Space Aliens or God?

Space Aliens
What do people do when they won’t believe in God, but they can’t explain the complexity of the cosmos or the unique nature of humans? A common answer to that question is that they believe space aliens created us. We began our printed periodical in 1968. In that year, proposals of space aliens appeared on the front pages of American newspapers. A man named Eric von Daniken wrote a series of books which he claimed proved that aliens were in control of humans and they had a purpose for our existence. He based his claims on “evidence” from statues on Easter Island and ground paintings in South America.

Recently some on the internet were proposing that ancient art in Catholic churches showed aliens coming to Earth. The subject of the artwork was God coming to Earth in the form of Jesus Christ. Now there is a book by Graham Hancock entitled Magicians of the Gods. He claims that a comet wiped out our ancestors about 12,000 years ago. He says the comet collision was so devastating that all evidence of it was destroyed. He cites evidence of a mass extinction and an arrangement of stone pillars called Gobekli Tepe in what is now Turkey. Hancock cites this as proof that a superior alien civilization created us.

All of these claims are easily disproven. The point is that when people reject the notion that God created the cosmos and gave humans the ability to make impressive structures, the result is bizarre explanations. God gave humans the intelligence and tools to do incredible things. But we resist living in the peaceful, positive, constructive, serving manner that God calls us to. When we search for other ways to explain the creation, the result is violence and selfishness. Rebellious humans invent explanations that are ignorant and unsupported by evidence.

There are no space aliens to help us undo the damage we have done and continue to do physically, mentally, and spiritually. God is the answer to human struggles and the only possible way to find what we all desire.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Underwater Bees

Seagrass and Green Sea Turtle
Seagrass and Green Sea Turtle

Those of us who live many miles from the ocean may not think about what goes on under the water. Similar to the land, there is an enormous diversity of plants in the sea. Just like land plants, ocean plants have flowers and pollinate and reproduce. Seagrass grows on the floor of the ocean and provides habitat for sea turtles, manatees, and many other marine animals. There are some 60 species of seagrass, and those grasses bloom and release pollen. Like land plants, seagrasses need something like the bees that help pollinate land plants. So are there underwater bees?

Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico have reported that hundreds of crustaceans and other small insect-like animals visit plants and bring pollen with them. These invertebrates are the “underwater bees.” Along with ocean currents, they allow ocean vegetation to flourish.

As scientists study ways in which carbon can be locked up to avoid high concentrations in our atmosphere, they find that the ocean is a major factor in avoiding runaway greenhouse heating of the earth. Life in the oceans is essential to life on land.

Here is another design feature of this planet which is critical to the long-term existence of life on Earth. In the 1950s, scientists thought that there were maybe five or six factors which would be critical to the existence of life. The famous Drake Equation of how many planets could have life on them only considered five factors in its original format. Now we know there are a huge number of things that have to be “right” to allow life to exist.

Every time we find a new variable, the odds against life occurring by chance on planet Earth become greater. God’s wisdom and design can be seen everywhere around us. Truly, “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
Reference: National Wildlife, June/July 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Asteroid 2015 BZ-509

Jupiter And Asteroids
Jupiter And Asteroids

A recently discovered asteroid is raising new questions. The cosmos is one of the great evidences for the existence of God. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.” Psalms 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork…” We see a constant stream of new proposals year after year giving possible scenarios about how the solar system and Earth were produced. In the nearly 50 years that we have been writing, we have seen a dozen or so theories advanced and discarded because they couldn’t account for new observations.

This month Science News (May 13, 2017, page 5), carried a story about a strange asteroid. This will once again cause some rearranging of the current best guesses as to how the solar system and the Earth were formed. Research reported in Nature magazine (March 30, 2017) shows an asteroid that revolves around the Sun backwards, even though it is in Jupiter’s orbit. If you were to look at the solar system from the north star, you would notice that everything revolves around the Sun in a counterclockwise direction. Moons, asteroids, and planets are basically all in one plane and all moving the same way. Jupiter is the most massive planet in the solar system, and it has a multitude of rocks called asteroids that orbit around the Sun in the same direction. Now we have an asteroid that is in Jupiter’s orbit but revolves clockwise around the Sun.

