Lunar Cycles, Lunar Influence, and Lunacy

Lunar Cycles, Lunar Influence, and Lunacy

The Latin name for the Moon is “luna.” Many English words are derived from that root, including lunacy, lunatic, and even loon, as in “crazy as a loon.” Having grown up in the north, I know that hearing the cries of loons cry could lead to thoughts of them being crazy. Lunar cycles occur naturally, but many people believe a “lunar influence” is connected to abnormal behavior.

People have given unique names to certain full-moon appearances, such as blue moon, sturgeon moon, harvest moon, cold moon, snow moon, pink moon, flower moon, strawberry moon, hunter moon, beaver moon, worm moon, and wolf moon (which we will have tonight). You can find those names in the Farmer’s Almanac, so it should not be surprising that most of them have connections to agriculture or to a time when people did not have electric lights clouding their view of the sky. I have found that seeing the full moon in remote areas hundreds of miles away from city lights is a moving experience. If you were fishing, harvesting, hunting, or plowing, you would have no problem with just the Moon for illumination.

The Moon is not just an accident, nor is its influence on life. Genesis 1:14 describes God clearing Earth’s cloud cover to let the lights of the heavens (Sun and Moon) become visible “for signs and seasons and for days and years.” Some birds use the Moon for migration journeys that coincide with specific lunar phases. Many animals respond to both circadian rhythms and a lunar clock.

So, how does the Moon affect human activity? Studies show that there are more animal bites from cats, rats, and horses during full moons, probably because more humans are doing more things at night during a full moon. Also, data show there are more crimes during full moons. Apparently, criminals can use the light of a full moon for their activities just as farmers can.

The Bible refers to lunar cycles for time and mentions lunar festivals (Colossians 2:16) but otherwise makes no particular connections to the Moon. All of the claims of abnormal human behavior during various lunar cycles are in the realm of what is called “folklore.” Erika Brady, who teaches folklore at Western Kentucky University, says, “It’s a way of imposing order on something that feels frighteningly out of control.”

I hope you can take some time tonight to admire the full moon away from city lights and imagine how ancient people depended on it for nighttime light to carry on their lives. Meanwhile, don’t worry about it affecting you psychologically or causing biological changes. The animals and insects may be altered by lunar cycles, but you are not a bug or a werewolf.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

What Is Gravity and How Does it Work?

What Is Gravity and How Does it Work?

Many things in the creation do not lend themselves to conventional science. Gravity is an excellent example. What is gravity, and where did it come from? Issac Newton suggested that gravity was a property of mass because the more mass something has, the more it weighs. A physics equation describes gravity, saying that if you have two masses, there will be a force of attraction between them.

In a high school physics experiment, we hung two large bags of sand near each other. Gravity would pull them toward each other, and if you increased the amount of sand, it would draw them closer. Using a group of levers, the students could measure the force between the two bags. We can measure it, but what is gravity?

Instead of bags of sand, scientists measure the gravity force between the Earth, Moon, and Sun. What keeps Earth orbiting the Sun and the Moon orbiting the Earth? Isaac Newton proposed that the distance between objects affected the amount of gravitational force between them. An equation describing the attraction between masses 1 and 2 must include the masses, the distance between them, and a number known as the gravitational constant. The equation is F = G (M-1)(M-2)/X2. G is the gravitational constant, and scientists have measured it to be 6.67 x 10 -11. If the value of the constant G differed from what it is, the Earth could not exist, and neither could we.

If you don’t follow all of that, don’t worry about it. The point is that gravity is a complex quantity that holds everything together. But that leaves questions unanswered. What is gravity? Is it a wave? How can it work over huge distances? How can mass cause gravity – or does it? Why is the gravity constant precisely what it is?

As science probes deeper into the nature of matter, time, space, and energy, it becomes increasingly evident that not everything physical has a physical cause. We cannot explain the creation of time, space, energy, or gravity by conventional science. As you read modern research reports, you see that our world was shaped from dimensions beyond the four we know about. The laws that govern our world and the dimensions we live in do not fully describe the nature of gravity, time, or even space.

Ancient biblical writers guided by the Spirit of God understood that a wise Creator designed our world. The writer of Proverbs 8 personifies wisdom, giving it a feminine nature. Wisdom says, “O you simple, understand wisdom and have an understanding heart. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way before His works of old. I was set up from eternity, from the beginning and before the earth ever was.”

Open-minded contemplation of the creation leads to the recognition that an infinite intelligence beyond that of any human brought the physical creation into existence. We learn from the Bible that God’s purpose was to allow the war between good and evil to end once and forever and that we play an essential role in that war.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Extinction of Plant and Animal Species

Extinction of Plant and Animal Species
Illustration of Woolly Mammoths

Near the end of 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed 21 species from the Endangered Species Act because they have become extinct. What causes the extinction of plant and animal species?

