October Meteor Showers

Jupiter Comet Shield and October Meteor Showers
Jupiter Struck by Shoemaker-Levy 9

October is the month for two meteor showers—Draconid and Orionid. They get their names from the constellations closest to the places in the night sky where they seem to originate. The truth is that they have no connection to those constellations. Instead, these October meteor showers come from comets.

Meteor showers result from Earth passing through dust trails left by comets. The Draconids peaked this year on the night between October 8 and 9. They originate from debris left by comet 21P/Giaconini-Zinner that makes a revolution around the Sun every 6.6 years. Every October, when Earth passes through the dirty dust trail, the bits of debris burn up from friction as they enter the atmosphere at extremely high speed, and we see them as “shooting stars.”

The Orionid meteors are the result of Halley’s Comet. That comet makes a complete orbit around the Sun every 76 years, but Earth passes through the left-over debris twice a year in May and October. This year’s Orionid shower will peak on the night between October 20 and 21. However, a few of them may be visible even tonight as the October meteor showers almost overlap.

Unlike asteroids, which can be very large and cause severe damage, comet dust is beautiful but harmless. The Chixculub asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was 6.2 miles (10 km) in diameter. The impact was like a 100 million megaton bomb blast, and it wiped out three-fourths of all plant and animal life on Earth.

What if a whole comet struck planet Earth? The result would be catastrophic. We can find comfort in the fact that our solar system was designed with comet sweepers to prevent that from happening. The comet sweepers are named Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and the main one–Jupiter. Those giant outer planets all travel in the same plane, or ecliptic, as our planet. Comets come from outside the solar system, and because those outer planets are much larger, they have much more gravity. Since they are in line with Earth’s plane, they pull in the comets before they can reach our home planet.

The picture from NASA shows some fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 being pulled into Jupiter after the planet’s gravity ripped it into 21 pieces in July 1994. Those pieces were up to 1.2 miles in diameter and traveling at 134,000 miles per hour. Imagine what would have happened if that comet, or even one of those pieces, had hit the Earth! That is something to think about while watching the beauty of the October meteor showers. There is a reason why God designed the solar system the way He did. It was not an accident–and neither are we.

— Roland Earnst © 2021
Click HERE for information about viewing the Orionid Meteor Shower.

Ultimate Meaning, Purpose, and Morality

Ultimate Meaning, Purpose, and Morality in God's Creation

I enjoy watching BBC’s video programs “Planet Earth” and “The Blue Planet” written and narrated by David Attenborough. Those programs display the fantastic beauty and design of this planet and its many living creatures. Seeing the way planet Earth’s systems work together like a well-designed machine fills me with awe. However, I find it amazing that Attenborough believes that this incredible beauty and structure came about by mere chance and natural selection without any design, purpose, or meaning. How can he not realize that ultimate meaning, purpose, and morality come from the God who created these wonders?

In his book Miracles, Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis refers to unbelievers as “naturalists.” He wrote, “A moment after they have admitted that good and evil are illusions, you will find them exhorting us to work for posterity, to educate, revolutionise, liquidate, live and die for the good of the human race.” Lewis called that “very odd.” Attenborough teaches us about the beautiful design of our planet without a Designer. He advocates for the environment, even though that environment may have no ultimate purpose or meaning. A BBC interviewer once asked Attenborough if he ever had any religious faith, and he replied “no.” He said, “It never really occurred to me to believe in God.”

When asked why he does not believe in a creator, Attenborough will point out what he considers an evil creature, such as the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus that infects children’s eyes in tropical climates. He said creationists believe that God created each individual species, so why would “an all-merciful God who cares for each of us individually” make a creature like that. However, as John Clayton has pointed out many times, the Bible says God created “kinds” of animals, not each individual species. (See Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, and 25.) But then He specially created the first humans in His image (Genesis 1:27).

Attenborough strongly advocates for various environmentalist causes telling us what we ought or ought not to do. C.S. Lewis said that those who don’t believe in God often tell us what we ought to do, but their natural impulses can say nothing about objective right or wrong. Lewis wrote, “Do they remember while they are writing thus that when they tell us we ‘ought to make a better world’ the words ‘ought’ and ‘better’ must, on their own showing, refer to an irrationally conditioned impulse which cannot be true or false any more than a vomit or a yawn?”

Lewis goes on to say that if we make moral judgments, “then we must believe that the conscience of man is not a product of Nature.” He writes that it “can be valid only if it is an offshoot of some absolute moral wisdom…” In other words, ultimate meaning, purpose, and morality come from God, not evolution.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

References: Miracles by C.S. Lewis, and “David Attenborough” on Wikipedia

Hebrew Word Yom

Hebrew Word Yom

Ancient Hebrew used far fewer words than modern English. That can cause misunderstandings when translated into English. For example, a term that has confused many people is the Hebrew word yom, commonly translated “day.”

