Time Debate and Genesis

Time Debate and Genesis

Several years ago, I was involved in a three-way debate in California between a Young Earth Creationist, a Modern Apologist Scholar, and myself. I was supposed to present design arguments while the other two engaged in an intellectual tug-of-war over the Genesis account. I learned from that experience not to get involved in that kind of time debate again.

I have engaged in debates with atheists for over 50 years, but those debates were easy to understand, and the different views were clear. This Califonia debate was between believers. Because the subject was the integrity of the Genesis account, I used a chart that shows that the SEQUENCE of the Genesis 1 account and the fossil record are identical. The Apologist Scholar denigrated my chart by saying that the events described occurred over a 600 million year period, and, therefore, the Genesis account could not be viewed as historically accurate. The Young Earth Creationist reacted to that claim, and they engaged in a free-for-all about the time issues and the purpose of Genesis 1. The point of my chart was lost in the time debate.

Humans always get hung up on the time issues. God created time. Psalms 90:4 says, “A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past and as a watch in the night.” God is outside of time, and the Bible tells us over-and-over not to restrict Him by demanding a time-scale for what God does. “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power” (Acts 1:7).

The message of Genesis is not about time. The first verse of the Bible describes an event and process that is not dated or timed. The fact that the first chapter gives an accurate account of the SEQUENCE in which God created the Earth and all that is on it is excellent evidence that it came from the Creator. Since God created time, there is no reason for us to get hung up on how long God chose to do His work.

Theologians have led us down a rocky road of ascribing dates and times to the things God has done or will do. The birth of Christ certainly did not happen on December 25. Denominations have been created by theologians who try to establish when Christ will come again and when the judgment will take place. This is even though Jesus said, “…of that day and hour knows no man, no not the angels of heaven – only my Father” (Matthew 24:36).

People want to know when things will happen so that they can be prepared, but 2 Peter 3:11 anticipates that and warns us to always be prepared. It is hard for us to comprehend the fact that time for us ends when we die. It is equally difficult to realize that God acts outside of time. Many people stumble by putting the Genesis account at odds with the scientific evidence or relegating the Bible to symbolism and mythology rather than being literally true. Don’t get caught up in the time debate and make time an enemy of faith in the God of love, truth, and wisdom portrayed in His Word.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Wandering Stars in the Sky

"Wandering Stars" in the Sky

The ancient Greeks saw the five visible planets and called them “wandering stars” because they moved randomly across the sky instead of staying in fixed positions like the stars. The word “planet” comes from the Greek word for “wanderer.”

We have known for many centuries that the planets are not stars. They appear to wander because they orbit the Sun, just like our planet Earth. They orbit at different speeds, making them appear to wander in the sky. For astronomers to classify a celestial body as a planet, it must meet three requirements:

  1. It must have enough mass for gravity to cause it to become spherical, unlike an asteroid.
  2. It must not have enough mass to cause thermonuclear fusion, which would make it a star.
  3. It must have cleared the area of debris known as planetesimals.

We have five planets that are visible without the aid of telescopes or even binoculars. Two of the visible planets are called inferior planets, not because of importance but because their orbit is inside Earth’s orbit. They are Mercury and Venus. The other three are known as the superior planets since they are beyond Earth’s orbit. They are Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

There is one essential thing the ancient Greeks did not understand about the solar system. They did not know that it is orderly. The Greeks saw a pantheon of gods controlling various aspects of the Earth and skies. Each of their gods had all of the bad traits of humans struggling with each other. It was the Judeo-Christian concept of one almighty and wise creator God who created an orderly system that led to the scientific understanding of the cosmos.

Today, we can study and understand the wisdom of God in creation. Because of that, we can know where the planets and stars, as well as solar and lunar eclipses, will be visible at any given time and from any location on Earth. Those “wandering stars” are not wandering after all.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Measuring the Distance to Stars

Measuring the Distance to Stars

Measuring the distance to stars is not as hard as you might think. As an earth science teacher at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I enjoyed seeing a student’s eyes light up when they came to understand some scientific fact. They had thought it was beyond them, and suddenly it made sense. Knowing the distance to a star was always one of those facts. Let me show you how easy it is:

Look at a picture on the other side of the room. Hold your finger in front of your face and close one eye. Line up your finger and the object on the wall. Now close that eye and open the other eye, Does your finger appear to jump? If you drew a line between your eyes and extended a line from each eye to the picture, you would have a triangle. The apex angle at the picture is controlled by how far away it is from you. If you do the same experiment with an object that is closer, there will be a different angle.

