The National Geographic Channel has been airing a very interesting new series of programs titled “One Strange Rock.” The series hosted by actor/comedian Will Smith tells about the many “strange” and “lucky” features of planet Earth that make it possible for us to live here. In the most recent episode, eight astronauts explain why they think that humans should colonize space. They and some other prominent individuals have recently suggested that colonizing other planets or living in space may be the only hope for the human race to survive. In the process we might find ourselves becoming new creatures.
This episode brings out the many ways that space life will affect our bodies. Based on present experience with the International Space Station we know that bones and muscles weaken when they do not have to overcome the effects of gravity. Body fluids shift upwards causing other physical changes. There are changes to a person’s eyesight which can be permanent. Outside of Earth’s atmospheric protection, astronauts face greater amounts of cosmic radiation that can trigger “light flashes” in their eyes. Long exposure to the higher levels of radiation may lead to cancer or brain damage. At the same time, bacteria grow faster and can become more deadly in a zero-gravity environment. The environment of space, even with the best protective gear science can devise, may at best be toxic and at worst fatal to humans.
Even with those considerations, the astronauts are saying that we must colonize space. Part of their reasoning is that humans have evolved to handle the challenges of life on this planet, and we will perhaps evolve becoming new creatures to handle the new hazards of space. They say it will just be a matter of adapting to a new environment. Will Smith said in this episode, “Even if we survive the journey and make the place feel like home, we still might not save our species. Just by being there we might turn into something else.”
I think that the real answer to human survival IS for us to turn into something else. Human survival depends on people turning away from their sinful passions and hatred. It involves becoming what God created us to be and living out the teaching and example of Jesus. Going to another planet and taking along our sinful nature with all of its baggage will not save us. The real hope for the survival of the human race does not involve leaving the planet God created for us. It does not require leaving Earth with all of its “strange” and “lucky” features that make life possible. It is not necessary for us to go to a much more hostile environment and evolve into new creatures. The answer to our survival is becoming new creatures here and now as described in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
We have often mentioned before the evidence that our planet was designed to support life. More than that, it was designed to support advanced life. It was even designed to support advanced civilization.
You can see evidence for advanced civilization support in the minerals of Earth’s crust—minerals that are essential for machinery and electronics that enable technology. One thing which perhaps you have not considered is how the size of our planet also supports advanced civilization. Among the achievements of science is space flight. The ability to use rockets to leave Earth’s surface makes it possible for us to place satellites in orbit. Those satellites include:
*Communication satellites which make possible nationwide and international television, news, sports, telephone, and video conversations.
*Global positioning satellites giving us GPS which we use for many purposes including airplane, ship, and personal navigation plus farming and safety uses.
*Weather satellites giving us advance warning of storms and helping to keep us safe.
*Observational satellites that allow us to study and learn more about our planet.
*Telescopic satellites which enable us to study our solar system and the universe.
We often fail to realize how important those satellites are for our advanced civilization. Also, the ability to use rockets to leave Earth’s surface allows us to send out space probes to explore our solar system and universe.
What does the design of our planet have to do with our ability to leave the surface? The answer relates to gravity. Astronomers have been looking for habitable planets orbiting other stars. They believe that they have found many of those exoplanets. However, the planets that are more likely to be located in habitable zones (where liquid water can exist) are much larger than Earth. A much-larger rocky planet would have much more mass and therefore much more gravity. Launching a rocket into space from such a planet would be much more difficult, if not impossible. Even airplane flight and the flight of birds could be affected by increased gravity.
A planet with a diameter 70 percent greater than Earth’s diameter would have ten times the mass. The advantage of having much more gravity would be that a planet like that could hold a thicker atmosphere which could give more protection from harmful cosmic rays and incoming asteroids. The disadvantage of a thicker atmosphere would be that it might also block useful solar rays. However, getting a rocket off the ground and into space could be prohibitive. It would require a much larger rocket which would require more fuel. That would require an even larger rocket to carry the extra fuel. The weight of the larger rocket and fuel would require an even larger rocket requiring even more fuel. This quickly spirals out of control.
So what is the conclusion? We live on a planet that is large enough to hold an atmosphere that protects us but small enough that we can to break the bond of gravity to go into space. A smaller planet would not have the atmosphere we need. A larger planet would not allow us to explore beyond our planet or even to send up satellites that help to make advanced civilization possible. As Goldilocks might say, “God made it just right.”
