Periodic Table of Elements

Periodic Table of ElementsOne of the great accomplishments of science has been the organizing of the elements into a form that allows us to use chemistry in amazing ways. In 1789 Antoine Lavoisier published a list of 33 elements grouping them into gases, metals, nonmetals, and earths. For the next 100 years, chemists searched for a better classification system. As the understanding of the design of atoms improved, scientists developed the periodic table of elements.

In 1869 Dmitri Mendeleev published the first table designed to show periodic changes in the properties of the elements. He was even able to predict the discovery of elements unknown at the time that would fill out his chart. As scientists further refined the periodic table of elements, it became even more useful. The horizontal rows are called periods, with metals on the left and nonmetals on the right. As you move from left to right in a period, the elements become less metallic. As you move from top to bottom, the columns, called groups, have similar properties. All of the elements in the last group on the right side of the chart are called noble gases, and they are chemically inactive. The next vertical column to the left of noble gases is called the halogens. They have similar chemical properties, such as the ability to support combustion.

We now know that the reason the periodic table of elements works is because of the electron configurations of the atoms. Chlorine, for example, has an electron configuration that leaves it one electron short of a stable chemical structure. It will exert tremendous force to get a single electron to make its electron configuration stable. Sodium has an extra electron that it would really like to get rid of to gain stability. Those two elements react so that sodium transfers its electron to chlorine and the compound that results is salt – NaCl. Every element in the vertical group with sodium will also react with chlorine in the same way, making lithium chloride, potassium chloride, rubidium chloride, etc.

We now have 118 confirmed elements in existence with 94 occurring naturally. Scientists have produced the remaining 24 elements in laboratories with nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson being the most recent. It is difficult to think about atoms and understand how their electrons control their uses and not be impressed by the mind that created this incredibly complex system.

This is a very brief over simplification explanation of the periodic table of elements. It just begins to suggest how the electrons are organized into shells and subshells. The system allows different methods of bonding elements together, creating a diverse population of new compounds that make our lives not only comfortable but possible. For a better understanding, enroll in a basic chemistry class at your local community college or university. “The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23 NIV).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Such a Large Universe? – Viewing Cosmological History

? - Viewing Cosmological HistoryWe have received some questions from readers who are perplexed by the fact that we frequently refer to a discovery or an event in outer space, millions of light-years from Earth. We have also mentioned NASA’s daily blog (apod.nasa.gov) showing gorgeous views of deep space objects many light-years away. Why such a large universe, and what does that mean to us?

It all comes down to viewing cosmological history. When we look through a telescope, we are looking at the past. If the next closest star exploded, it would be over four years before we would see it. You can see the light from the nearest major galaxy called the Andromeda, with your naked eye. It is two-million light years away, which means the light from that galaxy left there two million years ago. When we look at the sky, we are viewing cosmological history. Even the light from the Sun left there eight minutes ago. The question boils down to, Why such a large universe? Why did God create so much? It may seem presumptuous even to discuss that question. We would not attempt to speak for God who obviously can do whatever He wants to do. Nevertheless, there are some observations we can make.

First, it would be foolish to question whether the cosmos really is that large. There are a dozen different methods of measuring the distance to an object in space, and they all agree even though they are based on very different assumptions. The Doppler shift is very different from interstellar reddening which is different from cepheid variable measurements, but they all give the same answer for distances in space.

Some creationists suggest that God created the light that appears to be from a distant galaxy or star, already reaching Earth some 6000 years ago. In other words, what we see today when we look at the stars is essentially a video of something that never happened. We think we are viewing cosmological history, but we are being fooled. First of all, this explanation was invented to defend a denominational teaching that is not biblical. The Bible does not give the age of the cosmos or the Earth. No human calculation based on interpreting the Hebrew words in the Bible can stand up under examination.

However, the main problem with saying that God is trying to fool us is that such an explanation degrades God. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22 the Bible repeats over and over that God is Truth. God does not lie, He does not mislead, and He does not misrepresent. James 1:13 says it well: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does He tempt any man.” Faking an event in space that never happened so that humans could be fooled by it, would certainly be a deliberate effort to tempt honest, seeking humans into believing something that is wrong.

