Saturday, December 25, 2021

Telescopic vs. Naked Eye Astronomy

Astronomy purists discuss the merits of telescopic vs naked eye astronomy. There is really no argument. Each observational method has its own advantages. As a science instructor in public school, I had a difficult time paring my astronomy unit to a manageable length in order to cover other areas of the science curriculum.    Meteorology was a close second. My personal instructional preference was naked eye astronomy. The subject matter beckoned on virtually any clear evening.

One favorite personal memory with my grandddaughter comes to mind. It occurred when she was about three years old. This link calls to mind a significant naked eye astronomy experience even for very young children. Maddie’s query “Grandpa, Are those stars”? to her grandfather in 2009 still echoes in my memory:

Other personal experiences in astronomy were reinforced by both both naked eye and low power telescopic observations. My octogenarian father witnessed the return of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997 in a low power Astroscan telescope. My grandson observed a close conjunction of Venus and a thin crescent moon in July 2015 and observed, “It looks like a semicolon.” A nearby galaxy, Andromeda, is faintly visible in the night sky if one knows exactly where to look. My uncle once observed the cloud bands of Jupiter through the low power Astroscan telescope. A non-telescope observation of Venus and Mercury rising from the horizon a mere few minutes apart was offered to my students in the total darkness before sunrise in 1997.

Instructor-guided naked eye experiences provide a preliminary introduction to the wonders of our cosmos, but advanced technology has enabled humanity to look into deep space at regions of the sky far beyond the range of naked eye vision. The Hubble Space Telescope (HST), launched in 1990, has performed beautifully to reveal many secrets of astronomy. Joining Hubble in our present day is the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It will peer even more deeply into space than the HST. On Christmas Day 2021 at 7:20 AM EST the James Webb Space Telescope was launched from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana. In the past seventeen years thousands of scientists, technicians, and engineers from 14 countries have spent 40 million hours perfecting the telescope. Both space telescopes experienced many delays in their construction. The HST orbited close enough to Earth, 340 miles, to be serviced periodically by astronauts in orbit. The JWST will be positioned one million miles from Earth, precluding the possibility of correction or modification.

Both telescopes are capable of “seeing” back in time. The limit of Hubble is about 400 million years from the beginning of time (some would call the beginning of time the “Big Bang event”). The James Webb telescope will be capable of seeing back in time  farther, even to the time when the very first galaxies were divinely created.

Hubble is sensitive mostly in the visible spectrum—the light by which humans see. In contrast, the James Webb telescope is sensitive mostly to infrared light to which human vision is not sensitive. From the HowStuffWorks website: “But while Hubble was a solid undergrad, JWST is hoping to delve a little deeper and come out with an advanced degree.”

As I write this blog entry just a few hours after the successful launch of the JWST, I marvel that the event, after many recent delays, was scheduled for Christmas Day 2021. Christians celebrate December 25 as the birthday of the Son of God who became a man and died to redeem all who believe in Him. Knowingly or not, the secular scientific world has called attention to the God of Creation. He transcends time. His creative works are ongoing. 




Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Covid: "A Thorn in the Flesh"

Memo to our faithful readers: In September we were suddenly struck by the Covid 19 virus.  This is our first blog entry since the virus struck. We are thankful for the power of bodily healing.

As we write, the new Omicron Covid variant is causing significant alarm among the world’s populace. What we do not know concerning Covid and its rapidly changing variants seems almost worse than what we know. Planet Earth is “significantly a microbe world.” Our bodies are inhabited by many microbes—thousands of different viruses and hundreds of diverse bacteria. Some microbes benefit living things but many are harmful.

In the field of virology, we humbly ask God to give us wisdom to solve our current crisis as we deal with harmful microbes. Pandemics caused by viruses and bacteria have been a concern as long as humans have inhabited the planet.

Even though viruses are not living organisms in the usual sense, they possess genetic information which sometimes adversely affects the function of living things they inhabit. If a virus mutates, it can acquire harmful new characteristics. In September I was struck by a new illness—the Covid 19 virus—a new variety of microbe. For several days I did not attribute my cough and general weakness to Covid. Finally, our family doctor pronounced me and my wife “Covid positive.” Eleanor suffered only a few days of discomfort. But for me, the infection introduced an extended experience of woes. I was a a hospital resident for three and one-half weeks. 