If you think about that for a minute, you will see that it would logically follow that in the first orbit this asteroid would have slammed into Jupiter like a car driving the wrong way down a one-way street. In time at least, Jupiter should have sucked in this wayward hunk of rock. The orbit of asteroid 1015 BZ-509 is such that in one orbit it goes on one side of Jupiter and on the next orbit it goes on the other side of Jupiter, so the gravitational jerk of Jupiter is canceled out. Computer simulations show that this arrangement is permanent. It has been going on for a long time and will continue into the future.

We are not suggesting you invent a God to explain this oddity, but theories about the creation have to include anomalies like this one. Every day new observations are made, and on a regular basis they add to the complexity we see in the cosmos. The Creator had to know about, produce, and control all of these things for us to exist. For Bible students, these things do remind us of the truthfulness of Psalms 8:3-4, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained; what is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visit him…”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

More on Climate Change

Climate Change Climate change is a fact, as we have noted before. However, we have also noted before, that climate change has taken place in the past, and that humans are not the sole cause. Much of the media hype has been based on reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The problem is that the general public has no way of checking the alarmist claims of that group. Some of the dire predictions of what climate change would bring seem to be unjustified. The problem has been that because of limited data or no access to unbiased information most people had no choice but to believe what they were told.

Some scientists have formed an organization called the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate (NIPC). This group maintains that the reports of what climate change will bring are grossly exaggerated and based on bad data and shoddy science. They have released a book titled Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming.

This is not a biblical authority issue, but the design of the Earth and its capacity to withstand environmental challenges is important to all of us. We believe that God designed the Earth with us in mind and we have a duty to take care of it. If you are interested in further reading, you can find the book and other information on the website www.heartland.org.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Oxygen Level Factor and Life

Oxygen Level
The atmospheric oxygen level in Earth’s early history allowed life-forms to grow much larger than they do today. We find fossil remains of insects that grew to incredible sizes. There are wonderfully preserved fossils of a dragonfly called Meganeura which was the size of a modern-day hawk. Ants a foot (30 cm) long and centipedes that were as long as two feet (61 cm) show up in the fossil record. There are also fossils of mammals that were larger than any land mammals living today.

A major key to the huge sizes is the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere at the time those animals lived. New laboratory techniques in nuclear chemistry give us accurate methods of determining the oxygen level of the atmosphere in the past. Ice cores and tree rings confirm the measurements. Studies show that Earth’s atmosphere has had oxygen content as high as 35 percent in the past compared to 21 percent today. This higher oxygen level would have some negative consequences, with fires burning much hotter and faster and corrosion happening faster. Its effect on some living things, however, would be very positive.

Laboratory experiments have also shown us how oxygen content affects the size of living things. Insects do not breathe with lungs since oxygen diffuses into their bloodstream directly. Dr. Robert Berner at Yale has shown that a 35 percent level of oxygen in the atmosphere would increase the diffusion rate of oxygen in an insect’s bloodstream by as much as 67 percent. Body size varies directly with oxygen concentration, and experiments with fruit flies and mealworms consistently show high growth rates with increased oxygen. Studies done on alligators have shown that variations in egg development and growth are in direct proportion to the oxygen in the atmosphere. It is the same for mammals. Dr. Paul Falkowski of Rutgers has said, “Pound for pound, mammals typically need three times as much oxygen as reptiles do.” An oxygen level that would support reptiles might not support mammals.

All of this is very helpful in understanding a variety of issues relating to the Bible and the evolution/creation controversy. It is increasingly obvious that dinosaurs and humans could not survive together on this planet. At the time of the dinosaurs, the oxygen level was too low for mammals to survive. Competition for food and living space between humans and dinosaurs would be most difficult. Domestication of reptiles is impossible so humans would not be able to train dinosaurs to help with heavy chores.