The illustration on the right shows the Earth making its yearly orbit around the Sun. A line from the Earth to the Sun will establish a triangle. In six months, it will look like objects at the apex angle have moved. How much they will have moved depends on how far away they are. My classes do simulations of these measurements on the football field, and it becomes apparent how easy measuring the distance to stars can be.

The measurement unit astronomers use is based on how far away a star must be for the angle at the apex to be one arcsecond. We call that distance one parsec, and it is 3.26 light-years. If the parallax angle is .5 seconds of arc, the star must be 6.52 light-years away. The smaller the angle, the farther away the object is. The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, which has been underway since 2013, can measure the parallax angle to a millionth of a second of arc. Objects that move such a small amount are tens of thousands of light-years away.

The cosmos is much larger than most of us can imagine. The light we see from some of those stars left the stars hundreds of thousands of years ago. Measuring the distance to stars gives new meaning to passages like Isaiah 40:22: “He stretched out the heavens as a curtain and spread them out as a tent to dwell in.”

If it has taken the light from the stars God created many tens of thousands of years to get here, it is evident that the creation didn’t happen a few thousand years ago. Verses describing the process of creation are untimed and undated. Let us not allow human traditions to challenge the integrity of the Bible. God created time, and He certainly is not limited by anything He created.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Mass and Acceleration at Light Speed

Mass and Acceleration at Light Speed

Yesterday we looked at the two postulates of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. We saw how our view of time is changed by taking the two postulates and applying them to motion at or near the speed of light. Now let’s look at mass and acceleration at light speed.

Looking at the top equation, which we presented yesterday, you can see that at the speed of light, the equation’s denominator becomes 1 – 1, which is zero. Time stops. If the velocity could somehow exceed the velocity of light, the denominator would be the square root of a negative number, which is not possible.

Another one of Einstein’s equations is a description of length in the direction of motion. The second equation shows that an object’s length in motion (L’) is equal to its length at rest (L) times the quantity square root of 1 minus the velocity (v) squared divided by the speed of light (c) squared. Thus the faster you move, the thinner you are in the direction of motion. An object one meter long at rest would be .765 meters at half the speed of light. At the speed of light, it would disappear, because it would have no length. There would be energy, but no physical length. What travels at the speed of light? The answer, of course, is light itself. Light is two-dimensional. It has no thickness in the direction in which it is moving, precisely what Einstein’s postulates predict.

Mass is another quantity that is affected by Einstein’s postulates. The equation for mass is similar to the equation for time. The mass in motion (m) equals the mass at rest (m’) divided by the square root of 1 minus the velocity squared divided by the speed of light squared. As an object moves faster, its mass increases, but it can never reach light speed. What, then, can we know about mass and acceleration at light speed?

One of the fundamental laws of physics is Newton’s Second Law. It says that when we apply force to a mass, the force (F) depends on the amount of the mass (M) and how much we want it to accelerate (A). The equation is F=MA. At the speed of light, the mass of an object would be infinite, and the force required to accelerate it to that speed would also be infinite. Because of the magnitude of the force, the mass would collapse into a black hole long before reaching light speed. So, it is not possible to achieve mass and acceleration at light speed.

Scientists have verified these formulas experimentally. When you accelerate a sub-atomic particle to a high velocity in a particle accelerator, its mass increases. So what created the mass in the first place? Infinite force – one of the properties of God. Proverbs 8:22-31 finds “Wisdom” is the tool God used for everything He created. Einstein has given us an excellent way to get a small understanding of the creation we live in and the wisdom and power of the God who created it.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Understanding Dark Matter and God

Understanding Dark Matter and God

One of the things that frequently happens when scientists admit they don’t understand something is that pseudoscience and pseudo-religion crackpots go wild with completely impossible claims. The UFO craze is an example. Many people attributed poorly understood natural phenomena to alien visitation. Virtually all UFO claims have been answered and shown to be natural phenomena or manufactured hoaxes. A more difficult question involves understanding dark matter.