Many factors lead to extinctions. Dr. Hugh Ross says the fossil record indicates that half of the mammal species that existed at the time of Adam and Eve are now extinct. Human activities that can endanger species include habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, and introduction of diseases. Of course, animals can endanger people in various ways, including introducing diseases.

Humans have endangered plant species by introducing invasive plants. Plants used for decorative purposes can become invasive. Examples are English holly and the tree of heaven. Some plants that have become invasive were introduced to serve a purpose, such as controlling erosion. An example is the kudzu plant.

At other times, humans have caused extinction by killing large numbers of a species such as the passenger pigeon. Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the dodo bird became extinct within less than a century of its discovery. Humans caused the extinction of the great auk by foolish vandalism. Today, poachers are endangering the rhinoceros by killing them for no good reason. By contrast, human efforts rescued the California condor after it became extinct in the wild.

Woolly mammoths existed alongside early humans, and some scientists say they were essential for the survival of humans in some areas. People used them for food and their skins for protection from the elements. Their bones became tools, building materials, and even musical instruments. These large animals also kept plant vegetation under control while spreading their seeds. We can not always determine the cause of the extinction of plant and animal species, and that is the case with woolly mammoths.

The extinction of the dinosaurs occurred before humans were on the scene. That is good because humans and dinosaurs could not coexist on the land or at the same atmospheric oxygen level. God used them to prepare Earth for humans, and He orchestrated their extinction before He placed Adam and Eve in the garden.

As we look at the extinction of plant and animal species, we learn some essential facts. From the beginning, God had a plan for life as He prepared this planet for us to be here. He gave the first humans the responsibility to take care of the Earth, but we have not done a very good job. Finally, God is still giving us a chance to do better, and we have had some successes. Serving God involves serving others and caring for what God has given us for human flourishing. We can only do that when we submit to His plan for our lives.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

References: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and A Matter of Days by Hugh Ross, page 74.

Survival in the Cold by Design

Survival in the Cold by Design
Chickadee in Winter Snow

As I sit in my warm office in Michigan today, I look out at snow and ice. My outdoor thermometer registers -8 degrees, and I wonder how the ducks on the river, the squirrels on the ground, and the birds in the air handle these frigid temperatures. I enjoy watching the birds on my bird feeders and the squirrels chasing each other in the oak trees, but I wonder how they survive. Then I apply my knowledge of physics, and I understand animal survival in the cold.

I always enjoyed teaching the heat and thermodynamics section of my high school physics class. One of my lines that always got a laugh was, “Why do we need to wear clothes to survive, outside of the obvious one.” The point is that our skin is not very good insulation against the cold. In winter, we pick clothes with air spaces within the fabric because air is a very poor conductor of heat, so it insulates us from the cold. We use coats stuffed with goosedown or some facsimile to be well protected from the cold. Goosedown also insulates sleeping bags and quilts.

Chickadees visit my bird feeders regularly. They usually are relatively sleek birds that fly smoothly and efficiently. As I look at my chickadees on this day of -8 degrees, they are almost round. Their feathers are fluffed up to trap air, so the birds are well insulated for survival in the cold. They don’t fly as smoothly as they do in summer. They crowd my feeders and would sit there without moving if they could.

Squirrels have a different problem. Their coats give them some protection, but getting food is an issue when heavy snow covers everything. They need to keep warm but avoid activities that would sap their reserve of nutrition. My gaze goes to the top of the oak trees, and I see a large round ball of leaves and twigs. Many years ago, to expand our church parking lot, we had to take down a tree with a large round ball of leaves and twigs near the top. As the tree came down, a squirrel ran out of the ball. I put my hand into the nest to see what was inside. Even though the air temperature was 20 degrees, it was very warm inside the ball of leaves and squirrel hair.

God has equipped His creatures for survival in the cold, and His design enables our Michigan winter to throb with animal activity. Trial and error explanations are weak because survival errors are lethal. We can see design in the natural world that speaks of God’s wisdom and planning. The evidence allows us to “know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). Watching animals thrive in very cold conditions is an excellent example of that evidence.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Aliens Visiting Planet Earth

Aliens Visiting Planet Earth

The media has been full of claims that the government is hiding evidence from the general public about aliens visiting planet Earth. In this day of lying politicians and scams and fakes, it is essential to not buy into any claims too quickly.

The claims that were leaked out to the general public include the following:

1) A group of U.S. airmen found a downed alien spacecraft in Rendelsham Forest, England.

2) Sixty-two children in Zimbabwe witnessed a flying saucer near their playground.

3) A UFO knocked ICBMs offline in Montana.

(4) Various videos from the US Navy show aircraft maneuvering beyond what any earthly craft can do.

