Our Planet is Unique and Bizarre

Our Planet is Unique and Bizarre

Human technology has allowed more observations of our planet than most of us realize. NASA currently operates around 30 Earth-observing missions accumulating massive amounts of data. We know about changes in sea level for the Earth’s oceans within a fraction of an inch. Hourly, we can know the areas of our planet covered with snow. We measure the amount of tree cover on Earth and minute-by-minute changes in the planet’s atmosphere. The result of all this detecting and measuring is that we know that our planet is unique and bizarre.

Earth is the only planet we have seen with an active water cycle that causes weather and allows the recycling of water resources. It is also the only known planet with active plate tectonics, recycling minerals within Earth’s crust using earthquakes and volcanoes while releasing volatiles that create and maintain our atmosphere.

We have only recently understood the Moon’s role and how important it is for life to exist on Earth. We know that it was formed in a catastrophic impact that determined its location and size. The size and distance from Earth are precisely right to cause the strength of our tides and give our planet a stable 23.4-degree tilt. Without the Moon, our Sun would cause very weak tides causing our coastlines to be much different, while the planet’s axis of rotation would wobble, destabilizing the climate.

Our planet is unique and bizarre because it has been shaped by vegetation, responsible for the atmosphere’s oxygen content of 21%. The typical astronomical atmosphere of planets is dominated by methane and carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis uses sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce the oxygen we breathe. Science is still struggling to understand the source of the massive amount of minerals we have on Earth. Meteorites have a small number of minerals, and while the Moon has a larger number, Earth’s variety of minerals is astounding.

Discover magazine featured an article discussing NASA’s studies of planet Earth. It stated that Earth observations have taught scientists one sure thing: “Our planet is unique and bizarre, with unusual properties that don’t match those of any other world we’ve seen, either in our own solar system or beyond it.”

For those of us who understand the science involved and believe in God as the creator, this is no surprise. Proverbs 8 finds “Wisdom” saying, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way …” We see that beautifully demonstrated as we look at our planet and marvel at the intelligence of the Designer who produced it.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Earth is a Planet Too!” by Alison Klesman in the September/October 2022 issue of Discover magazine.

Natural Insect Control by an Insect

Natural Insect Control by an Insect - Praying Mantis

People struggle with many insects that give us diseases, impact our food supply, and even damage our clothing. Mosquitoes, locusts, grasshoppers, cockroaches, crickets, and the like have been a scourge prompting the use of pesticides. The pesticides, in turn, have brought cancer and attacks on our immune systems. Yet, we often overlook the fact that God has given us natural insect control by providing agents that eat insects, including birds, bats, fish, and even insects. One insect-eating insect that looks like it came from another planet is known to entomologists as “Mantis religiosa” but is commonly called the praying mantis.

The mantis has bulging eyes and a triangular-shaped head that swivels atop a long neck, giving it an odd extraterrestrial look. It is the only insect with three-dimensional vision. It holds its two front legs at an angle as if folded in prayer while actually poised to ambush prey. Those forelegs are armed with spikes so that when they capture an insect, it cannot escape.

Humans introduced the praying mantis from Europe into New York state in 1900 to control grasshopper infestations. Mantises are voracious eaters and can even be cannibalistic. Their population is partly controlled by eating each other when the food supply becomes reduced. Females sometimes eat the males and the egg capsules when there is a food shortage.

A mistake humans have made is using chemicals to control insect populations instead of using the natural controls God has given us. Spraying massive amounts of insect-killing chemicals kills everything, including insect-eating birds, fish, and insects like the praying mantis. We often hear people blaming God for the diseases and afflictions humans have caused.

The more we study the creation, the more we see natural insect control agents. They may require work and a more significant time investment than the easy process of spraying, but they cause far less collateral damage.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: The Spokesman-Review for 8/30/22 page A01 by Linda Welford and Wikipedia

Nadir Asteroid Impact Crater

Chicxulub and Nadir Asteroid Impact

One of the challenges to evolutionary theory is the principle of uniformitarianism–the assumption that no process has ever functioned on Earth that is not going on today. We are not talking about common disasters but events in Earth’s history that would have altered the course of evolution or stopped it entirely. For many years, scientists have known about the Chicxulub asteroid that struck the area that is now Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, probably causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. Such an event would have changed life’s future direction. Now, there is news of a Nadir asteroid impact crater.

