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

Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity

Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity
Photo of the Suez Canal blocked by the giant ship taken from the International Space Station.
Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

The Moon does many things that affect life on Earth. Sometimes its power can help in ways we never considered, such as opening the Suez Canal.

For a week, we saw news reports about a giant ship blocking that canal which carries much of the world’s shipping. The offending vessel is one of the world’s largest container ships, and it got stuck on the sand and turned sideways to block the entire channel. Tugboats and dredging vessels worked to dislodge it, but they were toy boats by comparison. You could think of a child with a toy shovel and sand bucket trying to free a beached whale and push it back into the ocean. I saw a news report with an “expert” saying it could take weeks to free the vessel.

Then, the Moon stepped in. The March full-moon arrived over the weekend and helped to free the ship. We have said before that the Moon does many things to support life on Earth. Its light helps nocturnal animals, and sometimes humans, to find their way. The Moon’s gravity stabilizes the Earth’s tilt which causes the seasons. The gravity also causes the tides that clean the ocean’s shores and estuaries. The tides and the moonlight play an essential role in the reproduction of sea turtles and many crustaceans. The tides even help to free stuck ships.

On March 29, the container ship Ever Given became dislodged, opening the Suez Canal. The 1,300 foot-long ((400 m) vessel would still be stuck if the Moon’s gravity had not raised the water level to lift it enough that the tug boats could move it. Tides are highest during the full-moon. At that time, the Sun and the Moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. Their gravity pulls on the water raising the tides. In this case, that force was enough to free a ship the size of the Empire State Building from being stuck in the mud and thus to open the Suez Canal.

One more thing about the Moon is that it has just the right size to allow us to have total solar eclipses, which benefit scientists in their study of the Sun. We never stop marveling at the powerful forces in God’s creation.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Reference: Space.com

What Design Looks Like

What Design Looks Like
Architectural Design Team

In his book The Blind Watchmaker biologist and militant atheist Richard Dawkins wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He then argues that we must ignore appearance and realize that those complicated things were not designed. Can we recognize what design looks like?

Francis Crick, also an atheist, was one of the scientists who solved the mystery of the DNA molecule’s structural design. In his book What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, he wrote that “biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”

Even Charles Darwin admitted in a paragraph near the end of his book On the Origin of Species that many scientists rejected his theory, and he concluded that it was because they had closed minds. It seems that scientists in Darwin’s day and most people in our day see design in living things, and design calls for a Designer.

It is counter-intuitive to think that the rich tapestry of life is merely a chance accident with no design and no Designer. In our everyday experience, we know what design looks like. We never see anything complex and functional come into being without intelligent operatives designing it. That is true of buildings, automobiles, computers, books, and websites. Those and many other things around us show design, and they don’t happen without a designer. To believe that dead molecules came together on their own, came to life, and began to reproduce and breathe and think and write books and ask questions requires a great “leap of faith.”

Atheist Thomas Nagel, a professor of philosophy at New York University, wrote a book titled Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. In that book, he wrote, “It is prima facie implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.” On the other hand, in his book “The Last Word,” Nagel wrote, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers…I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God…”

For years, Antony Flew was a renowned philosopher described as “the best-known atheist in the English-speaking world.” He had a successful career of disputing God’s existence until he examined the design in living cells. His last book published in 2004 was titled There Is a God.

There is something within us that tells us we see design when we look at living things. We know what design looks like, and we have to go against our intuition to accept the idea that everything, including ourselves and our thinking, is an accident. As you look around at the many things that appear to be designed, ask yourself, “Do I know what design looks like?” And then ask, “Could there be a Designer?” How you answer that second question will make a world of difference in your life.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Equinox All Year? Bad Idea

Equinox All Year? Bad Idea

Yesterday, March 20, 2021, the Sun was directly over the equator, and that brought in the spring (vernal) equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, it was the autumn equinox for those south of the equator. That means if you want to know what direction is due east, all you would need to do is watch the Sun come up, and due west was where the Sun went down. From now until June 20, the Sun will be moving farther north. We call that day the summer solstice. Where we live in the mid-Northern Hemisphere, the Sun will rise and set about 33 degrees north of due east and west on that day. Why do we need to have the Sun moving north and south in our sky anyway? Why can’t we have the equinox all year?

