Dark Matter and Black Holes

Dark Matter and Black Holes
Dark matter is the glue that holds our universe together. We have discussed a variety of ways that dark matter is critical to the existence of our solar system and of galaxies in general. We have also reported on unsuccessful experiments to try to find that mysterious dark matter. We have discussed the concept of WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) and the idea of attempting to see dark matter by smashing protons together. Now scientists think there may be a connection between dark matter and black holes.

A new study reported in Scientific American (July 2017, page 39-) reports that primordial black holes are now appearing to be the cause of dark matter. The computer model shows that when the creation process usually called “the big bang” took place, seeds of primordial black holes were produced. Those black holes could cause all of the phenomena that we observe and attribute to dark matter. This would be a much simpler cause of the dark matter than previous models would indicate. Dark matter would be a bi-product of the creation process.

From an apologetic standpoint, this is very interesting. God’s power is so great that when He applied that power in the creation process, massive numbers of primordial black holes were produced. If this hypothesis is correct, it tells us something of the power of God and explains the structure we see in the cosmos. It will be interesting to see if future research will confirm or deny this new observation.

The authors of the research document into dark matter and black holes are Juan Garcia-Bellido and Sebastien Clesse.
The Scientific American article is here.
The scientific document is available here.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Cobra Plant Insect Trap

Cobra Plant
One of the most interesting areas of botany is the functioning of plants that don’t rely on photosynthesis to survive. Recent studies of the California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica), also known as the cobra plant because of its shape, have shown that its design is incredibly complex.

David Armitage at the University of Notre Dame has been studying this plant, and in a recent article in Science News (January 21, 2017, page 4) he reported on what is known about this strange plant. It grows in soil rich in serpentine which would kill most photosynthetic plants. The cobra plant survives by being “meat dependent.” Up to 95% of the nitrogen the plant uses comes from insects trapped inside the leaves of the plant.

The curled leaves of the California pitcher plant serve as an insect trap. It draws insects into the leafy trap by secreting a sweet substance. This secretion is not through its blossoms but from a special roll of tissue near the mouth of the insect trap. When an insect enters the small opening under the cobra-like head of the pitcher, something interesting happens. By a method still not understood, the cobra plant draws water up from the soil and creates a pool in the bottom of the “pitcher.” Putting other substances into the trap doesn’t trigger the water. The plant will only respond to an insect. How the plant knows what is a bug and what isn’t a bug is still not understood. The water contains bacteria which lower the surface tension, so when a bug falls in, it quickly sinks to the bottom and drowns.

Another unsolved mystery of this plant is that it has a forked tissue at the top of the trap called a “fishtail” which resembles a mustache with red veins. It does not lure insects into the plant, but its function is still not understood. Armitage says “The only thing fishtails lure, for the time being at least, are puzzled botanists.”

Those of us who see God’s designing hand in the natural world would see the cobra plant as a special design to meet a particular environment. We would point to the Bible in Romans 1:20 where it says, “We can know there is a God through the things he has made.” The complexity of the California pitcher plant supports such a viewpoint in a special way.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Epicurus on Death and Fear

Epicurus on Death and Fear
About 2300 years ago in ancient Greece there lived a man named Epicurus. He spent his time thinking about things and taught others about the things he was thinking. One of the things Epicurus thought about was death. That’s not unusual. There has never been a living human being who has not thought about death at one time or another. But Epicurus was a professional thinker (also known as a philosopher), so his thoughts were influential. What do we hear from Epicurus on death and fear? In his thinking, he concluded that death was the end of body and soul. When we die, we just cease to exist and therefore, he said, death should not be feared.

Epicurus died in 270 B.C. at the age of 72 in great pain because of kidney stones. However, he wrote a letter in which he said it was, “a happy day to me, which is also the last day of my life.” Since Epicurean philosophy says that death is nothing to be feared, why do people still fear death? Perhaps it’s because most people think that Epicurus was wrong.

What is the source of the greatest joy and fulfillment in life? Isn’t it love? The relationships we have with others bring us happiness and give us purpose as well as joy. Loving and being loved by family and friends is the greatest of human experiences. God never intended for us to be alone. (See Genesis 2:18.) Being rejected by those we love is the source of the greatest pain. Interestingly, Epicurus believed that a happy life is one in which friends surround us. We know that nothing makes us as sad as the loss of those we love. Death is the most permanent form of separation and loss. Death steals away those we love one-by-one if we manage to live long enough. Death gives us much to fear, and then finally death comes to take us.

