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

Too Much Water on Earth?

Too Much Water on Earth?
“God goofed when He made so much water and so little land!” I recently heard a real estate salesman say that in a sales pitch to sell expensive lots. If you have taken a long intercontinental trip by plane or ship, you might tend to agree. Water covers roughly 75% of the surface of our planet. With our huge growth in human population, land suitable for human occupation is becoming scarce. Is there too much water on Earth? The answer to that question is a resounding “NO!!!” Every living cell depends on water, but the properties of water combined with its distribution and abundance cause its importance to go far beyond that fact.

Water is highly reflective. Ocean water reflects much of the light energy from the Sun back into space, so Earth’s surface does not become overheated. This is especially important because most of our surface water is in the Southern Hemisphere. When Earth’s orbit brings it closest to the Sun, the Southern Hemisphere faces the Sun. There is a massive potential for solar energy to overheat the land. Since most of Earth’s land area is in the Northern Hemisphere and most of the surface water is in the Southern Hemisphere, overheating doesn’t happen. This designed distribution of the land masses combined with the reflectivity of water protects us from overheating. We do not have too much water on Earth.

Water is a unique substance in terms of thermodynamic values. It is the standard frame of reference for specific heat and has a value of 1 calorie/gram. Water’s freezing and boiling points are zero and 100 degrees Celsius, which is a minimal difference in temperature compared to other substances. Water also has a high specific heat which means it can store the energy it absorbs better than other materials. Water’s heat of vaporization is 539.6 calories per gram, which is huge. The heat of vaporization is the amount of energy required to change water from the liquid state to the vapor state without changing its temperature. The capacity of water to store heat radically controls the climate. Water absorbs energy from the Sun and carries it in various ocean currents around the world. We don’t have too much water on Earth because it moderates the climates along all coasts of our planet. Planets and moons with no surface water experience violent storms and enormous variations in temperature.

Because water is a polar molecule, it can dissolve virtually all salts and many chemicals essential for life. The polar nature of the water molecule also allows it to be a condensation nucleus for the production of rain. As the oceans warm in tropical areas, the rate of water evaporation increases. As the water vapor cools, it needs something on which to condense. We all know that when the humidity is high, water condenses on our windows, our grass, and virtually any other exposed surface. To make rain, the water condenses on particles in the atmosphere. On land, the particles would be dust. Over the oceans, the particles are salt which is also a polar molecule and provides the ideal structure to make rain.

These simplified explanations should help us see that there is not too much water on Earth. We need all of that water to make life on Earth possible. Our climates, our movement of heat, the production of rain and snow, and the very formation of life itself all depend on water.

Genesis 1:2 tells us that God established water as one of the building blocks that allowed the Earth to support life. Verses 9-10 tell us that the “waters were gathered together into one place” and that those waters “were called seas, and God saw that it was good.” Proverbs 8:24 finds wisdom speaking of God’s creation. Wisdom tells us that water was created before there were mountains, hills, or dust. It has taken science thousands of years to understand why there is so much water. Today we now know that it is not only good, but it is vital to our existence.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Moving Heat Energy

Moving Heat Energy
Winter always reminds us of how important it is to have ways of moving heat energy from one place to another. We are considering how the complex heat transfer system is another evidence for God’s creative wisdom. Yesterday we looked at heat transfer by radiation. There are two more methods.

A second way of moving heat energy is by conduction. When you put a spoon into a hot cup of water the molecules that make up the spoon begin to vibrate faster as they absorb heat energy from the water. As one molecule gets energy, it bumps into the next molecule, and it also starts to vibrate. This happens down the length of the spoon, and eventually, the heat is conducted to your skin.

How fast heat conduction happens depends upon the size, mass, and density of the material in the object conducting the heat. Gases have poor conductivity because their molecules are far apart. A winter coat has lots of spaces between the fabric molecules filled with air. Fur has air spaces between the hairs and inside the hair strands themselves. Those low-density spaces insulate against heat transfer. You have heard the old story about never putting your tongue on a very cold metal object. The reason is that the water in your tongue conducts heat away to the metal surface which is very dense. The heat transfer process happens so fast that the water in your tongue freezes.

A third method of moving heat energy is by convection. Heating air or water is difficult by radiation alone or by conduction alone. The materials are transparent, so they absorb radiation poorly. Conductivity is slow and limited as to how far the heat can travel. What happens is that molecules change their density as they are heated or cooled. When heated, the gas or liquid becomes less dense it rises taking heat energy with it. As it cools, it sinks because it becomes denser. The motion mixes the hot and cold in the process we call convection.

