Owls Are Essential in God’s System of Life

Owls Are Essential in God’s System of Life

Owls are some of the world’s most interesting creatures. There are some 250 owl species living on every continent except Antarctica. People have associated owls with wisdom, mythical guidance, protection, and even death. The truth is that owls are essential in God’s system of life. Here are four interesting facts about owls:

#1. OWLS CAN TURN THEIR HEADS 270 DEGREES. Johns Hopkins researchers discovered that owls have a reservoir under their jaw to prevent the blood supply to their brains from being cut off when they rotate their heads. They also have extra neck vertebrae allowing them to turn their heads to that extreme angle.

#2. OWLS CANNOT MOVE THEIR EYES. Owl eyes make up 5% of the animal’s body weight, while human eyes make up .0003% of our body weight. Their huge eyes have pupils that can dilate extra wide and a reflective layer at the back of their eyes to give them exceptional night vision. In addition, their eyes are designed to provide them with binocular vision, giving them excellent depth perception and the ability to judge distances.

#3. OWLS HAVE HEARING THAT ALLOWS TRIANGULATION. Some owls have asymmetrically arranged ears, with one slightly higher than the other. That allows them to judge the direction of sound vertically as well as left to right. For example, sound from a rodent will reach one ear sooner than the other, and the owl uses this difference to triangulate the distance to the source of the sound, even if under snow or leaf piles.

#4. OWLS HAVE SOUND BAFFLES ON THEIR WINGS. The feathers on the leading edges of their wings have comblike structures that dampen air turbulence and eliminate the “whooshing” noise in flight. They also have finer feathers on the top and trailing edges of their wings to break up the sound. These features allow almost silent flight when hunting prey. Engineers have copied this design to build quieter aircraft and drones.

Owls are essential in God’s system of life to control rodent populations. Most of us are unaware of the great service they provide because they carry out most of their activity at night. Owls are an excellent example of the specialized design God built into the creation to make planet Earth suitable for human habitation. No other land animal demonstrates all of these unique characteristics making chance evolutionary theories difficult to support. Indeed “we can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20).

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light - X-rays from the Whirlpool Galaxy

The Whirlpool Galaxy M51 and companion M51B. The green glow at the center of each is X-ray radiation from black holes.

The third verse of the first book in the Bible quotes God, saying, “Let there be light.” Most people don’t understand the full meaning and impact of that statement. For the past two days, we have examined how the ability to see invisible light revolutionized astronomy. First, we looked at the forms of light at frequencies below the visible spectrum. Today, let’s look at frequencies above the light we can see.

Higher frequencies mean shorter wavelengths, and electromagnetic energy above the frequency of visible light has wavelengths short enough to penetrate living cells and damage them.

Ultraviolet is the first band of light above the visible spectrum. The Hubble Space Telescope is the leader in observing ultraviolet light coming from the hot and energetic formation of young stars. Auroras on gaseous planets like Jupiter also emit ultraviolet light. The ability to see the invisible UV light helps us understand more of the process God used in creation.

Our Sun is also a source of ultraviolet light, and everyone knows UV light can cause painful sunburns. Because of its short wavelength, UV light can penetrate and damage cells resulting in skin cancer. God has given Earth an upper atmosphere ozone layer that absorbs much of the ultraviolet radiation. While protecting us from health damage, the atmosphere makes ultraviolet astronomy impossible on Earth. That’s why the Hubble Space Telescope leads in UV observation of the universe.

Above ultraviolet light, we find X-rays that are even more harmful to living cells. This band of invisible light energy can penetrate matter. Because of that, they are useful in medicine for doctors to see inside your body. However, medical X-rays must be limited because they can cause DNA mutations leading to cancer.

In astronomy, X-rays allow astronomers to study some of the hottest places in the universe, such as supermassive black holes and neutron stars. Thankfully, God has placed us far from black holes and neutron stars. However, our Sun also produces X-rays, but Earth’s atmosphere blocks X-rays. Therefore, X-ray telescopes, such as NASA’s NuSTAR mission, must be located in space.

Finally, let there be light at the top of the invisible spectrum. Astronomers use the shortest wavelength, gamma rays, to study the creation. Unfortunately, gamma rays have the highest energy and are the most dangerous to living cells. Supernova explosions release gamma rays, and space telescopes such as NASA’s Fermi and Swift can detect them. Fortunately, those gamma-ray-producing events are far from Earth. However, nuclear explosions on Earth also produce gamma rays, and the Sun occasionally produces gamma-ray flashes in solar flares.