If Epicurus is right, then death is the end of love. If there is no existence beyond the grave, there is no love. If you believe that death is the end of existence, seeing a loved one dying is the most fearful and terrible experience in life. But what if death is not the end? What if love goes on? Genesis tells us that death was not part of God’s original plan for humans. Death is a consequence of human sin. Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus out of sympathy for Mary and Martha. He must also have been weeping over what sin had done to the human race. Grief and anger over the mess brought on by human disobedience touched the emotions of the human Jesus.

But Jesus was more than human. He is also God. He had the power to bring Lazarus back from the grave and restore him to the sisters who loved him. But that resurrection was only temporary. Lazarus, as well as his sisters, died at some later time. Soon after raising Lazarus, Jesus conquered the power of death once and for all. His death brought both fear and grief to those who loved him. But as Timothy Keller wrote in Making Sense of God, “…the darkness of death swallowed Jesus, he entered it, but then he blew a hole out of the back of it.” The pain of those who wept was turned to joy as Jesus was alive again. When Jesus conquered death, he brought not only joy but also hope. Death is not the end of love and relationships. Love goes on.

So what can we conclude about Epicurus on death and fear? Epicurus was right when he said that death should not be feared, but he had the wrong reason. For those who accept the gift offered by Jesus Christ, death is the entryway to eternal life and a love relationship with the One who IS love (1 John 4:8).
–Roland Earnst © 2017

270-Degree Triangle and God

Looking for a 270-Degree Triangle
Everyone knows that if you add the three angles of a triangle, the total equals 180 degrees. So how can you have a 270-degree triangle? This question can be applied to the much tougher challenge of understanding what God is.

Many of the struggles people have in understanding God are rooted in our inability to understand how God functions and what is the nature of God. Questions we hear are like: “What race is God?” “What sex is God?” “How can God hear the prayers of many different people in many different places all at once?” “Who created God?” “Why does God allow awful things to happen?” These questions are a reflection of our inability to understand God’s nature.

The Bible gives us many pictures of God’s nature. So what does the Bible say God is like? All of the biblical descriptions portray God as a being who exists outside of time and space. Since God is not limited by the dimensions that restrict us, then the rules that are inviolable in our dimensions create no barriers for God.

To illustrate, I suggest that you take a flat sheet of paper and draw a triangle that has three right angles of 90 degrees for a 270-degree triangle. You may reply, “It is not possible. Triangles have 180 degrees. Don’t you know the rules of Euclidian geometry?” I then suggest that you visualize this. On a globe of the Earth, start at the North Pole and draw a line down the Prime Meridian to the Equator. Then to make the first 90° angle, go west along the Equator to 90° west longitude. From that point make a second 90° angle by going straight north to the North Pole. That line will be perpendicular to the first line creating a third 90° angle. By changing from the two-dimensional paper to the three-dimensional globe, the impossible becomes possible.

Let’s apply that to our understanding of God. How do we, stuck here in our limited dimensions, have the power to comprehend God who is not limited to our dimensions? The answer is, of course, that we cannot! To answer the most profound questions about God, we have to be willing to enlarge our understanding of the nature of God. We must accept the fact that God is not limited to our dimensions. When we do that, we realize that the questions we asked earlier are meaningless. They come from the fact that we cannot see all of the dimensions of God’s existence. A 270-degree triangle is possible when it is not limited to two dimensions. For a dimensionless God, all limitations are gone.

For more on this see “A Help in Understanding What God Is.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Jupiter Comet Shield

Jupiter Comet Shield
Jupiter Struck by Shoemaker-Levy 9

There is a significant amount of debris left over from the formation of the solar system existing in clouds outside the solar system. That debris eventually gets attracted toward the Sun. In 1992 scientists observed Jupiter pulling the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 apart and breaking it into more than 20 pieces which eventually slammed into Jupiter’ surface in 1994. We learned that we have a Jupiter comet shield to protect our planet.

It is obvious that Jupiter is essential to the survival of life on Earth if for no other reason than the shield it gives us. Right now a spacecraft named Juno is orbiting Jupiter and sending back data and pictures that are amazing. The spacecraft has made five elliptical orbits since last July dipping to within 2100 miles of Jupiter’s atmosphere, collecting data, and taking photographs. ScienceNews.org has some of the amazing pictures.

Here are some things we have learned about Jupiter:

*Polar cyclones 900 miles wide circle the planet.

*Jupiter has a powerful magnetic field about ten times stronger than Earth’s.

*Powerful auroras work in the polar areas of the planet but are different from what we observe on Earth in both structure and function.

*There is a concentrated band of ammonia near the planet’s equator.

There is still much to learn about this giant planet. The observations we are making assist us in understanding how the solar system was formed. They also show us what affect Jupiter has on us today as well as in the future. Psalms 19:1 tells us that “The Heavens declare the Glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork.” It is an exciting time to be alive and to watch as we use new tools to understand the creation and how God has given us a Jupiter comet shield.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dinosaur Pseudoscience Part 2

Dinosaur Pseudoscience Fire-breathing
Yesterday we stated that one of the greatest challenges that this ministry faces is the bad science and false claims by creationists, including dinosaur pseudoscience. In addition to the ones we mentioned yesterday, another example is the claim of many creationists that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons.

