October Meteor Showers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illness Is in the Blood or Life Is in the Blood

Illness Is in the Blood or Life Is in the Blood

The year was 1799. A farmer was working hard supervising farming activities from horseback through snow, hail, and rain. The next day, despite a sore throat, he was back out in the snow. That night he woke with difficulty breathing. In those days, it was common practice to bleed a person who was ill. Doctors, believing that illness is in the blood, sought to cure it by removing some of the person’s blood.

A supervisor on the farm opened the man’s vein and drained half a pint of blood.
The farmer was not getting better. The family doctor arrived and bled the patient a second time with still no improvement. That doctor sent for another doctor, and while waiting for the second doctor to come, he bled the patient a third time. When the second doctor did not arrive, they sent for a third doctor. Then the patient was bled a fourth time, this time removing a quart of blood. Within two days from the time he first developed a sore throat, George Washington was dead at age 67.

What was the problem that led to the death of our first president—the man we call the father of our country? Believing that illness is in the blood, medical doctors ignored a simple truth found in the Bible. Leviticus 17:11 clearly says, “the life of a creature is in the blood.” Since life is in the blood, draining a person’s blood is not the way to cure a person’s illness. It’s a way to end a person’s life. It took thousands of years for medical science to catch up with the wisdom of the Bible.

After feeding thousands of people with five barley loaves and two fish, questioners confronted Jesus. He told them, “…it is my father who gives you the true bread from heaven (John 6:32). He went on to say, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35).” Then, in perhaps the most shocking statement of all, Jesus spoke in a figurative sense. He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man (Jesus’ most common name for himself) and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:53-54).”

Life is in the blood. That is true of any creature or person. Moses knew it because of divine revelation, not from human wisdom. We can see evidence for the accuracy of the Bible in this and many other ways. However, the blood of Jesus Christ sacrificed for us on the cross is the ultimate source of life. As John wrote, “…the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Eternal life is in the blood of Jesus.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Ultimate Meaning, Purpose, and Morality

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Roland Earnst © 2021

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

Enjoy the Beauty of a Sunset

Enjoy the Beauty of a Sunset

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

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

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

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

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Bacteria on Wooden Cutting Boards

Bacteria on Wooden Cutting Boards and Toys

People have a fascination with wood, and we admire the beauty of wooden tables and furniture. Our love for wood is not just aesthetic because wood is also very practical for many uses. However, some people were concerned about bacteria on wooden toys and especially food contamination by bacteria on wooden cutting boards. For that reason, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended using plastic cutting boards rather than wooden ones.

The USDA said that it seemed to be common sense that non-porous surfaces like plastic would be less likely to hold bacteria and would be easier to keep clean and germ-free. For years, they advised against wooden cutting boards. However, they had to admit that they had no scientific studies to support that recommendation. It was just common sense.

Microbiologists at the University of Wisconsin in Madison tried to find decontamination techniques to make wood as safe as plastic. They found that if they inoculated wooden boards with either salmonella, listeria, or E.coli (all food poisoning agents), 99% of the bacteria were gone after 12 hours at room temperature. However, when they treated a plastic surface in the same way, the bacteria count increased after 12 hours. The bottom line is that, when left overnight, the bacteria on plastic multiplied, but the bacteria on wooden cutting boards died.

The researchers concluded that “wooden cutting boards are not a hazard to human health, but plastic cutting boards may be.” They proved that wood has anti-bacterial properties that plastic polymers don’t have. The researchers tested maple, birch, beech, black cherry, basswood, butternut, and American black walnut with the same results. Also, they found that bacteria on wooden cutting boards died whether the wood was new or old.

There are two things we can learn from this experiment. First, the USDA officials said they based their recommendation of acrylic or other non-porous materials on common sense and not scientific data. They had not done any research. When the scientific data came in, it showed that common sense was wrong. This is an excellent example of why we should “follow the science.” Secondly, for thousands of years, people had cut meat and prepared foods on surfaces made of the natural wood that God gave us. This experiment shows that the Designer of wood knew what He was doing.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

References: You can read more about the research HERE and HERE.

First Solar Eclipse of 2021

First Solar Eclipse of 2021

On the morning of June 10, 2021, the Sun will rise as a crescent in areas of the far northern United States and southern Canada. That will include the upper peninsula of Michigan, northern New York State, New England, and southern Quebec and Ontario. It’s the beginning of the first solar eclipse of 2021.

