Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Truth Transmission

What seems like a simple matter of discovering correct knowledge may be a subject of disagreement. The root word of science comes from knowledge. “True belief” is sometimes called knowledge which could apply to discoveries concerning present conditions, past planetary conditions or events, or even informed knowledge about future conditions or events.

When we attempt to discover knowledge of the past we may encounter some disagreements. In our recent posts on world glaciation and the effects which resulted from the most recent ice age and earlier events concerning Earth history, many people in our churches may object to the time frames we have confidently offered. Specifically, we have claimed the Wisconsin Ice Age peak was 20,000 years ago. Low sea levels permitted world populations to migrate far beyond their country of origin—from Siberia to Alaska and eventually to North and South America, for example. Many young earth creationists do not concede that our planet is even that old! 

The story of creation and the great flood reverts to many years before the Sumerian civilization of 4500 BC and earlier. The Akkadian civilization which followed extends from 2234 to 2154 BC. Each of those civilizations produced a creation epic and a flood epic in their very early literature. The Sumerian creation epic was called the Enuma Elish. The Akkadian epic was noted as the Atrahasis epic. The story of the Flood was called the Gilgamesh epic.

Many writers who doubt that Judeo-Christian scripture is divinely inspired claim these epics originated in the shared mythology of the Sumerians and Akkadians rather than in divine inspiration. The doubts relate to the considerable agreements in their creation accounts. Nevertheless, there are disagreements on key points. Many other stories about the creation event are mere testimonies to human imagination. It is easy for oral transmission of details to be edited according to cultural traditions. Variations become embedded in the narrative merely because of faulty memories of the story tellers. By the time writing skills were strengthened many of the imaginative stories had become emplaced in the culture.

How do we compare the reliability of Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, or traditional mythology of any other ancient culture concerning creation or the flood? We know that prior to the human invention of writing, knowledge was passed along orally. In the days prior to the invention of writing, ancient civilizations’ oral transmissions did not occur in parallel with written traditions. Limitations of spoken tradition are apparent, but not entirely primitive and unreliable. Oral tradition possesses strength; written tradition in parallel possesses even greater strength.

God spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden. No doubt they passed some God-revealed information to their descendants orally. More direct revelation to humans occurred in the second millennium before Christ. The Creator interacted with Abraham and initiated a covenant with him. “In thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed (Gen. 22:18)—a promise of a future redeemer for all of mankind. Direct, divine “in-breaking” also occurred with Moses in the desert. Moses received many truths concerning the Creator and plentiful living instructions for the chosen people. 

Oracles of God in Romans 3:2 refers to reception of the words of God. It referred to the truth of God with reference to many truths of scripture, but in particular, to redemption. We are reminded of the oral revelations of God as presented to Moses and the elders of Israel on Mount Sinai. in Exodus 24:9-11 we discover one of the most awesome and startling passages in all of scripture: “Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank” (ESV).

We do not grasp the full depth of this passage. But we may imagine that many truths concerning the account of creation of all things and events which have occurred on Earth since the creation were revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. With near certainty, scholars have recognized Moses as the author of Genesis. With respect to the account of creation and other historic accounts in the Book of Genesis, we quote astrophysicist Hugh Ross in his 2014 volume Navigating Genesis. Chapter 8 begins: “Genesis 1 succinctly and eloquently tells the story of who we are and how we came to be—and it matches the scientific account of the Earth’s origin and development of life’s origin and development. The ancient text correctly identifies Earth’s initial conditions. It describes sequential steps, in a scientifically accurate chronological order, by which the Earth was prepared for human habitation. Then it declares the uniqueness of humankind, male and female, made by God in His Image. This flawless overview of an enormous body of natural history comes to us in just one page, a few dozen sentences. Moses, the apparent writer, recorded this narrative more than 34 centuries ago. By means which can only be described as miraculous, the story he presented aligns with the still-accumulating evidence from multiple scientific disciplines.”

We believe the biblical flood story, brief as it is, could be related to incredible events related to the ice age, especially exceedingly low sea levels during the height of glaciation and the resulting rapid rise of sea level and other climatic events when the ice age waned. In our contemporary period of unusual climate stability, it is difficult to conceive of such extreme events. 

