Solar System Design

Solar System DesignAstronomers today use technology to examine areas of the cosmos far removed from our solar system. The fact that they are finding the other systems are very much different from ours should tell us something. In fact, the more we study those other systems, the more we learn about our solar system design and why it is the way it is.

One interesting fact about other systems is that even though some planets are very large and obviously gaseous, they can exist very close to their stars. Astronomers in the past explained the fact that the inner planets of our own solar system are rocky and hard by saying that the Sun burned off the gases and left the rocky material. That may be partially true, but in 2002 astronomers discovered a planet they named OGLE-TR-56b. It is about the same mass as Jupiter but over 30 percent larger. It has to be a gaseous planet to have such a low density.

The surprising thing is that OGLE-TR-56b orbits its star at an average distance of only 2 million miles (3.2 million km). Our innermost planet Mercury is 36 million miles (58 million km) from the Sun. The outer atmosphere of this planet must be around 3000°F (1650° C). It is evident that gaseous planets can exist very close to their stars, so our old explanation of the inner planets in our solar system design is vastly oversimplified.

Most of the planets we see around other stars are very large, which is not surprising since it is easier to see a big planet than a small one. One extra-solar planet is 17 times as massive as Jupiter. The strange thing is that many of the giant planets are closer to the Sun than Venus. Old theories of planet formation suggested that due to the large gravity values of stars, it was impossible for planets to form close to the stars. We now know that is not true.

Science programs on television have delighted in proposing that the cosmos is full of planets and that every galaxy has literally millions of planets. The hope is that if you have enough planets, the chance of having another Earth is improved. We now know that many galactic systems do not have planets at all. The composition and age of galactic systems obviously have a major impact on whether planets can exist, but claims of billions of Earth-like planets in the cosmos are highly exaggerated.

The type of star also has an impact on whether planetary systems can form. Most stars in the cosmos are binary systems containing more than one star. A planet can orbit the stars at a great distance, but shifting gravity fields make planets unlikely if the stars are close together, as most are. How much metal there is in a star system affects planet formation. Metal content varies within galaxies as well as between stars. A part of space dominated by gases like hydrogen and helium are not as likely to produce planets as areas where there are large amounts of iron, manganese, cobalt, and the like. Solar system design requires the right kind of star.

Perhaps one of the most exciting lessons we have learned from other solar systems is that the shape of the orbits of planets in our solar system is very unusual. Most of them have very circular orbits meaning that their distance from the Sun does not vary a great deal. Venus has an orbit that is .007 with 0 being a perfect circle and 1 is a straight line. Pluto has the most elliptical orbit, but even Pluto is less than .3 on the 0-1 scale. Our solar system design is unusual.

Circular orbits like ours are very rare in other solar systems where .7 is a very common orbital value, and virtually all orbits exceed .3. If a planet swings far out from its star and then comes much closer, it should be obvious that temperature conditions are going to be extreme. Not only will such a planet have extreme conditions itself, but it will have a very negative effect on any planets that do have a circular orbit in the system. If Jupiter came closer to the Sun than Earth with each orbit, imagine the conditions on Earth as Jupiter went by us.

We now know that our gas giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) are essential to us because their gravitational fields sweep up any debris from outer space. Without those planets, comets and asteroids would pound Earth and life here would be difficult if not impossible. The fact that they are outside Earth’s orbit at a considerable distance and in a circular orbit allows us to exist in a stable condition for an extended time. The comets that do enter our system by avoiding the gas giants do not come in along the plane of the solar system called the ecliptic. Coming in from other directions, they have no chance of hitting Earth since they are not in the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

Like everything in science, the study of the cosmos and other solar systems speaks eloquently to us about the design and planning that is part of everything in the creation. As we discover more data, other factors will surely tell us how unique our solar system design is. In the twenty-first century, we have more reasons than any humans have ever had to realize the truth of Psalms 19:1.
— 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

Does Intelligent Design Destroy Science?

Does Intelligent Design Destroy Science?Skeptics claim that Intelligent Design destroys science. This claim shows how badly the skeptics misunderstand Intelligent Design.

