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.
Please take a minute to "Like" us on Facebook.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas and the Three Kings - Revisited

Several years back I published two blog entries about Christmas, more specifically about the Three Kings and their gifts. I am sharing them again, together, below. But before you jump down, I want to address the first blog and discuss the information I gave there. I talk about the "Magi" and how they may have known of the coming of the Messiah because of Daniel. Daniel was made the administrator over all of the Wise Men (Magi means Wise Men) of Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar:

Daniel 2:48 NIV "Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the Wise Men of Babylon."

So it is possible that the "Kings" coming to see Jesus were really wise men from Babylon, who learned of His coming through the teachings of Daniel many years earlier.

Ok, so far so good. But in the next paragraph I say that the vision of the 70 weeks from Daniel 9 points to the "birth" of the Messiah and that is why the three Kings knew to follow the star.

Daniel 9:25 NKJV "Know therefore and understand, [That] from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, [There shall be] seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times."

But that is not what Daniel 9:25 says. It says "from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, [There shall be] seven weeks and sixty-two weeks..."

If you look at this verse more closely, it says there will be 69 weeks (of years? = 483 years) from the command to rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah is proclaimed as Prince or King. So it most likely was not the arrival of the Magi that happened per Daniel 9 but possibly the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as described in the Gospels, where the people called out “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!"

Now this day has been calculated by some to be the date April 6, 32 AD, which also happened to be the 10th of Nisan on the Jewish calendar, the day when the Passover lamb was chosen for the sacrifice. If we count back from this date 483 years (360 day years) we land on March 14, 445 BC which is suspected to be the day that Artaxerxes Longimanus issued a decree to rebuild Jerusalem, thus matching Daniel 9:25.

However, not everyone agrees with this date or this decree since several decrees were issued prior to this, most notably that of Cyrus in 538 BC, but the decree of Ataxerxes was the only one to allow the rebuilding of the walls of the city. Another date given for Atarxerxes' decree is March 5, 444 BC.

Also, why was the time split into 7 weeks of years and 62 weeks? It is suspected that the 7 weeks was the time required to rebuild the city.

Now there are many interpretations of these dates and times as well as what constitutes a year and the "end" of the 69 weeks of years. Issues come with using a prophetic calendar year (360 days) or a current calendar year (365) plus leap years (different for Jewish calendars verses the accepted calendar of today). Next, there are four possible "decrees" that could establish the starting date - from Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes.

Also, the time period is questioned in why is it divided into 7 + 62 + 1? Could there be different time periods in each and not literally 7 years for each week? Finally, what constitutes the endpoint of the 69 weeks? Is it the Triumphal Entry, or the baptism by John at the start of Jesus' public ministry or is it His birth as I mentioned in the earlier blog entry?

I think all of this creates a fascinating study into one of the greatest prophesies of the Old Testament. Like many of the Old Testament prophesies we may never know the answer in this life!

We commemorate the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi on the Twelfth-day of Christmas - January 6. It is called the Epiphany.


We Three Kings of Orient Are... Or Were They?

At Christmas we sing the carol: "We three Kings of Orient are..."

We three Kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder Star

But were they Kings? Were there just three? Did they come from the Orient? Did they really follow a star? Did they bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh? We talked of Gold in the last blog being the metal of Kings. So what are the other two? Over the next few blogs we will look at the three Kings, the three Gifts and the three Destinies of Jesus.

So what about the three Kings? The Bible calls them Wise Men, not Kings. The word for Wise Men in the Greek is magos, where we get the term Magi. Were there three? The Bible does not say how many came. It speaks of three Gifts but those Gifts could have been brought by one or many. Magos is a plural noun so there was most likely more than one. It is also unlikely that they would travel so far in such a small group.

The Bible says the Magi came from the East. But does the East mean the Orient? The Bible does not say the Orient specifically, just from the East. The word magos, however, was a name given to teachers, astrologers, seers and interpreters of dreams by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes and Persians. This could put the Wise Men as coming from Babylon (east of Bethlehem) where Daniel had been in captivity almost 500 years earlier. Daniel was made the ruler of the Wise Men in that day when he interpreted the King's dream. (Daniel 2)

Daniel 2:48 "Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the Wise Men of Babylon. (NKJV)"

The Wise Men knew when the Messiah
was to be born and watched for His Star

A number of years later Daniel remembered that God had said the Jews would be in captivity for 70 years, a time that was nearing completion, and he set himself to pray to God to keep His covenant. The Angel Gabriel came in response to his prayer and prophesied the birth of the Messiah in 69 weeks (of years) from the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The 69 weeks of years would mean 483 years from the rebuilding of the Temple the Messiah would be born, precisely the time when the Magi arrived following the star. Could it be because of Daniel and this prophesy that the Magi knew of the star that would point them to the birthplace of Jesus? (Daniel 9)
Daniel 9:25 "Know therefore and understand, [That] from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, [There shall be] seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. (NKJV)"
And the Star? Was it a real star or something else? The website Star of Bethlehem describes in detail one possible explanation - a conjugation of the star Regulus and the planet Jupiter with cameos by the sun and the new moon. It is an intriguing, scientific study of how these celestial bodies could have moved together to point the way to the birthplace of the Messiah.
Matthew 2:9-10 "When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. (NKJV)"
And the Three Gifts? What do they mean? They signify the three Destinies of Christ - King, Priest and Savior.
Matthew 2:11 "And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (NKJV)"
We will examine the Gifts and Christ's destiny in the next blog.


Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh - King, Priest and Savior

In our last blog, we talked about the Star of Bethlehem, the Wise Men, and the three Gifts they brought to Jesus - Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. So what were these gifts and why did the Wise Men choose them to give?

We know that Gold is the metal of Kings as was mentioned in a previous blog. It was, and still is, a precious metal due to its relative scarcity, its unusual color and lustre, and its malleability. It is well suited for ornamentation and decoration in art or jewelry and for signifying wealth, things important to kings and princes (and princesses!). The Magi brought Gold to recognize Jesus' kingship.

Matthew 2:1-2 - "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. (NIV)"

How about Frankincense? Frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia. The trees are striped and the resin exudes and dries into pearls that are then harvested. The pearls are burned as incense in a fire to release the fragrance of the resin. Frankincense was an important part of the Temple service in Jerusalem. The incense was burned by the priest as part of the offering.

The essential oil of Frankincense, produced by steam distillation of the tree resin, contains monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenoles, sesquiterpenols, and ketones. Terpenes are a class of molecules that typically contain either ten or fifteen carbon atoms built from a five-carbon building block called isoprene. These are volatile aromatic hydrocarbon esters used in incense and perfumes. Frankincense has a good balsamic and sweet fragrance. Many terpenes such as menthol (found in throat lozenges) and camphor also have medicinal values.

Exodus 30:34-35 - "Then the LORD said to Moses, Take fragrant spices--gum resin, onycha and galbanum--and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, 35 and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. (NIV)"

Leviticus 6:15 - "He shall take from it his handful of the fine flour of the grain offering, with its oil, and all the frankincense which [is] on the grain offering, and shall burn [it] on the altar [for] a sweet aroma, as a memorial to the LORD. (NKJV)"

Frankincense, which was often burned, symbolized prayer rising to the heavens like smoke. The Magi brought Frankincense to acknowledge the holiness or divinity of Jesus, our Divine High Priest.

Myrrh is a reddish resin that comes from the species Commiphora myrrha, a plant native to northeast Africa and the adjacent areas of the Arabian Peninsula. It is gathered in the same fashion as Frankincense, as pearls of dried resin from striping the tree. Myrrh is an aromatic oleoresin consisting of sterols and volatile oils. It can also be found in a liquid form. So valuable was it at times in ancient history that, ounce for ounce, it was more costly than gold. Because Myrrh was used in the embalming or anointing of the dead, it came to represent mortality, suffering, and sorrow.

