Dinosaur Train and Reality

Dinosaur Train and Reality
I have been blessed over the past year with a two-year-old who calls me “Booh” which is Thai for “Grandpa.” It has been a wonderful experience for me in several ways. One of the things I have learned as he has grown older and watches children’s television is how much bad good and bad information children are exposed to in their preschool years. My adopted grandson’s favorite television program is a PBS Kids series called Dinosaur Train.

The program opens with a small pair of creatures that look like pterodactyls standing by a nest containing four eggs. The eggs hatch and the first three hatchlings look like their parents, complete with the ability to fly. The fourth egg hatches a few seconds later with a baby who looks nothing like the parents and who says, “What am I doing in a flying reptile nest?” The mother dinosaur picks up the baby, and the whole family flies to a train station called the Dinosaur Train.

On the train, a conductor takes the family on a trip to different geologic time periods–Mesozoic, Cenozoic, Paleozoic, Triassic, etc. There the family meets dinosaurs from the various time periods who explain what they eat and how they find their food. The train has a cattle car with large dinosaurs in it, and the family goes to a coach containing smaller dinosaurs.

Occasionally a scientist identified as a paleontologist presents a mini-lecture. The lecture may be on the meaning of words, the current evolutionary beliefs about the animals, or the geological processes that shaped the history of the Earth. His presentations are generally accurate, and he attempts to give the viewers a vocabulary that would be the envy of most college freshmen. Sound effects are very entertaining, and the program stays away from blood and gore and tends to focus on herbivores.

There are lots of concerns that parents may have about the current geologic and evolutionary beliefs that are presented as facts. I am concerned about the anthropomorphism of the dinosaurs. The train is a mid-twentieth century coal-burning steam engine and the train station is from the same time period. The conductor is a dinosaur wearing an outfit that looks like a circus barker. He not only calls the “All aboard,” but he gives Powerpoint-style explanations. The dinosaurs all speak perfect English and behave as humans. Everyone is friendly, T-Rex speaks kindly with everyone, and groups of dinosaurs sing Broadway-style tunes. Dinosaur Train is quite frankly very entertaining.

The problem I have is that the dinosaurs are essentially humans, engaging in human contests, doing human things, and having human relationships. Mom and dad have human roles and enjoy human activities like picnics and visits to different climates and places of recreational value. It is no wonder that those who tell children that humans and dinosaurs lived together find a ready audience of young people. I have hunter friends who dislike the story of Bambi because it vilifies hunters and fails to present children with the importance of balance in nature and the role that carnivores like ourselves serve. The same difficulty is present when people don’t understand the role that dinosaurs had in preparing the Earth for humans by supporting the ecology that produced the resources we need to survive on this planet.

Dinosaur Train is interesting and creative, but parents need to take time to give more accurate and realistic teaching to their toddlers as they get old enough to understand. There is no problem in explaining the role of dinosaurs if we understand how God designed and planned for humans from before time began.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

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”

Oak Tree Rodent Control

Oak Tree Rodent Control
There have been times in Earth’s history when rodents threatened to overrun areas of the planet. Sometimes humans upset the ecological balance leading to an overabundance of rodents. Then people have to find a way to keep them under control. But what if you are an oak tree with a mouse problem? Is there such a thing as oak tree rodent control?

Among other things, rodents eat acorns which are the seeds of oak trees. How can new oak trees be produced if the mice eat the seeds? Dr. Jerry Wolff of Oregon State University made a study of oak trees and white-footed mice in the Appalachian Mountains several years ago. Dr. Wolff found that oak trees in the Appalachian area synchronize their erratic production of acorns. In that way, they control the rodent population.

When the mouse population is low, the oak trees produce a massive number of acorns which swamps the mice with more acorns than they can eat. These well-fed rodents produce high numbers of offspring. Over the next three or four years acorns will be a scarce commodity, and so the rodent population crashes. At that point, the trees again synchronize and switch back to high volume acorn production. There are fewer rodents around to eat them resulting in a greater production of tree seedlings.

Trying to explain this by some chance process stretches credibility. The simpler view is that the DNA of the trees and the mice were designed to continue providing a constant growth of new trees and the production of acorns for the mice. There are many symbiotic relationships in nature where two species are dependent on each other. This oak tree rodent control is a design to guarantee that both species survive. Design indicates a Designer.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: This study first appeared in Discover magazine in 1992.