BBC news reported that geologists discovered a possible asteroid crater off the coast of Guinea in west Africa. They call it the Nadir crater because it is at the Nadir (opposite lowest point) of the Chicxulub crater. This new crater is 8,500 meters wide and over 300 meters lower than the seabed. It is about the same age as Chicxulub but much smaller. The Chicxulub crater, caused by a larger asteroid, is 12,000 meters wide.

Both of these asteroid collisions would have violated uniformitarianism, dramatically affecting life on Earth. The Chicxulub asteroid impact would have caused major earthquakes, tsunamis, and a global firestorm. The result would have thrown enough dust into the atmosphere to plunge Earth into a deep freeze that dinosaurs could not have survived.

Since the Nadir asteroid impact crater is in an ocean environment, it would have caused a tsunami with a wall of water over 1000 meters high. The Nadir collision would have produced about 1,000 times more energy than Tonga’s recent (January 2022) volcano eruption. However, the energy from the Chicxulub impact would have been about 10 million times greater.

The textbook model of evolution is greatly simplified. We don’t fully understand how an asteroid collision would have affected life on Earth. It seems unlikely that most life forms could have survived the one-two punch of Chicxulub and Nadir asteroid impacts.

Genesis 1:1-3 indicates that there was a change in the Earth. An accurate translation of verse 2 is that Earth “became empty and wasted.” That is precisely what the asteroid collisions would have caused. This may have been God’s methodology of a final step to make Earth fit for human life. This new evidence supports the biblical account in ways we are only beginning to understand.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: BBC news August 19, 2022, and Science Advances

Soil Derived from Barren Rock

Soil Derived from Barren Rock

I have had the privilege of walking along a still hot lava flow in Hawaii and watching it cool and crack, exposing a red hot glowing interior. As a student of geology, I have seen the bedrock that tells of the composition of the early Earth in places throughout North and South America and England. There can be very little doubt that the creation of planet Earth left a ball of sterile, barren rock orbiting the Sun. Having lived for 85 years on this planet, I have had the joy of seeing soil derived from barren rock supporting vast plant and animal life.

The story of how soil is produced is a story of wisdom and design unique to our planet. Therefore, it is essential that we understand the importance of the soil God gave us and how to take care of it in our age of expanding populations.

National Geographic published an excellent article by Ferris Jabr titled “Out of Sight,” containing pictures by Oliver Meckes and Nicole Ottawa. The pictures show the agents God created to convert the barren rock of our planet into soil that can grow a forest. A single gram of forest soil (1/454th of a pound) can contain as many as a billion bacteria, a million fungi, hundreds of thousands of protozoa, and nearly a thousand roundworms. The pictures of those microscopic organisms are incredible.

Soil derived from barren rock began with fundamental processes caused by rain, wind, and ice. Once the elements broke down the rocks to small sizes, the microscopic living organisms went to work. Microbes, fungi, lichen, and tiny plants broke down the sand-size rocks and enriched them with minerals life could use. In Hawaii, you can see the black sand beaches produced in modern times and the places where those agents have processed soil in which plants can live. Over time, the elements in early soils, such as carbon, phosphorus, and potassium, were processed to produce advanced soil structure.

The Genesis creation account does not explain God’s methods of preparing the planet for human life. Proverbs 8:22-36 finds Wisdom narrating the processes of creation. But even Wisdom can’t describe the process of soil derived from barren rocks to people with no microscopes or technical language. Today, we are uniquely privileged to see God’s handiwork and to marvel at the incredible complexity involved in the creation of dirt.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Out of Sight” by Ferris Jabr in the September 2022 issue of National Geographic, pages 82 -99, with pictures by Oliver Meckes and Nicole Ottawa.

