During September and October of 2017, the New Mexico Public Education Department was embroiled in a battle over what was called The Next Generation Science Standards. Those standards were edited by the department to weaken the treatment of evolution, climate change, and the age of the Earth. There was a major outcry led by the National Center for Science Education against the attempts to weaken the standards.
This battle over science standards continues in state after state, with religious groups and creationist organizations trying to stop the teaching of these concepts. The battle is unnecessary, and the attempts to stop the teaching of these subjects is misguided. The opposition is often based on denominational beliefs that are not biblical, and a poor understanding of science. Taking the three subjects that were the focus in New Mexico:
Evolution: The subjects being taught are factual change in living things which is the basis of agriculture and animal husbandry. The Bible speaks about these things in the story of Jacob and Laban in Genesis 30. There is little if any emphasis on theories about human history in the standards, and atheistic concepts are not in the textbooks.
Climate Change: The climate of planet Earth is changing, and it has changed in the past. Much of the area where Jesus walked and taught is different climatically today than it was in His day. Global warming has happened in the past, and all evidence shows us it continues to happen. The Bible makes no statements about climate change. The fact that humans have caused much suffering by our mismanagement of what God has given us is not contestable. This certainly includes the wastes that we put in our waters and our atmosphere.
Age of the Earth: There are major Protestant denominations that have a doctrinal position called dispensationalism. This doctrine teaches that the planet has seven dispensations that are each roughly 1000 years. The doctrine is that Jesus will come to Earth to war with Satan, and establish a political kingdom in Jerusalem on David’s throne for 1000 years. This denominational teaching does not take the Bible literally and contradicts what Jesus said His kingdom was about. (See John 18:36.) For a review of this teaching see “Destructive Dispensationalism” in our journal for November/December 2008, page 11.
We bring reproach to Jesus and the Bible when we oppose things that are clearly factual in educational science standards. There is no battle between science and the Bible. Human creeds and misunderstandings contradict facts and are eroding the faith of many of our young people. We need to follow 1 Peter 3:15 by understanding what the Bible teaches. We also must avoid false science and atheistic traditions.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
In 1910 an Arctic explorer by the name of Alfred Wegener coined the term continental drift. Wegener saw the same fossils in South America that he had seen in western Africa, and he proposed that the two continents had been connected at one time. Wegener’s proposal was ridiculed by the scientists of that day who saw the Earth’s crust as too solid to allow any model of that kind to work.
Over the years studies of earthquake epicenters have shown that there is movement of huge slabs of rock called tectonic plates. The rock material bends more and more steeply until the slabs eventually melt into the mantle–the molten interior of the earth. These slabs and everything on them do in fact move.
In 1952 an ocean cartographer by the name of Marie Tharp began making profiles of the Atlantic Ocean floor going from west to east. Her profiles showed a ridge down the center of the Atlantic with younger material in the center and older material on both sides. She proposed that molten material was coming up from the mantle and pushing the two slabs of ocean floor material away from each other. Where the slabs hit the edges of the continent, the material is deflected downward making trenches in the floor of the ocean.
All of these discoveries flew in the face of the accepted geological theory at the time, and Tharp was ridiculed. In time scientists came to understand that the Earth is made up of plates sliding along the surface and sliding down into the mantle when a continent is reached.
There is a message in all of this that what is considered to be scientifically impossible, sometimes turns out to be true. At the same time, a pet theory can ultimately be proven incorrect. One of the beauties of science is that eventually it cleans up its own mistakes.
Another message is that sometimes God addresses a problem long before humans know there is a problem. This whole process is one of the greatest recycling systems of all time. As nutrients and minerals get eroded off the continents, they are deposited on the ocean floor. The movement of the ocean floor ultimately returns this material to the mantle to be recycled back to the Earth’s surface.
