Grand Canyon Stratigraphy

Grand Canyon Stratigraphy

Over the years, this ministry has taken groups of people on what we call the “Canyonlands Tour” more than 30 times. A highlight of that trip is visiting the Grand Canyon. Looking into the Canyon, we see the various layers of rock, with each layer having a different set of properties. The study of Grand Canyon stratigraphy shows God’s design that allows us to live on this planet.

The materials in the layers (strata) of Earth all come from the molten material that made up the planet at its origin. Molten material solidified into granite. The red orthoclase material weathered out of the granite first, producing clay. Feldspars containing vital elements like iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium came out of the granite, leaving quartz behind. The quartz became sand, and the other elements became soil, limestone, and all the other materials we see in the strata today.

As we stand on the edge of the Canyon, we can see the alternating layers of the Grand Canyon stratigraphy. We see sandstone (made of quartz), shale (made from mud), conglomerate (made from gravel), and limestone (a chemically precipitated rock made slowly in an area of quiet water). Deep within the canyon, we see layers tilted at an angle, indicating catastrophic geologic activity. Below that, we see rocks that have been altered by heat and pressure (metamorphic rocks). At the very bottom, we see the original volcanic granite from which all of this was formed.

We gaze in awe at the history of Earth before our eyes, and we marvel at God’s wisdom in design to prepare this incredible planet on which we live.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

The Cords of Orion – What Are They?

Orion Nebula
Orion Nebula – NASA
cords of Orion

In the book of Job, God asks the character Job, “Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons?” What are the cords of Orion?

Since ancient times, people imagined that the asterism in the Orion constellation resembles a hunter holding a sword. The sword appears to consist of three stars. However, if you look closely, you can see that the central star is a little “fuzzy.” With a telescope, you can see that it’s not a star, but a nebula.

The picture of the Orion Nebula was taken by NASA’s Hubble space telescope. Nebulae are star factories, where clouds of dust and gas are collapsing to form stars. At “only” 1344 light-years from Earth, Orion is our closest star factory. Astronomers have observed about 700 stars in various stages of formation in the Orion Nebula.

There are many more nebulae where stars are being made today, as they have been since the universe began. These star factories are responsible for creating the billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy and beyond. They show that God is not a magician who pulls a universe out of his sleeve. God is an engineer who has designed an amazing system that makes possible everything we can see, and much more that we can’t see.

As we look at the cords of Orion, here is something to consider. God, who is outside of time, created a star factory in time, which then generated a star we call the Sun. Then He provided a home for us on the third planet from that star where we can look up and see star factories, like the Orion Nebula, at work.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Viruses Are Critical Agents for Life

Viruses Are Critical Agents for Life
Emiliania huxleyi bloom in English Channel

The pandemic has made many people think that viruses are a bad thing. However recent research has shown that viruses are critical agents for life. They convert energy and organic matter at the bottom of the food chain into a form that provides us with what we need to live on Earth.

An algae called Emiliania huxleyi uses sunlight and nutrients from the ocean to produce massive algae blooms in the ocean. If it stopped there, the presence of the algae would be detrimental to ocean life. We all know about the “red tide” that afflicts coastal areas of Florida where algae are destructive.

But there is more to the story of Emiliania huxleyi. A virus called coccolithovirus infects the algae, killing it and produing organic matter that is the base of the ocean food chain supporting higher forms of life. Kay Bidle of Rutgers University is the chief author of the study. She says that this relationship is likely to apply to other virus-algae interactions in the ocean.

This new discovery is related to changes in the ocean observed from the International Space Station. The magnitude of this process is huge, and may provide a solution to some of our biggest environmental problems.

The National Science Foundation has reported on this discovery at nsf.gov. Mike Sieracki who is a program director in NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences says, “We are just beginning to understand how these incredibly complex microscopic interactions can affect global processes such as the carbon cycle.”

Viruses are critical agents for life. They are tools that God has built into the creation to provide the food and energy we need. Like all viral interactions, the virus works with other created things, in this case algae, to accomplish its provision for life’s existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Colors of Fall and What they Mean

Colors of Fall and What they Mean

The beauty of autumn’s brilliant colors is an amazing testimony to the creative wisdom of God as well as an expression of His love of beauty. The colors of fall are caused by several pigments and the interaction of sunlight and sugar.

Most of us know that chlorophyll makes leaves green. When leaves receive reduced sunlight in the fall, they also have a reduced supply of nutrients and water, causing the chlorophyll to be removed. The chlorophyll masks two pigments that have different colors. Carotene is yellow, and several varieties of anthocyanins are red. Many leaves contain tannin, which is brown and is dominant in oak trees. Sunlight acting on trapped sugar also produces anthocyanins with various sparkling colors, which is why the color is so spectacular on a sunny autumn day in a maple forest.