Wildfire Aftermath and Recovery

Wildfire Aftermath and Recovery

If you are like me, you have watched with pain the terrible wildfires in the western United States. We tend to focus on the folks who have lost homes or barely got out with the clothing on their backs. However, the long-term effects of wildfires are not as bad as the human tragedy often caused by human mismanagement. Several research studies funded by the National Science Foundation have dealt with wildfire aftermath and recovery.

One study of charcoal from Wales and Poland tells the story of plants consumed by fire millions of years ago. Botanists say that instead of the grasses, trees, and flowers we see today, previous ancient land plants were under an inch tall. Some waist-high or knee-high plants existed, but much of the landscape was covered with tiny plants. At that time, the big plants were fungi that towered over all other plants. A well-preserved prototaxite fossil fungus shows that they stood 30 feet tall.

Earth’s atmosphere at that time had very little oxygen, unlike the 21% figure we see today. Fires would not occur because of the lack of oxygen. Modern studies show that a fire of any size isn’t likely below 16% atmospheric oxygen. Once the level exceeded 16%, fires occurred, and wildfire aftermath and recovery paved the way for the large plants we know today. Modern plants can generate large amounts of oxygen to sustain animal life.

In today’s wildfire aftermath and recovery, there are always “green islands” where a tree cluster avoids being burned because of the topography or nearness to water. A high percentage of seeds from these patches of unburned trees remain to germinate and grow. The creatures that would ordinarily eat the small trees are no longer there, so the plants survive to rapidly reforest the area. That means areas with “green islands” do not need human tree planting. Most human effort and resources can go to places with no “green islands.”

These studies help us understand God’s methods of preparing Earth for humans and the animals we need. Genesis 1:11-12 gives the same picture that the scientists are finding. It says that the first form of plant life was the grasses – “deshe” in Hebrew means tender grass. The second group of plants is “eseb,” meaning “naked seed,” – gymnosperms. That is followed by the tree bearing fruit containing its seed – angiosperms. The Bible tells us the order of progression from early forms of plants to the ones we depend on today. The Bible does not tell us how God did it or how long it took, but scientific research today gives us that information.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Science Foundation “Research News”

Our Planet’s Magnetic Field

Our Planet’s Magnetic Field

There are a vast number of things that make life on planet Earth possible. We are all aware of some, while others escape most people’s knowledge. One thing that allows life to exist on Earth is our planet’s magnetic field. 

All stars generate streams of radiation by the nature of their energy-producing systems, and our Sun is no exception. The solar wind is a constant threat to life on the Moon or Mars or in any spaceship traveling through the solar system. Studies show that Mars once had a magnetic field, but that field dissipated, leaving the surface sterile. The question for astronomers is why Earth didn’t suffer the same fate. Much of the answer to our planet’s magnetic field lies in Earth’s geology.

About 1800 miles below our feet, a liquid iron core generates our magnetic field. Recent research shows that there was a time in the distant past when Earth’s magnetic field was dissipating, but just as it reached its lowest point, it regenerated. Using various new wave detection tools, researchers have found evidence of what brought the magnetic field back.

Earth has four layers: (1) the crust where we live, (2) a thick layer called the mantle, (3) a molten outer core, and (4) A solid inner core. In the molten outer core, swirling liquid iron generates electric currents, driving a geodynamo that produces our planet’s magnetic field to protect us from the solar wind. 

We can’t go to the Earth’s core to study these layers, but minerals that contain tiny magnetic particles rise to Earth’s surface. By examining the magnetic crystals in anorthosite rocks with a superconducting quantum interference magnetometer, researchers can see a historical record of Earth’s magnetic field. That field began to regenerate as the inner core started to grow, allowing Earth to retain the water so vital to life. 