Since returning home, my research has revealed that “brain fog” from the effects of Covid can persist for up to eight months after initial treatment. Not all Covid patients experience identical symptoms. The Covid virus affects individuals in various ways. This fact reinforces the statement in our opening paragraph that what we do not know may be worse than what we know. In my case, I have virtually no memory of events during my hospital sojourn or in the days before my hospital experience. In retrospect, we consider this a blessing.

Many instances of disease are cited in Scripture. Jesus Christ was known as “The Great Physician,” providing cures for various diseases. Many diseases described in both Old and New Testament scripture were caused by the action of microbes. 2 Corinthians12 describes a serious malady suffered by the Apostle Paul. Three times the Apostle pleaded with the Lord to deliver him from the affliction. The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Even though Paul possessed miraculous abilities through God’s power, in this case God did not provide healing for him. 2 Cor. 12: explains the refusal: God wanted to keep Paul from becoming too conceited (vs 7). We may not be satisfied with this explanation. 

Christians look forward to the New Creation described in Rev. 21-22. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. The complex physical operating system of our present universe is an ongoing miracle of existence. My personal experience strengthened my faith. We give God praise.      



Monday, September 13, 2021

Is Behavior Genetically Hardwired?

 In our last post we used the expressions “It’s in my genes” and “It’s in my DNA.” These popular conversational utterances indicate there is a cause and effect relationship between molecular genetics and morphological, functional, and behavioral traits in all organisms.

Living things exist with the DNA molecule inherent in their body cells. Therefore, the effects of DNA are hardwired in the bodies of all living things—the effects of DNA are ever present. DNA is a complex, information rich chemical entity. Bioscientists agree that form or morphology (physical characteristics), body function, and behavioral traits are hardwired in living things to varying degrees, thanks to DNA. Hardwiring is a descriptive term for a permanent physical feature, as in the example of electrical circuits in a home or factory meant to be functionally long lasting and intrinsic. In living things, hardwired DNA control is intrinsic. 

With respect to human life, bioscientists agree that physical characteristics (morphological traits) are genetically hardwired. We do not have control over the shape of our nose or our hair color. In similar fashion, most body functions such as metabolism rate, physical growth rate, and heart rate, are essentially separate from our conscious control. But with behavior, humans have far more conscious control than lower animals. Behavior in living things is often not easy to explain.

Molecular structure affects variations in morphology, function, and behavior. This is the reason for the question “Is Behavior Genetically Hardwired?” in our post title. Molecular geneticists study how differences in the structure and/or expression of genetic molecules result in variation among living organisms. This specialized study surely ranks among the most fascinating in all of science. It may be one of the ultimate topics in the study of scientific cause and effect.

Bioscientists have established that genetic molecules such as DNA drive the production of the physical form of living organisms as well as their functional processes such as body metabolism and growth. Before dealing specifically with the genetic basis for behavior, consider the challenges involved, for example, in determining how DNA and RNA are responsible for producing thousands of proteins, the “building blocks” of our body’s physical form. The process inspires a deep sense of wonder.

Consider the incredible challenge our body’s protein building mechanism faces after following the DNA code for protein synthesis. The body first produces a series of protein polymers—long ribbons of amino acids. Those protein polymers must then be folded. We quote Mark Zimmer, a computational chemist writing in The Conversation, December 2020: Protein folding is…..“a process of twisting and bending that transforms the original form of protein—long chains of amino acids linked together like beads on a string—to a three-dimensional structure that can interact with its target in the cell.” Artists’ conceptions of folded proteins challenge our imagination. Proteins fold into many thousands of different 3-D shapes. The correct shape (form) of a folded protein molecule is crucial for human health. (Recall the scientific principle “Form fits function.”) Errors or defects in protein folding result in Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and a host of other human diseases.

Mark Zimmer, already quoted above, refers to the “protein folding problem.” The process of protein folding is easily described, but virtually impossible to explain. Similarly, another mystery of life, dubbed the “problem of consciousness is nearly impossible to explain. Scientists continue to probe problems in science, not hopelessly, but hopefully! 

Is behavior genetically hardwired? My qualified answer is, “Yes.” We may describe the phenomenon of behavior very well, but we may be unable to explain behavior with the same degree of certainty. Behavior is both intrinsic and learned to varying degrees. Complex behaviors for simple animals is clearly hardwired, but genetic factors create a framework within which environmental factors may also act to shape behavior. Complex human behaviors are mostly the result of learning and conscious decision-making, but genetics is most important in explaining human morphology and function. The study of epigenetics in the last several decades extends our knowledge of gene expression and the behavioral outcomes of environmental factors beyond the protein coding of the DNA molecule.