If the Sun continually stayed directly above the equator, life on Earth would be more difficult. Areas near the equator would be much too hot, and regions far from the equator would be much too cold. There would be two narrow “Goldilocks” areas in between that would be hospitable for life. Plants need a respite from the growing season to prepare for the next growth cycle. Animal life depends on the seasons for reproduction and growth. We would miss the beauty of the changing seasons. So having the equinox all year would not be a good idea. Then why does our planet have this variation in the direction of the Sun?

Earth’s axis tilts 23.5 degrees, and as our planet makes its annual journey around the Sun, the tilt varies toward or away from the Sun. At our summer solstice in June, the inclination is toward the Sun, and at the winter solstice, the axis tilts away from the Sun. That makes the Sun appear to move from 23.5 degrees north of the equator to 23.5 degrees south. At the equinox, for a moment, the Sun is precisely over the equator. The next question is, does this just happen to be a lucky accident?

Since this is just one more factor that makes Earth suitable for advanced life, how could we be so lucky? We have discussed before the many factors that must be just right for life to exist. This is one more, and we don’t think it’s an accident. We believe it’s another evidence of a wise Designer. God gave us seasons for a purpose (Genesis 1:14).

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Healthy Microbiome Design

Healthy Microbiome Design

The colonies of microbes living on and in our bodies make up what is called our microbiome. The bacteria outnumber our own body cells by a ratio of ten to one. Your body is host to 100 trillion bacteria of at least 10,000 different species. Before you start to worry about that, most of the bacteria will not hurt you. More than that, you couldn’t live without a healthy microbiome.

Some bacteria are essential to make our immune system work to prevent infection. Others make it possible for us to digest the food we eat. Bacteria are on our skin, in our lungs, in our mouths, especially in our gut. Your digestive system needs a good balance of bacteria for proper digestion. Some medical experts think that an imbalance of gut flora (bacteria) leads to irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.

There has been a boom in sales of probiotics in pills, liquids, and yogurts in recent years. These contain bacteria that may help your digestive system, but the amounts and types of bacteria may not necessarily be the ones needed for your system. Everyone has a somewhat different microbiome, and, as we recently posted, it all starts in our mother’s womb. Breastfeeding further adds beneficial bacteria to the baby’s flora.

When we take antibiotics, we can kill some beneficial bacteria resulting in digestive and other health problems. Science is trying to determine what is required for a healthy microbiome so that doctors can treat various issues that many times come from our poor choices regarding our health and diet. God designed a system that works, and we are just beginning to recognize that and learn how to take care of it.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

The Design of a Chameleon

The Design of a Chameleon

Chameleons are lizards, and there are more than 200 species of them. The design of a chameleon displays impressive engineering. 

Chameleons can change their color to show their mood, communicate, or blend with their environment to hide from predators or prey. They achieve the color change by adjusting crystals on their skin to reflect different wavelengths of light. Some chameleons can adjust their color according to the color-vision of the specific predator they want to avoid. That requires knowledge of what colors the predator can and cannot see. 

Chameleons have eyes that move independently in ball sockets so they can look in two directions at once. They can also focus both eyes together for a 3-D view for accurately striking prey with their tongue. They have four toes on each foot, which they use to climb up or down with ease. Also, to help in climbing, most chameleons have prehensile tails to hang onto limbs. 

Various chameleon species have adapted to live in rainforests and deserts. Since cold-blooded animals move slowly in low temperatures, you would expect a chameleon’s tongue to move more slowly when it’s cold. In that case, it would not be able to catch fast-moving insects in cold weather. However, their tongues don’t uncoil by muscle strength but by spring tension. Reeling the tongue back in is slower in cold temperatures, but that doesn’t matter for catching the prey. 

The design of a chameleon speaks remarkably of a master Engineer-Designer.

— Roland Earnst © 2021