Martian Global Aurora

Martian Global Aurora
On October 6 NASA’s daily space news website contained pictures of a Martian global aurora. Because Mars has virtually no magnetic field, the radiation level goes sky high during solar storms. In the latest storm, radiation levels doubled–which would have been dangerous to life on Mars.

Earth’s magnetic field is very strong, and deflects radiation coming from the Sun. The radiation is deflected toward the poles, which is why we see the auroras near the poles. By deflecting the radiation, the magnetic field protects life on the Earth from dangerous levels. The more we learn about the cosmos, the more we see factors that make life possible on Earth. Our magnetic field is one more example of the design of our planet.

Looking for life in space is not just about whether there is water on a planet. There are a huge number of other factors that must be present. A strong magnetic field to shield from radiation is just one of those factors. Of course, an atmosphere suitable for life is also a requirement. NASA has a space probe called MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) orbiting Mars. The purpose is to find out if Mars lost its atmosphere due to not having a strong magnetic field.

The Martian global aurora is just one more reminder of the blessing of life on planet Earth. It also indicates that life on this planet is no accident.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature

The Book of Nature
We have two important books—the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. We believe they both have the same Author. By studying both books, we can learn about God.

In Psalms 19 of the Book of Scripture, we read about the important message of the Book of Nature. Verses 1 and 2 tell us that, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge.” The Psalmist tells us that the Book of Nature is more than written words. It’s a book that actually speaks.

He continues in verses 3 and 4, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out to all the earth; their words to the ends of the world.” We have to translate the written words of Scripture into the languages of the world’s people. The language of the Book of Nature is universal and even speaks to the illiterate. Since the Book of Nature speaks in all languages, Paul could write, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

Of course, the Book of Nature can’t tell us everything we need to know. Nature tells us that God exists and it tells something about His qualities. Salvation comes through hearing the Scriptures (Romans 10:17). The Bible tells us about Jesus–God in the flesh. It tells us of His sacrifice for our sins. It tells us what we should do to receive the free gift God offers.

The important point to remember is that nature points beyond itself. The more we learn about the natural world, the more the Book of Nature speaks to us. It tells us there is a powerful God of wisdom to create such a complex, fine-tuned, dynamic universe. Nobody can honestly say they don’t know the language. “Their voice goes out to all the earth.” Since the language is universal, those who refuse to listen are “without excuse.”

The Book of Nature speaks to all who will listen, and that is the message of the DOES GOD EXIST? program. Science and faith are friends.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Meaning of Words

Meaning of Words
One of the problems both skeptics and believers have to deal with is the meaning of words. Words have different meanings depending on where you live and when you live. The phrase “he is gay” has a whole different meaning today than when I was in high school in 1955.

The July issue of Reader’s Digest carried an article about the differences in English word usage and meanings in today’s America. The magazine gave examples of words that mean different things in different geographic locations.

There are also different words used for the same thing in different parts of the country. While in some areas the phrase is “you all” in the south it is more commonly “y’all, ” and in Pennsylvania, it’s “yinz.” In the west, it’s called a drinking fountain, while easterners tend to call it a water fountain, and in Wisconsin, it’s a bubbler. In the west, they are fireflies while in the east and south they are lightning bugs. While in other areas of the country they may be traffic circles or roundabouts, in Massachusetts they are rotaries. In some areas it’s soda, and in others it’s pop. There are many other differences, but you get the idea.

Can you imagine the trouble we have in trying to understanding the full meaning of the Hebrew or Greek words of the Bible texts? It reminds us that when we are dealing with Scripture, we need to consider some important things. We must keep in mind who wrote it, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people of that time and place would have understood it. Failing to consider those things has caused many misunderstandings.

Here is one final thing to consider. Not only does the meaning of words and the words we use vary, but also the way we pronounce them can be different. How many syllables do you think there are in the word caramel?
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Noah’s Son Ham and Skeptic Arguments

Noah's Son Ham
It never ceases to amaze me how some skeptic attacks never seem to go away. One of the more bizarre has to do with Noah’s son Ham. Some atheists claim that the story of Ham was invented to justify the persecution of people of color and the use of slaves.

