Genesis 1:1 and the Creation Week

Genesis 1:1 and Zion Canyon
Because it was not God’s purpose to give details of the creation of the universe, Genesis 1:1 covers it in one sentence. “Reshith Elohim bara shamayan erets.” Those are the Hebrew words translated: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is a historical statement which says there was a beginning to everything in space and on Earth. Those few words tell us that God was the cause of the creation. The creation included a planet with everything that we would need to exist and flourish–carbon, oxygen, water, coal, oil, nitrates, etc. “Erets” refers to a functional planet–not to a blob of gook.

As we drove through the canyonlands last month (see earlier posts), we saw how God prepared the Earth and the physical, chemical, and biological agents He used. It is interesting to see that dinosaurs, as well as many microscopic forms of life, were the gardeners who allowed all of this to happen. Without dinosaurs, there would have been no agents to process the giant plants of that day and spread their seeds. Without tiny diatoms, there would have been no agents present to form the oil and other fossil fuels that we need. Notice that Genesis 1:1 is untimed and undated! How long did it take? When did it happen? The Bible doesn’t say.

In Genesis 1:2 we see that the earth needed to be formed. The word translated “earth” is the same Hebrew word “erets” found in verse 1. This second usage is clearly different, however, because Genesis 1:9-10 indicates that God separated this earth from the water, meaning that it refers to the earth people live on, not planet Earth.

In the following verses of Genesis, the “days” of the “creation week” give specific explanations of the origin of the plants, water creatures, cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks the ancient Israelites knew. Each Hebrew word refers to known and domesticated animals, not unknown animals. Days are used to provide continuity to the sequence in which God created life. How long those days were, whether they were consecutive or had long time-periods between them can be debated endlessly.

The fact is that the first verse describes the creation made by God with the things humans would need to survive on Earth. As we said, that first verse is untimed and undated. All of the studies of geologists and biologist as to how those resources were produced are covered in that one verse of Genesis 1:1. The creation week is a description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals.

On our trip into the canyonlands, we saw the power, wisdom, and planning God used to allow us to exist. Proverbs 8 presents wisdom as the causal agent of creation–not blind mechanistic chance. Theological claims that create conflict between God’s word and the display of His wisdom and design are due to human error, not to the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

NASA Turns 60

NASA Turns 60
In 1957 when I was 19 years old and a junior at Indiana University, the Soviet Union placed Sputnik, the first artificial satellite into orbit around the Earth. The following year the United States established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration with the goal of staking America’s claim to the cosmos. NASA turns 60 this year with an incredible record of accomplishment.

There have been 166 manned missions, 116 satellites which study the Earth, 70 missions to the moon and planets, 27 telescopes/observatories placed in space, and 17 satellites studying solar wind and interplanetary science. We now have robots making incredible discoveries at every turn, and plans are in the works for the first humans to land on another planet.

As a physics major and later as a physics teacher I have been enthralled with NASA’s accomplishments. I have had students who graduated from my high school and went on to have key roles in NASA. As those students come back and share their experiences and what they have discovered, I have been encouraged. I am excited by the fact that most of them see their discoveries, as I do, as a way of learning what God has done and understanding some of the methods He has used.

What an exciting time to be alive, and what a blessing it is to learn and grow in our faith and our knowledge! The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator. As NASA turns 60, I look forward to what lies ahead.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Time magazine, October 8, 2018, page 18-19.

Alone In the Milky Way

Alone In the Milky Way
Yesterday we mentioned an article by John Gribbin in Scientific American (September 2018, page 96 or online HERE.) The title of the article was “Are Humans Alone in the Milky Way?” Although Gribbin suggests that some form of life exists elsewhere in the galaxy, he insists there could be no sentient beings like ourselves. The reasons for concluding that we are alone in the Milky Way galaxy are these “amazing” and “implausible” “coincidences.”

SPECIAL TIMING. The elements that make up a terrestrial planet like Earth are produced from hydrogen and helium by thermonuclear fusion. We see supernova explosions producing the heavy metals that make up a terrestrial planet and life itself, but it takes time for this process to create the necessary elements. Most of the exoplanets we see have minimal amounts of the heavy elements because they are early in their stellar evolution. Even the sun itself is 71% hydrogen and 27% helium with only 2% metals. The timing of putting the materials together to make a terrestrial planet is critical.

