Dr. Richard Land

Does Water on Mars Mean Life on Other Planets?

October 5, 2015

Astronomer Hugh Ross Talks About Fine-Tuning of the Universe at Southern Evangelical Seminary’s Scientific Apologetics Conference, as Genetics Researcher John Sanford Addresses DNA

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Scientists announced last weekend that liquid saltwater flows on Mars, and now, based on this discovery, conversation has turned to whether other planets can sustain life.

Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) considers faith issues as well as scientific findings as a leader in apologetics education, teaching students to defend their faith and talk intelligently, passionately and rationally about what they believe and why they believe it. Many SES courses focus on societal issues from a Christian worldview, delve into scientific apologetics or contemplate creation research.

Many significant scientific issues, such as the new discovery on Mars, will be explored at SES’s upcoming 22nd annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics, hosted by Calvary Church in Charlotte, N.C. on Oct. 16-17. And at the conference, several speakers will lend their scientific expertise, including two standouts: astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross and genetics researcher Dr. John C. Sanford.

“While the headlines about water on Mars are indeed significant and have the world talking, there is a significant difference between finding water and finding life,” said SES President Dr. Richard Land. “Only time will tell what this discovery will mean for the scientific and faith communities. In the meantime, SES will welcome two expert speakers to our annual scientific apologetics conference on Oct. 16-17 who will offer their own outlook on how these scientific findings can be interpreted, especially for those who believe that a Divine Creator formed heaven and earth and created man in His own image.”

At SES’s conference later this month, Dr. Hugh Ross will talk about the fine-tuning of the universe and the earth’s special characteristics that facilitate life. Ross is founder and president of Reasons to Believe, an organization that researches and communicates how God’s revelation in the words of the Bible harmonizes with the facts of nature.

With a degree in physics from the University of British Columbia and a grant from the National Research Council of Canada, Ross earned a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Toronto. For several years he continued his research on quasars and galaxies as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. His writings include journal and magazine articles as well as numerous books, including “Navigating Genesis,” “Why the Universe Is the Way It Is,” “The Creator and the Cosmos,” “The Fingerprint of God” and more. He has spoken at hundreds of university campuses and conferences and churches around the world. For information about Ross, visit www.reasons.org/about/who-we-are/hugh-ross.

At the conference, Ross will address “Preparing Earth for the Redemption of a ‘Great Multitude’” on Oct. 16 at 11:15 a.m. In his biblical Revelation vision (Chapter 7), John sees a great multitude in white robes that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language. In the past two years, astronomers, geologists and biologists have finally measured the enormity of the fine-tuning design of our galaxy cluster, galaxy, planetary system, and tectonic and biological history that is needed to allow for the possibility for a very tiny window of time to open up during which billions of humans could live on Earth at the same time.

All this care and meticulous design that God clearly has invested in the inanimate creation to prepare for the brief entry of human beings testifies to how much more He must care for and love us individual human beings and desire to work for our redemption. Discovering that God began His work of redemption before He began His work of creation and that all His works of creation are for the purpose of furthering His works of creation gives us a new perspective on the natural realm. It also motivates us to discover how we as individual humans can be used by God to help bring an “uncountable” number of humans to faith in Jesus Christ as Creator, Lord and Savior.

Ross’s second talk at the conference, titled “Rare Ice Age Cycle, Rare Opportunity for Redemption,” on Oct. 17 at 9:15 a.m., explores the ice ages that are rare in earth’s past. Only during the last 0.05 percent of earth’s history has an ice age cycle operated, Ross says, an astounding outcome given that the sun radiates more brightly today than at any time since life began. Research shows how the simultaneous and highly fine-tuned movements of seven continents plus Greenland contributed to the cycle’s launch and how the cycle made global, high-technology civilization possible for the first time in earth’s history.

Ross’s talk will help attendees learn how the severity of the last glacial period and the extreme and unique climate stability of the current interglacial allows billions of people to reside on Earth and grants to believers the resources they need to take the good news of salvation through Christ to all the people groups that make up the human population.

In addition to the presentations by Ross, additional scientific exploration will be offered by conference speaker Dr. John C. Sanford, who delves into the complex topic of DNA and the fact that some geneticists agree that there is net degradation of DNA upon replication, and that humans are actually devolving instead of improving as a species.

Sanford is the Associate Professor of Horticultural Sciences (semi-retired) at Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. He is a researcher in genetics and is currently looking at the theoretical limits of mutation and selection. He earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree in plant breeding/plant genetics from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in plant breeding/plant genetics from the University of Wisconsin.