By studying all of these forms of light, astronomers today know much more about the universe and the processes God has used to create and sustain it. As we look into the night sky, we are looking back in time and seeing the various frequencies of electromagnetic energy. It is light, both visible and invisible, and it tells us of the power and wisdom of the process that brought our planet and the life upon it into existence. Light is energy, and energy is matter (e=mc2). Knowing that, we realize what a profound statement Genesis 1:3 contains – “Let there be light.”

— Roland Earnst © 2023

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Seeing Invisible Light

Seeing Invisible Light - Infrared image of asteroid belt around a young star
JWST infrared image of never-before-seen asteroid belts around a star 25 light-years from Earth

In ancient times, people looked up into the night sky in wonder. Without modern light pollution, they could have seen the stars more clearly, but they had only their unaided eyes to see the majestic sky. The first revolutionary change occurred when Galileo made and used an optical telescope. However, he was limited by being able to see only the visible spectrum of light. Today, astronomy involves “seeing” invisible light.

Light is electromagnetic radiation, and our vision can detect only a very narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum. But astronomers today have instruments that allow them to “see” light frequencies in wavelengths outside the human vision range. Yesterday we discussed two portions of the spectrum invisible to our eyes – radio waves and microwaves. Those frequencies can tell us many things about the universe God created. Today, we will examine more ways of seeing invisible light.

The higher the light frequency, the shorter its wavelength. Microwaves have wavelengths between one meter and one millimeter. The next higher frequency of light has wavelengths below one millimeter, so they are called submillimeter waves. One weakness of optical telescopes is that visible light can’t penetrate clouds of gas and dust in regions where stars are forming, but submillimeter waves can. However, water vapor in our atmosphere absorbs submillimeter waves, so astronomers build observatories for studying them in dry, high-altitude locations such as the mountains in Chile and Hawaii.

We find infrared light at even higher frequencies and, thus, shorter wavelengths. Although we can’t see infrared energy, we can feel it as heat. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) leads the revolution in infrared astronomy. Scientists have used infrared sensors to measure the temperature of stars, including our Sun, but the Webb Telescope takes that to a new level. It can detect emerging stars hidden by clouds of dust and gas. The JWST can also observe matter that is only a few degrees above absolute zero. In only its second year, JWST has sent back images that allow us to see space objects we have never seen before.

Just above the infrared frequencies, we find optical light. Optical telescopes have been showing us many features of the universe since Galileo, but they have limitations. Not all objects in space produce optical light. For example, we can only see the planets in our solar system because they reflect the Sun’s light. Also, our atmosphere scatters optical light giving us the blue sky in the daytime and atmospheric blurring of the stars at night. Optical telescopes are usually the only option for amateur sky watchers, but for the sharpest viewing, professional astronomers locate their optical telescopes on tall mountains or in space. The Hubble Space Telescope is the leader in optical astronomy.

Although visible light can tell us much about God’s creation, seeing invisible light has opened a new understanding of how the Creator has produced the elements essential for life. Three types of light have higher frequencies and shorter wavelengths than visible light. Those short wavelengths contain the energy to harm or destroy life, but God has provided the protection we need. We will look at that tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

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Revolution in Astronomy Shows God’s Handiwork

Revolution in Astronomy Shows God's Handiwork

Before the introduction of electric lights, the darkness of the night allowed people to observe the sky much more clearly. For thousands of years, people looked up at night and marveled at what they saw. Of course, they saw the Moon and stars, but they could also see other objects. Those included the “wandering stars,” which we know as planets, “shooting stars,” which we know as meteors, and occasional stars with tails, known as comets. But understanding the night sky was limited by the resolving power of human vision. Then something happened to create a revolution in astronomy.

The revolution began in 1609 when Galileo put some lenses together and made his first telescope. Still, it was limited to observing visible light. People assumed that the only light was what they could see with their eyes. After all, what other kind of light could there be? Then, in 1800, British astronomer William Herschel accidentally discovered infrared light. After that, scientists discovered ultraviolet, radio waves, microwaves, X-rays, and gamma rays in the following years.

Astronomers today use all of those forms of electromagnetic radiation or “light” to explore the universe. You might wonder why we can see only a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. There is a good reason for that. Electromagnetic radiation surrounds us. That includes natural radiation and all frequencies transmitted from radio, television, mobile phones, wi-fi, Bluetooth, and other sources. If we could see all of those electromagnetic frequencies, our vision would be more limited than what we experience in a dense fog.