Dark matter and dark energy pose a huge challenge to cosmologists and astronomers. Galaxies are spinning masses of billions of stars orbiting a core, which at least most of the time is a black hole. The problem is that the spin of the system is so rapid that the force of gravity is not enough to keep galaxies from flying apart. Scientists believe that there is undetectable mass in the galactic systems to hold them together. They call that missing mass “dark matter.”

There is a similar problem in the motion of galaxies through space. Various experiments have shown clearly that the cosmos is being accelerated at between 72 and 76 (Km/s)/Mpc. The acceleration of the cosmos involves energy far greater than anything science has seen in any thermonuclear reaction to date. If we view the cosmos as embedded in spacetime, then some energy is accelerating spacetime, but we cannot detect what that energy is or how it is generated.

In past centuries and many cultures, this would have been explained by simply saying,” God is doing (or has done) it.” We call that “God of the Gaps.” Atheists quickly point out that when science finds an explanation, that “God of the Gaps” is dead. Our studies of quarks, hadrons, WIMPS, and relativity are offering suggestions that may eventually give an understanding to fill the gap. Understanding dark matter is not a small gap because dark matter makes up 26.8% of the universe, and dark energy makes up 68.3%. That means that the matter we can detect makes up only 4.9% of the universe’s total composition.

There are some critical lessons in this. We need to realize that creating the cosmos is not a simple matter. Just creating space, time, and the substance to make the cosmos is a highly complex process. However, the process is not God. God has used His massive intelligence and design to produce something we are just now beginning to appreciate. When science finds a way of understanding dark matter and dark energy, it will only tell us more about God’s wisdom, power, and intelligence. We are beginning to understand the meaning of Proverbs 8, where wisdom speaks.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

For a current discussion of this challenging area of study, see “Is the Big Bang in Crisis” by Dan Hooper in the May issue of Astronomy magazine pages 21-29, or at astronomy.com.

Alan Guth and the Kavli Prize

Alan Guth and the Kavli Prize on the Nature of the Cosmos

The evidence is massive that there was a beginning to the cosmos. The cosmological argument for God’s existence is that there had to be a cause of that beginning and that the nature of the cause was an intelligence. The phrase “big bang” was invented to describe the beginning, but the big bang theory never tried to answer the question of what banged and who banged it. The April 2020 issue of Scientific American (pages 4-7) carried an article about the work of Alan Guth, who received the Kavli Prize in astrophysics in 2014. The main objective of the Kavli Prize is to honor, support, and recognize scientists for outstanding scientific work in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

Alan Guth’s work has been to develop the theory of cosmic inflation to show that the universe is eternal and had no beginning. The chief problem with any suggestion that the universe is eternal is something called entropy. Entropy is a measure of disorder. Whenever energy is expended in any way, disorder is introduced to the system. Unless organizing energy is applied externally on the system, the disorder will grow until there is no available energy left. We call that “heat death.”

A simple example might demonstrate this. If you took a bottle of hydrogen into a room that was completely isolated from the outside and opened the container, the hydrogen would escape and spread throughout the room. If you now wanted to get the hydrogen back into the bottle, could you get every atom back? The answer is “no,” because some of the hydrogen would have morphed into something else. Protons have a half-life, and other changes could take place. The measure of what couldn’t be put back in the bottle is called entropy.

Guth gets around the need for a beginning by saying that there is no difference between the present and the past. Using black holes, dark matter, and probabilities, he proposes a model that avoids a beginning. Alan Guth received the Kavli Prize because of his imaginative, creative thinking. The fundamental problem with Guth’s proposal is that it is not testable. No experiment can be done, and no evidence can be examined to test his theory. It is not falsifiable, and thus it really does not qualify as science. Guth is a brilliant scientist speculating on what he calls “a backward world where the past is the future and where infinite parallel pocket universes pop into existence without cause.”

While Guth’s work is interesting, it is of no apologetic significance. If God has created many pocket universes, they are so isolated from us that they do not impact our lives. Guth relies on probabilities to make many steps in his theory. When we apply probabilities to what we see in the world around us, the strong suggestion is that an intelligence has been at work to produce the cosmos.

In addition to the design we see in creation, our spiritual makeup and our creativity are not connected directly to how we got to this point in time and space. Quantum theory is based on probability, and the article ends by saying, “We had better know what they (the probabilities) mean.” We would suggest they mean, “In the beginning (of our cosmos) God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Spring Arrived in the Northern Hemisphere!

