Sunday, 10 December 2017

Apollo moon programme : the God factor

 First posted in 2011/2012 . This is an updated version.

There is in the western secular establishment an ongoing and insidious movement to expunge Christianity from public life, a process which I believe will lead to untold social and political problems as the spiritual basis of the western democracy is removed. It is already beginning to happen in North America and Europe, with the rising backlash to political correctness, a form of thought control, and the increasing unpopularity of the hitherto largely invisible Eurocrats,  divorced from large sectors of the less affluent communities and contemptuous of their cultural and Christian heritage..

The story below, which shows how the move to expunge reference to Christ from public life  was beginning to happen c.1970, as exemplified in these  background stories of the Apollo moon missions.

Even after some promising changes to the American judiciary following the 2016 election it  still raises eyebrows if 'God' , the very kernel of reality, is mentioned in public life.

 It was Christmas Eve 1968 when the first words of Genesis chapter 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth....

streamed from Apollo 8, in orbit around the moon, into our small black and white TV set. Each of the three astronauts in turn read a short passage. I was a science-obsessed agnostic at the time but 

click here
 for a video on the astounding story behind this photograph.

it stirred me deep down because it said that God was a real presence and power in the Universe, albeit a transcendental one, even though most of the time I either half acknowledged our Creator’s existence or was unaware of it entirely. It also revealed vividly to the world that humankind was one species on one precious planet in a vast universe.

Since then Hugh Ross (search YouTube by his name for numerous videos) and others have alerted me to the fact that Genesis 1:1 is unique among the creation poems of ancient times in asserting that the stuff of the universe is not eternal and self existing but was created from nothing before space -time-energy existed, via the Big Bang. Since the time of Apollo 8 modern cosmology has discovered that Genesis was 100% right on this: the universe was created from a reality beyond the realm of scientific investigation.

Madalyn O’Hare, it appears, was also stirred; but in her case it was to anger and hatred. She brought a lawsuit against NASA for promoting religion.  From thenceforth astronauts and NASA as an organisation would be forbidden from associating themselves with Christianity. She had already succeeded in getting prayer banned in US state schools, after which crime levels by young people rapidly escalated. Her speech showed deep phobia against Christianity and was sometimes vitriolic, peppered with four letter words.

The lawsuit, based on the separation of church and state, forbade future astronauts from religious rituals during missions. They saw this as an infringement of their rights under the First Amendment and various subterfuges took place. The following is based on an excellent article in Spaceflight (Dec 2011), On the Wings of Apollo by Dwight Williams:

  • Aldrin wanted to take Holy Communion on the Moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission and so smuggled aboard a ‘communion kit’ in a pouch, part of his Personal Preference Kit. He took Communion shortly after landing on 20 July and read out John 5:15 from a card: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains  in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit....’ 

  • The Apollo 11 crew left a silicon disc on the Moon with the voices of world leaders, including Psalms read by Pope Paul VI.

  • The Rev John Stout, inspired by the devout Ed White who died in the Apollo 1 fire of 1967, started the Apollo Prayer League with 40,000 members and resolved to have bibles placed on the Moon. 300 microfilm bibles were indeed smuggled aboard Apollo 14 by Ed Mitchell.

  • Ed Mitchell of Apollo 14 announced at a business conference that the Apollo 13 mission had been saved from disaster by public prayers after its oxygen tank had exploded. Mitchell, I understand, had an IQ of 180  and proposed theories concerning the nature of awareness, quantum physics and the interconnectedness of life.
Madalyn O'Hare, the founder of American Atheists, had a tragic life. In 1993 she and one of her sons, Jon Murray, and her grand daughter Robin Murray O'Hare were murdered and mutilated by the former office manager of the American Atheists, David Roland Waters. The details are complex but it appears to have been the result of a financial dispute. Kyrie Eleison.

To me it is heartening to note that her son William J Murray is now the leader of a Christian church and author of My Life Without God. 

Western critics of Christianity, who are usually comfortably off,  should take a hard look at the world and ask themselves whether there are any nations without a Christian heritage where they would rather live. The West can be criticized for its past and it repeatedly rebukes itself; but by what standards, if not those of Christ?

