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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
July 21, 2011

Mount Everest, the Dead Sea, and robots

Mount Everest may be shrinking. According to Nepal, on whose border it stands, it is 8,848 meters tall. According to China, which shares that border with the mountain, it is 8,844 meters tall. To solve the controversy, Nepal plans to re-measure the world’s tallest peak. The process will require GSM satellites and reference points on the mountain and take two years to complete.

Here’s my question: So what? The mountain is what it is and probably doesn’t care what height we assign it. Climbers still want to get to the summit, whether it is 12 feet taller or shorter than someone’s government says it is.

I found two other strange stories in today’s news which are somewhat more practical. First, Time’s website tells us that the Dead Sea is “deader than ever and getting more so.” The Jordan River has been reduced to two percent of its former volume as Israel and Jordan use its water for their purposes. And de-salinization plants are removing the waters of the Dead Sea to harvest chemicals they can sell. I once knew an Old Testament professor who claimed he was so old, when he was a young man the Dead Sea was only sick. Now it’s getting sicker by the day, though we can save it if we will.

Second, Newsweek warns us that robots may soon take our jobs. They’re doing surgery, laying sealant on car windshields, and scanning legal documents that lawyers were formerly required to read. While they’re often cheaper than humans, their growing popularity is due to the fact that they’re better at many tasks than we are.

As a writer, I would like to claim an exemption to the robotic age. However, the article warns that researchers are already developing algorithms that can gather facts and write a story. As to who will read it—there may soon be a lot of us with free time. I’m not sure what we can do about the robotic revolution, but it seems more practical than the height of Mt. Everest.

Why is it that the parts of life we cannot change are often the ones which fascinate us? Churches and denominations split over the age of the earth or the details of Jesus’ return, though God has not asked our opinion of either. We are speculative people, but the Bible is a practical book. So long as we focus on the life-changing questions we face, we’ll have all the wisdom from Scripture we need and more.

Think about the worries on your mind this morning. How many are speculative fears about which you can do nothing today? How many are practical problems for which you need practical direction? Which should you focus on? As you do, claim your Father’s promise: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). God may not help you know the height of Mt. Everest, but he’ll help you climb it.

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