These Times

Vol. 25 No. 4 | May-Jun 2015

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STEPPING UP THE SEARCH FOR ALIENS

For the past 30 years, The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) institute has used sophisticated radio telescopes to search for evidence of other life forms in the universe. So far, the results have been disappointing. At a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, CA, SETI’s director Dr. Seth Shostak stated that it is “time to step up the search” by broadcasting, not just listening for signals.

Some scientists believe that actively seeking such an encounter isn’t likely to be positive, citing the less than friendly outcomes from when primitive peoples and industrially advanced cultures met in previous centuries. Shostak downplays the potential for hostilities: “Any society that could come here and ruin our whole day by incinerating the planet already knows we are here.” (Implying that if aliens do exist and also have hostile intents, they would have fulfilled those intents by now.) “Scientists in US are urged to seek contact with aliens,” BBC News, February 12, 2015.

This strange fascination to find alien life, while ignoring Bible truths about good and evil beings that share our universe, could set intelligent people up for disastrous deceptions. The Bible describes how Satan masquerades as a being of light and beauty to deceive. 2 Corinthians 11:14. If it suits his purposes he will be delighted to appear as an alien benefactor, full of wisdom and practical solutions for our planet’s woes. You may be sure, however, that he will not encourage those he charms to follow the plain teachings of the Bible.

A POPE FOR ALL PEOPLE

Only six months before his first visit to the US, and just two years into his reign, Pope Francis’ approval ratings are at an all-time high. A recent Pew Research Study (February 2015) found that a striking 90 percent of all US Catholics view the pope favorably, and nearly 60 percent have a “very favorable” view. This nearly unanimous approval is comparable to their views of Pope John Paul II in the 1980s and ‘90s.

But the pope’s popularity isn’t limited to Catholics. Six-in-ten Protestants and two thirds of the religiously unaffiliated (those who profess no particular religion, or identify themselves as atheists or agnostics) also view him favorably. Americans over the age of 65 view him more favorably than those under 50, but even younger Americans express mostly positive opinions about him. “Both men and women give Francis a positive rating, and Republicans and Democrats are united in their esteem for him.” “In U.S., Pope’s Popularity Continues to Grow,” Pew Research Center, March 5, 2015.

The postmodern view that there is no absolute truth (a contradiction in itself) has prepared the masses to downplay concerns with the Papacy’s ancient and unabated ambitions—world leadership. The pope’s growing popularity also corresponds with a decrease in Christianity’s concern for Bible truth and doctrinal distinctives. The Bible speaks of a time when the majority of Earth’s inhabitants will accept the Papacy’s claims for universal worship. Even twenty years ago, this prophecy seemed farfetched. Today, its possibility no longer seems implausible. See Revelation 13:8.

DROUGHT IN CALIFORNIA

As California continues to struggle under a prolonged four-year drought, Governor Brown announced stringent mandatory water regulations in an effort to cut usage by 25 percent. He made the announcement while standing on grass in the Sierra Nevadas typically covered with five feet of snow in early spring, but which has been reduced to 8 percent of its historical average. Throughout the spring and summer, Californians have relied on melting snow to fill the reservoirs which provide water for people and crops in the US’s top growing state.

Governor Brown’s announcement comes just weeks after NASA’s top water scientist, Jay Famiglietti, warned Californians in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that they only had a year’s-worth of water supply left in their reservoirs.

Already, 98 percent of the state is suffering from abnormally dry conditions, and 41 percent with exceptional drought. Ground in some regions of Central California is sinking a foot a year because of over-pumping of groundwater for agriculture.

Climatologists think that California and much of the Southwest may be entering a sustained drier weather pattern. Governor Brown emphasized that Californians will need to rethink their use of water for the long term.

Americans will face higher food prices and more imports as farmers in California cut food production and face increased costs of production. “As California’s Drought Worsens, Governor Announces New Water Restrictions,” abcnews.com, April 1, 2015.

THE SUPER-RICH JITTERY ABOUT INCOME INEQUALITY

The mood was jittery this year at the annual World Economic Forum (WEF)—an invitation-only summit of the world’s most wealthy and influential people. Days ahead of the economic summit, the respected anti-poverty group Oxfam released its annual statistics on global inequality—1 percent of the world’s population now own more than the remaining 99 percent.

Oxfam made headlines at last year’s summit with their report that the 85 richest people on the planet held the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.5 billion people). The charity said this year that the comparison was starker, with just 80 people owning the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion people, down from 388 people in 2010.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International and one of the six co-chairs at this year’s WEF, warned that “rising inequality is dangerous. It’s bad for growth and it’s bad for governance. We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for.”

Recent events like the Ferguson, Missouri police shooting and the Occupy protests around the United States have left the super-rich cold with worry. “I know hedge fund managers who are buying airstrips in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” said Robert Johnson, a former hedge fund director for Soros who was attending the forum. “Societies can tolerate income inequality if the income floor is high enough,” he added warily. But what happens when the income floor bottoms out and leaves many in a cycle of endless poverty?

Closing comments were given by Jim Wallis, a prominent Christian advocate for social justice. Wallis believes Ferguson was “a catalytic event” which brought a message from those who previously “didn’t matter.”“As inequality soars, the nervous super rich are already planning their escapes,” The Guardian, January 23, 2015.

The Bible warns that the rich will be held accountable by God for any wealth gained through oppression or deceit: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.” James 5:1–4.

The practical lessons from history remind us that when discontent reaches a boiling point, revolutions can erupt almost overnight by a seemingly minor event.

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