No elements are lost from the Earth’s reservoir by this system, and it assures us that there is no waste in the resources of the planet as a whole. Jeremiah 10:12 speaks of God preserving the Earth by His wisdom, and continental drift is one of tools by which He does that.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Just about every day you will see a headline in some periodical saying that the world will soon end in catastrophe. These doomsday predictions come from tabloids and church bulletins and always bring some kind of data to support them. Religious periodicals usually quote from Revelation and tabloids will take something out of context from a scientist or political figure.
The fact is that the major possible causes of global catastrophe do not come from periods of unusual natural activity. Earthquake numbers for the past ten years have been much smaller than 50 years ago. Hurricane frequency and intensity are not higher than in the past, although human mismanagement of shorelines has increased the damage even a small hurricane can produce.
The Sun is not becoming more active. The current cycle of solar activity is the lowest it has been in 100 years. In 1990 solar activity peaked at almost 300 sunspots. In the next maximum which happened in 2000, there were just over 200 sunspots. The last cycle which was in 2014, had 100 sunspots. In the December 2017 issue of Astronomy magazine, the lead article by Bruce Dorminey (page 20) is titled “Why Has the Sun Gone Quiet.” He suggests that the Sun will be relatively quiet for a long time.
In spite of the doomsday predictions, the biggest threat to our survival does not come from the natural world. God has designed a world that is remarkably stable. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and solar activity may cause problems, especially where humans have built vulnerable structures and removed natural safeguards, but our greatest danger is from each other. Our biggest problems come from humans refusing to do what Jesus told us would lead to our safety and security now and in eternally. You can read about it in the “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
We have repeatedly pointed out that finding life on other planets has no bearing on the question of God’s creation of life on Earth. The Bible does not say that this is the only place where God created life.
Astronomers have observed over 3500 planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. Many writers have suggested that life in space is natural and likely because of the number of planets that exist. That assumption has a problem. There are an enormous number of variables that must be precisely controlled to allow life to exist.
Scientists have recently discovered that while it takes 243 days for Venus to rotate once, its atmosphere requires only four days in what is called “superrotation.” How can a planet’s atmosphere rotate 60 times faster than the planet itself? What effect does this have on the conditions at the surface of the planet where life could exist?
Another recent discovery concerns Proxima Centauri b, a planet orbiting in the habitable zone of the closest star to us other than the Sun. The star it orbits, Proxima Centauri, is continuously flaring and driving away any atmosphere that an orbiting planet might have. Astronomers working on the study of this star and the planets around it released a statement saying “any chance for life on Proxima Centauri b may be toast.”
We continue to find that the conditions needed for life on other planets are numerous. Having water is important, but many other factors must be carefully controlled for a planet to support even the most simple forms of life.
God’s creation of the Earth and the conditions that allow life to exist here becomes more and more amazing as we learn more about the cosmos.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Data from Astronomy magazine, December 2017, pages 12 and 17.
Our ability to see the incredible color in the world around us is amazingly complex. We don’t actually see color with our eyes. We see color with our brains.
Most humans have trichromatic vision. Our eyes only detect red, green and blue. If our eyes detect a lot of red and green but not much blue, our brains decide that we are seeing yellow. When our eyes register equal amounts of red, green, and blue, our brain decides that we are seeing gray. If red and blue are present, but not much green, our brain decides we are seeing purple.
Some of us do not have red or green receptors in our eyes, especially people with XY chromosomes (males). We call it color blindness, but in reality, our eyes just don’t see one particular set of wavelengths. Some of us with XX chromosomes (females) may have tetrachromacy which means we see more than the three primary colors.
In the animal world, color is produced by many different techniques. The wings of the Morpho butterfly appear to be blue or violet depending on how the light strikes them. This is due to light-scattering scales that cover the insect’s wings. Dragonfly wings look similar to the Morpho wings, but the dragonfly’s color comes from waxy crystals that cover layers of the pigment melanin. We call the method of color production in these insects “structural color” because it is produced by the structure of the material rather than by pigments. Cameleons also use structural color using nanocrystals in their skin. They can tune the nanocrystals to reflect different colors. In this way, they can match the color of their environment or their mood.