This new research helps scientists understand how Earth became a habitable planet. The implications for life on other planets are clear, and we can see that our planet is extraordinary. When we see the complexity of our planet, it takes more faith to believe that our existence is an accident than to believe it was planned and designed. The tools God used to prepare a place for life to thrive are far more complex and exceptional than anyone can understand when reading, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Science Foundation and Nature.com

Greatest Daily Migration on Earth

Greatest Daily Migration on Earth
Zooplankton in the Ocean

One of the amazing facts about life on our planet is the way living things fill every niche of the environment. As science extends our knowledge of Earth’s remote regions, we find massive amounts of life with incredible diversity. We find the largest animal population on the Earth in biomass, the volume of the Earth occupied, and numbers of individuals in water deeper than sunlight can reach. The ocean depths make up 90% of Earth’s living space, and we now understand that living there are more than a million species that science has not named or described. Furthermore, they are part of the greatest daily migration on Earth.

Every day, ten billion tons of animals known as zooplankton move upward from as far as 3,000 feet below the surface. The zooplankton include copepods, salps, krill, and fish larvae. At only 1,000 feet down, the water is 20 degrees Fahrenheit colder than at the surface, and the pressure is 30 times as great. For a tiny fish larva, making a 1000-foot journey in about an hour would be like a human swimmer going 50 miles in that amount of time. These animals begin their ascent at sunset and stay near the surface until sunrise when they descend back to the cold dark below.

The purpose of this greatest daily migration on Earth is to eat and avoid being eaten. These zooplankton animals feed on phytoplankton, the microscopic aquatic plants that live in the top few hundred feet of water. Fish and squid feed on the zooplankton, which find protection at the great ocean depths. The first hint of this massive migration occurred in World War II when ships and submarines used sonar to sweep the ocean for enemy subs. They discovered that the seafloor seemed to be moving up and down, creating a deep “scattering layer” that reflected sonar signals. Now we have research tools to explore this layer, which turns out to be alive.

Science is just now beginning to understand the importance of the greatest daily migration on Earth. This huge mass of animal life, their excrement, and their remains sequester carbon in the very deep waters, making them rich in nutrients. Winds along the shores of continents push the surface water from the continental edges out into the open ocean. Their exit causes water to come up from ocean depths to the surface along the continent’s edges, bringing nutrients with it.

Our understanding of this mass migration is helping us to understand the carbon cycle, climate change, and many ecological issues. This greatest daily migration on Earth is a part of God’s creation. It reminds us of Proverbs 8:28-29, which says that Wisdom was there, “…when He established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when He gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep His command, and when He marked out the foundations of the earth” (NIV).

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Scientific American, August 2022, pages 50 -67.

Every Discovery that Answers One Question Raises a Dozen More

Every Discovery that Answers One Question Raises a Dozen More - James Webb Telescope
James Webb Telescope

As technology progresses, we get better and better pictures from outer space. We are now seeing images from the Webb space telescope showing previously unknown details. The new information also challenges some of the assumptions of astronomy and cosmology. Researchers have an old saying: “Every discovery that answers one question raises a dozen more.” The general public may feel that we have a complete understanding of the cosmos and creation itself, but nothing could be further from the truth.,

A classic example of that is the red spot on Jupiter. Giovanni Cassini saw and made note of it 357 years ago. Astronomers have studied and analyzed that mysterious massive storm on Jupiter over and over ever since. Yet, here we are in 2022, and we still have no idea why it is red.

We are now detecting rapid radio bursts from outer space
, but we don’t understand them. Interestingly, they have a pattern similar to a beating human heart. The cosmos is full of challenges we are still trying to understand. Many of them have been brought to our attention by advances in technology.

Voyager 1 left the Earth 45 years ago and has added more to our solar system knowledge than any other probe. However, scientists still cannot understand many of its discoveries. Every discovery that answers one question raises a dozen more.

As the Webb telescope sends incredible pictures like never seen before from deep space, it’s an exciting time to be alive and view areas of the creation that human eyes have never witnessed. Every new observation and discovery tells us more about the magnitude of God’s power, wisdom, and design.

Despite all this, the primary cosmological proof of the existence of God remains. Our discoveries continue to show us that there was a beginning to time, space, and matter/energy. Since the cosmos could not have come from absolute nothingness, we know that beginning had a cause, and the nature of that cause was an intelligence – not blind opportunistic chance.