The Magi brought Myrrh to symbolize the hardship, suffering and death that Christ would endure as our Savior.

Jesus Christ, the Messiah
Our King, Priest and Savior!

Thus these three gifts foretell of the three destinies of Jesus - King, Priest and Savior. Jesus came 2000 years ago as our pure and spotless lamb of God, offered up for us on a cross, a Savior for us, dying for the forgiveness of our sins. Myrrh symbolized His impending death.

1 Peter 1:18a-19 - "Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things,... 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (NKJV)"

John 19:39-40 - "And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. (NKJV)"

He is now our Great High Priest in heaven, interceding for us with His Father. Frankincense symbolized His Priesthood and prayers for us.

Leviticus 2:2 - "He shall bring it to Aaron's sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn [it as] a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. (NKJV)"

Gold symbolized His Kingship. He will return as a King, ruling and reigning over the Earth in the millennium that follows His return.

Luke 1:31-33 - "And behold, you [Mary] will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. (NKJV)"

He is coming soon!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Chemistry of Matter & Vibration

A few weeks ago I was invited to talk at my church on a selection of verses from the Gospel of John. I chose the first three verses as my focus. I then expounded on them in relation to God - Jesus - as the Word or Logos, looking at it from a scientific point of view. I am taking part of that sermon and sharing it here with you, my blog followers. Hope you will find it interesting and thought provoking.


Today we will look at the Gospel of John. I want to focus on the just the first three verses of the Prologue, where John identifies Jesus as the Logos or the Word.

John calls Jesus the “Word” or in the Greek the “Logos”. So what is the Logos? It is more than a spoken word, or written word. The “Logos” is that part of God that spoke the world into existence - all and everything that sums up the Universe and everything in it - matter and energy, life and death, thought and reason.

John 1:1-3 (NIV) - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

In these first three verses John says that Jesus:

  • Was the Logos
    • As God He spoke us into existence and as a man spoke to us during His life (as we have recorded in the Gospels).
  • He was WITH God
    • He was with God in the beginning, that is, He always existed! – He was not created by God (He is the God-man not just a good man).
  • He WAS God
    • God and the Logos are not two beings, and yet they are also not simply identical. Jesus said: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30 NIV) and also, "...the Father is greater than I." (John 14:28b NIV).
  • Through Him all things were made (created)
    • Reaffirms that Jesus was active (and probably took, and still takes, the lead role) in the creation.

So now let’s take a look at these three verses in connection with several other verses that speak to God’s creative power. Any of you that were here the last time I spoke, you know that I like Science and the Bible. So I can’t speak here without some connection between John’s opening verses and current scientific facts.

So let’s now look at Genesis, Colossians and Hebrews:

Genesis 1:1-3 (NIV) - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV) - The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Hebrews 1:3a (NIV) - The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his (God’s) being, sustaining all things by his powerful Word.

So, what do these verses tell us?

  • God speaks creation into existence with His Word.
  • In John, Jesus is called “The Word” and in Genesis Jesus spoke the universe into existence.
  • God uses His “voice” to make the world. It is through His spoken word that the world was created.
  • It is through God’s Word (Jesus) all things were made and by His Word (Jesus) all things are held together.
  • Jesus sustains all things by his powerful word.

These words were spoken thousands of years ago. What do we know about the world today that relates to these ideas?

Science has told us that matter, everything in the physical world, is made up of smaller and smaller particles. When I was in school it was molecules, atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons and...?

As an example, an atom looks something like this (Helium):

Although shown as motionless on an orbit, in reality the electrons are moving rapidly (at the speed of light) around the nucleus (the protons & neutrons). An Atom is actually a blur, like a cloud, and is in reality 99.99999% empty space.

Source: Skulls in the Stars Blog

Now today, we can go even deeper.

An electron cannot be broken down but the protons and neutrons can. Almost all the matter or mass (think e=mc2 – everything is either mass or energy) of anything physical is in the protons & neutrons of its atoms.

Speaking at the sub-atomic level (smaller than an atom), matter - protons & neutrons - consists primarily of particles called quarks, anti-quarks and gluons and is regulated by the strong nuclear force (a form of energy). The strong nuclear force is the force that holds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus. At the sub-atomic level, matter and energy are in constant flux (changing back and forth between the different forms).

If we take one of the Protons or Neutrons (together called Nucleons) we see in an atom and look much closer, they look something like this:

An image of protons and neutrons as full of quarks, anti-quarks and gluons. A proton consists of two up quarks and one down quark plus many gluons (g) plus many quark/anti-quark pairs (u, d, s stand for up, down and strange quarks; anti-quarks are marked with a bar.)

Source: Professor Matt Strassler's Blog

The protons and neutrons are full of quarks, anti-quarks and gluons, moving around at high speed (basically the speed of light) inside the proton or neutron. Protons & neutrons are also somewhat like an electron cloud, without all the empty space.

The mass (or matter - think weight though not exactly the same thing) of a proton or a neutron - and thus the mass of an atom, a molecule, a substance and a being, comes from this chaos (the constant, crazy movement and changes happening to the quarks and gluons) going on inside a proton or neutron. The mass does not come from the nucleons themselves (think energy not substance).

OK.  I know it is confusing but it’s important to take a moment to let all this sink in.

The Mass of Everything
Comes from the Vibration Within
The Protons & Neutrons of Its Atoms

How amazing and awesome is this!  Almost all of the mass found in all the things around us (and in us!) is that of the protons and neutrons within its/our atoms... 

And most of that mass...

Comes from the vibrational-energy of a proton’s or neutron’s quarks and gluons, and from the interactional-energy (also a vibration) of the strong nuclear forces that hold those protons or neutrons together.

The whole creation around us, our physical being, our very breath are what they are as a result of an internal, imperceptible turbulence of constant energetic vibration, the vibration of the fundamental parts of an atom’s nucleus!

As we continue to drill deeper into the center of the atom, we have discovered that when you get to matter at the smallest level it is almost as if there is nothing there except vibrations. When we talked about the Big Bang we said “First there was nothing and then it exploded.” When talking about matter we can almost say “There’s nothing there and it’s vibrating!

So Scientists have spent millions of dollars to build a sub-atomic particle accelerator (Large Hadron Collider) where they accelerate nucleons at crazy high speeds and crash them into each other so that they can see what is left when they break apart. And what have they found? At the heart of it all is a vibration!

So hold that thought for a moment.

Now there is another way to think about vibration. Vibration is the essential foundation of sound. When a note is played on the piano it makes a sound because of the vibration of the strings. When you speak, you make a sound because of the vibration of your vocal cords. The sounds we hear are actually vibrations which cause our eardrums to vibrate which our brains then interpret and give meaning to. My voice is a vibration which your brain makes sense of. (I hope!!!)

Now sound as we know it does not travel through a vacuum, such as space, but there are electromagnetic waves, or vibrations, emitted by the sun and planets that have the same frequencies (rate of vibration) as the sounds that the human ear can hear.

And NASA captured these background electromagnetic vibrations with instruments on the Voyager spacecraft and has converted them into sounds of the same wavelength. Here is a sample of what the earth sounds like:

NASA Recording of Earth Sounds - YouTube

So picture this... in the beginning God’s voice spoke out and it reverberated into the nothingness that was there, and His voice, His Word, the vibration of the sound of His voice, actually took on physical characteristics. It became something visible, something more than simply a spoken word. It became matter, energy and light. And His voice continued to ring out, and continues to ring out still, holding all things together by His powerful Word!