How do direct utterances of God himself from inspired holy scripture compare with ancient creation myths? In some respects they are parallel, but in many other respects they are at variance. Historic written creation and flood epics have some value as they have become recognized as valuable literature. When we consider divinely inspired scripture as more authentic, however, and combine it with still-accumulating scientific discovery, we have a superior pathway to correct knowledge and “true belief.” 




Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Obscure Time Frames

Our recent investigations of the effects of the most recent Ice Age, the Wisconsin event, have proven personally fascinating. Planet Earth is now in an interglacial known as the Holocene Epoch but there is no guarantee that we will not descend into another glacial advance in the distant future. Perhaps our personal residences in several areas of intense past glaciation has intensified our interest.

Statistics of present and historic land area ice cover demonstrate that we are still at the “tail end” of the recent Wisconsin Ice Age. We have been in our planetary ice age cycles of 100,000 years for the past 800,000 years. Past cycles have ended with a spike in Planet Earth’s temperature. It is certain that humanity has inhabited the planet for tens of thousands of years, likely over 100,000 years. We view the issue of planetary glaciation in that perspective. What climatic conditions did our earliest human forbears endure?

Before the end of the Ice Age, did the Creator have humanity in mind? Our answer: “Of course He did.” Nevertheless, Ice Age planetary conditions south of the thick layers of ice were harsh and unpredictable. Conditions were usually cold and dry; at times they were only slightly warmer and wetter. “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,” says Dr. Hugh Ross in his landmark volume Improbable Planet. Glacial climates were harsh and inhospitable. Is it any wonder that the Agricultural Revolution did not occur until 8,000 BC, why viable civilizations were slow to appear, and why innovations such as writing and development of the wheel had not even been conceived by man? Mere survival was a challenge.

Genesis 1-11 tells the story of human events during the harsh Ice Age. We rely on plentiful archaeological evidence of difficult living for the human race when most of their efforts focused on hunting and gathering. Global environmental conditions were unimaginably different from today. World population was severely restricted. Even after the Agricultural Revolution began about 10,000 years ago, humanity needed several thousand additional years to conceive and develop skill in writing and wheel technology. After the Wisconsin Ice Age receded, agriculture with its attendant domestication of plants and animals gradually replaced hunting and gathering. These changes were impossible until global ice age conditions abated.

At the end of Genesis chapter 11, a temporal timeskip occurs in the scripture narrative. In the first 11 chapters of Genesis, surprisingly, God’s revealed word relates the narrative in only a few brief chapters. Primarily, the writer relates the story of the creation of the “heavens and the Earth,” all life, and the saga of first humans and generations to follow. The chronicle continues with an account of Noah and the ark and the generations following him. Finally, there is a brief account of the Tower of Babel events. Then comes introductory information concerning the patriarch Abraham to conclude chapter 11. Rich historical highlights from that moment are recorded in the Old and New Testaments.

How do we relate our recent discussions of the Ice Ages to the narratives of Adam and Eve, Noah, and the Tower of Babel? In terms of time frames, if we agree that full humanity has existed for tens of thousands of years on our planet, we must acknowledge that these ancient scripture characters existed during perilous glacial environmental conditions in the very distant past. There were no written records during the eons of pre-history. Information on ancient human history was orally transferred from generation to generation. We wonder about the quantity and quality  of oral information. Except through the natural revelation surrounding them in their physical world, God’s direct revelation was centuries in the future. Nonetheless, God sustained their lives and spoke to them ways unknown to us through their conscience. Romans 1:20-32 could apply to conditions among prehistoric humanity.

Recently a missionary attempted to contact an unreached tribe on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. Authorities in India had forbidden any outside contact with this tribe. The missionary was murdered with bow and arrow by the natives who violently resist all contact with the outside world. There is evidence this tribe has occupied this island for at least 30,000 years. There exist several hundred uncivilized and uncontacted tribes on our planet. We propose that such people groups are descendants of Ice Age humans who have been Earth residents for tens of thousands of years. This includes people alive when sea level was nearly 400´ lower during the peak of worldwide glaciation.
Bible scholars such as C. John Collins writes in his 2011 volume Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care, writes in the introductory chapter that “…the authors were self-consciously interpreting their world in terms of an over-arching worldview story.” Later, he states, “Relating the Biblical narratives to the over-arching worldview story, therefore, treats those narratives as they deserve to be treated.” Worldview includes our vision of God as Creator and our relationship with Him. (Collins believes Adam and Eve were real people.)