In terms of distinguishing between genetic and environmental causes and effects, we tread on some of the mysteries of life itself. Our understanding of life, our understanding of deeper explanations of morphology, function, and behavior in terms of what actually happens as living things manifest the characteristics of life, leads us on a fascinating investigative adventure.

Our Creator is the Author of life itself. He is the Source and Sustainer of life. The study of life is not merely an academic, scientific pursuit. Beyond that, life is a source of wonder, devotion, and worship of the Creator of All Things. We link a past post from 2013: “What is Life?”…..




Monday, August 30, 2021

Contemplating Genetic Variability

 Our previous post highlighted a unique animal—the eastern cicada killer wasp (phylum Arthropoda, order Hymenoptera, species Sphecius Speciosus). The post related some details of a recent family experience when our grandchildren encountered one of these wasps dragging its “kill” toward its underground burrow. It was an event to inspire admiration and respect from the grandfather and significant fear from some of the grandchildren. By coincidence, my pest service representative arrived a few days later for his regular visit to treat insect pests at our residence. Not knowing of our experience, he raised an unusual topic. Some of his customers a few doors away had just instructed him to “get rid of” cicada killer wasps inhabiting their property. This triggered a conversation and mutual agreement that generally, all wasps provide far more benefit than harm.

First-hand experience with neighborhood cicada killer wasps ignited other interesting discussions with friends. Some deeper discussions trended toward the genetic basis of morphology and unique behavior of these wasps. But what about the diversity of appearance and behavior in thousands of other species? Why do swarms of insects torment us in springtime? Or how does the last summer generation of beautiful Monarch butterflies know how to navigate to a tiny mountain forest site in southern Mexico? For observant, thoughtful, contemplative observers, morphology and behavior provide opportunities not only to describe, but also to explain the morphology and behavior of ALL living things in our neighborhood and on our planet. Description is easy; explanation is difficult! 

We discuss a few highlights of the wonders of genetics. Examples below come from human genetics but our discussion concerning DNA, RNA, chromosomes, genes, proteins, codes, and codons applies to ALL living species. Genetics is an important topic in biology. From this term comes the more familiar exclamation, “It’s in my genes,” a term relating to one’s physical appearance or innate functional and behavioral traits. The popular statement “It’s in my DNA” is a take-off on the same expression. In the last seven decades our populace has been apprised of important details concerning the structure and function of the DNA molecule, thanks to the landmark discoveries of scientists James Watson and Francis Crick in the mid-20th century. Since then our knowledge of genetics has expanded exponentially. 

Each of trillions of human cells in the human body contains 23 chromosome pairs located in the cell nucleus. Every chromosome is a “tightly wound” DNA molecule possessing numerous specific strands along its length. These key locations are termed genes—special segments of the magnificent DNA molecule. They are the ‘units of heredity’ on the DNA molecule. Why are they called units of heredity? Certain genes possess a “code” for the manufacture of proteins, the building blocks of one’s physical body. Protein building blocks are arranged in unique ways in each human body. We are able to observe living things as well as fellow human beings and make conclusions about their heredity. Their physical and behavioral characteristics were inherited, conferred to them from previous generations.              

Altogether, there are about 20,000 genes distributed along human DNA molecules on 23 chromosome pairs. Lower numbered, larger chromosomes have more genes—specific segments of the entire DNA sequence of base pairs. For example, chromosome 1 has 2058 genes which “code for proteins.” Chromosome 22 has only 488 protein coding genes. In short, the protein coding mechanism relates to the sequence of chemical compounds (bases) arranged linearly on DNA and RNA molecules. A great majority of genes do not code for proteins, but they have many other important functions in living things. 

DNA is found in the nucleus of almost all body cells. The DNA molecule must be transcribed to a similar chemical molecule called RNA and is re-located outside the nucleus in the cell’s cytoplasm. In cytoplasm the work of synthesizing and manufacturing proteins is accomplished. The sequence of four chemical bases on the strand of the RNA molecule (A, G, C, and U) may occur in many different ways. In the wisdom of the Creator, any three of these could occur randomly in any order just by chance. In God’s creative wisdom, however, twenty special combinations of three chemical bases code for each of twenty known amino acids, components of all proteins on Planet Earth. The combinations of three chemical bases are known as codons. The coding process is always the product of an intelligent mind.   

