What the Mercury Transit Tells Us

What the Mercury Transit Tells UsAbove is a photo of the Sun. If you look closely, you will see a small dot in the upper half near the right side. That is the planet Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun. Mercury made what astronomers call a “transit” of the Sun on Monday morning, November 11, 2019. In our area of the country, the sky was overcast, and it was snowing. However, Bill Ingalls of NASA took this photograph from his location in Arlington, Virginia. I find it interesting to consider what the Mercury Transit tells us.

What’s so special about Mercury passing in front of the Sun? For one thing, it doesn’t happen very often. Although the last time was only three years ago, the next time will be in 2032, but it won’t be visible from North America. The next Mercury transit visible in North America will be in 2049. Since Mercury is closer to the Sun, it passes between the Sun and us every 116 days. However, most of the time, it is either above or below the Sun from our view, and Earth’s atmosphere makes it invisible in the daylight.

Scientists used precision telescopes and equipment to study the transit. They can learn more about the atmosphere of Mercury as it is silhouetted against the Sun. Historically Sir Edmund Halley (1656-1742) watched a transit of Mercury and realized that it could be used to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun. It occurred to him that a transiting planet would appear in different positions to viewers in different locations on Earth. Measuring the apparent shift between two distant Earth locations at the same time and applying a little math, one could calculate the distance to the Sun. In 1769, after Halley’s death, astronomers used a transit of Venus to calculate the Earth-Sun distance.

Think about what the Mercury transit tells us without even seeing it? Because of the fact that astronomers can know in advance the exact date and time of a transit of Mercury (or Venus), or a solar eclipse (when the Moon passes between Earth and Sun) we realize that the solar system is orderly. We can study the heavens and learn of the Creator. We can see His wisdom and design of our planet and the solar system in which it exists. We can know there is a God by the things He has made (Romans 1:20) as the heavens declare His glory (Psalms 19:1).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Magnetism and Life

Magnetism and LifeOne of the things that beginning chemistry students run into very early is the fact that magnetism plays a vital role in the way electrons and atoms work. I remember one of my favorite students who whined and complained when we talked about paired electrons and their dependence on magnetism. He said, “Why does chemistry have to be so terribly complicated? I could function very nicely without magnetism, thank you.” My response was that not only could he not function without magnetism, but he could not exist without magnetism. There is an inseparable bond between magnetism and life.

Most of us are aware of magnetism in only a vague way. We know that magnets stick things to our refrigerators, and we are familiar with magnetic compasses. We have some awareness that the Earth has a magnetic field, although we don’t know how or why. The simple fact is that, without magnetism, we would not exist. In addition to that, much of what allows us to live as we do depends on magnetism. Our appliances and electronic devices work because of magnets and magnetic principles. In fact, magnetism generates the electricity we use.

Earth’s magnetism and life are connected in a way that most people don’t understand. As charged particles come toward us from the Sun and other objects in space, Earth’s magnetic field deflects them away. Without this protective shield, radiation would be so high on the Earth’s surface that life would have a very difficult time surviving. Also, magnetism is an active force in living things. Many animals migrate from one geographic area to another using Earth’s magnetic field as a guide. We have even found that tiny magnets inside our bodies can be used to see things that are invisible to X-rays and ultrasound. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an important tool available to modem science.

The reason magnetism works is because of the design of the electron. Electrons possess a magnetic field. Each electron has a north and a south magnetic pole caused by the electron’s spin. We don’t know exactly how this works, but we do know that for chemical reactions to take place, electrons must have their magnetic field in a specific alignment. This magnetic property of electrons controls all chemical reactions and makes a variety of other chemical processes possible. If an electron had all of its electrons paired up magnetically, all of its energy fields filling the atom would be totally stable. Elements that have that arrangement are called inert, and examples are helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon.

In some materials, there are large numbers of unpaired electrons. The energy of unpaired electrons allows these elements to be very active, and we use those materials for a variety of special purposes. Atoms strive to have all magnetic fields balanced and closed, and that is the basis of modem chemistry. When electrons flow through a wire, their alignment causes their magnetic fields to add and grow. That is the basis of the electromagnet and the Earth’s magnetic field which protects us.

