anywhere either, to the chagrin of space-age dreamers. With the possible exception of our nearby Moon, humans are unable to travel and live on other worlds. The reason is simple; our physiology precludes it.

Lawlessness has greatly increased in recent times, with hardly a day going by before we hear of another terrorist strike, protest or war breaking out. The victims of these conflicts are usually the ordinary citizens, leading to the destruction of their homes, their places of business and worship and their livelihoods. Millions of people have been displaced from their homelands, creating the largest humanitarian crisis in living memory. Christian persecution worldwide has also greatly increased in our times. Coupled to all of this, the events surrounding the prophecies of Ezekiel (Chapters 36, 37, 38 and 39) are now aligning themselves in the Middle East. You simply couldn’t make this stuff up!

The bubble has truly burst!

Bearing in mind how human society has changed in recent years, would it be unreasonable for God to express His displeasure with us?

I don’t think so!

This pandemic is a chastisement from the Living God.

The Bible informs us that God expresses His indignation with His human subjects in a variety of ways; by sending freak weather – fires, floods, droughts and blizzards as judgements. He sends plagues, pestilences and earthquakes which, like Sun and rain, affect both the righteous and the unrighteous. He turns the wicked over to strong delusion so that they wallow in their lies and seared consciences. And yet, Jesus warned us that as humans become more wicked and depraved, all of these events would increase both in magnitude and frequency, just like birth pains, toward the time of the end. And this is the world we now inhabit. In one fell swoop, by allowing(but not causing) the spread of the Coronavirus, God has silenced the idols of Hollywood, the idols of sport, and the idols of health, wealth and prosperity. He has restricted our freedoms and our civil liberties.

God now has our undivided attention and the world would do well to listen. Perhaps most importantly, God is reminding us not to get too caught up in the cares of this world and that this is not our ultimate home. Everything we possess and covet will be burned up when God finally brings this Universe to a fiery end.

Of course, none of these trends come as a surprise to Bible believing Christians, who have been forewarned about them in the words of Scripture. Christians know and understand that the world ruled by man, with no regard or acknowledgement of the Creator, is doomed to failure and always goes from bad to worse, so that it is hardly surprising all of these events are converging in this day and age. And while I’m confident that we will get through this Coronavirus pandemic, there will certainly be other and possibly bigger challenges to come, especially if wider society does not repent.  It also highlights the importance of understanding what God has planned for his people, and one of the best ways of gleaning that information is by reading the Bible.

Background to the NIV

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and in the case of the New International Version (NIV), it was born out of a desire to share the gospel with those who had never heard it. It’s story began with one man, Howard Long, an engineer by profession based in Seattle. Possessing a strong Christian faith, Long spent a lot of his time travelling and liked to share his faith with others. Back in the 1950s, there were only a few Bibles penned in the English language, but the one most popularly used by evangelical Christians at that time was the old King James Version(KJV). But Long soon hit a snag; quite a few of the people he witnessed to didn’t really understand the KJV, as it was written in archaic English. And that got him thinking, “can a new translation be made of the Bible in contemporary English that accurately conveys the Word of God?” That question started a decade long consultation with Bible scholars across the nation and by 1965, he had successfully received support from the Christian Reformed Church and the National Association of Evangelicals, who set up a new committee that would begin work on a brand new translation of the Holy Scriptures that was not based on any other existing translations at the time, and which would draw upon the latest Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic manuscripts. By 1966, Long had successfully garnered the support from 80 evangelical ministry leaders who established the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), an independent body overseeing the creation of the NIV.

Thus began the painstaking process of creating a new English Bible translation with the goal of attaining maximum accuracy and readability for a contemporary audience. Each book of the Bible was assigned to a translation team consisting of two translators, a couple of translation consultants and, where necessary, an English style consultant. Furthermore, another 5-strong team of scholars reviewed their work, comparing it to the original biblical texts and assessing its readability. After that, each book went to a committee of between eight and twelve scholars, as well as lay reviewers who offered constructive criticism on the translation in regard to comprehension and overall literary style. Finally copies were dispatched to working pastors, students and members of church congregations for general feedback. By 1968, the CBT secured a financial sponsor in Biblica, who oversaw the development of the NIV text, and by 1978 Zondervan became the official publisher of the newly completed NIV Bible. The first print run – amounting to a million copies – was sold out almost overnight.

The NIV was the first to use gender inclusive language, recognising that older translations tended to use male biased terminology to reflect the culture in which the Scriptures were first penned. An example can be seen in 1 Thessalonians 2:1. Here is how the KJV reads:

We beseech you, brethern……….

And in the NIV :

You know, brothers and sisters……………

The aim of the translators in producing more gender inclusive language was to make it more accessible to a female readership. In most cases, these changes are entirely inoffensive, as they do not detract from any doctrinal issue and render the text more natural sounding to a modern reader who accepts the equality of men and women as children of the Most High. But in other passages the use of gender inclusive language renders the translation somewhat corny or awkward. Take Mark 1:17 for example. In the KJV it reads:

I will make you to become fishers of men

Note how the NIV phrases the same passage:

I will send you out to fish for people

The NIV underwent its first revision revision in 1984. This version is probably the highest regarded among Bible readers and remains a firm favourite with a broad section of Christians. But in 2005, more revisions were introduced including the highly controversial Today’s New International Version (TNIV), which introduced gender neutral language to refer to people. Noting the tendency of older versions to translate humanity as ‘Mankind,’ the TNIV replaced many of the passages emphasising overtly male-centred language. An example will help illustrate the point.

Here is how the 1984 NIV translated Genesis 1:27

So God created mankind in his own image

The TNIV translates the same passage as:

So God created human beings in his own image

Many Bible commentators felt that this was a step too far, as it sought, they argued, to make the Bible more ‘politically correct.’ Taking these criticisms on the chin, the CBT brought out a new version of the NIV, discontinuing both the 1984 version and the TNIV. Called the NIV 2011, it toned down a lot of the gender neutral language introduced by the TNIV, making it more similar to the NIV 1984. Indeed the CBT stated in the introduction to the 2011 edition that, “the updated NIV you now have in your hands builds both on the original NIV and the TNIV….”

The interested reader can learn more about the NIV 2011 by clicking on the Preamble link at the top of this page.

Strking a Balance Between Two Translation Philosophies

Unlike old Bibles like the KJV, which drew upon a relatively small number of newer manuscripts( 12th century and younger), 100+ bible scholars working on the NIV included the Dead Sea Scrolls (which featured a number of Old Testament books), the Masoretic Hebrew Texts (which are the authoritative Hebrew scriptures, featuring 24 books of the Hebrew Bible), the Samaritan Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible attributed to Moses), the Latin Vulgate (a 4th century Latin translation made by St.Jerome that remained the official Catholic Church’s Bible for many centuries), to name but a few. All of these manuscripts were thoroughly read, translated and brought into modern English.  The translation process was long, thoughtful, and in-depth.

Some critics of the NIV have stated that many verses have been left out or placed in footnotes when compared to translations like the KJV, the New King James Version(NKJV) and the newer Modern English Version(MEV). But The CBT were justified in doing so as many of the older manuscripts discovered in the centuries after the KJV was created do not contain such verses. The decision to do this was not at all intended to deceive, as some Bible commentators I’ve read have suggested but rather to clarify them as facts. For example, the ending of Mark’s gospel is presented in italics with a heading stating that, “the earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20.”

The ending of Mark’s gospel (chapter 16) in the NIV 2011 is presented in italics to emphasise the fact that many of the oldest manuscripts did not contain such verses.

A curious aside: Check out this youtube link to an NIV user who was villified by KJV onlyists. Such bigotry is, unfortunately, still alive and well today

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Most modern Bible translations draw on one of two translation philosophies; so-called ‘word-for-word’ and ‘thought-for-thought’ (sometimes referred to as dynamic equivalence) The KJV, NKJV, MEV and New American Standard Bible(NASB) and the English Standard Version(ESV) are highly literal, word-for -word translations, but many readers, especially new Christians, find them to be difficult to read and understand. The NIV is a thought-for-thought translation, and so often departs from the precise wording of more literal Bible translations in order to convey the essential concepts more firmly.  That said, having read the NIV 1984, TNIV and the NIV 2011 in their entirety, I would say that all achieve a very high level of technical precision yet are easy to read. The language of the NIV is at a grade 7 level and so is suitable for all readers 12 years old and upwards. In regard to reading through the NIV 2011 in particular, I found it to be very enriching experience. And while it is a new and fresh translation, it is obviously respectful of classic translations like the KJV. The poetic sections of the NIV Bible, particularly the Book of Psalms, is arguably one of the best presentations I have personally encountered.

The author’s TNIV.

As an avid reader and collector of different Bible translations, I recognise the value of every version. What may be unclear in one rendering of the Word of God, other translations can help you arrive at a crystal clear understanding of the same text. Crucially though, the NIV, like all other modern English Bible translations, there is no change in doctrine between them. So you can be assured that in reading the NIV you will arrive at an accurate understanding of God’s message to humanity.

