Not Afraid of Science

Not Afraid of ScienceThe American Scientific Affiliation website published an interesting article by Sara Sybesma Tolsma titled “Science in Church.” Dr. Tolsma is a professor of biology and started her article by saying, “My church is not afraid of science.” The Does God Exist? ministry has tried to nurture that attitude among our readers, so the article was of great interest to me.

What Dr. Tolsma has done is to have an elementary science center in the midweek Bible class. The kids do simple science experiments and then relate them to biblical stories and the concept of God’s design and creative wisdom in the world around us. Because she is a biologist, she had the kids do some experiments with microscopes. They used cotton swabs to wipe surfaces within the meeting place of the Church and then wipe the swab on agar plates which allow bacteria to grow. A week later, they examined the bacteria cultures under a microscope. The kids were shocked at the results. She also led the kids in hand washing experiments using plain water, soap and water, and hand sanitizer to compare the results under the microscope.

The experiments she used can help kids understand God’s hygienic rules for Israel. Helping them see the goodness of the natural world is essential. The kids learn that science is knowledge and the Bible encourages and supports seeking knowledge. These lessons equip them to handle the challenges they will face when people try to make faith an enemy of science. They are prepared to be not afraid of science. Singing “For the Beauty of the Earth,” “How Great Thou Art,” and other songs that praise God for His creative wisdom can build faith. The sessions concluded with a prayer thanking God for all of creation, even those things that you can only see with a microscope.

The conclusion of her article finds Dr. Tolsma saying, “We can reinforce the natural curiosity we see in the kids… and reignite that curiosity in adults so we can all more fully experience Christ, ‘the firstborn of all Creation’ the One in whom ‘all things in heaven and on Earth were made’…the amazing details of God’s natural world declare that the heavens, rocks, plants, animals, and even the microbes are telling the glory of God.”

The Does God Exist? ministry encourages Christians to be not afraid of science. We have a set of materials produced by Jean Wiebe and Pat Parker titled “God Made It All Perfect.” The lessons and ideas are contained in two teacher’s guides. Jean’s materials are designed for grades 1-4 and Pat’s are intended for grades 4–7. There are over 100 pages in each of these 8 ½ x 11 books. We can send these to you free if you will cover the postage and packing, which would be $6.00 for the two or $3.00 for either one. If you are interested, send your check to “Does God Exist?,” PO Box 2704, South Bend, IN 46680-2704.

You can read Dr. Tolsma’s article HERE.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Hubble Constant and Age of the Universe

Hubble Constant and Age of the Universe
The Associated Press released an article on Friday, September 13, 2019, that read, “Study Finds the Universe Might be Several Billion Years Younger.” The news story sites a study released in the journal Science on September 12. In the study, Inh Jee of the Max Planck Institute in Germany used a new method to measure the Hubble Constant, which scientists use to calculate the age of the universe.

Right away, we have seen some fundamentalists jumping to the conclusion that the headline means the Earth is 6,000 years old after all. The Bible doesn’t tell us how old the creation is. The age of the Earth is a denominational issue for those whose human doctrines won’t work if the Earth is more than 6,000 years old. Our concern is that people understand that this is not an issue about whether God exists or whether the Bible is true.

We can measure the age of the universe by determining the expansion rate of the cosmos, which is the Hubble Constant. Measuring that expansion has been incredibly difficult, and that is what the headline refers to. In previous years the Hubble Constant has been estimated to be 70. Inh Lee and her team used a new technique called time delay gravitational lensing which gave a value for the Hubble Constant of 82.4. That would reduce the age of the universe from the currently accepted 13.7 billion years to 11.4 billion years. Other scientists using other techniques earlier this year have given a Hubble Constant of 74 and 73.3. Previous methods have given a value as low as 67. A lower value means an older universe, and a higher value of the Hubble Constant means a younger universe.

If you know the value of the Hubble Constant, the calculation of the age of the universe is very simple. We all know that travel time depends on two things. If I go 100 miles at 50 miles per hour, how long did I travel? The obvious answer is two hours. Distance traveled is equal to the speed at which you travel multiplied by how long you travel at that speed. We can measure the size of the cosmos by several techniques. Triangulation is difficult because the size is so huge that the apex angle of the triangle is too small to measure accurately. However, triangulation does give us an idea of the vastness of space.

The further light travels through the cosmos, the lower the frequency of the light. That effect is caused by dust particles in space scattering the higher frequency blue light. The effect is called interstellar reddening, and it gives us a good measure of the size of the cosmos. Several other methods involve complex energy production by various stars. All of those methods provide a reasonably consistent measure as to how big the cosmos is. Applying the Hubble Constant to the size of the cosmos provides us with a measure of the age of the universe.