So why such a large universe? Why are we able to view the cosmological history of stars forming and dying? Why do we see billions of other galaxies beyond our Milky Way Galaxy? There may be multiple reasons known only to God. The ancient psalmist stated it well: “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). The writer of Proverbs in chapter 8 has wisdom saying: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the Earth ever was…” (verse22-23). These statements and many more like them are not just expressions of ancient people. Here we are more than 2,000 years after Christ, and we are still trying to understand what electric charge is and what causes gravity. Moses couldn’t even see most of what modern science is investigating.

I would suggest that God structured the massive size of the cosmos and gave us the ability to watch matter being altered to produce stars and new planets so we could see His power and wisdom. Romans 1:20 rings true as we admire the work of scientists who help us understand that “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made….” Asking why such a large universe leads us to say, “I will praise you, Lord, for I (and the cosmos) am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works” (Psalms 139:14).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Cat Tongues and Papillae

Cat Tongues and PapillaeAlexis Noel and David Hu have been researching cat tongues as reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (December 2018). Using 3-D scanning with micro-computed tomography, they have discovered some interesting things.

The backward facing barbs (papillae) on cat tongues are not cones as had been previously thought. They are actually hollow structures similar to scoops for dipping ice cream. They have a U-shaped cavity that holds fluids extremely well. This shape enables cats to use the force of surface tension to pull up water as they lap it. It also allows them to wick saliva deep into their fur. When cats lick themselves, saliva is distributed all the way down to the roots of the hairs. Cats don’t have sweat glands except on their paws, so the distribution of saliva removes heat from their skin.

The papillae also allow cats to lick up oils and other contaminants on their fur. This not only keeps the cat clean, but it avoids odors. Applying this discovery may open the door to a whole new line of materials for use in home and industry. Dr. Noel gives one word of warning. Don’t let your cat lick a microfiber blanket, because the cat’s tongue will stick to the blanket!

Cat tongues are not like sandpaper but rather like Velcro. Velcro was discovered by scientists watching other examples in the natural world. Humans have copied the design of materials found in living organisms to create many of the substances we take for granted. We see God’s creative genius everywhere we look. “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:19-20).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Women and Motherhood

Women and MotherhoodTomorrow is “Mother’s Day,” and we have some thoughts on women and motherhood.

We are seeing a new aggressiveness on the part of atheists and feminists to vilify Christ and Christianity. Feminists take passages like 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to suggest that Christians make women second class citizens. Atheist speakers like Richard Dawkins attack the Bible saying it is one of the most misogynistic (hating women) books ever written. The truth is that Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles were centuries ahead of the secular world in treating and presenting women as equal to men in every way.

It is essential to look at the example that Jesus set in his interactions with women, such as the Samaritan woman in John 4. There was great animosity between the Jewish culture and the Samaritans. John 4:9 reminds us of this when Jesus speaks to the woman, and she responds, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink of water?” She is both a hated Samaritan and a woman who in that misogynistic culture was indeed a second class citizen. The passage even adds, “for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” When the disciples of Jesus show up in verse 27 “they marveled that He talked with the woman.” Jesus not only talks with her, but He stays in the Samaritan city for two days.

Jesus treated women as equals, and they worked with Him in His ministry. (See Luke 8:1-4.) The Apostles taught that men and women were equals. Galatians 3:26-29 tells the Christians of their day and ours, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The passage in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 has to do with roles. We need to understand that equality does not mean sameness. As an example, is everyone on a baseball team equal? The answer to that question is undoubtedly “Yes, they are equal.” The catcher has a different role than the pitcher, and the first baseman is different from either of them. They are all essential and equal. They have different roles and even different equipment, but all of them are critical to the success of the team.

As we have said before, there are no second-class citizens in the Church. We are all one in Christ Jesus. I will have more to say about women and motherhood tomorrow on Mother’s Day.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Rivers Are Essential

Rivers Are EssentialThose of us who live near rivers are both blessed and cursed. My house here in Michigan is located just 30 feet (9.1 m) from the St. Joseph River. In the almost 25 years that we have lived here, the river has flooded a dozen or so times. Twice we had water in our basement requiring a major effort to avoid damage to our library, our TV recording studio, and our packing room. Despite the challenge, rivers are essential to life.

A large percentage of all flooding results from human mismanagement. Black-topping many square miles of sand, gravel, and dirt has caused rapid water runoff where it previously soaked into the ground. Building homes and businesses on flood plains has contributed to the damage and in some cases loss of life. (Our house is not on a flood plain.)