There has never been a better time to get back into reading the word of God, and the NIV 2011 is a great, scholarly translation that is both accurate and easy to read. But I would also recommend reading another more literal version of the Bible as well if you can. As world events continue to unravel before our very eyes, knowledge of the Bible will help you see the wood for the trees, so that you’re not frightened or caught off guard when disaster strikes. Time spent reading and applying Biblical wisdom will be added to your life.

Dr. Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy. He delights in using science to debunk misconceptions about the supposed incompatability of science and faith.

 

Postsciptum:

The NIV is also available in both American an anglicised (UK) English

The NIV has also been translated into many other languages to reach millions of non-English speaking people around the world.

Like all good Bible translations, the entire text of the NIV can be accessed free online.

There are audio versions of the NIV available. Arguably one of the best is narrated by the actor and Christian, David Suchet.

The full Gospel of Mark(NIV version) can be watched here.

 

 

De Fideli.

A Brief Look at The New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Arguably the most technically precise Bible in existence today: the author’s copy of the NASB (1995  edition).

Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

Luke 10:32-33

Today we are most fortunate indeed to be the beneficiaries of wonderful Biblical scholarship that dates back five hundred years or more. Such diligence has produced a number of highly accurate translations of the Old and New Testaments in the English language, with the Authorized King James Verson(KJV), the New King James Version(NKJV) and the English Standard Version(ESV) representing just three of the best word for word renditions of the Holy Bible. As a keen reader of Scripture, I am always on the look out for new ways to improve my personal knowledge of the Bible, and, in this capacity, found yet another version to be particularly enlightening; enter the New American Standard Bible(NASB).

Like so many highly literal versions of the Bible, the NASB has an interesting history. Beginning in the 1880s, a team of American and British Bible scholars embarked on an ambitious project to update the archaic language of the KJV, producing the English Revised Version, which in turn formed the basis of the American Standard Version(ASV), first published in 1901. The ASV called upon a much larger number of manuscripts than the prestigious KJV, which were considerably older than any of the sources used to construct the KJV(mostly 10th and 11th centuries AD). And it was about this time that scholars began to notice a few small differences between the older and newer manuscripts. An example can be found in the Gospel of John chapter 5:

The KJV reads:

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

John 5:4

Once manuscripts dating back to the 4th and fifth centuries AD began to be uncovered, it was noted that many of them did not contain this verse, suggesting that it was accidently inserted by scribes at some later time. That is why most modern Bibles have a footnote at John 5:4 which says, ” older manuscripts do not contain this verse.”

And yet, here’s how the NASB deals with it.

 

[waiting for the for the movement in the waters; an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]

John 5:4

So the NASB committee decided to leave it in……with a bracket around it.

 

As Biblical archaeology unearthed more and more ancient manuscripts throughout the 20th century, culminating with the astonishing finds contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were unearthed in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert between 1946 and 1956, many Bible scholars felt it was high time that a new translation of the original Hebrew and Greek tongues be constructed which benefited from these new insights. Thus, in 1959 work began on a new translation which honoured both the ASV and KJV under the aegis of the Lockman Foundation, which called upon an international team of Bible scholars and pastors from a broad cross-section of denominations to create the New American Standard Bible (NASB), which say first light as a complete work in 1971. Another revised NASB appeared in 1977(still with the old ‘thees’ and ‘thous’)  Still, as good as the original NASB was, an updated and improved version of the NASB appeared in 1995(with the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ were modernised). This is the version I wish to discuss in this blog, though it is understood that the Lockman Foundation is currently at work producing yet another updated version of the NASB, which will appear in print in 2020.

Some Unique Attributes of the NASB

One of the first things you will notice when you start to read the New Testament in the NASB is that it highlights quotations or citations from the Old Testament in small caps. Consider 1 Peter 3:14-15

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And Do Not Fear Their Intimidation, And Do Not Be Troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

1 Peter 3:14-15.

The small caps, ” Do Not Fear Their Intimidation……”  immediately informs the reader that this is a direct citation from the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah 8:12, but if you were reading the much more popular ESV  Bible, for example, you would never know this, since the same text is not presented in small caps. In line 3 of the above Scripture,  you also see the word, “being,” is presented in italics. This indicates that the same word is not found in the original Hebrew but was an educated guess(based on the context) by Biblical scholars to render the implied meaning as accurately as possible in modern English.This comes with the territory in any endeavour to translate one language into another.

In this way, I feel the NASB gives proper due respect to the words of Scripture, showing the reader where Biblical scholars have given their interpretation of the text in contrast to many more popular translations where such wording is not highlighted and so the student is left none the wiser.

In studying the NASB New Testament I have also come to appreciate Jesus’ own knowledge of the Old Testament. While many liberal scholars erroneously avoid prophetic texts such as Daniel and Ezekiel, the NASB reminds the reader that Jesus knew and believed on these writings, using them to assert His own position:

So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, And The Birds Of The Air Nested In Its Branches.”

Luke 13:18-19

The small caps indicate that our Lord was quoting directly from the Book of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 17:23), the prophet and priest who was taken into captivity in 597 BC during the second deportation which was imposed on the Jewish leaders and aristocracy by their Babylonian overlords.

Or consider Matthew Chapter 24, when Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the returning Messiah;

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man Coming On The Clouds Of The Sky with power and great glory.

Matthew 24:30

The small caps in this tract is a citation from Daniel (see Daniel 7:13).

The many Christian denominations that avoid such books are, in a very real sense, depriving their congregations of the importance Jesus placed in these writings. The words of St. Paul seem especially prescient here;

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?

Romans 10:14

Yet another feature of the NASB 1995 edition is the use of capitalised personal pronouns properly ascribed to deity;

God said to Moses,”I AM WHO I AM”: and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

Exodus 3:14.

Many Bible commentators have expressed the opinion that compared to other good word for word translations of Holy Scripture, the NASB reads and sounds a bit “wooden.” I understand this position, as the NASB can indeed come across as a bit awkward and hollow in places, but this was deliberately done so as to maintain the highest degree of one-to-one correspondence with the original tongues. And while no translation of the Bible in English can be said to be wholly word-for-word, since this would make the text essentially unreadable, I have personally appreciated the strident efforts the NASB translators made to anchor their choice of words in the original texts. On my own personal journey studying God’s word, I have come to admire the academic excellence that went into creating the NASB, as it was a thoroughly enriching experience, and look forward to seeing the new edition when it finally becomes available. It will not replace my personal favourite translation, the NKJV, for general use, but for serious study, the NASB will most certainly be top of my list.

A Few Examples of NASB Bibles

Good quality Bibles don’t need to cost the Earth. I personally avoid overly ornate Bibles as they are largely impractical to use on a regular basis and my rule of thumb is simple; if the Bible is too beautiful to soil, don’t use it.

That said, like many of the more popular translations, the NASB comes in a variety of convenient forms. For example, below is shown a compact large print edition of the NASB with the words of Christ in red. The cover is synthetic (leathertex) and has a lovely gold gilding as well as a smyth sewn binding:

My eldest son’s compact, red letter edition NASB.

My own personal NASB is also a 1995 edition, with a good, large font size, and wide side margins replete with copious cross-references for in-depth study;

My large print NASB(833W) side column reference Bible.

It is not a red letter edition, but does have an 82-page concordance and a series of full-colour laminated maps of the Biblical world. The print quality is very good, with adequate line matching, although some ghosting is apparent. The 833W volume has a durable leathertex cover with a paste-down lining. It also has a good Smyth sewn binding and a beautiful gold gilding but only comes with one ribbon marker. It was not expensive.

I am also fortunate enough to own an excellent NASB study Bible which I actually acquired second-hand. It is published by Zondervan.

My personal Study Bible: the Zondervan NASB Study Bible.

The Importance of Remaining Anchored in the Word

The modern world is rapidly unlocking itself from Judeo-Christian values with disastrous consequences. Ironically, even outpsoken atheists are increasingly expressing the same concerns. Morals and values we held as ‘self-evident’ for centuries and millennia are no longer adhered to, and the consequences are all too easy to see; just look at the confused and depraved world we now live in. That is why remaining anchored in the inspired word of God is more important now than at any other time in history. Its wholesome words ground you in absolute truth and is an enduring source of comfort in a lost and dying world.

The prophet Isaiah writes;

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Ultimately it’s a choice everyone needs to make. I pray that those reading this will not end up on the wrong side of history!

Eternity is an awfully long time!

 

Neil English is the author of several books on amateur astronomy.

 

De Fideli. 

Some Comments on the New Living Translation(NLT) of the Holy Bible.

The New Living Translation (red letter edition) by Tyndale.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

                                                                                            Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

Preamble

Take a good look at the world around you.

