All That Is Or Ever Was Or Ever Will Be

Cosmos - All That Is Or Ever Was Or Ever Will Be

“500 + amazing facts you need to know about galaxies, black holes, Einstein’s Relativity, the Big Bang, Dark Matter, and more!” Those are the words on the cover of Astronomy magazine’s special issue titled “Cosmos – Origin and Fate of the Universe.” The magazine has a great listing of discoveries made in the last decade, and it’s full of photographs, artwork, and a variety of charts. David Eicher, the magazine editor, opens the issue by quoting Carl Sagan’s famous line, “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” That is Sagan’s religious view, and Eicher plugs it by ending with, “We pack it all in here, and hope you will enjoy reading, and thinking about all that ever was, or ever will be.”

The magazine’s factual matter is impressive, but the philosophical and religious beliefs raise far more questions than they answer. The size of the cosmos has been a subject of intense study. Research shows that the number of galaxies in the cosmos is at least two-trillion –10 times greater than was previously thought. That amount of mass in the cosmos means that any explanation of how the creation happened is outside of current scientific understanding. It is becoming increasingly clear that only 4.9% of the universe is made of ordinary matter. The rest is mysterious dark matter (26.8%) and dark energy (68.3%).

The magazine presents the current scientific theory of the creation process with a “puffy giant dark star” made of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPS). These WIMPS collided, annihilating each other and producing a halo of dark matter and black holes. This inadequate explanation makes it clear that the universe did not come into existence on its own. There was a beginning, and that beginning was caused. The cosmos is not self-existing. Those of us who believe in God would suggest that if these theories are correct, they are just God’s tools for creation. They may explain the methods He used, but it is clear that the cosmos we see is not all that is or ever was or ever will be.

This current scientific explanation of creation has implications for other scientific fields. For example, evolution depends on a religious belief called uniformitarianism, which says that no process has operated in the past that is not going on today. Much of what the magazine discusses is not going on today.

Two things are certain from this issue of Astronomy. We know little about the creation, and we deal poorly with what we do know. It’s evident that the cosmos is not all that is or ever was or ever will be. We suggest that a periodical like this one shouts again, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalms 19:1).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Look Through a Telescope

Look Through a Telescope

Modern technology has given all of us a chance to look through a telescope and see what is in outer space. In the “old days” the only people that could look outside our solar system were astronomers who had access to powerful telescopes. Now all of us can look out and see what lies beyond our solar system without buying a telescope because the pictures are available to us on the web. If you go to apod.nasa.gov you can see pictures taken through the world’s largest telescopes. The picture for August 7, 2020, is of the Pipe Nebula. As I stare at the picture, I am awestruck by the number of stars in the cosmos.

Why are there so many? Why is the cosmos so big? If you believe that God created it all, why did He create billions of stars in billions of galaxies? If Earth is the only place with life, why are there other planets, other stars, other solar systems? Why is space full of matter like the Pipe Nebula? Obviously no one knows the answers to all these questions. Anyone who gives a dogmatic answer that invalidates the existence of God is claiming to have more knowledge than the rest of us. Those who claim the pictures are fakes or artistic works have not taken the trouble to go to an observatory and look through a telescope. Most observatories have arrangements that allow the general public to do that. We have no excuse for doubting the credibility of the pictures.

Whether you are an atheist or a religious fundamentalist, your viewpoint makes massive assumptions. Here are a few things you should know, that may make you uncomfortable:

No observation made has ever challenged the basic biblical claim that there was a beginning and that it was caused. You can argue about what the cause was, but attempting to deny that there was a beginning, puts you at odds with the observations and the laws of physics–even at a quantum level.

There is no support for the assumption that planet Earth is the only place in the universe where life exists. If there is life elsewhere, God created it, and the Bible does not say the Earth is the only place where God created life. However, the distances are so huge that we will never know if this is the only place–at least not in our lifetimes. Many years ago, I debated an atheist on a talk show with Larry King. A listener called in and asked the atheist and me “What would you two do if a space ship landed in plain sight and a little green man got out and asked, ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” That raises all kinds of issues, but it makes the point. By the way, the atheist’s answer was, “Punt.”