They base their attack on the story recorded in Genesis 9:20-29. After the flood of Noah, Ham discovered his father drunk and naked. Ham told about it, exposing his father to ridicule. Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth, discretely covered their father to avoid embarrassment. When Noah recovered his sobriety, he cursed Ham and blessed Shem and Japheth. Some skeptics claim that the name Ham means “dark or swarthy” and that this is an attack on people of color.

However you interpret the story of Ham, it has no relevance to Christianity. Jesus did away with all such boundaries. Passages like Galatians 3:28 make that clear by telling us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is highly unlikely that the intent of the name of Noah’s son Ham referred to skin color or that such characteristic would be passed on to all his progeny.

The message we should take from the story is that we need to care for one another and support each other even in weakness. Instead of quietly covering his father and keeping the incident to himself, Ham disgraced his father. Galatians 6:1-2 tells Christians to gently restore those who sin and bear each other’s burdens. There is no place for disgracing, shaming, or making fun of someone who fails. And there is no excuse for treating anyone differently because of skin color.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Natural Elements of the Periodic Table

Natural Elements of the Periodic Table
One of the things high-school chemistry students have to learn is how to use a periodic table of the elements. As we worked with the chart, I almost always had a student ask me how the natural elements of the periodic table came into existence. Our textbook simply said that the elements were produced by “the event that produced the universe.”

Dr. Timothy C. Beers is the chair of astrophysics in the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame. The Notre Dame Magazine for Autumn 2017 contains an interesting article about his efforts to understand the processes that formed the natural elements of the periodic table. Dr. Beers calls it “Galactic Archaelogy.”

Beers was the first scientist to identify “carbon-enhanced metal-poor stars.” These stars appear to have formed very early in the creation of the universe, and thus they give a window into the past. When the universe was created, only hydrogen and helium were present. Beers and his fellow researchers are working to understand what is called a rapid neutron-capture process. When neutrons bombard the lighter elements, some of those neutrons latch on and create heavier elements. As we watch that process taking place, we see that producing the elements heavier than hydrogen and helium requires a more complex process than anyone could imagine.

The Bible simply says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens (outer space) and the earth (elements that make up our planet).” God doesn’t tell us how He did it, but Genesis 2:3 tells us that God created (did a miraculous event that humans cannot do) and made (did an event that we can do and understand). The team that Dr. Beers leads is trying to understand how God did it.

Understanding how God created the stuff that makes up our bodies is a part of seeing the handiwork of God. Dr. Beers says, “I think human beings want to know the story,” and he says that his work will surely produce a religious response. The design of the natural elements of the periodic table is amazing. Learning how God formed them is a rich source of data about God’s design and creative wisdom.

In Proverbs 8:22-23 wisdom speaks of the creation, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the Earth was.” Knowing how God did the marvelous creation we see around us includes the very large such as the Grand Canyon and the very small such as quarks. Understanding how He made the elements is one of the most astounding evidences of design we can see in the cosmos.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Skeptic Challenges

Skeptic ChallengesDOES GOD EXIST? maintains a Facebook page with daily postings. We often get skeptic challenges and questions from those who are seeking for answers. We want to share the following conversation from Facebook:

SKEPTIC: Maybe instead of “Does God Exist?” you should call your page “straw man arguments that I just made up and took no time to research.” Proteins collected, microorganisms slowly developed, they grew, became more developed, and developed very slowly into animals we recognize today. It really isn’t something you can’t Google whenever. But if you think everything is designed by your interpretation of the Jewish/Christian god, what designed him? Does the designer of the designer have a designer? Does it just go on forever in a ridiculous infinite cycle?

