The End of Civilization As We Know It? Part 2

BY HUGH ROSS – JULY 16, 2018

If an ice age is coming soon, how will our lives be affected? In my first blog post in this series, I described the latest scientific research that demonstrates how continued global warming will bring on the next ice age and approximately when we can expect its onset. In this post I will describe the consequences the onset of the next ice age will create for modern civilization. In the final post in this series I will briefly summarize our options for delaying the dawn of the next ice age and review what preparations we should make ahead of its arrival.

Ice Age Consequence #1: Too Much Ice
Right now, only about 10 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by ice. At the height of the last ice age, about 23 percent of Earth’s surface was covered by ice. Figure 1 shows the regions of the northern hemisphere that were covered by at least 3 kilometers’ thickness of ice. In the southern hemisphere, New Zealand, Tasmania, and the southern part of Chile were covered with similarly thick layers of ice.

blog__inline--the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it-part-2-1Figure 1: Maximum Extent of Thick Ice Cover of the Northern Hemisphere during the Last Ice Age. The turquoise-colored parts of the map indicate those regions covered by at least a 3-kilometer (2-mile) thickness of ice. Winter sea ice extended as far south as Mexico in the Pacific and North Carolina and Spain in the Atlantic. Image credit: John S. Schlee, United States Geological Survey and Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.

In addition to those parts of Earth covered by ice 3 kilometers thick, there were many other regions covered by tens or hundreds of meters of ice. For example, in North America ice cover sufficient to prevent agriculture and the building of cities and transportation arteries extended south to Southern California.

Ice Age Consequence #2: Too Little River Water Flow
Regions of the world not covered by ice fields also would suffer. People there would find the water flow from rivers that they depend on to grow food largely locked up in ice that is not melting.

Ice Age Consequence #3: Depletion of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
Growing food would be a huge challenge for another reason—the depletion of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The greater the percentage of Earth’s surface covered by ice, the less concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.

This consequence occurs because greater ice coverage and lower global mean temperatures alter ocean currents. As a carbon isotope study revealed, these altered ocean currents remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transport it to the deep ocean where it remains stored until ice coverage recedes and global mean temperatures rise.1

During the last ice age, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration dropped down to 180–190 parts per million.2 The minimum requirement for plants to make any food at all through photosynthesis is 150 parts per million at sea level, 167 parts per million at 3,000 feet elevation, 187 parts per million at 6,000 feet elevation, and 210 parts per million at 9,000 feet elevation.3 At levels of 150–500 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there is a direct correlation between that CO2 level in the atmosphere and the amount of food plants can produce through photosynthesis. Thus, it would be impossible to grow enough food to feed more than a billion humans under ice age conditions.

Ice Age Consequence #4: Extreme Climate Instability
It would be impossible to feed that many humans under ice age conditions for yet another reason. Only for the last 2.59 million years of Earth’s 4.566-billion-year history has there been an ice age cycle. Except for the past 0.009 million years, the ice age cycle has been characterized by extreme climate instability (see figure 2).

blog__inline--the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it-part-2-2Figure 2: Temperature Variability during the Last Ice Age. The blue and purple tracings portray the global mean temperature indicated by the GRIP and NGRIP Greenland ice cores, respectively. Image credit: Leland McInnes/Wikipedia Commons, CC-by-3.0.

This climate instability was characterized by unpredictable global mean temperature swings of up to 20°Fahrenheit (11°Celsius) on time scales of 2–3 centuries. Such radical climate instability explains why humans living during the last ice age were unable to launch and sustain any kind of large-scale civilization or sustain a large population.

Ice Age Consequence #5: Species Extinction
Because the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau are continuing to rise to higher elevations as a consequence of the ongoing tectonic collision between the Indian subcontinent and Asia, geophysicists confidently predict that the next ice age will be more catastrophic to life than the previous one. Specifically, they demonstrate that very likely the next ice age will result in even greater ice coverage, lower global mean temperatures, and lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels than the previous ice age.

Most species of life presently on Earth, with appropriate human assistance, are capable of surviving these more dire consequences. However, many are not. The probable extinction of hundreds, if not thousands, of species of life will inevitably disturb ecosystems and eco-balances. Such disturbances will then impact human civilization.