Solar eclipses happen when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. This will not be a total eclipse because the Moon will not completely cover the Sun. It’s called an annular or “ring of fire” eclipse. Total solar eclipses happen when the Moon completely blocks the Sun from view, as we saw in 2017. Because the Moon’s orbit is elliptical, it is not always the same distance from Earth. This time, it’s too far away for its shadow to cover the Sun.

When the eclipse reaches its peak, there will be a ring of light from the Sun visible all the way around the Moon’s shadow. Unfortunately, that ring of fire will not be visible anywhere in the United States. The full annular eclipse will only be visible in a narrow path across northern Canada, parts of Greenland, and northeastern Russia. A partial eclipse will be visible from a much wider area, including much of North America, Asia, and Europe. If you are attempting to view any solar eclipse, do not look directly at the Sun without special eye protection similar to welding glass. Ordinary sunglasses will not do. Some websites give instructions for building a simple pinhole viewer.

If you miss the first solar eclipse of 2021, you might be interested to know you will probably miss the next one. It will be a total eclipse on December 4, visible in Antarctica. Don’t despair. There will be more in the coming years. You can also safely watch the eclipse live on the websites listed below. We can accurately predict solar and lunar eclipses years in advance because of the excellent engineering design God has put into our solar system.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

You can view the eclipse live on the Date and Time website and the Virtual Telescope Project.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

A federal judge has ruled against a Christian college in Missouri, and the ruling may affect other Christian colleges and universities. It involves opening the women’s dorm rooms and showers to biological males. On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order prohibiting “discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” His order requires federal agencies to interpret the word “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Fair Housing Act is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing based on race, religion, or national origin. In 1974 a provision was added banning discrimination based on sex, but it says nothing about sexual orientation and gender identity. With the new executive order, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is now enforcing the requirement based on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” and applying it to dormitory housing at colleges and universities.

The College of the Ozarks is a Christian college near Branson, Missouri. In April 2021, the college sued the Biden administration, stating that the new executive order “requires private religious colleges to place biological males into female dormitories and to assign them as female’s roommates.” On moral and religious grounds, the school prohibits males students from female dorms and vice-versa. The federal judge ruled against the school.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) plans to challenge the judge’s ruling. Ryan Bangert is vice president of legal strategy at ADF. He says that as it stands now, “If you have a male who identifies as a female, that student must be allowed to access female dormitories,” and that includes restrooms and showers. Failure to comply could result in fines that might force the school to close. That could be especially hard for College of the Ozarks, which does not charge tuition but depends on donations and requires all full-time students to work on campus.

Few Christian colleges could withstand hefty fines for violating the new rule, and dismissing a student because of sexual orientation and gender identity could create even more issues with the government. College of the Ozarks, like other colleges, is now working on housing plans for returning and new students in the fall. ADF said in a statement that “in this case the government is clearly overreaching.”

— Roland Earnst © 2021

You can follow this on adflegal.org

Complex Photosynthesis and Life

Complex Photosynthesis and Life

Photosynthesis is a biochemical process that plants, algae, and some bacteria use to create food and release oxygen into Earth’s atmosphere. We recently pointed out even some sea slugs can use photosynthesis. Complex photosynthesis and life defy accidental explanation.

Chlorophyll is the molecule that drives the process. There are two chemical reactions–one dependent on light and one independent of light. In the light-dependent reaction, sunlight enters the plant and energizes the chlorophyll. The chlorophyll splits water into hydrogen and oxygen and feeds electrons into nearby molecules. The oxygen escapes and the hydrogen is used later. The freed electrons make a molecule called ATP, which fuels cellular functions. With more sunlight, a molecule called NADP is produced.

In the light-independent reaction, NADP combines with the freed hydrogen to make a larger molecule called NADPH. These components, NADPH, ATP, and an enzyme called RuBisCCo, create sugars and other carbohydrates using carbon dioxide and water in a complex chemical process called the Calvin-Benson cycle.

Chlorophyll uses light in the blue and red part of the spectrum, reflecting green light, which is why trees and grass are green. Photosynthesis takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and forms the foundation of all food chains on Earth.

We have vastly oversimplified this explanation of complex photosynthesis and life. To believe that it could have happened by chance requires profound faith in luck. Photosynthesis reflects the wisdom of the Creator, who used some incredibly complex processes to establish life on this planet.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

What Makes You Special?