As the days grow shorter, the reduced amount of sunlight causes a corky wall called the “abscission layer” to form between the twig and the leaf stalk. This wall will eventually break and cause the leaf to drop off in the breeze. The corky material seals off the vessels that supplied the leaf with nutrients and water and blocks any loss of sugars from the plant.

What is especially interesting is that the leaf colors are not all the same. Some vines produce spectacular colors. Poison ivy takes on a beautiful red due to a high concentration of anthocyanin. Aspen has a high concentration of carotene producing the vivid yellows which dominate the woods in the Rocky Mountains. In Michigan, we have maples, gum, aspen, and oak, giving us spectacular colors that vary from one location to another.

The colors of fall are a great testimony to the fact that God paid attention to aesthetics in the creation. If survival of the fittest were the only criteria for choosing the chemicals that allow plants to survive, it seems that there would be one best choice. Different chemicals provide a vivid, beautiful splash of color for humans to enjoy. Beauty is not part of the evolutionary model, but it speaks of God’s creativity, giving us a wonderful and beautiful world in which to live.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Recycling Enables the Natural Beauty

Recycling Enables the Natural Beauty

I have lived my entire life in the woodlands of North America. I love walking through the vast areas of pines, birches, maples, oaks, blueberries, ferns, mosses, aspens, and raspberries. To me, it is pure joy to sit in the woods or in a boat on a lake or river and listen to the sounds of nature. I especially enjoy the fall when the colors become vivid, and animal life is in a rush to prepare for winter. The falling of leaves to the ground, followed by frost and snow, adds its own magic to the joy of being in the woods. Recycling enables the natural beauty we enjoy.

What we are seldom aware of is the massive amounts of waste produced in the woods. We all know about leaves and probably have had some cruel words about them when they cover our lawns. The fact is that a constant rain of organic material falls to the floor of the woods. Limbs, bark, twigs, dead grass, moss, sawdust, animal excrement, and carcasses pile up year after year. Yet when you walk in the woods, the floor is made up of a thin, spongy layer of black soil. What happens to the massive amount of debris that falls to the forest floor every year?

The answer to this question is under-appreciated by most of us. Recycling enables the natural beauty of the woods. God has built into the forest an incredibly efficient recycling system. When something organic falls to the forest floor, it is swarmed on by bacteria, termites, ants, fungi, and worms, which form the basis of the food chain for higher forms of life. Nutrients in the woods seldom last longer than a few weeks at the most. Rain is moderate and percolates through these nutrients, rapidly helping them find their way back into the forest’s living tissues.

Those places where there are not dense forests have a completely different system of recycling. In the far north, where forests are not dominant, migrating salmon provide the ecological balance needed. In desert areas, the lack of ecological balance means that life for humans is difficult at best. Human survival depends on God’s recycling system. In some areas of the rich farmlands of America, we can measure the soil in feet. That allows us to grow our grain crops that sustain our existence, but those areas were built in an ancient forest.

God told us to take care of what He gave us. (See Genesis 2:15.) One part of caring for the Earth is to copy God’s recycling techniques. Recycling enables the natural beauty by replenishing the nutrients we take from the soil rather than polluting the air by burning them or polluting the ground by bagging in plastic and burying them.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Flash-Frozen Extinct Species

Flash-Frozen Extinct Species

One of the weaknesses of evolution’s explanation of the origin of all living things is that it is built on an assumption called uniformitarianism. The idea is that “the present is the key to the past” meaning that no process operated in the past that is not going on today. If there have been global catastrophes wiping out most living creatures, then the theories of gradualism have a problem with explaining life’s origins. Flash-frozen extinct species indicate global catastrophes.

Many years ago, we reported on the 1979 find of an extinct steppe bison mummy near Fairbanks, Alaska. The perfectly preserved corpse had been frozen for thousands of years. The gold miner who discovered the mummy called it “Blue Babe” after the mythical Paul Bunyon’s ox. That was because exposure to air caused it to turn blue due to iron phosphate. Blue Babe (pictured) is now on display at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

As the permafrost melts in Arctic areas, people are finding more frozen animals, including mammoths and wooly rhinos. The latest one is a cave bear found on the Lyakhovsky Islands in Russia. Once again, the specimen is complete with all of the soft tissues intact.

These animals were preserved in a state we don’t see happening today.
They seem to be flash-frozen, not just preserved by falling into a crevasse in a glacier. All of the animals found are extinct, but studies of their DNA and their preservation conditions are opening doors to the scientific research of the past.

As scientists find more flash-frozen extinct species, there will be revisions of theories about the history of life on Earth. One positive aspect of global warming is that it will expand our understanding of life in the past.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Smithsonianmag.com

Radiation Levels on the Moon

Radiation Levels on the Moon

God created planet Earth for us to live on, and He designed us with what we need to survive here. The more we learn about conditions elsewhere in the solar system, the more we see how unique Earth is. Recently we have seen research data concerning radiation levels on the Moon. Our studies reveal that astronauts on the Moon could get up to 1000 times more radiation than what we experience on Earth.

