Thursday, January 11, 2018

Intelligent Design or Intelligent Cells?

Introduce a discussion of creationism, evolution, or Intelligent Design (ID) at a mixed gathering of friends and we have the makings of a lively discussion. Blend these topics with deeper theology and we have the makings of an even livelier discussion. Many people have firm, established views and may not be happy with the divergence of opinion. It is not only variance of opinion that generates heat during such discussions, but also dissent on the interpretation of evidence. The subjects are often related to one’s religion, worldview, philosophy, or even politics.

In early 2017 Stephen Meyer of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture joined Perry Marshall, online marketing strategist and Christian evolutionary creationist on the moderated “Unbelievable” program produced at Premier Christian Radio in the UK. This medium is an outstanding radio outlet for informative and entertaining Christian programming. Both of these individuals have achieved notoriety for their Christian views. I have heard each of them deliver at least one lecture in person. Meyer is a leader in the Intelligent Design movement. Over a decade ago Marshall may have promoted the theory of Intelligent Design also, but he has modified his beliefs somewhat. Currently he holds the belief that living things, especially cells, possess the framework for expanding the ID hypothesis. He maintains that living cells are agents of intelligence. In other words, he proposes that cells are “smart.”

Neo-Darwinists have used traditional Mendelian genetic inheritance, molecular biology, and population genetics to explain evolutionary changes. Random mutation and natural selection formed the backbone of Neo-Darwinism, also called the Modern Synthesis. This theory is accepted as the textbook scientific paradigm of evolution. But the Modern Synthesis is in deep trouble. Marshall opines that in 3-20 years Neo-Darwinism will no longer be “a theory beyond doubt” as it has been relentlessly described in biology textbooks and public acclaim for scores of years.

In its place Marshall describes a “Third Way,” a view of evolution not driven by random mutation and natural selection, but rather by epigenetics, a term used only in the last few decades. This popular modern term describes the inherent adaptability of living things not due to changes in DNA. Such changes take place at the level of the cell. DNA codes for the production of many thousands of different proteins—the building blocks of the body. Beyond protein production, epigenetics governs even more fascinating gene activity and expression. 

We make use of an analogy we’ve used previously. Imagine a piece of real estate upon which municipal approval has been granted for a specific building project. Now picture all the building materials initially delivered and stored under tarps on the site property. The building constituents would not be useful until a detailed plan for their use is expressed and implemented by the construction crew. The builders’ activities are analogous to the epigenetic activity in embryonic development: the materials are governed by specific construction procedures, expressed by the expertise of the master builders.

Perry Marshall cites a conversation he had: “A few weeks ago a renowned infertility doctor from New York City was expressing to me his utter astonishment at the sophistication of the first few minutes of embryo development in the womb. ‘We know nothing!’ he exclaimed.” The doctor’s “ignorance” indicated his wonder at incredible epigenetic processes of body construction during the crucial early hours of embryonic development.

In January and February 2014 our blog dealt extensively with the wonders of epigenetics in the pre-natal production of a human baby at the cellular level. How could Marshall say that cells are “agents of intelligence?” And how could he say that cells are “smart?” We link one of those posts below and suggest you link to eight or ten “older” or “newer” posts to access the complete series:

In a future post we plan to discuss the differences between the views of Perry Marshall and Stephen Meyer. Their views on evolution and intelligent design are related to theological realities in fascinating ways.



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Design or Pattern?

Many regions of our country experienced severe cold weather in late December 2017. Current forecasts indicate we will endure at least another week of below zero conditions, in some cases, substantially below zero. Some are already poking fun at the global warming climate change contingent without acknowledging that there is a distinction between weather and climate. The current cold snap afforded us an opportunity to rediscover the diversity and beauty of snowflakes collected on a dark, cold surface under ideal conditions. Careful collection and examination of snowflakes with a magnifying glass is an experience not to be missed, especially for our children. 

Winter weather generates snow, a beautiful but sometimes hazardous product of Earth’s mid- and high-latitude regions. Snowflakes are one of nature’s most beautiful manifestations. It is true that no two hexagonally arrayed snowflakes are exactly alike. Snowflakes are six-sided or six-pointed with unique embellishments. As snow falls some cohere into larger particles or crumble in wind-driven conditions.    

