Star and Planet Formation

Star and Planet Formation and the Webb Telescope
Webb image of the Tarantula Nebula star-forming region

Yesterday, we discussed the new information about the construction and size of the cosmos we are learning from the James Webb Space Telescope. The Webb telescope shows us the size of God’s physical creation as NASA continues to pump out new discoveries and better understandings of star and planet formation. Search “James Webb Telescope” on your computer and see for yourself.

One of the better understandings from recent Webb telescope data is what it takes to make a planet like Earth. The conventional understanding of planet formation was that as stars formed, they threw off material that gravity pulled together, forming planets. The Webb telescope has the resolving power and the infrared light-gathering ability to observe planet formation in different stages.

The first step in planet formation is for the star to actively produce elements needed for terrestrial planet formation. Quiet stars do not make the necessary elements since heavier elements will move toward the star’s center, not outwards. The star must spin fast enough to throw out the required heavy materials. That means gaseous planets like Jupiter are much more common in the cosmos than terrestrial planets like Earth.

The heavier elements in a planet come from exploding stars. That means planets will be more likely in certain types of galaxies, and galaxies have an evolutionary history, changing with time. The Webb telescope actually observes the changes in galaxies and star and planet formation. The creation process is still active, and new planets are being formed as we watch.

In manufacturing, we know that a machine is designed to take raw materials and mold and shape them into the desired final product. Years ago, I worked for a man who designed and built such machines, and his wisdom and creativity were incredible to watch. This designer didn’t use a blueprint or follow a manual. He had the skill to comprehend what the final machine would look like and what it would do.

As we watch star and planet formation take place, we see the wisdom and creativity of God. The writer of Proverbs wrote, “O you simple ones, understand wisdom and you foolish ones, be of an understanding heart” (Proverbs 8:5). The Webb telescope allows us to see the wisdom of the Creator in ways we have never imagined.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

What We Learn from the Webb Telescope

What We Learn from the Webb Telescope
Webb image of star-forming region NGC 3324 in Carina Nebula

With all the distractions going on in the world, it is easy to miss perhaps the most remarkable engineering accomplishment of human history. A telescope launched on Christmas Day 2021 is now much further from Earth than the Moon is. The Webb Space Telescope consists of 18 hexagonal mirrors with a total area of 273 square feet (69.54 x 46.46 feet) and can see things in space that can’t be viewed from Earth’s surface. The cost to make the telescope and place it in space was 10 billion dollars, so is it worth the price? Yes, it is! What we learn from the Webb telescope tells us more about God.

More than 40 years ago, J.B. Phillips wrote a book titled Your God is Too Small. The first thing we learned from the Webb telescope is that the cosmos is much bigger than we can imagine. The telescope can see things that no optical device on Earth can. We live in a galaxy containing roughly 100 billion stars, and we know there are many other galaxies in space. Webb has shown us vast numbers of distant galaxies, and as we measure how far away they are, we see what the creation looked like billions of years ago.

Let me give you a simple explanation of what that means. If you travel to a place 100 miles away at 50 miles per hour, how long will it take to get there? The answer is two hours. When we measure how far away these galaxies are, we can tell when the light we see left them. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Doing the same calculation, we know the light reaching the Webb telescope left those galaxies some 13 billion years ago. We are looking backward in time to near the beginning of creation.

The latest pictures from Webb show that these old galaxies are flat like a sheet of paper. We learn from the Webb telescope that the creator was molding and shaping galaxies into a form that would allow planets and, ultimately, life to exist. As we understand the creation process, we see power beyond what we can imagine. Like all scientific discoveries, that raises many new and exciting questions for us to study and understand. It further tells us how unique Earth is and raises an old question the ancients asked about God, “What is man that you are mindful of him” (Psalms 8:4).

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Major Factors for Rejecting Faith in God

Major Factors for Rejecting Faith in God

Polls show that belief in God among Americans has declined over the past few years, and most dramatically among Gen-Zers. Generation Z is the term used to describe those born between the late 1990s and early 2000s (approximately 1997 to 2012). This generation grew up with access to the internet and portable digital technology. What are some major factors for rejecting faith in God?

Stephen C. Meyer said that the Discovery Institute surveyed people if they agreed with this statement: “The findings of science make the existence of God less probable.” Among self-proclaimed atheists, 65% agreed, and 43% of agnostics agreed. What these people perceive about science has influenced their belief in God. However, as we have said before, science supports faith in God.