John Sears

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Deep mystery of existence.7.Ten trillion stars to make you

A curious aspect of the universe we live in, i.e. the only one in this dimension, is that it is designed and engineered accurately for the emergence and evolution of civilization.


It was created ex nihilio (out of existential nothingness) 13.8 billion years ago. It had certain starting conditions and physical constants and has proceeded to evolve in a purposeful way, from the first elementary particles to the atoms to the molecules to clouds of gas to stars to galaxies to planets, culminating in intelligent, self-conscious beings on this planet (quite possibly uniquely, judging by observations of exoplanets, stars and galaxies to date) able to peer across space and time to deduce the time and nature of the original creation event. The planet on which this life has emerged is special to say the least, as is the accompanying moon,  the sun, the solar system, its position in  the Milky Way Galaxy and the properties of the MWG itself. 

Our perception is swinging back to a pre-Copernican one. Although we are small and non-central in space as we orbit the sun rather than vice versa, we could well be the centre of consciousness of the universe. It is in a sense like the centre of consciousness of a supertanker being the captain, who is much smaller than the ship and not in a central position, although he has a good view from the bridge just as we have a possibly uniquely good view of the universe.

It is well known that the size of the observable universe is vast, 93  billion light years across,  as is the number of stars it contains (10 with 23 zeros, i.e. 100 billion trillion, is probably on the conservative side). What is not so well known is that for life to be here on this planet now the universe has to be this size and in its present configuration. During its early development its mass had to be what it was then (the same as now in fact) to within the mass of a single coin.

(Incidentally it is not commonly mentioned in the popular science media that had the earth been formed slightly later the sun would have been too hot for life to start and no stars would be visible in the sky any way because the universe would have been expanding too fast. Had the earth started earlier the sun would again be in the wrong part of its cycle and the sky would be one brilliant mass of light with no individual celestial object visible because the stars would have been too closely crammed together at that  time in cosmic history.)

All the atoms, stars and galaxies of stars have to be exactly as they are for us to exist. They have somehow been moved and configured and tuned since the Big Bang to make humankind. If the original mass of the universe had been infinitesimally different there would be no living thing in the cosmos. Every person is totally dependent on whatever agency brought him or her into existence, the parents being just the last link in the chain that 'began' as a  deliberate cosmic manufacturing process by a  Creator, operating from outside of space-time, in another dimension. 

Another startling discovery of modern physics is that every particle in the universe is able to interact with any other particle in the universe - past, present or future. (Quantum entanglement.) So the idea that all that huge expanse is connected with us is made increasingly real, albeit impossible to comprehend. The famous line 'No man is an island' by John Donne (1572-1631) has never been more apt, reflecting poetically something which would not be discovered until 4 centuries later. The old 19th century mechanistic, Newtonian, Darwinian reductionist view of the universe is now seen as an outdated, mentally stifling approximation of what is really there. 

How many of us are there? Rounding up let us say 10 billion.

A simple piece of arithmetic: divide 100 billion trillion (assuming this estimate for the number of stars to be correct - it may be much more) by 10 billion.  The answer is 10 trillion, which, incidentally, is equal to the number of cells in the body  - one star for every cell. In a way this is what one would expect. A body cell comprises trillions of atoms expertly arranged to perform a specific function or range of functions, so vast resources are needed to make the atoms it needs and somehow intelligence is invoked in a way that surpasses understanding.

If, as I believe is the only rational explanation, the Creator has made this universe in order to bring us into being, you may wonder at his wastefulness. But what if there is no other way? Just to make a can for a soft drink or beer takes enormous resources and the most elaborate world communication and transport processes. Large amounts of waste are produced as a by product and have to be disposed of. Even if you divide the total consumption of energy and resources by the number of cans of drink it must still be huge. Similarly with the construction of our planet and its 7 billion inhabitants. Unimaginably large amounts of materials and energy are left over but unless they had been there to be left over, and in the quantities observed, there would be no human civilization. (See story of a drinks can on this blog.)  

