Scientists and God: A Different View

Scientists and God
J. B. S. Haldane in 1914

In each issue of our printed publication, we have a feature called Scientists and God, in which we quote from a leading scientist who is also a believer in God. Today I would like to do something a little different. I want to quote the words of a leading scientist who was not a believer.

J. B. S. Haldane (1892–1964) was a British geneticist and evolutionary biologist. He was also an outspoken atheist and a Marxist. Because of the political controversy caused by his Marxist ideology, he left England in 1956 and spent the remainder of his life in India.

Haldane was a brilliant man who made contributions in the areas of genetics, evolutionary biology, and mathematics. In many ways, he was ahead of his time. He proposed the central ideas of in vitro fertilization. He was the first to suggest human cloning. In fact, he coined the use of the term “clone” for that purpose. He also helped to create the science of population genetics.

In 1929, Haldane introduced the “Primordial Soup Theory,” which said that life began on the early Earth in a chemical soup where the elements of life came together. That theory became the leading concept of abiogenesis–the idea of life coming from non-living matter by a natural process. Haldane’s theory led to the famous Miller-Urey experiment in 1952. In that experiment, Stanley Miller created a sealed container with the chemicals thought to have been part of the early atmosphere of Earth. He subjected the chemicals to an electric spark and collected some amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. The news media went wild over “creating life in the laboratory,” but that was an example of media exaggeration–or as it would be called today “fake news.”

Incidentally, science has since shown that the Miller-Urey experiment did not emulate the conditions or chemicals of the early Earth and therefore is not a valid demonstration of the first step in abiogenesis. However, it is still shown to students in school textbooks because science has not produced anything better, and it is easy to understand. Today’s attempts at abiogenesis are far more complex, proving that it takes great intelligence and carefully controlled lab conditions to produce even the basic building blocks of life. In other words, it takes intelligence to create life, which has been our message for many years.

Haldane proposed correctly that sickle-cell disease gives immunity to malaria. He prepared gene maps for color-blindness and hemophilia. Nobel Prize winning biologist Peter Medawar called Haldane “the cleverest man I ever knew.”

Haldane wrote numerous books presenting his ideas and defending Darwinism. In 1949 he debated British ornithologist Douglas Dewar on the topic “Is Evolution a Myth?” In that debate, Haldane said that evolution would not be capable of producing “various mechanisms, such as the wheel and magnet, which would be useless till fairly perfect.” In other words, if those mechanisms could be found in living organisms it would be an indication that evolution did not create those organisms.

Since that debate, we have found magnets in anaerobic bacteria which are considered to be the most “primitive” forms of life. The sightless, single-celled magnetotactic bacteria consume iron and produce magnets which they use to guide them to anaerobic areas that are safe for them to live. The magnets they produce are better for some scientific purposes than what humans can produce in the laboratory. Turtles, birds, and other more advanced animals also use magnets for navigation. Wheels can also be found in living organisms. As Janine M. Benyus (another Darwinist) wrote in her book titled Biomimicry, “Even the wheel, which we always took to be a uniquely human creation, has been found in the tiny rotary motor that propels the flagellum of the world’s most ancient bacteria.”

So wheels and magnets are found in the most “primitive” and “ancient” of single-celled bacteria. If that 1949 debate were taking place today, I doubt if J. B. S. Haldane would say that those mechanisms could disprove evolution. On the subject of Scientists and God, there are many views. Our view is that those mechanisms found in bacteria indicate an intelligent Creator who understood magnets and wheels long before humans did.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Human Evolution Theories More Confounded

Human Evolution Theories More Confounded
For many years the papers have reported on anthropologists finding the remains of human ancestors in Ethiopia, eastern Africa. In the past several weeks there have been headlines saying that “the oldest fossil of Homo sapiens” has been found in Morocco which is in northeast Africa. It seems that each new find makes human evolution theories more confounded.