As we look through a telescope we are looking into the distant past light-years ago. No one knows what the distant future holds. Could it be that God wants humans to colonize the cosmos? Perhaps our vision of God’s kingdom is too small. Every time I look at one of those pictures of star fields or look through a telescope, I am reminded of Psalms 8:3-4 “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained: What is man, that you are mindful of him?”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Fast Radio Bursts and the Cosmos

Fast Radio Bursts and the Cosmos - Bright, Spinning Neutron Star in the Center of a Supernova Remnant
Bright, Spinning Neutron Star in the Center of a Supernova Remnant

Those of us who are interested in the subject of creation have been excited about some new data which will help us understand the cosmos. Apparently God has built into the creation various devices to help us more clearly see what He has created. Among those devices are fast radio bursts (FRBs).

When high mass stars draw in matter, they emit various frequencies of radio waves. Neutron stars and black holes release radio waves in a wide range of different energies. High energy waves travel through space without being affected a great deal by anything. Lower energy radio waves are affected by whatever material they pass through. Recent research has shown that in interstellar space there are variations in the actual speed of radio waves coming from a common source, depending on how much intergalactic material the waves are going through.

The material that slows the radiation is the ordinary particles called baryons, including protons and neutrons. We now know that interstellar space is full of the matter that makes up our galaxy, but at a very low density. These microscopic baryons do not emit light so we have not been able to detect their presence in the past. Fast radio bursts can make it possible for us to observe them because of the effect they have on the speed of the radiation.

Astronomers know from observing the light that was emitted when the universe was young that baryons should be the source of five percent of all the mass and energy in the cosmos. If that was true at the beginning, it should also be true today. However, the stars and gas we can see only account for half of that amount. The baryons are not uniform or isotropic in their distribution, but rather exist as filaments making a sort of web of low density matter which can be measured using FRBs. Astronomers are optimistic that this discovery will account for the “missing mass” in the creation. (This is the missing mass of regular matter, not dark matter, which is still a mystery.)

When the Bible challenges us to “know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:20), it implies that this process is ongoing. In the 21st century we are blessed with new and better tools to see what God has made. Like the microscope, fast radio bursts open whole new vistas for us so that we can see and understand more of the handiwork of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Science News , June 20, 2020, page 6, and Nature.com

Measuring the Distance to Stars

Measuring the Distance to Stars

Measuring the distance to stars is not as hard as you might think. As an earth science teacher at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I enjoyed seeing a student’s eyes light up when they came to understand some scientific fact. They had thought it was beyond them, and suddenly it made sense. Knowing the distance to a star was always one of those facts. Let me show you how easy it is:

Look at a picture on the other side of the room. Hold your finger in front of your face and close one eye. Line up your finger and the object on the wall. Now close that eye and open the other eye, Does your finger appear to jump? If you drew a line between your eyes and extended a line from each eye to the picture, you would have a triangle. The apex angle at the picture is controlled by how far away it is from you. If you do the same experiment with an object that is closer, there will be a different angle.

The illustration on the right shows the Earth making its yearly orbit around the Sun. A line from the Earth to the Sun will establish a triangle. In six months, it will look like objects at the apex angle have moved. How much they will have moved depends on how far away they are. My classes do simulations of these measurements on the football field, and it becomes apparent how easy measuring the distance to stars can be.

The measurement unit astronomers use is based on how far away a star must be for the angle at the apex to be one arcsecond. We call that distance one parsec, and it is 3.26 light-years. If the parallax angle is .5 seconds of arc, the star must be 6.52 light-years away. The smaller the angle, the farther away the object is. The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, which has been underway since 2013, can measure the parallax angle to a millionth of a second of arc. Objects that move such a small amount are tens of thousands of light-years away.