In recent years, scientific discoveries have given us more reasons to believe in God. One significant discovery is that the material universe had a beginning. Evidence for that appeared in the 1920s, was confirmed in the 1960s, and further reinforced in the 21st century. The Bible tells us that in verse 1, but it took scientists years to accept the evidence. Anything that begins to exist must have a cause. The cause of the material universe must be outside of time and space and, therefore, immaterial. Science recognizes that time, space, matter, and energy all had a beginning, but they could not have created themselves.

A second discovery that points to an intelligent Creator is that the universe was fine-tuned for life from the beginning. Many physical constants must be precisely as they are for life to exist. More than that, without precision fine-tuning of the physical laws and constants, the universe itself would not exist. Chance cannot explain the precision because so many precise factors must work together.

A third discovery that came into a fuller understanding in the 21st century is the design of the digital code in the DNA molecule that makes life possible. This design has been there since the emergence of the first living cell. We have no examples of information being created without a mind to create it. Information does not happen by chance.

In those three recent discoveries, science rediscovers God. Then what are the major factors for rejecting faith in God? More on that tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: Stephen C. Meyer on “Has Humanity Forgotten God” on YouTube

Natural Science Cannot Answer these Questions

Natural Science Cannot Answer these Questions

Natural science cannot answer these questions we examined yesterday:
1- ”Why does the universe exist?”
2- ”How did something come from nothing?”
Science is very good at answering “how” questions but not as good with “why” questions. Let’s look at two more “why” questions.

3- ”Why are the physical constants precisely tuned to support conscious life?”
Science has determined that the universe’s physical constants are fine-tuned to support our existence. They are fine-tuned with such precision that it could not be merely accidental, and this precision makes scientists who don’t want to believe in God very uncomfortable.

If you eliminate an intelligent Creator, there seems to be only one possible explanation for the apparent fine-tuning. It’s the “multiverse” idea. This proposal suggests that an almost limitless number of universes exist with various physical constants. We are lucky enough to be in the one universe with precise constants to support conscious observers like us. Therefore, it is merely an accident that we see the physical constants as being fine-tuned; otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to observe them.

The multiverse concept is not scientific since it cannot be proven or disproven. It lies outside of the limits of science. Furthermore, if you can’t explain the emergence of one universe from nothing, how can you explain an infinite number of universes from nothing?

Since science has set limitations on itself, it also can’t answer this question:
4- “Why do I exist?”
It’s a question that probably everyone thinks about at some time in life. “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” Regardless of how you ask the question, the answer is what gives meaning to life. Science can’t answer the question, but without an answer, many people give up on life. The lack of an answer is perhaps the biggest problem in today’s world, especially among young people.

Natural science cannot answer these questions because the answer is supernatural. God loves you and designed you for a purpose. He came into our world in a physical form we know as Jesus Christ. (See John 1:1-14.) From a humble birth to a perfect life, He showed us how to live. By His sacrifice on the cross, He demonstrated God’s love. If you take time to ponder this, you will realize that the questions natural science can’t answer are the most important ones.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Questions Science Can’t Answer

Questions Science Can’t Answer

There are some things science can’t explain – some questions science can’t answer. Furthermore, science will probably never explain them because science cannot answer these questions by natural explanations. The unanswerable questions include:

1-“Why does the universe exist?”
You could also say, “Why is there something instead of nothing?”

2-“How did something come from nothing?”
The first question leads us to ask this second one. If there was nothing before everything came into existence, “How can everything come from nothing?” In fact, “How can anything come from nothing?” Science proposes that the “Big Bang” was when time, space, matter, and energy all came into existence. If nothing existed before, how can something come from nothing with no cause?

These are questions science can’t answer. Therefore, scientists look for ways to redefine “nothing” to mean something other than absolutely nothing. But how can it be nothing if it is something, and what was the something? The problem science has with these questions is that they don’t have natural explanations. Modern science has limited itself to natural explanations, placing the supernatural outside of the scope of science. To say that anything is outside of nature’s realm goes against the scientific dogma.

Many of today’s scientists insist that nothing exists beyond the natural things they can measure. Astronomer Carl Sagan famously said, “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” Since the supernatural is beyond science’s limited boundaries, science can never answer these two questions. But those are not the only questions science can’t answer. We will look at two more tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

The Magnitude of the Creator and His Love

The Magnitude of the Creator and His Love
A view of the Milky Way surrounded by other galaxies and stars.

