When the First Humans Lived and How they Looked

When the First Humans Lived and How they Looked
Neanderthal reconstruction at Natural History Museum, London

Those who maintain that humans have been on Earth for less than 10,000 years face many evidence problems. This website has consistently pointed out that the Bible does not tell us when the first humans lived and how they looked.

The word “Adam” in Hebrew simply means “of the ground,” and Genesis tells us that God made Adam of “the dust (aphar) of the ground” (see Genesis 2:7 and 3:19). Genesis 1:29 and 2:9-16 tell us that the first humans began as vegetarians. The Bible does not tell us how long humans existed as “gatherers,” but Genesis 3:17-19 portrays humans becoming farmers securing food “by the sweat of your face.”

Some in the religious community view all of this as happening within the past 6,000 years. They may also view Adam as a white European with blue eyes and brown hair. Genesis 5:5 tells us that Adam lived for 930 years. If James 4:14 is correct, and human life “is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away,” there is an obvious biblical disconnect. The truth is that the Bible does not tell us when the first humans lived and how they looked.

Discover magazine’s January/February 2022 issue has an article about what they call “2021’s hottest fossil.” Discovered in northeast China, this specimen was named “Homo longi.” Some scientists think it may be a Denisovan or a Neanderthal. Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo sapiens, and possibly Homo longi all seem to have interbred and contributed DNA to you and me. They may have looked different from us, and their living styles were undoubtedly different. However, while they were primitive by modern standards, the discoveries show ornamental beads, primitive tools, and funerary ritual materials, indicating an awareness of the spiritual and a concept of life after death.

More to the point, the scientific evidence indicates that the first humans lived far more than 6,000 years ago and looked different from the average caucasian today. Many believers in God try to discredit the dating methods or deny the interpretation or even the existence of the fossils. That is becoming increasingly difficult as science gathers more evidence and improves dating and reconstruction techniques.

Our stereotypical views of when the first humans lived and how they looked are tainted by racism and tradition and don’t change the evidence. Adam lived long ago, was created in God’s image, began as a gatherer, and eventually became a farmer. We create conflict when we depict Adam living 6,000 years ago.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Discover magazine January/February 2022

Electron Orbitals of Oxygen and Nitrogen

Ice Covered Lake and Electron Orbitals of Oxygen and Nitrogen
Ice floats because it is lighter than water, and that is because of electron orbits.

Last week (January 13-15), we talked about the electron structures of oxygen and nitrogen and the importance of those elements for life. One additional design feature is the electron orbitals of oxygen and nitrogen, which is the shape of the electron paths around the nucleus.

Electrons do not revolve around the nucleus in simple circles but rather in geometric paths. For example, the oxygen atom has two electrons that orbit the nucleus in a circular pattern. A little further out and at a higher energy level, two more electrons move in a circular path. Oxygen has eight electrons, and the four electrons in the last energy shell, the valence shell, have a different orbital.

In the third energy level, the orbitals of the four electrons have figure-eight paths at right angles to each other. This figure-eight pattern has two electrons isolated from the other two and each at right angles to the other. That arrangement enables the oxygen atom to form an essential polar molecule.

When an oxygen atom combines with two hydrogen atoms by covalent bonding, they form a molecule of water, H2O. The water molecule has the two hydrogen atoms positioned at one end, making it positive, while the other end of the water molecule is negative. This polar structure gives water its unique properties. For example, water expands as it freezes, causing ice to be lighter than the liquid form. Because of that, ice floats on the surface of a lake instead of sinking to the bottom and freezing the entire lake, killing all marine life. The polar nature of water also allows it to dissolve minerals.

With its seven electrons, nitrogen has five valence electrons moving at right angles to each other, allowing it to form critical organic compounds. For example, nitrogen bonds covalently with three hydrogen atoms to form ammonia which has properties very different from water. Nitrogen’s ability to form three bonds makes possible the structure of the DNA in our cells.

This very simplified description of the atomic design of chemistry gives a small glimpse of the wisdom of design God put into the electron orbitals of oxygen and nitrogen. The Master Chemist designed the structures of atoms to allow life to exist in an incredible number of forms and thrive in a wide range of environments.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Oxygen and Nitrogen Levels in the Atmosphere

Oxygen and Nitrogen Levels in the Atmosphere

Oxygen and nitrogen are two of a handful of elemental superstars of life. Without them, life would not be possible. In some ways, these two elements are very similar, but they are also very different.

Oxygen and nitrogen atoms differ in only one proton and one electron. In chemical reactions, the important subatomic particle is the electron, and oxygen has eight while nitrogen has seven. In the last two days, we talked about the difference that one electron makes. Oxygen and nitrogen make up about 99% of our atmosphere, with nitrogen composing nearly three-quarters of our air. So why is nitrogen’s percentage so high compared to oxygen?

