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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why Does Anything Exist At All?

"It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us."--Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

I like big questions and they don’t come much bigger than, “why is there something and not nothing?” Think about it. It is awful easy for us to take “existence” for granted (we are busy people after all!). People generally agree that things don’t just exist without a good explanation. It really isn’t an explanation to say “that’s just the way things are, pass the popcorn.” Let me illustrate. My wife and I like to go to movies. Suppose we show up at the theatre to watch the latest movie, but stop and ponder why there is a movie theatre here. “It just is” (like a brute fact or something) isn’t very satisfying. On the other hand, suppose we learn that this is the fastest growing area in the city and AMC wanted to build a movie theater here to accommodate all the people moving to town. That is a plausible explanation—certainly more plausible than “its just here.”

Well think of existence like a gigantic movie theatre (this includes stuff like the physical universe and the fact that you are able to read these words). There is nothing about the physical universe and the people within it that is strictly speaking necessary (i.e., it had to be this way). So why does anything exist at all? I think the best explanation for the existence of everything is God. Now you might say that there are other possible explanations and I agree. But are any of them any good? After careful inquiry, I think you will find that they are pretty flimsy, and that they are not nearly as plausible as God.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Christian Review of The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Ben Witherington reviews Dan Brown's newest novel, the Lost Symbol. Yes, the author of the Da Vinci Code is at it again. With a print run of 5 million, it will leave a mark.

"Its Number One on Amazon, and has gone to the top of several best seller lists, and the reviews are pouring in for Dan Brown's latest blockbuster novel, sure to be made into a movie. But even Mr. Brown's fans, reviewing the book on Amazon, are about equally divided as to whether this novel makes Mr. Brown a dude or a dud...."For More...

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Monday, September 28, 2009

International Justice Mission - Freeing Slaves

Here is some of the wonderful work being done by IJM...

When a government official was recently alerted to several families held in slavery at a remote rock quarry in South India, he enlisted IJM’s help.

IJM investigators conducted a reconnaissance mission and determined that the facility was actually two separate but connected quarries controlled by powerful perpetrators – one formerly a state-level politician.

Avoiding a tip-off required sweeping, yet precise, simultaneous operations at both quarries. The perpetrators were dangerous, and the plan was logistically challenging, but it worked. In coordinated dual operations, IJM and local authorities rescued 13 families from slavery. Today, the families live in freedom.

"Inside [the quarry], it was not possible for our children to become doctors or police...but it is possible now."
— Venkatesh

March 6, 2009 – The rescue operation that freed Venkatesh and his family takes place

The quarry

See Freedom Through One Family's Eyes

Viswanathan, 13, wanted to work for the government when he grew up so that he could create a “robber-free world,” and his big sister Girija, 15, dreamed of becoming a doctor. But they were not free to pursue these goals: Their parents were slaves in the rock quarry where the family had been forced to live for the past eight years.

The children often crushed rocks with the enslaved adults – a taste of the future that likely awaited them. Their father, Venkatesh, feared that the children would be forced into the bondage of daily hard labor. His wife, Sumathi, worried about the danger the machinery and treacherous terrain posed to her family.

All this changed the spring day when IJM and the local government freed their family from slavery.

After the rescue, IJM helped the family return to their native village, where Venkatesh built a home equipped with “electricity for the children to study, for their education.” He never had the opportunity to go to school himself, and Sumathi was only able to study until fifth grade. These parents are very proud of the education their children are pursuing.

Viswanathan and Girija are working hard at school. They both like science class the best – Viswanathan because “the teacher teaches us well and science talks about the living things,” and aspiring doctor Girija because, “I score [good] marks.”

And out of school, do the two siblings fight? “Only if she starts it!” laughs Viswanathan.

Their father works in construction and hopes to buy a cow to generate sustainable income for his family. Their mother, who is recovering from an illness, can now access health care and dreams of starting a candle making business.

They are a normal family – with normal struggles. They are budgeting, meeting their new neighbors, dreaming of the future. And they are free.

Please give a gift today. Today, there are other families held in slavery who dream of freedom. Please give a financial gift so that IJM can locate and free these fathers, mothers and children.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

ABC Nightline on 10 Commandments and the Question of Morality in America

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Problem of Evil and Plantinga's Free-Will Defense

All that is needed to dispose of the charge of logical incoherence is to supply a logically possible, morally sufficient reason that a good God would allow evil (i.e., a defense). Alvin Plantinga describes such a possible reason in his famous Free Will Defense:

A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; and they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God’s omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Are Scientists Open to Criticism? Are Any of Us?

