I am a Christian. I believe in the God of the Bible, in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)" I am a biochemist and a pharmacist by education. As such I have a desire to understand nature. I am writing this blog as my way to express the facts of true science as I understand them, from the perspective of one who believes that all things were created by God, for God and for His purposes.

Feel free to comment, to offer your perspective, or to give suggestions for subjects.
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Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Years Resolution Revisited - The Chemistry of New Beginnings

On this day five years ago I wrote this entry about New Years Resolutions. With the rough and tumble year we just went through - from sports (Chicago Cubs) to politics (presidential election) to world events (terrorism) - I think this post is still, if not more, relevant today for 2017.

Tonight at Midnight, for most of the World anyway, the year will click over to 2012. And with it the opportunity for a fresh start, a new beginning if you will. In our physical world of time and space everything has a beginning. The day has a beginning, as does the month and the year. We had a beginning at our conception and then our birth. Our Nation and all of the nations of the world had beginnings at some point in the history of mankind. And all creation had a beginning, at the Big Bang when God spoke the Universe into existence - Genesis 1:1ff (NIV).

For many, tonight will be a night to celebrate - party with friends, watch the ball drop in Times Square or the fireworks in Sydney or Hong Kong. Some will party too much and regret it tomorrow. For some they will meet their end before they can even begin the new year. For all of us, we need to look at the new year and this time of new beginnings as an opportunity for change. Change for the world (World Peace), change for our country (an improving economy) and change for ourselves (make a lifestyle improvement).

Every year many of us make new years resolutions, and many of us fail to keep them, in spite of our best efforts. Estimates show that about 62% of all adult Americans make at least one new years resolution. Of these 75% last a week, 64% a month and 46% last for 6 months. Only 8% keep their resolution for the full year. Even with the poor odds of keeping your resolution for the full year research shows that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't. There is something about having specific, written goals that helps to keep us on track. It gives us an identified target to reach and a sense of hope that when we do reach it, we will be better for having made the effort.

Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution
long after the mood in which it was made has left you.
Cavett Robert

To keep a resolution well made requires hard work and determination. As the quote implies, many a resolution is made without forethought as to how it will be carried out. We have all heard the story of "the boy who cried wolf." When he finally spoke the truth he was not believed. If we make lighthearted resolutions and then do not keep them, it is a reflection on our character.

The concept of character implies a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits. The Bible defines character as any behavior or activity that reflects the character of God. The Book of Genesis (Genesis 1:26ff NIV) says that God created man in His own image. Consistency of character is regarded as integrity - the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions. We are judged to "have integrity" to the extent that we act according to the values, beliefs and principles we claim to hold.

So as we make those same resolutions again this year - lose weight, get fit, quit smoking/drinking - lets make a resolution together much like the one expressed on the left side of the card above: Live a simple, sincere life... cultivate cheerfulness and charity... be frugal in expenses, careful in conversations, diligent in service... and have a child-like trust in God to care for us in all things.

Happy New Year!

Ephesians 4:31-32 - "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (NLT)"

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Turning Outward Part Two - The Earth Around Us

By looking at just 25 of the over 300 finely tuned parameters that must be met to have the chance at life, we have seen that the odds of random chance producing a universe like ours, with a galaxy like ours, with a solar system like ours, with a planet like ours is infinitesimally small. Turning this around we see that the odds against such an occurrence are astronomically great. This shows that we would not exist if it were not for the supernatural intervention of God in our physical world to "hover" over us and gently move creation to that endpoint of supporting life, and then creating life in His image. Genesis 1:2 says, “The Spirit of God was hovering [râchaph] over the waters.” The Hebrew "râchaph" is used in Deuteronomy 32:11 (NIV) to describe an eagle nurturing her young.

In this blog we will look at a few more of the "finely tuned parameters", those related to the Earth itself, but we will skip the calculations as the odds are already weighing heavily towards a Creator. So as mentioned last time, we consider this:

Turning Outward - Proverbs 25:2 (NIV) - It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. - Finding God in the world around us.

Earth poster When we look at the earth, we are considering how it can be a place to allow life to form and flourish. The emphasis here is on the land masses and what is needed to provide an environmentally stable (water, oxygen, carbon based nutrients) place for life.