The human body’s “building blocks” are really ‘proteins,’ sometimes lengthy chains of amino acids assembled in the cell’s cytoplasm from unique combinations of twenty amino acids. An array of protein building blocks is specific to each human on Earth. No two human beings are identical in appearance. (The exception is identical twins who share identical genetic traits.) Thousands of different proteins comprise each human body assembled in unique ways. Various estimates of the number of different proteins existing on our planet range far beyond one million. Humans possess tens of thousands of different proteins.

Our post has discussed only two living creatures—cicada killer wasps and humans! There are up to ten million separate species of living things on Planet Earth. The Creator of ALL Things has used the same template of life to create ALL living things.

We close with verses from Psalms which could apply to the wonder of living things “great and small,” from giant animals to humans to wasps to even tinier creatures. Only one of these living things is created imago dei (made in God’s image). We alone can learn and contemplate the beauty of God’s creative power and ability.

I praise you because I m fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…..How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. (Psalm 139:14, 17-18 NIV)    










Wednesday, August 18, 2021

"Bugged" by Cicada Killers?

 One source of joy and fascination for grandparents consists of sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with grandchildren. Knowledge and enthusiasm take diverse forms. Likewise, the abilities and interests of our grandchildren are also diverse. The challenge for grandparents is how to blend their personal abilities and interests with those of grandchildren. 

Your author’s profession as teacher of science in public school has provided some advantages while interacting with grandchildren. He was able to take advantage of “The Science Wow Factor” to fascinate his grands when they visited. His challenge was to avoid overkill, permitting young children to be creative yet safely make science discoveries by themselves.

A few days ago four grandchildren and “Grandpa” visited our nearby lake for a quick, informal fishing experience on a hot summer day. The success score: three small sunfish/bluegills for two grandsons. The fish were quickly returned to their natural environment—an example of “catch and release” fishing. Afterward we were hiking across the field to our car. Our granddaughter came upon a fascinating event. A cicada killer wasp had captured a dog-day cicada much larger than itself and was energetically dragging it toward its underground burrow. Reference books supply pictures of this natural phenomenon and describe the fascinating sequence of events leading up to the main event. For example, several weeks in advance the female wasp  excavates the underground burrow to a vertical depth of twelve inches, complete with side tunnels. The cicada is hunted, anesthetized with a quick sting, and flown to its underground lair—a challenging aeronautical feat. After the cicada prey is dragged into its subterranean home, the female wasp deposits its egg. The egg hatches, transforms to a larva which feeds on the cicada, then overwinters as a pupa. It emerges as a new generation cicada killer the next summer.

Wasps inspire both healthy and unhealthy fear in both adults and children. Insects, particularly wasps and bees, are more interested in their own welfare and safety than searching out humans to sting. As Grandpa and four grandchildren observed the wonder of the cicada killer’s amazing feat, I counseled the children not to shrink back or cry out in horror as if to escape a dreadful wasp attack. Rather, they should quietly observe the spectacular natural event. 

Cicada killers help control the cicada population. Most predatory insects such as wasps are part of the natural system acting to maintain an ecological balance among thousands of various species. In light of the fact that cicada killer wasp males never sting and females rarely if ever sting, we should respectfully leave these animals alone. They are part of a healthy ecological system.  

The unique behavior of cicada killer wasps is genetically programmed. In researching the meaning of this phrase we discovered a quote highlighting the complexity and mystery of this concept: “Complex behavioral traits…..are influenced by tens if not hundreds of genes, each intersecting with the environment and each other in unpredictable ways.” (Benson, Behavioral genetics, meet molecular biology, 2004). Genetic programming enables the wasp to accomplish multiple survival tasks they did not consciously learn. A catalog of abilities manifest by this singular species of wasps strains credibility! 

Beyond the scope of comprehension of our grandchildren, we reference more advanced resources concerning hymenoptera—the biological classification which includes cicada killer wasps. Cicada killers are but one species of wasps. There are 21 species of cicada killer wasps in the world, but only a few in North America. There are more than 30,000 wasp species on Earth. Many articles deal with the unique behaviors of cicada killers. We encourage readers to research the many articles on cicada killer wasps, or any other wondrous wild creatures encountered in your neighborhood.

A final word about hymenoptera, the class of insects to which cicada killers belong. There are 115,000 known species of class hymenoptera in the world: wasps, bees, and ants. Each species possesses stunning genetically programmed functions and behaviors.