Anthropologists working in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, found fossils they claim are much older than those found in east Africa. The specimens have a lower jaw which matches Homo sapiens but the brain cases are long and low which is more indicative of apes or monkeys. They also found 14 stone artifacts which they associated with those fossils. The original report said that the tools were found with the fossils. Later reports indicate the tools were found in the strata above the fossils indicating they might not have been produced by those individuals.

Scientific theories about how humans came into existence are always changing as new data becomes available. The classic theoretical model of human evolution in recent years has maintained that humans arose in east Africa and migrated elsewhere. That is apparently not the case, but this new find will be debated and discussed by the experts for many years.

The Bible does not address the evolution of apes or monkeys. We are simply told that animals reproduced after their kind. There is no indication of how many kinds there were, or how much their genetic makeup varied as the years went by. The Bible says that God created man and woman in His own image. That spiritual quality of humans is the thrust of the biblical account. Modern human’s origin in the Fertile Crescent area of what is now Iraq is not questioned by very many people. That is also what the Bible tells us. Human migration throughout the world and the racial variations that developed to help people adapt to different climates is without a doubt.

The fact that apes and monkeys evolved and adapted to the varied climate of Africa is interesting and not surprising. The assumption that their evolution jumped to produce modern humans with all of all of the human characteristics and spiritual capabilities is a leap of faith. New data will keep developing new ideas and theories, but humans as a special creation of God will not be changed. The discovery of the changes in creatures that in some cases looked physically like us makes human evolution theories more confounded.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: Science News, July 8, 22, 2017, page 6 and Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2017, page A18.

We Need Lightning to Survive on Earth

We Need Lightning
Most of us have had some experience with lightning. The chances are that our experiences have been terrifying and destructive, and we may view lightning as a bad thing. You may wonder if we need lightning. The short answer is, “Yes.” Lightning is a good thing, and there are many things we are still learning about it.

Lightning helps produce the nitrates and other nitrogen compounds that are needed by all living things on Earth. The process is called “nitrogen fixation, ” and it is vital to our very existence. Water droplets in the air carry an electric charge. That charge can accumulate to dangerous levels unless there is a way to neutralize it. That’s where lightning comes in.

One of my favorite demonstrations as a physics teacher was to get a very small flow of water going from a faucet and then bring a charged rod up to the column of water. The stream of water will bend in response to the charge. That is because the polar nature of the water molecule allows it to have electrical properties. Because of water’s electrical property, lightning is generated to release nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the crust of the Earth as nitrates and other nitrogen compounds that plants need to grow. The plants then feed and protect the animals and us.

Low Earth orbit satellites and high flying airplanes have recently made us aware of other properties of lightning. We have learned that red sprites occur and they have been photographed above large thunderstorms. Other upper atmosphere lightning phenomena include blue jets and terrestrial gamma flashes. Scientists are studying the highly complex nature of lightning to understand how the system works.

The Bible makes many comments about lightning. It tells us that lightning is made with water (rain) even though people at that time totally ascribed lightning to supernatural causes. (See Jeremiah 10:13 and 51:16). Lightning is referred to as a tool of God. (See Job 28:26; 36:30; 37:3, 11, 15; 38:24, 25, 35.)

We are just beginning to understand the design of Earth’s atmosphere and why we need lightning. It continues to be obvious that the more we know of the creation, the closer we get to understanding the power and wisdom of the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dark Matter and Black Holes

Dark Matter and Black Holes
Dark matter is the glue that holds our universe together. We have discussed a variety of ways that dark matter is critical to the existence of our solar system and of galaxies in general. We have also reported on unsuccessful experiments to try to find that mysterious dark matter. We have discussed the concept of WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) and the idea of attempting to see dark matter by smashing protons together. Now scientists think there may be a connection between dark matter and black holes.

A new study reported in Scientific American (July 2017, page 39-) reports that primordial black holes are now appearing to be the cause of dark matter. The computer model shows that when the creation process usually called “the big bang” took place, seeds of primordial black holes were produced. Those black holes could cause all of the phenomena that we observe and attribute to dark matter. This would be a much simpler cause of the dark matter than previous models would indicate. Dark matter would be a bi-product of the creation process.

