Friday, April 30, 2021

Mankind's Planet Earth Perspective

 Psalm 8 goes beyond devotional significance into the realm of ancient science: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?…..O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the Earth” (vs 3,4,9 NIV). The Scripture quotations above contain references to (1) observation, (when I consider), a necessary scientific skill, (2) intelligent design, (the work of God’s fingers) (3) divine orderliness, (“set(ting) in place” of the moon and stars), and finally, (4) devotional worship (how majestic is your name,) an outgrowth of David’s recognition of God’s mindfulness of mankind and His care for them.   

This psalm is well known in terms of profound theological and scientific significance. It was penned by King David long before the formalization of scientific method. The passage highlights observational skills and suggests an intelligent cause and effect relationship between the existence of heavenly bodies and the Creator’s role in forming them. The physical knowledge we possess of sequential events forming planets, the moon, and the stars, including our life-giving solar companion, focus our understanding on complex cosmic processes which seem unlikely to develop or exist purely by chance or accident.


The concept of intelligent design mentioned in the above two paragraphs may be a sticking point among secular scientists. Here is a link to our previous post (10/1/10) suggesting why human intuition paired with induction are valid indicators of intelligent design:


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2010/06/intuition-and-induction.html


The deepest devotional thoughts of King David are apparent in Psalm 8. It was written about ten centuries before Christ, long before the concept of a spherical Earth was established in human awareness. Actual human photographic and visual evidence of Planet Earth’s circular profile did not occur until about 90 years ago, a startling truth in view of many other telescopic visualizations of astronomical bodies hundreds of years before. Even in the 1930s there was only an incomplete profile of the terrestrial sphere. Humans were intellectually aware of Earth’s curvature long before they were able to see it either visually or photographically. This speaks to the startling fact that the oldest residents alive in our day were unable to perceive the complete Earth sphere.


Commanders of balloon flights in 1931, 1933, and 1935 ascended to about 10, 12, and 14 miles above Earth’s surface. There is debate whether the subtle curvature of our planet was discernIble. Some have proposed the curvature of Earth may not be visible even at 120,000 ft.—almost 23 mi. In 1946 a photograph was taken at 65 mi. by a captured WWII V2 rocket. The curvature was clearly observable but we were not close to visualizing the entire planet at once.


The first complete Earth globe photograph was taken by the Russian satellite Molniya on May 30, 1966. Many other photographs taken by the USA were composites of multiple different surface pictures. The Russian communication satellite’s ability to produce such a picture was due to its very distant highly elliptical orbit.


The Apollo 8 Moon exploration program enabled scientists to produce our country’s first inspiring complete Earth photograph on December 24, 1968. It was entitled “Earthrise,” although the Earth never rises above a stationary angle of elevation. This is because the Moon is “tidally locked” to the Earth—one side of the Moon always faces Earth. However, the Earth appears to rise and set if observed by astronauts in orbit around the Moon!


Returning to King David’s exuberant Psalm 8 worship experience, we describe a mysterious phenomenon reported by modern astronauts—the “overview effect.” We quote a Wikipedia article which utilizes many sources: “The overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from outer space. It is the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, ‘hanging in the void,’ shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere…..” We link our previous post on the “Overview Effect:”


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2014/12/overview-effect.html?m=0


We cite two other popular instances of the human view of Planet Earth from outer space. The “Blue Marble” is a photograph of Earth as seen by the crew of Apollo 17 in December 1972. It has become one of the most famous photographs of all time. The Earth was nearly fully illuminated with the sun shining from behind the astronauts.


The “Pale Blue Dot” is a photograph of Earth taken about 4 billion miles from the sun, farther than the orbit of Neptune. It is a barely perceptible tiny dot in the photograph. It was produced by the Voyager I spacecraft in 1990 just before technicians switched off its cameras while the craft was in the process of exiting our Solar System. The picture was suggested by Carl Sagan who argued for one last “family” portrait of the Solar System. In Carl Sagan’s 1994 book “Pale Blue Dot” he wrote, “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.” He went further, describing Earth as “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” It may be the ultimate “overview effect” photograph. 


We offer a partial timeline of astronomy discoveries:  (1) spherical planets (other than Earth) and stars—observed ever since humans inhabited Earth  (2) intellectual (non-visual) understanding of Earth as a sphere—500 BC  (3) photographic and eyesight visualization of only a fraction of Earth’s curvature—1931-1966  (4) First visual and photographic proof of the complete Earth sphere—1966  (5) High quality complete visualization of the Earth globe—1968 to present  (6) Extremely distant Pale Blue Dot Earth photographs—1990.