Science is open to criticism...right? David Berlenski, author of the Devil's Delusion: Atheism's Scientific Pretensions is not so sure...

Actually we discover that all of us don't like the possibility of being wrong...but that comes with being finite.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Healing for our guilt and shame

Psalm 103

Of David.
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-

18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.

21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Spread the Love Video - What is Love?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Can we learn how to live a joyful life?

Is it possible to experience joy in the midst of everyday life? And when everything is falling apart at the seams? God's answer to that question is a resounding yes. David gives us a "recipe for joy" in Psalm 16. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the good people at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, TN and preached this message.

Contrary to popular opinion, grumpiness is not a spiritual gift! :) To learn how to experience joy in life, click here.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Where Does Evolution Leave God? The Dawkins Armstrong Debate

Recently Richard Dawkins and Karen Armstrong debated this question in the Wall Street Journal.

here are two thoughtful blog posts on it...

Stand to Reason

Al Mohler

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Max Lucado on How to Overcome Fear

Here is an excerpt from Max Lucado's new book over at beliefnet.

"Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him" (Ps. 37:7). Imitate the mother of Jesus at the wedding in Cana. The reception was out of wine, a huge social no-no in the days of Jesus. Mary could have blamed the host for poor planning or the guests for overdrinking, but she didn't catastrophize. No therapy sessions or counseling. Instead, she took the shortage straight to Jesus. "When they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine'" (John 2:3). See how quickly you can do the same. Assess the problem. Take it to Jesus and state it clearly."


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Friday, September 18, 2009

Mark D Roberts on Facebook and Addiction

Are you on facebook? If so, do you think it is potentially addictive behavior? Is there a limit to how much you should be on there? (easy...not accusing anyone...just asking the question :).

Pastor Mark D Roberts recently blogged on this very question, addicted to facebook?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Christian Scholar Darrell Bock on a Large or Small Gospel?

Recently, New Testament Darrell Bock gave an interview for Preaching Today, on what the Gospel is and just how big is it. Worth a listen for here

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Saddleback Church Apologetics Conference 2009 Audio

Saddleback Church recently hosted an Apologetics Conference with a number of great apologists. Now their audio and video are available for listening and viewing online. But if you prefer MP3s or a podcast feed, you can download there right here:

• How Can I Know God Exists? - Dinesh D'Souza - MP3
• How Did the Universe Begin - William Lane Craig - MP3
• If God Exists, Why is there Evil? - Norman Geisler - MP3
• Has Science Made Belief in God Obsolete? - J.P. Moreland - MP3
• What Do the Gospels Really Say About Jesus? - Darrell Bock - MP3
• How Can I Defend My Faith Without Sounding Defensive? - Greg Koukl - MP3

These are some great talks! Accessible and solid. (Many thanks to the Apologetics 315 blog of recompiling this list with links)

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Does Richard Dawkins Exist?

OK. I came across this video on YouTube and it is brilliantly done (even down to sounding like Dawkins)...if you are familiar with Richard Dawkins and his book the God Delusion. A very witty parody and subtle "turn about is fair play" of employment of Dawkins own arguments on whether Dawkins actually exists.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

How to Have Quiet Time and Prayer with God featuring John & Nancy Ortberg

What do you do with distractions that come to your mind during prayer? What does it mean to be fully present with God? John and Nancy Ortberg speak honestly about their own struggles and in this area of the spiritual life.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Journey Into the Cell

What is going on inside the cell? Here is a fascinating narration of what is going in the cell and what incredible information must be present for this to occur. You gotta check this out!

For the book by Stephen Meyer explaining all this and why it points to intelligent design, see his bestselling book Signature in the Cell.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

The self-esteem myth

Will high self-esteem fix our kids? Marcia Segelstein comments on the evidence in the following opinion piece for World Magazine:
The theory that promoting self-esteem in children provides wide-ranging benefits has been debunked. Again.

A new book, NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, takes a look at a variety of recent findings about child development. Among them is evidence that teaching self-esteem doesn’t do children any good whatsoever.

Americans seem eager to embrace fads...(more)
I resonated with the simple, yet profound observation she made: "I know that Christianity is more complicated than the simple but profound fact that God loves each of us perfectly. But I’ve often thought that if we could know that—deep down, every moment—it would be the cure for our insecurities and the negative thoughts and actions they breed."

A book that powerfully brings this theme home is Love Beyond Reason by John Ortberg.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Immigration, Islam, and the West

As Islam grows--more by birth rate than adult conversion--there are new realities that we must be aware of as Christians (Muslims are 1/5 of the worlds total population - Christians are 1/3). Understanding is the first step. Engagement only follows after we understand. I came across this video from the wall street journal which highlights some interesting observations about Europe and America.