Our secular schools possess multiple textbooks on biology. A substantial majority of biology texts tout evolution, but do not mention divine creation as a possible explanatory hypothesis to account for the incredible morphological, functional, and behavioral diversity of millions of species of living things, including this post’s topic du jour, the cicada killer wasp. We quote a passage from an ACS (American Chemical Society) website concerning evolution. It is “…..not a hypothesis but the scientifically accepted explanation of the incontrovertible fact that life and its many forms has changed over the years.” If the ACS article on evolution ended there, we may be able to endorse it. The created world has experienced the appearance of many geologically sudden new forms of life over long periods of planetary time. As conditions changed over vast time periods new forms of animals appeared, examples of “Ongoing Creation.”         

Our blog has described the programmed abilities of many animals, including predation and parasitism. Such features are a source of wonder, not fear. We rejoice in God’s created operational system for our living world, teeming with life. Intuitively, when we examine the intricate design and functional features of living creatures in only one phylum—arthropoda—we sense that these operational features could not have arisen merely by accident without the input of an infinitely intelligent Creator. 

As we studied the world of living things back in the day with our children and grandchildren, I hear myself saying  “God had great ideas!” These were expressions of worship—emotional and intellectual responses to divine natural wonders surrounding us wherever we look.  



Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Matter of Energy (or the Energy of Matter)

 The topic of energy may not inspire lofty, poetic thoughts, except perhaps, to a professional scientist. It may fascinate a home buyer. What are its heating and air-conditioning energy costs, for example? Alternatively, the topic may relate to industrial or agricultural history, economics, or contemporary politics. Likewise, the topic of matter is often defined in scientific contexts—matter takes up space and has mass, not to mention a multitude of other defining characteristics. When the energy/matter relationship is discussed, we are reminded of Albert Einstein and his famous equation. He proposed that matter and energy are two sides of the same coin. Very few humans fully understand that statement, including many scientists and science instructors.  

Our post title connects matter and its relationship to energy. Both concepts relate to each other in several ways. The Creator of All Things designed and created our universal home so that energy and matter are interconnected. In everyday life, most people may not grasp the significance of this cause/effect connection. From the instant of the initial creation, however, energy naturally flowed from the action of processes taking place in matter.

Think about your high school chemistry course. To one degree or another you and your classmates were fascinated that all the matter in our environment consists of less than 100 different elementary substances—elements. The elements commonly combine with each other in definite proportions to form tens of thousands of different substances called compounds. They also mix with each other in indefinite proportions to form infinite quantities of different mixtures. We have a plethora of millions of different substances to sustain and enrich our lives. Most everyday substances are chemically classified mixtures. Millions of different substances are composed of just a few elements, less than 100 naturally occurring elements.

The nearly 100 elements exist in particles called atoms. These tiny atomic entities have a dense central nucleus containing two particles—protons, each with a positive electrical charge, and neutrons with no electrical charge. Protons and neutrons possess nearly identical mass and are tightly bound together by one of four fundamental universal forces—the strong nuclear force. It is the strongest force in our universe. Other particles of the atom are tiny electrons swarming around the dense central nucleus. Electrons have a negative electrical charge.   

There exists a systematic organizational structure of matter in the nearly 100 “simple” elements. It is difficult to conceive that the structure of elemental atoms occurred “by chance” in the beginning. The minuscule number of naturally occurring elements is organized sequentially and coherently. (Each successive element has one additional proton, for example. Atoms possess an equal number of electrons.) A 19th century Russian chemist, Dmitri Mendeleev, was an important pioneer in formally proposing a coherent system of element classification in 1869. Mendeleev’s creative proposals were challenging, not because the Creator created an incoherent, chaotic chemical world, but because the beauty of our created world of elemental matter is far more complex and wonderful than chemists of the 18th and 19th century imagined. As their knowledge expanded, other chemists developed their own concepts of a “periodic table” of chemical elements. Mendeleev’s concepts have been recognized as insightful in terms of our knowledge of chemical characteristics of elements, but many other talented scientists expanded our knowledge.

Our limited discussion of energy and matter and how the two topics are linked does not do justice to the topic of divine intelligent design. Did the Creator originate this linkage from the beginning of time? We propose that this linkage is according to the plan of the Creator, the Intelligent Designer. In a future post we will discuss the fact that tremendous quantities of energy are locked within matter, both simple elements like hydrogen in the Sun, our solar companion, as well as in more exotic radioactive elements. Humans have discovered knowledge of fusion of hydrogen in the Sun as well as knowledge of the power of exotic radioactive elements. Both are powerful suppliers of energy from “ordinary” matter!       