King David’s deepest spiritual emotions were expressed in Psalm 8. The Israelite King had experienced only discovery (1) in the timeline catalog offered above. How much more spiritual awe and wonder should we experience in the 21st century? Could we describe the experience as a spiritually heightened overview effect?   






 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Our Home on Spaceship Earth

 In our contemporary time frame we possess abundant knowledge of our home on “Spaceship Earth.” The term derives from a photograph taken by the astronaut crew of Apollo 8 orbiting Earth’s Moon on December 24, 1968. Of many photographs, this rendition has been dubbed “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.” 

Spaceship Earth is a sphere. The concept of human habitation on a sphere rather than a flat surface has been known to man for only about 2500 years. It is unlikely any authors of Old Testament scripture were aware of these Classical Greek discoveries beginning about 500 years BC. Many skeptics have claimed that authors of Old Testament Scripture proposed the Earth was flat. 


Almost all Old Testament books were composed before the advent of the Classical Greeks. Greek scholars in the 500 years prior to Christ’s advent brilliantly proposed and defended many spherical Earth beliefs. Included were Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Aristarchus, and Eratosthenes.


All of the Greek scholars were unable to visually observe the Earth as a sphere, but their intellectual achievements were noteworthy. They observed various phenomena such as the shape of Earth’s shadow on an eclipsed moon, apparent differences in height of visible stars above the horizon as we travel north or south, and the differing angle of incidence of the sun’s rays on the same date in cities widely separated. The myth that the informed public believed in a flat Earth rather than a spherical one has not been true since the start of the Classical Greek period. With few exceptions, even Dark and Middle Ages residents did not hold flat Earth beliefs.


Skeptics of Scripture point to Old Testament books which seem to indicate inaccurate scientific beliefs. One example is found in texts such as Psalm 104:5 “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” Many similar passages have been offered to show that the Bible contains errant science. Almost all of the Old Testament was written before the Classical Greeks offered their scientific and intellectual insights. Keep in mind that OT writers stressed their God-centered perspectives and devotional focus. Even though Greek intellectuals of a later era produced startling scientific insights concerning physical reality, the writers of Scripture should not be diminished for lacking modern scientific insights. Their writings were observational, practical, and often metaphorical. We may appreciate their conceptual model for what it was, not according to our current model of advanced scientific knowledge.


Citing supposed inaccuracies or absence of modern scientific knowledge in order to promote belief in the errancy of Scripture is a serious mistake. Beyond the discovery of planetary sphericity, we pose another serious conceptual deficiency of the Greeks which persisted for almost 2000 years—the belief in geocentrism rather than heliocentrism. This is defined as the belief that the sun revolves around planet Earth rather than Earth revolving around the sun. This belief resulted from an observational error—a false trust in what appears to be rather than what actually is. The confusion results from the difficult task of distinguishing the real from the apparent. This error makes the study of observational astronomy challenging, yet interesting for astronomy students of our current day.


The history of establishment of the spherical Earth concept together with the knowledge of Solar System heliocentrism presents an interesting study at many levels of detail. How do these topics impact our contemporary culture? Proponents of scientific naturalism are not impressed by evidence of intelligently designed features in our natural world. If we link evidence of a spherical Earth with evidence of heliocentrism, some naturalists and some theists may respond with indifference. But these two characteristics are just the introduction in the catalogue of multiple intelligently designed features of our Solar System.


The Discovery Institute based in Seattle is a famous scientific think tank. They have dozens of scholars who promote the concept of intelligent design in the natural world. In their Center for Science and Culture they publish a well-known list of fine-tuning parameters. Jay Richards has described the “most celebrated and widely accepted examples of fine tuning for the existence of life.” He enlarges by explaining “such features include the initial conditions and ‘brute facts’ of the universe as a whole, the laws of nature or the numerical constants present in those laws (such as planets’ distance from its host star). The basic idea is that these features must fall within a very narrow range of possible values for chemical-based life to be possible.” Hugh Ross, president of Reasons to Believe, has long published an extensive and nearly identical list of fine-tuning parameters in his publications. Readers are encouraged to explore a vast wealth of knowledge pointing to multiple examples of fine-tuning—the actions of a Divine Creator.


Spaceship Earth is a spherical planet in a system of planets orbiting our magnificent companion in the Solar System. That companion is the SUN, around which all planets, including Earth revolve.


Psalm 33:6; ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” (ESV)

 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Weather and Climate on a Spherical Earth

 Modern residents focus on current weather and contemporary climate trends. Most weather and climate reporters understandably highlight recent events and predict events in the near future. They devote less attention to ancient weather and climate phenomena, preferring to comment “in the moment.” How did weather and climate “in the moment” evolve to its lofty importance? The simple response: Weather and climate relate to the behavior of water in its various states, the atmosphere, and the flow of heat energy to power Earth’s dynamic physical weather/climate system.