The cosmos is much larger than most of us can imagine. The light we see from some of those stars left the stars hundreds of thousands of years ago. Measuring the distance to stars gives new meaning to passages like Isaiah 40:22: “He stretched out the heavens as a curtain and spread them out as a tent to dwell in.”

If it has taken the light from the stars God created many tens of thousands of years to get here, it is evident that the creation didn’t happen a few thousand years ago. Verses describing the process of creation are untimed and undated. Let us not allow human traditions to challenge the integrity of the Bible. God created time, and He certainly is not limited by anything He created.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Understanding Dark Matter and God

Understanding Dark Matter and God

One of the things that frequently happens when scientists admit they don’t understand something is that pseudoscience and pseudo-religion crackpots go wild with completely impossible claims. The UFO craze is an example. Many people attributed poorly understood natural phenomena to alien visitation. Virtually all UFO claims have been answered and shown to be natural phenomena or manufactured hoaxes. A more difficult question involves understanding dark matter.

Dark matter and dark energy pose a huge challenge to cosmologists and astronomers. Galaxies are spinning masses of billions of stars orbiting a core, which at least most of the time is a black hole. The problem is that the spin of the system is so rapid that the force of gravity is not enough to keep galaxies from flying apart. Scientists believe that there is undetectable mass in the galactic systems to hold them together. They call that missing mass “dark matter.”

There is a similar problem in the motion of galaxies through space. Various experiments have shown clearly that the cosmos is being accelerated at between 72 and 76 (Km/s)/Mpc. The acceleration of the cosmos involves energy far greater than anything science has seen in any thermonuclear reaction to date. If we view the cosmos as embedded in spacetime, then some energy is accelerating spacetime, but we cannot detect what that energy is or how it is generated.

In past centuries and many cultures, this would have been explained by simply saying,” God is doing (or has done) it.” We call that “God of the Gaps.” Atheists quickly point out that when science finds an explanation, that “God of the Gaps” is dead. Our studies of quarks, hadrons, WIMPS, and relativity are offering suggestions that may eventually give an understanding to fill the gap. Understanding dark matter is not a small gap because dark matter makes up 26.8% of the universe, and dark energy makes up 68.3%. That means that the matter we can detect makes up only 4.9% of the universe’s total composition.

There are some critical lessons in this. We need to realize that creating the cosmos is not a simple matter. Just creating space, time, and the substance to make the cosmos is a highly complex process. However, the process is not God. God has used His massive intelligence and design to produce something we are just now beginning to appreciate. When science finds a way of understanding dark matter and dark energy, it will only tell us more about God’s wisdom, power, and intelligence. We are beginning to understand the meaning of Proverbs 8, where wisdom speaks.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

For a current discussion of this challenging area of study, see “Is the Big Bang in Crisis” by Dan Hooper in the May issue of Astronomy magazine pages 21-29, or at astronomy.com.

James Peebles Wins Nobel Prize in Physics

James Peebles Wins Nobel Prize in PhysicsThose of us who have an interest in creation have followed the work of Dr. James Peebles at Princeton University for some time. Since 1964, Peebles has been working to understand the scientific evidence of how the cosmos came into being. For his work, he has won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Dr. Peebles predicted cosmic microwave background radiation, which has been a major tool in understanding the beginning of the universe and in realizing that 95% of the matter/energy in the cosmos is unknown. The “big bang” model describing the universe fits well with understanding God’s role in the cosmos. Peebles has shown that the formation of space/time and matter/energy fits with all available observations, and he has discovered several new processes, such as the baryon model, to describe the physics of the early universe.

The Ostriker-Peebles criterion relating to the stability of galactic formation has helped us understand other galaxies besides our Milky Way. Observing the spin rates in those galaxies has led us to realize that the rapid speeds at which they move require a force that has not been identified to prevent them from flying apart. This realization is the starting point for speculating the existence of dark matter. There has to be a missing mass that is the glue of stable galaxies. Research continues to understand what dark matter is and how it works.