The vibration at the base of all matter in the universe is the sound of God’s voice, His Word, continuing to ring through all creation!

So where do we go from here?

We must realize that Jesus (as man) is GOD in the flesh and how absolutely overwhelming it is that He would love us so much that he would create a world for us and then come into that world to save us. If He can do all this for us, we should desire to share Him with those that do not know Him. We cannot keep our faith a secret.

We know that all things are possible with God. The Logos (Jesus) spoke us into existence, He holds us together and redeems us by His Word, and ultimately calls us to be with Him (and the Father) in heaven.

He is faithful! His Word is True!

Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Carbon Dating - The Chemistry of Carbon-14

I was running around doing errands a couple of weeks ago and I decided to drop into the local Chick-fil-A for lunch. I waited my turn in line and then the young cashier called me up to her window. She said, "Welcome to Chick-fil-A." Now I think I look young for my age but; and then she said, "Hi, what would you like in your order today?" But I definitely am in THAT age group. So then she took my order and when she handed me my receipt I saw it. She had given me the "Senior Discount!" I did not even need to ask! Now I was glad to get my 10% off but it made me think... Was it my graying at the temples, or my dewlap, or my crow's feet that gave away my age?

The cashier used her deductive reasoning skills to assess my age and determined that I must be over 60, hence the Senior Discount. Scientists do the same thing when determining the age of plants or animals found in the fossil record. Particularly, they use carbon dating to determine the approximate age of organic materials that are considered to be less than 50,000 years old, the practical limit of this type of test.

The system of carbon dating has been around for about 100 years. It is sometimes called Radiocarbon Dating and depends on the rate of decay of one isotope of Carbon, Carbon-14. Carbon has 15 known isotopes, ranging from Carbon-8 to carbon-22. Only two are stable (carbon-12 - the most common, and carbon-13) and, of all the rest, only carbon-14 has a half-life of more than just a few seconds.
Accelerator Mass Spectrometer - to detect Carbon-14

All elements have what are called isotopes. An element is an atom with a set number of protons defining that specific element. For carbon that number is six protons. An isotope is each of two or more forms of the same element that contain equal numbers of protons but different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei, and hence differ in relative atomic mass but not in chemical properties. Some isotopes are stable, such as carbon-12, and others, carbon-14 in particular, are radioactive forms of an element. Radioactive isotopes can release electromagnetic radiation or particle radiation to become stable. Particle radiation includes alpha and beta particles as well as proton and neutron radiation. Carbon-14 emits an electron and an electron antineutrino, converting one of the neutrons in the carbon-14 atom into a proton and thereby changing the carbon-14 into the stable isotope nitrogen-14.

Carbon-14's half-life is about 5700 years, making it a good marker for items up to that 50,000 year limit we mentioned earlier. After about 50,000 years, almost all carbon-14 will be gone from a given fossil specimen once no more can be adsorbed. Once all the carbon-14 is gone, at about 50,000 years, the specimen can no longer be dated by this method.

Carbon-14 Dating
Helps Us Validate the Bible

Carbon is often considered as the foundation of life. Many molecules containing carbon, when bonded with hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, are considered organic and are part of the makeup of planets and animals. After water, carbon would be considered as an essential element in molecules discovered in the search for extraterrestrial life. I wrote about carbon in a previous blog post, "Gods Favorite Elements".

So how does carbon dating work? The interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen is constantly creating carbon-14. This carbon then combines with atmospheric oxygen to form radioactive carbon dioxide (CO2). The resulting carbon-14 carrying CO2 is incorporated into plant molecules by photosynthesis and animals then acquire it by eating the plants. The amount of carbon-14 in the animal or plant continues to remain steady with the environment, until that plant or animal dies. Accumulation of the carbon-14 into the organism then stops and the amount of carbon-14 it contains begins to decrease as the carbon-14 undergoes radioactive decay. Measuring the amount of carbon-14 in a sample from a plant or animal fossil provides information that can be used to calculate when the organism died. The older a sample is, the less carbon-14 there is to be detected.

But it is not as simple as comparing the amount of carbon-14 in the fossil to a chart and getting its age. Presuming the rate of production of carbon-14 to be constant, the activity of a sample can be directly compared to the equilibrium activity of current living matter and the age calculated. But is the production of carbon-14 constant? Years of work were required to develop the technique to the point where accurate dates could be obtained. Research has been ongoing since the 1960s to determine what the proportion of carbon-14 in the atmosphere has been over the past fifty thousand years. The resulting data, in the form of a calibration curve, is now used to convert a given measurement of carbon-14 in a sample into an estimate of the sample's calendar age.

But this calibration curve is also impacted by other factors - different types of organisms can have varying levels of carbon-14, burning of fossil fuels in the past 100 years has decreased the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere and nuclear tests in the past 50 years have added to it. So carbon dating may not work so well in the future. Carbon dating can be validated by other methods so the curve is constantly being refined. The use of various radioisotopes (along with carbon-14) allows the dating of biological and geological samples with a high degree of accuracy. But anything that died after the 1900s, when fossil fuels and open-air nuclear tests started changing carbon-14 concentrations, will be harder to precisely date.

Another possible problem with this dating method is the existence of carbon-14 in geological samples that are said to be millions of years old. In 1997 one group of scientists started a study of coal and diamond samples, previously tested by other means to be in the millions of years old, and therefore should contain no carbon-14. All of their samples, according to their tests, contained detectable levels of carbon-14 and thus would rate much younger by this method. They claim this shows proof of a young earth. Could this prove that earth is only about 10,000 years old?

The study of the age of fossils and geological materials does require some assumptions that makes their accuracy questionable but in the past 50+ years of development, scientists now have a remarkable understanding of most if not all of carbon dating's subtleties and complexities. Carbon dating is a powerful tool in helping us understand the history of our world and all of God's creation on it. Carbon dating provides another source of evidence that the Bible accurately describes the record of mankind.

Isaiah 46:4 (NIV) - Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Job 36:26 (NIV) - How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse – Coincidence or Design?

My daily driver is a 2005 Toyota Prius with over 180,000 miles on it. What were the odds that the odometer would read 100,000 miles? About 1 out of 180,000, the same as they are for any number in that range. Why would I then pull over and take a picture of the odometer when it hit 100,000? Because it is a significant number in my mind, a milestone, a rare event.

The same is true for the solar eclipse we just witnessed on August 21st. The moon goes around the earth once every 28 days, yet we view a full moon as special and a solar eclipse as spectacular. The moon is between the earth and the sun, casting its shadow 13 times a year but only a couple of times a year does that shadow strike the surface and only once in the last century did that shadow cross the earth in a way that was so visible by so many.

A solar eclipse happens two or three times a year on average and less than a third of these are total eclipses. Of those that are total, much of the eclipse is usually over water or in scarcely populated areas so when one occurs like this it is a major event, both publicly and scientifically. An eclipse like this will not cross the United States again until August 12, 2045 (one will pass over Texas to Maine on April 8th, 2024)!

For an eclipse to occur, several things must be in place. The moon must be large enough to cover the sun perfectly. It must be the right distance away, based on its size relative to the sun, and it must be in an orbit that passes directly between the sun and the earth.

Looking from earth, the moon is almost perfectly suited for making eclipses. The moon’s apparent size in the sky is essentially the same as that of the sun. So when the moon passes in front of the sun, the sun can be completely covered, but the corona is still visible.