The Bible does not mention dinosaurs, and no Hebrew word in Genesis 1 could legitimately be interpreted to mean dinosaurs. The emphasis that the Bible gives to the breath of living things as seen in the Hebrew word “nephesh” becomes more and more relevant as we learn more about how vital that concept of breath is. (See Genesis 2:7; 7:22, etc.)

Many people seem to feel that dinosaurs were unnecessary to human existence and that their presence denigrates evidence of God’s creation. The balance between the composition of the atmosphere and the abundance of life on Earth is critical. For plants to grow, there has to be soil, and soil is not as simple as it looks. Dirt must have the critical elements for food chains and cell reproduction. The production of all of those resources is not simple. As plants take in carbon dioxide and lock carbon into the soil, they release oxygen into the atmosphere. The ecological system of the planet at the time when the dinosaurs lived allowed not only the formation of soil but also the massive amounts of coal and fossil fuels we need.

We take air for granted, but what we see of the past in the laboratory and the fossil record tells us that the biblical emphasis on the “breath of life” is a special gift of God, and is not to be taken lightly.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Coccolithophores and Carbon

Coccolithophores in the Black Sea
Coccolithophores in the Black Sea

In our day of concern over carbon emissions and global warming, it is always good to see something positive taking place in the environment. Every day there is a new view in space posted by NASA at the website apod.nasa.gov. On April 24, 2017, there was a photograph taken from space of the Black Sea showing a bloom of coccolithophores. So what are they and why should you care? Coccolithophores are phytoplankton, tiny organisms that live in the large bodies of water such as oceans and seas around the world.

Why should you care? The answer to that has to do with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There are also viruses called coccolithoviruses that attack the coccolithophores. To protect themselves, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with calcium to make shells of calcium carbonate–chalk. The White Cliffs of Dover are made of this chalk material that was produced by coccolithophores. In the process of protecting themselves, these organisms remove carbon dioxide from the air. It appears they may have been the agents that allowed oxygen to rise in our atmosphere to the level where animal life could exist.

The coccolithophores are very complex, and the process is good solid chemistry. The bloom that is visible from space of the coccolithophores in the Black Sea tells us that there are balances built into the earth to help reduce greenhouse gasses. It also says that this is a designed tool to allow life to exist on planet Earth. Everywhere we look on this planet, we see that a wonder-working hand has gone before. Even looking back at the Earth from outer space we can see what that hand has done and continues to do to allow us to survive.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

God of Creation

Father-Daughter Bible Reading
When we hear the word “creation,” we think of the Genesis account of God’s creation of “the heavens and the Earth.” But God did much more than just position things in space and on the surface of this planet. Quantum mechanics has enlarged our understanding of how the creation of the physical world takes place. For many years atoms were thought to be the smallest particles of matter, but now particle physics takes us into much smaller and more amazing realms. As we learn more about such basic things as charge, mass, and gravity, a whole new set of laws and principles comes to light. As we learn about fermions and bosons and principles of “simultaneity” and “parity,” we grow in our understanding of all that is involved in the physical creation presented in those few words in Genesis 1:1. We begin to appreciate the wisdom involved in the process as described in Proverbs 8:12, 22-30 and Isaiah 40.

The biblical concept of creation also refers to the creation of human consciousness, our appreciation of beauty, our awareness of self, and our spiritual makeup. These things are not accidents or commonplace occurrences. The Hebrew word bara meaning to create is used to describe the process of creation of man and woman in the image of God. Bara is a word that never refers to something a human can do. The Bible does not use bara for the making of the physical human body. The word used there means “formed” (yatshir Genesis 2:7), which describes the molding or shaping of something from materials already in existence. The most important part of human creation is the spiritual image of God, and that is where bara is used. (Genesis 1:27) To show the effect of God’s image displayed in humans Genesis 4:21 tells us that a man named Jubal was the first to handle musical instruments. In the next verse, we are told that a man named Tubalcain was the first to be an “artificer of brass and iron.” These and other passages refer to human creativity which results from our being created in the image of God.