The Genesis creation account uses the word in multiple ways. It is present in Genesis 1:1-13 in connection with “evening and morning.” Genesis 2:4 uses yom to refer to the entire creation “week.” In Deuteronomy 10:10, we find yom used twice with two meanings, a longer period of time (40 days) and the daylight hours. “And I stayed in the mount just like the first time (yom) 40 days (yom) and 40 nights …” We also see yom used to refer to long time periods such as in Hosea 6:2.

In the New Testament. Peter reminds us that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years one day (2 Peter 3:8).” In Acts 1:7, Jesus says, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power.” The context of that passage refers to restoring the kingdom, but the message carried throughout the scriptures is that God is in control of time.

Both creationists and atheists have often used the Hebrew word yom to make Earth’s age an issue, limiting what God can do or has done. God created time and is not limited by it. The “days” of Genesis may be 24 hours or some other time period. The creation verse in Genesis is verse one, “God created the heaven and the earth,” and it is undated and untimed.

Religious groups have done an injustice to the Genesis account by not recognizing the economy of language in scripture. Atheists have used that to destroy many people’s faith by showing evidence that the universe’s age is not measured in thousands of years. The message of Genesis is that God created everything, not when or how He did it. Taking the Bible literally is not taking a human theology and forcing it on the scriptures.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

An Asteroid and Snakes

An Asteroid and Snakes

There is an interesting connection between an asteroid and snakes. Evolutionists have often believed in uniformitarianism–the idea that no process has shaped planet Earth in the past that is not going on today. The problem with uniformitarianism is that a great deal of evidence shows that it’s not true. The most accepted example is that when dinosaurs ruled the planet, an asteroid strike caused a mass extinction of 76% of all plant and animal life.

A research study by the University of Bath in England has shown that one form of life did well through and after the asteroid collision. That life-form was snakes. There were small snakes before the asteroid strike, but large snakes were easy prey for dinosaurs and simply did not survive. After the asteroid collision, small snakes hid underground and survived for a time without food.

When the snakes emerged, they didn’t face competition from other animals. With their newfound freedom, they spread throughout the world. Today, snakes live on every continent on Earth except Antarctica. Catherine Klein, the lead researcher in examining the snake fossil record, has shown that large snakes did not appear again until all the dinosaurs were gone. She told the BBC, “It’s likely that without this asteroid impact, snakes wouldn’t be where they are today.”

The evidence for the asteroid collision grows every year, and it comes from many different disciplines. Uniformitarianism is not true, and yet a gradual evolution of all life depends on it. Evolution would have to start over after events like the asteroid strike that wiped out massive amounts of life on the planet.

You have probably never thought of a connection between an asteroid and snakes. Current theories of evolution have significant problems with a lack of positive evidence and a growing amount of counter-evidence. God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes He has used catastrophes to shape the Earth for human existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week, October 1, 2021, page 21.

Lightning Is a Useful Tool in God’s Creation

Lightning Is a Useful Tool in God’s Creation
Gigantic jet as seen from the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii

We previously discussed the discovery that hydroxyl radicals are natural agents that clean the atmosphere. They help remove some of the pollution that humans cause. The hydroxyl radicals are produced by lightning. People often see lightning as a harmful and destructive agent on planet Earth. However, lightning is a useful tool in God’s creation.

NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” for September 29, 2021, featured an interesting article about a type of lightning called gigantic jets. The gigantic jet shown on the APOD post moved roughly 70 kilometers in just under a second. These gigantic jets are different from the common lightning traveling from cloud to cloud or cloud to ground that we all have seen. We are less familiar with other types of lightning known as blue jets, red sprites, and these gigantic jets.

As we have said before, lightning is also part of the nitrogen-fixing system in Earth’s atmosphere. Lightning converts the nitrogen that makes up 78% of our air into the nitrates essential for plant growth. Thus, lightning is a useful tool in God’s creation to help produce our food and clean our air.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Use THIS LINK to see the APOD posting with a video of a gigantic jet.

Enjoy the Beauty of a Sunset

Enjoy the Beauty of a Sunset

We were riding through the Arizona desert shortly before sunset on a Does God Exist? canyonlands field trip. We saw a storm in the distance, and it quickly surrounded us. Then, the storm lifted to reveal the sunset. We couldn’t stop gazing out of the bus window to enjoy the beauty of it all.