Dr. James C. Peterson, writing in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, gave some astounding numbers to help us comprehend the magnitude of the Creator. These facts should cause amazement that God could care about us as individuals.

Peterson writes, “There are 12 times as many stars in our galaxy as there are people on our planet.” It is hard to comprehend that God knows about me at all when you realize that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and there are two trillion galaxies that we know of. Peterson points out we are on a dot (planet Earth) compared to the size of the Sun, which is a dot compared to the size of our galaxy.

Despite those facts, God knows my name and how many hairs are on my head (Luke 12:6-7). The Creator of the cosmos “knows within me my thirty trillion cells, and the three billion base pairs of my personal DNA copied in a complete set, inside each of my nucleated cells.” It has been said that the more we know about the creation, the more we comprehend the magnitude of the Creator.

The psalmist David seemed to comprehend the magnitude of the Creator as he looked at the stars without telescopes and marveled at their creation. In Psalms 19:1, David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” In Psalms 139:13-15 David writes, “…you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret…”

Today, as we look outward with our telescopes and inward with our microscopes, we have more reason to be amazed than David ever did. David wrote in Psalms 8:3-4, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

There is more to fill us with awe than just the magnitude of the Creator. We also marvel at the magnitude of His love. Jesus spoke of the “agape” form of love, which considers every human to be of incredible worth no matter who they are or their station in life. Earth would be at peace if all humans could grasp that concept. Perhaps someday, enough of us will realize that our concept of the Creator is too small and the value we place on the creation and on our fellow humans is too limited to allow war to continue.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Dr James C. Peterson writing in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, December 2023 issue, page 153.

Earth Is Designed to Sustain Humans

Earth Is Designed to Sustain Humans

Nearly every day brings an announcement of discoveries by various space agencies showing that our unique planet Earth is designed to sustain humans.

The Webb space telescope found a planet as large as Jupiter but much less dense, and researchers have dubbed it the “cotton candy planet.” It has winds up to 10,000 mph and large amounts of sulfur dioxide in an atmosphere of sand that acts like rain. Another discovery from the Webb space telescope is that there are free-floating planet-sized objects similar in size to Jupiter but not in orbit around any star. No model of planet and star formation explains these strange objects.

Discoveries of the Webb telescope show the complexity of the cosmos, complicating travel in space. Additionally, NASA has released data showing that humans suffer significant body changes in weightlessness for an extended time. Astronaut Scott Kelly was in space for roughly a year, and his heart diminished in size by nearly a third and became rounder. Astronauts have had bone density changes of up to 2% a month, and radiation significantly affects their DNA. Reported psychological issues called “detachment phenomena” make astronauts unreceptive to instructions from mission control.

Humans were created to live on planet Earth, and Earth is designed to sustain humans. Simply transporting humans to a space environment doesn’t work easily. Creating an environment similar to what God gave us will require massive scientific work and may be impossible. The idea that people can survive on other planets going around other stars in the near future makes good science fiction but is not practical. We must learn to get along and solve our problems here on Earth. The belief that we are here by chance becomes harder and harder to accept as we learn more about both space and ourselves.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: The Week for December 8, 2023, pages 11 and 22, and October 20, 2023, page 22.

The Purpose for the Cosmos

The Purpose for the Cosmos

Scientists and philosophers speculate on the question, “Why Is There Something Instead of Nothing?” The question is why our solar system exists and why there should be countless galaxies other than our Milky Way. Part of this question no one can answer, at least not at the present time. What is the purpose for the cosmos?

Is there intelligent life in any of the other solar systems? We can’t answer that question yet. However, if God’s purpose in creating the physical world in which we live is to advance the battle between good and evil, would He also do that in other places? Isaiah 55:8-9 challenges us to understand that God is not limited to our capacity to think and understand. In that passage, God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Science fiction writers have created a whole industry on the assumption that the war between good and evil is ongoing and not limited to the planet on which we live.

A theologian may object to the possibility of other planets with intelligent life, saying, “So you think that Jesus died more than once and experienced more than one resurrection?” The answer to that is “no.” The biblical account is limited to planet Earth. However, many years ago, on a Larry King talk show with an atheist, a caller asked the atheist, “What would you do if a spaceship landed on the White House lawn and a little green man jumped out with a Bible in his hand and said, ‘Has Jesus been here yet?'” My atheist opponent smiled and said, “Punt.”

God may provide a different means for the battle between good and evil than what we see on planet Earth. The point is that there is a purpose for our existence and a purpose for the cosmos. God may use other places and methods to carry out that battle. On a cosmic level, the atheist has no purpose for existing.