Several memories from my teaching experience highlight snowflakes and, more generally, impactful snow events related to teaching near the east coast in northern New Jersey, including the famous winter nor’easters. One of my colleagues, director of environmental education, once sponsored an activity with his students—collecting delicate snowflakes on a cold microscope slide and preserving their form with an application of hairspray. Once during my meteorology unit our neighborhood was favored with an unusual fall of huge snowflakes. I instructed students, “Hurry, get your coats and meet me outside at the nearest exit door.” Catching giant snowflakes in our mouths turned out to be a memorable impromptu activity. One student reminded me of her appreciation for that event several times in the next few months.

Differences among trillions of snowflakes is testament to the multiple subtle atmospheric variations in temperature and humidity. At temperatures below freezing water vapor molecules join with a nucleus of a tiny dust or mineral particle. Snowflakes form when water vapor molecules transition directly to a solid without becoming liquid. A solid snow crystal forms as additional water molecules are added. The variety of crystal forms is virtually unlimited because of extensive variation in atmospheric conditions. With as many as ten quintillion water molecules forming a snowflake, we imagine that the manner in which these molecules arrange themselves explains their unimaginable variety.

The concept of intelligent design has been raised in connection with snowflakes and hundreds of other beautiful phenomena in our natural world. Are snowflakes examples of design? Or are they patterns? The two terms are sometimes used synonymously, but the distinctions are important. Patterns may be esthetically beautiful with their  beautiful repeating ornate features, but they are not the product of an idea. Designs are preceded by an idea. In turn, the idea is expressed as a language in which the language symbols mean something other than themselves. The best example is the design of living things. If we believe life originates as the product of an intelligent mind, we acknowledge that the idea originated in the mind of God. The idea resulted in the DNA genetic code—three billion digits—a purposeful, literal language directing the production of living things.

Whereas designs have a goal in mind, patterns do not. Snowflake patterns result from a self organizing process. The order in a snowflake is fascinatingly beautiful, but “no blueprint or genetic code guides their construction.” Instead, they form spontaneously from the simple action of water vapor condensing directly into solid ice in infinitely different ways. With respect to snowflakes the result is esthetically pleasing.

Kenneth G. Libbrecht, chairman of the physics department at Cal Tech writes in an article entitled “Snowflake Science.” Libbrecht states, “The snowflakes hexagonal patterning derives from the structure of the ice-crystal lattice. The lattice structure in turn derives from the geometry of water molecules and how they connect…So where is the creative genius capable of designing snow crystals in an endless variety of beautiful patterns? It lives in the ever-changing wind.”

The geometry of a water molecule may be described as follows: two hydrogen atoms bond with one oxygen atom at an angle of 105º. Therefore, the familiar H20 water molecule is polar because it is non-linear—it has a positive charge at the hydrogen end and a negative charge at the oxygen end of each water molecule. Such polar molecules bond with each other because positive and negative charges attract. The result is hexagonal structure in water at some temperatures. Water warming from 0ºC to 4ºC (32ºF to 39ºF) or water cooling a similar amount experiences reversals of the “rules” for expansion and contraction we have come to expect when liquids are warmed or cooled. This curious behavior of liquid water is due to slight changes in density related to the formation or breakdown of hexagonal structures of molecules in liquid water owing to its polar qualities. In snowflakes, the spectacular, visually appealing hexagonal structure is also related to the polar qualities of water molecules.

Snowflakes are formed in self-assembled, repeating patterns. Many phenomena in the natural world may be deemed patterns. They form spontaneously, but a complete explanation is difficult to fathom. Other examples are cloud vortexes, peacock feathers, ammonite shells, and sunflower seed patterns, to name a few. In contrast, we may draw an analogy to human production of music or literature which originate with an idea and are expressed by a symbolic language of musical notes or letters on a page. Compare the digital language of DNA—the genetic code of life. The design of living things is suffused with intelligent ideas and expressed in complex language.