This incident reminded us that God sends the sunshine, and the rain, even in the desert. It also reminded us that God created a beautiful world and gave us the ability to enjoy that beauty. I think that ability is evidence that God created us in His image. God must enjoy beauty because He has created a universe of beautiful things that humans will never even see. We are aware of some of them only because our telescopes or space probes sometimes give us small glimpses of the beauty normally hidden from our eyes.

Even on our planet, there are beautiful things to be seen in locations where few people ever go. After scaling mountain peaks, a few of us enjoy the beauty of the valley below. While on the mountain, we look down and see beautiful flowers that grow in the rocky soil and cold air. Colorful plants and animals live and grow in the ocean, where only the most adventurous humans can enjoy their beauty. God sees all of the beauty, wherever it may be.

Are there any creatures other than humans that will stop to enjoy the beauty of a sunset? Thankfully, God has gifted humans with that ability. However, we often fail to do so because we think we are too busy. However, if we pause long enough to enjoy the beauty, we might be compelled to give thanks not only for the beauty but also for the ability to enjoy it.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

The Myth of UFOs

The Myth of UFOs

Anytime the media has run out of things they think will draw readers or viewers, they fall back on the myth of UFOs. For example, the May 10, 2021 issue of The New Yorker magazine carried an article by Gideon Lewis-Kraus titled “The UFO Papers: Why Did We Start Taking Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Seriously?” The article was a combination of bad science and bad journalism. The bad science was that the writer reported UFO sightings’ size, altitude, and speed based on people’s estimates, not precise scientific measurements. The bad journalism involved the people the writer chose to interview. 

Mick West, a British-American science writer and skeptical investigator who debunks the myth of UFOs, has offered plausible explanations that don’t involve aliens or paranormal explanations. In addition, Scientific American magazine ran an article titled “Experts Weigh in on Pentagon UFO Report.” One featured astronomer, professor Andrew Fraknoi, commented, “…there has been a flurry of misleading publicity about UFOs (based upon military reports). A sober examination of these claims reveals there is a lot less to them than first meets the eye.” 

The atheist community is interested in any evidence that might suggest alien visitation. Some atheists have implied that if aliens have visited Earth, they must be the cause of all the evidence for God. They claim that Jesus was an alien who came to Earth to try to get humanity on a more reasonable approach to reality. The miracles of Christ are simply high-tech displays by the aliens. The absurdness of this is obvious. If the aliens can do all the atheists claim, they certainly can evade any efforts by humans to see or detect them. 

Despite all the books and articles UFO proponents have written to support the myth of UFOs, no tangible evidence supports alien visitation. Scams such as the Roswell, New Mexico, claims and attempts to deny archaeological evidence that Jesus was what He claimed to be will prove to be false. Robert Sheaffer, who has written extensively about UFO claims, says, “There are no aliens here on Earth. And so, the government cannot ‘disclose’ what it does not have. Some people think the government knows more about UFOs, or UAP, than the public, but it’s clear they know less on the subject than our best civilian UFO investigators, not more.” 

We are not saying that there is no life anywhere in the cosmos except on Earth. What we do say is that if there is life out there, God created it. I always enjoy telling the story of an interview I did with Larry King early in my career. It was a radio talk show, and he had an atheist on with me. A caller asked my atheist friend, “What would you do if an alien landed on the Whitehouse lawn, got out of his flying saucer with a Bible in his hand, and said, ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” All the atheist said was, “Punt.” I think that says it all. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

June 20, 2021, was the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest period of sunlight of any day this year. Now that we have passed the summer solstice, the days are getting shorter. That raises the question of why the summer solstice is not the hottest day of the year since the Sun is up for the longest time. The answer to that is simple. It’s because every day until September’s fall equinox has more hours of sunlight than darkness, and there is a heat lag. It takes a long time for Earth to heat up after winter, so normally the hottest day is well after the summer solstice.

A more important point is why the summer solstice happens and how it is critical to life on planet Earth. The cause of the solstice and the equinox is that Earth is tilted on its axis by 23 ½ degrees. As it orbits the Sun, that tilt causes every point on Earth to experience different amounts of Sun each day and controls the angles at which the Sun’s rays hit Earth’s surface. On the equinox, the Sun is directly overhead at the equator. At noon, the Sun would shine down to the bottom of a well on the equator. Every other latitude on the planet would have the Sun’s rays hitting Earth’s surface at an angle that is not perpendicular.

As Earth revolves around the Sun, it is essentially a giant gyroscope with the poles always pointed in the same direction. It isn’t until the solstices that the Sun would shine right down a well at its northern or southern position, and that happens to be 23 ½ degrees north or south latitude. So why is that important?

If Earth did not have the axis tilt, we would not have the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Sun would always be directly overhead at the equator all the time. Land near the equator would be so hot that life could not exist there. Areas to the north and south would be extremely cold. The temperature differences would create extreme winds, making life difficult. When scientists ran computer simulations, they found that 23 ½ degrees is ideal for minimizing overheating and cooling.