We write this post in order to inspire our readers to “…think through these matters for yourself,” as C. John Collins advises in his above-mentioned treatise.




Friday, December 7, 2018

Historic Torrents

Historic truths tend to dim more quickly than we imagine, whether family history, neighborhood history, national and world history, or geologic history. Perhaps modern distractions obscure healthy interest in the past. We have discovered that important knowledge about the recent Wisconsin Ice Age is weak for many modern residents, even residents living in wonderful glacial areas. Facts about the Wisconsin glacier are incredible, both how recently they occurred and their astonishing scope of events. It swathed much of the Earth’s surface in thick ice, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, and most especially, in North America. The ice pack bathed the land in thick ice from 120,000 BC to about 13,000 BC, with the maximum coverage at 20,000 BC. In terms of the broad span of Earth history, these time frames are but a geologic moment ago.

My childhood occurred in the area of upstate New York in the Syracuse region. We enjoyed family and church outings to the Finger Lakes—Seneca and Cayuga—as well as several recreational invitations from generous church families who owned camps on Otisco Lake, the small, easternmost Finger Lake. Fair Haven State Park on Lake Ontario was a popular recreation venue. We mention these events to introduce readers to incredible realities of glacial geology in that region. Those stunning locales, including Lake Ontario and all of the unique Great Lakes, were leftovers of the Wisconsin glacier. In the recesses of my childhood recall are memories of Clark’s Reservation, a small 377-acre state park south of Syracuse. An internet link pronounces the park a geologic wonder and a botanist’s paradise.

When the mile-thick Wisconsin ice sheet melted over the span of several thousand years, a tremendous quantity of meltwater yielded to the power of gravity. Sea level, which had fallen nearly 400´ eventually returned to its pre-ice age level. Tremendous quantities of meltwater found their way to the sea. Huge lakes formed at the south margins of the glacier. As the lakes filled with more and more meltwater they needed an escape route to the ocean. Sometimes the glacier deposited moraines of soil and rock marking its farthest advance. The moraines formed retaining dams which frequently gave way, diverting the water into new drainage patterns. The Syracuse channels carried meltwater to lower elevations, eventually to the Mohawk River Valley and the Atlantic Ocean. The tough limestone cap rock eroded differently from the weaker bottom rock layers in the channel. One channel formed falls several feet higher than Niagara Falls. The falls overlooked an impressive canyon. The “plunge pool”at the bottom of the falls formed Glacier Lake, still present at Clark’s Reservation State Park—6.2 acres in area and 52 feet in depth. It is a rare meromictic lake in which layers of water at different temperatures do not mix year round. Of course, no water flows over the falls any longer. It is a “fossil” waterfall.

When water rushed off Earth’s surface from the melting Wisconsin glacier toward lower elevations, writers have often described the enormous outflow as a torrent, a colorful term reserved for the most powerful and impressive floods. Many historic torrents have resulted from the meltback of continental glaciers. Ocean levels rose  nearly 400´ after the glacier retreated to its present dimensions. We are in the last stages of the Wisconsin event. Slight sea level rise still occurs but current Earth temperatures have assumed remarkable stability in the last several thousand years. Extreme concern over further ocean rise and slight warming of planetary temperatures from anthropocentric CO2 is unwarranted, notwithstanding intense political alarmism. Our current climate stability is a blessing to humanity and has made possible the exponential expansion of civilization and human population. 

In past posts we have referred to northern New Jersey’s Great Swamp. The swamp is a glacial remnant of Lake Passaic, a 300 square mile lake which existed 14,000 to 19,000 years ago and may have been as much as 300´ deep at times. The swamp is now only about 12 sq. mi. in area but is designated a National Wildlife Refuge. In researching a detailed report by a New Jersey Geological Society bulletin from 2007, we found the term “torrent” used in connection with an event occurring when the melting ice exposed notches in far northern New Jersey. (In 1960 one colleague actively campaigned to prevent the Port Authority of New York from constructing a new jetport in the Great Swamp. Four 10,000´ runways would have devastated a natural habitat. The campaign resulted in eventual victory in 1964.) The location was at the extreme southern end of the former Wisconsin ice sheet. Over several thousand years, the lake levels fluctuated and drainage patterns were altered, including the diversion of the Passaic River from a southerly to a northeast course.