In God’s wisdom, He limited our vision to the rainbow of colors we need to see the world. However, science has given us the ability to “see” the other frequencies of light, and that has opened up a new revolution in astronomy.

Radio waves were the first portion of the invisible spectrum astronomers used. In 1933, Karl Jansky, a young American radio engineer working for Bell Labs, was searching for the source of “hiss” that interfered with radio transmissions. He found that some of it came from sources outside our solar system. That led to using radio telescopes to explore the vast reaches of space through the new science of radio astronomy.

Microwaves are the next frequencies above radio waves, and astronomers first detected them using radio telescopes. When we hear the word “microwave,” we think of a way to cook our meals quickly, but in astronomy, microwaves help us learn about the early universe. In 1965, American astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, working for Bell Labs, were trying to find the cause of noise picked up by a radiometer they were using. They thought it was a defect in the system, but they had accidentally discovered what scientists call cosmic background radiation. It’s energy left over from the cosmic creation event, or the “big bang.” The cosmic microwave background proved that the universe had a beginning, as the Bible clearly says in verse 1.

Sometimes “accidental” discoveries lead to our learning more about how God created and sustains the universe. The revolution in astronomy today involves all of the various portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, and we will continue to consider that tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Nuclear Fusion to Power the Future

Nuclear Fusion to Power the Future

People today are concerned about “green energy.” The government is attempting to move the economy away from fossil fuels to protect the environment and reduce climate change. However, all of the alternative power sources have limitations. What we need is nuclear fusion to power the future.

Presently, the favored alternatives to fossil fuels are wind and solar, both of which have drawbacks. They include the expense of installing and maintaining them, plus the fact that sunshine and wind are only sometimes available. In addition, there are few locations where water power is feasible, and building dams on rivers can cause other issues. Nuclear fission is probably the most efficient method of generating electric power without putting carbon in the atmosphere. However, past catastrophes cause people to fear that option. Plus, nuclear fission creates waste that will be radioactive for years, and we have no place to store it.

On the other hand, nuclear fusion can release massive amounts of power. After all, that’s what powers the Sun and other stars. With nuclear fusion, there is no radioactive waste and no carbon to create greenhouse gases. The byproduct produced is helium, a useful resource in short supply.

Nuclear fusion to power the future sounds like the answer to all of our problems, so why aren’t we switching to it now? The problem is that science hasn’t found a practical way to do it. However, in December 2022, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California produced nuclear fusion in a lab. The tiny reaction was nowhere near what the Sun does, and it lasted only trillionths of a second. But it was a start. Thirty private fusion companies worldwide are using the Livermore breakthrough as a pattern to promise clean energy that would outpace wind or solar, or anything else we now have. The Fusion Industry Association suggests they could generate fusion electricity sometime in the 2030s.

Is nuclear fusion to power the future just a pipe dream, or could it really happen? God has given us everything we need for an advanced civilization. Intelligent planning of Earth’s history provided the fossil fuels needed to bring us into the modern age. Einstein’s equation e=mc2 revealed the enormous power contained within each atom. By releasing some of that power, we have generated electricity by nuclear fission. By applying the intelligence God gave us, we can go a step further and release even more power through nuclear fusion. That could get us away from depending on energy sources that are unreliable or pollute the atmosphere.

The truth is that tiny atoms are held together by incredible power, and releasing that power can solve our energy needs. The power that holds every atom together had to have a source—the One who created everything and holds everything together. “[Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17 ESV).

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: “Homemade Suns” by Virginia Heffernan in Wired magazine, March 1, 2023

What Are the Chances?

What Are the Chances? Chimpanzees with Keyboards

Advocates of unguided naturalistic evolution say that evolution could have gone in many directions, and we are lucky to be here. But what are the chances of evolution producing you and me as we are today? Evolutionists would say the changes are 100% since we are already here. But, if we go back to the cosmic creation event, or “big bang,” the chances that we would have evolved are nil. On the other hand, if God planned and guided the creation because He had us in mind, the chances are 100%.

The DNA that makes us who we are physically is a highly complex strand of information. What are the chances that it could have written itself by chance? First of all, information comes from intelligence, not chance. Calculating the likelihood of something after it has happened is a statistical fallacy. After all, DNA is here, and so are we, so the chances are 100%. But what are the chances if we go back before the fact? What are the chances that non-living chemicals could come together in a just-right way to form the first living cell? Then what is the statistical evidence for that first cell multiplying and modifying by random chance mutations and natural selection to create humans?