Who originated our physical weather/climate system? We propose it was the Judeo-Christian God of Creation. The initial creation event of Genesis 1:1—the ex nihilo creation of the universe “from nothing”—triggered a multitude of wondrous existential events.


In our present day we have access to scientific evidence of past and present (ongoing) creation events. Since the initial creation event, dating to 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has experienced many captivating physical transitions. Millions of years after transitional events take place, scientists are able to infer what happened in the distant past. We refer to the formation of spherical planets long after the initial creation event. There are many hypotheses for how planets formed. For example, a NASA publication has published photographic evidence that “golf ball-size clumps of space dust formed the building blocks of our terrestrial planets.” This phenomenon is inferred by examining some meteorites which manifest a process called “pebble accretion.” Scientists acknowledge they are not sure of the exact nature of the process of planet formation.  


(Our Science/Faith posts of February 2021 discussed divine creation events which occurred long after the initial Big Bang creation event. Our 2/5/21 post referred to ‘leftovers’ of the initial creation event. Our 2/19/21 post reinforced the concept that creation events still occur.)


God’s creative activity was powerfully manifest when He created spherical planets to revolve around a central star. Our timeless God could have created a fully functional universe in a single instant. Moreover, he could have designed a system where the entire human population resides on a flat surface. Instead, He produced a physical Solar System consisting of the Sun and the gas and ice giant planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. A short time later, much smaller spherical inner planets—Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars became part of the Solar System. They are rocky planets with metallic cores. Earth is unique in its habitability. Insofar as we know, there is no other location in the universe suitable for human habitation.


A spherical, axis-tilted, rotating planet revolving around a stationary central star results in unequal heating of the surface of Planet Earth for several reasons. The low latitude equatorial regions of our spherical Earth receive more heat than mid-latitude regions and much more heat than high latitude polar regions. This is a result of the varying angle at which the sun’s rays strike. Our rotating Earth causes the angle of the sun’s rays to change constantly. In addition, the Earth’s axis tilt causes changes in the sun’s angle from season to season. Latitude, time of day, seasonal variation, and axis tilt all relate to the flow of heat energy on our spherical planet. Solar energy drives Earth’s weather and climate.


The interlocking relationships of water, atmosphere, and heat energy on our spherical planet produce a weather/climate system which sustains human life. Details of the fine-tuned system are the province of expert scientists who study the life-sustaining interaction of these three factors. Our universe is fine-tuned for the existence of human life. Our timeless Creator is the author of this fine-tuning. 


“For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the Earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited): ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’” (Isaiah 45:18 ESV)

  




   


  






Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Earth's Dynamic Annual Weather

 Contemporary websites report a surfeit of detailed information about Earth’s seasonal weather. For residents in middle latitudes, winter inspires some of their most vivid recollections of memorable weather in personal family history. Family lore produces lurid tales of mighty winter storms from our childhood. The recent North American winter season supplied residents with several highly unusual events which will be recounted for many years to come. The infamous Texas winter storm, unofficially dubbed Uri by the Weather Channel which struck the week of Feb. 13-17, 2021, claimed 57 lives. 

It is likely that memories of deep snows of winter blizzards from our youth have created an indelible impression upon people whose early childhood heights were a fraction of those of their adulthood. It is less likely that long-term droughts produce the same exciting long term memory. One reason may be the unpleasant environmental harm caused by droughts on agricultural crops and food supply. Secondarily, we coped with restrictions on residential water supply, dust, and dried out lawns, to mention a few deleterious effects. Our juxtaposition of blizzards with droughts is a way to enlarge upon our term “dynamic” to develop our description of planetary weather. 


The presence of water on our planet is the single most important factor in producing dynamic weather. We describe dynamic in terms of weather a little later in this post. But for now we cite one of the most fundamental truths concerning our home planet—the unique presence of water as a necessity for life as we know it. Jon Tennant’s blog published in Nature (2013) states, “What we normally consider unique and beautiful about our own planet is its abundance of water, but it may be that in reality our unique trait is not the presence of water, but the ability to have it remain on the surface of the Earth in liquid form for so long. It is this trait that has allowed life on Earth to thrive and diversify…..”


Following is a catalog of generally harsh weather episodes on our home planet. In each event water is present and drives diverse weather conditions directly or indirectly: Blizzard, cold wave, derecho, drought, flood, hail, heat wave, hurricane, ice storm, rainstorm, snow storm, thunderstorm, tornado. 


