Current Events & Trends: May/June 2019

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May/June 2019

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Current Events & Trends: May/June 2019

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Expert on civilization collapse raises red flag

The BBC recently started, as part of its BBC Future department of stories, a new series of articles called “Deep Civilisation,” focused on “the long view of humanity.” Its stated intention is to “stand back from the daily news cycle and widen the lens of our current place in time” (“Deep Civilization, BBC”). The series’ description also points out: “Modern society is suffering from ‘temporal exhaustion,’ the sociologist Elise Boulding once said. ‘If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future,’ she wrote.”

Such musing can be a noble pursuit, this “wider lens” resulting in news analysis different from the usual “noise.”  The series further aims to “explore what really matters in the broader arc of human history and what it means for us and our descendants.”

One of these “Deep Civilization” articles, titled “Are We on the Road to Civilisation Collapse?” (Feb. 19, 2019), presents some worrisome trends. The author, Luke Kemp, is a researcher based at Cambridge University’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. Extrapolating forward from history and present conditions, he offers some conjecture about what could bring us down. And he’s not optimistic about where things seem to be headed. 

While some of his concerns are debatable, Dr. Kemp importantly notes that our societies being linked as never before can lead to greater problems on the world scene:

“Worryingly, the world is now deeply interconnected and interdependent. In the past, collapse was confined to regions—it was a temporary setback … Moreover, the weapons available during social disorder were rudimentary: swords, arrows and occasionally guns.

“Today, societal collapse is a more treacherous prospect. The weapons available to a state, and sometimes even groups, during a breakdown now range from biological agents to nuclear weapons.”

He offers this sobering analogy: “Think of civilisation as a poorly-built ladder. As you climb, each step that you used falls away. A fall from a height of just a few rungs is fine. Yet the higher you climb, the larger the fall. Eventually, once you reach a sufficient height, any drop from the ladder is fatal.

“With the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we may have already reached this point of civilisational ‘terminal velocity.’ Any collapse—any fall from the ladder—risks being permanent. Nuclear war in itself could result in an existential risk: either the extinction of our species, or a permanent catapult back to the Stone Age.”

Kemp concludes by telling us to keep our eyes and ears open: “We will only march into collapse if we advance blindly. We are only doomed if we are unwilling to listen to the past.”

A biblical proverb comes to mind about an attitude that brings calamity: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 Proverbs 16:18Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added). Bible prophecy shows that cataclysmic events truly are coming on our civilization. But the causes are outside the understanding of the world’s prognosticators, and these events will not end the way they think. To learn more about what lies ahead, read our free study guide Are We Living in the Time of the End? (Source: BBC.)

 


 

Hubble analysis reveals larger universe, more stars than expected

Despite tremendous advances in cosmology, as well as imaging and analysis technologies, scientific understanding of the size, structure and content of the universe is not well understood—as recent findings continue to demonstrate (in stark contrast to the authoritative tone of many textbooks).

The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF) images are a startling example of both the developments taking place as well as the limitations of our current knowledge. In 2003, the HUDF project began capturing light from a small patch of space that appeared completely dark in previous imaging. The original results, involving about 100 hours’ worth of exposure time, revealed that this dark patch of sky was teeming with galaxies—more than 10,000 of them, each with millions of stars of its own! (Nadia Drake, “When Hubble Stared at Nothing for 100 Hours,”   National Geographic, April 24, 2015).

Numerous additional exposures from the Hubble telescope, combined with groundbreaking image processing techniques, have revealed even more from what was once thought to be “a patch of sky filled with absolutely nothing remarkable” (ibid.). A 2012 composite of 230 more hours of exposure while focused on this same area yielded a “deeper” image, picking up even fainter light signatures from more distant galaxies (Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, “Making the Hubble’s Deepest Images Even Deeper,” Phys.org, Jan. 24, 2019).

The latest surprise was published in the academic journal Astronomy and Astrophysics in January 2019, when improved composition methods applied to the same images analyzed in 2012 detected much more light than prior techniques revealed, showing some galaxies almost twice as large as previously measured, equating to billions more stars hidden in plain sight!

The trend in cosmology is upward revision in the estimated size of the universe—new findings indicating greater complexity are confounding expert predictions. Even more remarkable is that this concerns just the observable universe. It’s been commonly accepted that far more galaxies lie beyond a point where no light is able to reach the earth at all, meaning they cannot be observed by any telescope we could build!