The dictionary defines science as knowledge. When we do scientific experiments and make observations, we are trying to gain knowledge. We apply that knowledge to those situations where we can gain more knowledge. We never just say “God did it” and stop investigating. We continue experimenting because we want to understand how and why God did it. Believing that there is design in all aspects of the creation never stops us from looking for a deeper understanding. Naturalism is frequently just the opposite. A classic example of this is Junk DNA.

As naturalists examined the DNA in various animals, they found that there was DNA that didn’t seem to be necessary. They called it “Junk DNA” assuming that it was a byproduct left over from the evolutionary process. For many researchers, that was the end of the story. No further experiments were designed to find a purpose for junk DNA. In this case, a naturalistic view and assumption stopped the scientific investigation, or at least slowed it down.

A biology professor chastised me for referring to junk DNA as a dead-end street. His exact words were “God doesn’t make any junk.” The assumption that junk DNA wasn’t junk led to further investigation. That research now tells us the so-called “junk” has a purpose and plays a vital role in life processes. Believing that everything we see was created with a purpose and a design, and wanting to understand that design is a great catalyst for scientific investigation.

Historically, most of the significant discoveries of science over the past 1000 years have been made by scientists who recognized purpose and design in the cosmos. They were striving to understand that design. In our quarterly journal (which you can read on doesgodexist.org), we have a column titled “Scientists and God.” We present statements by leading scientists about their faith and their recognition of purpose and design in the creation. Does Intelligent Design destroy science? No, it supports science.

We quoted Albert Einstein in our first quarter journal for 2019 when he said:

“We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written the books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books, but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human beings toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”

Whether we study biology or quantum mechanics, Intelligent Design enhances science because the universe was intelligently designed.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Science Confirmed Three Bible Statements

Science Confirmed Three Bible StatementsAt the beginning of the 20th century, there were three scientific “facts” that disagreed with the Bible. In a little more than 100 years, science confirmed three ancient Bible statements. The Bible was correct, and science had been wrong.

Until the early 1900s scientists believed that the universe was eternal and existing forever with no beginning. They also believed that on the large scale the universe was unchanging. Thirdly they believed that we would find subtle changes to the laws of physics if we could travel throughout the universe.

In contrast to what scientists believed, the Bible clearly says that there was a beginning to the universe. (See Genesis 1:1.) The Bible also says that the universe is dynamic as it was being “stretched out” by God. (See Job 9:8, Isaiah 40:22, 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 51:13, and Zechariah 12:1) Thirdly, through Jeremiah the prophet, God declared that His laws of the universe are unchanging. In fact, God used the unchanging nature of the physical laws as proof that He would keep his promises. (See Jeremiah 33:25-26.)

Things began to change for scientists when Albert Einstein issued his theory of special relativity in 1905 and then his general theory of relativity in 1915. Einstein showed that the laws of physics are constant and unchanging no matter where you are in the universe or how you are moving through the universe. His calculations also indicated that the universe is dynamic, either expanding or contracting. However, like other scientists of his day, he could not accept that idea. He added what you might call a “fudge factor” to his calculations to make it look like the universe was static. He later admitted that was the greatest mistake of his life.

A few years later in the 1920s, Edwin Hubble discovered that there were other galaxies out there and they are moving away from us. He also found that the farther away they are, the faster they are moving away. That means that the universe is expanding. It is not a static universe but one that is being “stretched out.”

There is another implication of Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe. Since the galaxies are moving away from each other, what would that mean if you could go back in time? At some earlier time, they were all in one place. In other words, the universe had a beginning, a singularity as scientists call it. Many scientists were not willing to accept the idea of a beginning. One of the reluctant scientists was Sir Fred Hoyle who jokingly referred to it as a “big bang” theory.

But in 1964, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation which further confirmed that there was a big bang type of beginning. Space-based experiments finally confirmed it in the twenty-first century. Now, virtually all scientists accept the idea of a beginning.

So, thousands of years ago, the Bible stated that the laws of the universe are unchanging, that the universe is expanding, and that there was a beginning. Science has now recognized the truth of those statements. Science confirmed three Bible statements, but many scientists are still not ready to accept “In the beginning God created…”
— Roland Earnst © 2019

There Was a Beginning

There Was a Beginning

One of the strong arguments for the existence of God is the data that shows there was a beginning to time, space and matter/energy. If you admit that there was a beginning, then you have to deal with what was the cause of that beginning. There must be a causer of some kind.