Evolution Weekend and Darwin Day 2018

Evolution Weekend and Darwin Day 2018
February 12 has been designated as Darwin Day by the U.S. government with Senate Resolution 374 and House Resolution 699 both being pushed by the American Humanist Association. The stated goal is “..support of designating February 12, 2018, as Darwin Day and recognition of Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth’s people.” With Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend in which various churches use the weekend of February 9-11 to promote their view that “evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.” The Clergy Letter which Michael Zimmerman circulates among denominational congregations states that “Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.”

All of this is a strange mix of good ideas and bad ideas along with fact and opinion. It is also replete with attacks on the Bible and denigration of those who claim that bad science is involved. The stated goals are wonderful. The failure to define what is meant by evolution and accurately present what Charles Darwin actually discovered dilutes the value of the weekend and of Darwin Day itself.

It would be wonderful if Darwin Day not only commemorated the birth of Charles Darwin but presented his primary discovery. What Darwin discovered was that living things are designed so that they can change and adapt to environmental conditions and changes humans make to improve crops and animal husbandry. Unfortunately, atheists attempt to add the writings of those who oppose the idea that humans are special. Instead, they suggest that all of life has equal value because they deny the spiritual dimension of humans.

It would also be wonderful if, on evolution weekend, religious bodies would present to their constituents the evidence that claimed conflicts between science and the Bible do not exist. The conflicts are caused by bad science or bad theology–not because of what the Bible actually says or what science has factually proven to be true.

Unfortunately many members of the clergy, such as the “Jesus Seminar,” join the atheists in denigrating the Bible by suggesting that it is full of errors. The National Center for Science Education reports that 182 congregations in 42 states are participating in Evolution Weekend. That is a very small percentage of American churches.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Beware of Praying Mantises

Beware of Praying Mantises
There are organizations that advocate natural control of pests as opposed to the use of chemicals. One effort to control garden pests involves the use of praying mantises. While the concept is good, there are complications. In the natural world with no human intervention, there is a balance between predator and prey. When humans upset that balance, the result is always catastrophic.

In Australia, for example, rabbits were introduced to control certain plants. The rabbits had no natural enemies, and in a very short time, the rabbit population was out of control. Now there is the problem of how to get rid of the rabbits. Here in Michigan, beavers have been brought back into the river where I live. Today they have no enemies, and the beaver population has grown to the point where it is almost impossible to keep decorative trees because the beavers eat them.

The December/January issue of National Wildlife magazine (page 10) brought a new issue to our attention. People have introduced large numbers of praying mantises to control the bugs that were eating their gardens. The problem is that they not only eat bugs, but they will also kill and eat hummingbirds. Some people who have deliberately added numbers of mantises to their property have discovered that they no longer have hummingbirds, and apparently the mantises are the cause.

The Wilson Journal of Ornithology reported a study in which there were 147 cases of praying mantises catching 24 different bird species. The praying mantises capture the hummingbirds at feeders or as the birds are getting nectar from a flower. When we see bad environmental situations in nature, it is almost always due to human mismanagement and not a fault in the design of the system.
–John N. Clayton

Bird Brainpower

Bird Brainpower
In the February issue of National Geographic, there is a fascinating article about what birds can do. The skills of bird brainpower include puzzle solving, using tools, studying others, vocal learning, socializing, remembering, and social playing.

These abilities are all related to the size of the forebrain compared to the total brain mass. Bird brains vary enormously. Some species such as ravens have very large brains with 80% of the brain involving the forebrain compared to a pigeon having a very small brain with only 48% in the forebrain. In some cases, birds work together pooling their bird brainpower with each having a different role. Some birds prefer certain kinds of music while others seem to show empathy.

It is important to understand that some scientific questions could be raised about the claims that the article makes. In one case, for example, when air was blown on a chick’s fathers, the mother’s heart rate increased. The investigators claimed that shows empathy. A strong wind can be dangerous to any bird. So the question is whether the mother was feeling empathy for the chick or was she concerned over the cause of the wind and what it might do to her.

The article also mentions a cockatoo who rocks in time to the Backstreet Boys tune “Everybody” and a starling who “is happiest when his owner is playing a classical movement on the piano.” The article says the starling likes Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Bach. However, it doesn’t say how you measure starling happiness, or what the owner likes and repeatedly plays in the bird’s presence.

It is a fact that birds show high levels of certain kinds of intelligence, and they can do things that seem almost human-like. However, the things birds can do are not attributes which the Bible ascribes to humans. Many animals are intelligent and can learn from humans, so it is easy to see how the characteristics discussed in the article help the bird survive.