Creation also involves the food that would sustain life. This process is described in Genesis 1:29-30 and referred to again after the Flood in Genesis 9:1-3. In 1 Timothy 4:3 it is described as a conscious creation of God, and that all of God’s created things were made for our use. Creation is also involved in God’s plan for marriage. In Genesis 2:24 the oneness of man and woman is introduced, and it is detailed in 1 Corinthians 7 and 11 with the sexual and emotional needs of both men and women being detailed.

The most important aspect of God’s creation for us is the creation of the Church and of the opportunity for us to be restored to God in the same relationship Adam and Eve had in the beginning. Our purpose for existing is spelled out in Ephesians 3:10 and 6:12. Isaiah 65:17 begins us on the road to understanding that God will create a new heaven and new earth for us. The fulfillment of that promise is described in Revelation 21. Ephesians 4:24 lets us know God can change us, if we were willing, into new people for the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:10). In Psalms 51:10 the writer asks God to “create” a clean heart and renew a right spirit in him. The Hebrew word bara is used here again because that can only be done by a creative act of God. That new creation is what the promise of Acts 2:38 is all about. Christianity is a system for removing the sin and guilt that result from our bad choices. The renewal that comes through Christ is an act of re-creation by the God who created us and who is indeed a God of creation.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Our Unique Planet

our unique planet
Earth is very different from any other planet we have discovered inside or outside of our solar system. One key factor that makes our planet habitable is our Moon. The Moon serves several important roles, including holding Earth in a stable rotation. The Moon can be a stabilizer for Earth because of its relatively large size. Other planets have moons that are much smaller in comparison to the planets they orbit. Also, other planets in our solar system have multiple moons which make conditions less stable.

Many of the planets discovered outside of our solar system are huge and located incredibly close to their stars with highly eccentric orbits. A solar system in the constellation Serpens was found with a planet seventeen times as massive as Jupiter. Someone might respond with the observation that we can only see the big planets because those systems are so far away. That observation misses the point. These huge, Jupiter-sized and larger planets are located as close to their stars as we are to our Sun or closer. If there is a small planet in the vicinity, it would be twisted and wrenched about by the influences of the large planet. The problem with highly elliptical orbits and life is that there would be too much variation in the amount of energy that the planet receives from its star. Earth’s orbit is only slightly elliptical giving us stable temperatures. If we had only one planet in our solar system with a radically elliptical orbit, there would be a danger of it crashing into our planet. Circular orbits are important for stability. The instability produced by highly eccentric orbits of large planets would make the area sterile and void as far as life is concerned. Everything we see indicates that our solar system is a cosmic oddball.

There are many properties of our planet, Sun, solar system, and the galaxy in which we live that have to be exactly as they are for any kind of life, not just intelligent life, to exist. The galaxy has to be the right type of galaxy, we must be in the right position in the galaxy, and our Sun has to be the right type of star and at the right age in its life process. Our planet must have the right size, mass, tilt, magnetic field, distribution of land masses, chemical makeup, atmosphere, distance from the Sun, and much, much more.

To calculate the overall probability, you must multiply the probability of each of the dependent variables. Every time scientists find a new variable that has to be precisely determined for a life-sustaining planet to exist, that probability is multiplied by all the other probabilities. Considering all of the required factors and the probability of each and multiplying them all together, the total probability of another planet like Earth is exceedingly small. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” takes on a whole new level of meaning as we continue to gain knowledge about the cosmos.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Caring for the Environment

Admiring the Beauty of Earth
Admiring the Beauty of Earth

We live at a time where there is great concern about the environment. We have seen the effect of human carelessness in dumping wastes into the atmosphere, rivers, and lakes. As an earth science teacher in the public schools, I always was disturbed by the complacency of students and administrators toward this critical issue. In my lectureships, I have sometimes had skeptics suggest that the problems of ecology are due to Christianity. In Genesis 1:28 God told the first humans, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Someone has commented that this is the only command God ever gave that man completely obeyed, and there might be some truth to that. Atheists have maintained that this is the cause of human abuse of the natural world in which we live.

