Electron Orbitals of Oxygen and Nitrogen

Ice Covered Lake and Electron Orbitals of Oxygen and Nitrogen
Ice floats because it is lighter than water, and that is because of electron orbits.

Last week (January 13-15), we talked about the electron structures of oxygen and nitrogen and the importance of those elements for life. One additional design feature is the electron orbitals of oxygen and nitrogen, which is the shape of the electron paths around the nucleus.

Electrons do not revolve around the nucleus in simple circles but rather in geometric paths. For example, the oxygen atom has two electrons that orbit the nucleus in a circular pattern. A little further out and at a higher energy level, two more electrons move in a circular path. Oxygen has eight electrons, and the four electrons in the last energy shell, the valence shell, have a different orbital.

In the third energy level, the orbitals of the four electrons have figure-eight paths at right angles to each other. This figure-eight pattern has two electrons isolated from the other two and each at right angles to the other. That arrangement enables the oxygen atom to form an essential polar molecule.

When an oxygen atom combines with two hydrogen atoms by covalent bonding, they form a molecule of water, H2O. The water molecule has the two hydrogen atoms positioned at one end, making it positive, while the other end of the water molecule is negative. This polar structure gives water its unique properties. For example, water expands as it freezes, causing ice to be lighter than the liquid form. Because of that, ice floats on the surface of a lake instead of sinking to the bottom and freezing the entire lake, killing all marine life. The polar nature of water also allows it to dissolve minerals.

With its seven electrons, nitrogen has five valence electrons moving at right angles to each other, allowing it to form critical organic compounds. For example, nitrogen bonds covalently with three hydrogen atoms to form ammonia which has properties very different from water. Nitrogen’s ability to form three bonds makes possible the structure of the DNA in our cells.

This very simplified description of the atomic design of chemistry gives a small glimpse of the wisdom of design God put into the electron orbitals of oxygen and nitrogen. The Master Chemist designed the structures of atoms to allow life to exist in an incredible number of forms and thrive in a wide range of environments.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

What Christianity Is Not

What Christianity Is Not and What It Is

It is interesting to read atheist websites and realize the basis for their atheism. In many cases, atheists say the reasons they don’t believe in God are the same reasons I had when I was an atheist. If those reasons were valid, I would still be an atheist today. Let’s consider what Christianity is not:

JUDAIZED CHRISTIANITY: Many of us do not care for ritual or ceremony. We also have little or no use for those who claim their position in life makes them of greater importance than others. The biblical concept of Christianity also rejects those things. In Acts 15:5, some wanted to force religious rituals on the gentile Christians. Verse 10 tells us the leaders rejected that idea. In Matthew 15:1-9, Christ soundly rejected human caste systems and traditions. In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, we read that God takes us wherever we are in life. Galatians 3:26-28 makes it clear that in authentic Christianity, everyone is equal no matter what their race, sex, or ethnicity.

LEGALIZED CHRISTIANITY: As an atheist, I saw Christianity as a long list of “don’ts.” Everything I wanted to do was a “no no,” and if you engaged in it, you had massive piles of guilt heaped upon you. It took me a long time to understand that you don’t earn salvation in the Christian system. It is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). In 1 Corinthians 13, we find that there are three things a Christian should have – “faith, hope, and love but the greatest of these is love.” Legalism is what Christianity is not.

LAWLESS CHRISTIANITY: Closely related to legalized Christianity is “lawless Christianity,” in which a person or a group of persons spell out what is okay and what is not okay. There is no written authority in lawless Christianity. Instead, the rules are laid down and interpreted by a religious leader. The “clergy/laity” system is not logical or biblical. Humans are not only selfish and ignorant, but they are prone to power struggles. In many cases, lawless Christianity has turned the Christian system into an entertainment business. I can get better entertainment in the secular world than any human or group of humans can produce in a church building.

Don’t reject God because of what Christianity is not. Read James 1:27, Matthew 25:31-40 ,and Acts 2:38-47. There you will see that Christianity changes people, makes the world a better place to live, and fulfills one of the most important needs we all have. That is the need for a reliable and functional spiritual experience, because we are created in the spiritual image of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Oxygen and Nitrogen Levels in the Atmosphere

Oxygen and Nitrogen Levels in the Atmosphere

Oxygen and nitrogen are two of a handful of elemental superstars of life. Without them, life would not be possible. In some ways, these two elements are very similar, but they are also very different.