DGE?: You are on very shaky ground with that narrative of life coming together from non-life. But the real mistake you are making is thinking that God had a beginning. God created time and space, matter and energy at the moment often referred to as the “big bang.” Since God created time, he is not confined to the dimension of time. Since God is outside of time, he has no beginning. We are so confined to understanding things in the time dimension that it is difficult for us to grasp that concept. We think that everything has a beginning because that is true of the world we live in.

SKEPTIC: Isn’t it really easy to just say something exists outside of space and time and therefore doesn’t need to follow the laws of physics? What if I said that the creator of the universe is a giant, two-headed penguin? What if I were to say that the giant penguin exists outside of time and space (and that he wants you to give me money)? Would that be any less valid than what you’re asserting?

DGE?: Scientists say that space/time, as well as matter/energy, had their beginning at the singularity known as the big bang. Whatever created time (as well as space, matter, and energy) must exist outside of those dimensions. Some have tried to argue that the universe just happened without a cause. However, that is not a scientific statement because it cannot be tested. Sorry, it could not be a penguin because penguins (especially giant ones) have mass and therefore they are matter. As the Bible says, with scientific accuracy, “God is a spirit.”

SKEPTIC: To say that the universe having no cause is unscientific, while claiming the existence of some god living outside of physics, is hypocritical to say the least. If it’s necessary for everything to have a cause, what caused your god? If the universe HAS to have a cause, why not carry that same logic to the god you’re claiming?

DGE?: You are right that claiming the existence of God as the creator of space/time and matter/energy is not a scientific statement. The reason being that it cannot be scientifically tested. All we can know scientifically is that at the moment of creation space/time and matter/energy came into existence. That means that whatever caused those things to come into existence has to be outside of the space/time dimension and cannot be made of matter/energy.

We also know that since the cause is outside of space/time, it cannot be limited by space/time. That means it had no beginning in time, so it had no cause. It always existed. Those things can be proven logically and scientifically. From there we have to rely on faith since this is outside of the realm of science. I choose to believe that the creation was by an intelligent God. You may choose to believe that the creation was by and out of NOTHING. (Which is what some otherwise intelligent scientists have suggested.) Whether you choose the intelligent God hypothesis or the Nothing hypothesis you are acting on faith. I think that God is a more rational explanation.

SKEPTIC: It isn’t rational to believe things on faith. I’m not claiming “nothing” created the universe. I’m saying we don’t know, so we shouldn’t fool ourselves. You can’t claim to be reasonable if you 1) claim it is reasonable to say “we both don’t know, so I guess I’m right” 2) think something existing outside of time and space is plausible, but bacteria slowly forming from proteins in water is crazy talk.

DGE?: Okay, you are not saying that Nothing created the universe. However, I am sure you understand that the universe was created FROM nothing. I am sure that you understand that whatever did create the universe created time/space and matter/energy and therefore cannot be limited by or be made of those things. So the question is whether the thing which created time/space and matter/energy was Something or Nothing. Something seems more reasonable to me.

SKEPTIC: There’s no proof that “something” exists outside of the universe. It is, by definition, impossible for something to exist outside of reality. If it exists outside of reality, it doesn’t exist. It isn’t real. It’s imaginary. You’re providing logical proofs that not even a 4-year-old would buy. You first say that you have a specific something. You then say that this something must exist, solely on the grounds that we have stuff and not no stuff. When challenged on it, you say that it must exist, because what else would create the universe? Okay. What created your something? Another something? What created that something? Oh, it exists outside of time and space? And you have no evidence? Great. Just wonderful. You’ve won me over.

DGE?: How do you define this “reality” that you refer to? You have brought that word into our conversation, and you seem to be defining it as that which we can detect with our senses. Do you believe that nothing is “real” unless we can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell it?

SKEPTIC: If you cannot detect something in any way, it isn’t real. This isn’t exactly hard to understand. But you’re dodging around the fact that something cannot exist outside of reality, let alone create it. When you provide evidence that your particular interpretation of a particular deity is real, you may have some ground to stand on.