–Roland Earnst © 2018
An article in the British tabloid Daily Star on April 8, 2018, claimed that new tests on Buzz Aldrin confirm that he contacted an alien on his trip to the Moon in 1969. The story supposedly came from an Ohio scientific group called “The Institute of BioAcoustic Biology and Sound Health.” That group claims to have a “top secret” test to determine what the subject actually experienced or saw. They gave no explanation of the test or why it overrules what the subject says.
The reason we even mention this is because atheist journals and even in major newspapers like USA Today have cited it. NASA has pointed out that four panels separated from the Apollo 11 spacecraft in flight, and they would have followed the same general trajectory as the spacecraft. Buzz Aldrin said in a Reddit chat session, “I feel absolutely convinced that we were looking at the sun reflected off of one of these panels.” He has denied having any contact with aliens. The BioAcoustic group claims that audio tests have shown hidden truths in Aldrin’s speech.
We have repeatedly pointed out that the question of whether there is life on other planets, is not a biblical or apologetic issue. The Bible doesn’t say that this is the only place where God has chosen to create life. However, it has become increasingly obvious that if there is alien intelligent life in space, it is too far away to be of any consequence to us. In spite of that, the media continues to push the idea that life in space somehow contradicts the Bible and supports atheism.
There is an adage that when a person doesn’t believe in something they will believe anything. That seems to apply here. Our focus needs to be on solving Earth’s problems, not attempts to divert attention to poorly supported scientific claims of alien intervention.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
One of my favorite free websites is NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). Every morning I begin my day by looking at what new image is on that site. Since there is an explanation of the image, this is also an opportunity to learn about objects in space and how those objects might fit into our understanding of the universe. The picture from April 17, 2018, is called “M57: The Ring Nebula.”
M57 is known as a “planetary nebula,” but the glowing material does not come from planets. Scientists believe it is the outer layers expelled by a star very similar to our Sun. It went through a process that we see happening in space where stars explode and seed space with heavy elements produced by the explosion. What is left of the star is the tiny dot at the center of the nebula. That dot is a very dense remnant of the core of the star that is spinning very rapidly obeying the laws of physics as it does so.
This is not creation. The material this explosion produced is not coming from nothing. It is the product of previous materials that were produced at the moment of creation by a process that we cannot duplicate or even adequately describe in scientific terms. The process of fusing hydrogen to heavier elements, seeding space with all of the material produced, and reforming the material to make terrestrial life possible is outside of our capacity to observe. To some extent, it can be described with mathematical equations. The astronomy picture of the day on the NASA site continues to detail the process that produced our world and all we see around us.
God is not limited by time or space or our capacity to understand. In Job 38:4 God challenges Job to deal with “the foundations of the Earth.” In Proverbs 8:22-27 wisdom speaks about the planning and design God made before the Earth came to be (verse 23). Wisdom speaks about the preparation of the heavens (verse 27).
When we look at the astronomy picture of the day on the NASA website, we are not seeing the present. We are looking into the past. M57 went through the process of seeding its neighborhood with heavy elements 2,000 years ago, and we witness that event today. Virtually everything on the NASA website, and in astronomy, is in the past. Seeing these things allows us to wonder at the power, wisdom, and majesty of God. It reinforces David’s statement in Psalms 8:3-4: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you visit him?”
–John N. Clayton © 2018
For viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, the early morning hours of Sunday, April 22, will be the best viewing time for the 2017 presentation of the Lyrid meteor shower. From mid-April this year to about April 25 the “shooting stars” are visible with as many as a dozen or so per hour. However, on Sunday morning there will probably be up to 20 per hour.
The Lyrid meteor shower comes around every year in April. There are ten significant meteor showers each year, but the last one was the Quadrantid meteors in early January. Now, at last, with the weather a little warmer we have another chance to watch the sky.
The Lyrid meteor shower gets its name from the fact that it seems to radiate from the constellation Lyra, the harp. No, they are not “shooting stars.” The Lyrid meteors are actually fragments broken off from Comet Thatcher which passed by in 1861. That comet makes a pass through our solar system every 415 years or so.
The Comet Thatcher has been passing through and leaving bits behind for a long time because Chinese sky watchers saw the Lyrid meteor shower in 687 B.C. Apparently they were impressed because they recorded that “stars fell like rain.”