Lawlessness is on the increase in every nation. Our TV and cinema screens are cesspits of filth, lewdness, blasphemy and the glorification of violence. Britain is now the stab capital of Europe. Anti-semitism is escalating across the globe, tearing whole communities and political parties apart. The cold-blooded murder of the unborn is legalised in most developed countries and soon the right to life will be denied to the newborn(it’s already happened in fact). Traditional family values have all but disappeared. Our churches are nearly empty, their elders, priests and pastors, feverishly busy spreading false doctrines. Depraved acts such as homosexuality(they have the audacity to call it ‘sex’) are being promoted as ‘good’ and ‘natural.’ Our children are being taught that they are ‘highly evolved animals'(based on Darwinian pseudoscience); gender is ‘fluid’ even though our chromosomal karyotype plainly says otherwise, boys can be girls or vice versa, and morals are ‘relative.’  Wars and rumours of wars are never far from the headlines. The Middle East is a tinder box ready to explode. Civil war threatens many nations. Whole economies are collapsing. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Steeped in debt, young people can’t afford to get on the housing ladder. Homelessness is at an all-time high. Our once clean cities are slowly becoming slums. Food banks are now common across the western world and their queues are getting ever larger. The biosphere is dying before our very eyes; insects, animal and plant populations are being decimated by pollution, unsustainable and aggressive agricultural policies, and climate change.The bountiful seas are becoming water deserts. And there’s no where to go.

Don’t you think something is terribly wrong with the world? Are you not concerned for the next generation( if the Lord tarries) who will see these trends continuing to escalate?

You’re either a fool or completely deluded to think otherwise!

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course, and I could go on and on.

What source of knowledge brings all of these evils into sharp focus?

Only the Bible provides the answers we so desperately seek. Moreover, it makes it pretty clear that it can’t and won’t be sustained.

The Bible warns us not to turn to idols(which includes atheism) for solutions. In the days of old, these took the form of carved images of wood and stone, animals and even persons( e.g. the Emperor Cult of the Caesars). And though the old gods are long gone, new ones have stepped in to fill the power vacuum; unaware AI, non-existent alien intelligences, sports personalities, rampant consumerism and greed (which the Bible teaches is yet another form of idolatory), ‘mind and body’ gurus, tree huggers and charlatans that promise the earth, steal your money, and leave you high and dry. The secular world believes man is benevolent by nature and can find the answers to all his problems, but let’s be honest; that humanist philosophy has failed miserably. Where exactly is that utopia you dreamt up in your vain maschinations?

It doesn’t exist and cannot exist.

In contrast, the Bible says precisely the opposite; left to his own devices, man is fundamentally not good. Humans become more depraved, more wicked and more desperate without guidance from their Creator. Without God in their lives, things always go from bad to worse. And the inspired Biblical writers foresaw all of it!

We need the Bible more so now than at any other time in human history.

How do I know this? I read the Bible every day. I see it all on the pages of Scripture, as if it’s today’s news. The secular world will accuse you of ‘bigotry’ and ‘small mindedness’ of course, for the simple reason that the same people are woefully ignorant of what the Bible actually says; not the watered down sermons you hear in a typical church on Sunday morning, delivered by a clergy that are increasingly afraid to offend anyone, but by taking heir of one’s self, and actually reading the Biblical text through and applying its principles in every day life. Seen in this light, the accusations of the secularists against true Christians are just more of the same: arguments from ignorance.

And that’s true bigotry!

There is a simple principle I apply in my dealings with the secular world: if it is approved of in the Bible, I’m for it; but if the Bible disapproves of it, I’m not for it!

It’s simple, straight-forward, and unambiguous.

In the 21st century there is an explosion of Bible versions written in the English language to suit the needs of a diverse group of people. The following diagram gives you an idea of the types of Bibles you can choose from:

The green zone represents very literal ‘word for word’ translations from the original Hebrew and Koine Greek. The orange zone represents an entirely different translation philosophy; the so called ‘thought for thought’ translations. Finally, the red zone represents the most loosely rendered interpretations of the Biblical text; the paraphrases.

As you can see from the diagram above, the New Living Translation(NLT) of the Bible is in the orange zone, so bordering between the ‘thought for thought’ and the ‘paraphrased’ renditions. But unlike true paraphrased versions like the Message or The Living Bible, the NLT is actually a true translation of Holy Scripture, but it places a great emphasis on rendering the essential ideas in simple, modern English. The NLT was formulated by a broad church of Christian denominations under a solid translation committee. This is evidenced by the lack of errors in the text(yes, I’ve found typos in other versions formulated by smaller committees) and the attention to detail they have displayed in bringing to life the timeless stories and moral teachings of the Bible for a modern readership. The NLT is available in the 66 books that comprise the Protestant Bible, but they have also produced a Catholic version (with its 72 books). The comments made here refer to the former.

The first edition of the NLT was published in 1996 and its aim was to turn the paraphrased Living Bible (composed by the late Kenneth Taylor in 1971) into a proper translation. It has since undergone several revisions (2004, 2007, 2013 and 2016), which aims to make the text as accessible and inclusive as possible. Like the NIV, the language is quite gender neutral, but the committee has clearly not gone as far as their NIV counterparts, which some feel has taken the issue a wee bit too far. Weights, measures and the timing of religious festivals are expressed in modern terms, which adds to the intelligibility of the text. The introduction pages to this Bible clearly explains why these strategies were adopted.

While it is acknowledged that any thought-for-thought translation is in danger of going too far, and that, ultimately, you are probably safer going with a good literal translation like the ESV, NKJV or NASB, I find there is much that is meritorious about this fresh, dynamic and often idiomatic edition of the Bible. I found it is excellent for speed reading( I obtained my copy in October 2018, but had sampled an earlier edition before giving it away to a friend), having completely finished it in just a few months. Although some renderings of the text were mildly alarming(see Luke 5:30 for an example), on the whole I thought the translation was very enjoyable and worth the effort to read through. At no point did I ever feel that the translators were watering down Scripture (e.g. the deity of Christ or the nature of the triune God), as some commentators have suggested. Indeed, in some cases, I felt it was easier to understand certain passages about the Atonement than in more literal word-for-word translations.

Many of the Psalms will come across as unfamiliar to those who cherish traditional translations, like my beloved NKJV, because the wording is different, but I found the differences enriching more than they were distracting. Consider Psalm 23, for example:

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23

As you can see, it is worded rather differently to more celebrated versions of the Bible such as the grand old King James Version (which my family and I have committed to memory) but if I’m being honest, it conveys exactly the same comforting ideas as older renditions of this time-honoured Davidic psalm.

I would highly recommend this translation to everyone, but especially those who are making their first steps in the faith. I completely reject the idea that it is an inferior version compared with the more technically accurate renditions of the Bible, for I equate this kind of thinking to yet another example of legalism, which is just plain wrong and anathema to the true message of the Gospel. Afterall, God never intended for His inspired word to be misunderstood or that it be made accessible to only an elite few. Have we not learned anything from the days when the Latin Vulgate was the only version in existence, delivered and understood only by priests?

As our Lord and Saviour once declared:

O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.

Matthew 11:25(NLT)

That we have so many versions is a blessing and not a curse. Personally, I see it as part of the Divine plan to bring as many people to Christ before the Lord wraps it all up. I for one cherish the NLT as a fine addition to my Bible collection and one which I will continue to use and enjoy until the day I see Him face to face.

Ultimately, the message of the Bible is joyful and optimistic to those who have the wisdom to accept its teachings. So believers have absolutely nothing to fear! Indeed, Scripture anticipated that these radical changes in human society would occur near the closing of the age. It’s as if prophecy is unravelling before our very eyes, and that gives me goose bumps! In the meantime, we just have to keep on trying to make the world a better place and to speak up for issues that we believe are immoral. Moreover, the Bible has always encouraged us to be vigilant in the times we are given to live in. So take heart! Nothing should surprise you!

A few Words on the NLT Premium SlimLine Large Print Reference Edition ( ISBN- 978-1-4143-0711-4)

Now, I would like to say a few words about the particular NLT Bible I have sourced.

The beautiful Leatherlike Brown Gator covering of the Large Print Slimline NLT.

As I explained in a previous blog about my NKJV Bible, I like to have a hard copy of any Bible I purchase. The NLT is, of course, available for study online, but like any other Bible I use, I prefer to have a copy I can bring anywhere with me, without the hassle of relying on using electronic devices to retrieve the text. Afterall, we cannot be certain that we will have the internet forever, can we?

This NLT measures 6.5″ x 9″ and is about an inch thick. It has a paste-down liner and a strong, Smyth-sewn binding. The cover is Leatherex; making it very flexible and durable. It is very attractive to the touch and is easy to grip. It is not ostentatious and will not make you stand out in a crowd. It lies flat when hand-held or when opened on a table. The words are printed in 9.84 font, so very easy to read, even without my glasses. The quality of the paper is not the best but not the worst either, and is perfectly adequate for reading.  It has two colour-matched ribbons page markers to keep track of whatever text from the Old and New Testament I’m studying from.