Atheists have avoided this discussion in the past by saying that there was no beginning and that the cosmos is “self-existing.” One version of this self-existing concept is that the cosmos may be oscillating. The hypothesis is that the cosmos will eventually slow down, stop, and collapse on itself leading to another “big bang” to start the process over again. This oscillating model could be eternal thus avoiding the whole question of cause and causer.

There are several difficulties with the oscillating model. The most telling one is the evidence about the movement of galaxies and the cosmos as a whole. The newest data collected by NASA shows clearly that the universe is accelerating in its expansion. Data from doppler measurements at various wavelengths and further analyses of inter stellar-reddening continue to support the fact that the acceleration is not slowing down.

There are several possible causes of this acceleration. One is the shape of space. The fact that light bends when it goes around a massive object suggests that the curvature of space is causing the acceleration. Another view is that there is a “great attractor” beyond the cosmos that is producing the acceleration. A third view is that dark matter is producing the acceleration. Scientists are devising various ways to test these hypotheses. It is an exciting time to be a student of astronomy and astronomical evidence. Whatever the cause of the acceleration, it adds to the data that leads us to reject the oscillating universe theory.

Most discussions about this subject end up with the conclusion that there are dimensions outside of the X, Y, Z system which we experience. Theories like string theory suggest eleven spatial dimensions. Because there are so many possible equations to describe such a proposal, it falls more in the realm of fantasy than of testable, falsifiable science.

The evidence that there was a beginning is overwhelming. The biblical descriptions of God indicate that He is outside of space/time. Thus God is a logical answer to the question of what caused the beginning. “In the beginning, God” turns out to be a highly complex statement, but one that is strongly supported by the evidence.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Exoplanets and TESS

Exoplanets and TESS
Data is coming in from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, known as TESS for short. It is the most powerful telescope ever deployed to look for planets orbiting other stars. Over two years, TESS can cover all 360 degrees of sky visible from Earth’s orbit. Our previous satellite called Kepler could only scan a small segment of the sky. Already Tess has identified over 300 probable exoplanets including one named HD 21749b which has the lowest known temperature for a planet orbiting a bright nearby star. (“Nearby” being 53 light-years away.)

The problem with this is that what astronomers consider “cool” is not cool from our standpoint. The surface temperature of HD 21749b is 150 degrees Celsius, which is way too hot for liquid water. (Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.) A year on that planet equals 36 Earth days as it makes a complete orbit around its star. Most of the other exoplanets found at this time are vastly hotter than HD 21749b.

Astronomers have found other planetary systems, but they again have properties that would preclude any kind of life. Some of them have a planetary density equal to that of pure water. Some have orbits that are highly eccentric. Pi Mensae b, for example, has an orbit that varies widely. Its closest distance to its star approximately equals the distance from Earth to our Sun. The longest distance is similar to Jupiter’s distance from the Sun.

All of this continues to tell us that Earth is a unique planet orbiting a unique star. It is possible that those stars with exoplanets are undergoing an evolutionary process that could result in Earth-like planets billions of years from now. As we study them, we are learning more and more about what God did to create the “heaven and the earth.” God’s power and design become more amazing to us as we learn more about the universe. The more we learn, the more we see what Frank C. Baxter, who hosted the old Bell System Science TV Series, called “the wonder-working hand that has gone before us.”
–John N. Clayton © 2019

If you would like the nostalgia of watching Frank Baxter in the Bell System Science Series click HERE or HERE.

Heat Transfer Design

Heat Transfer Design
During this time when record cold temperatures have covered much of the United States, we should consider the design of heat transfer. One of the evidences for the existence of God is the wisdom built into the physical creation that makes it possible to move energy. God created a system of heat transfer design that is far more complex than most of us realize or can imagine.

The primary source of heat for the surface of our planet is the Sun. The question is how heat from the Sun can travel 93 million miles to Earth through what is essentially a vacuum. Realize that there is no substance between the Sun and us, so the heat can’t travel by contact. Atoms are constructed in such a way that they release excess energy by generating small energy packets called photons. Photons from the Sun carry the energy to Earth.