We contemplate a future visit to Kankakee State Park and Starved Rock State Park just southwest of Chicago IL. The term “torrent” is frequently used to describe an event of  even greater impact than the two events described above. The long-lasting flood first occurred about 19,000 years ago. It resulted from meltwater of the Wisconsin ice sheet breaching the Valparaiso Moraine in northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois. The torrent was usually confined to river valleys but sometimes overflowed banks of the rivers, becoming a flow up to 20 km wide. Curiously, the Valparaiso Moraine presently marks the divide between generally north-flowing drainage which flows east to the St. Lawrence River and the Atlantic Ocean while water flowing away from the moraine winds up flowing south toward the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.   

Glacial meltwater flow was always complex and changing. It occurred over many years. Some of the most spectacular glacial topography arose where the torrent carved deep channels and left tributaries “hanging” above the valleys in somewhat higher elevations, forming waterfalls. Such features seem unlike much of the topography in Illinois, which is currently known by its nickname—the Prairie State.

In a future post we will examine how our God oversees the flow of geological Earth events for the benefit of created humanity. This includes the cyclical advance and retreat of ice ages. We trust that the above post helps readers establish that “God is in control,” whether in the advance and retreat of planetary glaciation, or in the everyday life-sustaining miracles of our bodily processes! Are significant glacial events miraculous? To help you answer, we encourage readers to upload this link:




Thursday, November 29, 2018

Evidence of Glaciers Past

How vivid are your childhood memories of places visited when you were young? I recall many family trips, church picnics, and personal explorations in Central New York. As time went on, I discovered many facts about the trips, picnics, and locales. Unknown to me at the time was the fact that the Wisconsin Glacier had shaped many of those beautiful spots.

Our past blogs have described many personal childhood adventures. We shall repeat several of these. My brother and I enjoyed living only a half-mile from the Seneca River, one of our childhood fishing venues. The river was part of the hydrologic drainage basin for the famous New York State Finger Lakes—a unique group of eleven narrow north-south oriented deep lakes situated in ancient river valleys. The Wisconsin Glacier Stage reached its peak over 20,000 years ago and covered my childhood home state almost completely with over a mile of solid ice. It left moraines when it retreated—glacial debris which acted as dams to alter drainage to the north. The Seneca River is an example. It eventually drains into Lake Ontario. Ten thousand years ago glacial ice had melted from New York State and was essentially gone from southern Canada 7,000 years ago. The legacy of the Wisconsin glacier remains as the beautiful Finger Lakes region with numerous fascinating leftovers of past glaciations.

One of the most interesting glacial features are drumlins, teardrop shaped hills which taper north to south. The glacier molded these when millions of tons of ice flowed over certain types of soil deposits. Their shape is blunt on the north side and tapered toward the south. My brother utilized our neighborhood drumlins to launch his model gliders.

Some close church friends had a permanent home on Seneca Lake. The bottom of that lake is below sea level. Watkins Glen State Park is the site of a “hanging valley,” in which a valley has been widened by ice moving within it. Tributaries perpendicular to the lake are “left hanging” over a steep valley. They often form waterfalls. Glen Creek has been deep cutting into the rocks surrounding Seneca Lake for thousands of years, forming a two mile long gorge 390´ deep where it begins. It is said to be one of the outstanding beauty spots in the eastern US. Neighboring Cayuga Lake also boasts an exceptional natural spot on its eastern shore. Taughannock Falls plummets downward 215´— higher than Niagara Falls.

My mother did not focus on the scientific realities of historical geology. It is possible she would have been baffled by the exceedingly well-documented age of the universe and our Planet Earth. The Pleistocene epoch lasting from 2.588 million years before the present to the Holocene epoch beginning 11,700 years ago comprises only 0.00057% of our planetary history. Perhaps she believed our planet together with all life forms, including humanity in the image of God, was created in the last 6,000 to 10,000 years. Many believers were raised with that teaching. My father, in contrast, searched out the scientific evidence for a 13.8 billion-year-old universe at age 84 and joyfully endorsed that knowledge.

It is probable that when my mother quoted Psalm 121:1 from her KJV Bible, “I will look unto the hills from whence cometh my help,” she was expressing her intense love and devotion for the Creator of all things. She did not trouble herself with the possibility that our timeless God’s creative processes could span millions of years.