If the sun were just a little bit bigger or the moon slightly farther away, total solar eclipses might never occur. But is this just a coincidence? Is it simply an accident of geometry that the apparent disk of the moon is almost exactly the size of the apparent disk of the sun? I think not. To me it is more like my car hitting 100,000 miles. My car was designed to drive that far and even though it seems like seeing that number on my odometer is a random occurrence, it is really a planned event, an expected happening.

A Total Solar Eclipse
Is it Just a Coincidence? Or by Design?

Now think about it. You can look on-line and find every eclipse for the past one thousand years and every one coming up in the next thousand. How can that be? It is because of the precise timing and motion of the planets that we can predict where they will be at any moment in history! The laws of physics can tell us where and when the sun, moon and earth will be in alignment to produce an eclipse, down to the second!

We know too that the moon is very, very slowly moving away from the earth so at some time in the distant future, there will be no total solar eclipses. We are living in a small window of time, relative to all creation, when these total eclipses are visible on earth.

We also know that the earth rotates at about 1000 miles per hour (mph) around its axis – one day. And the moon orbits the earth at about 2300 mph – a lunar month. We also know that the earth and moon orbit the sun once a year. But did you realize that the earth moves around the sun at over 66,000 mph? And did you know that the sun moves around the Milky Way galaxy at a speed of approximately 500,000 mph!

So what does this tell me? Although it can be explained by the science of it all, the shear magnificence of it coming together – the moon being the right size and distance from earth with an orbit that goes between us and the sun, the precise predictability of the movements of such large celestial bodies, even when they are moving at 500,000 mph through empty space and the “coincidence” of it all. It shows me the glory of God in His creation!

Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV) - The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

Romans 1:20 (NIV) - For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day - All We Need is Your Love - Revisited

From five years ago. We cannot forget our Moms!


My wife and I have 5 kids (and a niece that is just like a daughter). We were blessed with the financial stability for their mom to stay at home and care for them all. All are now married with children of their own. My wife is an amazing Mom and a wonderful Grandma. I was caught up in the business of life when the kids were young and did not appreciate to the full the blessing it was for her to stay home and instruct our children. Thank you honey for all of the love and care and comfort you have brought to our family. You are truly the glue that holds us so closely together. I love you, Happy Mother's Day!

We all have a Mother. No matter how we remember her, when we were young (and even now) we wanted her to love us. I am sure she felt the same, loving us with all her heart and wanting us to love her as well. God knew we would need a Mom in a special way. We see in His Word His love for this most special person in all of our lives.

All that I am, or hope to be,
I owe to my angel mother.
Abraham Lincoln

The word "Mother" appears 338 times in the Bible. God knew that He needed someone special to raise His children:

  • Genesis 3:20 (NIV) - Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

So He specially chose Moms to co-create with Him in the generation of new life within the womb:

  • Psalms 139:13-14a (NIV) - For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

He even chose the woman who would be His mother:

  • Luke 1:28 & 31 (NIV) - The angel went to her [Mary] and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."... 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.

And He listened to her and honored her during His life, and His mother treasured all that He did:

  • Luke 2:42, 48 & 51 (NIV) - When He was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom... 48 When His parents saw Him, they were astonished. His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You."... 51 Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
  • John 2:1-3,5,7,9-10 (NIV) - On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to Him, "They have no more wine."... 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you."... 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim... 9a and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine... 10b ...[exclaiming] "You have saved the best till now."

He even took care of her in His last moments as He hung on the Cross:

  • John 19:25a-27 (NIV) - Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother... 26 When Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27 and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
And after His death, His mother continued to pray:
  • Acts 1:14 (NIV) - They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
So now we all must remember to:
  • Deuteronomy 5:16 (NIV) - "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
  • Proverbs 6:20b (NIV) - ...and do not forsake your mother's teaching.
So that "Your father and mother may be glad and may she who gave you birth rejoice! Proverbs 23:25 (NIV).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Revisited - The Chemistry of Salvation

I posted this five years ago. Thought I would share it again. The real reason for Easter.


Seeing lots of chocolate bunnies, colored eggs and jelly beans; frilly bonnets and Sunday best. Children running with baskets to find the hidden treasures left by the Easter bunny. That is the celebration which will be evident come Sunday morning but will we remember the event that is the real reason for the celebration?

God came to Earth embodied in a man to save us from our sins and Easter Sunday is the remembrance of the events that did just that. This past week has seen His steps from king to blasphemer, through undeserved punishment and death and finally to the Glorious Resurrection!

The Son of God
Died and Rose Again
To Save Us from Our Sins
Because He Loved Us

Our lives are like that of Peter on these last days of Jesus' life, we deny Him repeatedly:

Matthew 26:69-74 (NIV) - Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. 71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth." 72 He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!" 73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away." 74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed.

And then when we come to realize who He is, we weep bitterly over how we treated Him:

Matthew 26:75 (NIV) - Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.

But Jesus forgets the transgression and only asks: "do you love Me?"

John 21:15-17 (NIV) - When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." 16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." 17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

His suffering, death and Resurrection served as full atonement for the sins of all men - bringing us into the light of His Salvation. And we just need to love Him, as He first loved us.

Psalm 118:1 (NIV) - Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Moving Forward – A Scientific Faith?

So we have come to the last leg in our journey. We started out with a question - Can we believe in God and still be a scientist? Along the way we took several different steps:

Looking Upward - Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. - Finding God in the universe above.

Here we studied the Big Bang theory, examined the probability of a rare Earth, and then focused on the possibility of life on any planet.

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.

This zoomed us in on the Earth, first taking a closer look at the sky (atmosphere) above us. Then we moved closer still and looked at some of the special features of our planet itself.

Searching Inward - Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. - Finding God in the formation of the human body, and thus in life itself.

In this third part of the series, we defined life as best we could, examined the simplest life forms, compared Evolution and the Cambrian Explosion, dinosaurs and DNA, how complex even simple life is and how we are made in the image of God.

Now we move on to our last segment:

Moving Forward - Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - How do you take this to the next level - confirmation of your faith, or lack thereof. There is more to life than just "existing."

Those who hold that Science is the final arbiter of facts want us to believe that this is all there is, that the glorious advancement of Science will make our existence “heaven on earth” and that there is nothing beyond this life. But our belief in God give us a “hope” in our future and tells us there is more in and beyond this life if we just believe.

In this last segment, we will identify specific passages from the Bible that speak of scientific fact or theory before it was considered science! This will give us a basis for sharing how science and faith can co-exist, they do not have to be mutually exclusive. But in the end, we each must decide - Do we believe in the God of the Bible, and His science, or do we believe in secular science, which specifically eliminates God from the equation because His existence cannot be proven.

Remember, Science cannot claim that God created anything because God has to be outside of our dimensions of time and space to be able to create our universe, and science only functions within the physical universe we know. Even though God has invaded His creation, He is not physically manifested in it, as we know it scientifically. So God cannot be proven to exist in the context of science. Thus He also cannot be called on as a "proof of life" or a Creator. Science must have a reason, a physically testable reason, for the how and why something exists. God cannot be tested but He can be observed in His creation - as Paul writes in Romans 1:20 (NIV): "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

For since the creation of the world
God’s invisible qualities
His eternal power and divine nature
have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse. - Romans 1:20 (NIV)

But remember to “speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15 (NIV))” with patience, and listen to find areas of common ground when sharing with others. Do not just dump scripture on others but find out what they are thinking and help them understand the Biblical point of view. You may be surprised that you have more in common than you realize. God wants us to learn to love. We can do this by seeing how much He loves us through His Creation.

So now here are some specific examples from the Bible that can be used when discussing science and religion with others.