The Creator of All Things is the intelligent Designer of all matter and energy. He also created our dimensions of time and space In the Beginning. Had God not created all things, there would be no such things as atoms and molecules with their charges and polarities. Atoms and molecules (and their constituents) resulted from the creation of matter at the beginning. The Book of Hebrews tells us that through God’s Son the universe was made (Hebrews 1:2). The universe was made—designed—by God and the Son, two members of the Trinity. Subsequently, (Hebrews 1:2) the Son sustains all things by his powerful word. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV). 

The Creator of All Things produced (designed) the universe. In addition, the Son is constantly sustaining all things, including many patterns in the natural world. We bow in reverence before the Creator as the author of both designs and patterns!   





Saturday, December 23, 2017

Buoyant Backyard Birds

Our neighborhood in autumn is often full of riveting excitement. When we moved to this area in 2002, I pronounced it “bird heaven.” This judgment has not changed.   This morning as I took pen in hand to begin this post, I experienced a reprise of the rousing action in our back yard several weeks ago. Five or six robins were recapturing their earlier excitement. 

Our sun room overlooks a small valley several hundred feet to the northwest. When we first occupied our home fifteen years ago, our daughter observed that our home resembled a tree house. The valley was more clearly visible than today. In that time, the red cedar trees have grown taller and obscured much of the valley view. Close to our sunroom window are a chokecherry tree and several mulberry trees.

In late summer we noticed, for the first time in our residency, that many bunches of small purple wild grapes had developed on the grapevines which had utilized the chokecherry tree as a climbing venue. The vines were almost 40’ above the ground. When fall arrived, we estimated there were one or two bushels of miniature wild grape bunches.

When we spotted one or two robins in the tree in early November, we noticed that they seemed quite tentative with their grape consumption. Soon that hesitance ended. Over a few days, multitudes of mixed flock birds began to fly in and out, inspecting and eagerly consuming the newfound food source. The grapes provided not only nourishment but also inspired high energy social interaction among local flocks of single species as well as mixed species. The groups came often during a few weeks in November and early December. The birds satisfied their collective appetite for five or ten minutes, then quickly disappeared, only to suddenly reappear later. As the grapes aged, they became sweeter and tastier to our feathered friends. Red cedar “berries” were sometimes consumed for variety or perhaps as dessert.

Before an early December cold spell brought a sudden end to their fascinating back yard communal feeding exuberance, we observed visits from red-bellied woodpeckers, flickers, and chickadees as members of the collective feeding groups. Cedar waxwings and robins, however, were the main participants in the cooperative feeding mayhem. Blue jays watched from afar but did not participate in the vine feast. One flashy visitor—a pileated woodpecker—visited several times alone. This crow-sized, red-crested black and white beauty characterized by strong, slow wingbeats in flight was an eye-catching sight perched in our chokecherry tree.

In our tendency to anthropomorphize animal behavior, some of our observations might border on speculation. Some behaviors may be related to group survival. Or perhaps the birds actually enjoy each other’s company. In the case of our backyard birds, we have noted the existence of this cooperative seasonal support dynamic is more apparent in birds than mammals, especially in autumn when the reproductive season has concluded. The formal, objective study of animal behavior in their natural environment is termed ethology. Our observations were informal but valuable, nonetheless. We enjoyed noting that cedar waxwings and robins often share affinity with each other, not only for our neighborhood wild grape harvest season, but at other times as well. Our current post is an extension of the phenomenon we highlighted in two earlier posts:

The Bible’s poetic books contain exultations of the writers with respect to how events in the natural world give glory to the Creator. As observers we may offer conscious personal worship of the Creator. The difference is that humans are blessed with a high level of conscious awareness of the divine. Nevertheless, even inanimate matter offers its own sort of “worship.” The consciousness of animals exists on a higher plane. Their level of consciousness does not include awareness of God, but they were created with sensory awareness, various degrees of intelligence, and even a sense of humor.