On the other hand, there is beauty and peacefulness that being near a river provides. For many of us, that makes it worth the risk. Humans have used rivers extensively for thousands of years. Two-hundred years ago, rivers were the primary method of transporting goods and people. But there are some things that rivers do that are less obvious and which are an essential part of the design of the Earth.

Rivers above and below the ground carry water for us to use. They take water to places where it would otherwise not be available in significant volume for agriculture and animal life. Good examples of this are the Colorado River, the Rio Grande, the Nile, and the Euphrates. Rivers are essential for us to live on this planet, and flooding is a part of that.

One of the great rivers of the world was the Teays River. (Pronounced Taze) The Teays River got its name from the village of Teays, West Virginia. (Although the village of Teays did not exist at the time the river was there.) When it was at its greatest volume, The Teays River was a mile wide and flowed from what is now Blowing Rock, North Carolina, northward through Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois where it joined the Mississippi River. At that time, the Mississippi was as much as 25 miles wide in places.

The Nile River in ancient Egypt flooded every year and laid down topsoil making Egypt the breadbasket of the ancient world. Remember where Jacob sent his sons to get food when there was famine? (See Genesis 41:56-42:5.) The Teays River was a typical river. It flooded from time to time laying down rich topsoil. The flooding of the Teays River deposited the black farmland of Illinois.

Rivers are essential to life, and that includes the Teays River. Did you say you never heard of the Teays River? What happened to it? More on that tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Petoskey Stone Dilemma

Petoskey Stone TilesEvery part of the United States has rocks, plants, and animals that are unique to that area. Certain plants grow in abundance in various locations. In Arizona the saguaro cactus is abundant. California is home for giant redwood trees. Indiana has tulip trees. Many states have adopted an official flower, tree, bird, fossil, or rock. In Michigan, since 1965 our state rock has been the Petoskey stone.

The name comes from the city of Petoskey which got its name from an Ottawa Indian legend. Thanks to the glaciers that swept down from the north scooping up rocks and depositing them, Petoskey stones are found all over the state. When I took my earth science students to the local gravel pit, we would discover Petoskey stones mixed in with the gravel. A local jeweler would show the kids how beautiful jewelry could be made from those stones.

The Petoskey stone is a petrified tropical coral with the scientific name Hexagonaria, meaning six-sided chamber. The picture shows some tiles made from Petoskey stones, and you can see that each polyp has six sides. Mixed in with them are clams, crinoids, trilobites, fish, and cephalopods. Studies of the Petoskey stone show the coral lived on plankton which are microscopic life forms that live in warm oceans. Petoskey, Michigan is NOT a tropical paradise and the Devonian period when these life forms lived lasted a long time, so the Devonian reefs are very thick. The whole state of Michigan is a bowl with these fossils found all around the state. In the middle of the bowl are coal, oil, peat, sulfur and natural gas deposits. The dilemma is how these rock formations got to be the way they are and where they are.

Some religious folks might suggest that this is a deposit produced by the flood of Noah. The problem with that explanation is that this is not a flood deposit and is not a product of violence. Genesis 7:11 tells us that “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened.” I would take my students on a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to see a reef display. The rocks being formed and making up the reef are identical to the ones we see in the Devonian deposit. The fossils don’t show a violent end, but instead, they show a slow, gentle formation process. Calcite, silica and other minerals have replaced the original material in the cells of the Petoskey stone animals, giving a dazzling array of colors.

When God created “the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), the Bible simply states that He did it – not how He did it. At the end of verse 1, there were Petoskey stones in Devonian reefs, and oil, gas, coal, and the other resources were being formed. A change was coming that would make the conditions of the Earth more hospitable for human life, and God knew what we would need for an advanced civilization. Having a warm ocean covering the entire state of Michigan was not an environment humans could thrive in, but it was a tool God used to prepare the resources for human life.

There is no dilemma if we take the Bible literally and accept only what it says. Locking the creation account into a denominational theological tradition does violence to the Genesis account and causes young people to question the truth of the Bible. On the other hand, as they admire the beauty of the Petoskey stone jewelry they have made, people can realize that God has done some special and beautiful things to prepare a home for us in this life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

For more on taking Genesis literally, read “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word” available free on doesgodexist.org.

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!Many years ago I was a college student far from home, and I needed to find a dentist. As I was sitting in the dental chair of this man I had never met before, I was confronted for the first time with the argument that religion causes wars.

