Life Needs Phosphorus

Life Needs Phosphorus
The element phosphorus is used to make matches. Molecular phosphorus has two common forms. There is white phosphorus which is dangerously combustible and is used to make fireworks and weapons. The more stable red phosphorus is used on the side of any box of safety matches. When you strike the match against the red phosphorus, a small amount of it is changed to white phosphorus to ignite the match. But phosphorus has more important uses than starting fires. Life needs phosphorus. The average human body contains about 26.5 ounces (750 grams) of phosphorus. Most of it is in our bones.

Phosphate is a compound of phosphorus and oxygen. It combines with sugars in living tissue to form the backbone of DNA, which is the blueprint for life found in every living cell. Phosphate is also part of a complex organic chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) found in every living organism. ATP releases energy so that cells can function. Life needs phosphorus and could not exist without it in an abundant supply.

Recent research presented at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science on April 5, 2018, indicates that phosphorus may not be widely available in the Milky Way. The research indicates that it is more random than scientists had previously thought. That means even if one of the recently discovered exoplanets had all of the conditions required to support life, it still might be lifeless without phosphorus.

We have often referred to the many conditions required to make a habitable planet. Here is one more to add to the list. Life needs phosphorus, and apparently phosphorus is less widely distributed than we thought. Phil Cigan, one of the astronomers involved in the study, said, “It’s not a guaranteed thing to have phosphorus abundant everywhere, ripe for the picking. It seems to look like luck plays a bigger role in this.”

Is it just one more chance coincidence that planet Earth has the phosphorus needed for life? We don’t think it is a matter of luck. We think this is another evidence of God’s design for life.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Tectonic Plates, Earthquakes, and Volcanos

Tectonic Plates Map
Tectonic Plates Map

Yesterday (April 5, 2018) there was a magnitude 5.3 earthquake off the coast of California near Los Angeles. No serious damage resulted, but scientists say there is a one-in-twenty chance that quake could be the foreshock of a larger quake. This brings up the question of why we have earthquakes. Did God do a poor job of designing the Earth?

The answer to that question is, “No.” Earthquakes result from factors that are essential for life on Earth. Earth’s crust consists of tectonic plates floating on the mantle, which is a region of molten rock. Under the continents, the Earth’s crust averages 18 miles (30 km) thick. Under the oceans, the crust is only about 3 miles (5 km) thick. The mass of the crust puts great pressure on the molten rock in the mantle causing it to be very viscous. If a crack opens in the crust, the molten rock will move upward, become more liquid as it is under less pressure. Then it may burst from the surface creating a volcano.

Volcanoes create mountains, and so does the movement of the tectonic plates. The tectonic plates moving against each other also produce earthquakes. Sometimes the plates will move against each other horizontally. We call that a slip-strike earthquake and that is what happens in the San Andreas fault in California. The quake that just occurred was a thrust quake where one side of a fault thrusts over the top of the one next to it. The Rocky Mountains and the Himalayas were pushed up by movement of the tectonic plates.

By the creation of mountains, the Earth has been continuously renewed. On the surface of the continents, erosion, and weathering break up solid rock to produce sand, clay, and ultimately topsoil. Erosion cuts down the mountains and deposits sediment in the lower elevations. Further erosion carries the sediment out into the oceans. In the deepest parts of the ocean, there are trenches. Huge amounts of sediment settle into those trenches, but they never get full. That’s because the sediment sliding into the trenches is finding its way down into the mantle.

The movement of sediment replenishes the mantle with new material which then resupplies the continents with new rock. Volcanoes erupt bringing recycled minerals and nutrients to the surface. Volcanic soils are the richest soils on Earth. This system has also brought the iron and other essential minerals into the Earth’s crust.

This is a greatly oversimplified explanation of the comprehensive recycling system that God designed into the planet on which we live. Earthquakes and volcanoes are destructive when humans build homes and cities close to the fault lines and active volcano sites. But if the Earth’s recycling system didn’t exist, erosion would eventually reduce the land masses to sea level, and Earth would be a water world.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Can Death Be Conquered?

Can Death Be Conquered?
Some people say that nothing is certain except death and taxes. The truth is that only one of those things is certain. Not only will every one of us die, but every government that collects taxes will also die. It’s a scientific fact that all things, even the universe itself, will come to an end. Can death be conquered?

There is no escaping physical death for everyone and everything. Since we are limited to the dimension of time, and since there is such a thing as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, disorder will eventually catch up with us and with everything else. Our vehicles wear out. Our clothing wears out. Our bodies wear out. Even the Sun and all of the other stars will wear out.

