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I’m back!!!

12 Nov

You might have noticed that I haven’t written a blog post in months.  It’s not that I didn’t want to, I just didn’t have the time.  My university classes took all of my spare time this semester.  I do one external class and one internal class.  Since I can only dedicate two days per week to uni, I am usually one week behind in my external class, since it takes a few days for them to post the lecture after it happens, and by then it’s past my uni days.  This semester, however, my external class had an online quiz at the end of each week, so I had to keep up, which meant using my usual blogging time to watch lectures.

UrbMatinpost

Yesterday, I took my final exam for the year, and now I’m free until the end of February!!  It was a hard semester, but I really enjoyed my classes (resource sustainability and soil science) and hopefully I will get decent marks.  Not only was I watching lectures in my spare, usually non-uni time, but I also had to make a 6 minute documentary that was worth 35% of my resource sustainability grade.  In case you’re interested, here it is:

P.S. I plan to start blogging regularly again now WOOO!!!

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So busy

10 Aug

I haven’t written in ages (as you’ve probably noticed).  The between semesters break from university is over and I’m back into it.  This semester I’m doing two subjects, which is part time, but it’s still pretty full on.  One of my subjects is soil science, which is interesting, and I’m sure very useful, but the work load is very large.  We have a 2 hour lecture each week, followed by a 3 hour workshop immediately afterwards, which doesn’t give me much time to read the 1-2+ chapters of the text book and write lab reports.  I also have to memorise all of the orders and suborders of soils, and you’d be surprised at how many there actually are.

UrbMatinpost

 

I’m also taking resource sustainability, which is really interesting, but also time intensive since we have to take a quiz every week as well as researching a relevant topic, writing a report about it, and finally, making a six minute documentary about it.  I’m really excited about the documentary, but I’m also struggling to find time to keep up with the demands of both subjects.

So yeah, sorry about my lack of writing, but time is not on my side right now.

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A little rest

21 Jun

I haven’t checked my emails in over a week. My dirty laundry pile is way above the top of the hamper. I just washed dishes for and hour and a half. My chemistry final was yesterday, so all of my spare time leading up to it was spent studying. Next semester doesn’t start until the end of July, so I get to have a little rest. If you can call hanging out with an almost 5 year old rest. She too has a break between semesters. This will be the first time she’s been home during a school break. During the last one, she had 3 weeks off and I had only one, during which there was an intensive 3 day chemistry workshop.  Needless to say, she went to holiday care at school.  Daniel goes to daycare 2 days a week year round (and loves it).

I’m soooooooooooooo glad chemistry is finished. Down Under, you only need 50% (in most subjects) to pass the class, and I had 49.2% before the exam (which is worth 50% of our final grade), so I know I passed and won’t have to redo the class, which is nice. Of course I’m hoping to do a fair bit better than 50%, but chemistry is hard, and I didn’t know some of the stuff on the test, so I don’t want to get my hopes up too high.

The Australian marking/grading system (some schools differ a little bit)

The Australian marking/grading system (some schools differ a little bit)

Hannah and I already have heaps of plans for the school holidays: baking, cooking, gardening, clothes shopping, shoe shopping (her feet have had a sudden growth spurt and she no longer fits into her shoes), a trip to Costco with Romana and Violet, play dates, riding the train to Daddy’s work and eating lunch with him, making Violet’s birthday present…. I think that’s it for now, but I’m sure the list will grow.

UrbMatinpost

I would suggest there will be more blog posts during the school break, but since I won’t be by myself, I highly doubt that.  Sorry.

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one down, one to go

14 Nov

I’m almost finished.  Er…for the year anyway.  I still have 5 more to go.  Today’s final exam was pretty much my nemesis: math.  After what felt like millions of hours of studying, staring at the formulas I taped to the walls in the bathroom and kitchen and watching videos from Khan academy though, I think I did ok.  What a relief.  And I don’t have to do any more math classes ever again.

On Tuesday, I have my last exam for the year, and then a big summer break until the end of February/beginning of March.  Crazy as it is, I think I’ll get a higher grade in my math class then my food science class.

As soon as I finish my exam on Tuesday, I’m going straight to see a litter of beaglier (beagle x cavalier king charles spaniel) x mini foxy (which is apparently an Australian breed, so you probably have no idea what I’m talking about) puppies.