From an apologetic standpoint, this is very interesting. God’s power is so great that when He applied that power in the creation process, massive numbers of primordial black holes were produced. If this hypothesis is correct, it tells us something of the power of God and explains the structure we see in the cosmos. It will be interesting to see if future research will confirm or deny this new observation.

The authors of the research document into dark matter and black holes are Juan Garcia-Bellido and Sebastien Clesse.
The Scientific American article is here.
The scientific document is available here.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Cobra Plant Insect Trap

Cobra Plant
One of the most interesting areas of botany is the functioning of plants that don’t rely on photosynthesis to survive. Recent studies of the California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica), also known as the cobra plant because of its shape, have shown that its design is incredibly complex.

David Armitage at the University of Notre Dame has been studying this plant, and in a recent article in Science News (January 21, 2017, page 4) he reported on what is known about this strange plant. It grows in soil rich in serpentine which would kill most photosynthetic plants. The cobra plant survives by being “meat dependent.” Up to 95% of the nitrogen the plant uses comes from insects trapped inside the leaves of the plant.

The curled leaves of the California pitcher plant serve as an insect trap. It draws insects into the leafy trap by secreting a sweet substance. This secretion is not through its blossoms but from a special roll of tissue near the mouth of the insect trap. When an insect enters the small opening under the cobra-like head of the pitcher, something interesting happens. By a method still not understood, the cobra plant draws water up from the soil and creates a pool in the bottom of the “pitcher.” Putting other substances into the trap doesn’t trigger the water. The plant will only respond to an insect. How the plant knows what is a bug and what isn’t a bug is still not understood. The water contains bacteria which lower the surface tension, so when a bug falls in, it quickly sinks to the bottom and drowns.

Another unsolved mystery of this plant is that it has a forked tissue at the top of the trap called a “fishtail” which resembles a mustache with red veins. It does not lure insects into the plant, but its function is still not understood. Armitage says “The only thing fishtails lure, for the time being at least, are puzzled botanists.”

Those of us who see God’s designing hand in the natural world would see the cobra plant as a special design to meet a particular environment. We would point to the Bible in Romans 1:20 where it says, “We can know there is a God through the things he has made.” The complexity of the California pitcher plant supports such a viewpoint in a special way.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Jupiter Comet Shield

Jupiter Comet Shield
Jupiter Struck by Shoemaker-Levy 9

There is a significant amount of debris left over from the formation of the solar system existing in clouds outside the solar system. That debris eventually gets attracted toward the Sun. In 1992 scientists observed Jupiter pulling the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 apart and breaking it into more than 20 pieces which eventually slammed into Jupiter’ surface in 1994. We learned that we have a Jupiter comet shield to protect our planet.

It is obvious that Jupiter is essential to the survival of life on Earth if for no other reason than the shield it gives us. Right now a spacecraft named Juno is orbiting Jupiter and sending back data and pictures that are amazing. The spacecraft has made five elliptical orbits since last July dipping to within 2100 miles of Jupiter’s atmosphere, collecting data, and taking photographs. ScienceNews.org has some of the amazing pictures.

Here are some things we have learned about Jupiter:

*Polar cyclones 900 miles wide circle the planet.

*Jupiter has a powerful magnetic field about ten times stronger than Earth’s.

*Powerful auroras work in the polar areas of the planet but are different from what we observe on Earth in both structure and function.

*There is a concentrated band of ammonia near the planet’s equator.

There is still much to learn about this giant planet. The observations we are making assist us in understanding how the solar system was formed. They also show us what affect Jupiter has on us today as well as in the future. Psalms 19:1 tells us that “The Heavens declare the Glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork.” It is an exciting time to be alive and to watch as we use new tools to understand the creation and how God has given us a Jupiter comet shield.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dinosaur Pseudoscience Part 2

Dinosaur Pseudoscience Fire-breathing
Yesterday we stated that one of the greatest challenges that this ministry faces is the bad science and false claims by creationists, including dinosaur pseudoscience. In addition to the ones we mentioned yesterday, another example is the claim of many creationists that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons.