Sanford was an atheist until he went through a marriage crisis in the 1980s with his present wife, Helen. The crisis caused him to seek the Lord and he became a born-again Christian and a young-earth creationist. On behalf of intelligent design, Sanford was involved in the 2005 Kansas evolution hearings, denying the principle of common descent and testified ... “that we were created by a special creation, by God.” As an inventor, Sanford holds more than 25 patents including the “gene gun.”

The theme of the 2015 conference is “Ideas Have Consequences: The Bigger the Idea, the Bigger the Consequence,” and top-name speakers, besides Land, Ross and Sanford, include Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (via pre-taped video interview), Frank Turek, Ryan Anderson, Michael Brown, Josh McDowell, Jay Richards, Norman Geisler, Paige Patterson, Derwin Gray, Gary Habermas and Richard Howe, along with many others. To register, visitconference.ses.edu/registration.

Prior to the conference on the evening of Oct. 15, SES is coordinating a special event also hosted at Calvary Church that will feature a panel of speakers who will talk about their perceptions of whether an ancient wooden structure discovered on Mount Ararat in Turkey is indeed Noah’s Ark.

Among the speakers will be Geisler, SES’s co-founder, who will make introductions, as well as Ahmet Ertugrul, better known to the world as Parasut, a Turkish local who first discovered the structure. Joining him will be Philip Ernest Williams, who will present the results of his investigation of charges that this discovery was based on a fabrication, new video of subsequent visits to the site since the 2010 announcement, a report on his efforts to seek American scientific involvement, details of his own visit to the site last fall and the announcement of a newly formed Mount Ararat Discovery Foundation that will sponsor further investigation.

A women’s pre-conference is also set for Oct. 15, titled “Womanhood: Ideas Have Consequences.” The pre-conference event will address apologetics issues that are unique to women. Registration is included in the adult and student registrations, or separate registration is available for $40 per ticket. The women’s pre-conference is set for 2 to 9:30 p.m.at Calvary Church. Doors will open at 1 p.m. For more information on the free pre-conference, visithttp://conference.ses.edu/women.

Land is featured in his nationally syndicated daily radio commentary, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” which airs on 235 stations on the American Family Radio Network and 100 stations on the Bott Radio Network. “Bringing Every Thought Captive” is also podcast daily on the free SES mobile app and airs locally in the Charlotte, N.C., area every weekday. The “Bringing Every Thought Captive” television program, hosted by Land, debuted in January on the NRB Network, and airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and midnight EST. “Bringing Every Thought Captive” also reaches nearly 2 million households in the Chicago area on the Total Living Network. For more information about stations, times, downloads and more, click here.

Land has taught as a visiting or adjunct professor for several seminaries and has authored or edited more than 15 books. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University in England and his bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) from Princeton University. Land also earned a Master of Theology (Honors Program) degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received the Broadman Seminarian Award as the Outstanding Graduating Student. Dr. Land was the 2013 Watchman Award recipient from the Family Research Council for his leadership on moral and cultural issues. He also received the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth from Biola University in 2010. Land served previously (1988-2013) as president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s official entity assigned to address social, moral and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families. In 2014, he was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow of the ERLC’s Research Institute, and in 2015, he was named in the top 15 of Newsmax’s “Top 100 Christian Leaders in America.”

Southern Evangelical Seminary invites visitors to its web site to join the more than 20,000 people who have already downloaded the SES Apologetics App for Windows mobile devices and Android and Apple phones and tablets. Those with the app can get the very best news and information in Christian apologetics, including articles, audio, video, blogs and more from today’s most able defenders of the Christian faith—William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, William Dembski, Frank Turek, Hugh Ross, Gary Habermas and other well-known speakers, authors and teachers.

Southern Evangelical Seminary has been ranked as one of the top graduate programs for General Christian Apologetics by TheBestSchools.org’s “Top 10 Graduate Programs in Christian Apologetics.”

For more information on SES, visit its web site at www.ses.edu or its Facebook page, follow the SES Twitter feed, @sesapologetics, or call (800) 77-TRUTH. For more information about SES’ “Ethics in Emerging Technology” program, visit www.ethics.ses.edu.



For information on SES or to set up an interview, contact Deborah Hamilton at 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096, ext. 102, or Jen Wozniak, 610-584-1096, ext. 100Media@HamiltonStrategies.com


Southern Evangelical Seminary is a leader in apologetics education—teaching students to defend their faith and talk intelligently, passionately and rationally about what they believe and why they believe it. The accredited Christian college and seminary offers a wide variety of bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees. Programs can be completed through residence in the Charlotte area or online. The award-winning education at SES is distinctively Christian and focused on evangelism and world-engaging defense of the Christian faith—Christian Apologetics.