All of these and others are included in a film titled The UFO Movie They Don’t Want You to See, produced by Brian Dunning. (It is available for viewing on YouTube at the link below.) The reason we are interested in this film is that there have been those who claimed that aliens are responsible for the Bible, that Jesus Christ was an extra-terrestrial, and that the biblical narrative was given by aliens to guide gullible people into believing in God instead of knowing their true origin. This film exploring evidence about aliens visiting planet Earth has no religious interest and, in fact, is promoted by skeptic organizations.

It is important to understand that it is not our intent to say there is no life in outer space. With the massive number of galaxies, stars, and planets, other life forms may exist. God may have chosen other methods to conduct the war between good and evil. The problem is that the nearest star to our solar system is 4.3 light years away, and the closest galaxy to our Milky Way Galaxy is 750,000 light years away. Those distances are too great to allow any civilization to have an interest in us. Science fiction about aliens visiting planet Earth would have us believe that time and space can be controlled by aliens with intelligence far beyond our own. Some people choose to believe that even though it requires much more faith than to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

The UFO Movie They Don’t Want You to See, produced by Brian Dunning

Natural Science Cannot Answer these Questions

Natural Science Cannot Answer these Questions

Natural science cannot answer these questions we examined yesterday:
1- ”Why does the universe exist?”
2- ”How did something come from nothing?”
Science is very good at answering “how” questions but not as good with “why” questions. Let’s look at two more “why” questions.

3- ”Why are the physical constants precisely tuned to support conscious life?”
Science has determined that the universe’s physical constants are fine-tuned to support our existence. They are fine-tuned with such precision that it could not be merely accidental, and this precision makes scientists who don’t want to believe in God very uncomfortable.

If you eliminate an intelligent Creator, there seems to be only one possible explanation for the apparent fine-tuning. It’s the “multiverse” idea. This proposal suggests that an almost limitless number of universes exist with various physical constants. We are lucky enough to be in the one universe with precise constants to support conscious observers like us. Therefore, it is merely an accident that we see the physical constants as being fine-tuned; otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to observe them.

The multiverse concept is not scientific since it cannot be proven or disproven. It lies outside of the limits of science. Furthermore, if you can’t explain the emergence of one universe from nothing, how can you explain an infinite number of universes from nothing?

Since science has set limitations on itself, it also can’t answer this question:
4- “Why do I exist?”
It’s a question that probably everyone thinks about at some time in life. “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” Regardless of how you ask the question, the answer is what gives meaning to life. Science can’t answer the question, but without an answer, many people give up on life. The lack of an answer is perhaps the biggest problem in today’s world, especially among young people.

Natural science cannot answer these questions because the answer is supernatural. God loves you and designed you for a purpose. He came into our world in a physical form we know as Jesus Christ. (See John 1:1-14.) From a humble birth to a perfect life, He showed us how to live. By His sacrifice on the cross, He demonstrated God’s love. If you take time to ponder this, you will realize that the questions natural science can’t answer are the most important ones.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

The Design of Dirt

The Design of Dirt

Most of us take dirt for granted and perhaps even have a negative attitude toward what lies beneath our lawns and gardens. We may not realize that soil is a complex structure designed for life and that many life forms live in it. We should take a moment to consider the design of dirt.

There are many kinds of soil, and the amount varies widely in different environments. In deserts or polar areas, we find very little soil. For example, in Alaska, the soil is very thin, but life there is supported by the yearly migration of salmon. In desert areas, we may have only sand and no soil. Also, volcanic regions may have no soil since soil takes time to develop. Volcanic rock coming out of the lava flow is usually very sterile.

Because of the design of dirt, it is home to 59% of Earth’s species. Scientists have identified twelve families of living organisms that survive in the soil. Some of these are more familiar, such as mollusks, arthropods, fungi, protozoans, bacteria, viruses, plants, and even mammals. Less well-known are nematodes, oligochaets, enchytraeids, and archaes.

Humans depend on all of these life forms for food, fiber, and the survival of the animals humans use for food. Life on land could not exist without the organisms living in the soil beneath our feet. Using chemicals on soil threatens its ability to provide what we need to survive. Agriculture is moving toward more efficient and effective methods of growing our food. Efforts to duplicate the design built into Earth’s soil are proving to be a challenge.

In the Garden of Eden, everything humans needed to eat was already growing. God had designed soil that produced the plants; all the first humans had to do was gather it. When God expelled them from the garden, they were forced to deal with an Earth that was out of balance. They had to control the soil and what grew in it. We can try to copy God’s design of soil, but we are only beginning to understand how complex it is and what it takes to maintain a working environment. God’s wisdom is seen everywhere we look, even down to the design of dirt.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “The Soil Contains Multitudes” in the January/February issue of American Scientist, page 8.

The Magnitude of the Creator and His Love

The Magnitude of the Creator and His Love
A view of the Milky Way surrounded by other galaxies and stars.