The amazing ability of water to change its density as it is heated and cooled allows lakes to form ice on the surface rather than on the bottom. Water was designed to have its lowest density at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a higher density both above and below that temperature. A very complex chemical property of water is designed to handle the heat energy by becoming more dense down to 32 degrees and then less dense as it freezes into ice. You can read more about this essential characteristic of water in THIS PREVIOUS POST and in our book Dandy Designs Volume 3, available HERE.

We take for granted the various methods of moving heat energy in and around us, but the complexities of this design are amazing. My physics students love to see how this allows us to exist on this planet.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Membrane Structure and Water – A Response

Membrane Structure and Water
In our January 10, 2019 post we discussed attempts to redefine life. Some scientists are doing that to justify the assumption that there are massive amounts of life in the cosmos. Is that true? We have pointed out that the Bible is silent on this subject. However, this question brings up some other issues about membrane structure and water. Dr. Phillip Eichman is a scientist with a Ph.D. in biology who has written many articles for our printed journal. He also wrote a book titled Understanding Evolution: A Christian Perspective. He made this observation of our previous post.

“I found your blog about the search for non-water-based life forms interesting. I took a course at IUPUI (Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis) called “Biological Membranes.” We spent a whole semester studying the structure and function of different types of biological membranes. It was one of the best courses that I have taken, and it really helped to pull a lot of things together.

“The professor had been a student or post-doc of Sidney Fox and was very critical of his proteinoid microsphere theory. He (my prof) believed that any life form must have a lipid membrane to survive.

“If you think about it, water is as essential to the formation of a membrane as are the phospholipids. It’s that hydrophobic/hydrophilic interaction that allows the membrane to form. Those compounds you mentioned are all aliphatic hydrocarbons and are nonpolar, so they won’t form any type of membrane like what we know about on Earth.

“When I was teaching even basic courses like Fundamentals of Biology, I spent a lot of time on the nature of the water molecule and also on membrane structure. Biology just doesn’t make sense without understanding those things.

“They may find something out there with a different type of membrane, but I will wait to see it myself. I used to tell my students that the membrane keeps the inside in and the outside out. Without that, a cell as we know it just won’t work.

“P.S. I wrote a short article on membrane structure 20+ years ago. It has been cited several times even though it was in an obscure journal. It is still accessible even though it is probably dated now. Here is the link: http://shipseducation.net/9-2/membrane.htm

–John N. Clayton and Phillip Eichman © 2019

Alien Life Without Water

Is Alien Life Without Water Possible?
For all of my life, there have been articles, videos, and public presentations claiming that there must be life elsewhere in the universe. Now that we know there are thousands of planets in the creation, we see attempts to maintain that with so many planets there must be life somewhere. Scientists are even speculating alien life without water.

We need to remember that the Bible doesn’t say that this is the only planet where God created life, so this is not a biblical issue. The latest attempts to expand the window of what life is has rejuvenated the need to show the design built into the development of life. Life on Earth is based on carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The National Science Foundation has just funded a three-year program at Saint Louis University to explore what building blocks might be used to make a different kind of life. The chemicals they are considering are hexane, ethers, and chloroform. There is particular interest in whether these materials can form membranes that could be considered life.

The first problem is the definition of life. Life has traditionally been defined as “that which can move, breathe, respond to outside stimuli and reproduce.” An extraordinary chemistry is necessary to meet all of these criteria. Water is the basic substance of life on Earth. The water molecule is polar, meaning that one end of the molecule is negative and the other end is positive. Oxygen is the negative end. Oxygen’s bonding orbitals allow the attachment of two hydrogen atoms making that end positive. This polarity allows water to dissolve other molecules. Salt, for example, is made up of sodium which is positive and chlorine which is negative. When you put salt in water, the sodium is attracted to the oxygen end of the water molecule, and the chlorine is attracted to the hydrogen end of the molecule because unlike charges attract each other. This pulls the salt molecule apart and allows the salt to dissolve. Alien life without water seems impossible.

Hydrocarbons like methane have four hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atom symmetrically. That makes the molecule non-polar and unable to dissolve salt. Numerous experiments are underway to circumvent this problem including the use of vinyl cyanide (also called acrylonitrile) which has been found in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. Coming up with a formula for alien life without water will be difficult. How a substitute for oxidation would work has not even been publicized, so respiration would be an equally great challenge.

Chris Butch, a chemist of the Earth Life Institute, says “It’s like trying to build a car in your backyard out of lawnmower parts, versus having the Maserati factory build a supercar.” As science looks for something that can be called life elsewhere in the solar system, we should be impressed with the wisdom involved in the original building of life on planet Earth.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Astronomy magazine, February 2019, page 29-35.