Just to make a unicellular organism, an incredibly complex work of engineering, requires an immense amount of organization and bringing together of the right trace elements and building blocks and putting them together in an intelligent way. So is it surprising that it takes a whole universe to produce human civilization?

In a sense the Creator has in  His abundant love and omnipotence made 10 trillion stars (and much else) in order that you can exist in physical form and be conscious of the created order around you  and think, love, hate, create, destroy, perceive beauty and ugliness, seek truth or falsehood, desire justice, practice honesty or dishonesty, forgive or avenge, be loyal or disloyal, proud or humble, and experience a whole spectrum of sensations via the five senses and spiritually.

So when you look at the night sky don’t think you are not important to God.


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Friday 3 April 33 AD, 3 p.m.: the Crucifixion?

Scholars have previously looked at astronomical, historical and Biblical evidence and been unable to agree on the dates of Christ’s birth and Crucifixion to better than within than a few years. Nor have they known what to make of the reference to the star of Bethlehem in Matthew chapter 2 – was it a comet, a supernova or a planetary conjunction or a spiritual light? 

But as techniques of investigation improve this
situation is fast changing and I invite you to look at the YouTube video (endorsed by senior staff from NASA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science).

The following is derived mainly from this video and you may find it useful to read before and after watching - a kind of summary.

On the video Rick Larson explains  how he went about investigating these questions using

  • Computer simulations of the night sky seen from Jerusalem and Babylon in the first decade BC
  • Reasonable assumptions about the Magi based on the records of Philo of Alexander (15 BC to 50 AD), a Jewish philosopher

  • Careful reading of the biblical accounts of the conception, birth, ministry and Crucifixion of Jesus
  • The accurate prophecy of Daniel while a captive in Babylon
  • Historical records of the Jewish king Herod and the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate

  • Traditional Jewish feast dates (e.g. the Crucifixion must have been in a year in which Preparation Day fell on a Friday)

  • Astrological symbolism in the ancient world (including Roman and Biblical)

Putting it all together he arrives at entirely credible conclusions about the dates of history’s most important events. (NB: the dates giving Jesus’s life as appearing to occur before His birth arise from the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. It has long been agreed that Jesus was born some time in the first decade BC.)

Subsequent evaluations of Larson's analysis by scholars are unable to seriously question this work. It seems to me, as a layman, that the conclusions reached below rest primarily on the assumption that the Jewish historian Josephus (writing around 90 AD) gave 1 BC as the date of Herod the Great's death, since it narrows down the date of Christ's birth. Traditionally, there has been a consensus that Herod died in 4 BC but looking into it as far as I am able it appears that the earlier Josephus manuscripts do indeed give a date of 1 BC. Apparently, there was a misprint in subsequent copies. The evidence is, I understand, in the British Museum.

September 3 BC: The conception.

The Magi (wise men or astrologers, probably known as the Eastern School)) in Babylon would have seen the king planet Jupiter making a triple pass of Regulus, the king star of Leo (the symbol of the tribe of Judah; see, for example, Rev 5:5), also known as Rex by the Romans and Sharu (king) by the Magi. They would also have seen Virgo rising with the new crescent moon at her feet, reflecting the startling imagery of Rev 12:1-2. Larson confesses that much of Revelation is incomprehensible  and makes the point that it deals with past and future events. My view is that prophecies are rarely unambiguous until after the event, at which juncture they become understandable and serve to strengthen faith in the existence of order in God's overall plan which 'surpasses all understanding'. [I have recently read a commentary on Revelation by Bishop Tom Wright and he makes the point that much of the imagery refers to simultaneously existing aspects of reality, not a sequence of events (e.g. when each of the 7 trumpets is blown it portrays a different aspect).]

June 2 BC: the birth

Venus the mother planet was in conjunction with Jupiter the King. Venus is the brightest object in the sky, besides the sun and moon, while Jupiter is the second brightest. The two of them close together in the sky, appearing to be one, would have been a brilliant spectacle for the Magi as they looked west towards Judea from Babylon. 

Later in 2 BC: the Magi arrive in Jerusalem

They announced that the King of the Jews had been born, causing widespread puzzlement, sceptism and rejoicing by the Jews and paranoia by King Herod.