Other wonder-provoking phenomena such as glacial erratics, kettle holes, eskers, glacial wetlands—the dying gasps of great glacial meltwater lakes—and revised drainage patterns are the product of the God of Creation who prepares Earth for the benefit of all humanity and entrusts man with ability to exercise resilience. In the Summer 2001 issue of Life in the Finger Lakes magazine, we read, “Many unique features of the natural scenery of the Finger Lakes area owe their existence to the glacial invasion of the Pleistocene epoch.”         



Friday, November 16, 2018

Ice Age Literacy

In our previous blog post, Air Travel Science, we mentioned traveling by air over the Ohio River. Its course has been altered substantially by the retreat of the Wisconsin ice sheet during the last installment of the Ice Age which began in the last 120,000 years. We remain in the last stage of the Wisconsin glacial event. The retreat of the last continental glacier was but one of many manifestations of major glacial advances and retreats during the Pleistocene epoch—firmly dated by the scientific community as extending from 2.588 million years ago to 11,700 years ago.

For a majority of the 2.588 million years, brief episodes of warmth interrupted the otherwise icy conditions. These episodes were termed “interglacials” and occurred every 41,000 years. Just over 800,000 years ago, there was a major shift in the cycle. Instead of an interglacial every 41,000 years, there was a shift to a 100,000 year cycle. Sudden, short-lived spikes in global temperature of about 10,000 years were followed by slower temperature declines of approximately 90,000 years. The impact of glacial cycles are of enormous benefit to humanity. If they do not occur, modern human life would be impossible to sustain. 

A brilliant Serbian mathematician, astronomer, and climatologist, Milutin Milankovic (1879-1958), proposed that Earth’s glacial cycles were connected to three Earth motions. Obliquity, the axial tilt of Planet Earth which varies between 22.1º  and 24.5º over a period of 41,000 years, results in more extreme seasons.This effect is variable, affecting the distribution of heat at crucial intervals. Obliquity is stabilized by lunar gravity. Eccentricity, the shape of the Earth’s orbit, is affected by gravitation from larger planets Jupiter and Saturn. It results in changes in the degree of solar radiation and occurs at 100,000 and 400,000 year intervals. Finally, axial precession occurs on a cycle of 19,000 to 23,000 years from solar and lunar tidal forces and causes variation in northern hemisphere irradiation.

There are many other factors which relate to glacial cycles. We quote from a research group called FosterLab whose web site effectively deals with the Mid-Pleistocene Transition—the marvelous beneficial change to humanity’s welfare when the ice age cycle transitioned from 41,000 years to 100,000 years: “The Earth system is incredibly complex however and a cascade of feedbacks, some of which are poorly known, amplify the orbital forcing to enact global climate change.” One important amplifier researched by FosterLab is how CO2 is partitioned between the atmosphere and the ocean on these timescales. The ocean holds around 60 times the CO2 of the atmosphere…..On geological timescales the ocean therefore drives atmospheric CO2 change.” Such information may illustrate the logical fallacy of “oversimplified cause” for our contemporary population of global warming enthusiasts obsessed with consumption of fossil fuels producing the “pollutant” CO2. Plant life could not survive without CO2. Natural fluctuations in CO2 have occurred for literally billions of years.

Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe has skillfully outlined many possibilities inherent in benefits of the ice ages for humanity in Chapter 15 of his 2016 volume Improbable Planet and in his web series “Miracles of the MId-Pleistocene Transition” parts 1-3. Clearly outlined is the startling transition of the ice age cycle from 41,000 to 100,000 years beginning 800,000 years ago. Ross reviews researchers’ proposals of interplanetary dust, mineral dust, export of organic carbon from oceans, and tectonic events. He adds his own citations of the benefits of the current solar optimum: “We currently enjoy unusual stability in our climate.” We are in the warm phase following an ice age. And yet, we are not too warm. Ross also highlights the apparently supernatural benefits of a remarkable recent paucity of harmful supernovae closer than 5000 light years. Ross states, “Our protection from nearby supernova events appears exceptional.” And how do we explain the “long cool summer” we now experience? The Sun became exceptionally stable in luminosity about 50,000 years ago and seems likely to remain so for the next 50,000 years. “This era of exceptional stability in solar luminosity helped make possible humanity’s launch and development of global, technologically advanced civilization,” writes Ross. World population has ballooned from one billion to 7.5 billion since 1800.

