Periodic Table of Elements

Periodic Table of ElementsOne of the great accomplishments of science has been the organizing of the elements into a form that allows us to use chemistry in amazing ways. In 1789 Antoine Lavoisier published a list of 33 elements grouping them into gases, metals, nonmetals, and earths. For the next 100 years, chemists searched for a better classification system. As the understanding of the design of atoms improved, scientists developed the periodic table of elements.

In 1869 Dmitri Mendeleev published the first table designed to show periodic changes in the properties of the elements. He was even able to predict the discovery of elements unknown at the time that would fill out his chart. As scientists further refined the periodic table of elements, it became even more useful. The horizontal rows are called periods, with metals on the left and nonmetals on the right. As you move from left to right in a period, the elements become less metallic. As you move from top to bottom, the columns, called groups, have similar properties. All of the elements in the last group on the right side of the chart are called noble gases, and they are chemically inactive. The next vertical column to the left of noble gases is called the halogens. They have similar chemical properties, such as the ability to support combustion.

We now know that the reason the periodic table of elements works is because of the electron configurations of the atoms. Chlorine, for example, has an electron configuration that leaves it one electron short of a stable chemical structure. It will exert tremendous force to get a single electron to make its electron configuration stable. Sodium has an extra electron that it would really like to get rid of to gain stability. Those two elements react so that sodium transfers its electron to chlorine and the compound that results is salt – NaCl. Every element in the vertical group with sodium will also react with chlorine in the same way, making lithium chloride, potassium chloride, rubidium chloride, etc.

We now have 118 confirmed elements in existence with 94 occurring naturally. Scientists have produced the remaining 24 elements in laboratories with nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson being the most recent. It is difficult to think about atoms and understand how their electrons control their uses and not be impressed by the mind that created this incredibly complex system.

This is a very brief over simplification explanation of the periodic table of elements. It just begins to suggest how the electrons are organized into shells and subshells. The system allows different methods of bonding elements together, creating a diverse population of new compounds that make our lives not only comfortable but possible. For a better understanding, enroll in a basic chemistry class at your local community college or university. “The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23 NIV).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Greenland Stromatolites and Faux Fossils

 Greenland Stromatolites are Faux Fossils but this one is real.An old joke which showed up periodically during my college graduate work said, “Be sure your data conforms to your conclusions.” Because grants and scholarships depended on having success in your scientific research, it was tempting to cherry-pick data to support whatever you were claiming about your topic. That problem is still with us, and it has shown its head in reports of Greenland stromatolites.

Stromatolites are fossil deposits made by algae. (The picture shows a stromatolite fossil.) We see them not only in some shallow marine environments today, but we also find them in some of the oldest rocks on Earth. The Gunflint Chert along Lake Superior in Ontario contains some of the earliest stromatolites, but the rocks in Greenland are even older. Because many theories of the development of life on Earth depend upon finding marine life forms in Earth’s oldest rocks, there have been several premature news reports of Greenland stromatolites.

Abigail Allwood is recognized as an expert on stromatolites and has studied the oldest known stromatolites in Australia. She went to Greenland to examine the Greenland stromatolites. She concludes that they are not fossils, but only rocks that have experienced a great deal of tectonic activity. Ms. Allwood collected rocks just a few feet from the claimed stromatolites and found significant evidence of diastrophism, a type of plate tectonics which deforms Earth’s crust. She found no evidence of real fossils.

Naturally, the authors of the original paper on the Greenland stromatolites disagree with Allwood, but that is the way science works. Scientific testing answers the questions of authenticity and eventually reveals the truth. Unfortunately, false religious theories are frequently untestable and stay in existence for a very long time.

In science and faith, we should follow the evidence wherever it leads. It appears that in the case of the Greenland stromatolites, we have faux fossils and not the real thing.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Discover Magazine, June 2019, page 10.

Properties of Light

Properties of LightWhen you open your eyes in the morning, take a minute to thank God that you can see. We should reflect upon how good it is to have light instead of the darkness of night. The properties of light make it unique and special.

I am keenly aware of my gift of sight because of a long association with Glynn Langston, who is blind and manages our outreach to the visually impaired. In my lectures, I frequently refer to Edwin Abbott’s book Flatland to help people understand dimensions and how the spiritual is different from the physical. Glynn was born blind, so he is unable to visualize the concept of a sphere crossing a plane and leaving the outline of a circle. He has been kind about it, but my wife once said to me, “How do you expect a blind man to visualize anything!” Even those of us who can see have trouble understanding the properties of light beyond what meets the eye. Radio waves, gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet rays, and infra-red rays are all light!