The NLT large print Slimline edition has nice gold gilding on its pages and comes with two colour-matched ribbons.

The edges of the pages have a very nice gold gilding. The text is fairly well line matched with only a little bit of bleed-through visible from page to page. This is a red letter version. The colour of red is slightly paler than I would have liked but it does the job fine.I don’t really like footnotes, so I was delighted to see that they are minimal in this version of the NLT and are placed at the bottom of the page, where they provide little in the way of a distraction and are also printed in a smaller font size to the main text.

The NLT has the words of our Saviour in red.

At the back of the Bible, there is a fairly comprehensive 53-page concordance, followed by a single page presenting ” Great Chapters from the Bible.” This is immediately followed by a 3-page presentation of what the committee consider to be the “greatest verses from the Bible.” The last few pages present a useful 365-day reading plan to get the user through the entire Biblical text in a single year. Finally, like most Bibles, it presents a few useful full-colour maps of the Holy Land, including a detailed look at the places Jesus visited during his three and a half year earthly mission, as well as maps of the Greek, Babylonian and Assyrian Empires,and which also includes the route of the Exodus and the missionary journeys of Saint Paul.

For a modest cost of £26.99. I consider it a good value in today’s market.

 

I hope readers will receive the NLT with enthusiasm and that it will enrich your knowledge of the Bible in these somewhat alarming but ultimately exciting(for Christians and Messianic Jews)  times in which we now live!

With Every Blessing,

 

Neil.

 

Dr. Neil English recounts the stories of many Christian astronomers from centuries past in his latest historical work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy.

 

 

 

De Fideli.

 

 

Earth & Sky.

“Moonrise” by Stanislaw Maslowski (1884); image crdit Wiki Commons.

In a fallen world, where mankind’s rebellion against his Creator is now rapidly reaching pre-flood levels of wickedness, it’s good to know that the planet Earth is still a pretty neat place to live. Protected by a just-right atmosphere of mainly nitrogen and oxygen, the Lord of Heaven’s armies has packed this planet full of living things and amazing geological features that bring joy to the human heart.

Our atmosphere is neither too dense or too rarefied, allowing us to peer deeply into the Cosmos, where we have caught a glimpse of eternity.  And all around us, our Creator has left clear evidence of His handiwork so that we are without excuse on the day of judgement.

The human eye can only see so much though, but our Creator chose to give us a mind that enables us to improve our lot, to see things in new and different ways. That’s how I see my binoculars; simple tools that bring heaven and Earth closer, providing a perspective that transcends the limitations of my corporeal form. I am especially fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world, away from the cities where atheism flourishes. Out in the sticks, I can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation more fully, in quietness, surrounded as I am by hills and valleys, green fields and lovely streams of cool, fresh rainwater that sustain the lives of all living things.

The author’s wide angle 8 x 42 binocular: extraordinary performance at an ordinary price.

My wide-angle 8 x 42 binocular, in particular, is the perfect tool for combining the beauty of the night sky with that of the comeliness of the earthly creation. And in this blog, I would like to share with you some of the kinds of activities I get up to to bring these worlds together. This binocular provides a power of just 8 diameters but has an angular field of view wide enough to fit over 16 full Moons in the same wonderful portal. And with its decent light grasp, especially in fading or low light, it is powerful enough to allow me to simultaneously appreciate sights in the heavens and on earth.

                                                  Picture Postcards

Surrounded by mature trees, sometimes many times older than myself, I have grown terribly fond of framing famliar celestial sights, such as the Pleiades and the Hyades in the foreground of their impressive branches. Sometimes, I would wait for the stars in these clusters to fall in altitude after they culminate in the south, so that they are seen to ‘hover’ over the conifer trees beyond my back garden. And if, by chance, the presence of a gentle breeze in the binocular image is witnessed (and it can happen a lot!), then you’ve got a home run; an epiphany of sorts! At other times, I will plan a vigil where the soft light from the stars fills the background whilst the foreground is occupied with denuded winter branches of the deciduous trees near my home. A little light pollution can actually be advantageous in such circumstances as it can help illuminate the tree branches making them stand out more boldly against the stellar backdrop.

Living inside a long valley with verdant hills that soar to about 1000 feet on either side, my binocular is good at framing the rising Moon as its silvery light clears their summit in the east, or as it sinks behind the hills in the west. There are many times where I can plan to observe the Moon and the hilltops in the same field, creating visual scenes that leave a deep impression on me. I give thanks to my God for allowing me to witness such scenes, safe and secure at the bottom of a great sea of fresh, clean air.

Ever since childhood, I have been attracted to storms, often venturing out to feel the energy they generate in the atmosphere. Sometimes these storms occur on moonlit nights and I would think it nothing to grab my binocular and carry myself off to some favourite haunts, woody glades and the like, where moonbeams create wonderful atmospheric scenes, complemented by the sound of wind whistling through their branches.

My binocular has renewed my interest in observing the full Moon, not in and of itself, but when it is surrounded by low lying and fast-moving rain clouds, as often happens here in the British Isles. I watch as these clouds enter the outer field, inching their way toward the bright satellite, and all the while lighting up with beautiful colours caused by refraction of moonlight through raindrops. The colours often start off deep and moody, like dried-in blood, when far from the Moon, but as they move ever closer, the colours they generate; gorgeous shades of pink, yellows and even rose tints; saturate the cones on my retina and,  upwelling feelings of great happiness.

The structure of clouds backlit by moonlight reveals wonderful, highly complex structures, as well as colours – knots, filaments and pleated sheets. Often the scene reminds me of the play of light on the matter which is expelled into the shells of planetary nebulae as imaged by a great telescope, with a white dwarf star being replaced by our very own Moon at its epicentre lol. Such natural shows of light and form rank as some of the most lovely and most surreal binocular images one is likely to capture. Sometimes, great gaping holes in the heavens open up around the clouds, allowing the light of the distant stars to be seen near the full Moon.

Dawn and dusk are good times to see some spectacular sights, such as the bright planet Venus sinking low into the sky, often silhouetted by interesting terrestrial structures, such as a distant hill,  an old barnhouse or silo, church or windmill. By getting to know your horizons, sublime scenes can be captured with your binocular, bringing heaven and Earth together, just like it will be in the New Creation.

Cityscapes can also be used to enhance the binocular view. Framing bright star clusters like the Pleiades or a crescent Moon in the background to an old church spire, domed cathedral, or grand municipal building, can make for a very fetching sight. Photographers  imagine likewise,of course, but the impromptu binocular experience is an even greater liberal art!

Another worthwhile project is to image the bright Moon over a large expanse of water, especially during calm conditions, when its  reflection  is quite mirror-like. Under the light of a town or city, smaller binoculars do just fine, like my little Pentax DCF 9 x 28 pocket instrument. You can even wander through your neighbourhood finding interesting foreground subjects to frame your celestial scenes in advance of an event.

It’s good to plan.

Well, I hope you get some ideas from this short article. In doing so, you can enjoy the best of the heavenly and terrestrial creations, and which can turn an otherwise mundane evening or morning into a very memorable one!

Happy hunting!

 

 

Neil English is the author of several books in amateur and professional astronomy.

 

 

 

De Fideli.

Notes on Going on Campaign.

In it to win it.

Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them;  for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’

Deuteronomy 20:3-4

 

As you may well be aware of, I don’t spend a lot of time on internet forums. When looking for specific information, I generally consult known and trusted authorities from books rather than the ramblings of folk whose only apparent purpose in life is to post stuff online. You don’t have to search for long to see that some folk spend nearly their entire waking moments on these forums(clocking up tens of thousands of posts in the process), wasting their employers time (read stealing) and that makes for very one-dimensional personalities, who ostensibly crave power or attention, or both. That is their world pure and simple; take that world away and they’d probably fall to pieces. What’s more, some of these characters resent individuals who hold different opinions to their own and go to great lengths to de-rail them, especially if it threatens their world view.

If I go online, I generally do so for a very specific purpose; to raise awareness of some issue that is important or to alert people to new concepts. I see this as part of apologetics per se, as there is usually a moral dimension to my ‘campaigns’, such as folk getting ripped off by unscrupulous telescope salesmen and their fanboys and to alert or inform the general public about ideologies that are patently false. One subject that is close to my heart pertains to the staggering complexity of living things in general, and human beings in particular, and the unprecedented accumulation of new scientific evidences that we are not on this planet as a result of some quirk of nature.

Evolutionary ideology has robbed many people of their self-worth. Putting their faith in a ‘monkey religion’ first promulgated by a second-rate Victorian barnacle collector by the name of Charles Darwin, who turned his back on his Creator just because he couldn’t come to terms with the loss of his daughter, they believe that we are the progeny of pond scum and that we slowly evolved through innumerable transitional forms to become the ‘naked apes’ we are today. What is more, for decades they have been fed a staple diet of ‘junk science’ that anticipates that the Universe is teeming with life and that anyone who expresses scepticism is to be viewed with suspicion or even derision. Invariably, these individuals are unwilling to do their own research and continue to propagate extremely dubious ideas to an unsuspecting audience. I felt it was high time to challenge this claim head on, to show that the evidence in support of these ideas was in fact extremely tenuous.