Earth also has a heat sink designed into it—the oceans. Most of the southern hemisphere is covered with water, while the northern hemisphere has more land. Since Earth’s orbit is an ellipse rather than a perfect circle, the southern oceans absorb much of the heat when Earth is closest to the Sun. It just happens that Earth is closest to the Sun when the Southern Hemisphere is in the summer season. It seems like it was planned that way.

We are thankful that we had the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Earth’s tilt, spin, and distribution of land and water are not accidents. They are designed features of our planet that speak of God’s wisdom and planning in the creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Changes in Earth’s Magnetic Field

Changes in Earth's Magnetic Field

People who promote the theory of evolution generally ignore historical events that would be Inconsistent with neo-Darwinism. Darwinism depends on an acceptance of uniformitarianism, the belief that no process has ever operated in the past that is not going on today. Previously, we have talked about past asteroid collisions with the Earth, which is an example of a process that isn’t shaping our planet and life on Earth today. Researchers in New Zealand have released a new study of changes in Earth’s magnetic field. That process, which radically altered the Earth some 42,000 years ago, is not a factor in understanding modern geologic processes.

In a magnetic reversal, changes in Earth’s magnetic field cause the north and south magnetic poles to switch. Researchers at the University of New South Wales have shown that this transition took nearly 800 years to complete, and during that time, the planet would have had no magnetic field.

The lack of a magnetic field would have been a major catastrophe which is not going on today. Our magnetic field acts as a shield against high-energy charged particles coming primarily from the Sun. Without that shield, there would have been severe environmental threats to life on Earth. Their study suggests that tropical rain belts shifted, glaciers stretched across North America, and a severe drought hit Australia. The effects of the increased radiation on living things would have a strong genetic impact.

The researchers suggest that humans living during Earth’s magnetic field changes would have to retreat to caves for shelter from the radiation and the harsh weather conditions caused by the magnetic reversal. Chris Turney, one of the authors of the study, said that any humans living at that time would have seen what was happening as “the end of days.”

The notion that Earth has been a quiet incubator for life over a very long time is inconsistent with the evidence. Losing our magnetic field would be the start of a domino effect of changes, all of which would harm life. Our magnetic field is slowly decreasing now, but this data, and other studies like it, suggest that magnetic reversals are prolonged events lasting 800 years.

The Bible makes it clear that catastrophic events are rare in Earth’s human history. Noah’s flood, the death and resurrection of Christ, and His second coming seem to be the most apparent biblical events that are catastrophic. Our planet’s stability is a part of God’s design, and without it, we would not be here. But history is punctuated with events on the Earth that are not uniformitarian such as changes in Earth’s magnetic field. Those changes have altered our planet to make it hospitable for human life. They also make it impossible to have a faith that says chance and time can account for all life we see on planet Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week, March 12,202,1 page 21.

Earth Rock Found on the Moon

Earth Rock Found on the Moon
Lunar Sample 14321 NASA

Frequently, science clarifies biblical statements, but no scientific facts have ever contradicted the biblical account. Contradiction would be impossible since the God who created and made Earth also gave us the Bible. A recent example of their agreement is demonstrated by an Earth rock found on the moon.

The Bible uses an economy of language because an exhaustive explanation would have confused people reading it 500 years ago. The simple clarity of the Genesis account contrasts with literally thousands of scientific papers and books giving details of the biblical statement, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Another interesting passage in Genesis is the second verse, which indicates a change in the Earth. The most accurate translation of verse two is, “And the earth became without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s daily blog announced the results of an internal X-ray scan of lunar sample 14321. Alan Shepard picked up the 14321 sample during the Apollo 14 lunar mission. It shows chemistry identical to Earth’s material and completely different from lunar material. NASA says that the sample is older than Earth’s surface materials and indicates a dramatic event.

Various things could have caused this change in Earth’s surface. A massive volcanic event like the one that produced Mount Mazama (now called Crater Lake in Oregon) could blow material into space. Such volcanic eruptions produced lava, which enriched the soils allowing plant growth to be prolific in the ancient Earth. Another possibility is that a celestial object like an asteroid or comet hit our planet and blasted material into space, with some of it landing on the moon. Either way, an Earth rock found on the moon fits the biblical narrative.

The scientific information simply demonstrates the accuracy of the brief biblical account. When religious leaders challenged Galileo’s science, he wrote in a letter, “The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.” Science and the Bible are symbiotic – each beneficial to the other and in agreement with each other. However, they explain different aspects of human concern.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: APOD.NASA.gov for February 3, 2021.