See how adorable beagliers are? (random photo from the internet)

See how adorable beagliers are? How can you look at this and not smile? (random photo from the internet)

If I like them (I’m sure I will), I’m going to buy one, and then pick it up on Christmas eve to surprise the kids on Christmas morning. They still have absolutely no idea.  I’ve been playing the “what would you name it” game with them to stealthily see what they’d like to name a puppy if we had one.

This is a puppy from the litter I'm going to see on Tuesday.  They are a few weeks older now though, and have their eyes open

This is a puppy from the litter I’m going to see on Tuesday. They are a few weeks older now though, and have their eyes open

“What would you name an elephant if you had one?”

“Rosie.” Hannah said.

“What would I name a goose?” Daniel asked me. “Dog.”

“That would be funny, a goose named Dog.” I told him.

“What would you name a dog if you had one?” I asked them, after naming heaps of other animals first, so they’d have no thoughts of actually getting a dog.

“Otis.” Hannah said, with Daniel echoing her a second later.

Did I mention I want to get a girl dog?  I don’t want  pee all over the kids’ swing set, sand pit, bikes, and all their other outside toys.  I’m not sure if neutered male dogs are supposed to stop marking their territory, but I’ve seen some that still do, and I don’t want to take that chance.

Looks like we’ll be stuck calling a female dog Otis.  I hope she doesn’t mind that much.

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Exams

7 Nov

I’ve almost made it through my first year of university.  Classes are finished for the year and all that remains are the dreaded tests.  Needless to say, I’ve been busy trying to cram math formulas (formulae?) and all things food science into my brain for easy recovery at test time. There hasn’t really been extra time for blog posts.

After the 19th though, I’m free for the summer.  No more studying.  No more tests. No more papers or presentations.  I’m definitely excited for the break.  I like uni, but I also like having time for my blog, reading the book series I’ve been trying to finish for the last two years, gardening, and finally unpacking the suitcase from my trip to the U.S. in September.  It’s still sitting next to my bed, waiting.  I tried to unpack it one day, but the kids started wreaking havoc in my bedroom, so I aborted the mission.  All of my kid free time is spent doing uni work, spending time with Aaron, or ironing, so there it sits.

Consequently, I won’t be blogging much for the next couple weeks.

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the last semester

12 Oct

I know, I haven’t posted in a while.  Sorry about that.  The Jess (my sister in law) is visiting, and I haven’t seen her in almost 4 months.  Plus I had a couple of university assignments due.  That’s the problem with the second half of the semester – all classes have assignments due at the same time, so every spare moment is spent researching, writing, and solving math problems. The first half of the semester seems to be pretty breezy.  You go to class, take notes, have a mid semester test, and that’s pretty much it.  Then the second half of the semester rolls around and we’ve learned enough to do something about it, which means we are given all sorts of papers and assignments to do, from each class, at the same time.

The Jess and me at the park (with the kids)

The Jess and me at the park (with the kids)

My math class (which is actually called Quantitative Thinking, but really, who can be bothered saying that when it’s just math work) is the worst.  For one thing, I HATE math.  I’m not at all good at it, and I haven’t done it since high school, except a bit of large format photography math about 10 years ago. I was fine at that math though, it actually made sense to me since we were using it in real world photography situations on a daily basis.  So I suck at math, and half of what we are supposed to do in our assignments wasn’t actually taught in the lectures.  Annoying right? Then I have to search the internet to find out how I’m supposed to solve these foreign looking problems, which takes heaps of extra time and makes me very cranky that we haven’t been taught the stuff in the first place.

25% of our math grade is based on group work, which is also very annoying.  It would be one thing if I were an internal student for that class, but I’m not.  I’m an external, internet based student.  I watch the lectures online, turn stuff in online, and don’t have to go to any face to face classes.  Group work is done online with people we’ve never met, in groups we were allocated to.  The group project is done 3 parts. There are 4 people in my group, 2 of which I didn’t even hear from despite repeated emails and group discussion board comments from me, and calls from the teacher (because I emailed him to say I hadn’t heard from people and I was leaving for another country before the assignment was due) until the day before the assignment was due.