Spring Arrived in the Northern Hemisphere!

Just a few hours ago (11:49 p.m. EDT March 19 or 0349 GMT March 20, 2020) spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. Officially it is spring, even though it may not feel like it where you live.

For the next three months, the days will continue to get longer as the Sun moves farther north. This year, the Sun reaches its greatest northern latitude on June 20 when it will be at its highest elevation in the Northern Hemisphere sky. In the Southern Hemisphere, it will be at its lowest elevation. The autumn equinox will arrive on September 22. Then, on December 21, the Southern Hemisphere will have the Sun directly overhead at 23 degrees south latitude while it will be at the lowest point in the north.

At Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Penninsula of Mexico, the Mayans built a huge pyramid to a serpent deity around A.D. 1000. They engineered the pyramid so that at the spring equinox, the Sun’s light resembles a huge snake slithering down the steps on the structure’s face. The Mayans called the equinox “the return of the Sun Serpent.” They recognized the reliable and consistent seasons that make life possible. They could not comprehend everything required to create that consistent reliability. They didn’t know the God who created all things.

What does it mean that spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere? It means that God has designed the Earth and our solar system to be predictable. He located our planet the just-right distance from a just-right star (our Sun). He gave Earth’s axis a just-right tilt relative to our just-right orbit around the Sun to create the seasons. The result, as we wrote yesterday, is that we have a planet suitable not just for life, but for advanced life.

Scientists today use SETI to search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. They use telescopes and space probes to look for an exoplanet suitable for life. So far, after millions of hours and unknown amounts of money spent searching for alien life, the results have been zero.

Whether life exists anywhere else in the cosmos makes no difference for the existence of God. As spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, it reminds us that life exists here. As we see life blossoming all around us, we are reminded that every human life is precious God. He put us here for a purpose.

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2020

Premillennial Dispensational Eschatology and Ecology

Premillennial Dispensational Eschatology and Ecology

Misguided religious understandings can frequently lead to clashes with scientific evidence. We have pointed out many times the biblical and scientific problems with premillennial dispensational eschatology (end-times theories). Dr. Al Truesdale has written an article in the ASA Journal titled “Last Things First: The Impact of Eschatology on Ecology.” (See link below.) In the article, he points out that if you maintain that God will suddenly take believers to heaven before the dramatic destruction of Earth, there is no need to be concerned about the environment.

Second Peter 3:10-11 predicts the end of planet Earth. The passage describes the destruction of Earth when the elements will be destroyed by fire. If this planet will be burned to nothing, why take care of it? Some suggest that if the planet is to be destroyed in the relatively near future, there is no need to be concerned about climate change. Why sacrifice to preserve what will be destroyed anyway?

We all know that there are passages in the Bible that talk about things being everlasting. The word translated “everlasting” in passages like Isaiah 24:5 and Jeremiah 32:40 is the Hebrew word “olam” meaning “age-lasting.” That does not intend to suggest an eternal time-frame. No Hebrew word affirms an eternal duration to anything except God. The Bible has numerous references to the end of the age.

In addition to problems with the destruction of the cosmos, premillennial dispensational eschatology attempts to make God’s Kingdom and the return of Christ into a political event of a physical kingdom. The new heaven and the new Earth of Revelation 21 and 22 are spiritual in nature. First Corinthians 15:50-57 makes it clear that it is not a physical, political war that Jesus is coming to wage. His purpose is to return us to a relationship with God that is spiritual.

God told the man to “take care of the garden, dress and keep it” (Genesis 2:15), and the Bible gives no time-frame for when the cosmos will be dissolved. Taking God’s word “literally” means caring for the Earth and all God has given us. We cannot justify exploiting and destroying planet Earth based on the premillennial dispensational eschatology theories of human denominations.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Dr. Truesdale’s article is in the American Scientific Affiliation Journal, Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith, March 2020, pages 3-14. Read it online HERE.

Drones and Alien Invasions

Drones and Alien Invasions

The old adage says, “If you don’t believe in something, you will believe anything. That seems to be accurate as people are reporting new waves of invading flights with increasing frequency. Part of the problem is that people are confusing drones and alien invasions.