Evaporation and condensation of water are processes which transport substantial heat energy from place to place on Earth. Often precipitation events follow. These processes, in combination with convection and radiation, drive Earth’s weather. If water were not present on Earth, there would be no weather and no life. Weather events listed above are reminders of the necessity of water distribution on our home planet. Virtually all Earth life depends on water. Moreover, most physiological processes of our bodies rely on the marvelous qualities of water.


When our Creator designed our planet He designed a dynamic system of weather. The components of this system were in place long before the arrival of fully human creatures. This truth is evidenced by the geological record of events occurring on Earth for countless eons. As a “water world” our planet was shaped by energetic, vigorously active, changing systems. Dynamic is an adjective describing these systems.  Media weather forecasters enjoy a much larger audience when they are able to report on dynamic weather events. When we optimistically tune in to forecasters to affirm that our picnics, athletic events, and outdoor gatherings will be blessed with favorable weather, we may agree that dynamic weather is often higher on the human interest scale. This may be because, at some level, we are grateful that precipitation is available to sustain the needs of our gardeners and agriculturalists. Dynamic weather produces a beneficial distribution of necessary water, notwithstanding a few inconvenient or tragic episodes. Overall, the benefits of dynamic weather far outweigh its adversity. Humanity is gifted with wisdom to avoid the most disastrous outcomes.


Readers interested in the role of water and the benefits of dynamic weather systems may refer to our thread of past posts (Feb. 2012) for more information:


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2012/02/earth-water-world.html


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2012/02/everyday-water-cycle.html


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2012/02/water-of-life.html


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2012/02/dissolving-power.html


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2012/02/just-plain-water.html


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2012/02/waters-anomalies.html






     



      

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Followers of Science

 Humans have been discussing science—its meaning, its truth, its application to our lives, and how we have benefited from it for thousands of years. This statement justifiably generates some discussion. Some modern residents tend to think we have a sort of ‘lock’ on science. After all, we dwell in the Scientific Age, or, the Age of Science. As we study this phrase, some questions arise. Does this idea trigger profound thoughts about the importance of science in our contemporary society? And does it inform us about the importance of science in centuries and millennia past?

The term science was not commonly in use until about the 15th century. The term ‘scientist” was not used until polymath Willam Whewell (1834) coined it. But the concept of science had been discussed and analyzed in other languages and cultures and utilized for many millennia. Its roots run deep and extend far into the past. 


The Scientific Revolution of four centuries ago was certainly not humanity’s initial venture into what may be regarded as “science.” Francis Bacon (b. 1561) is often regarded as the father of modern science and formal scientific method. Roger Bacon who lived almost 300 years earlier was a polymath and champion of empirical study and experimentation. The great philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) is often recognized for his contributions to modern scientific thought, although he did not propose modern scientific method. His theory of knowledge, whereby all facts are established by observation and reason, are foundational to modern scientific thinking. Aristotle’s articulation of “first principles” is a precursor to sound thinking about intellectual curiosity, knowledge, causes, and predictions. Aristotle thought his brand of science was practical, poetical, or theoretical. If the term scientist had been in common use back then he would have counseled followers to “think like a scientist.” His descriptions of the theoretical come close to our contemporary concept of “scientific.”     


Many ancient philosophers were also scientists in their time. Their science cannot be compared with the achievement of modern scientists, but they laid foundations for establishing modern scientific processes of thought.


*          *          *          *          *         *          *          *          *          *           *  


President Biden in his recent 3-11-21 address to the nation commemorating the official pronouncement that Covid-19 had been declared a worldwide pandemic in 2020, offered his outlook: “On July 4 our nation’s families may be able to enjoy a small group cookout to celebrate. The president said, “Look, we know what we need to do to beat this virus. Tell the truth. Follow the scientists and the science. Work together. Put trust and faith in our government…..” Current guidance to keep washing hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing masks must continue, he counseled.


In our previous post we highlighted the popular current exhortation to “Follow the science” and “Get on board with science.” In all situations these popular encouragements are appropriate and necessary. In countless day to day activities it is incumbent upon us to follow the science. Thereby, we avoid injury. Our most skilled athletic coaches should doubtless be recognized as exceptional teachers of science as it relates to athletic skills. In everyday life scientific principles and laws must not be disregarded lest serious consequences result. In our kitchen, while gardening, driving, or participating in athletics, we are impelled to “follow the science” each day of our lives. We cannot identify any human activity where the principles of science should not be followed. Effects follow causes virtually every moment of our life experience.