The design of the atom and the way magnetism is built into elements allows the existence of matter, life, and the protective system that sustains life on Earth. The connection between magnetism and life and the complexity of this system tells us that chance is not the guiding mechanism. There are intelligence and purpose in the system that makes life possible. The design of the cosmos that functions year after year speaks eloquently of the wisdom and power of its Creator.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

God’s Creation Method for the Moon

Gods Creation Method for the MoonAstronomy magazine (November 2019, page 44) has an interesting article on some of the facts about the Moon. The information is based on the 842 pounds (382 kg) of rocks brought back from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts. Every time an issue of this magazine comes out, I have two groups of people who like to write to me with their analysis of the meaning of an article in the magazine. (We also have several who do the same thing with other scientific magazines and journals.) The discussion of the letter writers has to do with God’s creation method.

One of the people wrote that this Moon data clearly shows that God had nothing to do with the creation of the Earth or the Moon. The other person tried to deny the data maintaining that God “spoke the Moon into existence,” and it was not a natural process. Both of these writers miss the point.

First, there is no reason for believers in God to challenge the scientific data in the article. In this case, the ratio of the isotopes of oxygen in Earth rocks and Moon rocks are the same. The average high school physics student can tell you how that measurement is made and how reliable it is. Earth’s spin axis and the Moon’s orbit are related, and once again, basic physics equations can verify that data. There is no reason to question the data. That data led to the impact hypothesis that the Moon was formed when a Mars-size body impacted the Earth and threw off debris which coalesced into the Moon. There is no reason to feel that somehow those facts deny the existence of God or the description given in the Bible.

The Bible simply says that God created the heaven (“shamayim” – the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1) and the Earth (“erets”). It does not describe God’s creation method. Verse 14 tells us, “God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky…” In verse 16, this is expanded with the words, “God made (“asah” in Hebrew meaning He made or fashioned what already existed) two great lights …” Then it says that He “…let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” The material is created in verse 1, where “bara” is used indicating an act that only God can do. The fashioning “as signs to mark seasons and days and years” in verses 14-18 uses the Hebrew “asah,” not “bara.” Genesis 2:3 tells us that God “rested from all his work which God created (bara) and made (asah).” Both processes are involved.

What science is trying to do is understand God’s creation method to fashion the Moon, which is discussed in verses 14-18. This Astronomy article is not trying to understand what He did in verse 1. Sound waves coming from the voice of God did not create the Moon. Whether God spun the Moon out of the cloud of matter from which He formed the Earth, or whether He formed the Moon by a collision, is still being debated by scientists. Whatever opinion one might hold is an opinion of God’s creation method – how He did what He did. It does not in any way reflect negatively on His power and creative ability or on the biblical description of what God did to give us “two great lights.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

How the Elements Were Created

How the Elements Were CreatedScience has made significant progress in understanding many things about the universe and our planet and the life on it. However, there are many, many things that we have not yet begun to understand. There are also many things we think we understand, but we are still working on better understandings. One question involves how the elements were created.

At the time of the cosmic creation event (widely called the “big bang”), there were atoms with one proton and one electron and some with twice that many. We call simplest element hydrogen, and two hydrogen atoms combine to form helium in the process of nuclear fusion. More and more fusion took place and still is happening in our Sun and other stars. The process requires intense heat and pressure to fuse the atomic nuclei into a heavier atom.

In stars much more massive than our Sun, heavier elements up to iron can are being formed by fusing more and more atoms together. When you go beyond iron, and all the way up to uranium, even the biggest, brightest, and hottest stars can’t squeeze those atoms together. Scientists believe that the heavier elements are created in exploding stars known as supernovae. When they explode, the theory goes, ripples of turbulence form as the supernovae toss their stellar material into the void of the universe. The forces in that turbulence press more and more atoms together to make the heavier elements. As those atomic elements fly off into space, gravity pulls them into lumps which eventually become planets, such as the one on which we live.

A problem with that explanation is that when the atoms are blasted from the supernovae, they are all traveling in the same direction at perhaps the same speed. How can that produce enough force and heat to fuse them together? An alternate explanation is that the explosion within the supernova is not symmetrical, creating areas of greater density. Ultradense and ultrahot regions concentrated in small areas of the exploding mass perhaps give a better explanation of how the elements were created. (See a paper on that published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.)