As we said previously, the triple bond of a nitrogen molecule requires more than twice as much energy to break as the double bond of an oxygen molecule. The oxygen bond can be broken to allow combustion oxidation and energize our bodies. On the other hand, the nitrogen bond is not easy to break, but plants require nitrogen for photosynthesis and growth. What is the solution?

Lightning breaks the nitrogen bond allowing rain to wash nitrogen to the ground. Plants such as beans, peas, and alfalfa, which we call legumes, have microorganisms on their roots that extract nitrogen from the air. That enriches the soil with nitrogen while providing for the legumes. More than a century ago, scientists found a way to extract nitrogen from the air to produce ammonia. That process enabled fertilizer production, which today allows farmers to produce enough food for the world’s population.

It is not easy to break the nitrogen bond so it can combine with other elements, but with 78% of the atmosphere being nitrogen, there is no shortage. So why is our atmosphere mostly nitrogen? Since it is only about 21% oxygen, wouldn’t it be better to have more oxygen so we could breathe easier? The answer is that nitrogen stability is essential for our safety. Wildfires have been a significant problem in recent years. If the atmosphere consisted of a very high percentage of oxygen, fires would be more common and dangerous. If the atmosphere consisted of 100% oxygen, all it would take is one lightning strike to set the whole planet on fire.

Remarkably, we have the correct percentage of elements in our atmosphere. We have the right amount of oxygen to allow respiration to power our bodies and combustion to power our vehicles and industry and heat our homes. At the same time, we have the right amount of nitrogen to prevent uncontrolled combustion leading to the destruction of life. We have just a small amount of carbon dioxide, which plants need for photosynthesis. Plants use CO2 and generate oxygen to keep the gases in balance. The balance is amazingly precise as long as humans don’t generate enough carbon dioxide to mess it up.

During the dinosaur age, the oxygen level was higher, on the order of around one-third of the atmosphere. That allowed the enormous animals to prepare the Earth for humans. Now we have the precise balance to sustain human life and advanced society. The question is, did the features of oxygen and nitrogen and the balance between them happen by accident, or was it part of an intelligent plan? We think the best explanation is that an intelligent Planner of life created it.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

One-Electron Difference Between Oxygen and Nitrogen

One-Electron Difference Between Oxygen and Nitrogen

How does a one-electron difference between oxygen and nitrogen allow life to exist on our planet? Why does the correct mix between those two elements in our atmosphere make it possible for us to be here?

Yesterday, we talked about covalent bonding in oxygen and nitrogen. We said that an oxygen atom needs to share two electrons with another oxygen atom to make a stable oxygen molecule. However, nitrogen needs to share three electrons with another nitrogen atom to complete the valence shell and create stability. So how can a single electron difference between oxygen and nitrogen be a big deal?

For oxygen or nitrogen to combine with other elements to form new compounds essential for life, the covalent bond between them must be broken. It takes about double the energy to break the triple bond between two nitrogen atoms as to break the double bond between two oxygen atoms. That means oxygen can be released to form other compounds much more easily.

What does it take to break the oxygen bond and combine it with another element?
Apply some heat to combustible material, and you will find out. You will get fire, which is a chemical reaction involving rapid oxidation of the burning material. Much slower oxidation occurs when oxygen in your blood combines with nutrients in your body, giving you energy and generating body heat. Another slow form of oxidation is when iron combines with oxygen to form iron oxide, or rust.

If it were not possible to release oxygen from its molecular bond with relative ease, we would not have combustion to heat our homes, run our vehicles, or energize our bodies. Life would not be possible. However, nitrogen bonds are much harder to break, and nitrogen is also essential for life. Tomorrow we will look at how the one-electron difference between oxygen and nitrogen enables life on planet Earth.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

The Atmosphere Is Fine-Tuned for Life

The Atmosphere Is Fine-Tuned for Life

Nitrogen and oxygen together make up about 99% of the air we breathe. The vast majority of our atmosphere is nitrogen. Oxygen is ten times as abundant as nitrogen in the universe, but it makes up only about 21 percent of our atmosphere. So, the less common element is the most abundant in our atmosphere. What does that mean to us? The bottom line is that the atmosphere is fine-tuned for life. Let’s examine that more carefully.

An atom of oxygen and an atom of nitrogen differ by only one proton and one electron. That may not seem like much, but it makes a world of difference. Both of those elements form diatomic molecules, meaning that two atoms bond together to make one molecule of oxygen or nitrogen.

Covalent bonding is the chemical bonding of atoms by equal sharing of electrons. That bond gives atoms stability in their outer, or valence, electron shells. Atomic stability requires eight valence electrons. The only elements with that number are the so-called “noble gases”–helium, neon, argon, krypton, and radon. For that reason, they are inert, refusing to combine with other elements. All other elements need electrons to complete the octet in their valence shells.