We recommend the above-mentioned resources as a brief introduction for those interested in understanding the meticulous preparation of our unique planetary home by the Creator. The Pleistocene epoch has been termed an Ice Age. It is one of five major ice ages to be identified on Earth. The previous one persisted 100 million years from 360 to 260 million years ago. The Pleistocene Ice Age and the current Holocene epoch of exceptional climatic stability is more significant in terms of contemporary planetary life. In particular, we are aware of the profound impact of the last several glacial epochs since the Mid-Pleistocene, especially the recent Wisconsin glaciation. We observe its effects as evidenced by formation of lakes, new river drainage patterns, erosion, deposition, and many other impressive glacial features. Perhaps most startling is evidence of sea level reductions of up to 400´during the cold periods in the last several tens of thousands of years.

Geologic events such as those we have described may be characterized as miraculous. The degree of fine tuning is virtually impossible to attribute to naturalistic chance. The best examples are solar and cosmic events occurring in concert with the Mid-Pleistocene Transition as well as the many events on Earth which have produced multiple mineral resources since our planet formed 4.5 billion years ago. God is not constrained by time as is humanity. His timeless miracles have been ongoing since the initial creative miracle—the beginning of time, space, matter, and energy 13.8 billion years ago as humans reckon time. That stupendous creative event was the first of many ongoing miracles in the universe we call home in preparation for modern man created “in the image of God.” Full humanity has been present on Earth only 0.00002% of the time since the beginning of Earth’s planetary history. Sustaining miracles for the benefit of humanity still occur.             


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Air Travel Science

Not often do we have the opportunity to travel by air twice in a ten day period. Two airline trips of several days each were separated by a few days at home. All told we traveled nearly 4000 miles via airline.  This entailed six flights, including two connecting flights. My former science students accused their teacher of framing many discussions during field trips through the lens of science—a characterization possessing a large measure of truth. Our goal, however, was that our teacher/student interactions included many relevant topics. Bear with us, readers, as we connect science with our recent air flights.

During the two trips described above, one a memorial service, another a celebration, many opportunities for reviewing the science and history of airline flights became apparent. Some facts announced by the pilot are fascinating. For example, the cruising altitude of 36000 feet at the speed of 600 mph and an exterior temperature of -66ºF on flights passing over several states enable passengers to muse about the progress of air flight science since the Wright Brothers’ initial 12 sec, 120’ flight on a heavier than air vehicle on December 17, 1903.

Our visions out of the undersized plane windows revealed mile after mile of the fascinating patchwork of civilization. Passengers interested in climatology could observe changing agricultural adaptations based on various zones of rainfall, temperature, and altitude. The Ohio River, a young river by geological standards, had its course changed somewhat by the fairly recent Wisconsin glaciation as the ice sheet retreated north upon melting. From the air, we see wonderful meandering rivers and remnants of long vanished rivers revealed by current patterns of vegetation.

Clouds visible from above or from their edges supply a stunning visual touch. Differing temperatures, water vapor content, and air currents provide a plethora of shape, beauty, and color. Knowledge of clouds helps forecast future weather. Often we fly through thick layers of clouds where pilots must entrust knowledge of their location to various electromagnetic phenomena such as radar (microwaves), radio frequencies, and GPS. They use instrument flight rules (IFR).

Understanding virtually every experience we have during air travel relates to scientific knowledge. Turbulence of one degree or another is caused by the interactions of air at different temperatures. Turbulence is a common experience of flyers but it seldom results in any harm. It may, however, cause unease.

Propeller flights provided the default air travel experience from 1928 until about 1960. After that, jet flight gradually replaced propeller flight. Jet air travel was cheaper, safer, and faster. In flight technology, we focus on four factors—all related to Newton’s famous laws of motion. Air travel technology must cope with the effects of (1) lift, (2) weight, (3) thrust, and (4) drag. These factors may be considered esoteric aeronautical knowledge, but most folks identify with these terms in a non-technical manner during air flight. 

In Newton’s First Law, we observe that an object at rest wishes to remain at rest unless acted on by an outside force. This is illustrated by our patient wait on the runway before take-off when directed by the control tower. After takeoff and when sufficient cruising speed has been achieved, there is no need for much additional force to be applied. The plane is speeding forward and tends to keep traveling in the same direction. We might say the airplane is on “cruise control,” minimally affected by the thin, high altitude air. The plane and passengers experience Newton’s First Law—the law of inertia.