There are cases, however,  where simply following the science may result in undesirable outcomes if the motivations of the advisor are inappropriate, misdirected, or incomplete. Following the science is a mantra with many caveats. Do masks retard the spread of the Covid-19 virus? In most cases, probably. Do social distancing, obeying quarantine rules, or submitting to lockdowns diminish the spread? Generally, the answer is yes. But our broad-scope scientific response to the pandemic is not nearly so simple. There have been serious consequences in terms of tragic social isolation and educational deprivation. Alarming statistics affirm this truth. Following the science is not a singular, simplistic solution to the most difficult events facing our modern civilization. The problems of our society, including the current pandemic, could be resolved by application of a broad combination of solutions—scientific, political, social, medical, moral, ethical, and spiritual. This list of solutions is incomplete and far from detailed. We long for a healthy national and international application of divine wisdom in coping with present and future human pandemics holistically. In summary, simple exhortations to “follow the science” often leave us woefully deficient in our search for a comprehensive, meaningful response to a specific problem.


One of our personal favorite scientist/thinkers is Charles Peirce (1839-1914). He is known as the “Father of Pragmatism.” Peirce was a highly creative scientist. He supported a three-pronged method of logical reasoning: deductive, inductive, and abductive (also known as the hypothetical). Deduction, induction, and abduction are gifts of reason and wisdom coming from our Creator. Reason and wisdom are divine gifts of “common grace”—gifts bestowed whether or not the individual is a Christian.    









 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Follow the Science

 One prominent catch phrase of the day is “Follow the Science.” The entreaty appears to be a positive exhortation to embrace the most beneficial solutions for modern society’s problems, numerous and varied as they are. Who, then, could object to “following the science” as we strive to overcome the devastating personal health and economic toll on the entire world as a result of the tragic Covid-19 pandemic of late 2019 which persists to the present day? Is “following the science” a magic bullet to solve the complex problems presented by the Covid-19 coronavirus? The popular exhortation is an optimistic commentary on our modern search for answers to complex medical challenges. It possesses a positive ‘ring tone’ for solving specific problems, especially with respect to the national effort to control the effects of the coronavirus.

We live in the scientific age. The root meaning of science is “knowledge.” Our health and welfare are powerfully enriched by advances in science and applied science. The expression “Follow the Science” speaks not only to challenges posed by the pandemic, but also to many elements of modern existence. Scientific claims are often acknowledged to have something extra going for them. Science is perceived to be a knowledge discipline with certainty one of its prominent strengths. But it is possible to have an unwarranted overconfidence in science, notwithstanding the benefits it has provided human society.  


Science is a tool for knowledge discovery instead of a prescription for policy, but scientific decisions are sometimes fraught with subjectivity. When we “follow the science,” we may believe we always follow an explicit recipe for adhering to a proven, unquestionably correct action. Science does not operate this way. Prudent scientific policy solutions to human problems are located along a spectrum.The scientific method is a tested pattern of action—a procedural method of knowledge discovery as we search for better answers to life’s challenges, but the scientific method is an evolving process. Some traditional principles of the scientific method appear to be increasingly outdated. Modeling, simulations, increased reliance on statistics, virtual testing, and virtual evaluation have diluted the confidence of some citizens who were content to “follow the science” in a more traditional manner. In this way many scientific conclusions are increasingly subjective and decreasingly objective. Therefore, some scientific consensus may be open to question.


Apart from the half million US lives lost to Covid-19, another heart-rending phenomenon has been the disruption of our system of education. Many students were locked out of their classrooms, removed from physical contact with their teachers. Was this a scientific decision? To what degree were young school children vectors for the virus? How effective was the virtual classroom and virtual instruction? Did masks prevent significant viral spread among our youngest school clients? Recently cases of Covid-19 and deaths have diminished considerably, but many school districts have yet to return students to normal physical classrooms. Even when students return full time, they will have suffered substantial loss of valuable instructional time. Our nation has suffered in many other ways from the pandemic. National government leadership, politics, leisure activities, sports, interpersonal relationships, and general physical, emotional, and social health have been impacted profoundly.  


Throughout this pandemic we have heard many entreaties to “follow the science.” In many respects we have been exposed to similar counsel for many years. Another well-known catch phrase has been “Get on board with science.” One of our past posts may impart additional insight to the concerns expressed above:


http://jasscience.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-board-with-science.html


The gift of science has the potential to be misused, distorted, or even abused. Notwithstanding, we continue to promote science as a Creator-enabled gift to enrich man’s existence. 