From a biblical standpoint, this is a misuse of the message of the Scriptures. Any statement in the Bible can only be properly understood if you look at who write it, to whom, why, and how the people it was written to would have understood it. Genesis 1:28 was written to let us know that God expects us to control the Earth and its resources, but it gives no indication of how to do that. In Genesis 2:15, God told the man to, “take care of the Garden, to dress it and to keep it.” In Genesis 3:23 we are told that after the man had left the garden, he was to “work the ground from which he was taken.”

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, a great emphasis is placed on the beauty of the creation and the great wisdom and power that created it. Proverbs 8:22-31 puts an emphasis on the wisdom involved in all that was done to prepare the Earth for human life. The Psalms are full of references to God’s creation, and Jesus in Matthew 6:26-30 calls his followers to consider the beauty of the creation. Even more important, throughout the Bible humans are viewed as caretakers and guardians of what God has given us. Nowhere is there an instruction or suggestion that the creation is to be exploited or abused.

We are bringing enormous pain upon ourselves and on our children by the way we have mismanaged what God has given us. A great amount of disease, including cancer, is caused by man-made poisons and carcinogens dumped into the environment. The medical effects of mercury, lead, and asbestos cannot be denied. Most of the entry of these materials into our oceans, lakes, and rivers has come from human greed and irresponsibility. God does not cause these things, and a failure to live as God has called us to live is a major part of why these problems exist. Christians are called to take care of the environment, and Christian teachings are not the cause of our ecological issues. We are, however, even more concerned about mental, emotional, and spiritual pollution. If we could bring men and women into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, their change in attitude would resolve most of our social and environmental issues.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Soil Studies Speak of God’s Preparation for Humans

Healthy Soil
There is an economy of language in the Hebrew descriptions of the Bible. In Genesis 2:8-9 for example, the Bible says: “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees to grow out of the ground…”

We can learn a lot from those verses. They tell us that the Lord planted something, he did not “zap” something into existence. Later the man was told to tend the garden (verse 15), suggesting that it needed care to continue to provide for the man’s needs and later for the woman’s needs. How long was it after God planted the trees before they began to produce fruit? What did Adam and Eve have to do to take care of the garden? How long was it before Adam and Eve sinned? What else did God need to do in the process of planting the trees?

This last question opens the door to a great deal of understanding that science has gained in recent years through the study of soil chemistry. Plants do not grow in sterile sand. For soil to nourish plants so that they can feed us, much careful science has to be applied. Modern soil scientists refer to “healthy soil” meaning that it is rich in organic material, is crumbly, and has the right chemical profile. To have these things, the soil must contain microbes including bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and protozoa. A teaspoon of healthy soil can hold more microorganisms than there are people on Earth.

We now know that there is a symbiotic relationship between plants and soil microbes. Plants use the sun’s energy to pull carbon dioxide from the air and create a carbon-rich nutrient packet to allow growth. Oxygen is released in that process. The plants also leak nutrients to the microbes, and the microbes supply plants with other nutrients they have extracted from the minerals in the soil. The fungi produce an underground network that brings water and carbon to the plants. When insects begin to feed on a plant, fungi filaments called hyphae help the plant bring tiny soil nematodes that feed on the insects.

When humans abuse the soil and interrupt this system, we have to artificially add chemicals to do what organisms in the soil were designed to do. The chemicals of modern farming could be reduced or eliminated if farmers worked on building healthy soils. The Garden of Eden was a place of healthy soil. God used incredible wisdom and intelligent design to build a system that would meet human needs. This was done in God’s time and was not a magic show, but a consciously built system that has sustained all living things for a very long time. Proverbs 8:22-31 tells us that wisdom was involved in all of this planning and design, and Romans 1:18-22 lets us know that all of this is a testimony to the existence of God.

There is a wonderful article in the April/May 2017 issue of National Wildlife page 35 (available online http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Gardening/Archives/2017/Soil.aspx) that documents all of this and shows us the complexity of God’s soil science.
–John N. Clayton © 2017