The point of all of this is to get values that science can use to study astronomical processes in deep space. The problem is that our measuring devices are primitive in terms of what we need for such distant objects. What it means to those of us who marvel at the size and complexity of space is that more than ever, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
— John N. Clayton ©2019

Spring-loaded Movement in Living Things

Spring-loaded Movement in Living ThingsAn interesting study of living things in the world around us involves how things move from one place to another. There are many creatures with muscles that move their legs or wings to travel from place-to-place. Other forms of life use spring-loaded movement with power greater than muscles can provide.

The larvae of the gall midge Asphondylia flip with power by using a built-in latch that acts as a spring. Gall midges lay their eggs on silverrod or goldenrod plants (Solidago). The midges grow from an egg to a larva inside a gall that grows on the plant. The larva’s body forms into an ellipse by meshing together the back and front using a velcro-like surface on each end. As the midge larva grows, the tension on the surfaces increases until it finally breaks free, shooting the midge as far as 36 times its body length. We previously reported on the so-called “Dracula ant” (Mystrium camillae) which has the world’s fastest jaws that operate on a mechanism which gives them spring-loaded movement.

Some plants like the Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) have a similar structure in their fruit. As the fruit grows, it builds up stress until the edges of the fruit break, shooting the seed great distances. That spring-loaded launch method spreads the seeds over a wider area. Also, we previously reported on the sandbox tree (Hura crepitans) nicknamed “the dynamite tree.” Its seedpods open explosively by a spring-loaded movement that scatters the seeds.

These are all design features built into the very structure of the organisms to allow locomotion. Even the smallest creatures such as ants and midge flies and plants that are rooted in place use spring-loaded movement. Everywhere we look in the creation, we see God’s designs at work. His wonder-working hand has created a great diversity in all of life.

As Paul wrote in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of Him (His wisdom, power, and design) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made even His eternal power and deity; so that mankind is without excuse…”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Science News, August 31, 2019, page 10.

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?One of the struggles we all have is understanding why God allows disastrous events that cause massive destruction and suffering to humans. Atheists use this question as a club against faith, and it is perhaps their best weapon. The list of events that harm humans is huge – earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, landslides, fires, floods, droughts, etc. At this time of the year, hurricanes are at the front of our awareness. Does God cause natural disasters to punish people?

If you have just seen a natural event take place that destroyed your home and killed a loved one, no rational explanation is going to be of any help. Our hearts go out to those of you who are trying to make sense of what seems to be a senseless disaster that has hurt them in ways that no one else can understand. We don’t want anyone to think that we have all the answers. If somehow we can remove ourselves from our own emotions, here are three things we need to understanding:

1) God does not cause disasters. The notion that God brings catastrophes upon people He doesn’t like, or people who violate His laws or commands is inconsistent with the nature of God. James 1:13 tells us clearly that God doesn’t tempt us in any way. The passage specifically deals with moral temptation, but verse 17 goes on to say that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God brings good things. Jealousy or vindictiveness is not a part of His nature.

2) Human stupidity in the face of natural processes is a significant cause of calamity. Hurricanes are a classic example of this. The Earth has zones of climate that are made functional by natural processes which create climate zones. The Hadley Cell explains these zones, with different zones creating tropical rainforests and deserts. Those zones are balanced by natural processes such as hurricanes that carry water into what would otherwise be a desert. Thirty-degree latitudes north and south would be deserts if it were not for hurricanes that bring massive amounts of water to recharge water supplies. In the United States, northern Florida and southern Georgia would be deserts with no water were it not for hurricanes. Humans ignoring this system and building in areas known to be vulnerable to hurricanes while removing natural barriers such as mangroves causes much of the suffering and death.

3) Human mismanagement of God’s creation due to greed and ignorance is a major cause of human suffering. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God gave humans the assignment to take care of “the garden, to dress it and keep it.” We are the caretakers of what God has created, but selfishness and greed have caused significant suffering and destruction. We all know that polluting the air, rivers, lakes, and now the ocean has led to cancer and now appears to be affecting Earth’s climate. We all understand that exploitative agriculture has led to fires, erosion, dust storms, and insect swarms. Scientific journals are full of studies showing how human mismanagement of what God has given us is leading and has led to disaster.

Does God cause natural disasters? The answer is “NO!” It isn’t God’s will that humans suffer from natural disasters, but God has never promised us that He will protect us from ourselves. What God has done is to build a base by which His servants can help those who are suffering. The Church has a responsibility to show God’s love and compassion for the hurting. Atheists need to pitch in and help clean up the mess, not try to blame God. (Read Matthew 25:31-40.)
— John N. Clayton © 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.

Why Am I Here?

Why Am I Here? The editor of the October 2019 issue of Astronomy magazine begins the issue by reviewing the elements that make up our physical bodies and the current theory of how those elements are created in stars. He then asks the question, “Why am I here?” That is a question Astronomy magazine cannot answer and which the discipline of astronomy does not try to deal with.