                                                      Know thine Enemy

Before commencing upon any campaign of this nature it pays to know your enemy; the mindset of those who are likely to challenge the claims you bring to the table and their motivations for resisting such claims. Very often it is just good old fashioned hatred. They can’t stand being told that their evolutionary bubble is about to be burst. Others resent for entirely personal reasons; consumed with murderous thoughts and green with jealousy. They are easy to spot as they always return to the scene, or lurk like cowards in the background endorsing their men with ‘likes’.  Expect ad hominem attacks from trolls; that comes with the territory and be prepared for insults being hurled at you. These are the God haters, the mob who believe and act as if humans were animals, so invariably, their responses reflect their bestial nature. Be aware also that many folk are naturally drawn to conflict; they are just there to be entertained.

                                                        Avoid Conflict

Responding to insults and getting embroiled in heated arguments online is to be avoided. It drains you of energy and causes you to lose focus. Doubtless it can be very difficult, but it serves no good to lower yourself to the level of the heckler. One must always remember that despite their belligerent unbelief, they are also made in the image of God, though they have long fallen away. Just make your points and leave it at that. Understandably, some folk seek genuine dialogue; but this can be done behind the scenes, via email or some other private medium. If they are really interested in learning, they’ll stick with you. If not, they will soon vanish in the aether.

                                                          Be Prepared

Before launching a campaign; prepare yourself. You need to do your research, bringing all relevant information to the fore. You need to check references, academic credentials etc. Where possible, one should aim to present the views of distinguished scientists, with solid track records. Holding a PhD in a relevant science would be an absolute minimum standard for me. Those who don’t  have such credentials are very unlikely to be nuanced enough in the field to bring anything concrete to the table. Unfortunately, there are frauds in every avenue of human enquiry (I’ve uncovered a few with googly eyes) and some continue to fall for their trappings. Be selective, presenting information that firmly establishes the points you wish to make. Avoid hyperbole. If at all possible, collate more information than is generally needed (auxilia) to re-inforce a point and ideally from a number of different sources. You never know, such data might come in handy if the thread takes a tricky turn. No one individual has an absolute monopoly on a truth claim. The truth is best displayed when several sources arrive at the same conclusion.

                                                             Don’t be Afraid!

Don’t be initimated by your adversaries. Sometimes the hatred sensed becomes so overbearing that it induces nausea; so I do what I do quickly.

If you’re prepared, there is little they can do to retort.

Seek the Lord always; ask for His advice.

Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.

Proverbs 16:3

 

 

Case Study: How Many Earths in Our Galaxy?

Intended Audience to be Reached: Atheists, evolutionists with a religious bent or churches which have been indoctrinated with evolutionary ideology; Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians. Also, the editorial teams of astronomy and popular science periodicals.

Typical response: Trillions upon trillions.

Scientific basis for believing in the Plurality of Habitable worlds: Life exists on Earth, a typical planet, so life must be common in the Universe.

Actual Evidence for Extraterrestrial Life: None.

 

                                      The Scientific Evidence Against the Case

The Wider Universe: Gamma Ray Burst Frequency at High Redshifts( z>0.5) and its likely consequences for living things.

Nota bene: This was not presented on the discussed thread but in a related thread on the same forum.

Christians have been at the forefront of the debate about whether life can arise naturalistically here on Earth and elsewhere. The organisation, Reasons to Believe, employs scientists trained to PhD level and beyond, who have thoroughly researched the issue. Many of the basic ideas were laid out in their book: Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off (2014); which summarizes many of the problems in a clear and concise way.

The audience is asked to look at the reviews of the book and not to dismiss the book because of their Christian positioning.

The scoffers enter the scene and state their opinions.Some posters are gracious but others persist in scoffing(especially those who are singularly unqualified to offer a technical opinion on the matter) I asked the responders a simple question:

“Have you read the book yet?”

Furthermore, I suggest that abiogenesis(the notion that living systems can arise naturally) is scientifically impossible.

I re-entered the debate several years later in late 2018, as more science came to the fore:

Leading German biochemist(Dr. Clemens Richert) admits that cheating (human intervention) occurs in much prebiotic chemical research in a premier scientific journal.

World leading chemist, Dr. James Tour ( Rice University, USA) speaks out about the same issue as the German biochemist. Tour makes it clear that life cannot arise without an intelligent agency.

Dr. Tour also speaks out about the failure of Darwinian mechanisms to account for the complexity of life. Indeed, behind the scenes, Tour states that Darwinian evolution has now been debunked by the biologists.

I present a detailed talk on the fossil record (2018) by Dr. Gunter Bechly, a leading German paleontologist, who has studied the phenomenon for many years. Bechly presents clear and unambiguous evidence that the fossil record, with its serious discontinuities, does not support a Darwinian scenario. Furthermore, he concludes that life must have been designed.

I point out that Bechly was an avowed evolutionist until he was forced to reassess his scientific positioning as more fossil evidence emerged that could not be reconciled with a Darwinian evolutionary process. His change of mind was driven by the scientific evidence and not by any religious conviction (although he is now a Roman Catholic). The trolls re-emerge in the background supporting their man with “likes”. One of the trolls is a carpenter by trade (yep I did my research) from Upstate New York, another is a prominent ‘know it all,” a retired mechanical engineer from San Diego, who spends his entire waking life on these forums, following me around like a bad smell. Such individuals have expressed a singular hatred of this author in past encounters. However, both individuals are ultimately unqualified to offer any scientific criticism of the work presented; their dissent has no teeth.

Their man attacks the scientists at the Discovery Institute, who are sceptical of the evolutionary paradigm, calling them “frauds.”. I refrain from addressing this potentially serious accusation, as it’s an unnecessary diversion from the truth.

I then present more scientific evidence relevant to the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the Universe;

A team of Cornell University scientists(December 2018) identify potential fake biosignatures in simulations of exoplanetary atmospheres.

Astrobiologists, in their unbridled belief that biosignatures can be identified spectroscopically could pontentially identify fake life signatures and thus mislead the public.

A team of astronomers at Cardiff University, UK (April 2018) present a potentially serious problem of phosphorus synthesis in supernovae.

If phosphorus is only produced in localised pockets of the Universe then it raises a serious question about whether life can really be ubiquitous.

No responses are made by my adversaries on the two issues raised above.

One gracious individual asks for dialogue between myself and my adversaries but I suggest that he contact Dr. Tour directly and provide his contact details (and illustrious credentials). At this stage I deduced that no meaningful dialogue was really possible as the responses from my principal adversary strongly suggested that he did not look at the counter evidence ( a very common problem unfortunately) as presented in the thread.

I present a paper which discusses the concept of Specified Complexity, which offers a much better fit of the proposed relationships between organisms, and which is not predicated upon the assumption of common descent.

My adversaries fail to see the relevance of the work and accuse me of ” not knowing what I’m talking about.”

I ignore these ad hominem attacks on me and proceed to the conclusions of my “campaign.”

I present evidence(October 2018) that M Dwarfs, which comprise some 80 per cent of all stellar real estate in the Universe are very unlikely to support planets capable of harbouring life owing to their frequent flaring events, not to mention tidal locking of planets within their putative habitable zones:

 

At this stage I inform readers that the scientist who first brought the “Hand of God phenomenon” (the very phrase used by Dr. Richert in his December 12 2018 Nature Communications paper) in prebiotic chemical synthesis to the attention of the wider scientific community was Dr. Fazale Rana, staff biochemist with Reasons to Believe (www.reasons.org). Dr. Rana actually anticipated the admissions of both Dr. Tour and Dr. Richert in his 2011 book; Creating Life In the Lab.

More on this here: https://www.youtube….ZgO-sEw&t=1098s

 

I respond to one post (# 103) of this thread, where the poster presented work by Dr. Jack Szostak(Harvard University).

“It must be noted that some of Szostak’s claims of RNA self replication were retracted owing to the inability of his colleagues to reproduce the work.

Source: https://www.nature.c…UVvR6XRR1ibSn0=

In an interview Szostak said, “we were totally blinded by our belief [in our findings]…we were not as careful or rigorous as we should have been…”

Source:https://retractionwa…nal/#more-52894

Another 2009 paper by Szostak et al was similarly retracted.

My adversaries also seem singularly ignorant of my own scientific criticism of Szostak’s work in the same video sequence which I presented here and here.

I point out that in light of the gross negligence in accountability of origin of life research protocols and the “Hand of God phenomenon(read cheating)” that occurs in prebiotic research that Dr. Tour calls for a moratorium on such research.

One responder asks what the relevance of all my posts is.