Dr. Frank Baxter once said, “the more we know about the creation, the closer we get to the creator.” The fact that James Peebles has been recognized for his work in cosmology is encouraging. Scientists now agree there was a beginning. The cause of that beginning and the properties of that cause are the next steps toward comprehending the creation of the cosmos.

Proverbs 8:22 finds wisdom saying, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.” Reading Dr. Peebles’ research is intimidating because God’s wisdom and His works in cosmology are so complex. The study of creation in cosmology has only become recognized as valid science in the last few years. James Peebles has been a major player in accomplishing that, and therefore he received the Nobel Prize in Physics. “In the beginning, God created” may sound simple, but what it describes is incredibly challenging to understand. Dr. Peebles has clearly shown that, but he has also opened the door for more study of how God did the creating.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What the Mercury Transit Tells Us

What the Mercury Transit Tells UsAbove is a photo of the Sun. If you look closely, you will see a small dot in the upper half near the right side. That is the planet Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun. Mercury made what astronomers call a “transit” of the Sun on Monday morning, November 11, 2019. In our area of the country, the sky was overcast, and it was snowing. However, Bill Ingalls of NASA took this photograph from his location in Arlington, Virginia. I find it interesting to consider what the Mercury Transit tells us.

What’s so special about Mercury passing in front of the Sun? For one thing, it doesn’t happen very often. Although the last time was only three years ago, the next time will be in 2032, but it won’t be visible from North America. The next Mercury transit visible in North America will be in 2049. Since Mercury is closer to the Sun, it passes between the Sun and us every 116 days. However, most of the time, it is either above or below the Sun from our view, and Earth’s atmosphere makes it invisible in the daylight.

Scientists used precision telescopes and equipment to study the transit. They can learn more about the atmosphere of Mercury as it is silhouetted against the Sun. Historically Sir Edmund Halley (1656-1742) watched a transit of Mercury and realized that it could be used to measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun. It occurred to him that a transiting planet would appear in different positions to viewers in different locations on Earth. Measuring the apparent shift between two distant Earth locations at the same time and applying a little math, one could calculate the distance to the Sun. In 1769, after Halley’s death, astronomers used a transit of Venus to calculate the Earth-Sun distance.

Think about what the Mercury transit tells us without even seeing it? Because of the fact that astronomers can know in advance the exact date and time of a transit of Mercury (or Venus), or a solar eclipse (when the Moon passes between Earth and Sun) we realize that the solar system is orderly. We can study the heavens and learn of the Creator. We can see His wisdom and design of our planet and the solar system in which it exists. We can know there is a God by the things He has made (Romans 1:20) as the heavens declare His glory (Psalms 19:1).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Curtain Opening on the Cosmos

Curtain Opening on the CosmosYesterday we discussed the Hebrew word “natah meaning to stretch out in an accelerative motion. We pointed out that it is used repeatedly in the Old Testament to describe the action of the cosmos. We emphasized that the Bible does not use that word to reveal a scientific fact, but it does show an accurate knowledge of the nature of the cosmos. It is knowledge that science has only verified in the past few years. The same verses that use “natah” also imply a curtain opening on the cosmos.

The verses we mentioned yesterday (Psalms 104:2, Isaiah 40:22, and Isaiah 45:12) describe the nature of the cosmos in a way that shows an understanding of what people often call the “big bang.” When people think about the “big bang,” they seem to have in mind some kind of explosion that created the cosmos. Science has learned that it is not the correct concept. The “big bang” was a great expansion but not an explosion. There is a uniformity of temperature across the cosmos of one part in one-hundred-thousandth of a degree. That fact indicates a smoothness in what took place at the creation event. An explosion doesn’t do that. The creation process started with a fine-tuned balance for a geometrically flat universe (not elliptical or hyperbolic). Instead of an explosion, it is more like a curtain opening on the cosmos.