We use color in many different ways such as camouflage, disguising foods to avoid their natural look, and to identify things. Much of the color that we see in the world has no practical value. For the most part, beauty is not a survival attribute. Evolutionary models attempt to explain some of the coloration we see around us, but in many cases, color is not a survival factor. Incredible color may be simply an expression of God’s desire for us to see the beauty and the majesty of His creation.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Each day NASA posts an interesting astronomy picture of the day at www.apod.nasa.gov. The picture for October 24, 2017, shows the periodic table of the elements. NASA captioned the picture with a summary of the current scientific theories about the formation of the elements of the periodic chart were formed. We call it NASA’s creation account.
It may be that some will want to simply say God did it by “speaking it into existence.” Of course, NASA does not mention God, but their summary does not in any way denigrate God or the way He works. This brief summary demonstrates the majesty and power required to form the creation. The fact that the process has no scientific explanation of an ultimate cause lends support to the statement, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the cosmos declares the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech: night after night they display knowledge” (Psalms 19:1-2).
Here is the summary which you can read on NASA’s website:
“The hydrogen in your body, present in every molecule of water, came from the Big Bang. There are no other appreciable sources of hydrogen in the universe. The carbon in your body was made by nuclear fusion in the interior of stars, as was the oxygen. Much of the iron in your body was made during supernovas of stars that occurred long ago and far away. The gold in your jewelry was likely made from neutron stars during collisions that may have been visible as short-duration gamma-ray bursts or gravitational wave events. Elements like phosphorus and copper are present in our bodies in only small amounts but are essential to the functioning of all known life. The sites of nuclear creation of some elements, such as copper, are not really well known and are continuing topics of observational and computational research.”
We don’t see a conflict between NASA’s creation account and the one found in Genesis 1. The more we learn about the creation, the more we can say, “So that’s how God did it.”
–John N. Clayton © 2017
The Orionid meteor shower has just passed its peak for 2017. The “shooting stars” that are visible in this annual event are not stars, but they are comet debris.
Halley’s comet (1P/Halley) passes within sight of Earth about every 75 to 76 years. Like all comets, it leaves behind a trail of small rocks that have fallen away. Every year at this time Earth’s rotation around the Sun causes us to pass through that trail of debris. Comet pieces are pulled in by Earth’s gravity, and they burn up because of friction with our atmosphere. We see the streaks across the sky, and since they seem to come from the direction of the Orion constellation, we call it the Orionid meteor shower.
Two years ago I was able to “catch a falling star” on camera. You can see the one I caught streaking downward from Orion’s left foot. In case you have trouble seeing Orion, the hunter, I have added labels to the second picture.
I think Orion is interesting because God talks about it in Job 38:31. God finally speaks in answer to Job and his friends, and God asks Job a bunch of questions that Job can’t answer. Among those questions, “Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their season?” In other words, “Can you untie the belt of Orion?” Of course, Job could not. Nor could he do any of the other things in the questions God asked of him in chapters 38 and 39. Only God can.
The point God was trying to get across to Job is that God is in control and we need to trust Him, even when we can’t understand why things don’t go the way we think they should. Job finally understood that and said, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3).
There are events in the world and in my life that make me wonder why God allows those things to happen. Orion reminds me that I am not in control, but God is. Like Job, I have to realize that there are things I just don’t understand. The Orionid meteor shower is a yearly reminder of that.
–Roland Earnst © 2017
On October 6 NASA’s daily space news website apod.nasa.gov contained pictures of a Martian global aurora. Because Mars has virtually no magnetic field, the radiation level goes sky high during solar storms. In the latest storm, radiation levels doubled–which would have been dangerous to life on Mars.