Photon particles are very strange. They have an electric property and a magnetic property, so they are called electromagnetic radiation. Photons have no thickness. They are two dimensional, vibrate with a frequency, and can exist only if they are moving. If you stop a photon, it disappears, and its energy is absorbed by whatever it struck.

Because photons are particles, they can travel across the vacuum of space from the Sun to the Earth. Their vibration frequency determines how we perceive them. We have different names for the frequencies. Xrays, gamma rays, ultraviolet, infrared, radio waves, and visible light are different only in their frequencies. The higher the frequency, the more energy is involved. Gamma rays have a much higher frequency than visible light, so they pack more energy.

Everything radiates some energy, even our bodies, but this is just one way heat is transferred. Besides radiation, heat transfer design also involves conduction and convection. We take for granted the various ways in which heat is transmitted in and around us, but the complexity of heat transfer design is amazing. It is that design which allows us to exist on this planet. We will look at the other two heat transfer methods tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Comets and Cats

Comets and Cats
More than five years ago there was an event that reminded us of a comparison of comets and cats. The media proclaimed comet ISON “the comet of the century.” Experts predicted that it would outshine the full moon. Some said that it would be visible in daylight. Astronomy magazine predicted that it could “become the brightest comet ever seen by anyone now alive.” Excitement was in the air as people waited to see this remarkable comet in the fall of 2013. What happened to it?

Comets have been described as dirty snowballs in space. They consist of water ice, other frozen gasses, and rocks orbiting through the solar system. When they pass near the Sun, the solar radiation vaporizes the solids, and the vapor reflects the sunlight creating a visible ball called a coma. The solar wind causes the appearance of a tail pointing away from the Sun.

The comet that brought such excitement was named ISON after the International Scientific Optical Network based in Russia that initially discovered it. Because its perihelion (closest passage to the Sun) was going to be only 1.8 million kilometers in November of 2013, astronomers expected it to be a rare and “dazzling” sight. However, as the comet came close to the Sun, it disintegrated. What was left instead of being “fifteen times brighter than the full moon” was almost, or entirely, invisible to the naked eye. Star-gazers were disappointed.

Famed comet hunter David Levy made the statement: “Comets are like cats. They have tails, and they do precisely what they want.” Yes, comets and cats are unpredictable. However, one thing we know is that the design of our solar system makes it unlikely that one will collide with Earth. What the Sun doesn’t stop, the “comet sweeper” giant outer planets will—especially Jupiter which captured one of the comets that David Levy discovered. Although Levy said that comets do what they want, it might be more accurate to say that comets do what God wants.
–Roland Earnst ©2019

Gravity Force and Life

Gravity Force and Life
Four fundamental forces impact our lives: electromagnetic force, strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravity force. We couldn’t live without them. More than that, we couldn’t live without them being exactly what they are and carefully balanced against each other.

Gravity is the weakest by far. For example, the strong nuclear force is 10 to the 38th power stronger than gravity. That is one followed by 38 zeroes. That strong nuclear force holds the nucleus of atoms together, but it acts over very short distances within the atom. The gravity force acts on larger objects over much greater distances.

If gravity were as strong as any of the other three forces, it would crush you and everything else as well! Because gravity is relatively weak, you can stand and walk. But it’s strong enough that you can also jump without flying off into space. Gravity holds our planet together. It also holds Earth in orbit around the Sun at the right distance to allow life to exist. Gravity keeps our Moon in orbit around Earth, and the Moon’s gravity stabilizes Earth’s rotation and causes the tides which clean our ocean shores.

Gravity is also a major force in our weather, causing air masses to move as their density changes. A stronger force of gravity would create strong and destructive winds. Gravity even makes plants grow upward no matter which direction you place the seed in the ground.

As matter moves around in the cosmos, it’s attracted to other matter by gravity. Gravity formed the stars and planets. Planets are spherical because gravity force pulls them into that shape. It is also the gravity force that pulls hydrogen molecules together to form stars. When the hydrogen molecules reach enough mass, the gravity force squeezes them tightly enough to cause nuclear fusion. The fusion of hydrogen atoms turns them into the essential heavier elements that make up planets and our bodies.

The gravity force is just right to make the universe, stars, planets, and life possible. If it had been slightly more or less, none of these things would exist. We think the precision of the forces of nature is not an accident, but the design of a wise God.
–Roland Earnst © 2019