 








          


  

Friday, February 19, 2021

Ongoing Creation

 The term Creation possesses many definitions and meanings. The first book of the Bible (Genesis 1:1) refers to the most significant theological meaning of creation. The famous first verse of scripture refers to an absolute beginning of time—before which there was no space, energy, or matter. Prior to that, human time did not exist. From our human experience with the dimensions of time, space, matter, and energy governing our present lives, it is difficult to conceive or even imagine these conditions. The Creator of the Bible is able to exist within our dimensions, but also outside the dimensions in which we exist. Humans cannot conceive or even imagine that God could exist in other dimensions as well as in dimensions with which we are familiar.

The absolute beginning of time according to our human experience occurred at the Big Bang—about 13.8 billion years ago. God brought matter into existence from an infinitely small “singularity.” Physical descriptions for “singularity” characteristics are unlike anything with which humanity is now familiar. But Hebrew for Genesis 1:1, according to Hugh Ross in his volume “The Genesis Question” (Navpress, 2001), states the terms used in Gen. 1:1—heavens and earth,—“consistently refer to the totality of the physical universe: all of the matter and energy and whatever else it contains.”


Since the Big Bang creation event, our universe has expanded and has experienced many physical transformations. Credible scientists have described the primeval sea of quarks, early particles from which protons and neutrons formed and later combined to form atomic nuclei in the first several thousand years. These early particles were too hot to capture electrons. When they cooled enough, they captured electrons and formed elements which later formed galaxies of clouds and later, stars. The stars formed new elements and took on a life of their own. Astrophysicists refer to “cosmic evolution,” an ongoing sequence of events to explain our past and present physical existence. 


Our view is that the subject of creation, especially the creation event described in Genesis 1:1, usually signals a one-time event. The richness of our language and theology, however, permits discussion of many other aspects of God’s creative power. Our Creator is not limited to a singular creative episode with respect to our physical universe or physical life. The power of God’s creative work has been ongoing since the beginning. The study of our physical universe, its origin, its development over time, and its development in the present, reveals much of God’s ongoing creative work. Many useful discoveries have been made concerning the events of 13.8 billion years ago, but much reported knowledge about the origin of our universe is speculative, at best. 


Of even more importance is the manifestation of God’s ongoing creative ability with respect to living things. A riveting discussion topic is the origin of life on our planet. Is there a natural explanation for how life originated? In terms of our Christian belief system, God created life itself. Many scientists continue to search for a natural explanation for life’s origin. They are having little, if any success. The topic of divine action is off limits and even unwelcome in our science laboratories.


In contrast to our limited knowledge of events at the origin of the universe, we are far more confident that medical science has explained the sequence of events in the origin of planetary life. For instance—gestation—the events involving production of a human life from conception to birth. Knowledge of the process of gestation has increased exponentially. More knowledge of gestation is constantly being discovered. 


How do we relate our post title—Ongoing Creation—to the development of human life? As we study the wonderful events involving reproduction, we believe the terms divine creativity and divine creation are entirely appropriate to describe events occurring in our present day. God is the Creator/Author of the wonders involving the production of new life. Life begins at conception, the joining of two gametes, sperm and ovum, into a zygote. This new diploid cell possesses all the potential to become a fully human being. It is fully human, although not fully mature.


The creation process of the next nine months involves building and structuring many functional layers of cells from the early zygote. It becomes an embryo, soon becomes a fetus, and finally a newborn. This process is not random or incoherent. Rather, it is suffused with precision and wonder. In our post of 2-21-2018 we quoted a well-known developmental biologist, Lewis Wolpert: “It is not birth, marriage, or death, but gastrulation which is truly the most important time of your life. The term signifies “the embryonic process during which a living organism’s body plan is established.”


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2018/02/lifes-developmental-miracle.html


There are many dimensions of God’s creativity. Many theologians deal with the concept of divine creation in relation to preserving, upholding, sustaining, conserving, governing, or intervening. Randy Alcorn of Eternal Perspective Ministries, states, “Each individual since Adam and Eve has been personally created by God.”     






   

Friday, February 5, 2021

Leftovers of the Initial Creation Event

 With a nod to the spectacular, we recently posted accounts of the ‘great planetary conjunction’ of Jupiter and Saturn, a spectacular rare total solar eclipse, a beautiful comet visitor, and a fireball meteor which spread treasured fragments of cosmic matter on our home planet’s surface. We resist focusing exclusively on overly spectacular astronomical phenomena. Everyday environmental events provide plentiful examples of natural wonder.  

There is nothing boring about sunrises and sunsets, the common star-filled sky (and perhaps the cloud cover obscuring the stellar show), ubiquitous common insects, (even in the spring), gentle rain events, plant growth, ordinary animal behavior, and  dozens of other daily events in which we are immersed.