We only got 70 something percent.  I don’t like getting below 85, which is a high distinction.  The second part of the assignment is due on Friday and once again, we haven’t heard from the same two people.  It sucks that we have to rely on others for 25% of our grade.  And that we got marked down for not answering math questions in full sentences when none of the paperwork told us to.

Anyway, I only have something like 3 weeks of classes left, then a couple study weeks, then final exams and I’m done.  I have one more assignment, which is a group presentation about honey for my food science class, due in two weeks.  So don’t be surprised if I don’t write very often for a while.  University is intense, especially at this time of year.  But then I’ll have a break from the middle of November until the end of February/beginning of March.

Hooray for that.

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The big trip

11 Sep

Tomorrow, I have a test.  The very first one for my Food Science class.  I’ve been studying, making notes, and trying to ingrain all the stuff we’ve learned so far into my brain.  I also have a group assignment due for my Quantitative Thinking class, which is my online, “external” class.  In the internal version, the groups meet up and work out the math problems together.  They even have to take minutes during their meetings and submit them with the assignment.  But online?  We can’t do that.  We don’t live near each other, or have any sort of face to face contact.  There are 5 people, including myself, in the group.  Only one other person has bothered to check the group discussion board to get the ball rolling on the project which is due next week.

5 days ago, I wrote on the board that we should divide up the work, then put it on the collaborative file, check each others work, and then turn it in.  We have to turn it in as one.  We are supposed to have a group manager who takes on the turning in and filling out the cover sheet jobs.  The other girl wanted to get started but didn’t want to be manager or be responsible for dividing up the work, so I took charge, divided it all up, and am now crossing my fingers that the other three will actually do their work.  I would be manager, but I’m going to the U.S. on Friday. By myself.

Yes, BY MYSELF.  As in no kids.  No Aaron.  All by myself.  Aaron will be at home doing Daddy daycare whilst I fly to Minnesota for my cousin (who’s more like my sister) Jennifer’s wedding.  Can you feel my excitement as you read this?  Did I mention I’m going by myself?  Don’t get me wrong, I love my family more than words can convey, and I’ll miss the like crazy, but I’ll be able to go to the bathroom with the door shut and no one will bang on the door and scream because they want to be where I am.  Who am I kidding, I don’t even shut the door anymore, it’s just easier to leave it hanging open so the kids can come in while I do my business.

I can drink a cup of tea without having to put it up high in between sips so curious hands don’t burn themselves.  I can go to the shops without having to constantly tell anyone to stop running off, stop touching everything, stop jumping in the cart, stop trying to jump out of the cart, stop throwing things, stop sitting on the groceries, etc. etc., followed by tantrums on the supermarket floor with everyone looking at me.  I don’t have to worry about mountains of laundry and dishes, toys everywhere, poopy nappies, or overnight wake ups due to teething or a blocked nose for 11 whole days (including the flights).

I had grand plans of finally finishing the book series I’ve been reading for the past two years, but never get time to sit down and read, watching movies on my iPad or the screen on the back of the seat in front of me, or even catching up on sleep during the plane ride.  Instead, I’m going to write my orange juice report for food science. Maybe I can do all the leisurely things on the way back.

So if I don’t write for a while, it’s because I have a test, an assignment, an international flight, and then bridesmaid duties.

And all the while, I’ll be missing Aaron and the kids like crazy.

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Tips for going back to university

29 Aug

Those of you who are regular readers know that I started a university course (Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.  I can imagine the intrigued/bewildered look on your face.  It’s the same look I get every single time I tell someone what I’m studying) part time this year.  I didn’t crash and burn in the first semester, and am part way through the second semester.

Going from stay at home mom to part time uni student wasn’t a leisurely stroll through the park though, so here are my tips for going back to uni, or as in my case, going to uni for the first time, as a mature aged student.

1. If you’re planning to do a course part time, make sure the course you want to do allows for part time study.  Even if the course handbook doesn’t specify, email the advisor to find out.  My course wasn’t listed as both part time and full time, but I made the effort to ask and was pleasantly surprised.