I did not respond, as I deemed the string of posts as being logically consistent with the matter in hand. It was just another attempt at provocation but I did say this:

“I would suggest you speak with Dr. Tour on these matters. He is better qualified than I to elaborate on this and I’m not here to discuss details. But what I will say is the popular science/astronomy magazine articles and their editorial teams should stop flogging lies to the general public, who have swallowed this claptrap hook line and sinker, based on their pagan ideologies.”

Finally I presented a summary of what science actually tells us about life on Earth and elsewhere in the Universe by Dr Tour himself:

“Life should not exist. This much we know from chemistry. In contrast to the ubiquity of life on earth, the lifelessness of other planets makes far better chemical sense……….We synthetic chemists should state the obvious. The appearance of life on earth is a mystery. We are nowhere near solving this problem. The proposals offered thus far to explain life’s origin make no scientific sense.

Beyond our planet, all the others that have been probed are lifeless, a result in accord with our chemical expectations. The laws of physics and chemistry’s Periodic Table are universal, suggesting that life based upon amino acids, nucleotides, saccharides and lipids is an anomaly. Life should not exist anywhere in our universe. Life should not even exist on the surface of the earth.”

Source: https://inference-re…o-my-colleagues

At this point, the forum moderator, clearly incensed by these comments, blocks my further participation in the thread. The author acknowledges this as a flagrant violation of free speech but does not protest.

I would submit to the reader that what is presented above is actually the most accurate and up-to-date scientific assessment of the phenomon of life and whether it can emerge on other planets. It is at direct odds with the prevailing notion among science journalists and the general public, who, by and large, lack any scientific training on this matter. Doubtless the pagan media will continue to peddle lies to a naive readership. So be on your guard!

This is the position I hold to as of late January 2019

I mentioned that this campaign was a source of “great non-personal success.” This is evidenced by the large increases (up to ten fold) of the number of “likes” received from the viewing public to the youtube clips presented in the short time since they were posted. Hitting the “like” button helps to increase the profile of these presentations, allowing more people to find and share them with their friends.

Lies need to be exposed; as St. Paul declares:

Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.

Ephesians 5:11

 

Dr. Neil English maintains a keen interest in origin of life research and is deeply sceptical of the evolutionary paradigm.

If you like this work and wish to support the author, please consider buying a copy of his latest book, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, which touches on such issues here and there, newly published by Springer Nature.

 

 

De Fideli.

Living without Lasers

Collimation tools; from left right: a SkyWatcher Next Generation laser collimator, a collimation cap, a well made Cheshire eyepiece and a Baader lasercolli Mark III.

 

It is undoubtedly true that by far the most prevalent reason why so many amateurs have dissed Newtonian reflectors in the past boils down to poorly collimated ‘scopes which lead to less than inspiring images. The amateur who pays close attention to accurate collimation will however discover the solid virtues of these marvellous telescopes and will soon forget the bad experiences of the past.

I’ve noticed a trend over the last few decades, where more and more amateurs have become lazy and impatient. They want instant gratification. This is one of the main reasons why many have turned to hassle-free instruments such as small refractors and Maksutov Cassegrains. It’s an entirely understandable trend, but in other ways it is lamentable. One of the downsides of this trend is that amateurs have become less concerned with learning practical optics, deferring instead to higher tech ways of obtaining optimal results in the field. One such technology is the laser collimator; a very useful device that has made accurate collimation far less of a chore than it was just a few decades ago. But while many have defaulted to using such tools as labour-saving devices, they have, at best, become less familiar, or at worst, all but forgotten the traditional tools used in the alignment of  telescope optics; tools such as the collimation cap and the Cheshire eyepiece, and in so doing have less and less understanding of how their telescopes actually work.

The desire for super-accurate collimation has undoutedly been fuelled by the advent of faster optical systems; often supporting sub-f/5 primaries. Once, the traditional Newtonian was almost invariably made with higher f ratios:- F/7 to f/10 and beyond, and requiring very little in the way of maintenance. This is abundantly evidenced by the scant attention astronomy authors of the past gave to such pursuits. In contrast, modern Newtonians are usually f/6 or faster, necessitating much greater attention to accurate optical collimation if excellent results are to be consistently attained during field use.

In my chosen passtime of double star observing, I have acknowledged the need for accurate collimation. Such work often requires very high magnifications; up to and in excess of 50x per inch of aperture, to prize apart close double stars, some of which are below 1 arc second in angular separation. At such high powers, sub-standard collimation results in distorted images of stellar Airy disks, and that’s something that I’m not willing to put up with. In this capacity, I have tested a number of collimaton techniques using a few different laser collimating devices but have also spent quite a lot of time comparing such methods to more traditional techniques involviing the tried and trusted collimation cap and Cheshire eyepiece.

To begin with, it is important to stress that the methods covered in this blog can be achieved easily with a little practice, and I will gladly defer to recognised authorities in the art of Newtonian collimation, such as the late Nils Olif Carlin and Gary Seronik, who have done much to dispel the potentially stressful aspects of telescope collimation. Nothing I will reveal here goes beyond or challenges anything they have already said. My goal is to reassure amateurs that one can happily live without lasers, especially if your Netwonians are of the f/5 or f/6 variety.

Many of the entry-level laser collimators often manifest some issues; partcularly if they are not collimated prior to use. Thankfully, the inexpensive SkyWatcher Next Generation that I have used for a few years did come reasonably well collimated, but others have not been so fortunate. One easy way to see if your laser collimator needs collimating is to place it in the focuser of the telescope and rotate it, examining the behaviour of the beam on the primary. If the beam does not stay in place, but traces out a large annulus, you will have issues and will need to properly collimate the laser. This is not particularly difficult to do and many resources are available on line to help you grapple with this problem. See here and here, for examples.

Of course, you can pay extra for better made laser collimators that are precisely collimated at the factory. Units that have received very good feedback from customers include systems manufactured by Hotech, AstroSystems and Howie Glatter. Some of these are quite expensive in relative terms but many amateurs are willing to shell out for them because they deliver consistently good results. My own journey took me in a different direction though. Instead of investing in a top-class laser collimator, I re-discovered the virtues of traditional techniques involving the collimation cap and Cheshire eyepiece.

My personal motivation to return to traditional, low-tech tools was stoked more from a desire to understand Newtonian telescopes more than anything else. Any ole eejit can use a laser collimator but it deprives you of attaining a deep understanding of how Newtonians operate. In addition, I have frequently found myself dismantling whole ‘scopes in order to get at the mirrors to give them a good clean and this meant I had to learn how to put them back together from scratch. The simpe collimation cap has been found to be an indispensable tool in this regard, allowing one to rapidly centre the secondary mirror in the shadow of the primary.

Singing the virtues of simple tools, such as the tried and trsuted collimation cap.

 

Using just this tool, I’ve been able to set up all my Newtonians rapidly to achieve good results from the get go, at both low amd medium powers more or less routinely.

For the highest power applications  more accuracy is required and I have personally found that a quality Cheshire eyepiece to be more than sufficient to accurately align the optics in just a few minutes. Not all Cheshires are created equal though; some are less accurate than others. For my own use, I have settled on a beautifully machined product marketed by First Light Optics here in the UK ( be sure to check out the reviews while you’re at it). For the modest cost of £37, I have acquired a precision tool to take the hassle out of fine adjustment. The unit features a long sight tube with precisely fitted cross hairs that are accurately aligned with the peep hole. It needs no batteries and comes with no instructions but with a little practice, it works brilliantly!

The beautifully machined and adonised Cheshire eyepiece by First Light Optics, UK.

A nicely finished peep hole.

The precisely positioned cross hairs on the under side of the Cheshire.

 

Because all of my Newtonians are of the closed-tube variety, they are robust enough to only require very slight tweaks to the collimation. I would estimate that 80 per cent of the time, it is only the primary mirror that requires adjusting in field use. I have found this overview by AstroBaby to be very useful in regard to using the Cheshire and would recommend it to others.

The Cheshire eyepiece is a joy to use when collimating my 130mm f/5. Because the tube is short, I can access both the primary and secondary Bob’s Knobs screws to whip the whole system into alignment faster than with my laser. With my longer instruments; partcularly my 8″ f/6 and 12″ f/5, collimation using the Cheshire is decidely more challenging as they both have longer tubes. That said, by familiarising one’s self with the directions of motion executed with the three knobs on the primary, one can very quickly achieve precise collimation. One useful tip is to number the knobs individually so that you can dispense with the guesswork of which knob to reach for to get the requisite adjustment. At dusk, with the telescopes sitting pretty in their lazy suzan cradles, and with the Chesire eyepiece in place in the focuser, I swing the instrument back and forth to alternately view the position of the primary in the eyepiece and the knob(s) I need to turn. Doing this, I get perfect results in just a few minutes; a little longer than can be achieved with a laser, admittedly, but not long enough to render the process exhausting or boring. It’s time well spent.

Know thy Knobs: by spending some time getting to know which directions each of the collimation knobs move the primary mirror, it makes collimation with a Cheshire eyepiece hassle free.