Have you ever noticed that dentists always have an advantage over their patients when it comes to conversations? A dentist can say anything or ask any question while your mouth is numb or full of cotton. You try to respond with something that sounds like it’s coming from a toddler or a drunk person. “Mummammberabalub.” Why can’t I be understood?

Anyway, I made the mistake of telling him (while I could still talk) that I was a student in a Christian college. That sent the dentist on a diatribe about how Christianity has been the cause of almost every war in the last 2000 years. I was not in a position to argue coherently, and besides, he had a drill in his hand.

I have heard the argument that religion causes wars many times since – and not just from dentists. This particular dentist seemed to have a personal grievance against Christianity. A recent study took the war/religion connection in a different direction. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Behavior, was titled “War Increases Religiosity.” The researchers analyzed over 1700 individuals in three countries that had experienced major internal conflicts. The countries where the subjects lived were Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Tajikistan. The research team felt that these were good countries to study not only because of their recent wars but also because of their diverse cultures and geographical areas.

The researchers found that people who were more affected by war were more likely to participate in religious activities, both Christian and Muslim. Their conclusion stated: “…our results suggest that the experience of war-related violence increases religious engagement and ritual participation.” Also, very important, they said: “The potential existence of these relationships has important theoretical, political and social implications.”

Just what are those implications? A media report of the research put it this way: “If war makes people more religious, and if religion makes people more war-prone, we have the recipe for a devastating feedback loop – which could help to at least partially explain some of the current situations in modern-day war areas.” In other words, war leads to more religion and religion causes wars.

So this supposedly dangerous feedback loop indicates that the key to stamping out wars is to stamp out religion. Hold on a minute! I want to get back to that dentist. As I said, he seemed to have a particular grudge against Christianity. What are Christians? They are Christ followers. What does that mean? They follow the teaching and example of Christ.

What was the example of Christ? When falsely accused, beaten, and crucified, He did not even open His mouth against His accusers. In fact, He prayed for them as He hung on the cross. When enemies came to arrest Him, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword because “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

What were His teachings? Read Matthew chapters 5-7. He said when someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. Give to those who try to take from you, and go the extra mile for them. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27 & 35). Does that sound like a war-monger?

The dentist said that religion causes wars, but is that true of real Christianity? Of course, some people claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ’s example or His teaching. But Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Obeying the commands and example of Jesus leads to peace, not war.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Commencement Speech Freedom

Commencement Speech Freedom We are into what should be a joyous time of year as graduating students enjoy a celebration of years of hard work. Whether it’s a commencement, a pinning ceremony, or some other ceremony to acknowledge the completion of their training, students should be free to express their gratitude. Unfortunately, commencement speech freedom is becoming a thing of the past.

The constant attack of skeptics and atheists has threatened administrative officials. They are afraid that a student will make some statement in a speech that will get the school in trouble. The result is not only the censoring of speeches but the insistence that all references to Christianity must be excluded.

A situation like that happened to a young lady named Karissa Langner. She was chosen to speak at her nursing program’s pinning ceremony at Colorado Mesa University. In her speech, Ms. Langner acknowledged the role that faith plays in her life. She closed her talk with: “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”

The college officials discovered that this is a quote of John 16:33. They threatened Ms. Langner with “repercussions” if she refused to change her speech. They insisted that their “nursing program will not tolerate any one religious slant.” Ultimately Mesa was threatened with a lawsuit, and commencement speech freedom was granted to Ms. Langner when she gave her speech as she wished.

We hear about these attacks often, and in most cases the young person backs down. They fear that continuing to battle the school will result in serious consequences for their future.

Here is an excellent question to ask candidates for political office:
Are our institutions of higher learning becoming so atheistic that a person who believes in God cannot get an education? What will you do about it?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from ADFlegal.org/StudentFreedom.

Nature of Heaven and Hell

Nature of Heaven and HellCecil May Jr. had a joke in the winter 2019 issue of Preacher Talk from Faulkner University. It raises serious issues that need to be addressed because of the confusion of both believers and atheists concerning the nature of Heaven and Hell. The joke goes like this:

Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, and Jim Bakker all died and arrived at the Pearly Gates at the same time. St. Peter told them, “There is a place reserved here for each of you, but we are in the midst of renovations, and we need to send you to the other place temporarily. We will call you back as soon as we can.” In less than a week Satan called St. Peter saying, “Hey, you’ve got to come and get these guys. Oral Roberts has healed everybody, Billy Graham has saved everybody, and Jim Bakker has raised enough money to air-condition the place.”

