Imagine that you are walking along an unfamiliar street, and you see a sign that says, “Magic Potions from the Periodic Table.” The unusual sign and the look of the store arouse your curiosity.
As you walk in, you notice that the room is dark, and you see a man who looks like the stereotype of a wizard. On shelves lining the walls, there are 92 bottles of chemicals. You see labels on some of them that say “carbon,” “oxygen,” “nitrogen,” “phosphorous,” “zinc,” and other elements. The “wizard” is pouring some chemicals from bottles into some beakers. He looks at you with a smile and says, “What can I mix for you today? I can give you a potion for morality. How about something to make you appreciate beauty? Love—the true, unconditional kind of love is right here. How about letting me mix you up some meaning and purpose in life?”
You are startled and a bit confused because you had chemistry class in school. You realize that putting together the chemical elements you see on the shelves will not give you the things this “wizard” is offering. Even carbon-based molecules cannot supply morality, appreciation of beauty, true unselfish love, or meaning and purpose in life.
Chemistry is not enough. There is something beyond the chemical formulas and covalent bonding that comes into play in humans. The “wizard” is the naturalist who says that chance evolution and chemistry explain everything about our existence. Do we accept his suggestion? Does chemistry explain it all? Can the wizard’s magic potions from the periodic table fully explain what it means to be human?
Shouldn’t we look for an explanation beyond naturalism? We think a better explanation is that there is a God who created us in His image. It seems evident that we are more than bodies made of chemicals assembled by chance.
We see a correlation between salt and water chemical bonds and life. One of the first things students learn in chemistry class is that elements bond to form compounds in two different ways. One is called “covalent,” and the other is called “ionic.”
In an ionic bond, two elements transfer an electron. An excellent example of ionic bonding is sodium chloride, common table salt. The sodium in salt has a loosely-held electron in its last orbital. Chlorine, on the other hand, needs an electron, because its last orbital is one electron short of the most stable configuration. When sodium and chlorine combine, the sodium gives up its last electron, and the chlorine absorbs it.
A classic example of a covalent bond is water. Hydrogen needs an electron to produce the most stable possible form of the hydrogen atom. Oxygen needs two electrons to give it the most stable arrangement. Oxygen can share two of its electrons with two hydrogen atoms. The result is that two hydrogen atoms are attached to the one oxygen atom, producing water.
Water and salt are very different kinds of compounds. Water is tough to break apart into its component atoms. Salt is very easy to break apart. Just dumping salt into water will tear the salt molecule apart into sodium and chlorine. The design of these atoms is amazing. The salt molecule is polar because only two atoms are involved. The water molecule is also polar because of the location of the two electrons that are shared with the hydrogen. An electron by itself is not stable. The spin of the electrons and their magnetic properties require pairing to be stable, and that pairing forms compounds such as water and salt.
In teaching high school chemistry, I would use boy-girl relationships to help kids understand chemical bonding. The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:18 that God said, “It is not good that man should be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” Verse 24 says, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” All of life reaches stability in a shared relationship. Just as water is more stable than salt, so too humans who are in a committed relationship of oneness and sharing are more stable than when isolated and alone. The same Designer of salt and water chemical bonds gave us each other for the best of life.
In recent years we have come to understand how God formed many of the elements that make up our world and our bodies. We watch stars producing new elements, and we realize that this system was designed by God to take the hydrogen produced in the beginning and continually make heavier elements by thermonuclear fusion. It is incredible to witness the power and design in a nova or supernova and to understand that this is God’s forge to make new elements. Now we have another picture of a design God has used for making molecules.
Molecules are combinations of atoms put together to produce a compound. Simple compounds like water and methane are difficult enough to produce. The huge molecules, such as amino acids that make up living materials, require a particular environment to form. Many of them have been found in space debris, but their origins are not clear.
The latest NASA report on Jupiter has given us some new understanding of making molecules. NASA’s robotic Juno spacecraft orbits only 15,000 kilometers above Jupiter’s cloud tops. Using new data from this spacecraft, astronomers have announced that Jupiter is apparently mostly liquid. It is not a ball of rock with a blanket of liquids and gases, as Earth-based observations seemed to indicate.
It’s hard to realize the size of Jupiter (2.5 times the mass of all other planets combined), its rapid spin rate (more than twice as fast as Earth’s), the amount of lightning that we observe, and the extreme temperatures are all working in a liquid. It indicates an environment similar to what we can create in our laboratories here on Earth to produce complex molecules. The Miller-Urey experiment of 1953 earned a Nobel prize for producing an environment in the lab capable of making molecules of amino acids. Now we see a location in space that duplicates much of Stanley Miller’s famous experiment. To be facetious, perhaps God should get a Nobel Prize for something that was operational long before any human existed.
The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator. Knowing His methods just increases our wonder at His power and wisdom.
Everyone knows that electrons allow us to have computers and other electrical devices, but you may not realize how many ways electrons are essential. The mass, charge, magnetic properties, and spin of electrons are all designed to make life possible. It is amazing that something far too small for us to see is so important.
The changing momentum of electrons creates light which is essential for life. Electrons are also the fundamental cause of all that happens in chemistry. Atoms bond with other atoms to make molecules by exchanging or by sharing electrons. The complex organic molecules in your body, including DNA, are held together by electrons. The properties of every element in the universe are determined by how its electrons are arranged around the nucleus.
The oxygen atom with eight electrons joins with two single-electron hydrogen atoms to form water. The arrangement of the electrons in the oxygen atom causes the oxygen/hydrogen union to form in a way that gives water its unusual properties. The arrangement of electrons and the way the atoms bond causes water to dissolve salts, freeze from the top down, form crystals when freezing, and have surface tension. Without these unique properties of water, life would not be possible on Earth.
The arrangement of the six electrons in the carbon atom allows it to form enormous numbers of carbon compounds in various patterns. Because carbon can build so many organic compounds, our carbon-based life can exist. Without the particular arrangement of electrons in oxygen and carbon, life would not be possible.
Each day NASA posts an interesting astronomy picture of the day at www.apod.nasa.gov. The picture for October 24, 2017, shows the periodic table of the elements. NASA captioned the picture with a summary of the current scientific theories about the formation of the elements of the periodic chart were formed. We call it NASA’s creation account.
It may be that some will want to simply say God did it by “speaking it into existence.” Of course, NASA does not mention God, but their summary does not in any way denigrate God or the way He works. This brief summary demonstrates the majesty and power required to form the creation. The fact that the process has no scientific explanation of an ultimate cause lends support to the statement, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the cosmos declares the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech: night after night they display knowledge” (Psalms 19:1-2).
“The hydrogen in your body, present in every molecule of water, came from the Big Bang. There are no other appreciable sources of hydrogen in the universe. The carbon in your body was made by nuclear fusion in the interior of stars, as was the oxygen. Much of the iron in your body was made during supernovas of stars that occurred long ago and far away. The gold in your jewelry was likely made from neutron stars during collisions that may have been visible as short-duration gamma-ray bursts or gravitational wave events. Elements like phosphorus and copper are present in our bodies in only small amounts but are essential to the functioning of all known life. The sites of nuclear creation of some elements, such as copper, are not really well known and are continuing topics of observational and computational research.”