In the Middle Ages, there were numerous stories about flying dragons who breathed fire. In recent years we have seen movies showing everything from Puff the Magic Dragon to How to Train Your Dragon as well as video games showing dragons that look like dinosaurs. Creationists have proposed that dinosaurs had hypergolic chemicals (chemicals that ignite when combined) that they used to produce literal fire. The scientific problems with such proposals are huge. Hypergolic chemicals are highly toxic to biological organisms. Fire going out of an animal’s mouth or nose would cause damage to the tissue. Atheists and biblical skeptics have written numerous articles showing the impossibility of these proposals on a scientific basis.

What is the biblical passage that creationists use to suggest that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons? The answer to that question is Job 41. The key word in this chapter is “leviathan.” The word is used three other times in the Bible–Psalms 74:14, Psalms 104:26, and Isaiah 27:1 In all of these references the leviathan is a sea creature. In other non-biblical Hebrew writings the word is used to describe a sea creature, and in a few cases, a sea crocodile is the translation. Job 41:18 says that when leviathan sneezes a light shines and his eyes look like the dawn. Verse 19 says that fire comes from his mouth and verse 20 says that smoke comes from his nostrils. This is poetic language and obviously doesn’t describe the animal anatomically. Verse 29 says that the leviathan laughs and verse 31 says that he makes the sea boil like a pot of ointment. These are obviously poetic descriptions of a very fierce sea creature. It is not a dinosaur living on the land, flying, and belching fire.

There is no valid fossil support for humans and dinosaurs living at the same time, and there is no biblical passage that states it. Cherry-picking a poetic description in Job to back up a denominational belief system is not taking the Bible literally.

Those of us who believe in God are in a war with forces who wish to destroy Christianity and the Bible. Pseudoscience used to defend a denominational understanding of a biblical passage just becomes a tool of those who despise Jesus Christ. It is a tool they use to destroy the faith of bright and well-educated young adults. We must not give them that tool.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dinosaur Pseudoscience

Dinosaur Pseudoscience
One of the greatest challenges that this ministry faces is the bad science and false claims that are generated by creationists associated with various denominational groups. One of the challenges relates to dinosaur pseudoscience. History professor Ronald Numbers has shown that over 90% of creationist materials presented in this country are produced by dispensational and millennial groups who start with their denominational doctrines and try to shoe-horn science into their belief system. (Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists, Harvard University Press, 2006.) We prefer to take the Bible literally.

Atheists and secular groups use the bad science involved to discredit the existence of God and the Bible as His word. The most basic problem presented by these creationist groups is that in spite of their claims, they do not take the Bible literally. By cherry-picking biblical statements, they attempt to make the Bible give a date to every event in the history of the Earth. They suggest that all 26-million different forms of life on the Earth today were present on the day of creation which they claim was roughly 6,000 years ago.

The fact is that the Hebrew words in Genesis were descriptions of animals that Moses knew and that his contemporaries had domesticated. Bacteria, viruses, platypuses, flightless birds, and countless sea creatures were not what Moses was referring to, and not what his readers would have understood him to be describing. For more on this go to doesgodexist.org and read the booklet titled God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word.

Perhaps the best example of creationist pseudoscience is their effort to explain the dinosaurs. We need to understand that none of the words used in Genesis 1 could reasonably be applied to dinosaurs. Creationists try to tell us there is scientific evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. They point to a painting by the Kuku Yalanji tribe of Queensland, Australia, which shows an animal that looks like a plesiosaur. It turns out that the tribesman actually copied a painting from a children’s book called The Giant Golden Book of Dinosaurs published in 1960.

Another example of this kind of bad science is the claim that a Japanese fishing boat named the Zuiyo-Maru snagged a carcass of a dead plesiosaur in 1977. It was badly decomposed, and research has since shown that it was the carcass of a basking shark.