Oxygen and nitrogen atoms differ in only one proton and one electron. In chemical reactions, the important subatomic particle is the electron, and oxygen has eight while nitrogen has seven. In the last two days, we talked about the difference that one electron makes. Oxygen and nitrogen make up about 99% of our atmosphere, with nitrogen composing nearly three-quarters of our air. So why is nitrogen’s percentage so high compared to oxygen?

As we said previously, the triple bond of a nitrogen molecule requires more than twice as much energy to break as the double bond of an oxygen molecule. The oxygen bond can be broken to allow combustion oxidation and energize our bodies. On the other hand, the nitrogen bond is not easy to break, but plants require nitrogen for photosynthesis and growth. What is the solution?

Lightning breaks the nitrogen bond allowing rain to wash nitrogen to the ground. Plants such as beans, peas, and alfalfa, which we call legumes, have microorganisms on their roots that extract nitrogen from the air. That enriches the soil with nitrogen while providing for the legumes. More than a century ago, scientists found a way to extract nitrogen from the air to produce ammonia. That process enabled fertilizer production, which today allows farmers to produce enough food for the world’s population.

It is not easy to break the nitrogen bond so it can combine with other elements, but with 78% of the atmosphere being nitrogen, there is no shortage. So why is our atmosphere mostly nitrogen? Since it is only about 21% oxygen, wouldn’t it be better to have more oxygen so we could breathe easier? The answer is that nitrogen stability is essential for our safety. Wildfires have been a significant problem in recent years. If the atmosphere consisted of a very high percentage of oxygen, fires would be more common and dangerous. If the atmosphere consisted of 100% oxygen, all it would take is one lightning strike to set the whole planet on fire.

Remarkably, we have the correct percentage of elements in our atmosphere. We have the right amount of oxygen to allow respiration to power our bodies and combustion to power our vehicles and industry and heat our homes. At the same time, we have the right amount of nitrogen to prevent uncontrolled combustion leading to the destruction of life. We have just a small amount of carbon dioxide, which plants need for photosynthesis. Plants use CO2 and generate oxygen to keep the gases in balance. The balance is amazingly precise as long as humans don’t generate enough carbon dioxide to mess it up.

During the dinosaur age, the oxygen level was higher, on the order of around one-third of the atmosphere. That allowed the enormous animals to prepare the Earth for humans. Now we have the precise balance to sustain human life and advanced society. The question is, did the features of oxygen and nitrogen and the balance between them happen by accident, or was it part of an intelligent plan? We think the best explanation is that an intelligent Planner of life created it.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

One-Electron Difference Between Oxygen and Nitrogen

One-Electron Difference Between Oxygen and Nitrogen

How does a one-electron difference between oxygen and nitrogen allow life to exist on our planet? Why does the correct mix between those two elements in our atmosphere make it possible for us to be here?

Yesterday, we talked about covalent bonding in oxygen and nitrogen. We said that an oxygen atom needs to share two electrons with another oxygen atom to make a stable oxygen molecule. However, nitrogen needs to share three electrons with another nitrogen atom to complete the valence shell and create stability. So how can a single electron difference between oxygen and nitrogen be a big deal?

For oxygen or nitrogen to combine with other elements to form new compounds essential for life, the covalent bond between them must be broken. It takes about double the energy to break the triple bond between two nitrogen atoms as to break the double bond between two oxygen atoms. That means oxygen can be released to form other compounds much more easily.

What does it take to break the oxygen bond and combine it with another element?
Apply some heat to combustible material, and you will find out. You will get fire, which is a chemical reaction involving rapid oxidation of the burning material. Much slower oxidation occurs when oxygen in your blood combines with nutrients in your body, giving you energy and generating body heat. Another slow form of oxidation is when iron combines with oxygen to form iron oxide, or rust.

If it were not possible to release oxygen from its molecular bond with relative ease, we would not have combustion to heat our homes, run our vehicles, or energize our bodies. Life would not be possible. However, nitrogen bonds are much harder to break, and nitrogen is also essential for life. Tomorrow we will look at how the one-electron difference between oxygen and nitrogen enables life on planet Earth.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

The Atmosphere Is Fine-Tuned for Life

The Atmosphere Is Fine-Tuned for Life

Nitrogen and oxygen together make up about 99% of the air we breathe. The vast majority of our atmosphere is nitrogen. Oxygen is ten times as abundant as nitrogen in the universe, but it makes up only about 21 percent of our atmosphere. So, the less common element is the most abundant in our atmosphere. What does that mean to us? The bottom line is that the atmosphere is fine-tuned for life. Let’s examine that more carefully.