Passages like Psalms 104:2 and Isaiah 40:22 describe the cosmos as being like a curtain. In Psalms 104:2, the Hebrew word used is “heyry,” which means a hanging drape. In Isaiah 40:22, the word used is “doq.” That word is used only once in the entire Bible and refers to a unique veil or curtain. The picture we get is that God stretches the cosmos pulling the fabric of space as we might open a curtain.

Science is now in agreement with the Bible that space and time began at a singularity. In that event, the material in space was moved, creating the fabric of space itself. Objects in the cosmos did not move through eternally existing space, but rather time began, and space was created as the objects moved. As space was pulled open like a curtain, the material embedded in space moved with it.

This scientific understanding is new, and it comes from the most recent observations available. This curtain opening on the cosmos is not some religious hodgepodge, but a discovery of modern science. The amazing thing is that the Bible writers stated it thousands of years ago. Science is beginning to show us a fuller understanding of the meaning of statements in God’s Word.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Stretching Out the Cosmos

Stretching Out the Cosmos is Like Starting a ChainsawAs a person trained in the sciences and a student of the Bible, I find it interesting how many times a Bible statement demonstrates an understanding of something only learned by modern science. Only recently has science proven that the cosmos is accelerating in its expansion. We can refer to it as stretching out the cosmos. This is no longer debatable but a fact confirmed by various experiments using different techniques and measurements.

The Bible repeatedly refers to the fact that the cosmos is “stretched.” For some examples of this, take a look at Psalms 104:2, Isaiah 40:22, and Isaiah 45:12. None of these passages are attempting to reveal any scientific fact, but all of them refer to God stretching out the cosmos.

The Hebrew word used in those passages is “natah,” meaning to stretch out. The most common use of this word in other places in the Old Testament is to indicate a person’s hand stretched out to point or show motion. In Exodus 8, for example, “natah” is used to describe Moses’ moving his hand or rod (See verses 5,6,16,17). Perhaps many of us would remember starting a lawnmower or chain saw by pulling the starting cord. The Bible tells us that accelerative is the force that moves the cosmos as a whole.

We want to emphasize that it is not the purpose of those passages to reveal any scientific information. However, they are a clear reference to the nature of the force that operates by stretching out the cosmos.

Tomorrow we will see that another word in these passages indicates the nature of the fabric of space itself.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Cosmological Verification of Bible Statements

Cosmological Verification of Bible StatementsThere are many passages in the Bible that contain scientific information that was unavailable to the authors who wrote the passage. Cosmological verification has come through modern science. In a few cases, science has discovered some of those verifications only recently.

An example is Hebrews 11:3, where the writer says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” The word “framed” is from the Greek word meaning “to make thoroughly fit” (Young’s Analytical Concordance). We now know that quarks and all quanta (which we can’t see) have shaped the formation of the particles that make up our world. The author of Hebrews would not have known this.

Another example is Jeremiah 33:22, where we read, “As the host of heaven cannot be numbered …” The recent discovery that the cosmos is accelerating in its expansion is an incredible verification of that statement. Scientists tell us that the universe is 46.5 billion light-years in any direction. We have known for 100 years or so that the cosmos is distributed so that the further you go into space, the faster galaxies, stars, and planets are moving away. At the edges of the creation, we see objects traveling at speeds over 90% of the speed of light. If the cosmos is accelerating, then objects will pass that boundary of light and will disappear from our ability to see them. It is absolutely true that the objects in space cannot all be measured because we can’t see all of them.

It is not the purpose of the biblical passages to reveal scientific facts. But God seems to have inserted things into the Bible passages that allow cosmological verification. Modern scientific knowledge has reached the point of being able to understand some of God’s creative methods. The more we know of the creation, the better we can understand the Creator. God’s power and creative capacity are incredible.
— John N. Clayton © 2019