Stronger than Gravity

Stronger than Gravity
Gravity controls the universe — at least on a large scale. Obviously, gravity keeps you and your possessions from floating away into space. Gravity also holds planets and stars together. It holds the Moon in orbit around the Earth and all of the planets in orbit around the Sun. Gravity holds the galaxies together. But other forces are stronger than gravity.

Four interactions make the universe work: the weak and strong nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravity. Gravity is by far the weakest of those forces. The weak and strong nuclear forces are limited to a very short range within the atom. Only the electromagnetic force and gravity reach out to the vast universe. Since the electromagnetic force is so much stronger than gravity, why does gravity control the universe?

Everything is made of atoms and atoms contain electrons and protons. Electrons have a negative charge, and protons have an equal and opposite positive charge. Electromagnetism causes opposite charges to attract and like charges to repel each other. Gravity, of course, pulls anything with mass together.

The reason electromagnetism does not overpower the much weaker force of gravity is a delicate balance between electrons and protons. For each electron in the universe, there is a proton, so the plus and minus electrical forces cancel each other, creating electrical neutrality. Without that balance, we could not exist.

The balance between electrons and protons is so delicate that if you were building a universe and accidentally put in one extra electron for each trillion trillion trillion electron/proton pairs (that’s one followed by 36 zeroes), it would be catastrophic. The electrical repulsion between those negatively-charged electrons would overpower the gravitational force. The result would be that gravity could not pull any mass together. If gravity could not pull masses together, there would be no planets, no stars, no galaxies. Electromagnetic repulsion would create a universe of dispersed particles and nothing else.

Each of the other forces is stronger than gravity. The weak and strong nuclear forces are confined to short distances within the atom, and the electromagnetic force is carefully balanced. Is it possible that this precision is merely an accident? Or do we see evidence of system design? We think this is one more example of fine-tuning in the universe which gives evidence of a Designer.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Billion-Dollar Picture

Billion-Dollar Picture
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” How often have you heard that phrase? It may very well be true, but this picture is worth more than that. What you see could be called a billion-dollar picture. At first glance, this picture may not look like much. However, you need to take a good look at the large white dot in the center. That’s us.

In September of 2016, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx. The name stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer. Its purpose is to study asteroids. Specifically, it was launched to study a near-Earth asteroid named 101955 Bennu. It will not only study the asteroid, but if all goes as planned, it will take a sample from Bennu and return that sample to Earth. The total cost of the project will be about one billion dollars, but it’s much more than a billion-dollar picture.

On January 17, 2018, OSIRIS-REx turned its NavCam 1 camera toward Earth and snapped this picture. The spacecraft was almost 40 million miles (63.6 million km) from Earth and traveling away at 19,000 miles per hour (8.5 km per second). The largest and brightest spot in the picture is Earth. The smaller dot close to it is our Moon. The cluster of stars in the upper left is the Pleiades. In the top right is Hamal, the brightest star in the constellation Aries. Surrounding the Earth and Moon are five stars that are the head of the whale in the constellation Cetus.

OSIRIS-REx reached the vicinity of Bennu on December 3, 2018. It will be orbiting the asteroid and scanning the surface looking for a good place to land. That process will continue until July of 2020 when it will land and gather a sample. Scientists plan for OSIRIS-REx to deliver that sample to Earth in September of 2023.

Scientists hope that by studying the asteroid sample, they will learn more about the formation of our solar system. They hope to learn more about asteroids in general and what we might do to prevent one from slamming into our planet. There is also hope for mining useful minerals from asteroids and getting a better idea of the history of Earth. The whole list of scientific objectives for this space probe is contained in that long name for which we use the acronym OSIRIS-REx.

Forgetting about the cost and ambitious objectives, we enjoy looking at this view of Earth from far, far away. It reminds us of what a big solar system and universe we live in and how amazing is the God who designed it all. It also reminds us of the challenge God gave to Job about the Pleiades in Job 38:31-33. We encourage you to read God’s entire challenge in Job 38:1 to 40:2 as you look at this billion-dollar picture.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

This report is an update of our previous post on February 26, 2018.

Are We a Hologram?

Are We a Hologram?
This ministry has been functioning for 50 years, and one of the things we have seen is that atheist and skeptic arguments are cyclical. In the 1960s there was a push by skeptics to say that the physical world doesn’t exist at all and the universe is an illusion. So are we a hologram? Some scientists today seem to think so.

In the New York Times for May 10, 2018, science columnist Dennis Overbye wrote, “The news from some physicists like the late Stephen Hawking is that the universe might be a hologram, an illusion like the three-dimensional images on a bank card. Some cosmologists have argued that it is not inconsistent – at least mathematically – to imagine that the entire universe as we know it could just be a computer simulation as in The Matrix.”

Just because something is mathematically possible does not mean that it is true. You can prove that 1 = 2 if you make the right assumptions (in that case dividing something by zero). On a more practical level, there are certain things that holograms or illusions cannot do. For example, you can’t force an illusion to be taught to think. The whole notion of free will does not fit an illusion hypothesis. Our brains are not a simulation, and the things we do at a spiritual level are not within the reach of aliens.

If your view of the creation is that we are mindless pawns who have no purpose, then the hologram hypothesis may seem reasonable. Are we are a hologram controlled by aliens? For those of us who believe that we are spiritual beings with a purpose for our existence, this is just another silly, desperate attempt to get around being responsible for what we do.
–John N. Clayton

Crop Circles and Design

Crop Circles and Design
“It’s hard for me to believe that we are alone in this vast collection of stars in our universe. This could be the expression of consciousness itself or perhaps a communication from intelligent life letting us know we are not alone.” That was a statement made by someone concerning crop circles as reported by National Geographic.

Crop circles are patterns, generally circles, that appear mysteriously overnight in farmer’s fields. The photograph shows one in Switzerland. They are made by pressing down the crops, usually wheat or another grain, to form a geometric design that can be seen from the air. Some people believe that aliens from some other planet must have made them. They do seem to defy the ability of someone on the ground to create the intricate patterns without being able to see the whole thing.

Other people believe that mystical forces beyond our understanding created them. “The expression of consciousness itself” as the person quoted above expressed. Still, others know how they were made because they made them. The same National Geographic article showed a picture of a team of self-confessed crop circle artists in Dorchester, England.

Crop circle artists accomplish their work with surveyor’s measuring tape, ropes, and sometimes lasers. They smash the crops flat with boards. Many times the artists want to keep their work secret because they are trespassing on private property and injuring a farmer’s crop.

In some areas such as Wiltshire, England, crop circles have become a tourist attraction. Wiltshire is the home of Stonehenge and the Avebury Stone Circles, and you can buy crop circle postcards in the Henge Shop in Avebury. It isn’t just the stone circles that attract tourists, and money, to Wiltshire. Thousands come to see the crop circles. Farmers are not always happy to have people wandering in their fields, but others are making money, including documentary filmmakers and travel agencies.

The point is that everyone recognizes that an intelligence of some kind has created the crop circles. They may think that it was intelligent space aliens or some mystic consciousness, or they may know the human artists who actually made them. When we see obvious design, we know that it could not have happened by accident. Crop circles give evidence of design and therefore intelligence.

How much more is that true of the universe and our planet and the life on it. Can we believe that everything around us, which is much more complex than crop circles, shows no evidence of design? Or is a better explanation that the universe was designed by an Intellect far beyond what it takes to create crop circles?
–Roland Earnst © 2018

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