LOCATION IN THE GALAXY. The location of a solar system in the galaxy makes a difference. The galactic habitable zone is the area where there is a freedom from the concentration of supernovae. Systems near the center of the galaxy have high levels of radiation in the form of X-rays and cosmic rays. There is a massive black hole in the center of our galaxy called Sagittarius A which produces massive amounts of radiation. Gamma-ray bursts occur in certain places in the galaxy. In our area of the galaxy, sterilizing radiation bursts do not happen.

Recent studies of the galactic habitable zone tell us that it extends from 23,000 to 30,000 light-years from the center or only about 7% of the galactic radius. This zone contains only about 5% of the stars, because stars tend to concentrate toward the core of the galaxy. Our Sun is close to the center of the galactic habitable zone providing rare long-term stability.

TYPE OF PLANET. So far astronomers have discovered about 50 “earth-like planets.” What that means is that they have found rocky planets in the habitable zone that are about the same size as Earth. Venus would qualify as an “Earth-like planet,” but it is an excellent example of how misleading that statement is. Venus has a thick crust with no sign of plate tectonics, no magnetic field, no way to recycle materials, and no stabilizing moon. Our Moon keeps the tilt of Earth’s axis at 23 ½ degrees providing a stable climate.

Realize that all of these factors are just to have a ball of rock in the right place at the right time with the right materials with which to make life. Now we would need to calculate the odds of getting the right chemicals together at the right time in the right place with the right catalyst to make the first living thing. Books have been written about how improbable those steps are. The writers are not religious fanatics, but scientists who are doing the research.

The Scientific American article, concludes that we are alone in the Milky Way:

“As we put everything together, what can we say? Is life likely to exist elsewhere in the galaxy? Almost certainly yes, given the speed with which it appeared on Earth. Is another technological civilization likely to exist today? Almost certainly no, given the chain of circumstances that led to our existence. These considerations suggest we are unique not just on our planet but in the whole Milky Way. And if our planet is so special, it becomes all the more important to preserve this unique world for ourselves, our descendants and the many creatures that call Earth home.”

We must make one additional point. If an intelligent Creator was involved in this process, the probability of a habitable Earth with life on it is 100%. Perhaps we are not really alone in the Milky Way because there is a God who cares about us. For those who might want to consider this option, we encourage you to watch program #6 of the video series available free on doesgodexist.tv.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Implausible Coincidences

Implausible Coincidences in the Milky Way
Our ministry has been in existence for 50 years this month. During that time we have presented a large number of evidences that the creation of Earth and life on Earth cannot be a product of chance. Our arguments have been statistical, starting with the basic rule that when you have many parameters, you can estimate the total probability by multiplying the odds of all the factors involved. That approach has not changed, but the number of parameters and the odds grows with new data and information. Implausible coincidences continue to compound.

In the past several years, astronomers have found thousands of planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way. Skeptics point out that the probability of one of those planets harboring sentient beings like ourselves gets better with each new discovery. Scientific American (September 2018, page 96) published a good review of some of the factors that are involved. The article plainly states this:

“Optimism about the possibilities of intelligent extraterrestrial life ignores what we know about how humans came to exist. We are here because of a long chain of implausible coincidences – many, many, many things had to go right to result on the situation in which we find ourselves. This chain is so implausible, in fact, that there is good reason to conclude that humans most likely are the only technological civilization in the galaxy.”

That is an interesting conclusion. The article goes on to list the variables that point to that conclusion:

SPECIAL TIMING
LOCATION IN THE GALAXY
TYPE OF PLANET

Tomorrow, we will examine those “coincidences.” The article concludes by describing the improbable nature of advanced human life. However, it credits evolution for the creation of that life while showing how “implausible” and “amazing” it is. We believe a supernatural Intelligence was involved which we call God.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
The Scientific American article is available online HERE.

Design In Nature

Design In Nature
When a person says that the mindless forces of evolution can easily explain everything that appears to be design in nature, you have to wonder if that person understands the principles of statistics.

From a statistical standpoint the more parameters that exist, the less likely it is that a desired final result will occur. The odds of a single coin flipped into the air and landing on heads is one in two or 1/2. What are the odds of five flipped coins landing heads up? That would be 1/2 multiplied by itself five times. The answer is one in thirty-two or 1/32. If you throw fifty coins up at the same time, the chance of all fifty showing heads is so small as to be considered impossible. (Multiply 1/2 fifty times.)