Bear with us as we develop our case for divine creation, utilizing the term “leftover,” not in a pejorative but rather in a positive sense.


We highlighted both the spectacular and the mundane in our opening paragraphs. Both suggest a rich history. What came before? In terms of the ‘spectaculars mentioned in our opening paragraph: Are the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn “leftovers” of a divine creation event? Is Earth’s Moon, a main player in solar and lunar eclipses, a “leftover?” Are comets, fireball meteors, and meteorites “leftovers?” We ask, “Leftovers from what?” In terms of more ordinary phenomena including mountains and living things, could we make a case for creation’s leftovers? If we agree that the Big Bang, occurring 13.8 billion years ago, was God’s initial act of creation in our universe, the answer is an emphatic “Yes.”


For many, the issue of a young earth is important. They interpret the seven “days” as literal rather than figurative. They do not acknowledge that Genesis days could be anything other than literal 24-hour days. Their position forces then to the conclusion that Earth and the universe itself is only six to ten thousand years old.


The position of our blog and the position of the John Ankerberg ministry is that diverse interpretations of the Hebrew yom (day) in early chapters of Genesis allow for a very ancient Planet Earth and universe in accord with multiple discoveries of historical science. Most scientists are in agreement that there is overwhelming evidence that the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago. On the same time scale Planet Earth originated about 4.5 billion years ago and simple life first appeared about 3.8 billion years ago. Fully modern humanity appeared very recently—about 50,000 to 65,000 years ago. At that time there was a significant leap in the ability of homo sapiens. That human achievement leap is described as a cultural explosion. Some analysts call this ability leap evidence of a divine creation event.


Recently I was challenged to recommend a book supporting the relationship of science and faith. I offered a volume by theologian C. John Collins, entitled “Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?” (Crossway Books, 2003). The 400-page volume is a comprehensive defense of Collins’ confidence in science and its relationship to faith. Collins states, “I have already given you my reasons for rejecting the claim that the Bible teaches a young earth…” He outlines theories proposed by theologian/physicists John Polkinghorne and Ian Barbour:


     “About 15 billion…years ago, space, time, and the universe began when the initial 

     singularity—all the matter and energy compressed into a point with zero

     dimensions—suddenly began expanding unimaginably rapidly. (Theorists disagree

     on how rapidly, and how the rate has changed over time.) After the first three

     minutes, atomic nuclei could form, yielding helium and hydrogen; after about

     500,000 years, the lighter elements could be formed. After about a billion years 

     of expansion, the stars and galaxies began to form, in which the heavier elements

     were produced. Some of these stars have died and some have scattered their

     matter—this is how the basic building blocks for biological systems became

     available. About 4 1/2 billion years ago planet earth was formed, condensed out

     of cosmic clouds. Biological life first appeared on earth about 3 - 3 1/2  billion

     years ago.”


Note the citation of the formation of planet earth in the quote above. As planets formed from the gas cloud, likewise, comets and meteors formed in the same way. In Collins’ words they formed from rocky masses and frozen gases which “bashed into each other and fused.” In our times planets, meteors, meteorites, and comets remain as “leftovers” from the initial Big Bang creation event. These leftovers are composed of “heavy elements” formed from “light elements” helium and hydrogen. Primeval stars exploded into supernovae. Light elements fused and spread heavy elements, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and other heavy elements into space. Living things are now composed of light and heavy elements—“leftovers” from the Big Bang. (Carl Sagan in his TV series Cosmos once voiced, “We’re made of star stuff.” Sagan was not a Christian, but he was correct in his “star stuff” utterance.)


Throughout Earth history our Creator has performed miracles. In other posts we have categorized miracles as (1) sustaining, (2) transformational, or (3) transcendent. We recognize the Big Bang as “God’s initial creative act.” In this universe it qualifies as a transcendent miracle. The origin of life on our planet, including fully modern humanity, is a transcendent miracle. Other events such as the formation of planets from gas clouds could be classified transformational miracles. Everyday maintenance of the orderly physical system exemplifies ongoing sustaining miracles. In all these categories, our Creator is at work to manifest His glory.


The Creator endowed matter with a coherent set of physical laws and physical constants by which the current cosmic order has achieved its present maturity. We speak of a wondrous endowment: God’s handiwork is present in thousands of ways within our sphere of existence. Science has discovered how the manifold physical systems operate. We observe creation miracles each day. For these gifts we offer God our thankful worship.   