One imagined scenario involves a billion chimpanzees typing on a billion keyboards for a billion years, accidentally typing one line of Shakespeare. What are the chances of that? Well, the short answer is that it will never happen. Computer keyboards have various numbers of keys, but the old-fashioned typewriters had 58, so let’s go with that number.

Forget Shakespeare. Look for the line “I love you more.” without quotation marks. That is a total of 16 letters, spaces, and a period. With 58 keys and 16 letters, what are the chances of accidentally typing that line? To compute that, you would have to multiply 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58 X 58. That is a total of 16 times. If you want to try it, go ahead, but it will probably exceed the capacity of your calculator. The answer would be 16.4 trillion quadrillion typing attempts.

Typing continuously at a speed equivalent to 45 words per minute, it would take 2,100 trillion years to have a 50/50 chance that one of those chimps would type that phrase. Absolutely nobody thinks that the Earth is anywhere close to 2,100 trillion years old. Nobody even suggests that the universe is that old. For this thought experiment, we are only looking for one short line of text, “I love you more.” That is nothing compared to the complex system of life on this planet.

The bottom line is that we can’t explain life or the fine-tuned physical constants of the universe by chance alone. But we can explain those things if God planned and guided the creation because He had us in mind. With God, our chances of being here were 100% from the beginning. (See Genesis 1:1.)

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: “Chances are…” by Bob Berman on Astronomy.com

For more on this topic see “Arranging Books on a Shelf

Spring Green Testifies of God

Spring Green Testifies of God

I have been admiring the beautiful colors of the blossoms on our fruit trees and the flowering dogwoods. Spring brings new life to the natural world. Everything changes daily as the bulb plants wake up and emerge from the ground. Yet, even with all the beautiful colors, I enjoy spring green. 

Green is a very relaxing color. The new leaves on the trees transform them from ghost-like stalks to luxurious, living umbrellas ready to provide shade from the summer heat. But, have you ever noticed that the green of tree leaves seems more vibrant in the spring than in summertime? There is a reason for that. It isn’t just your imagination.

Leaves are green because of the chlorophyll they contain. That amazing chemical makes it possible for plants to take energy from the Sun, moisture from the ground, and carbon dioxide from the air to make sugars that power their growth. We call that extremely complex process photosynthesis, and we have discussed that before on this website. The chlorophyll is contained in chloroplasts in the leaves. The chloroplasts absorb light, but they use more of the higher energy blue and red wavelengths and reflect much of the green. When we see spring green leaves, they contain fewer chloroplasts, so they absorb less light, making the green leaves appear bright and vibrant.

Chloroplasts multiply as the season wears on, so the leaves absorb more light. Also, the cuticles, or outer layer of the leaves, and the cell walls in the leaves become thicker. Those factors, which are part of the leaf’s maturing process, cause it to appear darker. I wonder if we also become less conscious of the green after we have seen it for a few weeks. When the dark tree trunks of winter become hidden by beautiful green leaves, we take notice. Our attention changes when we have seen the spring green and become overwhelmed by the summer.

In autumn, when the chloroplasts fade, the vibrant colors of other chemicals in the leaves catch our attention. Spring green and autumn gold and red can jar us into realizing the beauty of the world. However, we should not need sudden changes to make us conscious of the beauty of God’s wonders all around us. Evidence for God is there if we are willing to look. “For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 CSB).

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Water Stewardship Past and Present

Water Stewardship

One of the major issues facing us today is how we get enough water to the right places to meet human needs. Between climate change and the growing human population, water availability is a huge concern in countries worldwide. We either have too much water resulting in floods or droughts that threaten food shortages. The fact is that God has equipped planet Earth with plenty of water. The problem is human water stewardship is not what it should be.

In the year 330, Roman Emperor Constantine took an ancient Greek city known as Byzantium and renamed it New Rome to become the new center of the Roman Empire. As the city grew, it became known as Constantine’s City or Constantinople. Three decades later, a court orator named Themistius wrote that “the city thirsts.” The city was surrounded by the sea on three sides, but it needed fresh water for its growing population. So, in 340, Constantius II began a major aqueduct construction project completed under Roman Emperor Valens In 373. The enormous project required an amount of stone equivalent to the Great Pyramid of Giza and enough mortar to fill 500 Olympic-size swimming pools. With the aqueducts, reservoirs, and a system of cisterns, Constantinople could truly become the new Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries. 

Many areas today face a shortage of water. Six states, including 40 million people in the American West, receive water from the Colorado River. The states are Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and California. In 1922, the states made a compact giving California the largest share of the water. Unfortunately, the Colorado River has been shrinking in recent years while the human population has grown. The pact made in 1922 is not working well, especially for Arizona, and the situation requires better water stewardship.

