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

Why Birds Stand on One Leg

Why birds stand on one leg
Have you ever asked why birds stand on one leg? We live on a river that has a massive number of ducks in it. When the ducks are resting on the edge of the river, they generally stand on one leg. When guests visit us, they want to know why. Ducks are not the only birds that stand and even sleep on one leg. Geese and Flamingos do the same thing.

The answer to why birds stand on one leg seems to be a simple matter of the application of basic physics. For an object to be stable, its center of gravity has to be directly above the point of support. In my basic physics classes, we have some demonstrations of that principle. A spinning bicycle wheel will do strange things if its pivot point is not under the center of gravity. A top that is not symmetrical will invert when spun with its round side in touch with the table. There are toys that appear to be suspended in space, but in reality, their center of gravity is located at one end which makes it look odd when it is on the edge of a table.

When you stand on two legs, your center of gravity is somewhere between the legs. That may sound stable, but in reality, it isn’t. When you stand, you waver as your body senses that any movement you make throws you off balance. There is a constant muscular effort that counteracts this movement. Just standing for a long time can be fatiguing because a lot of energy is expended to counteract this wavering.

Recent studies with flamingos show that when they stand on one leg, the center of gravity falls directly over the point that touches the ground. Standing on one leg, the bird’s body is quiescent. When the bird is on two legs, there is more muscle movement and the center of pressure on the foot touching the ground changes. If you look carefully at a duck standing on one leg, you will see that it stands a little lopsided, so the mass is completely above the point of support. In addition to energy conservation, standing on one leg allows birds to withstand cold temperatures by keeping one leg close to the body. So thermoregulation is also involved in this odd-looking design.

So if you have ever asked why birds stand on one leg, remember this. Anytime we see something in nature that we don’t understand; it is almost 100% sure that there is a design feature involved. What the animal is doing may look strange, but it has at least one significant function. Truly we can “Know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:18-20).
Data from Science News, June 24, 2017, page 15.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Asteroids Have Value

Vesta, Largest of Asteroids

What happened to the dinosaurs? The prevailing theory for the extinction of dinosaurs involves an asteroid collision at Chicxulub in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Whether you accept that theory or not, there is no question that there are vast numbers of asteroids in space. They are apparently leftovers from the formation of the planets. At least nine times an asteroid has hit the earth leaving a crater that can be studied and mapped today. Some of the craters are huge. The largest is a crater 186 miles (300 km) wide in South Africa called the Vredefort crater. The question is, “Why would God allow such objects to exist knowing they could become a threat to life on Earth?”

First, we need to realize that such collisions are incredibly rare and so far they have never impacted humans. There are more than half-a-million known asteroids. The largest is Vesta (pictured) which is 329 miles (530 kilometers) in diameter. The smallest are only 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter. Objects smaller than that are called meteoroids. According to NASA, the total mass of every known asteroid is less than the mass of our Moon.

Scientists are studying their chemical composition of asteroids. What they have found is that they are very rich in rare-earth metals as well as iron, nickel, and cobalt. In the future, we may replace depleted resources on Earth by mining asteroids. Experts have estimated that the value of minerals in asteroids is in the trillions of dollars. Two American companies are gearing up to pioneer asteroid mining operations–Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources.

We think too small when we think that God planned for humans to be limited by the resources of Earth. What appeared to be a threat in the past may turn out to be an incredible blessing from God in the future.
Data from Discover Magazine, July/August 2017, pages 50-51 and https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/asteroids/indepth.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Gravitational Glue

Carousel and Gravitational Glue
As scientists study the motions of things in space, a great mystery continues to grow. The fact that everything spins at very fast rates allows stability in the cosmos. Galaxies, which are island universes containing billions of stars, spin fast enough that they don’t collapse into their cores and yet they don’t fly apart. Scientists call the force that makes this possible “gravitational glue.”

If you were sitting on a carousel horse and spinning at ten rotations per second, there is no way you could hang on. You would be thrown off the carousel. Galaxies spin so fast they should fly apart, but they don’t. Attempts to explain the glue that holds them together have included exoplanets, galactic gas clouds, and black holes–all of which we can’t see. The problem is that they are all too weak to do the job.

Adding to the mystery, we see light bending as it travels through space and we call that “gravitational lensing.” There is not enough visible mass in the cosmos to bend the light as much as we observe. Massive filaments of gas connect groups of galaxies, and they are controlled by something invisible.

There are two proposals of subatomic particles that could be the cause of these mysteries. One is WIMPS, which we have discussed previously. WIMPS is an acronym for “Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.” These particles would have to be heavier than protons and neutrons. The other proposal is Axions. They would be “ghost particles” that have a low mass but are super-abundant. So far all attempts to detect either of these possible explanations have failed. To find the answer will require a very complicated detection system.

This is just one more example of why the creation of the cosmos cannot be explained by naturalistic chance. The complexity of such simple things as having a planet in a solar system within a galaxy defies any chance explanation. This complex system can better be explained by God designing from a dimension far beyond the four dimensions we see. Proverbs 8:22-32, authored by Wisdom, suggests the wisdom in the design of the universe.