Technological Fixes?
Today, we possess the technology to ameliorate some of the more dire consequences brought on by the next ice age. For example, we could build glass-enclosed greenhouses on top of the more stable ice fields. We could heat these greenhouses and, at appropriate time intervals, augment the carbon dioxide concentration inside them. Since soil would be in much shorter supply and difficult to transport, we could employ hydroponic technology to grow crops inside greenhouses. Since fresh liquid water also would be in short supply, we could use a variety of energy sources to melt the abundant ice. However, no matter how much technology we marshal toward food production, it is highly unlikely that we could produce as much food as we do today.

In my third blog post, I will discuss other possible technological fixes aimed at ameliorating the consequences the next ice age is bound to bring. I will also briefly summarize to what degree we can use technology to delay its onset and review the preparations we should undertake right now in anticipation of the arrival of the life-altering event.

Endnotes
  1. Jochen Schmidt et al, “Carbon Isotope Constraints on the Deglacial CO2 Rise from Ice Cores,” Science 336 (May 11, 2012): 711–714, https://doi:10.1126/science.1217161.
  2. Schmidt et al., “Carbon Isotope Constraints,” 711; J. R. Petit et al., “Climate and Atmospheric History of the Past 420,000 Years from the Vostok Ice Core, Antarctica,” Nature 399 (June 3, 1999): 433, https://doi:10.1038/20859.
  3. King-Fai Li et al., “Atmospheric Pressure as a Natural Climate Regulator for a Terrestrial Planet with a Biosphere,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106 (June 16, 2009): 9576–79, https://doi:10.1073/pnas.0809436106.

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The End of Civilization As We Know It? Part 1

BY HUGH ROSS – JULY 9, 2018

Not a week goes by that I don’t get at least three questions about global warming. Frequently, what underlies these questions is a concern, and sometimes outright panic, that all the ice fields and glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland, and the Himalayas will melt and drown out all the coastal cities of the world where over a third of world’s population currently lives. Adding to this concern and panic is the worry that global warming will raise summer daytime temperatures in inland cities to such a degree that millions of people without air conditioning will die from heatstroke.

Ice Age Cycle Temperature Variation
My first response to global warming questions is to remind inquirers that we are in an ice age cycle. That cycle, driven by sinusoidal (wave pattern) variations in the ellipticity of Earth’s orbit about the Sun and in the tilt of Earth’s rotation axis, implies that inevitably the global mean temperature will rise and fall in response to the cycle.

My second response to global warming questions is that for the past 2.6 million years whenever the global mean temperature rose by 2–3°C (3–5°F) above the present value, Earth experienced a rapid temperature drop that brought on an ice age that covered 20–23 percent of Earth’s surface in ice hundreds of feet thick. Figure 1 shows how throughout the past 400,000 years such global warming temperature peaks has quickly and consistently brought on temperature drops that resulted in an ice age.

blog__inline--the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it-part-1-1Figure 1: Global Mean Temperatures throughout the Past Four Ice Age Cycles. The numbers on the Y-axis are degrees Celsius relative to the present global mean temperature. Image credit: Robert A. Rohde, Global Warming Art Project, CC by SA.

The data indicate that we should be much more concerned about an extended period of global cooling than we are about a brief episode of global warming. In order to better prepare for and ameliorate the impact of an extended period of global cooling, we should seek a resolution to the paradox of how brief episodes of global warming bring on long periods of global cooling. In the July 2018 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, researchers published two papers pointing to significant steps toward resolving that paradox and gaining the understanding we need for our future well-being.

How Global Warming Brings On an Ice Age
The first of these papers addresses the consequences of the looming loss of the Arctic ice cap. This loss is dramatic, owing to the fact that the ice cap is, at most, just a few meters thick and Arctic air temperatures have increased at double the average global rate. Surface air temperature over land north of 60°N has increased by an average of 3.5°C (6.3°F) since 1900.1Figure 2 shows that from 1982 to 2012, about half of the summer Arctic ice cap has melted away.2 Assuming the present rate of greenhouse gas emissions in the future neither increases nor decreases, the best climate models predict that by 2050 the summer Arctic ice cap will be completely gone.3

blog__inline--the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it-part-1-2Figure 2: Arctic Sea Ice Extent on September 16, 2012, Compared to the Average Minimum Extent over the Past 30 Years (yellow outline). Image credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio.