The ancient words of the psalmist in Psalms 19:1-2 continue to ring true: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day after day, they utter speech, and night after night, they show knowledge.”

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: apodnasa.gov for 7/17/22.

Lunar Soil Flunked the Test

Lunar Soil Flunked the Test

University of Florida researchers conducted an interesting experiment comparing plant growth in Moon soil and Earth soil. Unfortunately, the lunar soil flunked the test. NASA provided the researchers with small soil samples from three Apollo missions. After placing one gram of the precious lunar soil in each of twelve pots, they planted thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) seeds in each pot. They also planted similar seeds in sixteen pots of volcanic Earth soil.

The researchers placed both groups of plants under LED lights and fertilized them with the same nutrients. Plants grew in all of the soil samples, but the lunar soil plants grew more slowly and were smaller and scrawnier than the plants grown in Earth soil. Some of them also had a purplish color typical of plants under stress.

Analysis of the soils showed that the lunar soil was full of metallic iron and tiny glass shards, both toxic to plants. The soil also lacked nitrogen, phosphorus, and trace elements that plants need to grow.

This experiment is of great interest to those wanting to colonize the Moon or Mars. Experiments have shown that space debris pelting their surfaces has altered all planets and moons. To farm on the Moon or other planets, astronauts would have to carry soil from Earth or genetically modify the plants to accept the alien soil. For now, lunar soil flunked the test. Of course, lunar farmers would also have to provide an atmospheric environment allowing plant growth.

The Genesis account tells us that God “planted a garden eastward in Eden” (Genesis 2:8). One part of planting a garden is to prepare the soil and Earth’s environment to support the three kinds of plant life (simple plants, gymnosperms, and angiosperms) mentioned in Genesis 1:10-12.

You might not think that dirt has to be specially designed, but lunar soil flunked the test. This experiment and our knowledge about plants and the solar system shows us that God designed the soil on our planet with the just-right properties to grow the plants we need for survival. Everywhere we look on Earth, and in space, we see that a wonder-working hand has gone before.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Science News, July 2, 2022, page 4.

Science and Faith are Friends

 Science and Faith are Friends - Not Enemies

For the past week, we have explored the idea that science and faith are friends.
Both science and theology deal with the fundamental human desire to know. We are naturally curious because God made us that way. Science began with Christian believers who sought to learn more about God through His creation. A desire to learn about God through the things He has made motivated men like Roger Bacon, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and others to create what today we call “science.”

Faith in a loving and orderly Creator opened the door to a realization that the universe is orderly and not the chaotic product of the many gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans. As a result, theology and theologians developed many of the methods of modern science. Also, it was theologians who recognized that only natural causation is open to our direct study. They knew by faith that God was the ultimate cause of the universe. But since God is not a physical being, we can only study the secondary causation.

Even though we recognize that God is the only possible cause of the universe, all we can do is discover how He did it and marvel at the precision fine-tuning of the cosmos. If we say that God “zapped” these things into existence without a process, we deny God’s engineering and architectural skills. Science and faith are friends, and we can know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:20).

Today, well-known scientists use books and TV programs to proclaim atheism, materialism, and scientism. At the same time, prominent and often highly-paid religious teachers debunk science and tell people to take off their “science glasses” and put on “Bible glasses.” It’s time to call a truce in the war between science and faith. Although the Bible is scientifically accurate beyond its time, it is not a science book. Although nature can tell us much about God, only the Bible can tell us everything we need to know about the Creator of the universe and how to have a relationship with Him. Good science and good theology go hand-in-hand because science and faith are friends.

We have seen that the scientific understanding of the Cause of the universe matches the biblical description of God. Since God is outside of time, He can hear the prayers of millions of people all over the world at the same time. We can’t imagine what it would be like to be outside of time because being locked into time is all we know. If we could step out of history’s timeline and see it from God’s perspective, we could understand why God allows things to happen. We could understand the things that make us ask, “Why doesn’t God prevent that?” We could see the conclusion of all things. We would know that because of God’s wisdom, justice, and love, the conclusion is good.

— Roland Earnst © 2022