In personal devotional moments we may muse about the various degrees of praise to God offered by different categories of created things. We close with the NLT translation of Psalm 66:4: “Everything on earth will worship you; they will sing your praises, shouting your name in glorious songs.”  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Modern Climate Stability

Most college students were required to enroll in introductory courses such as Western Civilization. More recently these introductory courses have transitioned to World History, sometimes combined with Ancient Civilization. A study of syllabuses of these courses reveals few topics concerning pre-civilization people and cultures. This indicates the paucity of knowledge about the lives of our human ancestors in the day before writing was invented. Yet as we study archaeological evidence produced by these progenitors, we are struck with their robust humanity. Writers of early chapters on human history deduce their hypotheses concerning the experiences of these early human residents. Written accounts from these people do not exist.

Earth scientists have highlighted the monumental effects of glaciers on a planet whose land masses were formerly significantly swathed in ice. Earth was emerging from the Wisconsin Glaciation epoch roughly 12-13,000 years ago. This widespread glaciation left behind thousands of features on Earth. It is difficult to comprehend the  past and present effects of Wisconsin glaciation and how recently this event occurred. In former years I lived in regions where we could climb distinctive neighborhood hills called drumlins, drive upon highways built on eskers in Adirondack State Park, observe kettle holes during walks in the woods, visit unique rocks called erratics in Pyramid Mountain County Park near Morristown, NJ, and hike in the Great Swamp, the “last gasp” of glacial Lake Passaic which covered 300 square miles only 11,000 years ago in the heart of today’s densely populated Northern New Jersey.

In preparing this post I reviewed the impact of the recent glacial conditions in my current home state of Illinois. We reside in extreme northwest Illinois in a region called the Driftless Area. Most of the Driftless area is located in Wisconsin. The region remained curiously unglaciated during the Wisconsin glaciation event. Therefore, the topography has not been smoothed by the effects of ice as have many areas surrounding our region. To our south and east two Illinois state parks including Starved Rock State Park and Kankakee River State Park manifest the mighty impacts of the Kankakee Torrent. Glacial Lake Chicago was breached as huge volumes of Wisconsin ice were melting. The sudden torrent of meltwater cut scenic canyons which remain for us to enjoy today.    

Full humanity existed on this planet about 120,000 years ago. By full humanity we mean “behaviorally and anatomically human.” At that time earth residents were experiencing a relatively brief interglacial following the previous Illinoisan glacial period. The warmest stages may have occurred about 10,000 years prior to the onset of the harsh Wisconsin Ice Age. The prolonged Wisconsin ice age was not a period of physical comfort for humanity. We believe that the earliest behaviorally and anatomically human beings created in the Image of God may date to the Sangamonian interglacial roughly 120,000-130,000 years ago.

The demise of Wisconsin glaciation and the simultaneous climate warming corresponds with the Agricultural Revolution beginning 10,000-12,000 years ago. Agriculture was a boon to the Rise of Civilization in Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, China, Mesoamerica, and South America. Without agriculture it is doubtful that civilization, with its complex society, specialized labor, social hierarchy, and existence of cities, could have formed. Culture is a less formal term to indicate how humans believe, behave, and value. Modern behaviorally and anatomically human beings have possessed cultures for tens of thousands of years. By these standards humans did not produce civilizations prior to about 7,000 years ago.

Let us relate the explosive growth of our civilized human population to the unique Holocene Interglacial period in which we now live. We repeat, once again, two quotes from Dr. Hugh Ross in his recent volume Improbable Planet, Baker Books, 2016: 

“The melting away of the great ice sheets—except those over Antarctica, Greenland, and the North Pole—helped to stabilize global mean temperatures. Until then, climate variability prevented widespread enduring agricultural and manufacturing specialization, trade, and construction of towns, roads, and ships. The climate from 120,000 to 12,000 years ago varied so radically as to render the launch of extensive cultivation and global civilization impossible.

“Then, for reasons still unknown, (emphasis mine) the climate suddenly entered a stable phase shortly after the beginning of the last warm interglacial period. Within a brief period, large scale agriculture emerged, as did sophisticated expressions of human ingenuity and cooperation, for example towns, specialization of industry, and organized trade. These factors, in turn, made possible the exponential expansion of civilization, technology, and human population.”