Another point we must consider about why the universe exists is that all we see in the cosmos may simply be the result of the creation of time, space, and energy in the beginning. We now understand that the “big bang” singularity was not just a physical process. God created time and space, and matter-energy was engrained in the fabric of space. For us humans, limited to our five senses and able only to comprehend the changes in our physical world, the purpose for the cosmos is beyond our current understanding.

Recent advances in quantum mechanics have shown that time did have a beginning and that the fabric of space contains all the residual matter produced by the creation process. God was not just concerned about the scientifically ignorant population of the days of Moses and Christ. God knew that humans would eventually come to understand the creation process to such an extent that we could see evidence of God’s hand in the cosmos. As God’s ultimate creation, it makes sense that humans would seek to know the purpose for the cosmos.

We suggest that what makes humans unique and special is our spiritual makeup, being created in the image of God. Our physical qualities are of secondary importance. The whole message of the cosmos is that God is a God of incredible power, wisdom, and purpose. The universe radiates that, and the more we see of the creation, the more we understand of its Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Astronomical Events and Halloween

Astronomical Events and Halloween

We previously discussed the religious history of Halloween, but it also has a connection to astronomical events. Halloween is a cross-quarter day halfway between the equinox and the solstice. The equinox is when day and night have equal lengths, and the winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night. (Groundhog Day is also a cross-quarter day.)

Humans find all kinds of reasons to celebrate visible astronomical events. Some cultures have given each of the seasonal cycles some great religious significance. Neolithic builders erected Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, over a period of 1500 years, perhaps to commemorate the summer and winter solstices. That structure shows a great understanding of the equinox and solstice, and it was, and still is, a place of worship.

Other cultures have used astronomical events to govern their religious beliefs. The pyramids of the Egyptians and the Aztecs are examples, and there are many others. Even the celebration of Christmas has astronomical connections to the winter solstice. Several cults have tried to attach great significance to astronomical events, almost always with disastrous results.

The Bible makes it clear that the followers of Jesus must not be swept up in the celebration of heavenly bodies. Acts 1:7 tells us, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power.” The message of Christ is a spiritual one, not locked into watching what happens with the Sun and the Moon. Colossians 2:16 tells Christians, “Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or the sabbath days.”

It isn’t that Christians aren’t interested in what happens in the design and function of the universe, but we are warned not to engage in idolatry. Worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator is idolatry (Romans 1:25). God’s word is the guide we should follow.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: apod.nasa.gov for 10/31/23.

Solar System Formation

Solar System Formation

NASA released a fascinating picture showing solar system formation. The star in the picture is PDS 70, and the resolution is so good that a planet orbiting the star is clearly visible. Also visible is a disk around the planet, apparently forming several moons.

This picture shows what astronomers believe was the process that produced Jupiter and some of its moons. This is the first time astronomers have seen a solar system formation in progress. The amazing thing about this is that it is very reminiscent of the Bible’s description of the process God used to produce the Earth and the other objects in our solar system.

Genesis 1:1 uses the Hebrew word for creation (bara), which describes a process that only God can do, creating something from nothing. Modern science has now shown that time, space, and matter/energy came into existence at a point called a singularity, but can’t answer what went on before this singularity. From verse 1 through the rest of Genesis chapter 1, the word “bara” is not used until verse 21, when God created the first animal life. The term used elsewhere is “asah,” which describes changing something already created. (See verses 7, 16, and 25.) The word “bara” is used again in verse 27, when God created man and woman in his own image. Chapter 2, verse 3 summarizes what God had done by saying that He rested from all He had created (bara) and made (asah).

What we are now seeing is how material already created is crafted into a solar system. We may never know what purpose God has for these other solar systems. However, watching this solar system formation helps us understand the formation of our solar system and our unique planet. We know that our giant gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) are strategically placed to protect Earth from collisions by comets and other objects coming from outside our solar system.

In Palms 8:3-4 we read, “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him,…” We don’t see the answer to that question in the physical processes God has used and continues to use. The significance of humans and Jesus Christ’s teachings reveal God’s spiritual purposes in the creation.

The horrible wars wreaking havoc among humans in today’s world are caused by the evil that combats the good Jesus came to establish. While the world is embroiled in war, selfishness, power struggles, greed, and death, we see God working in the lives of men and women and the good being done by the people who faithfully follow Jesus.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: apod.nasa.gov for October 17, 2023.