An oxygen atom has six electrons in its valence shell, so it needs to share two electrons to become stable. When an oxygen atom shares two electrons with another oxygen atom, they both become stable. Nitrogen, on the other hand, has only five valence electrons. Therefore, by forming a covalent bond with another nitrogen atom, sharing three electrons, both atoms complete their outer shell. In this way, our atmosphere is made up of stable diatomic oxygen and nitrogen molecules.

However, not all molecules are equally stable. That is where we see the atmosphere is fine-tuned for life. For example, oxygen molecules have a double bond sharing two electrons, but nitrogen atoms have a triple bond sharing three electrons for more stability. That difference may seem insignificant, but it is essential to make life possible. Come back tomorrow when we will explain what a difference it makes.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

California Condor Parthenogenesis

California Condor Parthenogenesis
California Condor in the Grand Canyon

In the 1980s, there was great concern about the shrinking population of California condors. In 1987, they became extinct in the wild, and only 22 were left in captivity. Due to a captive breeding program, at last count, there were 518 living California Condors in 2019. Most of them were in the wild in California, Arizona, and Utah. Recently, scientists discovered two cases of California condor parthenogenesis, or as news reports called it, “virgin birth.”

Researchers from the San Diego Wildlife Alliance discovered two male condors who had not been produced by sexual reproduction, even though their mothers had previously produced offspring in the usual way. The scientists could determine that because they have a record of the genetic data for the more than 900 condors hatched since the captive breeding program began in the 1980s. Both birds contained identical copies of their mother’s DNA, which cannot happen when a female’s egg has been fertilized by sperm.

Parthenogenesis occurs in some insects and other invertebrates and a few fish, amphibian, and reptile species. It even happens in some captive birds, but it is unknown in wild birds. I have often kidded my biologist friends about their discipline, saying that the only universal rule in biology is that anything you say always has an exception. California condor parthenogenesis is one of those exceptions.

Reasons for preserving wildlife are to protect the environment and its impact on humans and learn from studying the design of living things. But, of course, another reason is to enjoy the beauty of the natural world. We can see God’s creative wisdom in the world all around us, and the more we know about the creation, the better we understand the Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Living Bird magazine (Winter of 2022, page 13) and Journal of Heredity

Life Under the Antarctic Ice Shelf

Life Under the Antarctic Ice Shelf
Map of Antarctica showing the ice shelves

One of the amazing things about our planet is its ability to support life. We find a diversity of living things on land, in the air, and under the oceans. Scientists have even found a variety of life under the Antarctic Ice Shelf.

Gerhard Kuhn and Raphael Gromig of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, a polar and marine research organization, drilled through the Antarctic ice shelf. After boring through 656 feet (200 m) of ice, they scooped up material from the seafloor another 328 feet (100 m) down. What they brought up surprised them. They turned the material over to David Barnes, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey. He was so amazed that he said, “Is this a practical joke?”

Barnes was surprised that as he studied the sediment, he identified 77 different species of animal life in the material they extracted from a single drill hole. The species identified included bryozoans, which are stationary filter feeders, and tube-feeding worms. Barnes said, “This discovery of so much life living in these extreme conditions is a complete surprise…”

Filter-feeders feed on algae which require sunlight to grow. However, there is no sunlight to provide photosynthetic life under the Antarctic ice shelf. The explanation is that these creatures are feasting on microorganisms that the ocean currents sweep under the ice shelf. You could say the food is delivered to their doorstep.

Despite the cold and dark conditions, life survives in a location where fires, storms, or predators do not threaten it. The only thing that may threaten these creatures is the melting and breakup of the ice shelves. So, here in one of Earth’s least-known habitats, life survives. Like the scientists who discovered and studied these life forms, we are amazed. But, more than that, we thank God for wisely creating life with the ability to adapt and survive even in hostile environments.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

References: Current Biology and LiveScience.com

Animal Tool Use and What It Means

Animal Tool Use and What It Means
Elephant using a tree trunk as a pillow for sleeping

An interesting fact about animals is their ability to use tools. Years ago, people thought that only humans used tools, but recent studies have shown animal tool use. However, the word “tool” means different things to different people. 

Webster defines a tool as “an instrument used to accomplish a given task.” By that definition, we can find examples of animal tool use. We have reported on some of them before. For example, HERE and HERE.

Science News reported that polar bears sometimes kill walrus by bashing them with chunks of stone or ice. People have observed birds cracking nuts by dropping them from high altitudes onto rocks. Elephants use tree trunks for a variety of purposes, and crows use sticks to pry off the lids of bottles. Chimpanzees use conchoidally fractured chert or flint to cut open a fruit. Those of us who have bird feeders have seen squirrels use a tree branch to access a feeder. Recently, researchers in Israel taught fish how to drive a “car.”