In December of 2019, people were placing videos on YouTube and other similar sites of “huge planes with large wingspans flying in formation over Colorado and Nevada.” Between December 19 and 21 of 2019, England’s second busiest airport was closed for about 33 hours, canceling hundreds of flights and affecting over 100,000 passengers because of confusing drones and alien invasions. There are always religionists and atheists who will attempt to use these sightings to promote their agenda. There are many causes for people to see things in the sky that they don’t understand. Satellites, stars, planets, planes, meteors, the International Space Station, military flares, helicopters, and now drones are on the list of reported UFOs.

Drones are used by journalists, photographers, police, railways, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, surveyors, Amazon.com, the military, and hobbyists. When it comes to drones and alien invasions, the Colorado Department of Public Safety issued an update on January 13, 2020, stating that they found no incidents that did not have a good explanation.

Some people claim that we need help from aliens to live successfully. They fail to realize that the instructions on how to live are available, and people all over the world are living by them. They are simply following the teachings of Christ. (I don’t mean the teachings of any religious person.) It isn’t that we don’t know what to do. We need to eliminate the greed, selfishness, ignorance, and desire for fame and notoriety that is producing the new wave of claims of extraterrestrial visitation. This was the case in the past, and history is merely repeating itself. Even the entertainment industry is jumping on board with a new movie about the return of E.T.

We want to say again that we are not suggesting that there is no life elsewhere in the cosmos, and the Bible doesn’t say that either. What we have, however, is many vulnerable people being exploited because of their loss of faith in God. That has caused them to search in the wrong places for a better and a more abundant way to live. That is true of both secular and religious shysters. Jesus said “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). That doesn’t mean buying into any human-made religion or personality. It means living as Christ has called us to live.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 2020, page 6.

Drake Equation and Planet Civilizations

Drake Equation author Frank Drake

In the long history of looking for life elsewhere in the cosmos, one of the exciting discoveries has been learning the things a planet needs to support life. In 1961, American astronomer Frank Drake proposed what is called the Drake Equation. He was looking for a way to calculate the number of inhabited planets in our galaxy with which communication might be possible. Drake’s equation lists seven parameters that would determine the answer to that question. They are:

1) The rate of formation of stars in our galaxy.

2) The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

3) The number of planets per solar system with an environment suitable for life.

4) The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

5) The fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

6) The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

7) The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

If you knew each of these probabilities, you could calculate how many planets in our galaxy might be inhabited by intelligent beings with whom we could communicate. Drake gave each of these parameters a number or probability, but they were wild guesses. Once you have the numbers, all you need to do is multiply each of these variables by each other.

Let me explain. What are the odds of drawing the ace of spaces from a card deck twice in a row back to back? The odds of drawing one ace of spades out of a full deck is 1 out of 52 since there are 52 cards in a deck. To calculate the odds of doing that twice in a row would be 1 out of 52 times one out of 52. You multiply the individual probabilities, so the total probability would be one out of 2704. If you knew the likelihood of each parameter in the Drake equation, multiplying them together would give you the theoretical odds that we could receive radio communication from intelligent life on another planet in our galaxy.

Going back to the card analogy, if you drew one time out of a deck of 52 cards, the odds would be one out of 52. If you drew the ace of spades 52 times in a row, the number would be astronomical since you would multiply the result 52 times! The problem with the Drake equation is that the parameters are unknown and are probably unknowable.

There are also variables that the Drake equation didn’t include, such as the type of star. For example, a supermassive star will have a very short life expectancy. Researchers at Rice University reported in January of 2020 that many stars have extended magnetic fields which overlap the Goldilocks zones of most exoplanets. (As we have explained before, we say that a planet is in the Goldilocks zone when it can contain water in the liquid state). These strong magnetic fields will strip away any atmosphere the planet might have. Our Sun has a magnetic field, but it is not strong enough to strip electrons from atoms and molecules in the Goldilocks zone where Earth is located.

More variables regularly show up, and they tell us that our solar system and Sun have been carefully designed and formatted so that we can exist. Psalms 1:19 continues to take on new meaning with every discovery we make in space. “The heavens (do) declare the glory of God, and the firmament (does) show His handiwork.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Astronomy magazine March 2020, page 9.

Frank Drake was involved in the founding of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which we have discussed previously HERE and HERE and HERE.