We live in a time of unusual moderate temperature stability. Global conditions are neither too hot nor too cold. Previous interglacials experienced no such stability. The long term line graph of world temperatures since the end of Wisconsin Glaciation is remarkably close to flat. The Sangamonian (sometimes called Eemian) Interglacial period preceding the Wisconsin Glacial experienced temperatures several degrees Celsius warmer than today—perhaps 3-5ºC warmer or even more. This information comes from temperature proxy results since direct readings did not exist. We are thankful for reliable scientific results such as oxygen isotope readings which provide temperature proxy readings up to 800,000 years into past Earth history. The ages of Earth quoted in our posts have been scientifically verified in dozens of different ways, all in agreement with one another.

Our view is that our stable planetary temperature of the past 12,000-14,000 years is but a small dimension of many God-authored transformational miracles to support our current technological society and feed Earth’s 7.5 billion humans. The Creator of all things still watches over Planet Earth and the humans He created to inhabit it, sustaining them from moment to moment.         

Friday, December 8, 2017

Extended Creation Events

Do creation miracles still occur? We have discussed infrequent, spectacular transcendent creation miracles, fascinating transformative creation miracles, and constantly occurring sustaining creation miracles. According to this scheme we may select a sequence of historical events from the origin of time/space/matter/energy to the events of this present moment. These creation events may be considered a series of miraculous events. We propose that miraculous creation events have been ongoing and continue even in our day.

Some may remind us that Genesis 2:2-3 indicates that God rested from all the work of creating that he had done. On God’s time scale we do not know how long he rested or exactly when and how he created additional species. During the countless eons of Genesis days (time periods) of creation events described in Genesis 1, there were many recurring geological phenomena which caused extinctions of previously created life. Following these extinctions, they were replaced by new species. For example, paleontologists have precisely dated the sudden demise of dinosaurs at 66 million years ago. They have also described the rapid appearances of new mammal species which replaced them. Historical geologists call these appearances an “explosion” of mammalian diversity.

We posit that rapid appearances of new replacement species in the fossil record are instances of additional creation events. Due to their suddenness, we believe they are examples of transcendent creation miracles. An oft-cited example in our blog archive is the sudden appearance of many new phyla of animals at the onset of the Cambrian Explosion about 540 million years ago.

When we study the many astronomical, atmospheric, hydrological, geochemical, and tectonic conditions which have changed over the course of our Solar System’s long history, we could easily make a strong case for dozens of transformational miracles. We provide three brief examples of conditions resulting from complex, ancient transformations. (1) In early Earth history a brightening sun and volcanic release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases provided enough warmth to prevent Earth’s liquid water from freezing. (2) Earth underwent the Great Oxygenation Event (GOE). Limited for billions of years, the planet’s atmospheric oxygen composition underwent a large spike when the Cambrian Explosion began. Oxygen had been produced from phytoplankton such as marine algae and cyanobacteria. In our day we enjoy “just right” oxygen levels. (3) In more recent times numerous glaciation episodes produced diverse, rich, heavily productive agricultural soils in regions such as the US Midwest. In the “corn belt” where our family resides, glacial soils produce wonderful agricultural bounty. These examples are but a few of hundreds of transformational miracles producing the conditions we enjoy today.

Perhaps the most comprehensible and common miracles are the sustaining miracles provided by the forces, energy, and matter surrounding us each moment of our lives. Matter in our surroundings is literally held together. The characteristics of atoms, molecules and compounds remain orderly and coherent—characteristics that seem unlikely in view of a tendency toward chaos and deterioration in the physical systems humans produce. (Think of our children’s playrooms. Objects in them become disordered unless heroic “ordering” efforts are scrupulously applied. What if the components of atoms, molecules, and compounds which compose the children’s toys possessed no physical order? An orderly children’s playroom is not even conceivable!) If we grant that we are surrounded by invisible forces and energy holding our physical system together, we may also express our worship of the Creator of all things—the enabling God of the Bible. We also sense that the framework of our physical life is connected with an indescribable consciousness connecting us with God because we are created “In His Image.” We may not understand the full meaning of “In His Image.” We understand, however, that in God all things consist (Colossians 1:17 KJV). Many other translations use “hold together.”