Carbon is the basic building block of all living cells. Nitrogen and oxygen, which are the next steps above carbon, bond with it along with other atoms to form living molecules. A little higher on the atomic scale are sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other elements which are essential to life. Iron, nickel, copper, and other metals are in molecules within our bodies, and we use them in pure form to build our homes, cars, and electronics. The heavier radioactive elements such as uranium deep within the Earth generate the heat that creates a molten iron core that generates a magnetic field which surrounds and protects us. This is a very simple explanation of a very complex system that makes it possible for us to be here.

Science is only beginning to understand how the elements were created and how they are continuing to be created. How did this amazing, complex system come into being with the precision that put life on this planet? We could declare a god-of-the-gaps to say that we don’t understand it and therefore, God did it. It is much better for us to learn HOW God did it. As we begin to see the wisdom required to put this incredibly complex universe together, we become more in awe of the Creator. We don’t have a god-of-the-gaps who “zaps” things into existence like a magician. Our God is an engineer craftsman who creates complexity and beauty that leaves us without excuse. (See Romans 1:20.)
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Dark Matter and Creation

Dark Matter and Creation - Andromeda GalaxyThe complexity of the creation of time, space, and matter/energy is so enormous that for decades, scientists have tried without success to understand what holds everything together. When we measure the speed of the matter spinning around the core of the galaxy, that speed is so great that there is no way the galaxy could exist without flying apart. It is like trying to hold a car on the road when it is going too fast around a curve. The speed of the matter in galaxies is hundreds of times greater than what should be possible. This has led scientists to believe there is something they call dark matter within the galaxy. It is the “glue” that holds the spinning galaxy together. The problem is, what is the nature of that “glue”?

The main proposal for years has been something called WIMPS, which stands for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. A newer candidate is Macroscopic Dark Matter or Macros. These Macros would be made of subatomic particles called quarks but combined in a way never before observed. They would be distributed throughout space and thus would be continually bombarding the Earth. There is an interesting problem with this proposal. For these particles to account for the gravitational mass of dark matter, they would have to be large enough to damage ordinary matter. Clearly, there is no evidence that mysterious deaths are taking place due to Macro bombardment.

The nature of science is such that given enough time, scientists will develop a theory that describes dark matter. Some suggest that it may not be matter at all, but merely a function of the actual shape of space/time. Regardless of what we eventually learn, the complexity of building stable island universes, such as the Milky Way, is so enormous that it defies chance explanations. God’s wisdom, power, and creative capacity are summarized in the simple statement, “In the beginning, God created the heaven (shamayim in Hebrew meaning “heaved up things”) and the Earth. That really is all we need to know.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Science News, August 31, 2019, page 4.

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?

Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?
How can we investigate the questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” Many go to an atheist website or read a book by an atheist to decide. A vast majority of people who attack our position on the Bible follow atheist websites. The problem here should be obvious. If a person’s religious view is that there is no God, then obviously, the Bible cannot be the word of God since God does not exist! If you tell anyone something often enough and long enough, eventually they will believe it.

The same kind of problem could come up in the opposite way if one were to read only a book on the truth of the Bible written by a Christian minister. We are not saying that you should not read books written by atheists or ministers. What we are saying is that you cannot stop there and be satisfied whether the Bible is true or false. To answer the questions like “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” by reading what people say, you need to read both viewpoints. You also have to learn how both sides answer the questions posed by people whose views conflict with theirs.

A more direct way to answer the question “Is the Bible true?” would be to explore the evidence yourself. Is the Bible accurate in its statements of a scientific nature? Are the principles of psychology used in the Bible practical and worthwhile? Is the Bible’s approach to human relations valid? Can following the principles of the Bible bring peace, harmony, unity, and positive things to human beings? The way to answer these questions is to read the teachings of Jesus and ask yourself about these issues. It can be helpful to listen to the objections of an atheist and listen to a Christian apologist respond to those objections. But, take the time to look at the evidence and ask questions yourself. Starting with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 will show you clearly the answers to many of those questions.

Another approach worth considering is the cosmological evidence. The argument we make is very simple. We ask three questions: Was there, or was there not a beginning to the cosmos? If there was a beginning, was it caused, or was it not caused? If it was caused, what or who caused it?