As Arctic sea ice continues to disappear, the newly opened waters of the Arctic Ocean, with their much lower albedo (reflectivity) than ice and snow, will absorb much more heat from the Sun. This extra heat will increase the temperature and moisture content of the overlying atmosphere, which will deliver more precipitation to the landmasses adjoining the Arctic Ocean (primarily Canada and Russia). This consequence of the shrinking Arctic ice cap has been understood and confirmed since 2010.4

In a new study, a team of four geoscientists has demonstrated the much more remote response (in other words, what would happen closer to the tropics where most people live) to Arctic ice loss.5 The team investigated the global climate outcomes from the abrupt loss of Arctic sea ice using the computer simulation, Community Climate System Model version 4, in two different configurations: (1) a thermodynamic slab mixed layer ocean, and (2) a full-depth ocean that includes both dynamics and thermodynamics.

The team’s computer simulations showed that within 20–30 years after Arctic sea ice loss, the tropical oceans are greatly impacted. This time frame is much faster than what previous, less sophisticated models had indicated.6

In particular, the simulations showed that the surface and subsurface ocean layers down to a depth of at least 200 meters are warmed considerably. This enhanced ocean water warming is much more pronounced in the northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere. The simulations predict that precipitation over the northern mid-latitude Pacific Ocean and over the adjoining landmasses dramatically increases.

Outcomes from the team’s simulations were remarkably consistent with the events of the last ice age. The advent of the last ice age began with snow and ice accumulating over western Siberia and Labrador. Soon thereafter all of Canada and more than two-thirds of Siberia became covered with ice more than a thousand feet thick. At maximum extent, 23 percent of Earth’s surface was covered with a thick layer of ice during the last ice age (see figure 3).

blog__inline--the-end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it-part-1-3Figure 3: Maximum Extent of Thick Ice Cover of the Northern Hemisphere During the Last Ice Age. The turquoise-colored parts of the map indicate those regions covered by ice at least 3 kilometers (2 miles) thick. Winter sea ice extended as far south as Mexico in the Pacific and North Carolina and Spain in the Atlantic. Image credit: John S. Schlee, United States Geological Survey and Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.

Today, both northern Canada and northern Siberia, in spite of a 3.5°C (6.3°F) rise in temperature since 1900, are more than cold enough for snow to remain frozen and accumulate to form large sheets of ice. The reason such ice sheets are not forming now is that both northern Canada and northern Siberia are deserts. Neither region gets more than the equivalent of 10 inches of precipitation.

The melting of the Arctic ice cap will dramatically increase the precipitation over northern Canada and northern Siberia. Much more snow will fall upon those regions, causing huge ice sheets to form there. Meanwhile, as the study produced by the four geoscientists demonstrates, within two or three decades after the melting of the summer Arctic ice cap, precipitation will dramatically rise over the landmasses adjoining the North Pacific Ocean and, to a lesser degree, the North Atlantic. Because of the global cooling that will result from northern Canada and northern Siberia being covered with giant ice sheets, much of the precipitation falling upon southern Canada, southern Siberia, northern United States, and Western Europe will be snow. This additional snow will extend the coverage of Earth by thick ice sheets to the degree displayed in figure 3.

According to the geoscientists’ research and the other studies cited here, we could see the dawn of the next ice age within a century and its full onset within a millennium. In the same issue of Geophysical Research Letters, three scientists at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research show that mineral dust deposition in the Arctic conceivably could bring about an even more imminent dawn of the next ice age.7 Because of this mineral dust’s low albedo (reflectivity), it warms up the snow and ice upon which it falls. The three Norwegian scientists calculated that mineral dust deposition warms up the Arctic ice and snow by 0.135 watts per square meter.8 This extra heat implies that the Arctic ice cap could melt away a lot more rapidly than what calculations based solely on enhanced greenhouse gases predict.

End of Civilization?
Obviously, the full onset of the next ice age will have dire consequences for Canadians, Russians, and other people living in northern latitudes. In my next blog post I will describe how the arrival of the next ice age will bring about multiple consequences for global human civilization. In the third post in this series, I will describe what steps we humans can take to prolong the onset of the next ice age and how we should prepare for the inevitable.