Could we build a water system today analogous to what the Romans did almost 1,700 years ago? Can you imagine the benefit to all Americans if we had such a water distribution system in the western US? Droughts and flooding occur, but the effect is made worse by poor stewardship of the water resources God has given us. People in Africa, and other areas, need wells to provide safe water, and Christian organizations are working to meet that need. We can and must do more, and Christians should be the first to realize the importance of water stewardship because we honor the Giver of every good and perfect gift. (See James 1:17 and Mark 9:41.)

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2023

References: “The City Thirsts” by James Crow in Current World Archaeology magazine # 117 for February/March 2023, and “The Colorado River war and the growing problem of less water” on TheWeek.com. 

Greatest Miracle of All

Greatest Miracle of All - Jesus Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is the best-documented event in ancient history. Of all religions in the world, Christianity is the only one in which the founder claimed to be the Son of God. Furthermore, He proved His claim through miracles. However, the greatest miracle of all, and the only one He predicted in advance, was His resurrection from the dead.

The gospels tell us that Jesus raised others from the dead, including the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-15) and His friend Lazarus (John 11). However, neither of them is alive to tell about it because they eventually died again. Their second chance at life did not fully conquer death.

Jesus ultimately and completely defeated death because He is alive today. When Jesus brought the young man and Lazarus back to life, they got their ordinary bodies back. After His resurrection, Jesus had a physical body able to speak and be touched and eat. But His resurrection body could also pass through walls. (See Luke 24:33-40.) The stone was rolled away from the tomb not so that Jesus could come out but so that others could see that His body was no longer there.

Some skeptics today go beyond denying the miracles of Jesus to deny that He ever lived. No credible historical scholar would make such a claim. An article in National Geographic quoted Eric Meyers, an archaeologist and emeritus professor in Judaic studies at Duke University, saying: “I don’t know any mainstream scholar who doubts the historicity of Jesus…The details have been debated for centuries, but no one who is serious doubts that he’s a historical figure.”

Jesus is real. He is alive! He conquered death! The same National Geographic article said that more than two billion people today believe Jesus Christ is “the very Son of God.” The resurrection was His greatest miracle of all and is the best-documented event of ancient history. It is not a legend that developed years later. The gospels recorded it within a generation of the event when eyewitnesses were still alive. Even before the gospels were written, Paul testified of the resurrection within a few years after it happened (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). He had learned of it less than five years after the event.

The greatest miracle of all is a historical fact. There is no other way to explain the change in Christ’s apostles, who dared to spend the rest of their lives testifying of the resurrection, even when it led to persecution and death. So we can say with confidence, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: NationalGeographic.com

Broken Heart Syndrome

Broken Heart Syndrome
Broken Heart Syndrome from Wikipedia

The medical name is takotsubo cardiomyopathy, but a more straightforward name is “broken heart syndrome.” Extreme stress or emotions can cause it. That includes the loss of a dear loved one. A “broken heart” can temporarily weaken your physical heart muscle. Research has shown a person has a 41% increase in the risk of dying in the first six months after losing a spouse.

Extreme emotional stress increases the release of the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine while causing a reduction in the feel-good hormones of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. The result can be broken heart syndrome with depression, poor sleep, fatigue, anxiety, high blood pressure, and physical pain.

I have often heard broken heart syndrome used in connection with Jesus as he agonized in prayer before the crucifixion. After all, while Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man. He was “tempted in all things just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). But what about the disciples? They had spent three years with Him. He was their closest friend as well as their teacher-rabbi. They had begun to recognize that He was the Messiah who had come to restore God’s kingdom. Imagine the shock they experienced when they saw him crucified like a common criminal. They must have considered the three years they spent with Jesus all for nothing, and their faith in God must have been shaken.

Broken heart syndrome literally changes the structure of your heart, even though we know that the physical organ is not the center of our emotions. So you could say that those disciples were brokenhearted emotionally and physically. They fled and hid and wept and pondered. They were in despair.

However, in a few days, they became bold proclaimers of Christ. They had a new courage that they never had before. They were not afraid of the Roman authorities or the Jewish leaders. There is only one possible explanation. They saw, heard, touched, and even ate with the resurrected Christ.

The disciples were in agony for two days, but on the third day, their broken hearts were restored to “brave hearts.” They never stopped proclaiming Christ’s resurrection, even though their lives were tragically shortened because of their message. There is no way to explain their courage except that they knew first-hand that it was true.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takotsubo_cardiomyopathy