December 2 BC: the Magi visit the Messiah

As the Magi moved south from Jerusalem towards Bethlehem Jupiter would appear to be stationary in the sky over Bethlehem because of its retrograde motion, as calculated by the computer model, in accord with Matthew chapter 2.

3 April 33 AD: the Crucifixion

The accuracy of this date derives from the recorded fact that the event occurred at a particular time on the Jewish calendar of feasts and festivals. It also corresponds to Daniel’s prophecy (9:25) and circumstantial evidence in the Annals of Tacitus. Biblical data on the length of Christ’s ministry also helps tie it down.  Matthew gives the time of physical death as about 3 p.m. At this time the computer simulation shows that the moon was eclipsed, and would have appeared blood red as it rose above the horizon that evening at the feet of Virgo, in accord with biblical references which Larson gives (e.g. Acts 2:14-21, which quotes the Prophet Joel).

Quoting Larson:

the moon rose already in eclipse, already bloody, fulfilling Joel’s vision. Necessarily, this means that the eclipse commenced before moonrise. With software we can look below the horizon and see Earth’s shadow begin the eclipse. When we do, we find that at 3 PM, as Jesus was breathing his last on the cross, the moon was going to blood. 

The sky at Christ’s birth can be viewed as a kind of visual poetry, with the new moon symbolically “birthed” at the foot of Virgo, the virgin. To complete that celestial poem, on the night of Jesus’ death the moon had returned to the foot of the virgin. But now it was a full moon. A life fully lived, blotted out in blood.

The references in Matthew and Mark to the darkening of the sky  and to earthquakes are thought to be related to  terrestrial phenomena known to have occurred in the area. This is being investigated. Incidentally, in my view it is often the timing of biblical events which has a supernatural significance, rather than the event itself. On the other hand at least one quantum physicist investigating the Shroud of Turin claims to have found evidence of an event horizon associated with the cloth. If the cloth is genuinely associated with the Resurrection of Christ this would support the belief that the whole universe was affected, in a sense reborn (the Cosmic Christ, a belief which stretches back to the early Christian mystics).

  The DVD ends with a computer simulation showing what an astronaut standing on the earth-side of the moon would have seen in the sky at the time of Jesus’s physical death.  I don’t want to give this away but the position is of enormous biblical significance.

The website and DVD explain all this and much more. The research is attracting a lot of interest and is ongoing.

What all this means to me as a Christian I am not sure. I had always assumed that such a degree of certainty would never be reached and in a sense the details do not matter. Yet if further research makes this irrefutable it will strongly suggest that events in human history are indeed synchronized to the clockwork unfolding of the universe. It is already becoming accepted that much of the living world is governed by biological clocks, certainly in plants, and that these are even synchronised to each other - so why not the whole biosphere? Could there be a master clock that governs the unfolding of the entire cosmos? A kind of elementary particle, the U-bit , which interacts with every particle in the universe has already been discussed in an article in the New Scientist.

 These relationships between human history and the aspects of the stars suggest a profound cosmic significance in the manifestation of the Creator in our world and the unfolding of the entire Creation. Should the latest investigations and analysis of the  Turin Shroud prove it to be  genuinely the burial shroud of Jesus and to exhibit unique, scientifically inexplicable   physical properties, the reality of the Resurrection, it would seem to me, should get through to the entire human race more vividly and significantly than ever. 

What this would mean for the humanity no mortal could possibly know but it won't stop people like me speculating.

Author 2077: Knights of Peace
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Thursday, 2 March 2017

The domestic dog, our enigmatic friend

image from How Stuff Works
Humans have been training, using and relating to dogs for 15,000 years, since the dawn of civilisation. How the domestic dog emerged from wolves is not known: the DNA, archaeological and cultural evidence is confusing. Selective breeding is obviously involved but an experiment with a population of silver foxes in Russia shows that dog-like tameability can be cultivated over 50 years: millenia are not required. (I'm not sure why foxes were chosen, as opposed to wolves, but I imagine the principle must be the same.)