The properties of light make it difficult to comprehend. The most general definition of light is that it is the energy released when a charge changes momentum. The bundle of energy released is called a photon, and the amount of change in momentum determines the energy of the released light. Even in the visible spectrum for humans, the different colors we see are determined by how much energy the light has. Violet has much more energy than red. Ultraviolet has more energy than violet. X-rays and gamma rays have even more energy, but they are still light. Infrared, and radio waves have lower energies than red. That is why infrared warms you and ultraviolet gives you a sunburn. It is also why radio waves can pass through the walls of your home without causing damage and gamma rays can also pass through things, but they will do significant damage.

In the creation process, there had to be special accommodations for the properties of light coming to Earth from the Sun and from outer space. The ozone layer had to be in place to absorb ultraviolet and avoid damage to life. The eyes of every living thing that uses some form of sight had to be designed to function in the part of the spectrum that fit its diet. Rattlesnakes, for example, have specialized sight organs to see in the infrared. Because they eat rodents whose bodies give off radiation in the infrared, a rattlesnake can see its prey on the darkest night. Nearly every insect sees some part of the spectrum other than the colors visible to humans. That is how a mosquito finds you and how insects navigate at night.

Not every star in the sky gives off the properties of light that are needed for life to exist. Some stars radiate in the X-ray part of the spectrum, and others radiate energies too low to be useful to life. Even our trees and shrubs require light in the green part of the visible spectrum to know when to shed their leaves in preparation for winter. In Job 38-41, God spoke to Job to show His wisdom and design and convince Job of his ignorance. Many of the designs God pointed to are connected to light. “Where is the way where light dwells, and where is the location of darkness?” (38:19) “By what process is light parted which scatters the east wind upon the earth?” (38:24) “How does the eagle seek the prey and see that which is afar off?” (39:29)

The Bible speaks of light that is not produced by the acceleration of an electric charge. The most important of these is described in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world … let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Let those of us who are Christians not only be amazed by God’s design of the properties of light and the world in which we live, but let us also strive to be the light Jesus calls us to be.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Such a Large Universe? – Viewing Cosmological History

? - Viewing Cosmological HistoryWe have received some questions from readers who are perplexed by the fact that we frequently refer to a discovery or an event in outer space, millions of light-years from Earth. We have also mentioned NASA’s daily blog (apod.nasa.gov) showing gorgeous views of deep space objects many light-years away. Why such a large universe, and what does that mean to us?

It all comes down to viewing cosmological history. When we look through a telescope, we are looking at the past. If the next closest star exploded, it would be over four years before we would see it. You can see the light from the nearest major galaxy called the Andromeda, with your naked eye. It is two-million light years away, which means the light from that galaxy left there two million years ago. When we look at the sky, we are viewing cosmological history. Even the light from the Sun left there eight minutes ago. The question boils down to, Why such a large universe? Why did God create so much? It may seem presumptuous even to discuss that question. We would not attempt to speak for God who obviously can do whatever He wants to do. Nevertheless, there are some observations we can make.

First, it would be foolish to question whether the cosmos really is that large. There are a dozen different methods of measuring the distance to an object in space, and they all agree even though they are based on very different assumptions. The Doppler shift is very different from interstellar reddening which is different from cepheid variable measurements, but they all give the same answer for distances in space.

Some creationists suggest that God created the light that appears to be from a distant galaxy or star, already reaching Earth some 6000 years ago. In other words, what we see today when we look at the stars is essentially a video of something that never happened. We think we are viewing cosmological history, but we are being fooled. First of all, this explanation was invented to defend a denominational teaching that is not biblical. The Bible does not give the age of the cosmos or the Earth. No human calculation based on interpreting the Hebrew words in the Bible can stand up under examination.

However, the main problem with saying that God is trying to fool us is that such an explanation degrades God. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22 the Bible repeats over and over that God is Truth. God does not lie, He does not mislead, and He does not misrepresent. James 1:13 says it well: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does He tempt any man.” Faking an event in space that never happened so that humans could be fooled by it, would certainly be a deliberate effort to tempt honest, seeking humans into believing something that is wrong.

So why such a large universe? Why are we able to view the cosmological history of stars forming and dying? Why do we see billions of other galaxies beyond our Milky Way Galaxy? There may be multiple reasons known only to God. The ancient psalmist stated it well: “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). The writer of Proverbs in chapter 8 has wisdom saying: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the Earth ever was…” (verse22-23). These statements and many more like them are not just expressions of ancient people. Here we are more than 2,000 years after Christ, and we are still trying to understand what electric charge is and what causes gravity. Moses couldn’t even see most of what modern science is investigating.