What Makes You Special?

What makes you special? As we look at the many creatures that inhabit planet Earth, we see that humans are unique.

Unlike most animals, we walk on two legs. Even primates that can stand upright spend much of their time on all-fours. Standing upright frees our hands for making and using tools. It also allows us to use our hands for creating art and writing stories and books. Most animals are covered with a thick layer of hair to protect them from the harsh environment. We protect ourselves by clothing that we design using our creativity and that we make using our hands.

Our opposable thumbs allow us to do things that no animal can. Most apes and monkeys have opposable thumbs, but only humans can bring their thumbs in opposition to any of our four fingers. That is unique, but it’s not what makes you special.

Humans can speak and write. The design and position of our larynx, tongue, and mouth make it physically possible to create sounds that form words. Beyond our physical traits, the ability to understand symbolism is essential for advanced communication. You can understand the meaning of words, even the meaning of the words formed by the letters you are reading. But still, there is more to what makes you special.

Human children are dependent on their parents for a much longer time than any animal, and our family relationships are important throughout life. We are capable of an “agape” type of love that emphasizes others’ needs rather than ourselves. We learn to love in our families as our parents model a godly love for us.

Our brain is unique, not because of its size but because of what it can do. There are animals with larger brains. The sperm whale has the largest. When you compare brain weight to body size, many birds have brains that make up 8 percent of their body weight. The human brain is only about 2.5 percent of our body weight, but it far exceeds any animal’s brain in intelligence.

The most remarkable difference–and the biggest mystery to science–is what is often referred to as “mind.” How can mere atoms and molecules form cells and neural connections to create the human sense of advanced self-consciousness and purpose? We believe this most unique feature of humans is more than the physical action of neurons. We prefer to call it our soul, that brings us closer to what makes you special.

We have to look beyond the physical realm to understand what makes humans special. Our creativity, our search for beauty, our desire for loving relationships, our seeking after justice, and our desire to worship all indicate that we know there is something beyond what this world offers. We believe those desires are in your soul because God created you in His image and designed you to have a relationship with Him. That is truly what makes you special.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Christ’s Resurrection Conquered Sin And Death

Christ’s Resurrection Conquered Sin And Death

Each week as Christians meet, we remember Christ’s resurrection and victory over death. Annually we must not forget that at the time of Passover, Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) But without the resurrection, the sacrifice would be meaningless. As Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Our faith is not worthless because Christ’s resurrection conquered sin and death.

How do we know that is true? Some unbelievers argue that the resurrection is just a myth that arose many years later. The evidence against that idea is numerous and strong. The apostles carried the message of Christ’s resurrection to the ends of the Roman Empire for the rest of their lives. That was even though they had nothing to gain except a life of persecution ending in execution. If they had not seen the resurrected Christ, they would not have spent their lives proclaiming the message that Christ’s resurrection conquered sin and death.

Skeptics have often used the argument that the gospels were written years later to “prove” that the resurrection was a myth that developed during those years. However, before any of the four gospels were written, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in A.D. 57. In it, he included an oral tradition that gives a summary of the gospel message.

Today we have access to writing materials, books, and computers. We are accustomed to writing things down. In the first century, there were no computers, printed books, or pamphlets. Even simple writing materials were scarce and precious. People memorized important things by summarizing them efficiently and then passing them on as oral traditions. The early Christians used that method. Here is the first part of an oral tradition that Paul wrote down in that first letter to the church in Corinth:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to…”

The oral tradition then goes on to list some resurrection appearances of Christ. Then Paul adds himself to the list of those who saw the resurrected Christ. (You can read it for yourself in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.) Of course, the “Scriptures” that Paul refers to are the Old Testament prophecies of Christ since the New Testament was not yet written.

When did Paul receive this tradition? He probably received it no later than A.D. 36 when he first visited Jerusalem. (See Galatians 1:15-18.) He possibly received it earlier than that in Damascus when, as Saul the persecutor, he encountered Ananias and received his sight. Ananias preached the gospel to him, and “Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.” Whether in Jerusalem or Damascus, Paul received the oral tradition of Christ’s resurrection no more than five years after the event. That tradition was not a myth that developed years later after the eyewitnesses had died.

Each week, as we celebrate the fact that Christ’s resurrection conquered sin and death, we can trust the story is true. We have that oral tradition written down, but we would do well to memorize it as the early Christians did.

— Roland Earnst © 2021