I have never owned a dog and have tended to be rather wary of them; but recent news items and documentaries together with the insights of Hugh Ross in his  Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job have caused me to appreciate what remarkable and unique animals they are. You have probably observed or heard about at least some of their attributes  but you may not have seen them listed together so I hope the following list will be interesting and inspire you to think more about them.

Diversity within the species

Size and appearance vary enormously over some 200 varieties, ranging from the Pekingese to the Great Dane, yet we all recognise them as belonging to the same species. They have a unique genetic code which makes it possible to achieve this diversity by selective breeding. Even character traits differ with the breed and I wonder if this could have something to do with epigenetics, by which learned behaviour (e.g. hunting or retrieving in the case of our canine friends) can be passed on to at least the 3rd generation.

Sense of smell

This is staggering. They can detect the presence of one spoonful of sugar in a million gallons of water ( = 2 Olympic swimming pools). They can also locate the source of a smell because they have a nose in which the nostrils are far apart in relation to the diameter of each and are able to tweek each nostril independently. This obviously makes dogs very useful – e.g. in explosives detection and tracking by scent. See also the dog's dazzling sense of smell

Facial expressiveness

Humans see them as able to smile and look guilty. It makes it easier to relate to dogs more than any (or almost any?) other animal. Research by Alexandra Horowitz  (‘Disambiguating the ‘guilty look’: salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour’, Behavioural Processes, July 2009, p.447-52) indicates that the guilty expression is associated with the desire to please the owner, not with any innate sense of guilt as is felt by humans.

Facial recogniton

Dogs are able to recognise the face, not just the scent, of their owners, see this abstract from the Journal of vision.  They can also pick one out in a crowd and, again, experiments have eliminated the possibility of scent. Dogs can recognise other dogs from hundreds of photographs of all shapes and sizes.

Ability to read cues or read minds

Dogs sometimes seem able to read minds but research by Mark Petter et al (‘Can dogs detect human deception?’, Behavioural Processes, October 2009, p.109-18) suggests that in fact they are picking up subtle visual cues. Yet there is so much anecdotal evidence of telepathy that this question must remain open. I know of cases where a dog can detect whether its owner is on the way home from work, although it could be that he is picking up the owner’s scent.

Consolation of humans in distress

Sensitivity to human distress is widely reported and research by Custance and Mayer reported in the Economist (July 30 2012) on a dog’s tendency to console a person who is crying confirms that this is a real phenomenon. The behaviour is definite but could it be that the dog’s hypersensitivity to smell detects certain olfactory signals which the body may emit when emotionally distressed? In any case, it is a remarkable gift to a person in distress.


It is well known that dogs normally show great loyalty to their owners and respond to their affections.


Many owners report signs of jealousy and I came across this report of an experiment reporting this.

Trainability and usefulness

Of all the animals there is something about dogs that makes them more trainable than any other. This together with their skills and attributes make them extremely useful and companionable to humans.

Servants to the lost, the blind and the sick

The ability of dogs to track escaped criminals, retrieve prey, catch pests, herd sheep, rescue victims in disaster zones, act as guides for the blind or partially sighted and sooth the anxious is well known. It is also generally accepted that owners of dogs live longer and healthier lives. However, recently there have been startling findings on their use in detecting dangerously lowblood sugar levels in diabetics and in warning of epileptic attacks, typically ten minutes ahead.  Dogs can also detect cancer long before it can be diagnosed by modern medicine.

All the above is not to say that dogs can’t also be problems if adopted as pets or working dogs by the wrong owners or owners in the wrong circumstances.  Yet in the history of civilisation they have had an overwhelmingly positive role, one that continues to grow.

 The average neo-Darwinist evolutionary biologist will interpret all this as the product of random mutations, the laws of physics, natural selection, domestication and breeding by human beings. This is a very restricted (boring?) and materialistic view of reality. As a Christian I think these remarkable creatures are also gifts from God to us and that we, unlike any other creature, are made in the image of God, the imago dei. Which is why we are writing blogs about dogs, protecting them against cruelty and organising dog shows; and they are not having international conferences on us. They are there to reflect the human soul and teach us how to relate to God, perhaps because they are in a sense closer to God, being free of egotistical self consciousness.

 See also Scientific American blog and links

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