The proof the pudding, of course, is in the eating, and in this capacity, I have found the Cheshire to achieve very accurate results each time, every time. Indeed, it has made my laser collimator blush on more than a few occasions, where high power star tests and images of close double stars reveal that the laser was out a little, requiring a collimation tweak under the stars. Indeed, the Chesire is so accurate that it has become my reference method to assess the efficacy of all the laser collimators I’ve had the pleasure of testing.

While I fully acknowledge the utility of good laser collimators, I get much more of a kick out of seeing, with my own eyes, how all the optical components of the Newtonian fall into place using the Cheshire. Furthermore, the fact that it requires no batteries (and so no issues with the unit failing in the field for lack of power, as has happened to me on more than a few occasions), deeply appeals to my longing for low-tech simplicity in all things astronomical. The fact that the aforementioned amateurs also recommend the Cheshire as an accurate tool for collimating a Newtonian makes it all the more appealing.

Having said all this, the utility of a Cheshire eyepiece lessens as the f ratio of your telescope gets smaller, so much so that for f/4 ‘scopes ar faster, the laser technique will, almost certainly, yield more accurate results. But that’s OK. We are blessed in this day and age with many good tools that can make Newtonian optics shine!

 

Note added in proof: August 14 2018

A really good laser collimator: the Hotech SCA, which can be used with both 1.25″ and 2″ focusers and comes in a very attractive little box with straightforward instructions on how to use it. You will still need the collimation cap to centre the secondary though.

 

If you do decide that you don’t like using a good Chesire eyepiece for precise collimation of your Newtonian reflectors, then I would highly recommend the Hotech SCA laser collimator. It’s an ingenious device (but costs significantly more than a regular laser collimator), but in this case you really do get what you pay for. I have tested the device on all three of my Newtonians and it gives accurate and reproducible results that agree perfectly with the Chesire. It yields perfect star tests at appropriately high powers (I’d recommend a magnification roughly equal to the diameter of your mirror in millimetres for such field tests) both in focus and defocused. I’d go for it if you can afford it. You will still need the collimation cap to centre the secondary before use however. See here and here for more details.

Neil English is author of Choosing and Using a Dobsonian Telescope.

 

 

De Fideli.

Pulcherrima!

Beauty and the beast: my 130mm f/5 Newtonian versus a 90mm f/5.5 ED refractor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date: Wednesday March 28 2018

Time: 22:00UT

Temperature: −2C

Seeing: III, bright gibbous Moon, small amounts of cloud cover in an otherwise clear sky.

It is often claimed that refractors give more aesthetically pleasing images of celestial objects than reflectors. But how true is this statement? Last night, I learned yet another instructive lesson that shatters this myth once and for all.

Earlier in the evening, I fielded my 8″ f/6 Newtonian against a very good 90mm f/5.5 ED apochromat. The target was Theta Aurigae, then sinking into the western sky and so past its best position for observing. Seeing was only average. Both telescopes had been fielded about 90 minutes earlier with the optics capped, so both were completely acclimated. I charged the apochromat with a 2.4mm Vixen HR eyepiece yielding 208x. The 8 inch Newtonian was charged with a 6mm Baader orthoscopic ocular delivering 200x.

Examining the system in the 8 inch reflector showed the primary star as a slightly swollen Airy disk but the faint companion was clearly visible. In contrast, the view through the 90mm refractor showed a less disturbed primary but the secondary(for the most part) couldn’t be seen!

Question: How can an image be deemed more aesthetically pleasing when a prime target (the secondary) in that said image can plainly be seen in one instrument and not in the other?

Date: Thursday March 29 2018

Time: 00:05 UT

Temperture:−3C

Seeing; II/III, slight improvement from earlier, otherwise very similar.

Later the same night, I fielded my 130mm F/5 Newtonian along side the 90mm refractor and  turned my attention to a spring favourite; Epsilon Bootis, now rising higher in the eastern sky.

This time, I charged the refractor with a 2.0mm Vixen HR eyepiece yielding 250x. The Newtonian was fitted with a Parks Gold 7.5mm eyepiece coupled to a Meade 3x Barlow lens giving a power of 260x.  Examining the system, I was quite shocked by the difference between the images; the refractor did show a dull, greenish companion but it was entangled in the diffraction gunk from the orange primary. What’s more, the entire system was surrounded by chromatic fog owing to the imperfect colour correction of the refractor (an FPL 51 doublet). In contrast, the 130mm f/5 Newtonian image was far superior in every way; the Airy disks were smaller, tighter and more cleanly separated, and with zero chromatic fog to be seen. The Newtonian image remained just as stable as in the refractor image throughout the observation! The components also displayed their pure colours (as only a reflector can yield); the primary orange and the secondary, blue. In a phrase, the differences between the images was like night and day!

Conclusions: The 130mm Newtonian provided a much more aesthetically pleasing image than the refractor, which was compromised by its smaller aperture and less than perfect colour correction. As a small portable telescope, the Newtonian is far more powerful and is capable of delivering images that are simply in a different league to the refractor.

ED 90 Refractor: Proxime accessit.

130mm f/5 Newtonian(Plotina): Victrix/Pulcherrima!

 

Postscriptum: As always, I would encourage others to test these claims. Truth matters.

 

 

Neil English is author of Grab ‘n’ Go Astronomy.

 

De Fideli.

 

 

The War on Truth: The Trouble with Astronomy Journalism.

A product of an overactive imagination? Artist’s impression of an alien Dyson Sphere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this is what the Lord says—
he who created the heavens,
    he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
    he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
    but formed it to be inhabited—
he says:
“I am the Lord,
    and there is no other.

                                                       Isaiah 45:18

“Life should not exist. This much we know from chemistry. In contrast to the ubiquity of life on earth, the lifelessness of other planets makes far better chemical sense.” So wrote Jim Tour, W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer Science, and Professor of Materials Science and Nano Engineering at Rice University in a recent publication. Tour has been rated as one of the top ten chemists in the world at the moment and is very likely to become a Nobel Laureate for his ground–breaking work in synthetic organic chemistry.

All the while, when one reads popular news articles on the question of life on other planets the standard response is, “there must certainly exist life on other worlds…the odds stacked against it are astronomical.” Of course, when one examines the credentials of the folk making these claims, one invariably discovers that they have little advanced science training (and that goes for the editors of pretty much all extant astronomy magazines, whether conventional or on the internet). In other cases, we have astronomers making bold claims about life on other worlds but they too raise issues in my mind (they’re not generally trained in the molecular life sciences for one thing). What is more, they wish to promote their own world view; that the Copernican Principle (explained below) applies to all things, life included, and more often than not, to sensationalise a topic that has been known to sell a book or two in the past. In addition, just stating that life may be common in the Universe is sure to boost their chances of securing additional research funding too.

How are we to arrive at the truth of these opposing views? For me, I would always default to the true experts in the field, and in this particular case, this means siding with the folks who actually know what is entailed from a chemical standpoint. In another highly informative essay, Professor Tour continues;

“Life requires carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins. What is the chemistry behind their origin? Biologists seem to think that there are well-understood prebiotic molecular mechanisms for their synthesis. They have been grossly misinformed. And no wonder: few biologists have ever synthesized a complex molecule ab initio. If they need a molecule, they purchase molecular synthesis kits, which are, of course, designed by synthetic chemists, and which feature simplistic protocols.

Polysaccharides? Their origin?

The synthetic chemists do not have a pathway.

The biologists do not have a clue.”

 

Did you read that? Tour claims the biologists don’t have a clue! He’s correct, of course, since few biologists have a working understanding of advanced chemistry (or physics for that matter) and yet there is never a mention of Dr. Tour’s cautionary take on whether or not life is to be expected on other planets in any popularised narratives on the topic of extra–terrestrial life. They simply don’t want to know!

What the public invariably gets is naturalistic propaganda and not a true education.

Tour’s timely communications dovetail very nicely with other calls for restraint from within the Christian community. Drs. Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, of Reasons to Believe, produced a ground–breaking work, “Origins of Life: Evolutionary and Biblical Models Faceoff, in which they pointed out the biggest criticism of the validity of prebiotic chemistry to chemical evolution was the scientists’ own data! Put simply, in perusing the materials & methods section of their peer reviewed scientific papers, they were able to show that pretty much every step the chemists make in creating a biologically relevant molecule was itself the product of intelligent design; the reactants were bought in in highly purified states, protected in highly specific environments (buffers and solvents), with particular pH values and optimal temperature regimes, the products carefully selected by stopping and starting reactions and isolating potential inhibitors to these reactions. Interestingly, the leading authorities in prebiotic chemistry have acknowledged these claims as valid. And yet, if you were to pick up the latest issue of a monthly astronomy magazine or online space science article, there is never any mention of these important criticisms. The public, once again, are left none the wiser. You see, one has to find stuff like this.