Our English language is rich with multiple meanings of words. One example is creation, create, or creative. Our present post attempts to expand the meaning of creation as well as the related concept of miracle. It is our perception that we worship the Biblical God of creation miracles, past and present. In our devotional experience, these truths bring us closer to a more meaningful worship of the Creator.           


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Full Humanity

Details concerning early human history often center on the period of “The Rise of Civilization” which commenced about 7,000 BC. In our previous post we highlighted the important transformational miracle which occurred at the conclusion of the Wisconsin Ice Age: 

Had the Wisconsin Ice Age not ended, we may still be living in the Paleolithic Period—the Stone Age. The Rise of Civilization provided modern man with archeological evidence of its features. Compared with our contemporary Information Age, our knowledge about the beginnings of civilization and how it progressed is but a soft whisper contrasted with an amplified shout. Civilization, the manner in which society is organized and developed, progressed for thousands of years before man learned to write and before anyone developed the idea of the wheel as a work and time saving mode of transportation. These two important hallmarks of civilization appeared between 3500 and 3000 BC. Human civilization had become established long before, mainly owing to the growth of agriculture.

The Rise of Civilization coincided with man’s development of modern agriculture, including his discovery of how to domesticate plants and animals. The agricultural revolution brought about great changes in society. The subsequent invention of writing and the technological innovation of the wheel became a virtual necessity if civilization would continue to thrive. Historians have documented the relatively recent flourishing of civilization. Our use of the term recent is relative. More accurately, we must use the term Holocene for the current geological epoch beginning 11,700 years before the present. The Holocene epoch corresponds to the Rise of Civilization.

Long before the Rise of Civilization there is plentiful evidence that humanity was “fully behaviorally and anatomically human.” Estimates of dates for the presence of fully human populations on Earth have been extended tens of thousands of years into the past by archeological research. Secular scientists take pains to promote the theory of evolution with respect to development of Earth’s hominids. This promotion occurs in deference to evolutionary theory with its emphasis on sequential development from the common ancestor. Gradual hypothetical branching of the tree of life concept is more idealistic than realistic. The onset of full humanity occurs quite rapidly in the archaeological record. Humanity is distinct from lower categories of hominids—cognitively superior to them by a large margin. 

A startling statement appeared in the New York Times Science Section a few years ago. “The earliest Homo sapiens probably had the cognitive ability to invent Sputnik,” said Dr. Sally McBrearty, an anthropologist at the University of Connecticut. “But they didn’t have the history of invention or a need for those things.”            

No written accounts of humanity’s earliest civilized achievements in language or intellect exist. Archaeologists, however, have uncovered artifacts of their hunting technology, art, musical instruments, jewelry, and evidence of burial rituals. There is little argument that these artifacts were evidence of full humanity. Uncivilized and virtually uncontacted primitive human tribes still exist in many remote jungle locations around the world in our day. They live primitively as humans lived in pre-civilized days. Several hundred tribes exist, mainly in South America, Central Africa, and New Guinea. An exact count of their populations is difficult but probably numbers in the thousands. Most tribe members resist all contact with the outside world. One example of a resistant uncivilized tribe is the Sentinelese on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal. It is speculated that they may have been there for 60,000 years. They are a pre-neolithic society of hunter-gatherers, living in the manner of human hunter-gatherers prior to the Agricultural Revolution and the Rise of Civilization. They are pre-civilized and hostile, but they are fully human.

During the Wisconsin Ice Age which ended 11,700 years ago, humans were confined to lower latitude regions of the world. Today’s agriculture did not exist at those latitudes, so it is easy to understand that hunter-gathering was the main mode of subsistence. With so much of the world’s water trapped in thick ice caps in polar regions, sea level was several hundred feet lower than today. The Sentinelese people, therefore, migrated on dry land to their new abode—a distance of 400 miles. Native Americans arrived in North America via the Bering land bridge and later settled in South America. Native Americans and Sentinelese peoples were paleolithic (Stone Age) residents of Planet Earth. Their original creation venue was near the Persian Gulf. They were always “fully behaviorally and anatomically human.” They were created in the image of God, even though they were uncivilized hunter-gatherers.