In Newton’s Second Law, in order to change the motion of a heavy object, we must apply a force. As an example, if the pilot wants to move multiple passengers and a heavy airplane, he must apply a substantial force. In takeoff experiences, passengers experience an exhilarating force against their back when the pilot suddenly accelerates the heavy airplane at takeoff. The aircraft experiences thrust. In layman’s terms, we may say, “Full speed ahead!”

In Newton’s Third  Law, we observe that every action results in an equal and opposite reaction. In airline parlance, we observe that action in a forward motion is resisted by the force of air acting in the opposite direction. This is illustrated by the influence of drag during takeoff during which air resists forward motion.

Other terms apply to air flight. Lift is experienced when air is forced to travel over the upper curve of the aircraft’s wing. Air at the flat bottom surface of the wing exerts greater pressure. The pressure differential is greater the faster the airplane travels. This effect was described by Daniel Bernoulli in the 18th century. The Bernoulli effect applies to many other phenomena such as a moving frisbee which remains airborne in opposition to the frisbee’s weight as long as it is moving.

Laws of science govern our experiences each time we enjoy an air flight or a multitude of other life experiences. Laws of science are ordered and coherent. We live in a world governed by scientific laws. The Creator has established ordered and coherent laws for our benefit. They bring glory to Himself and enjoyment, order, and coherence to human life. We bow in worship for our Creator, the Author of order and coherence.  





Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Monarchs--Migrating and Non-migrating

A recent visit to southern Florida has reignited my fascination with the monarch butterfly phenomenon. While visiting with family we noticed a number of beautiful monarchs feeding on flowers. One niece described the colorful monarch caterpillar on a species of milkweed outside her home. In our home residence of the upper midwest, the monarchs, their pupae, and larvae have long since vanished as of late October.   

The spectacular monarch phenomenon has captured the attention of many people, old and young. We refer to the marvelous saga of the four stage metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly and its astonishing migration journey to a specific forest site in Mexico to overwinter. When our son was a five-year old, we snapped pictures of him holding a monarch butterfly just emerged from a chrysalis suspended from a Mason jar lid. The monarch metamorphosis adventure has gripped members of our family for many years. Some details of the life of this astonishing animal are not as well known as its miraculous journey to a special Mexican forest. Observing monarchs in Florida has triggered our search for additional knowledge.

The monarch butterfly, Danaus Plexippus, has been familiar to scientists for centuries. Details of its migration patterns, however, were unknown and unexplained. Butterflies were observed migrating to an unknown destination in late summer and early autumn, but the trail vanished in places such as Texas. Where did they go? The answer was revealed to the world in the August 1976 National Geographic by author Fred Urquhart. The location was described only as a cypress/fir forest somewhere in Mexico. Urquhart would not reveal the exact destination of the millions of monarchs, but other researchers soon discovered the exact location from obscure geographical cues in the Geographic article. That site has been revered by naturalists in the interest of protecting the monarchs. The migrating insects have suffered from many natural and human-caused hazards over the years. In North America 2018 thus far has been favorable for a population upswing. Worldwide, lepidopterists do not categorize the monarch butterfly as endangered.

In year-round warm regions such as Florida, not all monarchs migrate. Populations in such places as Australia and New Zealand and even Spain may respond to colder weather but are not impelled by distinctive migratory urgency. Over centuries the migratory gene, one of many thousands of genetic entities, has adapted and is expressed in different ways according to different circumstances. The Florida monarchs have lost their migratory capability but they are still the identical species—Danaus Plexippus. 

Those monarchs which have not lost their direction finding capability have been discovered to possess sensitivity to light and different sun angles as well as magnetic fields of the Earth. Do light and magnetic fields offer a sufficient reductionist explanation of monarch migration, especially when their large scale migration concludes at a mere pinpoint location on the planet? Reductionism is a term for the scientific process whereby complex phenomena are explained by simpler ones. For example, Google Dictionary defines reductionism as follows: “The practice of analyzing a complex phenomenon in terms of phenomena that are held to represent a simpler or more fundamental level, especially when this is said to provide a sufficient explanation.” The question remains how light and magnetism provide a sufficient explanation, not merely a sufficient description of factors involved in the process. The monarch butterfly’s use of their antennae to follow the sun during their search for an overwintering site is explanatory up to a point. But it is primarily descriptive, as is their reliance on Earth’s magnetic field to find their way to the overwintering site. This post does not begin to explain how light and planetary magnetism guide monarchs to their wintering destination.