In nature, we see situations where the odds would be equivalent to throwing a million (or more) coins up and having them all land on heads. There is no way that an open-minded, thinking person can begin to entertain the idea that blind chance can explain such events.

Books and movies on nature often use a phrase like “nature planned…” or “evolution engineered…” or “genetic forces created…” some natural phenomenon. If you truly believe that the forces that created and designed the universe with our planet and everything on it are “mindless, blind, mechanistic chance,” then you can’t attach words that indicate wisdom, purpose, design, engineering, or creativity.

The design in nature is hard to miss. It has to be rooted in the mind of a Designer. Some things are just beyond what mere chance can do.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

CLEVER Planets

CLEVER Planets Include Earth
We have often mentioned many of the conditions that must exist to make a planet habitable. The number is large and growing as science learns more about Earth’s special life-supporting features. Now NASA has awarded $7,700,000 to Rice University to conduct a five-year study to see what it takes to create a “recipe for a habitable planet.” The project has been named CLEVER Planets, an acronym for Cycles of Life-Essential Volatile Elements in Rocky Planets.

The award comes from NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NexSS). The research team will include experts in astrophysics, atmosphere and climate science, geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and organic chemistry. The investigators are from Rice University, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the University of California-Davis, UCLA, and the University of Colorado-Boulder. This will be the most in-depth study of what it takes to create a habitable planet.

The lead investigator of CLEVER Planets, Rajdeep Dasgupta of Rice, wrote: “A recipe for life as we know it requires essential elements like carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.” Of course, that is not all that is required to create a recipe for a life-supporting planet. There are also many other conditions including liquid water, the right temperature with stable conditions, a proper atmosphere, and shielding from dangerous radiation. Having an atmosphere requires a planet of the right size to have the right amount of gravity to sustain an atmosphere. To have liquid water and the right temperature requires that the planet must be the right distance from the right kind and size of star. The planet needs a magnetic field to shield from dangerous particles coming from the star. To have a magnetic field, there must be magnetic elements inside the planet. The list goes on and on.

We look forward to seeing the results of the CLEVER Planets study five years from now. The bottom line is that it is very, very difficult to get all of the right ingredients required to create the recipe for a habitable planet. Earth is an exceptional place in the universe.

It seems doubtful that we will find any other planet similar to Earth. But as we have said before, if there is any form of life anywhere else in the universe, that has nothing to do with the existence of God. We believe in a God who can do anything He chooses to do in keeping with His nature.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Hydrogen Wall and Creation

Hydrogen Wall and New Horizons
One of the interesting hints in the Genesis account is the suggestion that two creations were involved. A new scientific discovery of a hydrogen wall may also suggest that.

Genesis 1:1 uses the Hebrew word erets (earth) in describing the creation of the cosmos. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That would suggest the simple idea that God created everything including all of the galaxies and whatever else exists in interstellar space.

In verses 9 and 10 the same word (erets) is used in a more restricted way: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land earth…” This second creation is what the creation week describes with humans and their domesticated animals as the focus of that week.

As the New Horizons spacecraft was leaving the solar system, it encountered what appears to be a hydrogen wall at the edge of our solar neighborhood. As our Sun moves through the galaxy it produces a stream of charged particles called a solar wind. This “wind” collides with uncharged hydrogen atoms producing a wall of hydrogen. This bubble or wall is about 100 times further from the Sun than the Earth is. The wall indicates that our planet and its solar system are isolated as a unit from the rest of the cosmos.

This new data on a possible hydrogen wall reinforces the biblical picture of God’s action during the creation week as a very special action on a very special planet. God created the cosmos, but then He set Earth apart as a place for those creatures created in His image. That is the primary message of Genesis.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Science News, September 15, 2018, page 10, or click HERE.

Evidence from Cosmology

Evidence from Cosmology
One of the most compelling arguments for the existence of God is the basic question of creation itself. In our materials, we make an elementary and easy to understand presentation that there was a beginning, that the beginning was caused, and that the cause was a personal intelligence. We show that the cosmos was created with purpose and intelligence that can be seen by a careful study of the evidence of design that is all around us. This is evidence from cosmology.