After many different episodes of transformational creation miracles extending back millions of years God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:26-28 NIV) This original mandate of God is still being fulfilled. 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Transformational Creation Miracles

Viewed from outer space our home on this planet appears considerably different than it would have appeared at the glacial maximum of the Wisconsin Ice Age 22,000 years ago. Imagine we are traveling toward Earth on a spacecraft 22 millennia ago. Ice caps covered Canada entirely, a large part of northern United States, and substantial portions of Northern Europe and Asia as well as high elevation locations at lower latitudes. 

A famous photograph dubbed The Blue Marble was taken by astronauts in December 1972 from 18,000 miles as they traveled toward the Moon. Earth appeared as a blue marble—a mostly water-covered, blue planet. The Apollo 17 journey was the last scientific human effort to reach and walk on the Moon. It was also a unique photographic opportunity to see Planet Earth without ice caps which recently covered large portions of the planet. Ice caps two miles thick shrouded land areas of Earth a mere geological instant ago when we were in the grip of the last deep ice age, called the Wisconsin glaciation. We say a geological instant because the last glacial maximum, the Wisconsin, persisted for a brief moment compared with the total geological time frame since the Cambrian Explosion, a burst of creation marked by the sudden appearance of nearly 100 novel phyla and thousands of individual species. The CE suddenly commenced 541 million years ago.         

The Wisconsin glaciation is only one of eight distinct worldwide glacial episodes to occur in the past 800,000 years. Each glacial advance occurred on a cycle of 100,000 years. These beneficial cycles have appeared only during the last 0.017 percent of Earth’s history. The Wisconsin glaciation was one of many glacial periods beginning in the so-called Quaternary Period which began 2.59 million years ago, but its effects are significant in terms of successful Earth life in our time. Going back farther in time to the beginning of the Quaternary, many shorter ice ages occurred on a cycle of 41,000 years. There have been hundreds of ups and downs in Earth’s average temperature generally superimposed on Earth’s climate. Climate proxies such as ancient ice core data or tree ring records leave their telltale record. The Quaternary period of the last 2.59 million years is a period when glaciation of the planet occurred repeatedly.

The geological history of Earth tells the story of many unique preparations for the eventual arrival of modern humanity. We might call these preparations divine transformational miracles. Much of that history is related to changes taking place in the Quaternary Ice Age. In particular, the most recent manifestation of a well-known geological event, the Wisconsin event, evokes the thought that our Creator initiated abundant transformational miracles to prepare Earth for humans created in the Image of God.  

If we consider only the recent Wisconsin glaciation we determine that its conclusion heralded the warm interglacial we enjoy today. In future posts we will discuss other transformational miracles. For example, about 12,000 years ago, the rapid change in climate from the hostile cold ice age to advancing global warmth enabled the birth of civilization with its eventual agricultural revolution. While fully modern humans existed in warmer areas of the planet for many thousands of years they were basically hunter-gatherers living a harsh life. They left artifacts of their primitive culture. Their agriculture was virtually non-existent. No writing system existed. The wheel had not yet been invented. Life in Paleolithic times, in contrast with the civilizations which arose after 12,000 years ago in the so-called Fertile Crescent, was difficult. Population density was very low, but even secular paleontologists pronounced the population “fully behaviorally and anatomically human.” Humanity had not yet begun to “subdue the earth.” 

The current interglacial warm period was fully underway 12,000 years ago and sparked a population explosion as agriculture replaced hunter-gathering. The explosion paralleled new central political structures. The end of Wisconsin glaciation ushered in a period of climate stability. We are still technically in an ice age and benefit from an unusual period of climate stability—neither too hot nor too cold. Temperature graphs demonstrate this leveling off of world temperature in the most recent 10,000 or 12,000 years in contrast with earlier spikes and sudden temperature drops in the previous million years.

Our recent posts have only begun to suggest that God performed many environmental transformational miracles for specific purposes. These miracles are included in God’s ultimate plan. They do not occur instantaneously as do many less frequent transcendent miracles such as the original creation of the universe or the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A biblical expression “for such a time as this” from the Book of Esther could apply to the many transformational miracles which shaped and prepared our planetary home for today’s teeming billions of residents. This type of miracle is initiated by the timeless God of Creation, who creates all things according to His timeless schedule.