These Times

Vol. 28 No. 3 | Mar-Apr 2018

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SCIENTIFIC RETRACTIONS ARE COMMON

In 2010, two science writers observed that scientific retractions were more common than the general public knew and were often not announced; nor were the reasons for retractions publicized. One result was that other researchers and the public were making decisions based on invalid scientific results.

In response, the two writers—Ivan Oransky (Vice President and Global Editorial Director of MedPage Today) and Adam Marcus (editor of Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News) started Retraction Watch—a blog that increases scientific retraction transparency.

It was estimated previously that about 80 papers were retracted annually. But in its first year, Retraction Watch reported 200 retractions from prestigious publications—retractions that would have been unknown except to a privileged few.

A highly important 2016 retraction was a Nature Chemistry article claiming to have facilitated the replication of RNA in an attempt to explain the origin of life on earth. Jack Szostak, a Nobel Laureate from Harvard University, had conducted the research along with collaborating scientists.

One of Szostak’s team members, Tivoli Olsen, realized she had misread the data when the results of the original experiment could not be reproduced. Speaking to Retraction Watch, Szostak conceded, “In retrospect, we were totally blinded by our belief [in our findings]…we were not as careful or rigorous as we should have been (and as Tivoli was) in interpreting these experiments.”

Ann Gauger, an author for the Evolution News & Science Today blog, and developmental biologist, commented on Szostak and Olsen’s integrity for initiating the retraction: “Scientists are human, and they desire certain outcomes that fit with strongly held beliefs.”

Science is the god of the intellectual elite. Yet the best it can offer its devotees are findings that are sometimes inaccurate, misleading, non-reproducible, or patently false. As scientists themselves increase the transparency surrounding retractions, it reveals the best and worst of science.

Christians uphold the active scientific investigation of God’s natural world. Yet they also understand that humans, finite and prone to error, must place their ultimate confidence in the revelation of God’s Word as they interpret evidence. “‘Definitely embarrassing:’ Nobel Laureate retracts non-reproducible paper in Nature journal,” Retraction Watch, Dec. 5, 2017.

PICTURE BOOK PROPAGANDA

How does a mother explain to her little boy that his grandfather has decided to transition as a woman? That “grandpa” is now “grandma?”

She writes a children’s picture book! Which is exactly what Jessica Walton of Melbourne, Australia did.

The plot of Introducing Teddy is simple: Thomas the Teddy is very sad—so sad that his friend Errol asks what’s wrong. But Thomas isn’t sure that it’s safe to share his feelings: “If I tell you, you might not be my friend anymore,” he explains. Finally, he admits that he’s always known that he is a girl instead of a boy. For Thomas, transitioning means wearing a pink bow and changing “her” name (and pronoun) to Tilly.

Walton’s book is hardly a first. A growing number of picture books are being used by social engineers to explain the upside-down world of gender fluidity to children. Britain’s secretary of state enthusiastically promotes an initiative called Educate and Celebrate, specifically for “transforming schools and organizations into LGBT-friendly places.” Picture books are a strategic way to achieve that goal.

Pushback groups like UK’s Parent Power are concerned that children, who are much more concrete in their thinking about the outside world, “are becoming instruments of gender-fluid ideology, as the social landscapes around them dissolve into a mirroring fluidity.”

In the US, where educational initiatives are more local than national, the American Library Association leads the way in advancing gender fluidity. In About Chris (2015), the protagonist is a girl who feels like a boy. Tiny, in Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? (2017), could be either. Red: A Crayon’s Story (2015), is about a blue crayon in a red wrapper who can’t meet society’s expectations for coloring strawberries and fire trucks. “It’s assumed that a 4-year-old will absorb the underlying message of learning to act like your true self (even though most 4-year-olds understand that crayons are androgynous),” writes Janie Cheaney, a columnist for World magazine.

While the stated purpose of the majority of these books is to help children accept transgender classmates or relatives, questioning their own gender identity may actually come first. “A survey released in December by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research classifies a whopping 27 percent of California youth (ages 12–17) as ‘gender non-conforming’” (i.e., some stripe of LGBT).

It’s quite a bold statistic, more than 1 in 4, especially for the ages represented. And although it might be less representative of children’s views in other parts of the US and the world, it represents an alarming growth of gender confusion among the next generation. Dissolving Identities,” World, Feb. 17, 2018.

38 MINUTES OF TERROR

Boasts by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in 2017 that US territory (Guam and Hawaii) is now within range of his missiles has prompted Hawaiian officials to begin testing missile warning systems and to urge residents to make emergency plans. Given the missiles’ range and speed, Hawaiians have been told that they likely have 20 minutes to seek shelter.

At 8:09 am, on Jan. 13, 2018, an employee at the Hawaiian Emergency Management Agency initiated a missile alarm that went to all cellphones in the state: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Warnings interrupted TV programs all over the state, pressing residents to “take shelter.”

Sheer panic erupted over the Hawaiian Islands. People ran into the streets, some diving into nearby storm drains, or running for concrete buildings; others crowded into bathtubs or basements. Desperate parents tore open concrete storm drains to tuck their children inside. Many people called family members and said tearful goodbyes. Others drove their cars at breakneck speeds to get to family members.

Some people confessed their sins and prayed for God’s protection. Worshipers gathering for an early morning mass were granted a hurried general absolution by a priest still in his tee-shirt. Others took stock of their lives and decided they had lived well without God, so why call on Him now? A number of people reported grabbing a bottle of beer or wine and deciding to go out in style.

A long 38 minutes later, authorities declared it a false alarm. David Ige, Hawaii state governor, apologized for the error, explaining to CNN, “It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the changeover of a shift, and an employee pushed the wrong button….” The employee maintains that he truly believed there was an incoming missile.

“The people of Hawaii were in shock and now [are] not happy,” wrote Silas Aiton, a news contributor who was at Waikiki, Honolulu, to the New Daily, an Australian news source, “especially with the end of the message saying ‘this is not a drill,’ the same announcement made during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.”

Overall, authorities fear that the false alarm could cause Hawaiians to distrust their emergency alert system. Others worry that a future false alarm could cause a deadly response from a volatile President Trump willing to trade insults and missiles with the “little rocket man” in Pyongyang, as he has derisively referred to Kim Jong-un.

If you knew that a nuclear weapon would hit your locality in 20 minutes, how would you spend that time? False ‘missile attack’ warning plunges Hawaii into panic and chaos,” thenewdaily.com.au, Jan. 14, 2018.

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