Some of the Bible’s scientific passages (Scientific concepts supported by Scripture):

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This verse declares the Big Bang, that in the beginning the universe was created from nothing. Up until just 80 years ago, science stated that the universe was eternal, had always existed. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the concept of the explosion of a singularity blooming into the universe, and the beginning of time, space and the physical laws was first conceived. It took until the late 1950’s for scientists even to agree on this theory. Now some are questioning it again, it seems, because it speaks of something beyond the beginning of time. This verse also shows that there was existence before the creation - God existed outside of, and before, time and physical space (the universe has a transcendent cause).

Genesis 1:2 – The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

Science is just now wrestling with the concept of the earth as the only source of life. Science is starting to find exoplanets, planets outside our solar system, and claiming that they may be suitable for life. But on the other hand, science is also finding specific conditions that must exist on such a planet, hundreds of them in fact, such that the earth is the only planet so far that seems to meet them all. Even then it is a wonder the earth does meet them as the odds are strongly against it, to the limits of an impossibility.

Genesis 1:16 – God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day (sun), and the lesser light to govern the night (moon); He made the stars also.

The sun, moon and stars do light the earth, giving day and night. All are needed to allow the possibility of life, the existence of liquid water and the proper surface temperature for survival.

Job 25:2 – Dominion and awe belong to Him who establishes peace in His heights.

Science has found that all physical laws apply to the whole universe everywhere and equally (the Cosmological Principle). This shows an all-encompassing order to the universe as expressed by this verse.

Job 26:7, 10 - He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. (10) He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness.

The earth is floating in space; it is not held on the back of an elephant or resting on a pillar. It is not flat, floating above hellfire and is indeed a globe, not a pancake.

Isaiah 40:22 – …Who stretches out the heavens like a scroll and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

God is “stretching out the heavens” like a scroll - the universe is expanding and science tells us it is “flat” (not like a sheet of paper but as described by general relativity). But it is so large that the part of the universe we can see, due to the speed of light, appears to be a sphere around the earth. In any case, the universe does not appear to be infinite.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 - That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 – I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.

These two verses speak to the conservation of mass and energy, that all that was created at the beginning is all there is and will be – nothing will be destroyed nor added to the total.

Ecclesiastes 1:7 - All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.
Isaiah 55:10 – For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

These two verses suggest the flow of water from the sea to the sky to the rain, back to the land and into the sea again. This is the fundamental principle of the Water Cycle or Hydrological Cycle. Without this process, life here would be impossible.

Job 26:7 – He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing.
Job 38:31-33 – Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, or fix their rule over the earth?

This is discussing gravity. Gravity holds the planets up on seemingly nothing. The sun “rules” over the earth (holds it in an orbit). The Pleiades and Orion are the only two constellations where the stars in them are bound by gravity to one another so they move as a unit (in the same galactic location). Other constellations appear together but some of the stars are much further away from us and only look close due to our angle of view.

Leviticus 13:45-46 – As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

This section of Scripture speaks to the control of contagious diseases, using quarantines since there was no cure and the disease was contagious.

Numbers 19 (the whole chapter)
Deuteronomy 23:12-13 – You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.

These verses show the importance of sanitation to healthy living. In Deuteronomy it is specifically talking about bowel movements and the need to bury them (any Boy Scouts among us?).

Hebrews 1:10-12 - He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”

Someday this universe will come to an end and be replaced by a “new heavens and a new earth.” Science is now learning that at some future time, the stars will all burn out and the universe will end. For the earth and the sun, that has been calculated to be about 2 billion years from now. But life as we know it will cease on the earth much sooner than that as the sun expands as a Red Giant star, engulfing the earth.

Next we examine what Science predicts about the origins of life compared to the Biblical view.

Origin of Life - the Scientific view compared to the Biblical view (tables from reasons.org)

Table I - Some Predictions Made by the Naturalistic (Evolutionary) Origin-of-life Scenario

  1. Placid chemical and physical conditions existed on the early earth for long periods of time
  2. Chemical pathways that produce biomolecules would have been capable of operating under the conditions of the early earth
  3. Life originated only once
  4. Life emerged gradually over a long period of time
  5. Life in its minimal form is simple

Table II - Some Predictions Made by the Biblical Origin-of-life Scenario

  1. Life appeared early in Earth’s history
  2. Life appeared under harsh conditions
  3. Life miraculously persisted under harsh conditions
  4. Life arose quickly
  5. Life in its minimal form is complex

As we learn more about early life on our planet and how life existed in the past and lives on in the present, the scientific assumptions are giving way to the Biblical ones. It seems the more we learn the more it points to God as a Creator instead of random chance.

Now not only is the Bible filled with the fundamentals of science, but it is as much as 3,000 years ahead of its time. Biblical statements, when written, in most cases directly contradicted the science of the day. As modern scientific knowledge advances, the divine accuracy of the scriptures is substantiated. Here are some examples:

Biblical Statement (NASB)Science ThenScience Now
Earth is a sphere (Isaiah 40:22)Earth is a flat diskEarth is a sphere
Number of stars exceeds a billion (Jeremiah 33:22)Number of stars totals 1,100Number of stars exceeds a billion
Every star is different
(1 Corinthians 15:41)
All stars are the sameEvery star is different
Light is in motion (Job 38:19-20)Light is fixed in placeLight is in motion
Air has weight (Job 28:25)Air is weightlessAir has weight
Winds blow in cyclones
(Ecclesiastes 1:6)
Winds blow straightWinds blow in cyclones
Blood is a source of life and healing (Leviticus 17:11)Sick people must bleedBlood is a source of life and healing

  • Isaiah 40:22 – It is He who sits above the circle of the earth… (“chuwg“ – circle or sphere)
  • Jeremiah 33:22 - As the host of heaven cannot be counted and... (A very large number)
  • 1 Corinthians 15:41 - …and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory - (“doxa“ – brightness)
  • Job 38:19-20 - “Where is the way to the dwelling of light? …that you may discern the paths to its home? – (“shakan” – reside)
  • Job 28:25 - When He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure – (“mishqal” – weight, heaviness)
  • Ecclesiastes 1:6 - The wind continues swirling along; and on its circular courses the wind returns. – (“cabab” – change direction)
  • Leviticus 17:11 - For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and… - (“nephesh” – life, living being)

The probability that the biblical writers, writing between 2,000 – 4,000 years ago, would have guessed all these details is less than one in many trillions.

In the crucible of scientific investigation, the Bible has proven invariably to be correct. No other book, ancient or modern, can make this claim; but then, no other book has been written (through men) by God. I think as we learn more through scientific study and examination, if we are reasonable and open, we will see the hand of God at work.

(Most of the biblical references come from Reasons to Believe)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Searching Inward Part Three - Made in His Image

Now we have to look at why is man so much more intelligent, creative and insightful than other animals. Why do we seek to reason? Why do we have a moral compass? Why is it we want to understand why we are here? Why do we seek God? Do the other animals do this? Is this because we have been created in God's image? Does evolution allow for this possibility, that by natural selection we will reason and seek to know all that is around us?

We see in Genesis that God created man in His image:

Genesis 1:25-27 (NIV) - God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female he created them.
Creación de Adán (Miguel Ángel)

So what does this mean? He did not say He created the animals or any other creature in His image, just man; "homo sapiens" as science defines man. Man is much like the animals in bodily form and function so being created in God's image has to mean more than just our physical attributes.

God created man in His image,
So that we may reflect the fruit of His Spirit.