There is a difference between a tool and a machine. According to the dictionary, a machine is “an assembly of interconnected components arranged to transmit or modify force in order to perform useful work.” A broader question here is whether intelligence is needed to fashion a machine? If that is the case, intelligent animals should be making machines, and mentally challenged humans would not be able to do so. 

This discussion of animal tool use gets into difficulties because the anatomical parts of all animals are simple machines. Limbs are levers, and teeth are wedges. The design of all animals includes the equipment to secure food and shelter. Building into animals the ability to use objects in their environment to survive is another example of God’s design in the natural world. 

Studies indicate incredible wisdom and planning in the creation of animal life. However, what sets humans apart from all other animals is not tools, machines, or intelligence. Instead, our spiritual nature is what makes humans different.

The ability of humans to create art, express ourselves in music, conceive of self, worship, and be taught to think set humans apart. To have an agape type of love that is not sexual and does not promote survival makes us human. The mentally challenged among us possess these abilities because all of us are created in the image of God. Animal tool use is far removed from possessing God’s image.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Science News, July 29, 2021.

Evolution Is Not Creation

Evolution Is Not Creation

An error shared by some creationists and some evolutionists is confusing evolution with creation. One problem is that the terms “creation” and “evolution” do not mean the same thing to different people. Regardless of how we use the terms, evolution is not creation. Evolution and creation are two completely different subjects that are only very remotely related.

We see the concept of creation in the very first verse of Genesis 1. “Reshith Elohim bara shamayim erets” is the Hebrew of this verse. Each of these words has great significance:

Reshith tells us that there was a beginning to time, space, and matter-energy. Our studies in quantum physics continue to support that statement.

Elohim is a plural word for God and conveys the power and nature of the agent that produced the beginning.

Barais a word used only in reference to God and implies a process beyond human capacity to reproduce.

Shamayim refers to “heaved up things,” meaning the expanding universe.

Erets refers to our functional planet. It is used 648 times in the Old Testament.

A person might deny God as the causal agent of time, space, and matter-energy. Nevertheless, the creation’s characteristics strongly suggest intelligence and wisdom. However, this entire subject has very little to do with evolution. “Evolution” means “unfolding change.” The evolutionist starts with the assumption that not only time, space, and matter-energy existed, but that they existed in a form that allowed change to take place.

Many evolutionary scientists bring into their thinking the question of God’s role in shaping what He had already created. The other option is naturalistic evolution which attributes all we see in the natural world to chance. But, regardless of how you define the terms, realize that evolution is not creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

For some interesting points on this topic from the perspective of a scientist who is a Christian, we suggest “How might God have Guided Evolution? Scientific and Theological Viewpoints” by Dr. Peter Bussey. It was published in the June 2021 issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation. Dr. Bussey is Emeritus Reader in Physics with the University of Glasgow in Scotland and works with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and its Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator.

A Larger Dinosaur Has Been Found

A Larger Dinosaur

We are amazed by the enormous size of animals in the distant past. From a giant millipede to the Titanoboa and the Titanosaur, the size of ancient animals excites fossil hunters. Since 2017, Patagotitan has held the record for the largest dinosaur at 120 feet (36.5 m) long and weighing over 57 tons. However, paleontologists in Argentina recently found pieces of a larger dinosaur.

The size of this animal has several implications. First, we need to be reminded that, unlike mammals, reptiles never stop growing, so there is virtually no limit to their size. A more significant issue is having environments warm enough for such animals to live and enough plant material to sustain them, plus a high oxygen level.

The environment that allowed a larger dinosaur to survive would not have been hospitable to mammals. Reptiles can not only survive very hot conditions, but they require heat to sustain their bulk. A hot Earth with very wet conditions would also promote rapid plant growth. Accordingly, the plant fossils from the time of those animals indicate huge size and rapid growth.

The Bible makes clear that everything humans would need to live on Earth was produced before humans were created. Therefore, we have maintained that God was not a magician miraculously zapping things into existence. God could do the creation any way He wished, but He wisely chose to make the resources humans would need in such a way that we could find them.

God acted as an engineer, producing the coal, gas, oil, iron, salt, and other resources we would need by processes we can study and understand. The volume of fossil fuels stored up for our use is a staggering number. Present-day processes on Earth could never produce them, but the enormous animals and plants of the past created enough resources to take us into the nuclear/solar age.

The Bible tells us that God created planet Earth, not how or how long He took to do it.
Genesis 1:1 is not dated or timed. However, as we look at the record of the past, we see God’s wisdom and power and the magnitude of the creative process that allows us to exist.

Rather than trying to fit a larger dinosaur into Noah’s Ark, we need to take Genesis for what it says and not add denominational traditions. We must not use the economy of language in Genesis to justify our human religious theories.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Have Scientists Found the Biggest Dinosaur?” Discover magazine, January/February 2022, page 53.