Thickness of the Earth's Crust
The crust is the outermost solid shell of a rocky planet. On Earth it is about 20-30 miles thick and composed of mineral rock and is covered with decayed organic matter. The crust occupies less than 1% of Earth's total volume. It, together with the uppermost part of the mantle, on which it rests, is called the lithosphere. Because of the hardness of the crust and the molten, fluid movement of the lower mantle (due to the heat within the Earth's core), the Earth's crust is broken into numerous plates that "float" on top of the lower mantle.

If the crust was much thicker, It would adsorb too much oxygen from the atmosphere and there would not be sufficient oxygen in the atmosphere to sustain life as we know it. If it was much thinner, volcanic and seismic (earthquakes) activity would be too great, creating a very unstable environment for life. (probability of 0.01)

God has made the Earth for Life
And placed us here for a Purpose

Seismic/Tectonic Activity
Seismic Activity, although potentially devastating, are essential to life. Movement of sections of the tectonic plates along fault lines produce earthquakes, movement along plate borders is considered continental drift. Such movement helps to recycle the crust, bringing nutrients and other needed chemical changes to the surface.

If seismic activity is too great, too many life-forms would be destroyed. If seismic activity is too low, nutrients from river runoff found on the ocean floors would not be recycled to continental surfaces through tectonic movement. Also, insufficient carbon dioxide would be released from the crust and mantle to balance the atmosphere. (probability of 0.05)

Volcanic Activity
The temperature of the Earth's crust and mantle increase as you go deeper under the surface. At the boundary between the crust and the mantle, temperatures range from about 200 °C (392 °F) to 400 °C (752 °F). As you go deeper into the mantle, the temperature increases dramatically, resulting in liquid rock. This molten rock and a buildup of gases results in volcanic explosions that spew volcanic ash and lava out onto the surface, bringing carbon dioxide gas, water vapor and minerals to enrich the soil.

If volcanic activity was lower, insufficient amounts of carbon dioxide and water vapor would be returned to the atmosphere and soil mineralization would be too low to support life. If volcanic activity was higher, the excessive eruptions of gas and ash would be deadly to life, advanced life at least. (probability of 0.1)

Forest and Grass Fires
Fire also is a requirement for life. It is needed to destroy old growth and return nutrients to the soil to promote new growth. The quantity and extent of such fires is critical to the development of advanced life as we know it.

If these fires are too small and too rare, growth inhibitors in the soils would accumulate, bound nitrogen in the soil would be insufficient and charcoal production for adequate soil water retention would be limited. If there were extensive fires too many forms of plant and animal life would be destroyed. (probability of 0.01)

Water Absorption within the Mantle
The movement and storage of water within the planet's mantle is necessary to supply water for the planet's surface and to cycle carbon, calcium, silicon and other minerals from the mantle to the surface and back through erosion, thus supplying necessary minerals for life and balancing out the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It also impacts plate tectonics and mantle convection, the latter of which allows heat movement to the surface from the core, helping to balance out changes in the luminosity (heat and light production) of the planet's star (the sun).

If water absorption is too low, too much water will remain on the planet's surface covering any land masses and reducing plate tectonics, thus reducing survival rates of any land-based life. The mantle will also become too viscous, further reducing plate tectonics and the convection of heat from the mantle to the crust, decreasing surface temperatures.

If too high, there will be too little water on the planet surface, disrupting the water and carbonate-silicate cycles, increasing plate tectonics, reducing mantle viscosity and promoting the convection of heat to the crust. All this will result in higher temperatures on the surface of the planet, impacting life. (probability of 0.01)

Because the Earth meets all of these diverse "requirements" for supporting life, it has exploded over the millennia with an extremely diverse variety of life forms. Planets, animals, bacteria and fungi. Symbiotic relations between them. Organisms that can survive under the pressure of the depths of the oceans, the boiling heat of geothermal crevasses, and the cold winds and ice of the Antarctic. Amazing molecules - like water, that are required for life. The Earth has existed for 4.5 billion years with the possibility of life existing for the last 3.8 billion. Could all of this be due to random chance - evolution? Or did it require a creator God?

Albert Einstein said, “The harmony of natural law reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” An orderly universe, as we have examined in the last few blogs, has traditionally been seen as “proof” of a creator God who ordained natural law.

Next we will move to "Searching Inward" - finding God in the existence of life; specifically finding God in the formation of the human body.