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Matter/Energy Connection

 Whenever issues of Divine Creation of the universe are raised, some participants in the discussion transition to a discussion of the age of the universe: Is the age of our universe only 6 to 10 thousand years? or did the universe originate in a spectacular creation event known as the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago? Our stance has been that scientists over the last century have accumulated powerful and virtually incontrovertible evidence for the latter position. This evidence includes proof that the universe has expanded from an infinitely small volume at its origin. We infer this truth according to what we observe about the behavior of light, including red-shift phenomena, the presence of certain types of elements in our present universe, and many other observed characteristics. This evidence is highly congruent with the observed sequence of physical events in the past and present.

The Creation Event describes the origin of time, space, matter, and energy. Before this powerful Creation Event there existed no space, time, matter, and energy. There was no universe as we know it. This is an important metaphysical and theological issue, far beyond the scope of our discussion. Perhaps it is also beyond the scope of our understanding. The time/space connection is an important linkage, as is the linkage of matter/energy. God is the Creator of time/space/matter/energy. Albert Einstein and many other theoretical physicists wrestled with these concepts.

We will not venture into explicit meanings of the famous formula E=mc2: energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Einstein’s understandings of relativity are fully grasped by only a very few human souls. His proposals have transformed science. At the very least, laypeople subjectively grasp the interrelationships of matter (mass) and energy: God has provided humanity with nearly limitless energy inherent in matter itself. 

God’s creative processes were manifest from early milliseconds of the Big Bang event. Scientists describe a quark-gluon plasma experienced during that early era. Shortly after the initial creation event the cosmos experienced “nucleosynthesis:” nuclei of hydrogen and helium atoms formed consisting of protons and neutrons. After about 20 minutes, nucleosynthesis ceased. Hydrogen, helium, and a few other elements eventually formed about 380,000 years later when the universe had cooled sufficiently to hold electrons in place around the nuclei. Some young earth creationists object to this explanatory scenario. Our Creator, nonetheless, operates outside of, or even within human time frames. Ongoing creation events authored by our timeless God are equally as miraculous as sudden transcendent creation events. For reference:

To reinforce our concept of “ongoing creation” we reference historians of cosmology who date the appearance of stars at 100-200 million years after the Big Bang event. Multiple galaxies of stars appeared later, during the first billion years of universe history. Therefore, the matter/energy relationship was established early in the timeline of our 13.8 billion year old universe. 

The statement “Matter and energy form the basis of all objective phenomena” has been used in many profound science discussions. Over the history of cosmic development there have been numerous examples of the matter/energy relationship. For example, a process called the proton-proton chain produces helium from the fusion of two hydrogen nuclei into a helium nucleus. Enormous energy is released. This brief, incomplete description of a physical process explains why our solar companion is a life-sustainer. Solar energy produces many subsequent energy transformations driving multiple processes which sustain life on our planet.

Einstein’s theories posited that matter and energy were different parts of the same thing. Most people are aware that the horrific 1945 atomic blasts which helped conclude World War II released enormous energy from reactions within a small amount of radioactive matter. That explosion destroyed surrounding objects and caused additional harm by releasing lethal ionizing radiation.  

Consider the enormous energy released by the Sun. Our solar companion is really a nuclear furnace. The Sun primarily releases great amounts of visible light and infrared radiation which converts to heat if absorbed. Humans release infrared radiation by virtue of moving electrons in every atom of your body. (Every object in our universe releases infrared constantly—the lower their temperature, the lower the amount of infrared released and vice versa.)

Energy is simply defined as the ability to do work. There are many types of energy. A discussion of the different energy types is a topic for future blog posts. We might say that “Energy makes the world go ‘round”—a take-off on the popular lyrical/musical expression “Love makes the world go ‘round.” 

The Creator of All Things could have produced a universe where energy sources were independent of matter. There would be no matter/energy connection. We may have difficulty imagining such a universe! In His infinite love and wisdom, God produced an ideal linkage for the ultimate good of all living things, especially beings created “In His Image.”






Thursday, July 1, 2021

Official UAP Statement (6/25/2021)

 After reporting on the UAP (formerly UFO) phenomenon at length in ten previous posts from 11/16/19 to 1/30/2020 and one pre-summary review post on 6/9/2021, we present a follow-up. After the release of the official government statement released 6/25/2021 from the “Office of the Director of National Intelligence” entitled “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” we remind our readers of our previous position that UAPs are likely manifestations of the IDH—the Interdimensional Hypothesis (other “realities” or dimensions that co-exist alongside our own). The complete 9-page government document is available on websites.