Dr. James C. Peterson, writing in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, gave some astounding numbers to help us comprehend the magnitude of the Creator. These facts should cause amazement that God could care about us as individuals.

Peterson writes, “There are 12 times as many stars in our galaxy as there are people on our planet.” It is hard to comprehend that God knows about me at all when you realize that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and there are two trillion galaxies that we know of. Peterson points out we are on a dot (planet Earth) compared to the size of the Sun, which is a dot compared to the size of our galaxy.

Despite those facts, God knows my name and how many hairs are on my head (Luke 12:6-7). The Creator of the cosmos “knows within me my thirty trillion cells, and the three billion base pairs of my personal DNA copied in a complete set, inside each of my nucleated cells.” It has been said that the more we know about the creation, the more we comprehend the magnitude of the Creator.

The psalmist David seemed to comprehend the magnitude of the Creator as he looked at the stars without telescopes and marveled at their creation. In Psalms 19:1, David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” In Psalms 139:13-15 David writes, “…you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret…”

Today, as we look outward with our telescopes and inward with our microscopes, we have more reason to be amazed than David ever did. David wrote in Psalms 8:3-4, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

There is more to fill us with awe than just the magnitude of the Creator. We also marvel at the magnitude of His love. Jesus spoke of the “agape” form of love, which considers every human to be of incredible worth no matter who they are or their station in life. Earth would be at peace if all humans could grasp that concept. Perhaps someday, enough of us will realize that our concept of the Creator is too small and the value we place on the creation and on our fellow humans is too limited to allow war to continue.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Dr James C. Peterson writing in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, December 2023 issue, page 153.

Earth Is Designed to Sustain Humans

Earth Is Designed to Sustain Humans

Nearly every day brings an announcement of discoveries by various space agencies showing that our unique planet Earth is designed to sustain humans.

The Webb space telescope found a planet as large as Jupiter but much less dense, and researchers have dubbed it the “cotton candy planet.” It has winds up to 10,000 mph and large amounts of sulfur dioxide in an atmosphere of sand that acts like rain. Another discovery from the Webb space telescope is that there are free-floating planet-sized objects similar in size to Jupiter but not in orbit around any star. No model of planet and star formation explains these strange objects.

Discoveries of the Webb telescope show the complexity of the cosmos, complicating travel in space. Additionally, NASA has released data showing that humans suffer significant body changes in weightlessness for an extended time. Astronaut Scott Kelly was in space for roughly a year, and his heart diminished in size by nearly a third and became rounder. Astronauts have had bone density changes of up to 2% a month, and radiation significantly affects their DNA. Reported psychological issues called “detachment phenomena” make astronauts unreceptive to instructions from mission control.

Humans were created to live on planet Earth, and Earth is designed to sustain humans. Simply transporting humans to a space environment doesn’t work easily. Creating an environment similar to what God gave us will require massive scientific work and may be impossible. The idea that people can survive on other planets going around other stars in the near future makes good science fiction but is not practical. We must learn to get along and solve our problems here on Earth. The belief that we are here by chance becomes harder and harder to accept as we learn more about both space and ourselves.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: The Week for December 8, 2023, pages 11 and 22, and October 20, 2023, page 22.

The Treasury of the Snow

A Red Fox and The Treasury of the Snow
A Red Fox Detecting Prey Under the Snow

“Have you entered the treasury of the snow…?” (Job 38:22”. “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater…” (Isaiah 55:10). “He gives snow like wool …” Psalms 147:16).

That is just a sampling of the Old Testament understanding of the importance of snow. Many of us don’t view snow as a treasure, not realizing how snow does things that rain cannot do. The fact is that snow is essential to humans as well as many forms of animal and plant life. We couldn’t live without the treasury of the snow.

Snow on the mountains locks up water during winter and releases it gradually during the summer. Rain comes all at once and is quickly gone, as many of us have experienced flooding in the past year. If that moisture came as snow, there would be no flooding, and melting snow would gradually provide water for plants and animals. Falling snow also has a cleaning effect, as Job 9:20 suggests.

In the winter, snow allows small animals like vols, moles, chipmunks, and field mice to feed on plants and insects they would not have access to in summer. They can even raise their young under the protection of snow. When the snow melts, larger animals can feed on these smaller ones, preserving the balance of the food chain. Even in winter, the larger animals can catch some of them because the snow does not block the sound of their scurrying. The whole food chain is affected by the treasury of the snow.

Snow formation is due to the water molecule’s design and not some accident. The polarity of the water molecule means it has positive and negative ends. That creates the beautiful snowflake shapes. As water freezes, the molecules latch onto each other, and the volume of the water expands. This allows lakes to freeze on the surface since the density of ice is lower than that of liquid water. Non-polar materials do not expand as they freeze.

Romans 1:20 tells us we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The treasury of the snow is an essential part of God’s design to allow life to survive.

— John N. Clayton © 2023