If you spend your life getting all you can for yourself not caring whom you hurt in the process, you will not take your riches with you. If you devote your life to studying science and adding to the database of human knowledge, that too will go away. If all things in the universe, including humans, are merely accidents of chance, we ultimately have no purpose, no value, and no hope.

If you have read this far, you may be feeling depressed, but I have good news. There is a God who created the universe, and you, for a purpose. Yes, your body will die, and even the universe will die. But by God’s grace, you can choose to live on. God entered the time dimension in human form and conquered death for us. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live.”

How can death be conquered? In the beginning, God created time and space, matter and energy. Since He created those things, God is not limited by them. God had no beginning, and He will have no end. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus demonstrated God’s love and grace and His power over death. Because of that, you have the choice to believe and accept and live on beyond the universe. “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Donkeys and Horses

Donkey and Horse
There are many obvious physical similarities between donkeys and horses. In their actions, they are very different.

Horses were first domesticated about 4,000 B.C. A horse can carry a rider into or out of a battle with speed and grace. A horse and its rider form a partnership of mutual trust. With a trusted rider on its back, a horse will charge ahead into the danger of a rugged course or a heated battle. Horses have been used in warfare for thousands of years.

Donkeys were domesticated around 3,000 B.C. While a horse can be fearless, a donkey has a much stronger sense of self-preservation. The unwillingness of donkeys to go into dangerous situations has given them a probably undeserved reputation for being stubborn. Donkeys don’t connect with their human riders in the way that horses do. That lack of mutual connection is a major factor in the reason why warriors have never ridden into battle on donkeys. Riding into confrontation on a donkey would indicate surrender.The use of donkeys in warfare has been limited to carrying supplies and carrying the wounded away from the battle.

So donkeys and horses are physically similar, and studies have not indicated a strong difference in intelligence between these animals. The difference between them seems to be in the way they are programmed in their DNA. The Creator understood that and chose a donkey to ride into Jerusalem as Jesus became the sacrificial fulfillment of the Passover Lamb in Matthew 21:1-5. In the final battle when the power of evil is destroyed forever, Revelation 19:11-16 describes Him riding on a horse. It’s easy to see that the donkey is used by the Suffering Servant and the horse is used by the Conquering King.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Turtle on a Fence Post

Turtle on a Fence Post
If you see a bird sitting on a fence post, you don’t have to think about how the bird got there. You assume that it flew in and landed on the fence post. However, if you see a turtle on a fence post, then you have to question how it got there.

I think it should be obvious that the turtle could not have climbed up onto the post by itself. Someone must have put it there. If you look around and don’t see anyone, do you change your mind and conclude that the turtle put itself on the post?

Another possible option is that the turtle hatched and grew there. If so, how did the turtle egg get on the fence post? Could the egg have been blown there by the wind or is it more reasonable to think that someone put it there?

After thinking about those possibilities, you conclude that perhaps the turtle isn’t really there. Maybe you are just imaging that the turtle is on the fence post. Perhaps it’s an optical illusion, and your senses fooling you.

After you have considered all options, you eventually conclude that the rational answer is that someone placed the turtle on the fence post. You can’t see the person, but you know that person must exist because of the evidence.

We look at the amazing design in the world around us from the DNA in our cells to the fine-tuning of the universe, and ask ourselves: “How could this be? Could it happen by accident? Is design merely an illusion? Did all of these things put themselves together out of nothing without any intelligent direction?”

Some scientists have suggested that life on Earth come from outer space. If so, how can you explain the origin of that alien life? If you can’t see the cause, do you conclude that there isn’t one?

Before you reject the idea that God exists, ask yourself how rational it is to believe that everything came into existence out of nothing, by nothing, and for no reason. Remember the turtle on a fence post.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Stephen Hawking’s Death

Stephen Hawking's Death
On the morning of March 14, news media carried the news of Stephen Hawking’s death. His family announced, “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.”

Hawking was a brilliant physicist and cosmologist and probably the best-known living scientist. He wrote the book A Brief History of Time which was published in 1988. That book holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for being on the Sunday Times (London) bestseller list for an amazing 237 weeks. The book has sold ten-million copies and has been translated into 40 languages. Along with Roger Penrose, Hawking devised the theory that the universe began with a singularity in what has come to be known as the “Big Bang.” In his 2010 book The Grand Design he declared that God is not needed to explain the existence of the universe. In an interview, he said, “There is no heaven or afterlife… that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Stephen Hawking lived a remarkable life for a person with a form of ALS, a motor neuron disease. He was diagnosed at age 21, and the doctors gave him two years to live. He survived until age 76 but spent most of those years in a wheelchair unable to move. He could only talk with the aid of a computerized voice.