   


   


 




  


 











 





   


   


 




  


 




          

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Observable Sky Wonders

 In past weeks we highlighted an unusual Great Conjunction of gas-giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, a visual treat in our dark evening skies. Reactions to this event ranged along a wide spectrum of excitement. As a former science instructor, memories returned concerning personal strategies for motivating and exciting students with observable astronomical phenomena. 

We favored naked eye astronomy. Systematic non-enhanced observations are useful for distinguishing between real and apparent motions of orbiting Solar System bodies such as the Moon and planets. Guided assignments effectively demonstrated apparent movements of all visible stars around the North Star (360º per day) owing to Earth’s rotation. Slower apparent changes in positions of constellations over several weeks caused by Earth’s revolution were studied and clarified with systematic activities. Our challenge was to distinguish between apparent motions caused by two different real motions. Telescopic astronomy was an occasional instructional bonus to observe Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons, lunar craters, and even the two million light-years distant galaxy Andromeda.


Curiosity about physical laws follows from naked eye observations of familiar Solar System companions. For example, what causes planetary motion in their repetitive, predictable paths? What natural laws govern their motion and speed? What forces act on astronomical bodies? How is an object’s mass related to it’s motion? These issues can be discussed at appropriate times. Instruction, however, must seem natural and not overly pedantic—a challenge for skilled teachers.  


In our day students and parents alike benefit by observing the wonders of our environment uninhibited by studio-produced visual or auditory animations. Virtual reality has assumed a distinctive presence in our modern society. The Online Etymology Dictionary states virtual is “being something in essence or effect, though not actually in fact.” Also, virtual is “not physically existing but made to appear…..” Modern media can produce incredible virtual reality substituting for a wide range of genuine reality, including astronomical events. But, citing a popular cliché, nothing compares with “being there.”


In that spirit, your blogger relates four outstanding in-person astronomy experiences of the last decade, all of which we have previously reported. These episodes have their initial causes in a long-ago divine creation event. In our modern day, many events in our natural world inspire significant personal worship experiences. The object of our worship is the Creator of All Things—the God of the Bible.


We recount several especially memorable celestial events. First, we reference the recent appearance of Comet Neowise in July 2020, one of the most spectacular visible comets of our lifetime. The Sun caused the orbiting comet’s icy matter to vaporize and produce a thin, gaseous comet tail millions of miles in length. Neowise joined an unusual pair of visible comets in the late 1990s—Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp. Many people fail to observe even one naked eye comet in an entire lifetime. Here is our July 2020 link:


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2020/07/neowise-sky-spectacular.html


Second, fresh in our memory is the most spectacular personal astronomical observation of my entire life. A total solar eclipse favored millions of people as the Earth’s small shadow raced across the surface of the United States from coast to coast on August 21, 2017. For many years I had announced that I looked forward to some day witnessing a total solar eclipse. This type of eclipse roughly matches total lunar eclipses in frequency (just less than one per year) but the physical window of observation, merely a few miles wide, is exceedingly narrow compared with the planet-sized window of observation for a total lunar eclipse. The time of observation for a total solar eclipse ranges from a few seconds to a few minutes but more than half of Earth’s population is able to observe a lunar eclipse. Following is my personal account of the total solar eclipse of 2017:


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2017/08/eclipse-everest-experience.html


Third, Earth residents were favored by an unusual total lunar eclipse on the night of 9/27/2015. It was dubbed a supermoon eclipse, described in our 10/18/2015 post. Extra appeal for this lunar eclipse consisted of the knowledge that the eclipse event was the last of a lunar tetrad—an unusual series of four consecutive lunar eclipses in only two calendar years. Read about it here:


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2015/10/supermoon-eclipses.html


Finally, on the night of 4/14/2010 a several hundred pound fireball roared across the sky in southwest Wisconsin a few dozen miles north of our residence. It was a chunk of space rock, a meteor which became a meteorite when small fragments fell to Earth before it completely vaporized. Originally dubbed the Livingston WI meteor, it is now called the Mifflin meteorite. The meteor brightened our dark northwest sky for several seconds. Our family ascribed the light display to an approaching thunderstorm, an incredible explanation because the night was virtually cloudless. The next morning we heard the exciting news: We had experienced a visitor from the far reaches of our solar system!:


https://jasscience.blogspot.com/2010/04/meteor-madness.html


All physical matter described above in our four posts—rocky, gaseous, icy, metallic, dusty matter—is leftover material from the initial divine creation event. Some creationists believe that all cosmic creation events have occurred recently and suddenly ex nihilo—out of nothing. To limit creation acts to recent time frames places human limits on the omnipotent, omniscient Creator. When we observe wonders in our heavens we are studying ongoing divine creation processes. We experience emotions of thankfulness and worship for our timeless Creator.