I would suggest that God structured the massive size of the cosmos and gave us the ability to watch matter being altered to produce stars and new planets so we could see His power and wisdom. Romans 1:20 rings true as we admire the work of scientists who help us understand that “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made….” Asking why such a large universe leads us to say, “I will praise you, Lord, for I (and the cosmos) am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works” (Psalms 139:14).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Fine-tuning of the Cosmos

Fine-tuning of the Cosmos in Introduction to Intelligent Design
Scientific articles mention the fine-tuning of the cosmos with increasing frequency. The basic concept is that the conditions of the universe are precisely set for human life.

The variables that affect the presence and sustainability of life are so precise that even slight variations would result in an inhospitable world. In his new book, Introduction to Intelligent Design, Dr. Timothy Gordon explains the concept very well by giving three examples of the fine-tuning of the cosmos.

“1. If the force of gravity were slightly larger, stars would be too hot and burn too rapidly making conditions for life inhospitable. If too small, no heavy elements would be produced.
2. The initial expansion of the Big Bang had to be fine-tuned to a precision of 1 in 10^55 to form planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies.
3. There are 19 universal constants that must be perfectly tuned to make the universe habitable.
Assigning a probability to the fine-tuning of these constants would be larger than the number of elementary particles in the universe.” (page 43).

You will see many secular writers talking about the fine-tuning of the cosmos without explaining how this fine-tuning would come about without intelligence to do the tuning. This is another powerful argument for the existence of God as the creator.

We recommend Dr. Gordon’s book Introduction to Intelligent Design (ISBN: 9781095462645). It is formatted for Sunday-school and small group study and is available in paperback and Kindle editions.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Cat Tongues and Papillae

Cat Tongues and PapillaeAlexis Noel and David Hu have been researching cat tongues as reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (December 2018). Using 3-D scanning with micro-computed tomography, they have discovered some interesting things.

The backward facing barbs (papillae) on cat tongues are not cones as had been previously thought. They are actually hollow structures similar to scoops for dipping ice cream. They have a U-shaped cavity that holds fluids extremely well. This shape enables cats to use the force of surface tension to pull up water as they lap it. It also allows them to wick saliva deep into their fur. When cats lick themselves, saliva is distributed all the way down to the roots of the hairs. Cats don’t have sweat glands except on their paws, so the distribution of saliva removes heat from their skin.

The papillae also allow cats to lick up oils and other contaminants on their fur. This not only keeps the cat clean, but it avoids odors. Applying this discovery may open the door to a whole new line of materials for use in home and industry. Dr. Noel gives one word of warning. Don’t let your cat lick a microfiber blanket, because the cat’s tongue will stick to the blanket!

Cat tongues are not like sandpaper but rather like Velcro. Velcro was discovered by scientists watching other examples in the natural world. Humans have copied the design of materials found in living organisms to create many of the substances we take for granted. We see God’s creative genius everywhere we look. “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:19-20).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What Happened to the Teays River?

What Happened to the Teays River?Yesterday, we talked about the Teays River and how, like other rivers, it brought water into dry areas. (To read yesterday’s post, click HERE.) The map above shows the approximate path of the river and its tributaries. But we didn’t tell you what happened to the Teays River.

As glaciers came southward across North America, they buried the river and its tributaries with massive amounts of sand and gravel. In the process, the river’s flooding and flowing impounded massive quantities of water. The Teays still exists today in water stored underground. I can drill a well 12 feet (3.7 m) in my back yard and hit potable water. The agricultural blessing of the Teays has made the Ohio River Valley fertile and has allowed cities to exist in areas that are not blessed with great surface water. What happened to the Teays River is still affecting our lives today.

In addition to the benefits we mentioned yesterday, the flooding of rivers also spreads diverse plants and the wildlife that feeds on them. The biggest watermelon I have ever eaten I found on an island on the White River near Spencer, Indiana. A friend of mine who enjoyed it with me recognized the species of melon, and we eventually found the patch that it came from some 75 miles upstream. In our trips through the Grand Canyon, we have frequently found plant life not native to Colorado thriving on sand bars in the canyon. When our river here in Michigan flooded in February of 2018, a layer of black soil was laid down in my yard and the woods on the edge of my property. Now there are dozens of plants growing in that soil which are not native to Michigan. Animal life of all kinds eat many of those plants.

Rivers are the cleaners of both the land and the water. One interesting part of living on a river is watching what floats by – a log, a tree, human junk, and all kinds of minerals. When the river dumps its load in a delta or an alluvial fan, the minerals become available for human use. In the Colorado Plateau, an ancient river carried and deposited logs containing uranium. The water moved those logs and impregnated them with uraninite, a mineral used to obtain precious uranium for nuclear materials. In my college studies in geology and mineralogy, we learned how to “read” a river and use that information to locate critical materials for technology.