We call this the Psychological Big Bang (self-awareness). This is the transition from the mechanical brain of simple life to the complexities of man's self-reflective mind. It is the question of morality and meaning, man's search for significance and purpose. Other animals have no apparent appreciation for what is true, good and beautiful. How do you get to the mind of a human from that of any lower life form? Even the lowest life forms have central nervous systems but none besides the human mind can contemplate, reason or create. How do you account for free will and introspection, humankind's existential drive to ask why? This is not even considered in evolutionary theory.

At the same time, we have the Cultural Big Bang. Humanoids (pre-human species like neanderthal man) had primitive tools and sometimes burials in shallow graves were found at their fossil digs. In contrast, human fossil digs have elaborate cave paintings, ornate jewelry, musical instruments, and ritual burial grounds. A dramatic advancement of cultural behavior occurred when humans appeared on the scene.

The creation of Man on the sixth day and God resting on the seventh day aligns here:

Genesis 2:2-3 (NIV) - "By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that he had done."
God created man in His image and that is why man has free will and introspection, and wants to understand the world around him. God rested on the seventh day and made it holy to show us that we need to take time from our everyday lives to understand our purpose and to worship Him.

This is what makes man different from the other animals - reason, dexterity, ability to make complex tools, his emotions and cognitive abilities, compassion, intuition, a heart for God. This is the unique soul of man compared to that of the animals. This shows that man was not a product of random evolutionary chance but God personally created man in His image. Again, this is not referring to physical appearance and attributes but in psychological terms - spiritual, rational, relational and moral.

The letter to the Gallatians reflects the fruit of the Spirit (God's Image) as the qualities we should reflect in our lives.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
But we, as humans, do not reflect all that is God, however. God has qualities higher than those we can attain - self-existance (independence), immutability (changelessness), Infinite (limitless) and Eternal (timelessness). Also Holiness (perfection) because we have fallen short of the glory of God due to our sinful nature.
Romans 3:23-24 (NIV) - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:23 (NIV) - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God desires that we strive to be like Him, all the while knowing we cannot achieve the goal in this life. He showers us with grace and mercy, bringing us closer to Him. He wants us to love Him, and show this to the world by how we love each other.

Mark 12:30-31 (NIV) - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day - Chocolate Sweets for Your Sweetheart - Revisited

I wrote this blog about chocolate fives years ago for Valentine's Day. I thought I would share it again.


"Drop the Chocolate and step away.  S-T-E-P  A-W-A-Y!"

Most all of us love the taste of chocolate, but for some it means someone may get hurt! Chocolate is a traditional Valentine's Day gift, in a heart shaped box, or in a heart shaped candy, wrapped in red foil. As Charles M. Schulz said: "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."

Chocolate comes from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three thousand years in Mexico, Central and South America. The Aztecs made it into a beverage known as xocolātl, a word meaning "bitter water". The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the full flavor of chocolate.

Much like coffee beans, the cocao beans are then dried, roasted, and ground to form cocoa mass, a pure chocolate called chocolate liquor. The liquor contains two principle ingredients: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Cocoa solids contain theobromine, a methylxanthine alkaloid chemically similar to caffeine with like physiological effects.

"Life is like a box of chocolates.
You never know what you're gonna get."
Forrest Gump (1994)

There are numerous types of chocolate made by mixing four ingredients, cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids in varying proportions. Additional agents such as lecithin (an emulsifier), vanilla and vegetable oils increase the possible formulations. Here are some of the most common forms used:

Chocolate(bgFFF) Unsweetened chocolate: Also known as “bitter” or “baking” chocolate. It is unadulterated chocolate: the pure, ground, roasted cocoa beans rendering a strong, deep chocolate flavor.

Bittersweet chocolate: A dark chocolate that contains at least 35% cocoa solids. Most bittersweet bars contain at least 50% chocolate liquor, with some bars pushing 70-80% chocolate liquor. This chocolate has a deeper, more bitter flavor than sweet dark or semi-sweet chocolate.

Semi-sweet chocolate: A dark chocolate containing at least 35% cocoa solids but is sweeter than bittersweet due to additional sugar.

Sweet dark chocolate: A “dark chocolate” as it does not contain milk solids, but with a high percentage of sugar so it is much sweeter than other types of dark chocolate. Many brands of sweet dark chocolate have only 20-40% cocoa solids.

Milk chocolate: In addition to containing cocoa butter and chocolate liquor, milk chocolate contains either condensed milk or dry milk solids. Milk chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor, 3% butterfat, and 12% milk solids. Milk chocolates are typically much sweeter than dark chocolate, and have a lighter color.

White chocolate: White chocolate does not contain chocolate liquor or any cocoa products other than cocoa butter. It must contain a minimum 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids, and a maximum of 55% sugar.

Chocolate has become one of the most popular foods in the world. It is also used to produce chocolate milk and hot chocolate. The Europeans were the first to sweetened and fattened it by adding refined sugar and milk, two ingredients unknown in the Americas at that time. In the 19th century, Briton John Cadbury developed an emulsification process to make solid chocolate, thus creating the modern chocolate bar.

Chocolate off the store shelf can have whitish spots on the dark chocolate. This is called chocolate bloom and is not an indication of chocolate gone bad. Instead, this is just an indication that the sugar and/or fat has separated due to poor storage. Chocolate must be tempered at specific temperatures to create the right crystalline structure and then properly stored to maintain its composition. Heating or cooling the chocolate outside of its temperature profile can result in this type of separation. Chocolate can also absorb flavors from other foods so should be stored in tightly sealed containers.

A big plus for all of us chocolate lovers is that dark chocolate and cocoa butter have been linked with multiple positive effects. Scientific evidence suggests dark chocolate can help decrease the possibility of a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem when consumed regularly in small amounts and reduces blood pressure in both overweight and normal adults. Finally, studies have shown dark chocolate as part of a low-fat diet can lower cholesterol levels in adults.

So I hope you did not forget your sweetheart this Valentine's Day and bought her a box of her favorite health food, Chocolate!

Song of Songs 7:6 (NKJV) - How fair and how pleasant you are, O love, with your delights!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Searching Inward Part Two - The Life within Us

Back in the summer of 1993, I was on a road trip around the western United States with three of my kids and while staying in Salt Lake City we decided to take in a new movie that had just come out, Jurassic Park. I am sure most of you have seen it or at least heard of the dinosaurs gone wild adventure. It was the greatest GMO experiment, science fiction in that day but science fact today. They found a mosquito captured in a ball of amber and extracted dinosaur DNA from the blood in the belly of the bug, cloning it into true living dinosaurs for an island theme park. This movie hits on several things we will be looking at today in our blog, the dinosaurs and DNA. T-rex fossil Jane by Volkan Yuksel DSC08683g

First let’s go back to the last blog entry about the Cambrian Explosion that occurred about 540 million years ago. Since then, there have been five major mass extinction events with the last one happening about 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs became extinct. This extinction was possibly due to two catastrophic events occurring one right after the other, a massive volcanic eruption followed by a gigantic asteroid slamming into the Yucatan peninsula. These two events covered the earth with hundreds of feet of ash and soot - laying down a geological layer that would wipe out the dinosaurs and produce large oil and gas pockets. Without the mass extinction of these fierce reptiles, we would not have the oil that has driven our industrial revolution over the last 200 years. God used all of these events for a purpose. People often ask if God just wanted to make man, why so much wasted space or life or whatever, but He had a reason and a purpose for all that He did in His creation. All of it was necessary, even though we might not know why now - Prov 25:2 (KJV) - It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.

So now today we will look at what makes life so special. Just in terms of advanced life forms, including man, the physical being of the structure of life is extremely complex. We learn new things daily about how wondrous the cell is and how bringing millions and billions and trillions of cells together, a functional being results. All multi-celled life forms have an array of cell types that function in different ways but come from one cell. Even the simplest of organisms is indeed complex.