What do Muslims believe? A great place to start is The Baker Pocket Guide to World Religions: What Every Christian Needs to Know by Gerald McDermott.

Also, an excellent mp3 overview you can download is Decoding Islam: Understanding the Middle East Conflict in a Whole New Light-- Alan Shlemon (Stand to Reason)

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The James Ossuary--- More Patina Evidence that supports the Authenticity of the Inscription

Here is an update from Ben Witherington on the Ossuary of James and the controversy surrounding its authenticity.

Click Here.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ideas Have Histories Where Postmodernism Came From

Here is an article written by my friend and executive director of Summit Ministires, John Stonestreet; enjoy!

Postmodernism comes in all kinds of shapes and expressions. This sort of variety can make it difficult to understand.

Further, postmodernism resists categories and distinctions, and this makes it more difficult to nail down as a worldview. There is a larger intellectual history that must be understood in order to grasp the uniqueness and significance of postmodernism as a worldview.

Ideas Have Histories: How We Lost Our Minds

While dividing history into distinct time periods is not an exact science, there are two major historical transitions that can help us clarify the emergence of postmodernism: (1) the transition towards modernism, typically dated around the 1700s, and (2) the transition away from modernism, which began in the late 20th century.

The transition from what is often called the pre-modern period into the modern period corresponds with the influence of Enlightenment thinking and the scientific revolution. Prior to the Enlightenment, there was a dominant cultural belief in the existence of the supernatural. This was due in large part to the rise of Christianity, and specifically the Roman Catholic church as the most powerful cultural presence in medieval times. This was a world of authority, and authority rested in the hands of traditional institutions, especially the church, since it was entrusted with interpreting and communicating this truth to the common person.

With a belief in God came a strong belief in the concept of revelation, that God not only existed but had revealed Himself and His will in the Bible. This revelation was considered the primary source of truth, and could be trusted to unlock God’s metanarrative (or, “Big Story”) for the world. Believing was the starting point of real knowledge.

St. Anselm typifies a pre-modern perspective on truth: “For I seek not to understand in order that I may believe; but I believe in order that I may understand, for I believe for this reason: that unless I believe, I cannot understand.” This view of revelation and authority did not fare well during the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment was a movement among European intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the decades leading up to this time, the church’s authority had been successfully challenged politically (reactions against corruption), theologically (Luther, Calvin and the Protestant Reformation), philosophically (downfall of scholasticism), and scientifically (Galileo, Copernicus, and Baconian method). There was a growing disillusionment with the traditional educational, political and religious institutions, as well as their authoritative sources.

During the Enlightenment, authority shifted from traditional institutions to human reason. A scientific approach to the world yielded tremendous advances in medicine, technology, and communications and challenged the centrality of theology and religious belief as the paradigm for learning. Free from the restrictive shackles of traditional beliefs (thus, modernism), progress seemed inevitable. Immanuel Kant described this period of time in this way: “Sapere aude! ‘Have the courage to make use of your own mind!’ is thus the slogan of the Enlightenment.”

The modern period had begun. The growing skepticism in regards to anything supernatural was matched by growing faith in human ability to know the world, control it, and reap the inevitable benefits. The “Big Story” of the world was not given by revelation; rather, it was to be discovered and perhaps even determined by science, reason and technology. This major transition was at the heart of the modern period.

However, from our 21st-century perspective, it is clear that the predictions of utopia guaranteed in the modern period never materialized. Instead, modernists became disillusioned as military increase brought world wars, failed development policies led to class oppression and colonialism, economic idealism resulted in communism and the Cold War, and our best science created nuclear weapons and the threat of global devastation.

Postmodern writers, beginning with Nietzsche, began to question the integrity of modernism’s metanarrative of progress. In fact, the main casualty of a postmodern perspective is the very idea of a metanarrative. Postmoderns are skeptical of any and all claims to an authoritative comprehensive worldview, absolute truth about reality, and an overarching purpose to the human story. Postmoderns embrace local narratives, not metanarratives; a multitude of stories, not a “Big Story.”

In short, it could be said that religious metanarratives were dismissed by modernism. Man-made ones are dismissed by postmodernism. This is what Myron Penner and others have referred to as “the postmodern turn”: postmodernism is a turn away from the certainty and optimism of modernism. As Jean Francios Lyotard wrote: “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.”

Answering the Postmodern Challenge

Postmodernism’s impact on Western culture is hotly debated, and various thinkers and writers—including those coming from a Christian worldview—have offered diverging opinions of it. Some see it as a passing fad; others see it as long-lasting paradigm shift. Some decry it as dangerously destructive; others embrace its destruction of the oppressive structures of modernity.