DGE?: You seem to have difficulty understanding that many (or should I say most) scientists believe that time began at the big bang. If that is the case, then whatever caused the bang has to exist outside of time. (Also it has to exist outside of space, since time and space are inter-related, and space began at the big bang also.) Either you have to say that Nothing created everything we see, or you have to say that Something outside of time created everything.

The only other idea posited is that the universe is cyclical and the big bang came from a previous universe that had compressed itself into a tiny point that exploded into a new universe. This theory has been rejected by scientists because nobody today believes that the universe will start to compress into a point and explode again. The expansion rate of the universe is increasing, not slowing down, and the energy will eventually dissipate. Also, the cyclical idea still doesn’t explain where it all began.

All we have left then are two possibilities. Either Nothing created the universe or Something outside of time and space created time and space and matter and energy and everything we see. Some scientists (Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss) have suggested that the universe came from Nothing because Nothing is unstable and therefore it morphs into a more stable state. I don’t see how that can be called a scientific theory unless it can be tested. I also think it takes more faith to believe that life (including human intelligence and creativity) came from Nothing than to believe that these things came from an intelligent Designer.

SKEPTIC: Again, I’m NOT SAYING “NOTHING” CREATED THE UNIVERSE! We don’t know what created the universe, or if the universe always existed somehow, but to say that you’re right because you can’t imagine “nothing” creating the universe is fundamentally flawed. If you think something created the universe, demonstrate what it is, then demonstrate that it exists, then demonstrate that it is your god (I’m guessing you’re a Christian, I apologize if I’m wrong). But if you cannot demonstrate that your god made the universe, or even that he exists, you should not expect anyone to believe you. But again, just because you think “something” made the universe, that doesn’t mean that it should be exempt from the laws of physics. Show your proof.

You say we don’t know “if the universe always existed somehow.” You would have a hard time finding any reputable scientist today who would say that the universe always existed. Discovery of the microwave background radiation from the cosmic creation event put the final nail in the coffin of that idea. So, since the universe had a beginning, the only choices seem to be that it had a cause, or it did not have a cause. It either created itself out of Nothing, or it was created by Something. That Something has to be outside of time and space, or it could not have created time and space. You can call it God or you can just call it Something. Science cannot go back beyond the big bang, so there is no scientific way to prove what that Something is.

There’s no way to prove there is anything outside of reality, but again, by definition, NOTHING CAN EXIST OUTSIDE OF REALITY. It isn’t plausible. You’re using circular logic.

DGE?: You are saying that reality is only the 4-dimensional world that you know and that nothing can exist outside of those four dimensions because that is all you know. And you are accusing me of using circular logic.

SKEPTIC: Who brought up four dimensions? Are you trying to use pseudoscientific terms to try to sound smart?

DGE?: In case you didn’t realize it, the four dimensions we live in are width, height, depth, and time. (Or X, Y, Z, and T, if you prefer.)

SKEPTIC: Riiiiight… Well, you literally can’t have something existing outside of reality. You think I’m wrong? Show me your god.

DGE?: You are avoiding the issue. You continue to use “reality” as things you think are real and anything you don’t think is real is outside of “reality.” Your reality is too small. As you know, it is not possible to prove scientifically that God exists, and it is not possible to prove scientifically that God does not exist. Nobody has ever seen the so-called “dark matter,” but scientists believe it exists because they see its effect on the galaxies. Nobody has ever seen an electron, but we believe electrons exist because without them our computers would not work, and we would not be carrying on this conversation.

Likewise, even though we cannot see God, we see the universe around us. We know that the universe had a beginning and there had to be a cause of the beginning. You can choose to believe that there was an intelligent Creator or you can believe that it just happened out of nothing and by Nothing. You can also believe that electrons and dark matter don’t exist. Your computer works by magic, and the galaxies are held together by imagination. Each person decides what to believe, and I suggest that you keep an open mind.