2. If studying externally is conducive to your learning style, see if you can do some, or all classes this way.  I did one class externally the first semester and one internally, as I am this semester, and it really helped with time management.  Not having to travel to the campus more than once per week meant I had more time for actual learning and studying.  Instead of sitting in a lecture for two hours, I watched the lecture on my iPad at home whilst doing the dishes.  I watched  (mostly listened) the weeks lecture every time I did the dishes, which helped all the info sink in and made the mundane task of doing dishes more bearable. As a mom, multi tasking like this is critical or there just isn’t enough time in the week to do all of the uni work, house work, and spending time with the kids and husband.  Some campuses have many online university courses available.

3. Figure out your learning style so you can study more efficiently.  Several websites have tests like this to help you, and most give suggestions on how to study based on your style.

4. Find out if you need a parking permit to park on campus.  At my uni, a parking ticket costs the same amount as an entire semesters parking pass.  And security checks the parking lot all the time.  A parking fine is not what you need in your first couple days of uni.

5. Find out which groups your university has and join any that you are interested in.  It’s a great way to meet peers, and get you involved in university life whilst making you feel like less of an outsider.

6. Realise that you are not an outsider.  There are so many mature aged students.  There may only be 11 people doing my particular course, but I’m fairly certain that we are all mature aged.  External classes are particularly high in mature aged students.

Me ready for a debate for my scientific literacy class

Me ready for a debate for my scientific literacy class

7. If you have kids, talk to Centrelink about your eligibility for childcare rebates.  As a student in NSW, you are entitled to get 50% of childcare fees back if you meet certain conditions and study hours.

8. Most campuses have on site childcare with reduced fees for students, which could obviously be quite helpful.

9. Talk to your partner or friends about what you learn to help it sink in.  I’m not sure that Aaron was very interested in hearing all about the biodiversity of life on Earth, but he humoured me anyway, and it helped me retain the info better.

10. Find out where your lecture theaters, and other classrooms are before your first session so you don’t wander around lost and end up finding it late, opening the door, and having everyone look at you as you enter when the teacher is in the middle of speaking. Plus you’ll feel less nervous if you know where you’re going.

*This post was brought to you by Swinburne University

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Food science

2 Aug

University just got more interesting.  This semester, one of my two classes is Food Science 1.  I like food, and I like science, so goodness me, this is going to be good.

I had my first lecture for food science yesterday and found my entire course of 11 people sitting together in the second row of the lecture theatre, with all the kids from the nutrition and dietician courses scattered everywhere else.  I was sitting there too but didn’t realise they were all in my course until the one person I did know introduced me to everyone.  I just like to sit up front because I’m a nerd like that. I’m rather pleased that they are all nerds like that too.

I’m going to learn a lot about food this semester, supplementing my newfound knowledge, I will be attending workshops every other week in a lab/kitchen.  In the first lab, we will be making fresh orange juice, and then testing it to find out some of it’s nutritional profile.  Things will get interesting when we do the same tests on long life orange juice that you find on the non-refrigerated shelves of supermarkets, as well as bottled juice you find in the cold section.  Now those results will be interesting!!

We get to do the same thing with yogurt (and yes, we get to make our own, which is good because I have made my own before, but it never turns out very well), bread, and sausages.  I’m really looking forward to the bread workshop.  Every single bread available for purchase seems to contain soy, but 93% of the world’s soy is genetically modified (and by genetically modified, I don’t mean a long history of selective breeding, I mean desired genes from a different organism, such as bacteria, are inserted into the DNA of a seed/crop).  Since I don’t particularly want to be a guinea pig for the long term health complications of GM food (Feeding studies of GM crops are generally undertaken by the very company that modified the seeds, and only last a maximum of 90 days.  There has been one independent lifetime feeding study in rats, lasting 2 years, with very scary results.  Although controversial, no one else has attempted a lifetime feeding study, so although GM foods claim to be safe, are they really? Do we really know in the long term?), I would like to avoid eating such things.  I’ve tried making my own bread, sans all the preservatives and soy, but it always comes out almost hard as a rock, and not very tasty.  Needless to say, I’d love to learn how to make it properly, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the nutritional test results.