The most helpful contribution of postmodernism is, first, that it has successfully challenged the reigning paradigm of the modern period, which was based largely on naturalistic humanism. Modernism, in seeking to arrive at absolute knowledge through empirical investigation, separated matters of “faith” from matters of objective knowledge about the real world. Postmodernism confronts this dichotomy in ways that are helpful for the Christian worldview.

Second, postmodernism has cast a large shadow of skepticism (and has offered a strong dose of humility) on the modern belief in the efficacy and near inerrancy of human reason. As was seen during the modern period, human reason can be quite productive, especially in the arenas of science, medicine, and technology. However, human reason can also be manipulative and destructive, especially when it produces the totalizing ideologies (e.g. communism, Nazism, colonialism, etc) that characterized the modern period.

Third, postmodernism has demonstrated that objectivity and certainty are not exclusive to the realm of science as was claimed during the modern period. In fact, science is often quite biased and agenda-driven, and is therefore in no place to claim to be the final arbiter on all matters of knowledge. This is especially helpful for Christians, who often feel the burden to play by the rules of modernism and empirically demonstrate every aspect of Christian truth.

Fourth, postmodernism rightly reminds us of the power of our culture, and especially the language of our culture, in creating our frames of reference. The modern period demonstrated that this power can be used to marginalize and oppress others at the personal and the systemic level. For the Christian, then, care should be taken to distinguish scriptural teaching from our cultural perceptions.

Finally, the emphasis of postmodernism on story and narrative fits (to a limited extent) with the way the Bible presents God’s interaction with the world. The Bible is, on the whole, a narrative through which God gives us the Truth about Himself, humanity, and the world. Of course, for the postmodernist, no story is to be considered true in this absolute sense over and above any other story, and propositions from one interpretive community are irrelevant for others.

The Bible does not present a God whose story is one among many, but a God whose story is the story above all others. So, in dealing with the postmodern mind, evangelicals face a difficult situation. For the past several centuries, modernity has relegated Christianity to the category of an unscientific, unrealistic worldview that is simply not believable for thinking people. Some Christians are tempted to settle for having Christianity accepted as a truth rather than face the prospect of being dismissed due to dogmatically claiming to be the truth, and abandoning the concept of worldview seems to be a small price to pay for having at least some claim to “truth.”

Although the dethroning of humanistic scientific reason is (More)

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are you an apprentice to Jesus?

Are we learning from Jesus how to live? That is the essence of discipleship.

"A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher."--Luke 6:40

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why the object of our faith is really important

Faith derives its value not from the intensity of the believer but from the genuineness of the one she believes in. True faith is faith in the right object; faith in an unfaithful person is worthless or worse.—David k. Clark

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Spiritual Formation 101

"The process of spiritual formation in Christ is one of progressively replacing destructive images and ideas with images and ideas that fill the mind of Jesus himself" (Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart). Our beliefs and our thought life provide the live possibilities for us to choose in the day in and day out of life. If our thoughts are mostly away from God, then our choices most likely will be as well. Renewing our mind is fundamental to being an apprentice of Jesus (Romans 12:2).

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Taking Jesus at His Word

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?”

As I prepare to attend a funeral of a loved one today, I answer yes to Jesus' question--I believe...I take him at his word. He is the only one who can make good on that bold claim because he is the only one who has conquered death. I am thankful that the ultimate sting of death has been conquered, but am reminded of the pain we still endure before Jesus makes all things new (Revelation 21:1-7).

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Thursday, September 3, 2009


“There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.”—Allan Bloom

“To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what it is not that it is not, is true.”—Aristotle

“…You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”—Jesus

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair”—C.S. Lewis

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

We all need a good times and bad

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, a]">[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Familiar, but powerful words. Amen

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Michael Behe's Censored then Uncensored Interview on Intelligent Design with John Mcworter on

I enjoy drawing attention to debates and conversations that matter. Here is one. Behe's cordial interview about his book, the edge of evolution, was taken down 6 hours after it was posted. But then Robert Wright reinstated the post (good for him!). This is a thoughtful 45 minute interview.

What is the harm in that? Could it be that dissent from the standard Darwinian story is simply not allowed? period? I watched the interview. Behe does not say "God did it." What he says is, all the evidence we possess about random selection and random variation does not show how irreducibly complex systems could have evolved. It is an empirical argument; not a god of the gaps argument from Behe's point of view. I say, let the conversation continue and the best ideas win!

For more on this controversy, see this post at Evolution News

For more on this issue, see: The Edge of Evolution or Signature in the Cell

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