We are saddened to know that Hawking was never able to accept the Christian faith of his first wife. In the announcement of Stephen Hawking’s death, his three children said, “We will miss him forever.”

We have recently published two postings about Stephen Hawking, and we encourage you to read them by clicking here and here.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Just Imagine

Just Imagine
In 1971 former Beatles singer/songwriter John Lennon released the song “Imagine” on an album of the same title. The song became a hit when it was released and then again when it was re-released in 1981 after Lennon’s death. The song challenges the listener to “Imagine there’s no heaven” and “no hell” and “no religion too.” Just imagine the consequences of Lennon’s Imagination.

Rolling Stone magazine called the album and song Lennon’s “greatest musical gift to the world.” Lennon told Rolling Stone that the song was “anti-religious,” but he admitted that it had “sugar on it” to make it more acceptable. He didn’t directly say, “Imagine there’s no God,” but that’s the real message of the song. The song is saying that without belief in God there will be peace and harmony in the world because “the world will be as one.”

So let’s imagine there is no heaven, no hell, and no God. That would mean that there is no reward for doing good. Then why devote your life to helping others? Why do anything good for anyone unless it directly benefits you in some way? If there is no hell, then why restrain yourself from doing what benefits you in this life, even if it hurts or kills others. No crime against humanity will ultimately be punished. Terrorists who kill innocent people are the ultimate winners. Those who sacrifice their lives to save others are the losers. Furthermore, if your life is not going well in this imaginary world, you might as well end it.

The kind of world Lennon imagined is not worth imagining. Now just imagine everyone in the world living according to the example and teaching of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5-7. Treat others with love and respect. Be faithful to your spouse. Love your enemies. Give to the needy. Go the extra mile for others. Don’t worry. Trust God because He does exist, and He cares for you. A world of people living like that is something truly worth imagining.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Searching for Other Worlds

Searching for Other Worlds
In 1999 astronomers detected the first exoplanet–a planet in another solar system. The number of planets detected orbiting around stars other than our Sun has grown to more than 3,500 today. There are billions of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy so searching for other worlds is just getting started.

NASA’s main tool for finding exoplanets has been the Kepler space telescope. The method of detecting those planets is watching for occlusions. If there is a planet orbiting a star, it will sometimes pass in front of that star from our viewpoint causing an occlusion or mini-eclipse. The planets are too small for us to see, but we can see a small dip in the light coming from the star. If the dip comes on a regular interval that means it might be an orbiting planet. The amount of the dip in light level indicates the size of the planet in relation to its star. Using this method of detection, astronomers have compiled a catalog of detected planets.

As I said, until now the Kepler telescope has been the method for finding most of these planets, but it will soon end its life. However, 2018 will be the beginning of new opportunities to look for exoplanets because of two new satellite-based observatories. Very soon NASA will launch TESS. That stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. By the end of the year, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch CHEOPS or Characterising Exoplanet Satellite. (Aren’t you glad we have acronyms.)

The Kepler telescope was very good at searching for other worlds, but only in a small area of the sky. TESS will take a much wider view with the hope of finding many more. For obvious reasons, so far most of the planets detected are giant planets. TESS will be targeting bright stars in the hope of finding smaller planets that more closely resemble Earth. Astronomers will be able to target TESS more precisely toward selected stars.

It will be interesting to see what new discoveries will come from the investment of time and more than a quarter of a billion dollars. So far there have been no more than a dozen planets that even come close to being possible outposts for life. As we have said before there are many parameters required to sustain any kind of life and even more to support advanced life. We have also said many times before that whether there is life anywhere else in the cosmos has nothing to say about whether God exists. A God who is great enough to create the cosmos can create life anywhere He chooses. We are just glad He chose planet Earth so scientists can continue searching for other worlds.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Letters in the Sand

Letters in the Sand
What do you see in this picture? Look closely, and you will see evidence of letters in the sand.

Notice the waves that were caused by wind blowing across the desert. Then notice the really surprising thing the wind has done! The wind has created some lines in a very interesting pattern. The lines seem to spell out the name of the world’s largest hot desert—SAHARA. Yes, the Sahara Desert covers most of northern Africa and to find something this amazing that the natural forces have “written” on the sand is truly unusual.

Wait a minute! Are you suggesting that those letters are not the effect of the wind and natural forces? Are you thinking that maybe an intelligent being actually wrote in the sand? Consider carefully the fact that the Sahara is huge and there are vast areas of sand. Given enough time and the proper wind directions why couldn’t this word show up by natural forces alone? Surely somewhere in that desert there must be a naturally formed letter—maybe an “S.” Surely in all of that area it is possible that natural forces could have formed the other letters. Given the billions of grains of sand and enough time they could just happen to line up in the proper order to spell a word. Couldn’t they?