It is essential that we take care of our rivers. We need to understand rivers and recognize God’s design in creating a planet molded and shaped by flowing water. What happened to the Teays River was caused by ancient glaciers that carved the land and created the Great Lakes. What happens to our rivers today depends on us and our stewardship of what God has given us.

From Genesis to Revelation, we see rivers as critical elements in the story of human existence now and in the future. The most important river of all is described in Revelation 22:1-2: “And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of the street of the City and on each side of the river was a Tree of Life bearing 12 crops of fruit and the leaves of the tree served as medicine for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but God’s throne and the Lamb shall be in it.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Rivers Are Essential

Rivers Are EssentialThose of us who live near rivers are both blessed and cursed. My house here in Michigan is located just 30 feet (9.1 m) from the St. Joseph River. In the almost 25 years that we have lived here, the river has flooded a dozen or so times. Twice we had water in our basement requiring a major effort to avoid damage to our library, our TV recording studio, and our packing room. Despite the challenge, rivers are essential to life.

A large percentage of all flooding results from human mismanagement. Black-topping many square miles of sand, gravel, and dirt has caused rapid water runoff where it previously soaked into the ground. Building homes and businesses on flood plains has contributed to the damage and in some cases loss of life. (Our house is not on a flood plain.)

On the other hand, there is beauty and peacefulness that being near a river provides. For many of us, that makes it worth the risk. Humans have used rivers extensively for thousands of years. Two-hundred years ago, rivers were the primary method of transporting goods and people. But there are some things that rivers do that are less obvious and which are an essential part of the design of the Earth.

Rivers above and below the ground carry water for us to use. They take water to places where it would otherwise not be available in significant volume for agriculture and animal life. Good examples of this are the Colorado River, the Rio Grande, the Nile, and the Euphrates. Rivers are essential for us to live on this planet, and flooding is a part of that.

One of the great rivers of the world was the Teays River. (Pronounced Taze) The Teays River got its name from the village of Teays, West Virginia. (Although the village of Teays did not exist at the time the river was there.) When it was at its greatest volume, The Teays River was a mile wide and flowed from what is now Blowing Rock, North Carolina, northward through Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois where it joined the Mississippi River. At that time, the Mississippi was as much as 25 miles wide in places.

The Nile River in ancient Egypt flooded every year and laid down topsoil making Egypt the breadbasket of the ancient world. Remember where Jacob sent his sons to get food when there was famine? (See Genesis 41:56-42:5.) The Teays River was a typical river. It flooded from time to time laying down rich topsoil. The flooding of the Teays River deposited the black farmland of Illinois.

Rivers are essential to life, and that includes the Teays River. Did you say you never heard of the Teays River? What happened to it? More on that tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Petoskey Stone Dilemma

Petoskey Stone TilesEvery part of the United States has rocks, plants, and animals that are unique to that area. Certain plants grow in abundance in various locations. In Arizona the saguaro cactus is abundant. California is home for giant redwood trees. Indiana has tulip trees. Many states have adopted an official flower, tree, bird, fossil, or rock. In Michigan, since 1965 our state rock has been the Petoskey stone.

The name comes from the city of Petoskey which got its name from an Ottawa Indian legend. Thanks to the glaciers that swept down from the north scooping up rocks and depositing them, Petoskey stones are found all over the state. When I took my earth science students to the local gravel pit, we would discover Petoskey stones mixed in with the gravel. A local jeweler would show the kids how beautiful jewelry could be made from those stones.

The Petoskey stone is a petrified tropical coral with the scientific name Hexagonaria, meaning six-sided chamber. The picture shows some tiles made from Petoskey stones, and you can see that each polyp has six sides. Mixed in with them are clams, crinoids, trilobites, fish, and cephalopods. Studies of the Petoskey stone show the coral lived on plankton which are microscopic life forms that live in warm oceans. Petoskey, Michigan is NOT a tropical paradise and the Devonian period when these life forms lived lasted a long time, so the Devonian reefs are very thick. The whole state of Michigan is a bowl with these fossils found all around the state. In the middle of the bowl are coal, oil, peat, sulfur and natural gas deposits. The dilemma is how these rock formations got to be the way they are and where they are.