Discussions and pronouncements on modern UAPs have been ongoing for almost 75 years. Historically, however, many strange sightings of aerial phenomena have persisted for hundreds of years. No doubt visual descriptions have been clouded by time or misperceived. With up-to-date detection technology, our knowledge has been substantially enhanced. It is undeniable that sightings have proliferated the last few decades. More and more officials have recently pronounced the UAP phenomenon to be real, not the product of human imagination or misperception.

Armed with the knowledge that government officials are no longer bent on denial, analysts speculated with several statements uttered a few days prior to the official release of the “preliminary assessment.” In each case the analysts said the report would retain the description “UNIDENTIFIED.” Military personnel cannot explain the mystery of UAPs scientifically. They do not possess knowledge of who pilots them, what their purpose is, how they are propelled as they move in a random manner at incredible speeds, how they stop suddenly, and many other mysteries surrounding their behavior. The laws of physics by which Earth residents have operated do not apply to UAPs. Government personnel and the lay public have not achieved the answers they sought. This is incredibly frustrating for residents desiring straightforward cause and effect explanations. In short, there are no official answers to expectant questions about UAPs, notwithstanding the public ferment.

The “Preliminary Assessment…” nevertheless attempts to answer common questions. Government officials still cannot offer firm conclusions about the nature and intent of UAPs. They say UAPs “Probably DO represent physical objects.” This information is based on multiple sensors—radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and last but not least, visual observation. Officials describe their highly unusual behavior as caused by (1) airborne clutter (swarms of birds, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles), (2) natural atmospheric phenomena (ice crystals, thermal fluctuations), (3) USG or US industry developmental programs, (4) foreign adversary systems, or (5) OTHER (the catchall phrase). The last category allows for factors about which we do not yet know. It is interesting that categories 1-4 have been addressed and eliminated as possible causes, but category 5 still remains a mystery. The US public anticipated answers under the category 5 umbrella.

The report deals with 144 events observed from 2004 to 2021. Officials continue to analyze these events. 80 events were observed with multiple sensors. 21 of the 144 events demonstrated advanced (or perhaps unfamiliar or unknown) technology. Some situations interrupted pre-planned training or military activity. Naval personnel claimed there were eleven “near misses.” Flight safety and national security were jeopardized, according to the military observers.

We quote two authoritative sources on whom we have depended. Both authors are respected for their conservative, scriptural viewpoints. One source is Dr. Hugh Ross, president of Reasons to Believe. In 2002 Ross, Kenneth Samples, and Mark Clark  authored Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, A Rational Christian Look at UFOs and Extraterrestrials, published by NavPress. The somewhat humorous title belies the serious, scholarly, and theological nature of the volume’s contents. The second authoritative source is a book by Dr. John Ankerberg and Mark Weldon, The Facts on UFOs, 2011, published by ATRI. 

Dr. Ankerberg states in The Facts on UFOs, “After 20 years the extent and depth of our research now constitutes for us a conclusion that has become a virtual certainty: that UFOs constitute a spiritistic (demonic) phenomenon. We believe that such a conclusion may affect us all.” Again, In a Google Wikipedia article entitled “Interdimensional Hypothesis,” Dr. Ankerberg and John Weldon, “…advocate IDH because it fits the explanation of UFOs as a spiritistic phenomenon.”

Dr. Ross writes at length on dimensions beyond the familiar ones in which we have existed. The UAPs (UFOs) described in the above-mentioned “Preliminary Assessment” are not subject exclusively to our dimensions of space and time. Many residents were looking forward to the UAP report to explain the phenomena according to their traditional experience with dimensionality and physical laws. But Ross also declares in his volume, “The authors of this book are fully convinced that both science and scripture point to the supradimensional beings known as demons as the malevolent sources of the (UAP) phenomena.”

From the Bible we learn of two distinctive spiritual types of created beings—humans, and angels. A majority of the latter have remained obedient to God. But a sizable minority rebelled against God. These still exist as evil spirits, or demons. We offer the reality of UAPs as a sort of “proof.” Theologically, this mystery may be revealed by the Creator at the End of Time. Familiar dimensionality of time, space, and matter governs activities of the human population while some spirit beings have access to and are capable of operating within unfamiliar dimensions beyond ours. 