But let’s go back to the DNA part of the story first. Human DNA has a sequence of over 3 billion letters (A-Adenine, G-Guanine, C-Cytosine and T-Thymine). Only 5% of our DNA contains the codes for the 10,000+ proteins used in our bodies. The rest was once considered junk DNA but science has now determined that up to 80% of this remaining DNA actually controls how and when the proteins are made and what the cell form will be. The DNA string is wrapped up tightly in coils and stored in every single cell in our bodies. This allows the 3 billion base pairs in each cell to fit into a space just 6 microns across (the cell nucleus). If you stretched the DNA in one cell all the way out, it would be about 6 feet long and all the DNA in all of your cells put together end to end would be about twice the diameter of the Solar System.

Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what
We see was not designed, but rather evolved.
Frances Crick - referencing the DNA double Helix

DNA stores all the information to make you, in each and every cell. In fact, science can now tell a lot about your origin and ancestry by looking at your DNA. You can even send in a kit with a sample of your tissue and get back an analysis that will tell where your ancestors came from. Science has even been able to get DNA from fossils and sequence it and trace the lineage of the fossil. Neanderthal man is a case in point. Once thought to have been our direct ancestor, he has now been shown not only to not be directly related but actually from a different chain in the genus Homo. DNA testing shows that humans have some Neanderthal DNA but possibly it comes from interbreeding or a common ancestor farther back. DNA shows most, if not all mankind (homo sapiens) has one ancestor (Adam or mitochondrial Eve?).

DNA has built-in mechanisms to prevent errors in coding - there are 64 possible 3 nucleic acid strings (such a string specifies one amino acid in the protein being formed) and only 20 amino acids used in our genetic code to produce proteins. Most amino acids have more than one three character code and the extra sequences are used to help with error correction by preventing minor mutations from changing the resulting protein.

But it is not fool proof. Even a single amino acid error can sometimes produce a disorder as in Sickle Cell disease. The DNA mutation of a single nucleotide of the hemoglobin gene results in glutamic acid being substituted by valine at position 6 in hemoglobin's beta protein strings of 146 amino acids (hemoglobin is made up of 2 alpha and 2 beta protein strings totaling 574 amino acids). This occurs when the A (Adenine) in the DNA three letter sequence GAG, which translates to glutamic acid in the protein, is substituted with T (Thymine), changing the sequence to GTG which translates to valine. This is normally a benign mutation, causing no apparent effects on the structure of hemoglobin in conditions of normal oxygen concentration. What it does allow for, under conditions of low oxygen concentration, is the sickle formation of the red blood cells due to the genetically different hemoglobin molecule whose shape is changed by this one amino acid error.

Science now can modify the DNA of a single cell organism, typically a bacterium, and have it produce a new or modified protein. This is called recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology. A great example using this technology in the healthcare field is the development of rDNA human insulin. Previously insulin for human use was extracted from beef and later from pork. Although these worked, they could cause allergic reactions. Insulin is a protein made up of two chains totaling 51 amino acids - beef has three different amino acids and pork has one compared to human insulin and yet our bodies can tell the difference. Now with rDNA produced human insulin, these adverse effects are a thing of the past.

DNA Structure+Key+Labelled.pn NoBB Francis Crick, the scientist who deciphered the double helix of DNA, said of his work: "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what we see was not designed, but rather evolved." He also said: "An honest man, armed with all of the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to almost be a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have to have been satisfied to get it going."

Scientists have tried to take this one step farther and create life in the lab. They made a synthetic organism, but it was no primordial goo that happened to come alive. It took scientists hundreds of hours using computers and other very sophisticated equipment, cost over $40 million dollars and 15 years of work. Certainly not a simple process and the end result was not alive. Although it did function in some respects, it could not produce, or reproduce, the complex molecules needed to sustain and duplicate life.

Doctor David Deamer, one of the scientists involved in this work, published an article where he listed the following 12 specific steps needed to create the simplest form of life.

Defining artificial life: What would such a system do? We can answer this question by listing the steps that would be required for a microorganism to emerge as the first cellular life form on the early Earth:

  1. Boundary membranes self-assemble from soap-like molecules to form microscopic cell-like compartments.
  2. Energy is captured by the membranes either from light and a pigment system, or from chemical energy, or both.
  3. Ion concentration gradients are maintained across the membranes and can serve as a major source of metabolic energy.
  4. Macromolecules are encapsulated in the compartments but smaller molecules can cross the membrane barrier to provide nutrients and chemical energy for primitive metabolism.
  5. The macromolecules grow by polymerization of the nutrient molecules.
  6. Macromolecular catalysts evolve that speed the growth process.
  7. The macromolecular catalysts themselves are reproduced during growth.
  8. Genetic information is encoded in the sequence of monomers in one set of polymers.
  9. The information is used to direct the growth of catalytic polymers.
  10. The membrane-bounded system of macromolecules can divide into smaller structures that continue to grow.
  11. Genetic information is passed between generations by duplicating the gene sequences and sharing them among daughter cells.
  12. Occasional mistakes (mutations) are made during replication or transmission of information so that the system can evolve through natural selection.

After considering this list, he said: "Looking down this list, one is struck by the complexity of even the simplest of life. This is why it has been so difficult to ‘define’ life in the usual sense of a definition – that is, boiled down to a few sentences in a dictionary. Life is a complex system that cannot be captured in a few sentences, so perhaps a list of its observed properties is the best we can ever hope to do." (emphasis mine).

What did the cell look like to scientists when Darwin first proposed evolution? It was protoplasm and a nucleus. What sparks a single cell to split and differentiate into a myriad of cell types - in humans, hearts and lungs and brains and... Is it just the pressure of "survival of the fittest (natural selection)?” How does the DNA know that for this cell in this place it needs to be a nerve cell? All cells carry the full gene complement to produce any cell in the body but surroundings somehow tell a cell to be special.

Life is extremely complex. Could this all happen by chance, by the pressure of natural selection, in just 3.8 billion years, with all that the earth has gone through during that time? Science says this happened by chance, not because they know it does but because they have no other theory for it, and they cannot say God because He does not exist in the physical realm scientifically, nor can He be proven or dis-proven by science. In my mind he can and does exist and it is for each of us to decide for ourselves what we believe. The evidence is there.

With this, we are just scratching the surface. The cell is full of complex systems, not just the DNA that directs it or the proteins that run it. There are numerous other features, such as mitochondria and ribosomes, and numerous other chemical reactions, such as the Krebs cycle and active transport of nutrients, that must function to get the job of life done. God is amazing!

Romans 1:20 (NIV) - For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Searching Inward Part One - The Life Around Us

So we have shown that the Earth is very possibly the only planet in the Universe that can support life as we know it. Now we move on to the next part of our series:

Searching Inward - Psalm 139:13 (NIV) "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." - Finding God in the formation of life and the human body.

We will start our search first with a look at what we consider as life and how secular science views the process of evolution, from the beginning of life to the great diversity we see around us. I believe, as a Christian, that God created all life but that does not preclude Him using that which He designed, i.e. genetics, to bring about parts of His Creation. Much like how we showed that God nurtured (The Hebrew word "râchaph") the Universe and the Earth to make it ready for life, He certainly could do the same to fine-tune the life He created.

So, what is life anyway? Within science there is no one clear definition of life that is accepted by all but most consider life to contain these characteristics:

Living things are organisms that display the ability to grow, reproduce, take in and use energy, excrete waste, respond to the environment, and possess an organized structure more complex than that of non-living things.