Oxygen Atom Design and Water

Oxygen Atom Design and Water
In our post for yesterday (July 7, 2018) we dealt with oxygen as a designed feature promoting life by allowing us to breathe. Another interesting design feature relates to the oxygen atom design and water. The oxygen molecule’s design allows water to have the properties that it has.

The oxygen atom has eight electrons in orbitals based on their energy with the electrons paired so that their magnetic polarities are balanced. Each electron is essentially a little magnet with a north and a south pole. When the electrons are together in a pair, one electron’s north pole matches up with the second electron’s south pole. In oxygen, the first two electrons are in what is called the S orbital. The next energy level out is also an S orbital with two electrons. The third energy level out from the nucleus is the P orbital. This orbital can hold six electrons, but oxygen has only four electrons left. Two of the electrons are paired, but the remaining two are unpaired. They orbit in a pattern at right angles to one another. These orbits are not spherical but in the shape of a dumbbell.

What is the importance of oxygen atom design and water? A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms attached to the oxygen atom in such a way that they pair up with the two unpaired electrons. That means the water molecule is polar in nature with the hydrogen atoms on one end of the molecule and the oxygen atom on the other. The bond angle of the hydrogen atoms would be 90 degrees except for the fact that they repel each other. The repulsion forces the angle out to 105 degrees. This design allows water to have its unique properties which allow life to exist on Earth.

When water freezes, the molecules spread out due to the polar nature of the water molecule. Because of that, ice is lighter than liquid water so lakes freeze on top instead of on the bottom. If lakes froze from the bottom up, life in the water would not be possible. Also because of the polar nature of the water molecule, water dissolves things like salt.

The unique properties of water are due to the design of the oxygen molecule. As a high school chemistry teacher I always enjoy teaching about the oxygen atom design and water. Students are enthralled at the design built into such a simple thing as an oxygen molecule. Almost every time I teach this unit I have some kid say something like, “Wow! Who thought this up?” But this is not the product of a human engineer. An Engineer far wiser than any human created the design of oxygen and built a world that can support life.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
The illustrations are from John N. Clayton’s book The Source: Eternal Design or Infinite Accident? The book goes into much more detail and is available HERE.

Design of Snow Is Awesome

Design of Snow Is Awesome
As I write this, we are sitting here in Michigan after having experienced a record snowfall for one day. As we shovel and snow-blow our driveways and around our mailboxes, we hear a great deal of abusive language from our neighbors. Still, there is a great deal of good in every snowflake because of the design of snow.

It is not just the aesthetic value of snowflakes that makes them good, although that certainly is a wonderful thing to see under a hand lens or microscope. The snow has a variety of other positive attributes designed into its structure.

A snowflake is made of water which is a polar molecule meaning that it has a positive and a negative end. The reason ice forms and water expands as it freezes is that the positive end of one molecule is attracted to the negative end of the next molecule. This structure also allows the snowflake to attract particles in the atmosphere that have a polar makeup. Salt, for example, has a sodium atom which has a plus charge, attracted to chlorine which has a negative charge. A salt molecule in the atmosphere will be attracted to a snowflake. Even molecules such as carbon compounds, which do not generally have a polarity, are attracted to the snowflakes. Snow cleans the air, and many of us enjoy being outside when it is snowing because of the freshness and purity it gives the air.

Snow stores water in places where water shortages are a problem. The western United States gets heavy snow in the mountains in winter. Water has a high heat of fusion. What that means is that it takes extra energy to melt ice–80 calories per gram of ice to be exact. For that reason, snow stays in the solid state for a long time after the temperature has risen above freezing. That allows snow to melt slowly sending a constant supply of water to dry areas at lower elevations.

The design of snow is also friendly to animals, especially small animals. When the snow is finally off the ground here in Michigan, there will be small tunnels visible in the ground where mice, voles, squirrels, and other small animals have built passageways under the snow. The low temperatures of the air in winter are not a problem for these animals because the snow is a good insulator. Predators cannot easily get to the animals because the snow covers them from aerial attacks.

Water is unique in many ways. Its freezing temperature and its boiling temperature are only 100 Celsius degrees apart. That allows water to exist on our planet as a solid, a liquid, and a gas. Each of those states of water allows some form of life to exist.