An atom of oxygen and an atom of nitrogen differ by only one proton and one electron. That may not seem like much, but it makes a world of difference. Both of those elements form diatomic molecules, meaning that two atoms bond together to make one molecule of oxygen or nitrogen.

Covalent bonding is the chemical bonding of atoms by equal sharing of electrons. That bond gives atoms stability in their outer, or valence, electron shells. Atomic stability requires eight valence electrons. The only elements with that number are the so-called “noble gases”–helium, neon, argon, krypton, and radon. For that reason, they are inert, refusing to combine with other elements. All other elements need electrons to complete the octet in their valence shells.

An oxygen atom has six electrons in its valence shell, so it needs to share two electrons to become stable. When an oxygen atom shares two electrons with another oxygen atom, they both become stable. Nitrogen, on the other hand, has only five valence electrons. Therefore, by forming a covalent bond with another nitrogen atom, sharing three electrons, both atoms complete their outer shell. In this way, our atmosphere is made up of stable diatomic oxygen and nitrogen molecules.

However, not all molecules are equally stable. That is where we see the atmosphere is fine-tuned for life. For example, oxygen molecules have a double bond sharing two electrons, but nitrogen atoms have a triple bond sharing three electrons for more stability. That difference may seem insignificant, but it is essential to make life possible. Come back tomorrow when we will explain what a difference it makes.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

California Condor Parthenogenesis

California Condor Parthenogenesis
California Condor in the Grand Canyon

In the 1980s, there was great concern about the shrinking population of California condors. In 1987, they became extinct in the wild, and only 22 were left in captivity. Due to a captive breeding program, at last count, there were 518 living California Condors in 2019. Most of them were in the wild in California, Arizona, and Utah. Recently, scientists discovered two cases of California condor parthenogenesis, or as news reports called it, “virgin birth.”

Researchers from the San Diego Wildlife Alliance discovered two male condors who had not been produced by sexual reproduction, even though their mothers had previously produced offspring in the usual way. The scientists could determine that because they have a record of the genetic data for the more than 900 condors hatched since the captive breeding program began in the 1980s. Both birds contained identical copies of their mother’s DNA, which cannot happen when a female’s egg has been fertilized by sperm.

Parthenogenesis occurs in some insects and other invertebrates and a few fish, amphibian, and reptile species. It even happens in some captive birds, but it is unknown in wild birds. I have often kidded my biologist friends about their discipline, saying that the only universal rule in biology is that anything you say always has an exception. California condor parthenogenesis is one of those exceptions.

Reasons for preserving wildlife are to protect the environment and its impact on humans and learn from studying the design of living things. But, of course, another reason is to enjoy the beauty of the natural world. We can see God’s creative wisdom in the world all around us, and the more we know about the creation, the better we understand the Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Living Bird magazine (Winter of 2022, page 13) and Journal of Heredity

Deliberate Denial of Evidence

Deliberate Denial of Evidence

One characteristic of many people today is the deliberate denial of evidence. In a recent discussion with a big-name pro-abortion politician, I asked when he believed a fetus became a human – conception, birth, or somewhere in between. He responded that he had not considered the question. I asked if he would be willing to consider scientific evidence that could answer the question. Again, he responded that he would not.

Some of my female friends who are loud proponents of “a woman’s right to choose” have given me a similar response. How can you make a decision about abortion if you don’t know when a fetus is a human?

This deliberate denial of evidence is not new. People in Jesus’ day watched Him perform miracles, but still rejected and even killed Him. I have presented many atheists with credible evidence that the God of the Bible is real. In a recent discussion with a young college student, she proudly declared she was an atheist. When I presented a series of facts to show there is a God, she jumped up and screamed at me, “I just don’t want to believe!” There was a deafening silence, and I saw tears streaming down her face. She was desperate to justify her disbelief.

Jesus was aware of the human tendency toward deliberate denial of evidence that we don’t want to accept. Mark 9:17-24 tells the story of a man who brought to Jesus, his son who had a convulsive spirit. The man said that Jesus’ disciples could not drive out the spirit, and Jesus indicated the reason was a lack of faith. The father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus responded by repeating the man’s words, “If you can?” Then he told the father that he needed to have faith, to which the father replied, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”

Humans want to maintain control over what they believe, even if it requires a deliberate denial of evidence. Like the father who brought his son to Jesus, a person must be open to the evidence and willing to accept it, rather than denying the evidence and even refusing to hear or see it.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Lies and Deception Outweigh the Truth

Lies and Deception Outweigh the Truth

In our world today, it seems that lies and deception outweigh the truth. How many wars have been fought as a result of a lie? The political picture of America has degenerated to the point where you can’t believe what any politician says. Deception is common in the business and economic realm. When I was a child, people settled business transactions with a handshake, and you could be over 90% sure it would happen. Who among us today has not lost money because someone lied to us?