The attributes of being created in the image of God, which is how the Bible defines humans, do not involve any of the characteristics in the article. The creation of art, the creation of music, and the expression of worship are human functions. Also, the expression of the”agape” type of love which does not promote survival or have sexual connotations is a human trait. We don’t see the capacity to be sympathetic and compassionate in these interesting studies of bird brainpower.

The more we learn about the creatures in the world around us, the more we are amazed at the design built into their DNA. This design allows living creatures to navigate, occupy environmental niches, and reproduce in amazing ways. It is all part of knowing that God exists through the things He has made. (Romans 1:18-22)
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Lunar Eclipse and Lunar Effects

Lunar Eclipse and Lunar Effects
Many of us missed the super blue blood moon lunar eclipse this morning. We may have missed it either because of weather (clouds) or because it wasn’t complete in the part of the world where we live. So did we miss seeing a rare phenomenon?

A total lunar eclipse happens about once every year-and-a-half, but this one was special. An eclipse like the one this morning has not happened in North America in the last CENTURY-and-a-half. (Yesterday we explained what a super blue blood moon is.) The last time there was a supermoon total eclipse in North America was in 2015. A blue moon lunar eclipse last occurred in 1982. But the last time that North America saw a total eclipse of a blue supermoon was in 1866. Unfortunately for most of us in North America, this morning’s eclipse happened at or near the setting of the Moon, so we could only see part of it at best. In addition to that, much of central North America was cloudy.

Watching a lunar eclipse can be fascinating, but what is special about the Moon? Compared to the moons of other planets in our solar system, our moon is larger in relation to planet Earth. The size of the Moon and it’s distance from the Earth makes total SOLAR eclipses possible, but we have examined that before. The size of the Moon and its distance from Earth puts it in tidal lock with the Earth. What that means is that the same side of the Moon is always facing the Earth. We see only one side of the Moon every night year-after-year.

What is our Moon good for except to look at? The truth is that without the Moon, Earth would be a much more hostile place to live. The gravity of the Moon creates the ocean tides which clean the bays and estuaries essential for many plants, animals, and birds. The gravity of the moon has slowed and stabilized the Earth’s rotation and tilt, shaping the life-cycles of plants and animals and determining our wind patterns and weather. The Moon reflects the light of the Sun to give a night light essential for many forms of life.

A super blue blood moon lunar eclipse is interesting to watch, but there are more reasons for the Moon to exist. We should be thankful that we have the Moon because it really is “super.” I suggest that it is not an accident, but part of the cosmic design of a Master Engineer.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Super Blue Blood Moon Arrives

Super Blue Blood Moon
As most people know, tomorrow morning (January 31) before sunrise there will be a total eclipse of the Moon. It will not be an ordinary lunar eclipse because it will be a Super Blue Blood Moon. What does that mean?

It’s called “super” because the Moon is at perigee. That means the Moon is at its closest point to the Earth. The Moon’s orbit of Earth is somewhat elliptical so at times it is farther away, and sometimes it’s closer. At the closest point, it is somewhat larger and brighter than when it is at its farthest point, called apogee.

What about the “blue?” One thing for sure, the Moon won’t look blue. This will be the second full moon during January. Two full moons during one month don’t happen very often, only “once in a blue moon” as the saying goes. When we do have two in one month, the second full moon is called a “blue moon.”

Why is it called a “blood moon?” That’s because during a total lunar eclipse the Moon looks red. A lunar eclipse happens when Earth’s shadow blocks the Sun’s light from the Moon. Lunar eclipses only happen when the Moon is at its “full” stage because that is when the Sun and Moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. Only when the Moon, Earth, and Sun line-up perfectly does Earth’s shadow block the Sun’s light from reaching the Moon. However, even during a total eclipse some of the light from the Sun is bent by the Earth’s atmosphere enough that it reaches the Moon’s surface. The bending occurs mostly in the red end of the visible spectrum, so some red light reaches the Moon, and we see that red light reflected back to us. It’s the same red effect we see at sunrise and sunset.

So that’s how we can have a Super Blue Blood Moon. If you want to know when you can see the eclipse in your area, there are many websites that give that information such as NASA.gov.

If someone tries to tell you that this eclipse, or any solar or lunar eclipse, is a sign of some catastrophe or dramatic event that is about to happen, don’t believe it. The dramatic events are the eclipses themselves. The way the solar system has been designed to make life possible and allow us to enjoy watching eclipses is a demonstration of the wisdom and creativity of the Designer. Eclipses allow us to learn more about the system that God has created. We are in awe of this life-giving system.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Evidence for God Reaching the “Nones”

Evidence for God Reaching the "Nones"
All of the polls and surveys tell us that 40% of the American public when asked what their religious beliefs are, answer by saying “none.” Within the Church, we see the same issue. A large percentage of our congregations see their membership becoming older in average age and smaller in number. The evidence for God is there for those who are willing to look.