SKEPTIC: As common sense and centuries of logical thought have proven, you should not believe in things that cannot be detected. I cannot detect magical leprechauns in my garden, but what else would cause my plants to exist? Well, I must be right, right? That’s proof enough for you, right? Look, I know you know I’m winning. That’s why you’re making it personal by accusing me of being closed-minded, which is highly inappropriate. Shame on you. You’ve lost. No one who is winning an argument will attack the other person. If you want an intelligent discussion, then that’s wonderful. I encourage it. But if you think it’s okay to say someone’s closed minded when they disagree with the same tired argument, then shame on you. I have no time for people who can’t maintain their arguments on their points’ own merits and resort to accusations of closed-mindedness.

DGE?: You say you won and I lost. I didn’t know this was a contest with a winner or looser. I thought it was an intelligent discussion about important things. In fact, I would say eternally important. You say that one should not believe in things that can’t be detected. Then I would expect that you would take issue with the many scientists who believe in dark matter which they have not been able to detect. Look it up on Wikipedia. They believe it exists because it explains things that they cannot explain otherwise.

I also suggest that you look up a book written by Edwin Abbot in 1884 titled “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.” It’s available on Amazon for only a few dollars, and the Kindle edition is free. It is pretty much required reading for students of math, physics, or engineering. It’s a satirical novel about a man who lives in a two-dimensional world called Flatland. He is unable to believe that there could be a third dimension when a sphere shows up in Flatland and challenges his thinking. You don’t seem to be open to anything that challenges your way of thinking.

It has been interesting discussing these matters with you. I wish you well. I would say, “God bless you,” but that would probably offend you. So I will just say, “May the Force be with you.”

(This conversation was edited to correct grammatical and spelling errors, to clarify, and for brevity. You will find our daily Facebook postings at
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Canyonlands Trip 2018

Canyonlands Trip
Our first lectureship was in the fall of 1968, and our first Grand Canyon trip was in the winter of 1970.

– We will visit Sunset Crater, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Lake Powell boat trip, Meteor Crater, Painted Desert, and Petrified Forest by Air Conditioned Bus.
– As we travel, Alan Doty and John Clayton will give lectures on the things we are seeing and how they support the biblical record.
– This will be a trip for believers. Prayers and singing will be a part of every day’s activities.

Trip arrangements are managed by Story Land and Sea, 12835 E. Arapahoe Road, Tower 1-500, Centennial CO 80112. Phone 877-865-6711. Email or visit their website No money is paid to or managed by John Clayton, Alan Doty or the Does God Exist? ministry. The total cost is $1100.00 which includes bus travel from Flagstaff, all entry fees including the boat trip, breakfast Tuesday through Friday, motels Monday through Thursday night. Not included are lunch and dinner meals, gratuities, travel to and from Flagstaff, or Sunday night and Friday night housing.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Biological Clock Circadian Rhythm

Biological Clock Circadian Rhythm
Three scientists have just received Nobel Prize in medicine for proving scientifically something we knew all along. The scientists share the 1.1 million dollar prize for proving that we really do have a biological clock. The fact that you are alert at certain times and sleepy at others is not just in your head.

In 1984 they sequenced the “period gene” which others had discovered in fruit flies in 1971. The gene controls the circadian rhythm which regulates the daily sleep and wake patterns of all creatures, including humans. Following up on that work, in 1998 they found that the gene encodes a protein called PER. The PER levels build up at night and drop during the day. This discovery enables scientists to understand the molecular makeup of the biological clock.

Learning more about our biological clock leads to some useful understandings, including when is the best time to take certain medications. It also relates to shift work, jet-lag, and school classroom times. The understanding of circadian rhythms can be incorporated into practical medicine and the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that prepares us for sleep.

A group of sleep researchers a few years ago did some research on biological clocks. They sent a group of volunteers on a tent-camping trip to the Colorado Rockies. They found that people who work indoors where they are not exposed to outdoor light may need to have their biological clocks reset. When people are indoors during the day and exposed to electric lights at night, their clock can become out of sync. Exposure to strong artificial light at night can delay our master clock. That delays the production of melatonin at night, and then the melatonin level is still high in the morning when it’s time to get up.