Tumours on rats who ate GM corn in a lifetime feeding study (image courtesy of The Daily Mail)

Tumours on rats who ate GM corn in a lifetime feeding study (image courtesy of The Daily Mail)

This semester is certainly going to be interesting.  I’ll be sure to let you know the results of my orange juice, yogurt, and bread tests.  Hopefully you’re interested, but if not, sorry in advance, I’m going to write about it anyway.  It makes me feel better.

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Creationist in an evolution class

21 Jul

So, did completing a university class all about evolution make me discard my creationist beliefs in favour of the more popular theory of evolution?

image courtesy of Smithsonian

image courtesy of Smithsonian

Not. Even. Remotely.

“No scientists believe in Creation,” my lecturer said in one of the very first sessions “the only opposition to evolution comes from the uneducated.”

I should have put my hand up right then and there, but I didn’t.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe nerves.  Maybe because I didn’t want the possibly of being unfairly graded on assignments because of my beliefs.  I don’t know.  But I do know that there are plenty of university accredited biologists, physicists, chemists, etc. most with PhD’s, who believe in Creation.  There are at least two scientific journals written entirely by creation believing scientists (and I highly recommend Creation magazine, which is written so the non-science person can understand it).

As soon as I got home, I checked my textbook.  It at least it said that the majority of scientists believe in evolution.  Which is lucky, otherwise I would have been on the phone to it’s publishers causing all sorts of trouble.

We learned all about natural selection mechanisms like directional and disruptive selection, that lead to evolutionary change. In a lab, directional selection can be replicated artificially by breeding specific pairs of organisms.  Take fruit flies for example.  Scientists  picked out the flies with the most bristles on their abdomens and bred them together, repeating the process generation after generation until the bristle number increased dramatically.  They called this proof of evolution.

But is it really? We’re not seeing fruit flies turning into something else, they just have more bristles on their abdomens.  And the information for making bristles was already in their DNA.  It’s not something new.  Nothing has been added to their genome.

There are two different kinds of evolution though, micro evolution, and macro evolution.  Usually when people say evolution, you think the monkeys to man type.  That’s macro evolution.  But organisms are changing all the time.  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that.  There are new flu shots every year because of new strains.  Certain dogs have been bred over the years to be smaller and smaller until finally we have a teacup Chihuahua.  But it’s still a dog.  That’s micro evolution.  The fruit fly example is also micro evolution. Creationists have no problem with micro evolution.  In fact, it’s expected when all of humanity came from a single couple and then later from a single family post flood.

It’s expected in animals too.  God told Adam to bring two of each “kind” aboard the ark.  That doesn’t mean that he needed to bring a pair of zebras and a pair of horses and a pair of donkeys, they are all the same “kind,” and they can interbreed with one another.

A Zorse (zebra/horse). Image courtesy of wikipedia

A Zorse (zebra/horse). Image courtesy of wikipedia

Similarly, one pair of dogs would have been aboard the ark, once pair of chickens, and so on.  Yet today we see heaps of different dogs and horses and chickens because they diversified, as they were intended to.  That certainly doesn’t prove macro evolution though, only micro evolution, which, as I said, is to be expected from a biblical point of view.

Speaking of the flood, science certainly doesn’t disprove a global flood.  We find fossils all over the world.  And how are most common fossils made? According to my text book, “the organism must be buried in sediment; then, the calcium in bone or other hard tissue must mineralize; and finally, the surrounding sediment must eventually harden to form rock.”  The process also has to happen “before the remains decay or are scavenged by predators,”  which means very quickly,  i.e. a flood.  I find it most interesting that practically every culture on earth has a global flood story.  All of the crazy and interesting rock formations can be explained by receding global floodwaters and the upheaval we read about during the flood in the Bible.

What about vestigial structures (structures that have “lost the ancestral function”)?  They say the anal/pelvic spur in some breeds of snakes is what’s left of ancestral legs.  The spur is connected to a pelvis.  But the spur is used in mating and also in fighting.  So it does have a use, and saying that legs once grew from said pelvis is a merely a guess.  Also, breeds of snakes with anal spurs are constrictors.  I wonder if the pelvis helps them with their constricting process somehow? It’s not like anyone’s removed a snake pelvis and anal spurs to find out how it would affect the snake (and I don’t recommend it either, that would be pretty cruel)

Let’s pretend for a second that the snakes did once have legs.  According to natural selection, an organisms fitness determines which direction evolution will take.  Basically, if a trait is advantageous, those in possession of the trait will live long enough to breed and therefore the next generation will show more of the desired trait.