What the science of astronomy does is give us a factual basis to know how the elements in our bodies were formulated. The editor points out that we have seven-octillion atoms in our body. (That is 10 to the 27th power or 7 billion billion billion atoms.) He reminds us that there are 60 different chemical elements in our body and he then says that that Big Bang nucleosynthesis produced those elements. So what is his answer to “Why am I here?” His answer is, “You’re here because atoms created in the Big Bang and in the bellies of stars have recombined in a way to make you billions of years after their creation – with a big thank you to your parents as well.”

What is interesting about this is that the editor doesn’t even try to answer the question he has posed. What he does is to give the current theory about HOW the materials that make up your body might have been formed. He does not answer the question, “WHY am I here?” The tragedy of modern thinking is that we have bought into substituting HOW for WHY. We see this in the media, in high school and college textbooks, and in magazines like Astronomy. The result is that humans are reduced to a product of physical change, and not a very attractive product at that. My atheist father wanted his physical remains to be returned to the earth from which it came “as quickly as possible.” His only hope for his life being significant was that his academic achievements would be remembered.

A good percentage of the Bible is dedicated to telling us why we are here. Numerous passages talk about Christians being “the light of the world.” The struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness, and between destructive forces and constructive forces is spelled out over and over again. (See Ephesians 3:10-11, 5:8-14 and 6:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-11; John 3:19-21 for examples.)

The result of finding the real answer to “Why am I here?” makes our lives full of purpose and value. It also causes us to regard every human being as having intrinsic, inherent worth. Knowing why I am here shapes my worldview and gives me purpose and meaning for existing. It’s a question worth finding the answer to.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Worshiping a Physical Deity

Worshiping a Physical Deity One of the most significant problems people have with God is that they perceive God as a physical entity. That means God is subject to time, as all physical things are. It means that there are confines of space that limit God. It also means that limitations of energy and mass are problems for God. A favorite atheist challenge is, “Can God create a rock so big he can’t move it?” Marshall Keeble used to say, “Yep, and he can create a bulldozer big enough to do the job.” The problem with both the original question and the snappy comeback by Keeble is that they are dealing with a physical being with physical limitations. The problem is worshiping a physical deity.

Creating a physical God makes the process of creation impossible to visualize or understand. A great astronomer once commented that the problem with the big bang theory is that it does not tell us what banged or who caused the bang. That statement is absolutely true, but it also states the question in terms of a physical being. “What banged” means that there was something physical to do the banging. “Who caused the bang?” implies that a physical person created or directed the process. The biblical concept of God and the view of virtually all cosmologists is that the cosmos came from dimensions far beyond our own. Whether one looks for the explanation in quantum mechanics or God, the fact is that the creation process is not a physical process. Worshiping a physical deity is not logical.

Not only do we get bogged down in the creation question, but even our worship of God is impacted by creating a physical God. If your concept of God is physical, then you will do physical things in physical ways to serve God. The building of cathedrals, shrines, monuments, idols, and icons as focal points of worship have grown out of that concept of God. Instead of building structures that serve the needs of people, this kind of created deity infuses a concept of a physical place for God to dwell. Even the phrase “God’s house” suggests a physical limitation to God. We do not need a place to worship God. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). That shows the importance of the nonphysical nature of God. The Bible says we are created in God’s image, but that does not mean a physical image. The God described in the Bible does not possess a face, hands, feet, and does not have an appetite, a sexual identification, or a race. Terms like face and hand may be used to describe how God acts when interacting with humans, but these are not true properties of God.

When someone asks “who created God?” his question is rooted in a misconception of what God is. They think we are worshiping a physical deity. My usual response to that question is to ask the questioner to draw me a four-sided triangle. The point is that the question assumed things about God that are not true. “Who created God?” implies that there was a time when God did not exist. It assumes that space and energy existed without God and before God’s existence. Those are incorrect physical assumptions. God created time, space, matter, and energy. The question is wrong, and so no answer satisfies, just as it is impossible to draw a four-sided triangle.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Worshiping a God-of-the-Gaps

Worshiping a God-of-the-GapsIn ancient times, people created gods to explain what they did not understand. They were worshiping a god-of-the-gaps. When the volcano blew up with power and awesomeness that exceeded their understanding, they created a volcano god to explain it. When powerful weather systems impacted their world, they invented wind gods and rain gods to explain what they experienced. We smile at their ignorance, but their attempts to appease these created deities sometimes resulted in human sacrifice and a massive waste of resources.

In modem times, we have made similar arguments when trying to explain the power of the Sun, or the majesty of everything from the cosmos to life itself by saying, “God did it.” There have even been those who have explained tragic natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning strikes, cancer, leukemia, and manic depression by attributing them to “acts of God.” The first problem that this produces is that it makes God an evil, vindictive being deliberately bringing pain and tragedy to his creation. That is not the nature of God, and it is totally inconsistent with His image.