At the border of living versus non-living things are viruses and single celled bacteria. Viruses are not really "alive" based on our definition but are more like a computer that runs a machine that makes more computers. On their own, they can not grow, reproduce, or take in and use energy, these functions are carried out by the host cell they infect. Viruses have been described as "organisms at the edge of life." They consist of genetic material made from either DNA or RNA, a protein coat, called the capsid, which surrounds and protects the genetic material and, in some cases, an envelope of lipids that surrounds the protein coat.

Viruses are extremely complex biological particles. So even if on the edge of life, they seem much too complex to happen by chance. Science considers the evolutionary history of viruses to be unclear, possibly coming from bacteria or plasmids, small DNA fragments that can move between cells. They are considered an important means of horizontal gene transfer, infecting and potentially modifying DNA in the host cell, which can increase genetic diversity.

CelltypesBacteria are prokaryotic microorganisms, being single celled and not containing a membrane-bound nucleus, the simplest form of life. They were among the first life forms to appear on Earth, and are present in most of its habitats. Here again, these organisms are extremely complex, more so than viruses, and seem highly unlikely to form by the random chance interactions of molecules, many of which themselves are complex and had to form randomly. As mutations did not occur at this stage in the proposed evolutionary process, bacteria are assumed to have been randomly formed from protocells, a self-organized, endogenously ordered, spherical collection of lipids. Science has yet to demonstrate how a protocell could be formed.

So the scientific expectation is that simple molecules formed from the elements under the harsh conditions of the early Earth via chemical reactions. These molecules then continued to become more complex until such a time as they formed amino acids (proteins), nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and lipids (fats). These molecules can be formed by chemical reactions under specific conditions, but did these conditions exist on the early Earth and if so, would these reactions occur with sufficient frequency and consistency to produce these protocells? Again this seems unlikely.

Would these protocells, if they formed, then spontaneously combine in such a way to make a living cell? At what point does this non-living mass of molecules become able to function independently and to reproduce itself? The odds of this happening seem even greater than the odds that Earth would be capable of supporting life. The second law of thermodynamics requires that the universe move in a direction in which disorder (or entropy) increases, yet life is distinguished by its high degree of organization.

If we look past this dilemma and assume that prokaryotes formed, then we need to next move to the eukaryotes. Eukaryotes are organisms with a more complex cellular structure and many cells. Most plants and animals are eukaryotes. Now here science utilizes mutations to make this leap so lets look at the definitions.

Mutation: Random alterations to the DNA sequences that make up genes and which are passed from one generation to the next. Mutations are key to the evolutionary process, being the major source of microevolutionary changes.

Microevolution: Changes in the gene pool (primarily mutations) of a population over time which result in relatively small changes to the organisms in the population. Changes which would not result in the newer organisms being considered as different species. Examples of such microevolutionary changes would include a change in a species' coloring, size or bodily processes.

Macroevolution: Changes in organisms which are significant enough that, over time, the newer organisms would be considered an entirely new species. In other words, the new organisms would be unable to mate with their ancestors or reproduce as the older organism, assuming we were able to bring them together. Macroevolution is thought to happen when sufficient microevolutionary changes occur, resulting in a new species.

Natural Selection: The process by which traits that are favorable in a given environment become more common in subsequent generations, and traits that are less favorable become less common. This is considered a significant source of microevolutionary changes that can lead to macroeveolution. It is one process that works against mutational randomness by preferential selection of the "better" genetic change. An example in bacteria would be the development of resistance to antibiotics.

As we look at these processes and how they might occur and lead to more diverse genetics and the growth of the evolutionary tree, there seems to be some difficulties. One primary difficulty is the amount of time needed for evolutionary changes to occur and what the fossil record shows for the appearance of advanced life. Is there enough time from the formation of the earth until now to allow for all the diversity we see?

Was there enough Time for Evolution?
Or did God "Nurture" it along?
As He did with the formation of the Universe.

Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago and life started 3.8 billion years ago. But up until the Cambrian Explosion, which started about 452 million years ago, most life was prokaryotic (single celled) or organized into colonies. The Cambrian explosion was a period in the fossil record lasting anywhere from 2 to 50 million years, where there was the sudden appearance and diversification of almost every major group (phylum) of animal life (multicellular, eukaryotic organisms). Plants started to develop at about the same time but the rate of changes in diversity was slower than that observed for animals. Was this enough time for the massive changes in structure to occur from prokaryotes to advanced eukaryotes?

Some challenges that the Cambrian Explosion brings to evolution are (from Reasons to Believe):

  1. While evolutionary scenarios, as opposed to worked-out theories, exist for hypothesizing how new genera, new orders, and new families of animal life might appear, there is no rational evolutionary scenario for explaining how a new animal phylum might appear.
  2. From 50 to 80 percent of the animal phyla known to have existed at any time in Earth’s history appeared within no more than a few million years of one another, as the Cambrian geological era began.
  3. Of the 182 animal skeletal designs theoretically permitted by the laws of physics, 146 appear in the Cambrian explosion fossils.
  4. The Cambrian explosion marks the first appearance of animals with skeletons, bilateral symmetry, appendages, brains, eyes, and digestive tracts that include mouths and anuses.
  5. Virtually every eye design that has ever existed appears simultaneously in the Cambrian explosion.
  6. The moment oxygen levels in Earth’s atmosphere and oceans permit the existence of Cambrian animals, they suddenly appear.
  7. The Cambrian explosion occurs simultaneously with the drastic change in sea chemistry known as the Great Unconformity.
  8. The Cambrian explosion includes the most advanced of the animal phyla, chordates, including vertebrate chordates.
  9. Both bottom-dwellers and open ocean swimmers appear simultaneously in the Cambrian explosion.
  10. Optimization of the ecological relationships among the Cambrian animals, including predator-prey relationships, occurred without any measurable delay.

Fossils found in Yunnan province of China (at sites discovered nearly 100 years ago) and in the Burgess Shale deposits of the Canadian Rockies tell us that all animal phyla (more than 70) ever to exist in Earth’s history appeared “at once” during the Cambrian Explosion. Some 40 phyla have since disappeared and not a single new one has appeared since. This “burst” of life occurred in an extremely narrow window of geologic time, about 5-10 million years. Evidence from the Yunnan sites possibly narrows this window to less than 3 million years. Could 90+% of life have evolved in just 3 million years?

So the question becomes again, are the scientific theories of life's origin statistically possible in the context of the natural law of probability? When Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, the cell was barely visible under a primitive microscope. Scientists thought of it as only a blob of protoplasm. They could not see or know the vast complexity that is a living cell.

Up until the mid-twentieth century, science had considered the universe as eternal. This offered infinite time for infinite evolution and made probability considerations irrelevant. But then science moved to the big bang theory, which states that the universe had a beginning, limiting time for evolution. These time limitations make probability considerations crucial. It is statistically improbable that life as we know it could arise from a primordial soup in even a billion years. Given that, if life should appear, the current scientific theory then predicts a gradual evolutionary process in which simpler life-forms would be expected to appear first, followed by the more complex. Instead, the fossil record suggests "punctuated equilibrium" - long periods of stability followed by short bursts of change.

God could have again nurtured (The Hebrew word "râchaph") His creation, even manipulating the genes He created, in such a way as to "punctuate" life (and thus the fossil record) with rapid spurts of diversity in physical form and function. Molecular biologist Kenneth R Miller suggested as much when he said:

"A clever and subtle God [might] influence events in ways that... could include the appearance of mutations. ...Enormous changes in physical systems can be brought about by unimaginably small changes in initial conditions [which] could serve as an undetectable amplifier of divine action."

Psalm 104:27-31 (NIV) - "All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.29When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. 31May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works!"