Sunday, December 25, 2022

More Planet Earth Dynamism

In recent weeks Earth residents have been reminded of many dynamic planetary events which generated not only wonder, but also discomfort and even tragedy. Volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes may rank at the top of this spectrum. Not far behind are blizzards (such as a noteworthy blizzard many US states are experiencing as I write), cold waves, heat waves, floods, and droughts. We might ask, “Is Planet Earth a place of tragedy, or a place to thrive?” The range of tragedies is very broad. Degrees of thriving also occur at different levels along a broad spectrum. Humanity may either thrive or experience tragedy depending on how he responds to ever-present natural hazards.    

Weather observers on Planet Earth have published references to Hawaiian volcanoes since late November 2022: Mauna Loa had just awakened to activity. Since then, volcanic activity has diminished, but other dynamic earth processes have been active. For example, an earthquake in California recently generated concern for residents of that state. A 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked a region of Northern California. In late September 2022 powerful Hurricane Ian struck South Florida, crossing the peninsula from west to east. It claimed 146 lives in the state as the strongest hurricane since the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. Florida residents are still in “clean-up” mode. In mid- December the southern US coped with several tornadoes in five states. Our planet has been rocked by similar disasters since Old Testament times and long before. 

The Apostle Paul described what was probably a hurricane in Acts 27:14 while his ship was caught in a tempestuous wind while sailing by the island of Crete. Job’s children perished in a “great wind,” probably a tornado, from across the wilderness (Job 1:19). Job 36-37 describes a variety of weather events: whirlwinds, lightning, thunder, mighty downpours, snow, and ice. The OT books of Amos and Zechariah specifically mention a historic earthquake in the days of Uzziah. Of course, even Christ himself referenced the Mesopotamian flood as did the authors of Hebrews and Peter. Verses in Psalm 104:32 and Psalm144:5 suggest “smoking mountains,” probably volcanoes. as works of God. Other Bible passages characterize our Creator as the author of many mighty natural wonders.  

What scientific laws governed and still govern these planetary phenomena? Answer: There are at least two laws—the Law of Entropy, and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The laws are related, but they do not mean exactly the same thing. The 2nd law states that energy only flows from high states of energy to lower states of energy. For instance, a container of hot water left in a cold room will always cool to the temperature of the room—never the other way around. There are many examples from the standpoint of organization or order in physical systems. In this example the Law of Entropy quantifies heat flow in recognizable scientific units to affirm that physical systems always tends toward more, not less disorder. In other words, entropy (disorder) increases. The 2nd Law speaks of the natural tendency of physical systems to run downhill.

In the world of planetary geologic and meteorological phenomena there is a wealth of knowledge where we can apply the principles of entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The term thermodynamics applies to the relationships between heat and other forms of energy. When God created the Heavens and the Earth (Gen. 1:1) He also established physical laws governing our planet. Such laws control weather, geologic processes, and all physical systems originated by the Creator. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics produces some outcomes that Earth residents find unpleasant. Examples are listed in our first paragraph.

Our Planet Earth has existed for millions of years as a solid celestial body. The history of Planet Earth clearly indicates that geologic and meteorological processes have provided desirable volcanic recycling and beneficial water recycling events still prevalent on Earth to this day. These processes and many others allow life to exist and thrive on our unique planet.

Are these ancient processes in keeping with the will of The Creator? Our response is an unequivocal, “Yes.” According to Genesis 1-2 God pronounced His creation “good or very good” on six different occasions. The 2nd Law is the foundation of a marvelous divine physical operating system. Our Creator designed our planetary operating systems for the ultimate benefit of humanity. Generally, humanity thrives on our planet. This planet, however, is not our permanent, eternal home—a topic more appropriately addressed by theologians.     


Sunday, December 11, 2022

Dynamic Volcanic Wonders

 In our last post we discussed YouTubes where we access almost unlimited information on the wonders of animal life on our planet. In this post we highlight another recent planetary phenomenon—the regular onset of dynamic volcanism occurring in our 50th state, Hawaii. In recent weeks Mauna Loa has awakened from one of its frequent rest states. It is periodically active as are many Hawaiian volcanoes.

In one of our early posts we spoke about “Dynamic Planet Earth.” Linked below is our 2008 post:

In the above post we referred to volcanoes as an example of Earth’s dynamic processes. The term dynamic conveys forceful, powerful, and energetic. In the past few weeks, news of a recent volcano eruption on the Big Island of Hawaii has been widely publicized. We searched for YouTube entries and research articles on Hawaiian volcanoes and volcanoes in general. The Hawaiian Islands were formed by a succession of undersea volcanic eruptions. The archipelago was formed within a huge tectonic plate, the Pacific Plate, an irregular-shaped chunk of the Earth’s crust sliding horizontally over a “hot spot.” The moving crust resembled a “conveyor belt” as it received intermittent surges of molten magma rising from hot spots far beneath the surface in the rock mantle. The Hawaiian Islands archipelago originated in this manner over a few million years.

Shortly after the mid-20th century, theorists proposed that crustal plates migrated over  layers of the rock mantle. This idea was described initially as “continental drift” and later became known as “plate tectonics.” Alfred Wegener in the early 20th century first proposed the revolutionary idea that sections of Earth’s crust moved slowly over the planetary surface. At the time he did not fully understand what caused sections of our planet’s continents to “drift.”

In the 1960s I first became aware of the nascent theory of plate tectonics—a proposal that has gained more credibility over the decades. Tectonic is a Greek word related to building. One image of our planet’s surface may be described as a group of reassembled, ancient building blocks. The blocks have slowly moved across the Earth’s surface only a few centimeters per year. Evidence from ancient fossil deposits and magnetism (paleomagnetism) preserved in the rocks give clues of an exceedingly complex and ancient process.  

Our contemporary belief in plate tectonics demonstrates how science knowledge has proliferated. Plate tectonics phenomena are on a par with revolutionary discoveries in many fields of historic science. There are many historic discoveries, including early knowledge of plate tectonics introduced in the 1960s. Many discoveries utilized past knowledge to discover and apply new knowledge. 

Plate tectonics is one example. Ideas about convection currents had been proposed for several hundred years. Convection currents occur in gases and liquids owing to unequal heating. Convection currents also occur slowly in solids such as the Earth’s rock mantle. They produce mantle plumes of hot magma. Convection is one of the three primary means of heat travel. Moving molecules cycle heat energy from warm regions to cooler regions. 

    Mantle convection and plate tectonics provide a general framework for understanding tectonic physics. Transport of heat from the interior of the earth drives solid state convection. Plate tectonics is a direct consequence of this convection.

(Sciencedirect article, 2003)

Decay of radioactive elements in Earth’s mantle supplies most of the heat necessary to drive convection in the solid mantle. Volcanoes at Earth’s surface ultimately benefit all humanity. Apart from some disastrous effects of volcanism (humans are gifted with wisdom to avoid the harmful effects of volcanism), these dynamic events have occurred for millions of years on Planet Earth. Volcanic events produce beneficial soil fertility and hundreds of mineral resources for our modern burgeoning population. 80% of Earth’s surface is volcanic in origin.

God has created Earth for the ultimate benefit of humanity. Dynamic events such as volcanoes are evidence of our planet’s beneficial recycling mechanisms. In Holy Scripture we discover many examples of the Creator’s wisdom, power, and providence. “Now therefore, our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name.” I Chroncles 29:13 (NKJV).