Of course, the ancient Chinese didn’t know what caused the event. We know that it’s the result of those comet pieces falling into our atmosphere, being heated by the friction of the air, and burning up. Our atmosphere does more than just give us oxygen to breathe. It also protects us in many ways. One of those protections is that it causes most objects falling from space to burn up before they reach Earth’s surface. That friction requires heat-shield protection for returning Astronauts, but those of us living on the Earth’s surface can be glad to have an atmosphere to protect us. Recently a Chinese space station the size of a bus fell into our atmosphere and disintegrated before reaching the ground. You don’t need a telescope to see the pockmarks on the Moon’s surface from asteroid impacts because the Moon has no atmosphere.
Speaking of the Moon, it will be in its first-quarter phase and will not set until about 2 A.M Sunday morning. For that reason, viewing the Lyrid meteor shower will probably be best between 2 A.M. and the first light of dawn. However, if you miss it then, you still have a few more days, but the meteors will be fewer and farther between. If you see the Lyrid meteor shower, let it be a reminder of the fact that God has designed a planet that provides for our needs and protects us while we enjoy its beauty.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
You might say that planet Earth is a very large magnet. We have mentioned before Earth’s magnetic field that is generated by the iron core. The movement of that molten iron generates a magnetic field surrounding our planet. We can see the effect of that field every time we use a compass to find directions.
What you may not realize is that there is also a magnetic field generated by the ocean. Salt water is a good conductor of electricity. Moving electric currents generate magnetic fields. Hans Christian Ørsted discovered that by accident in 1820 when he noticed that placing a compass near a wire carrying an electric current caused deflection of the compass needle.
Salt dissolved in the oceans’ water creates ions, which are electrically charged particles. The movement of ocean tides causes those charged particles to move. Electric current is electrically charged particles in motion. Since electric current generates a magnetic field, the ocean tides generate magnetic fields. Because the movement of ocean currents and tides is complex, the magnetic fields generated by the oceans are more complex than the big magnetic field of the Earth. They are also 20,000 times weaker than Earth’s main magnetic field making them harder to measure.
Today’s satellite technology allows us to map the oceans’ magnetic field. The European Space Agency used three satellites to create a network called “Swarm.” They used the data from those satellites to create a 3-D digital map of this little-known magnetic field. The research shows how the field changes over time. Although the oceans create a relatively small part of Earth’s magnetic field, they play an important role. Mapping this field also give scientists a better picture of how the oceans flow all the way down to the seabeds. That information gives us a better understanding of Earth’s climate.
Combined with the magnetic field produced by the molten core and rocks in Earth’s crust, we are protected by a “cocoon” surrounding our planet. You might say, “Protected from what?” Our Sun frequently erupts in solar storms releasing charged particles that escape into space. Many of those particles travel to the Earth. We call it “solar wind.” Without a protective magnetic shield, those particles would reach Earth’s surface disrupting power grids and aircraft navigation. More basic than that, they would damage human cells causing cancers and other health problems.
We don’t think it’s by chance that we have the protection of Earth’s magnetic field. We see this as one more evidence of the provision of God to make possible life on this planet.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
As astronomical equipment gets better, the details of stellar systems other than our own show patterns that highlight our unique solar system.
The January 3, 2018, issue of The Astronomical Journal published a report on a study of 909 planets in 355 systems discovered by the Kepler Telescope. The study shows two major patterns in neighboring exoplanets. The first is that those exoplanets tend to have similar masses. The second is that their orbits are regularly spaced from one planet to the next.
Our solar system has inner planets that have mismatched sizes, and they are widely spaced. All models of solar system formation fit what we see in exoplanets. The evidence suggests that exoplanetary systems have not been disturbed since their formation. Our system is different because it shows evidence that it has been disturbed. Jupiter and Saturn seem to be tools that modify the normal pattern of solar system formation.
In 1996 an extraterrestrial rock fragment was discovered in Egypt called the Hypatia stone. The mineral composition of that stone is unlike any other known object in our solar system. Scientists think that it originated outside of our system. Our solar system seems to be unique in both structure and chemical makeup. Astronomers are discovering indicators of how God created the Earth and all of the things that allow life to exist on it.
The design of our unique solar system compared to other systems helps us to understand that we are not a product of chance collisions or explosions in space. The simple statement of the Psalmist in Psalms 19:1 has a different frame of reference now than when it was written. It is truer today than when the ancient shepherd looked at his sky and wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the Earth shows the work of His hands.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Astronomy magazine, May 2018, pages 15, 17.