Dr. Kerry Lee at the Johnson Space Center in Houston has analyzed data from a Chinese-German team. The Germans used data retrieved by a Chinese lander named Chang’e 4. They compared it with data from a NASA orbiter that has been circling the Moon for over ten years. The two sets of data agree 100%. The primary risk factor for humans is cancer. The message is that if humans try to exist on the Moon, they will need thick-walled shelters for protection.

We take for granted the romantic idea that humans can wander around space, looking for new information about the stars and planets. In doing that, we fail to realize how carefully designed the Earth is to avoid the dangers of radiation in space. Astronauts in the International Space Station get three times less radiation than the radiation levels on the Moon.

Our upper atmosphere and magnetic field help to shield us from radiation. God carefully designed the Earth with features to protect us from radiation from the Sun and other stars. Proverbs 8:22-30 finds wisdom speaking about the creation. The more we look out into space, the more we see the necessity of wisdom in making a world where we can live safely.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Associated Press, September 26, 2020.

Birds Can Predict Typhoons

Birds Can Predict Typhoons
Black-naped Tern

A recent report says that birds can predict typhoons. The Yamashina Institute for Ornithology published the results in Marine Biology, showing evidence that black-naped terns can predict typhoons and use that information to facilitate their migration.

Researchers attached tracking devices to the terns and studied how their migration departure varied with the presence of these huge storms. The birds would delay their departure when a massive typhoon was about to cross their projected path. Jean-Baptiste Thiebot, the lead author of the study, said, “They seem to be able to predict it.”

This ability gives the terns several advantages.
Avoiding extreme winds and rain is a good thing. Besides that, the storms churn up food to the ocean surface allowing the terns to stop periodically to eat on their journey. In 2017, when there were no typhoons in the study area, the birds delayed their trip much later and flew the journey without a stop.

Scientists are still studying how these birds can predict typhoons.
Some research suggests that they are equipped with infrasonic detectors that pick up weather signals. Researchers are also looking at the tern’s ability to recognize changing clouds.

In any case, it seems the birds are designed with an ability to use weather to facilitate their migration. Robert Gill, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says, “They are able to predict better than the best weather forecasters we have.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Scientific American, October 2020, page 24.

Mighty Mouse Drug May Help Space Travel

Mighty Mouse Drug May Help Space Travel

One of the problems with space travel is that the human body was designed to live on Earth. When people are in weightlessness for an extended time, they lose muscle and bone mass. This loss can be as much as 20%. A possible solution might be called the “mighty mouse drug.”

Dr. Se-Jin Lee of the Jackson Laboratory at the University of Connecticut has published findings of a drug that blocks a pair of proteins that typically limit muscle mass. When scientists treated mice with this drug, they maintained their weight and muscle mass even when they were in the International Space Station for a month.

The application of this research can do more than provide a way for humans to survive a trip to Mars. It may also benefit people who are confined to a bed or a wheelchair.

This research reminds us that God designed our bodies to function in Earth’s gravity, just as He designed Earth to support life. Problems occur when we subject our physical bodies to forces they were not designed for. These problems require extreme solutions, and God has given us the ability to use science to find solutions such as the mighty mouse drug.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Source: Associated Press 9/12/20, and Fierce Biotech.

Antarctic Glaciers and Flooding

Antarctic Glaciers and Flooding
Thwaites Glacier

Two of the most massive Antarctic glaciers have broken loose from their land connections and are floating in the ocean. This is a concern because if both glaciers melt, there would be enough water to raise the world’s oceans by ten feet. It is not only another evidence of global warming but also a warning to the world that we must pay attention to the coming rise in sea level.

Understand that when ice is exposed to the air on land, it absorbs a minimum of heat, so melting on a landmass is very slow. In water, however, heat exchange is very rapid. We all know that hypothermia takes place when a human gets into icy water. The melting of ice is much faster once it is in water, and the Thwaites glacier, the larger of the two Antarctic glaciers involved, is one of the fastest-changing glaciers on Earth.

Job 38:22-23 refers to the “treasures of the snow” and says that this frozen water is “reserved against the time of trouble.” In Earth’s design, the snow and ice preserve water and provide a vital heat sink to the whole planet. We see evidence that the oceans have been much higher in Earth’s geological history than they are today. There have also been times when they were much lower. The polar ice caps have been the primary water storage areas. Glaciers are also part of the design of Earth to make it hospitable for Life.

If the sea level rises ten feet, imagine what would happen to the world’s major cities located on the edge of the oceans. Since the mass of these two glaciers is enormous, this is not an immediate threat. ( A recent NASA study says that at the present rate, the melting ice sheets would add 15 inches to the sea level by 2100.) But it is a potential catastrophe we can avoid if we recognize that the possible flooding is a consequence of human actions, not a vindictive act of God. We can avoid what has already begun to happen by taking care of the planet as God instructed us to do.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: A report about Antarctic glaciers in the September 14, 2020, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.