Given the stark contrast between good angels (ministering spirits) and fallen (evil or malevolent) angels, some residual—unexplained—aerial phenomena may be categorized as supradimensional AND evil. These spiritual beings do NOT call attention to the goodness and love of the righteous Creator described in Holy Scripture. Instead, they often work against the righteous Creator.

One reason why government experts and laypeople alike have not suggested the possibility of UAPs as demon manifestations may owe to avoidance by the secular world to connect science with ANY spiritual or theological explanations. For the goal of acquiring truth concerning UAPs, this avoidance does not serve us well. Hugh Ross closes Chapter 11 of the above volume with a powerful statement: “One reason why research scientists and others may be reluctant to say specifically that demons exist with respect to residual UFOs is because such an answer points too directly to a Christian interpretation of the problem. However, the only defense to be found against the evil, deception, and supernatural powers manifested in residual UFOs is in Christianity and the Bible.”  







Saturday, June 26, 2021

Recognition and Communication of Creation Gifts

 How does humanity recognize and communicate its fascination with creation—the universe and everything in it? There are abundant means to perceive, recapture, and communicate its wonders. Many Scripture references to the wonders of creation cite vision. We are encouraged to visually observe the beauty of creation. The Bible also refers metaphorically to other sensory experiences: the voice of the Lord (Ps. 29:3), taste (Ps. 34:8), and touch (Matt. 14:36). We recapture and celebrate creation’s wonders with many forms of visual depiction—for example, photography, sketching, painting, and sculpting utilizing various media. Calling attention to multiple features of our creation environment brings focus to the reality of the Creator of All Things.  

A unique product of a US government bureau, the US Mint, visually calls attention to many wonders of creation on our “coin of the realm.” Below we will review the subject matter of 112 different designs on US quarters produced sequentially by the US Mint from 1999 to 2021. Every calendar year featured five new designs. It was an inexpensive bonanza for coin collectors! The designs fascinate admirers of plant life and animal life, as well as students of geography, geology, history, and science in general. But first, a little historical background…

Early in the US Civil War in 1861, a movement to recognize God on our national coinage was motivated by wartime religious sentiment. Finally, a motto was approved and placed initially on the two-cent coin in 1864: “In God We Trust” appeared sporadically on US coinage from 1864 to 1938. Since then it has appeared on all denominations of coins. Congress approved the phrase as our national motto in 1956. Beginning 1966 this motto has also appeared on all specimens of US paper money.

Between 1999 and 2009 fifty states and six territories were recognized on coin designs submitted by committees from each state. The coins were known as “statehood” and “territory” quarters. Following that series, from 2010 to 2021 each of the fifty states and six territories were able to recognize a “site of natural or historic significance.” Coins in this series were called “America the Beautiful” quarters. All told 112 different designs were produced during the two coin programs. In total, almost 35 billion statehood quarters have been issued. America the Beautiful quarters have been minted to the tune of 18.5 billion.

Each of the billions of coins of all denominations minted from 1938 to the present has the inscription “In God We Trust.” Although the United States is not a theocracy, the national motto bespeaks respect our founding fathers possessed for God the Creator. If our coin of the realm and paper currency all bear this motto, we may take heart in this age of declining spiritual values, praying that we would return to a more traditional appreciation of faith in the reality of a divine Creator.

Almost 50 plants, including trees, grains, and flowers appear on the two series of quarters. Twenty bird species are highlighted, almost all of them different. About fifteen animals appear, including bear, elk, deer, mountain goats, dall sheep, bison, cattle, bats, tree frogs, and fish. In the world of the non-living, startling geological features appear several dozen times. In the area of geography, we counted fifteen state outlines in the statehood series. For those interested in national history, transportation, music, aviation, or infrastructure there are a number of depictions. Curiously, one may notice the almost total absence of insects, save for one regal fritillary butterfly on the “Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve” Kansas quarter of 2020.

The series communicates multiple reasons to exult in the beauty of creation. It provides support for a positive perception of our dynamic planet and in particular, the blessings God has bestowed upon the United States of America. The New Living Translation of I Timothy 6:17 reminds us our trust should be in God, “….who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.”

Talented United States Mint metallurgists, engravers and technologists have helped us to celebrate creation and to enjoy the natural world which surrounds us. Whether deliberately or not, our secular officials have called attention to the beauty of divine creation originating in the mind of God.