James 1:13-14 tells us, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: but every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and desires.” If God caused the tornado that destroyed your home and killed your family, then your love for God and your trust in His care for you are going to be severely eroded. Atheists, and the media in general, tend to blame every natural disaster on God in one way or another. Then after creating a false concept of God, they reject the idea of worshiping a god-of-the-gaps based on the assumptions they made.

Humans or human stupidity cause most natural disasters. We are only beginning to understand how we bring disasters on ourselves. Cancer and leukemia are largely related to human-made carcinogens in the environment. Our injudicious use of the land surface and mismanagement of water resources are primary causes of floods. Even weather problems can be related to the way humans have used the land and what they have released into the atmosphere. Environmental extremists have caused many of us to resistant suggestions that we must address human mismanagement of resources. But there is an ever-increasing body of data that shows that many so-called “acts of God” are the products of human mismanagement. Even natural events like hurricanes and earthquakes which have beneficial effects are catastrophic because of human foolishness. Building tall structures where earthquakes are a regular event is a foolish enterprise, and constructing human habitats where hurricanes regularly strike, causes exaggerated damage.

Worshiping a god-of-the-gaps who caused all the bad things in life is going to be a worship of fear and dread. Trying to appease a god so that he will not zap people with tragedy is what caused human sacrifice and all kinds of pagan rituals in the past. In modern times, such a concept promotes fear and an exaggerated attempt to find a way to please the god for the wrong reasons. There can never be a loving father/child relationship that breeds confidence, peace, and love of life.

Atheists reading this discussion are likely to say that apologists attempting to argue for the existence of God based on design are also worshiping a god-of-the-gaps. If we point to a fantastic property of an animal that allows that animal to survive in a given environment, are we not making the same mistake? Will not someone in the future explain a natural way in which that attribute came about, thus debunking any claim that God designed it? That challenge is a good one, and in some cases, it might be valid. But the fact that we know how someone built a computer does not change the fact that it took intelligence to do it. I have frequently heard people define science as man’s attempt to figure out how God did something.

It is also important to realize that we can approach many design questions mathematically. If we can calculate the probability of an event accurately, then we can get an indication of whether chance is a valid mechanism to explain what we see. The question of design is part of a more general argument. Did the subject at hand have a beginning, or has it always been? If it had a beginning, was it caused or not caused? If it was caused, is chance a viable explanation for the cause, or is there evidence of intelligence? This logical series of choices is not worshiping a god-of-the-gaps, but following a series of logical steps leading to a reasonable conclusion.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

National Geographic and Alternative Medicine

National Geographic and Alternative Medicine
We frequently refer to articles in National Geographic magazine. There have been times when the National Geographic Society has jumped to conclusions about some issue because of their bias to the currently held scientific beliefs. That is especially true when evolutionary theory is involved. However, their articles always have excellent photography and are usually well documented by credible scientists. That makes the relationship between National Geographic and alternative medicine very surprising.

The National Geographic Society has published six books promoting alternative medicine that are not only bad science but also bad journalism. These books go back to 2010, but in the last three years, the books have moved past just presenting data and have gone to promoting a wide range of alternative remedies.

In 2010 they released a book titled Guide to Medicinal Herbs followed by Complete Guide to Natural Home Remedies in 2012. Starting in 2014 the editors began promoting what they called Healing Remedies, Nature’s Best Remedies (2015), Natural Home Remedies (2017), and Nature’s Best Remedies (2019). These books claimed to offer ways to cure or heal illnesses. It is disturbing is that there is virtually no documentation nor any attempt to point out problems in the promoted “remedies” such as side effects or possible collateral damage.

It is important to understand that there are natural materials that can help treat physical problems in the human body. It is also important to know that this is a huge business with an expanding market making it attractive to every fast-talking con-artist. There is virtually no supervision of alternative medicine. That means people can make all kinds of claims without documenting them. To see National Geographic enter this circus is very disappointing. Skeptical Inquirer has taken on National Geographic in their September/October 2019 special issue titled “The Health Wars.” Skeptical Inquirer describes the problem this way:

Producing books full of claims that lack evidence and don’t even meet minimum scientific standards belies the NGS’s stated ‘passion for science.’ Some of the advice can actually harm. The inconsistencies among the books are troubling and weaken any argument that they are providing ‘information people can trust.’ The National Geographic Society should not sully its reputation by promoting health practices and products not supported by credible scientific evidence.”

We encourage those interested in alternative medicine to examine what is presented in this issue of Skeptical Inquirer about National Geographic and alternative medicine. Click HERE to read the article and always use caution when taking medical advice.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

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.