The difficulty is that many of our young people have an inherited faith or an emotional faith. An inherited faith is one where the person comes to worship and/or is baptized because that is the way they were raised. As one young man told me, “It’s a small price to pay for peace at home.” An emotional faith is one where the person is stampeded into “coming forward” because of a guilt trip or because their best friend responded to an invitation for baptism at camp or in a Vacation Bible School.

Jesus called people to a faith based on evidence. Thomas is the classic example of that. (See John 20:24-29.) Paul reasoned with the people of his day. (See Acts 17:18-34.) Romans 1:20, Psalms 19:1 and numerous other passages tell us we can know why we believe what we believe through the creation around us. I am one who came to believe in God through the scientific evidence for God that is available to all of us.

God has given us the tools to reach people with evidential faith in the twenty-first century. For 50 years now I have been blessed to reach out to college and university students, and to people who have left the Church because they doubted that the God of the Bible is real and that His Word is God-breathed. We offer a free course on evidences for the existence of God on doesgodexist.org. Anyone can watch our video course for free on doesgodexist.tv.

A large percentage of the students in our courses and followers of our Facebook page are “nones.” If you really want to examine the evidence for God, we invite you to join us for a study of the evidence that God exists.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Supermassive Black Holes and Creation

Supermassive Black Holes
One of the most interesting objects in the creation is the black hole. Now supermassive black holes give us something even more intriguing to think about.

At one time many scientists thought black holes were a joke. I had a physics professor back in my undergraduate days who taught us the basic principles behind the formation of a black hole. Then he proceeded to ridicule the idea as pure fantasy.

It certainly seemed like fantasy in the middle of the twentieth century. The basic idea was that there are two forces at work in stars. One was the electrical force that repels charged matter pushing it away from the stellar center. That force is proportional to the amount of charge present and the distance between the charges squared. It could be calculated by knowing a proportionality constant which governed electrical interactions and was determined experimentally. Its value is 9 x 10^9, so it is a very large force.

A second force is gravity. The mass of two particles multiplied together and divided by the distance between them squared calculates the gravitational attraction the particles have toward each other. Again there was a proportionality constant which could be measured in the laboratory, and it was 6.67 x 10^-11. That meant the electrical force is massively greater than the gravitational force by a factor of 10^20. That is why we have electric motors and not mass (or gravity) motors.

The question is what would happen if you had a star that was so massive that the gravitational force exceeded the electrical force? The answer was, of course, that the star would collapse. The amount of mass needed to do that would be astronomical, but it is possible. Einstein showed that huge masses could actually warp space. If a huge mass warped space, it might create a situation where even light could not escape. The result would be a black hole–a point in space where matter collapsed upon itself. That hole would continue to absorb anything that came near it, so it would just continue to grow in mass.

Astronomers have now observed black holes in many places in space. It might be more accurate to say that they have seen the holes produced by black holes. We now know that most if not all galaxies have black holes at their cores. We have seen black holes collide, and the resulting shock waves allowed scientists to detect gravity waves.

Now scientists are concerned about new finds of supermassive black holes which seem too large to have been formed by the process we just explained in an oversimplified way. Apparently, these new black holes were formed at the beginning of the creation perhaps by the collapse of huge clouds of gas and dust that were not a part of a galaxy. These strange supermassive black holes are around 1000 times bigger than normal black holes and may be remnants of the creation of the cosmos itself. This is a new area of study, but it should be supported by observations from a new telescope scheduled to go into orbit in 2019.

Black holes have much to teach us. If black holes are scattered universally throughout the cosmos, and if they are sweeping up all matter that gets anywhere near them, what would that mean? Obviously, it means that eventually the entire cosmos will be swallowed up by supermassive black holes! This confirms again that the cosmos has not existed forever and that there was a beginning to the creation.

In 2 Peter 3:10-13 we read that ultimately the cosmos will dissolve and the elements will “melt with fervent heat.” Matter/energy is not eternal. It had a beginning, and it will have an end. We don’t know if the Lord will use natural processes that have resulted from the creation itself, or whether He will use His power directly. Peter wrote in verse 11, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be..?” Those words receive new support from the evidence of supermassive black holes in the cosmos around us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Scientific American, February 2018, page 26-29.