In Job 38:22 God questions Job, “Have you entered into the treasures of the snow? Or have you seen the treasures of ice which I have reserved against the time of trouble…” The Hebrew word translated “treasure” in this verse is atsar meaning “a thing laid up.” It is doubtful that Job knew anything about the water cycle or how he benefited from snow. But the God who designed snow and its role on Earth to benefit humans and all living things certainly knew all about the design of snow.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Michigan also has “summer snow”

The Wonder of Flowing Water

Flowing Water
There are many lessons for us in flowing water and its capacity to change everything that it touches. We live on the edge of the St. Joseph River in Michigan, and over the years we have seen the flowing water undercut huge trees and topple them into the river. We have seen banks erode and man-made things slide into the river. We have watched huge objects float down the river and get hung up on something. Then we have seen that over a period of months or even years the river works on the object and eventually carries it away. The patience and continuous action of flowing water can bring incredible change everything around it.

Human lives function in very much the same way. Many times we want to make changes in things in quick, easy ways. When we pray, we frequently want God to do things in a fast, easily recognized fashion. God usually works more like a river than like a bulldozer. God’s actions in our lives take time, and the things that we accomplish in our lives that have lasting effects usually take place over a long period. Quick fixes are not God’s methodology, and they cannot be ours in most cases. Marriage problems take time to solve. Children require patience and consistent love and direction to make the changes that will bring fruitful and happy lives. We have much to learn from flowing water.

A stagnant lake or pond can become depleted of oxygen, and things living in the water can die. In a stream or river, this never happens because as water falls and tumbles, it dissolves oxygen from the atmosphere. Stagnation is always bad for water, and it is bad for humans as well. We need to experience dynamic change in our lives. We cannot just sit still and wait for someone else or for God to solve our problems. In the Bible, God never acted to do something for people that the people could do for themselves. As the Jews made the Exodus out of Egypt, they did not see God act until they had gone as far as they could go. When the Egyptians were behind them and the Red Sea in front of them, they had exhausted all of their options. That was when God acted.

The same is true for us. God acts in our lives when we have done everything that we can do to solve our problems. We cannot sit on our hands and cry out to God and expect him to fix things with no effort on our part. Wonderful things happen when we are active in doing what God has told us to do. Sometimes people tell me that they are unhappy with their spiritual lives, have doubts, or lack faith. I ask them what they have done to allow themselves to be active and dynamic in making changes in life. Doing the work of the Lord not only brings good things to others but makes enormous changes in our own lives. Just like water, we need to be flowing with activity.

Flowing water also brings life to all that surrounds it. In our Grand Canyon trips, the river literally teams with plants and with animals that thrive on those plants. When there is a tumbling stream with waterfalls and rapids, there will be a variety of plant, animal, and bird life flourishing in the area. People are like that too. A person who withdraws and is not active can be very lonely. God instructs us to share with others, serve others, do good for others, and teach others. It is not just for their benefit, but also for ours. Like flowing water, we are bringing life to the world around us–spiritual life.

When Jesus came to the well in Samaria, he told the woman that he had water which, if one should drink it, he would never thirst again. Christ said, “But the water I give … becomes a perpetual spring within them, watering them forever with eternal life” (John 4:14, TLB). Water figured prominently in the teachings of Christ and what he calls us to do. Let us be encouraged and active in what we bring to a thirsty world.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Resurrection Plant

Resurrection Plant
Resurrection Plant 3-hour Timelapse, Credit: Serych/wikimedia commons

An advertisement currently running on television for a lotion product says that it contains ingredients derived from the “Resurrection Plant.” After doing some research on resurrection plants, I found that several plants are called by that name. The thing they all have in common is that they can become desiccated (almost completely dried out) and then return to life when water is applied. Perhaps the best known is Selaginella lepidophylla which is sold as a novelty. The animation shows one of these plants going from dry to revived over a three-hour period. This resurrection plant is native to the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico and western Texas. It is known by various other names including “rose of Jericho.” It’s also called “false rose of Jericho” because there is another species of resurrection plant called “rose of Jericho” that grows in the deserts of Asia and Africa.

Whatever you call it, the Selaginella lepidophylla has a special distinction. Early Spanish missionaries to the American desert southwest used it as an object lesson to teach the natives about the concept of rebirth. When the plant appears to be dead and without hope, water revives it to new life. This can be compared to a person dead in sin being revived to new life in baptism. However, it isn’t the water that gives the baptized person new life, but the power of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection plants are not really dead. Those desert plants are waiting in a dormant state until the rain returns. When Jesus was placed in the tomb, he was completely dead as verified by the Roman soldier who pierced his side with a sword. Then early on the first day of the week, he was alive again. That is a true resurrection and the most solidly verified event of ancient history. I don’t know if an ingredient from the resurrection plant will restore your skin. I do know that the resurrection of Jesus can restore your soul. Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). The apostle Paul wrote, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3,4).
–Roland Earnst © 2017