Without getting into any of the three people involved or the denominational views they represent, how many errors do you see about the nature of heaven and hell? Here are a dozen leading questions for you:

1) Are there “Pearly Gates” at the entrance to heaven?
2) Does Saint Peter act as the guardian or caretaker of the gates?
3) Does anyone have individual “places” in heaven?
4) Would Heaven ever need renovations?
5) Is hell a second class place to heaven?
6) Would any saint ever be in hell?
7) Does the word “temporary” have any meaning in heaven?
8) Are there weeks in heaven?
9) Does anyone in hell get relief or healing?
10) Is anyone in hell ever going to be saved?
11) Can any physical change ever be made in heaven or hell?
12) Is there money in heaven or hell?
The answer to each of these 12 is “No”!

Here are some biblical considerations:

1) Hell is complete separation from God. Matthew 25:31-46.
2) The Bible describes Hell in pictorial terms which are not physical.
A place of darkness – Matthew 8: 12, Jude 13, Matthew 22:13, 25:30, Romans 13:12 Ephesians 5:8,11.
A place of fire – Jude 7, Matthew 3:12, 5:22, 13:42,49,50, 25:41.
3) Hell is not a torture chamber – a physical place. Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4-5.
Luke 16 is a parable, not history.
4) Hell is not a courtroom for debate. Matthew 25:31-46 has explanations, not bargaining or arguing.
5) Nothing physical remains after the second coming. 2 Peter 3:8-13.
6) God’s judgment is sure, fair and logical. Romans 2:2, Luke 16:15, Romans 9:14-16.
We are not the judge, nor is it up to us to tell God how to use His mercy.
7) Do you really believe that this life is all there is?
Have you researched the evidence for God’s existence?
Do you want to take any chance of going to hell?
Do you understand the nature of heaven and hell?

We can start you on the road to being confident about your salvation. Read 1 John 1:5-10.
Go to doesgodexist.org and take lesson # 1 of the free correspondence course.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Understanding Pain

Understanding PainThe May 2019 issue of Smithsonian Magazine (page 48-) carried an article titled “A Mystery in the Family” by Matthew Shaer. The article describes a family in Italy in which the family members feel almost no pain. It also shows how far we are from understanding pain.

The entire Italian family seemed to share a lack of sensitivity to pain. It wasn’t that they couldn’t feel pain at all. When scientists injected capsaicin (the chemical that gives chili peppers their heat) into a family member’s arm, they felt the burning sensation, but only for a matter of seconds.

Our bodies are designed with the ability to feel pain, and we need it to avoid damage from our environment. When you touch a hot pan handle, you feel pain, so you put it down quickly. This is good pain and is essential to our survival. Studies show that one in five Americans suffers from chronic pain which is defined as pain that is unrelated to a recent injury and which lasts more than six months. The recent attention to opioid addiction is undoubtedly connected in some ways to how chronic pain affects us. Researchers are proposing that chronic pain results from our lifestyles. Eating more processed food, getting less exercise, and environmental pollution may all contribute to chronic pain.

Pain is different from our senses of smell, taste, or sight because there is not just one section of the brain responsible for the experience. There may be half a dozen or more areas of the brain involved. Doctors prescribe opioids to relieve the pain. Understanding pain and how we experience it could help us find a better way to relieve chronic pain.

One has to wonder if we have not brought the chronic pain issue onto ourselves. Those of us who have done some world-wide traveling have seen that pain is perceived and handled in various ways in different cultures. People walking on hot coals or running knives through their hands seems to be nothing exceptional in some areas of the world. When I was in the army, a young man assigned to our unit had grown up on the north slopes of Alaska. His view of what was cold in Wisconsin in January was not the same as the rest of us. In the Smithsonian article, an Italian family member showed up on a very cold day with a bitter wind blowing in a short-sleeved dress with her ankles bare. The young man in our army unit used to walk from the barracks to the mess hall in a T-shirt while the rest of us wore heavy parkas.

God’s design of the human body is so complex that it can be disturbed by a variety of external causes. God didn’t design us to have chronic pain. Understanding pain, how it works, and how to relieve it is essential. We need to survive what happens to us without being immobilized by aching that never seems to stop.
— John N. Clayton © 2019