Okay, you are not buying my story. Perhaps an intelligent being was involved in the formation of this word in the sand. But if you won’t believe me concerning the six letters in the sand, would you believe three-billion letters? That’s how many letters came together in the proper order to form the DNA strands in every cell of your body. That DNA code gives the complete blueprint for YOU. You can read S-A-H-A-R-A in seconds. If you were to read the three-billion letters of the DNA from one of your cells at the rate of one per second, every second of every hour of every day, it would take 31 years. Do you believe that the DNA code came into existence in a completely natural and unguided way?

Oh, you are suggesting that it all started out with something simple and then evolved into what it is today. Sorry, but fossil evidence shows that even the simplest bacteria that emerged shortly after the Earth came into existence had extremely complex DNA codes. Life just can’t exist without the code. The code is information and information is the product of intelligence. We suggest that just like those letters in the sand, life can’t happen without an intelligent Creator.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

Should Christians Get Tattoos?
Tattoos are nothing new. In 1991 tourists found a 5,300-year-old iceman mummy in the Italian Alps with 61 tattoos on his body. Recently archaeologists found tattoos on 5,000-year-old mummies in Egypt. Even though tattoos have been around for a long time, they have become very popular in the last few years. According to a Harris poll, currently, 21 percent of U.S. adults have at least one tattoo. The thing many people want to know is should Christians get tattoos?

There are disagreements among Christian teachers about tattoos. You can search the internet and find discussions on the topic, such as here and here. What does the Bible say? The passage that is often quoted is Leviticus 19:28. However, there is disagreement on exactly what it means. We don’t have room here to go into a lengthy theological discussion about whether or not tattoos are sinful. We will leave that to others. But there are some things we can say for certain about tattoos.

You may wonder why tattoos are so permanent when our skin cells, like other cells in our bodies, die and are replaced every few years. According to an article published on March 6 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the reason has to do with our immune system. When the needle punctures the skin, immune-response cells called macrophages rush to the site and gobble up the foreign substance. After capturing the ink, they hold it until they die. When they die a cellular recycling system kicks into action. New macrophages take up the ink and hold it until they die. The process continues keeping the ink as a permanent part of the cellular network. Tattoo removal requires laser pulsing the macrophage cells that hold the ink coaxing them to release it into the lymph system of the body. This removal process can take years.

It is also safe to say that tattoos can cause serious adverse reactions. These can be short-term problems such as infections. They can be long-term problems including redness, swelling, and itching. In a random sampling of tattooed people in New York City, ten percent said they had some complications. Of that ten percent, sixty percent had chronic problems. Sometimes people develop allergies to the inks used, and sometimes that happens only after they get a second tattoo. The treatment for tattoo allergies may involve topical or injected steroids or surgical removal. Tattoo inks are not closely regulated, if at all. Unsanitary tattoo parlors or a tattoo artist who doesn’t use proper precautions can cause infections. Bacterial infections are the most common, but fungal or viral infections are possible. Tattoos can result in blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C.

Another potential problem of tattoos is that they can hide health problems such as skin cancers of all kinds including melanoma. With skin cancer, as with any cancer, early detection is essential and even a dermatologist may not see early evidence if it is hidden by a tattoo. Tattoos can also increase your risk of the effects of Sun exposure. Yellow ink, which contains cadmium, is known to cause itching and redness when exposed to the Sun. Black or dark ink colors can absorb the Sun’s rays and cause overheating. Because black ink contains iron, it can also create problems if you have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Black ink contains iron, and the magnetic field can generate electric currents in the iron. That can cause burning, and the more black ink, the more danger in an MRI.

But should Christians get tattoos? For a Christian, there are more things to consider before getting a tattoo. Why do you want one? Is it to glorify God, or is it to draw attention to yourself? Is it an act of rebellion? How will friends and family react? Will it be a stumbling block for other Christians? Will this tattoo be appropriate for me 30, 40, or 50 years from now? Will it make it hard for me to get a job? (Many employers do not want their employees to have visible tattoos.) Is this the best stewardship of money which could be used to spread the gospel or help others in need? (Tattoos are expensive, but removal is much more expensive and painful.) What does the tattoo say about me? Does it convey the kind of message I want to present as a Christian?

Let’s go back to the original question. Should Christians get tattoos? If you are a Christian, a better question to ask is, “Should I get a tattoo?” As you ask that question remember “you are not your own” and “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Finally read Romans 14:22-23 and consider, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
–Roland Earnst © 2018