The campers were only allowed to use campfires for light and no cellphones or flashlights. After spending a week away from artificial light and exposed to more daylight, the volunteers fell asleep earlier and woke up earlier. Their melatonin levels rose earlier in the evening and dropped earlier in the morning.

The recommendation of the researchers was to start your day with a morning walk and when you have to be inside open the shades to get exposure to some sunlight. You may find that you will sleep better and wake up more refreshed.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night’…God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:14, 17).
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Artificial Life Synthetic Biology

Artificial Life
I just ran across an Associated Press news article in my files. The headline reads, “Scientists Believe Artificial Life Will Be Possible in 3 to 10 Years.” The article is dated August 20, 2007.

The article deals with a new scientific discipline known as synthetic biology. The goal is to create life in the laboratory. Two of the pioneers in this field are Jack Szostak and Craig Venter. Szostak’s team has taken the bottom-up approach to building artificial life-forms. They seek to assemble the biomolecular building blocks step-by-step until they have a living cell. Venter’s team takes the top-down approach. They try to re-engineer existing life-forms by changing the DNA to create novel forms of life. Both teams have made progress over the last ten years, but neither has achieved the ultimate goal.

The AP article says there are three major hurdles to creating artificial life. First, you need a container or cell membrane. It serves as a protective wall to keep the materials required for life inside while keeping the bad molecules out. Living cells must have that. Secondly, you need a genetic system that controls all of the cell functions. This system has to allow the cell to mutate in response to the environment and, very importantly, to reproduce. The third essential is a system of metabolism. The cell must be able to take raw materials from the environment and convert them into energy to power the cell.

Those three hurdles are still challenging the scientists. In time, scientists may jump the hurdles and create fully synthetic artificial life. In doing so, what will they have proven? Will they have proven that life arises spontaneously from non-life? No. They will have proven that great intelligence under carefully controlled conditions can turn non-living matter into life-forms. They will have shown that life is not an accident, but the creation of an intelligent being. That is what the Bible has said for thousands of years.

Even when those scientists manage to create a living cell, they will not have created it from nothing. They will be using the materials (and intelligence) that God has given us. It reminds me of the old story about a scientist who challenged God saying that is was no big deal to create a man from the dust of the ground. God said, “Go ahead and do it.” The scientist grabbed up a handful of dust and God interrupted him saying, “Wait a minute! Make your own dust.”
–Roland Earnst © 2017

More Viewers than the Super Bowl

More Viewers than the Super Bowl
The “Great American Eclipse” of 2017 had more viewers than the Super Bowl. According to Nielson ratings, the 2017 Super Bowl had 111 million viewers on TV. About 215 million adults, or 88 percent of the United States adult population, watched the eclipse. That total includes those who watched it live, plus TV and internet viewers. Of course, many children watched it too.

The University of Michigan and NASA compiled the viewing statistics with a joint survey. Sixty-one million adults in the United States watched the eclipse on TV, computers, tablets, or phones. Unlike the Super Bowl the vast majority, about 154 million, watched it directly with the aid of viewing glasses or pinhole cameras. About 20 million traveled to locations where they could see the totality. I can testify that the roads in southern Illinois were crowded with travelers. After the eclipse, it took 3 hours to drive 40 miles. You can watch a speeded-up view of the eclipse on this video. Be sure to turn the sound up so that you can hear the reaction of the people around me during the eclipse.

In addition to a large viewership, the satisfaction rate was high. Seven out of ten said they were not disappointed. (Probably about half of the Super Bowl crowd was disappointed because their team lost.) If you listen to the video that I edited, you can tell that the crowd on the bluff overlooking the Ohio River was not disappointed.

We are pleased that there was this much interest in a science-related event. God’s creation can draw more viewers than the Super Bowl.

–Roland Earnst © 2017