In the Middle Ages, there were numerous stories about flying dragons who breathed fire. In recent years we have seen movies showing everything from Puff the Magic Dragon to How to Train Your Dragon as well as video games showing dragons that look like dinosaurs. Creationists have proposed that dinosaurs had hypergolic chemicals (chemicals that ignite when combined) that they used to produce literal fire. The scientific problems with such proposals are huge. Hypergolic chemicals are highly toxic to biological organisms. Fire going out of an animal’s mouth or nose would cause damage to the tissue. Atheists and biblical skeptics have written numerous articles showing the impossibility of these proposals on a scientific basis.

What is the biblical passage that creationists use to suggest that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons? The answer to that question is Job 41. The key word in this chapter is “leviathan.” The word is used three other times in the Bible–Psalms 74:14, Psalms 104:26, and Isaiah 27:1 In all of these references the leviathan is a sea creature. In other non-biblical Hebrew writings the word is used to describe a sea creature, and in a few cases, a sea crocodile is the translation. Job 41:18 says that when leviathan sneezes a light shines and his eyes look like the dawn. Verse 19 says that fire comes from his mouth and verse 20 says that smoke comes from his nostrils. This is poetic language and obviously doesn’t describe the animal anatomically. Verse 29 says that the leviathan laughs and verse 31 says that he makes the sea boil like a pot of ointment. These are obviously poetic descriptions of a very fierce sea creature. It is not a dinosaur living on the land, flying, and belching fire.

There is no valid fossil support for humans and dinosaurs living at the same time, and there is no biblical passage that states it. Cherry-picking a poetic description in Job to back up a denominational belief system is not taking the Bible literally.

Those of us who believe in God are in a war with forces who wish to destroy Christianity and the Bible. Pseudoscience used to defend a denominational understanding of a biblical passage just becomes a tool of those who despise Jesus Christ. It is a tool they use to destroy the faith of bright and well-educated young adults. We must not give them that tool.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dinosaur Pseudoscience

Dinosaur Pseudoscience
One of the greatest challenges that this ministry faces is the bad science and false claims that are generated by creationists associated with various denominational groups. One of the challenges relates to dinosaur pseudoscience. History professor Ronald Numbers has shown that over 90% of creationist materials presented in this country are produced by dispensational and millennial groups who start with their denominational doctrines and try to shoe-horn science into their belief system. (Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists, Harvard University Press, 2006.) We prefer to take the Bible literally.

Atheists and secular groups use the bad science involved to discredit the existence of God and the Bible as His word. The most basic problem presented by these creationist groups is that in spite of their claims, they do not take the Bible literally. By cherry-picking biblical statements, they attempt to make the Bible give a date to every event in the history of the Earth. They suggest that all 26-million different forms of life on the Earth today were present on the day of creation which they claim was roughly 6,000 years ago.

The fact is that the Hebrew words in Genesis were descriptions of animals that Moses knew and that his contemporaries had domesticated. Bacteria, viruses, platypuses, flightless birds, and countless sea creatures were not what Moses was referring to, and not what his readers would have understood him to be describing. For more on this go to doesgodexist.org and read the booklet titled God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word.

Perhaps the best example of creationist pseudoscience is their effort to explain the dinosaurs. We need to understand that none of the words used in Genesis 1 could reasonably be applied to dinosaurs. Creationists try to tell us there is scientific evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. They point to a painting by the Kuku Yalanji tribe of Queensland, Australia, which shows an animal that looks like a plesiosaur. It turns out that the tribesman actually copied a painting from a children’s book called The Giant Golden Book of Dinosaurs published in 1960.

Another example of this kind of bad science is the claim that a Japanese fishing boat named the Zuiyo-Maru snagged a carcass of a dead plesiosaur in 1977. It was badly decomposed, and research has since shown that it was the carcass of a basking shark.

To say that humans and dinosaurs lived together defies many scientific facts and brings ridicule on faith in God. Perhaps the most laughable suggestion is to insist that there were fire-breathing dinosaurs. We will deal with that bit of dinosaur pseudoscience tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Babies and Pain–A New Study

Babies and Pain
One of the areas of medicine that seems to be neglected is pain management. That is true of all ages, but one of the least studied age groups for investigating the experience of pain is what infants experience before, during, and after birth. There are special challenges when studying babies and pain.