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
The March 2018 issue of National Geographic features an article with the title One Strange Rock. A NatGeo TV presentation by the same name premiers today. The subtitle of the magazine article says: “13 things that make life on Earth possible.”
For many years we have presented these variables in our videos and audios, books and articles. While new data has expanded these concepts, the fundamental design features of the cosmos remain an excellent argument for the existence of God and His role in the creation. Here are the 13 variables that National Geographic presented to support the idea that Earth is one strange rock:
“#1. OUR PLANET RECYCLES LIFE-FRIENDLY CARBON OVER TIME.
#2. WE HAVE AN OZONE LAYER TO BLOCK HARMFUL RAYS.
#3. WE HAVE A BIG MOON TO STABILIZE OUR AXIAL WOBBLE.
#4. EARTH’S VARIED SURFACES SUPPORT MANY LIFE FORMS.
#5. OUR MAGNETIC FIELD DEFLECTS SOLAR TEMPESTS.
#6 WE’RE AT JUST THE RIGHT DISTANCE FROM THE SUN.
#7. WE’RE SITUATED SAFELY AWAY FROM GAS GIANTS.
#8 THE SUN IS A STABLE, LONG-LASTING STAR.
#9. WE HAVE THE RIGHT STUFF TO HOST A DYNAMIC CORE.
#10. WE HAVE GIANT PLANETS THAT PROTECT US FROM AFAR.
#11. OUR SUN OFFERS PROTECTION FROM GALACTIC DEBRIS.
#12. OUR GALACTIC PATH STEERS US CLEAR OF HAZARDS.
#13. OUR LOCATION IS FAR FROM STELLAR CROWDS.”
We encourage you to view our video series which begins by looking at these variables and showing the probability factors for these and other variables. The point of our discussion is that when you calculate the odds of these things happening by chance, you end up with a probability that is statistically unacceptable.
The conclusion of National Geographic in the article is:
“Earth is well equipped as a planet and ideally placed in our solar system and galaxy to support life as we know it. The product of some 4.6 billion years of cosmic construction, our planet is flush with life thanks to a fortuitous set of conditions, from the optimal chemical makeup of our planetary core to our safe distance from the hidden black hole at the heart of our galaxy.”
Construction suggests an intelligence doing things in a logical order. Blind chance is not a method, and chance produces as much chaos as order. These 13 variables are just astronomical parameters. There are also design features seen in the creation of physical laws and the laws of quantum mechanics that allow stable atoms to exist. Planet Earth is far more than one strange rock.
The more we know of the creation, the more we know of the Creator. Our knowledge is increasing daily which means the evidence for God’s existence also grows daily.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
In our March 15 article on this site, we mentioned the death of Stephen Hawking. We noted some of the amazing things that Hawking accomplished. We have received some mail about Hawking and his role as an atheist. How much Hawking’s battle with health issues affected his view of God is hard to answer, but his resistance to believing in God is undeniable as shown in his book The Grand Design.
In his otherwise excellent book A Brief History of Time (Bantam Books, 1988), Hawking did a masterful job of explaining the second law of thermodynamics. He even intimated that the second law was supportive of the existence of God. That was something Hawking didn’t want to do, so at the end of the book he invented something he called “virtual time.” He couldn’t define virtual time, and it is not testable and therefore is not science. By accepting virtual time, Hawking was able to deny that there was a beginning and that the beginning had to be caused by an entity outside of space/time.
Hawking’s first wife was a believer in God and expressed concern about the integrity of the virtual time argument. Many have suggested that Hawking’s belief system was all that the last chapter of the book was trying to defend.
In his 2010 book The Grand Design, Hawking 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.” That was a statement of faith based on the imaginary concept of virtual time. Virtual means unreal. A grand design based on virtual time is not real.
Hawking was an outstanding thinker in cosmology, and he overcame enormous challenges to continue to live a productive life far beyond what was expected. It is sad that he allowed bias to shadow his thinking in areas outside of his specialty. A friend of mine with a Ph.D. in physics says, “My Ph.D. in every-day life really stands for post hole digger.” Like Richard Dawkins and other popular atheists, Hawking was incredibly ignorant in spiritual matters, but a genius in his own field of expertise. Let us admire and praise his professional accomplishments, but not attach much significance to his religious opinions. Tomorrow we will examine “virtual faith.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018