Earth’s magnetic field is very strong, and deflects radiation coming from the Sun. The radiation is deflected toward the poles, which is why we see the auroras near the poles. By deflecting the radiation, the magnetic field protects life on the Earth from dangerous levels. The more we learn about the cosmos, the more we see factors that make life possible on Earth. Our magnetic field is one more example of the design of our planet.
Looking for life in space is not just about whether there is water on a planet. There are a huge number of other factors that must be present. A strong magnetic field to shield from radiation is just one of those factors. Of course, an atmosphere suitable for life is also a requirement. NASA has a space probe called MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) orbiting Mars. The purpose is to find out if Mars lost its atmosphere due to not having a strong magnetic field.
The Martian global aurora is just one more reminder of the blessing of life on planet Earth. It also indicates that life on this planet is no accident.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
One of the things high-school chemistry students have to learn is how to use a periodic table of the elements. As we worked with the chart, I almost always had a student ask me how the natural elements of the periodic table came into existence. Our textbook simply said that the elements were produced by “the event that produced the universe.”
Dr. Timothy C. Beers is the chair of astrophysics in the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame. The Notre Dame Magazine for Autumn 2017 contains an interesting article about his efforts to understand the processes that formed the natural elements of the periodic table. Dr. Beers calls it “Galactic Archaelogy.”
Beers was the first scientist to identify “carbon-enhanced metal-poor stars.” These stars appear to have formed very early in the creation of the universe, and thus they give a window into the past. When the universe was created, only hydrogen and helium were present. Beers and his fellow researchers are working to understand what is called a rapid neutron-capture process. When neutrons bombard the lighter elements, some of those neutrons latch on and create heavier elements. As we watch that process taking place, we see that producing the elements heavier than hydrogen and helium requires a more complex process than anyone could imagine.
The Bible simply says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens (outer space) and the earth (elements that make up our planet).” God doesn’t tell us how He did it, but Genesis 2:3 tells us that God created (did a miraculous event that humans cannot do) and made (did an event that we can do and understand). The team that Dr. Beers leads is trying to understand how God did it.
Understanding how God created the stuff that makes up our bodies is a part of seeing the handiwork of God. Dr. Beers says, “I think human beings want to know the story,” and he says that his work will surely produce a religious response. The design of the natural elements of the periodic table is amazing. Learning how God formed them is a rich source of data about God’s design and creative wisdom.
In Proverbs 8:22-23 wisdom speaks of the creation, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the Earth was.” Knowing how God did the marvelous creation we see around us includes the very large such as the Grand Canyon and the very small such as quarks. Understanding how He made the elements is one of the most astounding evidences of design we can see in the cosmos.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
The “Great American Eclipse” of 2017 had more viewers than the Super Bowl. According to Nielson ratings, the 2017 Super Bowl had 111 million viewers on TV. About 215 million adults, or 88 percent of the United States adult population, watched the eclipse. That total includes those who watched it live, plus TV and internet viewers. Of course, many children watched it too.
The University of Michigan and NASA compiled the viewing statistics with a joint survey. Sixty-one million adults in the United States watched the eclipse on TV, computers, tablets, or phones. Unlike the Super Bowl the vast majority, about 154 million, watched it directly with the aid of viewing glasses or pinhole cameras. About 20 million traveled to locations where they could see the totality. I can testify that the roads in southern Illinois were crowded with travelers. After the eclipse, it took 3 hours to drive 40 miles. You can watch a speeded-up view of the eclipse on this video. Be sure to turn the sound up so that you can hear the reaction of the people around me during the eclipse.
In addition to a large viewership, the satisfaction rate was high. Seven out of ten said they were not disappointed. (Probably about half of the Super Bowl crowd was disappointed because their team lost.) If you listen to the video that I edited, you can tell that the crowd on the bluff overlooking the Ohio River was not disappointed.
We are pleased that there was this much interest in a science-related event. God’s creation can draw more viewers than the Super Bowl.
–Roland Earnst © 2017