The gravitational glue that holds everything together is just another wonderful creation of God that allows us to exist.
Data from: Discover Magazine July/August 2017, page76.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

TRAPPIST-1 Star System Revisited

TRAPPIST-1 Planet Lineup - NASA
TRAPPIST-1 Planet Lineup – NASA Illustration

We commented in a previous post about extra-solar planets (planets orbiting other stars), and whether those planets could have life on them. The media seem to convey the idea that there are hundreds of “earths” all containing life-forms similar to us. They suggest that if there are many Earth-like planets with life on them, then that indicates that Earth and the life on it came about by chance processes. In February, NASA called a special news conference to announce that they had found a star they call TRAPPIST-1 which had seven Earth-sized planets orbiting it in the “Goldilocks Zone.” The Goldilocks Zone is the area where water could exist in the liquid state. Many media sources were quick to announce that NASA had found seven planets that were “Earth twins” and almost surely would be inhabited.

Let us emphasize again that finding life in space is not an issue of whether God exists. If scientists find life in space, it will have been created by God and will have a purpose in existing. This particular find, however, is just another example of how quickly and irresponsibly the media will jump to promote an agenda that will sell. As more data has become available, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this seven-planet system is not an ideal place for life. In fact, any life form that happened to be there would be destroyed by the properties of the system.

TRAPPIST-1, the star that serves as the “sun,” is a very cool dwarf star. That means it gives off a very limited spectrum of light. The critical wavelengths required for photosynthesis and chemosynthesis are simply not present. The masses of these planets range from .4 to 1.4 times the mass of Earth. That means the smaller planets will almost surely not have an atmosphere since they are smaller than Mars. The length of time for the planets to orbit their star varies from 1.5 days to 20 days. That makes a very short year. They are all less than 6 million miles from their parent star. That means all activity on the star would likely be lethal to life-forms on the planets. For a comparison, Mercury, the planet closest to our Sun is separated from it by 36.8 million miles. Earth is 93 million miles from the Sun.

God may have prepared other Earth-like planets, and they may have even been equipped with life. The point is that it is easy to see our planet’s uniqueness, design, and careful planning. We haven’t yet found anyplace like it in other star systems.
Data from Astronomy, July 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Alcohol and Breast Cancer

Alcohol and Breast Cancer
For the past several years studies have suggested that drinking reduces the risk of cancer. The flavonoids in grape-derived drinks were said to boost the immune system. A new study connects alcohol and breast cancer risk.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund have announced the analysis of 119 previous studies involving 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer. The study shows that even one small glass of wine or an eight-ounce beer a day causes a 5% greater risk of breast cancer for premenopausal women and a 9% increase for postmenopausal women. Alcohol triggers DNA mutations and raises estrogen levels which are linked to increased risk for breast cancer.

Alcohol is the most destructive recreational drug ever created by man. The damage it causes brings enormous pain and suffering not only to those who use alcohol but to innocent people who are victimized by its effect. Most of the things that cause pain to us individually and collectively are not from God, but rather from our abuse of the things God has given us.
Reference: The Washington Post, quoted in The Week, June 9, 2017, page 19.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Quantum Mechanics, Galileo, and Design

quantum mechanics
One of the great frontier areas of physics today is quantum mechanics. This area has to do with the very small. It deals with the construction of electric charge, mass, gravity, and how matter behaves in space/time. Things that happen in quantum mechanics sometimes seem to violate the fundamental laws of physics.

One of the major concepts of quantum mechanics is simultaneity. The New Physics Dictionary says “Computational scientists wonder at the thought that a quantum system could exist in a superposition of two different conditions or locations simultaneously–this possibility is, in fact, being realized in the exploding field of quantum computation.” In other words, in the quantum world, one thing can be in two places at the same time.

Common sense tells us that in our everyday experience a particle cannot be in two different widely-separated locations at the same time. That does not seem to apply to subatomic particles. What works in the world in which we live where time and space have specific boundaries, does not work in the subatomic world of quarks, neutrinos, mesons, and antimatter.

As scientists conduct more research, it has become obvious that most of the standard gravitational rules still apply in the quantum area. Scientists reporting on arXiv.org have announced that their studies show the equivalence principle applies to quantum particles just as it did when Galileo showed that gravity works the same on all objects no matter what their mass. A 50-ton boulder and a bowling ball dropped from the same elevation will hit the ground at the same time. When scientists conduct similar experiments with quantum particles, the same result takes place. They have also found that the conservation laws of energy are consistent in the quantum area.

The Mind that invented matter and formulated space/time used fixed principles and laws to design the charge and the mass. The result is a system that works to make life possible on this planet. Whether we look up or down, we find that a wonder-working hand has gone before.
Reference: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/key-einstein-principle-survives-quantum-test
–John N. Clayton © 2017