Since our presentation is at an elementary level, many times we receive questions which express a desire for more in-depth explanations. One of the best articles that we have seen on the evidence from cosmology was published in the September 2018 issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith which is the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (Volume 70 #3 pages 147-160). The title of the article is “The Fine-Tuning of the Universe: Evidence for the Existence of God?” It was written by Walter L. Bradley Ph.D. from Texas A & M and Baylor Universities.

The article is a technical analysis of the evidence from cosmology and concludes with: “The nature of nature, especially fine-tuning, provides clear and compelling evidence for our all-powerful, loving Creator God, who can be seen through ‘the things that have been made, so those who do not believe are without excuse’” (Romans 1:20).

The article is available on the ASA website www.asa3.org at THIS LINK. You can also reach them at American Scientific Affiliation, 218 Boston Street Suite 208, Topsfield, MA 01983, phone 978-887-8833.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Evolution Does Not Explain Creation

Evidence from Cosmology
The notion of God as the creator has escaped our world today. We have not understood that there was a beginning, that God caused the beginning, and that His imprint is on all we see around us. We have been told that evolution explains all these things, but in reality, evolution doesn’t address the question. Evolution does not explain creation.

Evolution assumes that time has been created. Evolution assumes that space has been created and that matter/energy has been created within space/time. Evolution assumes that forces we are just beginning to understand shaped the matter/energy in space/ time so that stable physical matter came into existence. It assumes that the properties of matter/energy caused it to become organized into galaxies, and stars, and solar systems.

Evolution further assumes that within one of those solar systems a planet was created within the Goldilocks zone where water could exist as a liquid. On that planet, carbon and oxygen and heavy metals were produced to allow tangible matter to exist for long periods of time. Then evolution assumes that within a limited time these materials came into existence in an environment and with a catalyst that could produce life.

Once all those assumptions have been made, evolution attempts to explain how that first life changed to eventually become us. In other words, evolution tries to explain how once the creation happened, things got to be as they are today. Evolution does not explain creation.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

This post was adapted from “First-Century Athens and the 21st-Century World” by John N. Clayton. We encourage you to read the complete article which appears in the third quarter 2018 DOES GOD EXIST? Journal. If you subscribe to the printed version, you should have received it in the mail. Otherwise, you can read it online at THIS LINK.

Why So Much Stuff in Space?

Why So Much Stuff in Space?
One of the questions people ask about God’s creation is why so much stuff in space? If humans are the focus of God’s creation, why did He create so many planets, galaxies, and stars? If God’s purpose was to have the human race as the battlefield for the struggle between good and evil, surely He didn’t need to create 100 billion other stars in our galaxy and billions of other galaxies.

There are so many assumptions involved in this question that it would take many more pages to explore them all. First, this question assumes that God’s creation of life only happened here. It assumes that there are no other planets anywhere in the creation that have sentient beings living on them. You can argue that forever, but the Bible doesn’t give an answer. The Bible only describes Earth because it presents a message for our planet and its people.

The question also assumes that God only intended for us to live on the surface of this planet. I get letters regularly from people who suggest that we have no business going into outer space because God intends for us to live here and nowhere else. That is a massive assumption, and one that I suggest is misguided. One recent discovery has given another possible answer to why so much stuff in space. Humans are rapidly exploiting the mineral wealth of planet Earth. We know that the Earth contains a finite amount of iron, nickel, cobalt. If we should survive on Earth for much longer than the 21st century, we are going to run out of resources.

Japan’s robotic spacecraft Hayabusa 2 visited asteroid 162173 Ryugu (pictured) in June of 2018. Data from the spacecraft indicates that this asteroid is composed almost entirely of nickel and iron. The spacecraft was returning a sample to Earth for analysis. This asteroid is one kilometer wide, and at the current market value, the iron and nickel in the asteroid are worth over 80 billion dollars. God’s plan for us may be far greater and longer than we realize. Space contains a wealth of mineral resources. God has provided for us in many ways, and we always seem to have just enough of a resource to get us to the next source. We had just enough wood to get us to hydrocarbons, and just enough hydrocarbons to bring us to nuclear and solar power.

Our problem is not resources. Our problem is being able to get along with each other well enough to avoid destroying ourselves. Jesus Christ has the answer to that major issue, but the size of the cosmos merely reflects God’s power and wisdom. As we wonder why so much stuff in space, we have to think of the words of the psalmist, “What is man, that you are mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visit him? For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of your hands; you put all things under his feet” (Psalms 8:4-6).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
For more on asteroid Ryugu click HERE.