Since macro evolution is said to take millions of years, the loss of limbs would take quite some time.  They would need to get gradually smaller and smaller until they were gone.  But how is that advantageous?  If a snake had only half sized hind limbs, it couldn’t walk that well, if at all, but it couldn’t really slither well either, so why would that mutation continue to live on? Wouldn’t those half-legged snakes get predated on more and in turn, not survive long enough to produce offspring, significantly lowering the fitness of the trait, making natural selection select for something else? (a common misconception amongst the layperson is that all organisms of a particular species evolve into something else.  I.e. why are there still apes if man evolved from apes? According to evolution, only some members of a given species would evolve into other species and organisms, even branching out into a couple or more different organisms, meaning that there would still be the ape, but some would eventually evolve into man, although with many organisms, the originals are said to have died after some time. If you believe that kind of thing).

Natural selection leading to evolutionary change makes perfect sense when we’re talking about micro evolution, but when we’re talking about macro evolution, it doesn’t make sense at all because when you get an in between organism, it’s not advantageous, and therefore wouldn’t be selected for.  Plus, we’re talking about many, many mutations which just so happen to compliment each other over millions of years in order for the eventual animal to be realised, with some things, such as wings,  multiple times in different animals. Hardly seems likely.

I remember my lecturer saying “and what does a plant do when it needs nitrogen? It evolves a way to get it.” Like the genes themselves have the intelligence to transform themselves they way they need to go.

We were shown the infamous cladogram of horse evolution which shows that horses originated from a very small, 4 toed thing, to what we see today.

Horse evolution?

Horse evolution?

The top horse and second horse could easily be the same kind.  Don’t let the tail fool you, it’s just their depiction.  As it is, the modern day horse has about a foot of bony tail that all the long hair grows off of.  With a proper tail drawn on, because, let’s face it, the drawings are only interpretations of the bone structure, the difference is minimal.  Who is to say from some bones that the other three are the origin of horse? Isn’t it completely likely that they are entirely different animals? So many animals have become extinct throughout the life of earth, why wouldn’t the “first horses” instead be a fossil of some other extinct animal?  Besides, if we’re going off similarities, the Eohippus is way more like this one, which still lives on today, so why was it lumped with the horse only based on some fossils? (I’m not saying the Hyrax came from Eohippus, I’m just making a point):

Image courtesy of Flickriver

Image courtesy of Flickriver

Evolutionists argue that because of the layers of earth the fossils were found in, we can conclude that one evolved from another.  Can we really trust the “fossil record” though?  In north-eastern Oregon, the three-toed Neohipparion and one-toed Pliohippus were found in the very same layer. They say that the layers of earth correspond to different time periods, but there have also been many instances of animals, and trees found upright, some even upside down, through many different layers that represent “millions” of years. All that the supposed “horse” fossils prove is that an organism with those particular bones lived a long time ago.  All the rest is merely speculation, assumption, and interpretation.

The closeness of our genomes with that of other organisms is another major argument of evolution.  From a creation viewpoint though, it makes perfect sense: one creator, similar functions of structures, similar DNA sequences, etc.  If you design a forearm in one creature that works really well (and of course it would, this is God we’re talking about), why would you change it just because you’re making a different creature?

Homologous structures. Image courtesy of idc

Homologous structures. Image courtesy of idc

When you get right down to it, we’re all made of the same thing.  Not just us, but everything.  Elementary particles.  Everything is made up of elementary particles.  When you make a large house with lego, it looks like a house, and (depending on how much detail you put in), functions as a house.  When you make a car out of lego, it looks like a car, and functions like a car.  But when you take it all apart, the blocks are all the same.  It’s the same with us.  Not because of evolution and a big bang, but because we’re all designed and created by the same thing. God.

On origins of the earth, it all comes down to the same thing.  But how did that get there?  That can be either God, or the non-living matter that went bang.  Either way, we are talking about something supernatural.  Life out of non-life.  Why is it so much harder to think the supernatural was God, rather than a big bang that brought life out of the non-life?

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