All this leads to a rather shocking conclusion; it is scientifically naïve to expect life to exist on other planets without the intervention of an intelligent agency being involved.

                                   Questioning Evolutionary Assumptions

The general public are used to having Darwinian evolution shoved down their throat, as if it were a science as towering and self–confident as chemistry or physics. But very few of the general public understand that, of all the sciences, it is Darwinian evolution that generates perhaps the greatest number of sceptics. While some scientists have rejected evolutionary theory having studied it to an advanced level, most critics of Darwinism come from outside the field; not surprisingly from physical scientists, engineers and the like. They point out that the origins of life are not at all understood and that the fossil record is woefully incomplete and has more to do with guesswork than anything else. A growing armada of scientists now accept that Darwinian evolution is not fit for purpose in this age of rapid scientific progress. And these doubts weigh heavily on the debate of whether or not life is common in the Universe. But there’s more.

Over the last quarter of a century, whole teams of scientists have pushed back the date to the likely origin of life to just a few hundred million years or less, from the formation of the Earth. What is more, studies on microfossils discovered within the Earth’s most ancient rocks, as well as state of the art chemical analyses of the various biomarkers within these structures show that as soon as life took hold on Earth, it was already biochemically sophisticated and extraordinarily diverse. While some journalists have used these emerging facts as ‘evidence’ that the origin of life must be easy from a naturalistic point of view, they refuse to consider another, and far more pressing point: the fact that life very likely began complex; both structurally and biochemically, it could not have evolved in the sense conveyed by contemporary evolutionists. But, yet again, there is no mention of these important developments in the popular literature. One magazine editor I approached about this issue sent me this clip as “evidence for evolution.” After enjoying a good giggle, this author duly responded by asserting that this was not science at all but pure fiction! So, what’s going on?

                                         Sweeping under the Carpet

One could pretend that contemporary biological science might be likened to the status of physics in the late nineteenth century, but it’s actually a lot worse than that. There’s a distinct chance that we will never discover the secret of life. You see, living things are mind bogglingly complex. Nobody understands them! What is clear is that the Darwinian status quo cannot continue to exist for much longer. A new paradigm is clearly required to advance the biological sciences. Many scientists now consider information to be at the centre of this potentially revolutionary era in biology.

                                           Challenging the Copernican Principle

The Copernican principle, stated simply, is that the Earth and its constituents does not hold any privileged position in the grand scheme of things and that everything we observe will have its analogues on other worlds. Back in 2000 though, palaeontologist, Peter Ward, and astronomer, Donald Brownlee, published a highly influential book, Rare Earth; why Complex Life may be Uncommon in the Universe, in which they set forth compelling evidence that although microbial life might be common, complex multicellular life ought to be far rarer than anyone had anticipated. Since then however, other excellent books have emerged including John Gribbin’s Alone in the Universe; Why our Planet is Unique (2011) and more recently still, Hugh Ross’ technically excellent tome, Improbable Planet (2016), in which they make the case that the Earth has many features that appear uniquely suited to supporting complex lifeforms. And to top it all, Professor Brian Cox, in his BBC production: Human Universe, also explains why humans are likely the only advanced lifeforms in the entire cosmos. And yet, despite the soundness of their arguments, it is rare (if at all) that the mainstream media will ever present this picture, simply because they run the risk of possibly alienating their readers. Instead, they peddle the same old mantra of life being common in the Universe. But what does the emerging scientific picture attest to?

To date, several thousand exoplanets (worlds orbiting other stars) have been characterised and while some have earth–sized planets, it is quite a leap of faith to conclude that they are habitable. Most commonly, the reporters make the point that the planet in question lies in that narrow annulus around its parent star, where liquid water could potentially be stable (the so–called habitable zone). But this is a far cry from making a planet habitable. And yet all the while, performing a google search of an article on exoplanets within their habitable zones invariably brings up images of fictional worlds graced with blue water oceans, white clouds and conveniently placed continents; figments of someone’s overactive imagination no doubt. Ross’ work in particular has also identified not one habitable zone, where liquid water could remain stable for long periods, but several other conditions that must be present if complex animal life is to be maintained over periods of several billion years.

Collectively, these new habitable zones include;

Water habitable zone

Ultraviolet habitable zone

Photosynthetic habitable zone

Ozone habitable zone

Planetary rotation rate habitable zone

Planetary obliquity habitable zone

Tidal habitable zone

Astrosphere habitable zone

 

All of these must overlap for a planet to sustain complex life over billions of years. Thus, seen in this light, it is highly probable that an Earth–like world is either extraordinarily rare or even unique, even in a cosmos containing quadrillions of planets. But you’d never hear that from the purveyors of methodological naturalism. In addition, a recent study suggests that the cosmos is poor in the vital element, phosphorus, making life on other planets that much more unlikely.

                                                   Stagnating Real Science

Taken together, these simple points paint an entirely different picture of what we should expect in searching for life on other worlds. Late in 2018, NASA will launch their giant infrared space telescope, the greatly anticipated James Webb, which will have the technology to chemically characterise the atmospheres of many exoplanets discovered to date. Will they find the signatures of life? Personally, I’m sceptical, given the truth about what we have thus far discovered about life on our own planet. But in the meantime, it would be fruitful for science writers reporting on such matters to present a more balanced case, both for and against such claims. Maybe then, they’ll be a bit more cautious about entertaining such fantastic objects as Dyson Spheres (KIC 8462852) and visiting inter–stellar spacecraft (Oumuamua). The industry owes that to its readers.

 An Aside:   A Christian Perspective on Extra—terrestrial Intelligence

As both a Christian and a scientist, I have thought deeply about such questions and have reached some working conclusions to help me grapple with these thought provoking concepts. As a scientist, I am sceptical of the evolutionary paradigm (though some Christians appear to accept it) as it has little in the way of explanatory power. Furthermore, I believe it to be an evil ideology that seeks to turn people away from the true God. The fact that we have not detected signs of advanced alien lifeforms despite having searched the heavens for over a half a century affirms my belief that Darwinian evolution is bogus; life must come from a mind and must be created for some specified purpose. But there is also a number of theological reasons why I think life is either extraordinarily rare or unique to Earth. This view has been shaped by a prolonged study of the Bible. It may surprise the reader that the vast majority of people who profess to be Christians have not read the Bible through, from cover to cover, even once, and so may not have developed the nuanced argument quite like the one I wish to present here.

The first point I’d like to make is that the Biblical God appeared in human form in the character of Jesus of Nazareth.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

The New Testament states in multiple places that Jesus “died once for all” (see Romans 6:10 for an example). This suggests that Jesus came to redeem sinful humans and not other creatures. Humans are the only creatures that God came to redeem.

The next point is that the Bible makes it crystal clear that the only deity we will see in heaven is Christ;

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Colossians 1:15-20

Thirdly, the Bible seems very clear about where the Lord, the Creator of the Universe, will establish His throne; in Jerusalem, before He brings this Universe to an end;

At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.

Jeremiah 3:17

Fourthly, the Bible informs us that the Universe will be consumed in fire:

But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

2 Peter 3:7

So, it would be unjust of God to destroy other putative lifeforms elsewhere in the Universe for mankind’s rebellion. And since God is completely just and holy, He would not cause other parts of His creation to suffer needlessly. That would make Him a monster.

Finally, the Bible speaks of Christ as a “bridegroom” and His church a “bride”;

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
 it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

                                                                                                Revelation 19:6-8

Here we have a fidelity issue. Time and time again through the pages of Scripture, the Lord condemns infidelity and encourages faithfulness to one wife or husband. Thus, if the church is to be considered as the ‘bride of Christ’, then the ‘bridegroom’ ought to be faithful and not seek or acquire ‘other brides’ elsewhere in the cosmos. After all, God is not a polygamist! Shouldn’t loyalty be reciprocal, working both ways?

For these and other reasons, the uniqueness of humankind as imagers of God (see Genesis 1:27) makes it very difficult to envision other creatures on par or superior to humans in the physical Universe (though it does not rule out the possibility that he created lesser creatures). We are either the crown of His creation or we are not (see Hebrews 2:7). That’s not to say that God did not create other forms of sentient beings; consider the Angelic realm, for example.

Seen in this way, the alarming degree to wish people will go to wish their sovereignty away deeply concerns me. It strikes me as an elaborate, postmodern manifestation of paganism; a grandiose scientistic delusion. I worry that God will disown them, just as they have disowned Him. Naturalistic science serves to undermine mankind’s significance by turning him into a ‘highly evolved animal’, distinguished only in degree from the rest of the animal kingdom. I believe this to be demonstrably false and envision the next decade or so as continuing to affirm our uniqueness in this vast cosmos in which we ‘serendipitously’ find ourselves in.

Return to the Lord and serve Him with all your heart, soul, mind and spirit before it’s too late.

 

Dr. Neil English, who was trained in both the biological and physical sciences, is author of several books on amateur astronomy and space science. His new book; Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, will be published later this year.

 

De Fideli.