Whether we address the uniqueness of monarch butterfly behavior or the uniqueness of multiple thousands of other living species on our planet, we marvel in devotion to the omnipotent Creator. He has programmed easily recognized design features in all of the millions of Earth’s species. In addition God has programmed genetic adaptability within our DNA.  Wonders of adaptability extend far beyond the incredible structure and code of the DNA molecule. Secrets of gene expression have been revealed, for instance, but many genetic wonders have yet to be discovered and disclosed. Secrets of consciousness, “the most mysterious phenomenon in the universe,” relate to the very essence of God, the Creator. Perhaps we will never discover these secrets this side of eternity.

Readers may understand our science/faith blog’s emphasis on monarchs during the past ten years in terms of comprehending one of God’s great creative ideas. For those interested, we link all 14 past posts on monarch butterflies since 2008 here:



Monday, October 22, 2018

Mystery of Unbelief

Individual belief in the existence of God, the reality of God as the Creator of All Things, and his influence on our value system and behavior are a subjective matter. That is to say, the matter of belief, a complex subject in itself, is dependent upon and intrinsic to the individual in ways that are often undiscoverable to others and to themselves. Subjectivity and self-consciousness are related. Both are mysterious qualities of human experience.

Many parents or mentors are baffled when their young people drift away from Christian belief, sometimes openly avowing agnosticism or even atheism. “Where did we go wrong?” they ask. Many adult Christians who taught young people in Sunday School classes or supervised youth groups in their churches are startled by the attrition. Desertion of Christian beliefs and values as young people progress from middle school to high school and eventually to college is of increasing concern to parents and church leaders.

Since 1970 there has been a startling growth in people identifying themselves as “nones,” or “religiously unaffiliated.” By one metric the “nones” now account for 20% of the population, up from 5% in the past several decades. Not all of the “nones” would self-categorize as atheists. One phrase heard with increasing frequency from the “nones” is “organized religion.” The term is often an expression of disapproval.

Many researchers are discovering purported reasons for unbelief. Justification for unbelief falls along a wide spectrum: Many people, regardless of their age, claim their religious experience is irrelevant, boring, uninteresting, unhelpful, or irrational. Objectively, this evaluation may not be reasonable. Subjectively, however, such appraisals need no defense because personal opinions, preferences, feelings, or desires rule, especially in our day when individualism and being ourselves is a highly valued personal characteristic.

Reasons to Believe founder and president, Dr. Hugh Ross, in a recent ministry letter touched upon a comment offered by one of his volunteers—his young teenaged grandson recently announced that he did not believe in God because “there was no evidence.” That young person’s statement might be categorized as a subjective rather than an objective utterance. The objective truth of God’s existence remains. Although no one has evidence for the existence of God by actually seeing him, there are logical evidences for the existence of God. For example, the Kalam Cosmological Argument popularized by William Lane Craig points to the existence of God. 

More persuasive evidences of God exist in the characteristics of the universe itself—a universe created by God. Hugh Ross’s organization presents explicit evidential reasons for believing in God. Offering evidence of God’s work in the creation is a hallmark of the Reasons to Believe ministry. Ross’s most recent volume, Always Be Ready, (2018, RTB Press), fulfills the exhortation of I Peter 3:15, “…Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess (NET).

Hugh Ross has written many apologetic volumes citing the unique characteristics of our physical universe as evidence of the Creator’s work, and by extension, evidence of the Creator’s existence. In his most recent volume, Always Be Ready, Ross stresses our Christian responsibility to be ready to defend our faith and present reasons for it. He devotes only one chapter to formal scientific content with the disclaimer, “The book…barely (if at all) resembles any of the other books I’ve written to date. Only one chapter, the one that follows this one, provides scientific content readers have come to expect from me. Still, even this content comes to you in an unusually simplified, summarized form.”

Ross follows with a “simplified, summarized” chapter of eleven pages in which he devotes his skills to outlining some of the arguments he elaborates upon in hundreds of pages in his older volumes. These are the topics he summarizes: (1) cosmic origin and features (2) fine tuning evidence (3) life’s origin and advance, and (4) humanity’s origin. It is our prayer that detailed study of the topics listed above may provide spiritual truth seekers evidence of God’s existence and of his works in Creation. In this way we may replace subjective disbelief with objective belief in the God of Creation.