When Jesus told Pilate that He came to bear witness to the truth, Pilate responded by saying, “What is Truth?” (John 18:37-38). In the secular world, “truth” cannot even be defined, much less believed. Romans 1:25 tells us there will be those who exchange “the truth of God for a lie.” In 2 Corinthians 11:14, we find a warning that “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

So what can we believe? In 1 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul writes that there will be those who have a connection to the Church who will “speak lies in hypocrisy.” Then he identifies who those might be, and we see some of them today. In the prayer of Jesus for his disciples, He said, “Sanctify (set apart) them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” We CAN trust God’s Word. Titus 1:2 and Hebrews 6:18 tell us that God cannot lie.

The reason for this website is to encourage everyone to go to the Bible and read and think for themselves. We deal with evidence. If someone offers an opinion they can’t back up in the Bible, don’t believe it. Can fake “evidence trick us?” Yes, but the nature of science is that counterfeit evidence is eventually exposed for what it is. The word “science” means knowledge. False science is an opinion stated as knowledge but not supported by factual evidence (1 Timothy 6:20).

When it seems that lies and deception outweigh the truth, trust God by looking at His Word. Don’t let someone tell you what His Word says or what His creation proves. Instead, “Seek and you will find” – “for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…” (Matthew 7:7 and Romans 1:20).

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Seven Wonders of the World and the Greatest

Seven Wonders of the World according to a young girl

What would you select as the seven wonders of the world? Writer Damien Thomas has a website called “Your Positive Oasis,” where he posts motivational articles and quotes. Several years ago, he published an article about the seven wonders of the world chosen by children. Since then, it has been repeated on social media.

The story tells of a teacher who asked her students to name the current seven wonders of the world. Compiling their lists into the most popular wonders they selected: 

1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids

2. Taj Mahal

3. Grand Canyon

4. Panama Canal

5. Empire State Building

6. St. Peter’s Basilica

7. China’s Great Wall

According to the story, one girl had not completed her list because there were so many she could not select only seven. When the teacher asked what she had written, her list was:

1. To See

2. To Hear

3. To Touch

4. To Taste

5. To Feel

6. To Laugh

7. To Love

The point of the story was that the most precious seven wonders of the world are not the ones we must travel to see or things that we can make or buy. The most incredible wonders of the world are those we often overlook and take for granted. They are the ones for which we should be thanking God every day that we live. 

I would add another that I think is the greatest wonder of all. It is that God loves us and gave His Son to redeem us to Himself so that we might enjoy the wonders of His presence forever. 

“Now the dwelling of God is with His people, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

— Roland Earnst © 2022

You can read this story on Damien Thomas’s website, “Your Positive Oasis.”

Life Under the Antarctic Ice Shelf

Life Under the Antarctic Ice Shelf
Map of Antarctica showing the ice shelves

One of the amazing things about our planet is its ability to support life. We find a diversity of living things on land, in the air, and under the oceans. Scientists have even found a variety of life under the Antarctic Ice Shelf.

Gerhard Kuhn and Raphael Gromig of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, a polar and marine research organization, drilled through the Antarctic ice shelf. After boring through 656 feet (200 m) of ice, they scooped up material from the seafloor another 328 feet (100 m) down. What they brought up surprised them. They turned the material over to David Barnes, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey. He was so amazed that he said, “Is this a practical joke?”

Barnes was surprised that as he studied the sediment, he identified 77 different species of animal life in the material they extracted from a single drill hole. The species identified included bryozoans, which are stationary filter feeders, and tube-feeding worms. Barnes said, “This discovery of so much life living in these extreme conditions is a complete surprise…”

Filter-feeders feed on algae which require sunlight to grow. However, there is no sunlight to provide photosynthetic life under the Antarctic ice shelf. The explanation is that these creatures are feasting on microorganisms that the ocean currents sweep under the ice shelf. You could say the food is delivered to their doorstep.

Despite the cold and dark conditions, life survives in a location where fires, storms, or predators do not threaten it. The only thing that may threaten these creatures is the melting and breakup of the ice shelves. So, here in one of Earth’s least-known habitats, life survives. Like the scientists who discovered and studied these life forms, we are amazed. But, more than that, we thank God for wisely creating life with the ability to adapt and survive even in hostile environments.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

References: Current Biology and LiveScience.com