The evidence for each of the steps in this logical discussion about origins comes from a variety of sources. In the first question, we can look at evidence from cosmology. The fact that the cosmos is expanding, strongly suggests that the expansion had a specific point in space and time from which it started. Any astronomy textbook will point this out. There is chemical evidence in the cosmos in terms of hydrogen, the fuel that powers the cosmos. If the universe had always existed, there would be no hydrogen left because it is the element from which all other materials are made. The power of the Sun and stars comes from the fusion of hydrogen atoms. We also see evidence from physics in the form of the laws of thermodynamics. We know that, in closed systems, things tend to move toward a condition of disorder. If the cosmos had always been, it would be totally disordered because the cosmos is a closed system with no energy being added to it.

The point we are making is that evidence comes from different fields. Experts in the fields of cosmology, physics, and chemistry have written about these processes. The evidence gives predictability to the cosmos and has many practical uses in space travel and astronomy. There is a wide range of support from a variety of areas for the argument that the cosmos had a beginning, that it was caused, and that it was intelligently caused.

Being confident about your beliefs cannot be rooted in what someone else tells you or what is popular. There are always problems with any biased belief systems passed on to you by others. You should be open to new evidence even when you have formed an opinion about something. The lesson of history on matters related to faith is that new discoveries support and confirm faith in God and His word.

We do not have to be consumed by doubt and paralyzed by uncertainty. The Bible speaks confidently, and we must work to build a dynamic faith that allows us to meet the needs that we were put here to address. The questions, “Does God exist?” and “Is the Bible true?” are probably the most important questions you will ever ask. Do the research and think!
— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst

This post was adapted from an article by John N. Clayton in the Does God Exist? journal. You can read the complete article HERE.

Being Timeless

Being TimelessBeing outside of time or timeless is a new concept to science. In classical physics, time is perhaps the most fundamental standard against which everything else is based. When we measure velocity, it’s basic unit is length per second or hour. Feet per second or miles per hour are familiar to most of us. When we measure acceleration, the units are meters per second squared. Newton’s Second Law defines force as mass multiplied by acceleration, so time even becomes involved in parameters that don’t directly include motion.

One of the equations that Einstein gave us which high school students like to play with is the equation for time at very high speeds. For a given frame of reference, time is defined by the equation T = T’/the square root of 1 – V^2 over C^2. In the equation, T = the time you experience. T’ is the time you would experience at rest relative to a given frame of reference. V is the speed at which you move, and C is the speed of light. Notice that as your speed reaches the speed of light, the fraction V^2/C^2 become 1, and since it is subtracted from 1, the value of the denominator becomes zero. Time ceases to exist. It becomes undefined.

If you could exceed the speed of light, the denominator would become the square root of a negative number which is said to be imaginary. Einstein gave us a similar equation for mass in which the mass is the undefined factor. Nuclear physics and quantum mechanics verify these equations.

This is an over-simplified explanation, but the point I am making is that there is physical evidence that there are dimensions beyond the three in which we exist. Being timeless is something science has begun to comprehend because these equations show that time is a variable that can be changed. The creation is far grander and far more mysterious than we can imagine.

For Christians, this is no surprise. The Bible is full of descriptions that embrace the idea that time is a created entity and that creations exist outside of time. The whole concept of there being a beginning to the cosmos in Genesis 1:1 recognizes that there was an existence before time. Proverbs 8:22-23 indicates that time was a designed and fashioned quantity. Revelation 22:13 repeats this concept. Second Timothy 1:9 refers to it, and the whole idea of eternity relies upon it.

When we reach the end of life, time ceases to exist for us. That has interesting implications. If there is no time, there is no death because death depends upon aging, and without time, nothing ages. There is no physical pain if time doesn’t exist. That’s because physical pain depends upon the time it takes for the pain signal to go from what gets hurt (like a finger) to what registers the hurt – your brain.

“No more tears, no more sorrows.” Revelation 21:4 Describes this change saying that “the former things have all passed away.” Second Peter 3:8-13 speaks of the elements dissolving at the end of time. Science has given us some reinforcement for these promises recognizing that the physical world will be done away with when time ends. Let us live in such a way that we can look forward to the timeless new order God has in store for us.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Another Gun Issue to Consider

another gun issueThere is another gun issue which we rarely talk about. It relates in some ways to meteorites.

Many years ago, a lady in Alabama was sitting on her couch with her leg up on the coffee table. Suddenly a large chunk of rock came crashing through the ceiling striking her on the leg and continuing through the floor. It turned out to be a meteorite, a piece of rock from outer space. The rock survived its journey through Earth’s atmosphere and reached the surface to land in the woman’s home. We have had sporadic meteors striking our atmosphere at 79,000 to 130,000 miles-per-hour. Atmospheric drag slows these hunks of rock to 200 to 400 miles-per-hour. Our atmosphere is designed so that larger meteoroids break up about 10 miles above the surface, and the fragments produced rarely get to the ground.