Through great effort, mankind has merely begun to glimpse the breadth and magnificence of what our Creator has made. Meanwhile, God “counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Psalms 147:4-5 Psalms 147:4-5 4 He tells the number of the stars; he calls them all by their names. 5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
American King James Version×
). (Sources: National Geographic, Phys.org.)

 


 

U.S. recognizes Israel’s claim to long-disputed Golan Heights

Facing a seemingly endless battle against implacable foes, the state of Israel has constant concern over its security.

Earlier this year on its southwestern border, “Israel’s military said it struck dozens of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip and the Islamist group launched numerous rockets into its territory, raising the risk of a wide-scale conflict two weeks before an Israeli election”—this after Israel declared Hamas responsible for an earlier attack (Dov Lieber and Felicia Schwartz, “Israel Strikes Hamas Targets in Gaza After Rocket Attack Near Tel Aviv,” The Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2019).

The same week U.S. President Donald Trump, who has shown himself a stalwart ally of Israel, signed an official proclamation recognizing the Golan Heights region in the opposite part of the country, northeastern Israel next to Syria, as territory belonging to Israel.

This elevated land overlooking northern Israel, including the Sea of Galilee, is strategically valuable. The Syrian military used to regularly fire artillery shells  at Israeli settlements in Galilee from here until Israel seized the Golan Heights after being attacked in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Since then, holding on to this territory has been considered vital to Israeli security.

Following President Trump’s recognition of this area as rightfully belonging to Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that territory seized from an aggressor in war does not necessarily have to be returned, as many contend. “‘There is a very important principle in international life,’ Mr. Netanyahu said [March 25] after attending the Golan signing ceremony at the White House. ‘When you start wars of aggression, you lose territory, do not come and claim it afterwards. It belongs to us” (David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner, “Netanyahu Says Golan Heights Move ‘Proves You Can’ Keep Occupied Territory,” The New York Times, March 26, 2019).

Israel’s annexation of the Golan was and remains a defensive move, and some see the same rationale for continued control over and even possible annexation of the so-called “West Bank” area, also captured in the 1967 war.

The volatility of this region will remain a continual focus for our publication. Jerusalem is at the center of major prophetic events leading to the return of Jesus Christ. The ongoing feud we see in the Middle East is not a conflict that will go away before that. No political negotiating or maneuvering will bring real and lasting peace here. This area will not know true peace until Jesus Christ returns and establishes a Kingdom of peace. Read our free study guide The Middle East in Bible Prophecy to learn more. (Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times. )

 


 

Erosion of privacy continues

In January 2019, an investigation by the online technology news organization TechCrunch blew the whistle on the “Facebook Research” app, resulting in the app being withdrawn and banned from Apple’s app store. The report noted, “Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android ‘Facebook Research’ app” (Josh Constine, “Facebook Pays Teens to Install VPN That Spies on Them,” TechCrunch.com, Jan. 29, 2019).

The age of social networking has brought individual privacy concerns to the forefront. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and others are engaging ways to keep in touch with family and friends. However, many have come to recognize that these are actual businesses whose primary commodities are our attention and personal information—both of which they leverage to sell highly targeted advertising space. As the saying goes, “If you’re not paying for it, you are the product.” 

What is most troubling about this development is that it encouraged teenagers as young as 13 to voluntarily sell even more detailed data than what Facebook already regularly collects from its users.

One could argue that adults have the right to sell their private information, but targeting children who do not fully understand the potential negative impact of such a decision is wrong. This is a disturbing step beyond merely making children’s information into a commodity, and it’s already the accepted business model of these companies.

Proverbs 15:21 Proverbs 15:21Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walks uprightly.
American King James Version×
says, “Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment, but a man of understanding walks uprightly.” The allure of social media, especially for teenagers, is partly fueled by peer influence or fear of missing out on what friends are doing online. Sadly, the call to “have fun” is too often not tempered by an assessment of the risks or consequences.

The underhanded data collection and privacy invasion committed recently by Facebook will no doubt be repeated in numerous ways by other companies, and represents just one small way that technological advancements are changing the world in which we live. We must be watchful and discerning, now more than ever. (Source: TechCrunch.)

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