Pain assessment in babies is difficult because they don’t talk and it is difficult to know whether they are in pain or whether their crying is due to something else. The use of facial expressions or body jerking or wiggling is likely to be very misleading. The May 3 issue of Science Translational Medicine carried a report on the use of electroencephalography (or EEG). Doctors used a special device called a Cz electrode to pick up brain waves when the baby experienced a painful event such as having its heel lanced to draw blood. The electroencephalogram showed a neural spike immediately after having the poke to the heel.

Babies born prematurely between 34 and 36 weeks of gestation show the same kind of responses to pain. Not all babies have exactly the same response, but there is enough consistency to believe that the babies do in fact sense pain. The babies did not show the same response to loud noises, flashing lights, or non-painful touches.

This research suggests a number of things. Procedures done on babies that could cause pain in an adult seem to be very likely to cause pain in a baby. The use of painkillers and the effect of medical treatment on the brain of a small child needs to be more carefully studied. Medical studies of babies and pain must proceed with care.

The question of whether abortion causes pain in the baby must be considered. The answer seems to be that babies do sense pain and that is also true of premature babies. Women who are considering medical procedures on their babies and especially abortion need to know what the evidence shows.
Reference: Science News, June 10, 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Galactic Collision Is Coming!

Andromeda Galaxy on Galactic Collision Course
Andromeda Galaxy

A skeptic remarked to me, “If a wise God created the universe, it would have been designed better. Our Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy are on a galactic collision course. They are going to smash into each other and tear each other apart. That’s the end of life on Earth. You’re God must not be very smart.” What could I say? Yes, it’s true that astronomers have determined that there will be a galactic collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies resulting in the destruction of both. But there is more to the story.

Recently I read an article about scientists who are studying two black holes that appear to be orbiting each other 750 million light-years from Earth. The scientists are watching them to see what will happen when two black holes collide as they spin into each other. The reason for the scientists’ curiosity is they want to know what will happen when the black holes in the center of the Milky Way and Andromeda come together. (It seems that most galaxies have black holes in their center.) Of course, the center of the galaxies will not meet until long after the outer spirals have destroyed each other, and Earth as well. Still, the scientists want to know what will happen when black holes collide. Will they swallow each other and become a super-super-massive black hole? Will they disappear? Who knows?

The scientists have been watching those distant orbiting black holes for about 12 years now. How much longer will they have to wait to find the answer? They estimate that those black holes orbit each other every 24,000 years. How many orbits will it take for them to converge in a catastrophic explosion of energy? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. The bottom line is that it’s going to take a lot longer than 12 years, or even 12 hundred, or 12 thousand, or maybe even 12 million. The scientists working on the project will not be around to learn the answer.

Let’s get back to the expected Milky Way-Andromeda catastrophy. When will it happen? Oh, let’s say in a billion years or so. We have many more important things to worry about than the coming galactic train-wreck. So why was the skeptic saying that there can’t be an all-wise, loving, and powerful God because our two galaxies may be destroyed in a billion years? That’s a very weak excuse for not believing in God. The point is that God never intended for this universe and our planet to last forever. He even told us so. (See 2 Peter 3:10-12.) God had a specific plan in mind to give us a chance to learn to love and serve him and to grow toward becoming the people he called us to be. There is a much better universe coming. (You can read about it in Revelation 21.) There is no need to worry about a galactic collision. In the new universe: There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Bogota, Colombia–Faith Challenges

Bogota, Colombia
Bolivar Plaza, Bogota, Colombia

As you read this, your author is in Bogota, Colombia, South America, presenting lectures at a university and in town meetings.

What has happened in Colombia is going on in many areas of South America. For years the Roman Catholic Church has dominated the country, and recent moral problems with some priests and Catholic leaders have disillusioned many Colombians. The result is that belief in God has dropped considerably and Colombia’s health minister has announced he is an atheist and is vowing to implement legal abortion.

Atheists are bringing in atheistic professor Richard Dawkins to challenge the Catholic Church to debate in Bogota in December of this year. The Catholic Church has accepted the challenge and an ordained priest of 50 years experience named Gerardo Remolina will oppose Dawkins. Remolina has written a book titled God and Religion, Illusion or Reality. He is the vice-chancellor of Bogota’s Catholic Javeriana Pontifical University and is the academic dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Tickets for the debate have already gone on sale.

The atheists are also sponsoring a national essay contest in which students are being asked to watch the BBC documentary entitled Beautiful Minds and then write a five-page essay on Dawkins’ godless belief system. The top ten students will then be invited to travel to London to visit the Natural History Museum, with a tour guided by Dawkins himself. You can read more about the Dawkins challenge on ColombiaReports.com.

During our trip we are presenting programs on the existence of God in Chia, a northern suburb of Bogota, Colombia, on June 30 and July 1.
–John N. Clayton © 2017