So there is another gun issue in which humans in celebration fire a gun straight up into the atmosphere. That action poses great danger. In Puerto Rico alone, two people were killed and 25 injured on New Year’s Eve because of celebratory bullets that come down on their heads. A bullet has to achieve a velocity of 157 miles-per-hour to penetrate human skin and damage organs. Bullets fired into the air can reach a speed of 400 miles per hour upon their return to the ground.

In Los Angeles between 1985 and 1992 doctors at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center treated 118 people for random falling bullet injuries, and 38 of them died. A 1994 study published in the Journal of Trauma showed that of those 118 people, 77% were hit in the head and had a mortality rate of 32%. Rifle bullets of .30-caliber fired straight-up reach altitudes of 10,000 feet and descend at 300-600 feet-per-second. Even bullets from handguns fired straight-up return to the ground at speeds between 150 and 250 feet-per-second.

So we have another gun issue. Almost always, your safety is more endangered by what humans do than the dangers of the planet God created for our home. I am reminded of the very old line from the Pogo comic strip: “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from an article in Astronomy magazine, September 2019, page 14

How Much Does Rain Weigh?

How Much Does Rain Weigh?A friend of mine likes to play with numbers. Calculations which speak of the wonder of the creation are of particular interest. My friend pointed out something that I had never really thought about. As I write this, it is raining, and we are supposed to get an inch (2.54 cm) of rain. How much does rain weigh?

For the sake of simplicity, let us assume we want to know the weight of an inch of rain on a square mile (2.58999 square km) of farmland. There are 5280 feet in a mile, so if an inch of rain, which is 1/12th of a foot, fell on a square mile of farmland the volume of water would be 5280 x 5280 divided by 12. That would be 2,323,200 cubic feet (65,785.698 cubic m). The density of water is 62.4 pounds per cubic foot (1000 kg per cubic m). The question is, how much does rain weigh? To calculate the weight of the water, multiply the cubic units by the weight for each cubic unit. That would come out to be 144,967,680 pounds or 72,483.84 tons (or 65,756,233.54 kg). That is for just one inch of rain. A foot of rain would weigh 12 times that much!

Rain is critical for our existence. We tend to take it for granted since we see it regularly in our day-to-day life. Perhaps we should pause and consider the wisdom build into a system that picks up many tons of water, lifts it high into the sky, and then pours it onto the land. Job said about God: “He does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. He gives rain to the earth and sends water to the fields (Job 5:9-10).

The psalmist seems to have comprehended some of this design of God when he wrote: “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise unto our God who covered the heaven with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow upon the mountains. He gives to the beast his food …” (Psalms 147:7-9).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Death and Taxes

Death and TaxesYou have heard it said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. The truth is that only one of those things is certain. Not only will every one of us die, but every government that collects taxes will also die. It’s a scientific fact that all things, even the universe itself, will come to an end. There is no escaping death for everyone and everything.

The second law of thermodynamics tells us everything in the universe is becoming disordered. The disorder will eventually catch up with us and with everything else. Our vehicles wear out. Our clothing wears out. Our bodies wear out. Even the Sun and all of the other stars will wear out.

If you spend your life getting all you can for yourself, not caring whom you hurt in the process, you will not take your riches with you. If you spend your life doing good and helping others, those you helped will also die, and the monuments you built will crumble. If you devote your life to studying science and adding to the database of human knowledge, that too will go away. If all things in the universe, including humans, are merely accidents of chance, we ultimately have no purpose, no value, and no hope.

If you have read this far, you may be feeling depressed, but I have good news. There is a God who created the universe, and you, for a purpose. Yes, your body will die, and even the universe will die. But by God’s grace, you can choose to live on. God has entered the time dimension in human form and conquered death for us. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live.”

How is it possible to live beyond death? In the beginning, God created time and space, matter, and energy. Those things do not limit Him because He created them. The second law of thermodynamics does not apply to God. He does not get old or die. The Bible tells us that because of God’s love and grace, you have the choice to believe and accept and live with God in a new creation. Yes, you can live beyond death and taxes. The choice is yours.
— Roland Earnst © 2019