To say that humans and dinosaurs lived together defies many scientific facts and brings ridicule on faith in God. Perhaps the most laughable suggestion is to insist that there were fire-breathing dinosaurs. We will deal with that bit of dinosaur pseudoscience tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Babies and Pain–A New Study

Babies and Pain
One of the areas of medicine that seems to be neglected is pain management. That is true of all ages, but one of the least studied age groups for investigating the experience of pain is what infants experience before, during, and after birth. There are special challenges when studying babies and pain.

Pain assessment in babies is difficult because they don’t talk and it is difficult to know whether they are in pain or whether their crying is due to something else. The use of facial expressions or body jerking or wiggling is likely to be very misleading. The May 3 issue of Science Translational Medicine carried a report on the use of electroencephalography (or EEG). Doctors used a special device called a Cz electrode to pick up brain waves when the baby experienced a painful event such as having its heel lanced to draw blood. The electroencephalogram showed a neural spike immediately after having the poke to the heel.

Babies born prematurely between 34 and 36 weeks of gestation show the same kind of responses to pain. Not all babies have exactly the same response, but there is enough consistency to believe that the babies do in fact sense pain. The babies did not show the same response to loud noises, flashing lights, or non-painful touches.

This research suggests a number of things. Procedures done on babies that could cause pain in an adult seem to be very likely to cause pain in a baby. The use of painkillers and the effect of medical treatment on the brain of a small child needs to be more carefully studied. Medical studies of babies and pain must proceed with care.

The question of whether abortion causes pain in the baby must be considered. The answer seems to be that babies do sense pain and that is also true of premature babies. Women who are considering medical procedures on their babies and especially abortion need to know what the evidence shows.
Reference: Science News, June 10, 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Galactic Collision Is Coming!

Andromeda Galaxy on Galactic Collision Course
Andromeda Galaxy

A skeptic remarked to me, “If a wise God created the universe, it would have been designed better. Our Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy are on a galactic collision course. They are going to smash into each other and tear each other apart. That’s the end of life on Earth. You’re God must not be very smart.” What could I say? Yes, it’s true that astronomers have determined that there will be a galactic collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies resulting in the destruction of both. But there is more to the story.

Recently I read an article about scientists who are studying two black holes that appear to be orbiting each other 750 million light-years from Earth. The scientists are watching them to see what will happen when two black holes collide as they spin into each other. The reason for the scientists’ curiosity is they want to know what will happen when the black holes in the center of the Milky Way and Andromeda come together. (It seems that most galaxies have black holes in their center.) Of course, the center of the galaxies will not meet until long after the outer spirals have destroyed each other, and Earth as well. Still, the scientists want to know what will happen when black holes collide. Will they swallow each other and become a super-super-massive black hole? Will they disappear? Who knows?

The scientists have been watching those distant orbiting black holes for about 12 years now. How much longer will they have to wait to find the answer? They estimate that those black holes orbit each other every 24,000 years. How many orbits will it take for them to converge in a catastrophic explosion of energy? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. The bottom line is that it’s going to take a lot longer than 12 years, or even 12 hundred, or 12 thousand, or maybe even 12 million. The scientists working on the project will not be around to learn the answer.

Let’s get back to the expected Milky Way-Andromeda catastrophy. When will it happen? Oh, let’s say in a billion years or so. We have many more important things to worry about than the coming galactic train-wreck. So why was the skeptic saying that there can’t be an all-wise, loving, and powerful God because our two galaxies may be destroyed in a billion years? That’s a very weak excuse for not believing in God. The point is that God never intended for this universe and our planet to last forever. He even told us so. (See 2 Peter 3:10-12.) God had a specific plan in mind to give us a chance to learn to love and serve him and to grow toward becoming the people he called us to be. There is a much better universe coming. (You can read about it in Revelation 21.) There is no need to worry about a galactic collision. In the new universe: There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
–Roland Earnst © 2017