Some religious folks might suggest that this is a deposit produced by the flood of Noah. The problem with that explanation is that this is not a flood deposit and is not a product of violence. Genesis 7:11 tells us that “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened.” I would take my students on a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to see a reef display. The rocks being formed and making up the reef are identical to the ones we see in the Devonian deposit. The fossils don’t show a violent end, but instead, they show a slow, gentle formation process. Calcite, silica and other minerals have replaced the original material in the cells of the Petoskey stone animals, giving a dazzling array of colors.

When God created “the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), the Bible simply states that He did it – not how He did it. At the end of verse 1, there were Petoskey stones in Devonian reefs, and oil, gas, coal, and the other resources were being formed. A change was coming that would make the conditions of the Earth more hospitable for human life, and God knew what we would need for an advanced civilization. Having a warm ocean covering the entire state of Michigan was not an environment humans could thrive in, but it was a tool God used to prepare the resources for human life.

There is no dilemma if we take the Bible literally and accept only what it says. Locking the creation account into a denominational theological tradition does violence to the Genesis account and causes young people to question the truth of the Bible. On the other hand, as they admire the beauty of the Petoskey stone jewelry they have made, people can realize that God has done some special and beautiful things to prepare a home for us in this life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

For more on taking Genesis literally, read “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word” available free on doesgodexist.org.

Scientific Method Is a Friend of Faith

Scientific Method Is a Friend of FaithOur mission statement is: “Science and faith are friends and not enemies.” One of the challenges that we hear from atheists and skeptics is that statement is bogus because the scientific method can not be applied to it.

As a public school science teacher I always tried to make sure that students knew what scientific method is and could see how to apply it to the problems we face in the modern age. Sometimes that is incredibly difficult to do. Our textbooks usually gave six steps to use the scientific method:

1. Identify and define the problem.
2. Accumulate all possible data.
3. Formulate a tentative hypothesis that would solve the problem in step 1.
4. Conduct experiments to test the hypothesis – the more experiments, the better.
5. Interpret the results of the experiments without prejudice.
6. Repeat the steps until you find an acceptable solution.

In high school science classes, those six steps are usually easy to do, but sometimes later data alters what we thought was a solid fact proven by scientific method. Suppose we ask, “What causes gravity?” We could say “I think gravity is a property of mass.” All objects with mass have a gravitational attraction for all other d objects that have mass. Other people might say that it’s a property of electric charge, or maybe spin. You write down all the possibilities and conduct experiments to see which hypothesis can be experimentally verified.

To see if mass produces gravity, I fill two large bags with cement, and I hang them close to each other. If mass causes gravity, they should attract each other. That is an experiment I can do. I can also charge two balls electrically and see if they attract each other including the electric forces in the calculation. I can spin the two balls and see if they change their attraction for each other as they spin. The mass experiment works, and all the others don’t. I publicize my results and wait for additional experiments to support or deny what my experiments have shown.

The example I have just described is in most physics textbooks and has been done and repeated hundreds of times. But then a scientist did an experiment that didn’t support this conclusion. He found that when a beam of light passed by a huge object (the Sun), the light curved. This suggested that gravity was actually a product of space, not mass. The difference was that the size of the experiment produced different results when you used a star instead of a bag of cement.

As we have looked at the very large (quasars) and the very small (quarks), we have found that the scientific method is hard to do and sometimes impossible. String theory, brane theory, multiverse theory, and a variety of other proposals simply cannot be tested by an experiment. For the time being at least, we cannot test them by scientific method. They are not alternatives we can hold up as fact. They cannot even be considered as serious scientific explanations since they cannot be demonstrated or falsified by scientific method.

Trying to use the scientific method in areas like psychology, sociology, and matters of faith are also frequently difficult. What we generally do is to rely on statistics to evaluate a potential cure for a psychological difficulty. Does a treatment method work? Is a particular activity statistically helpful in relieving a mental or spiritual problem? As more and more data become available, we examine that data. We must reject some psychological theories (like Freud’s view of sex) and use the data to make a new proposal we can analyze.

Christ challenged his followers to examine the data. When the disciples of John came to Christ to ask if He was the promised Messiah, He responded: “Go and tell John what things you have seen and heard: how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised …” (Luke 7:22). Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to take His word for it. He asked them to look at the evidence. The evidence supports the claims of Christianity. If we honestly examine the evidence, our investigation will lead to a better understanding of how our faith works.

The scientific method is not an enemy of Christianity. The whole basis of our ministry is to ask people not to blindly accept what anyone says. The title of our ministry is “Does God Exist?” and that is the question at hand. We offer data for our readers to evaluate. The tentative hypothesis is that God does exist and that intelligence and design will be seen everywhere we look in the creation. As you continue to look at new data, we hope that you will find the solution for the struggles in life. The scientific method is a friend of faith.
— John N. Clayton © 2019