Endnotes
  1. J. Richter-Menge and J. T. Mathis, “The Arctic: a. Overview,” in D. D. Arndt et al., “State of the Climate in 2016,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 98 (August 2017): S129, https://doi:10.1175/2017BAMSStateoftheClimate.1.
  2. D. Perovich et al., “5. The Arctic: c. Sea Ice Cover,” in D. D. Arndt et al., “State of the Climate in 2016,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 98 (August 2017): S131–S133,https://doi:10.1175/2017BAMSStateoftheClimate.1.
  3. T. F. Stocker et al. (editors), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013), Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis: Chapter 4—Observations: Cryosphere (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014): 317–82, https://doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415324.012.
  4. Clara Deser and Robert Tomas, “The Seasonal Atmospheric Response to Projected Arctic Sea Ice Loss in the Late Twenty-First Century,” Journal of Climate 23 (January, 2010): 333–51, https://doi:10.1175/2009jCLI3053.1; J. A. Screen and I. Simmonds, “The Central Role of Diminishing Sea Ice in Recent Arctic Temperature Amplification,” Nature 464 (April 29, 2010): 1334–37, https://doi:10.1038/nature09051.
  5. Kun Wang et al., “Fast Response of the Tropics to an Abrupt Loss of Arctic Sea Ice Via Ocean Dynamics,” Geophysical Research Letters 45 (May 16, 2018): 4264–72, https://doi:10.1029/2018GL077325.
  6. Ivana Cvijanovic et al., “Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Drive a Substantial Decrease in California’s Rainfall,” Nature Communications 8 (art. 1947) December 5, 2017, https://doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01907-4.
  7. A. Kylling, C. D. Groot Zwaaftink, and A. Stohl, “Mineral Dust Instantaneous Radiative Forcing in the Arctic,” Geophysical Research Letters 45 (June 2018): 4290–98, https://doi:10.1029/2018GL077346.
  8. Kylling, Groot Zwaaftink, and Stohl, “Mineral Dust Instantaneous Radiative Forcing,” 4290.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Five Best Scientific Evidences for the God of the Bible

BY HUGH ROSS – JUNE 4, 2018

People we meet and audiences we address frequently ask us for brief descriptions of the best scientific evidences for God. Depending on individual backgrounds, what is best for one person will be different for someone else. However, in the more than 30-year history of Reasons to Believe, one or more of the following five have proven most effective in persuading modern-day non-theists that the God of the Bible really does exist:

  1. origin of space, time, matter, and energy
  2. origin of life
  3. human exceptionalism
  4. fine-tuning of the universe, Earth, and Earth’s life to make possible the existence and redemption of billions of humans
  5. Genesis 1’s predictive power to accurately describe, in chronological order, key events in Earth’s history leading to humans

blog__inline--five-best-scientific-evidences-1Image credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team

Origin of the universe: All our observations of the present and past state of the universe are consistent with a cosmic creation event that occurred 13.8 billion years ago. Some examples include (1) maps of the cosmic microwave background radiation; (2) past cosmic temperature measures establishing the universe has cooled from a near infinitely hot, compact state; (3) observed spreading apart of galaxy clusters and galaxies; (4) measures of the cosmic expansion rates throughout the universe’s past history; (5) absence of black dwarf stars; (6) abundances of radioisotopes; (7) stellar burning time measurements; and (8) white dwarf cooling curves. Space-time theorems establish that a causal Agent beyond space and time created the universe. Resources: The Creator and the Cosmos; A Matter of Days

blog__inline--five-best-scientific-evidences-2Image credit: Richard Wheeler (Zephyris)

Origin of life: Outside of living organisms and their decay products, scientists find no ribose, arginine, lysine, or tryptophan—molecules critical for assembling proteins, RNA, and DNA—either on Earth or elsewhere in the universe. No conceivable naturalistic scenario is able to generate the large, stable ensembles of homochiral ribose and homochiral amino acids that all naturalistic origin-of-life models require, affirming why no such natural sources have ever been found. Many of life’s critical building block molecules cannot last outside of organisms and their decay products for more than just days, hours, or minutes. Early Earth’s abundance of uranium and thorium (by their radiometric decay) would have split enough of Earth’s surface water into hydrogen and oxygen to shut down the chemical pathways to a naturalistic origin of life. The measured time window between Earth’s deadly, hostile environment for life and an abundance of life is narrower than a few million years. Even with high-tech lab facilities, biochemists cannot make RNA or DNA with genuine self-replication capability. Resources: Origins of Life; Creating Life in the Lab

blog__inline--five-best-scientific-evidences-3Image credit: Domenichino (1581–1641)

Human exceptionalism: A wealth of scientific evidence shows that humans alone, as distinct from Neanderthals, Homo erectus, and other species, possess the capacity for symbolic recognition, for complex language, art, and music, and for spiritual and philosophical engagement. Humans alone manifest awareness of God, sin, moral judgment, and life beyond death. Humans alone demonstrate technological advancement, including the development of agriculture and civilization. New evidence shows that even during episodes of extreme environmental instability, humans were able to maintain small mixed farms (with multiple species of crops and livestock) and to manufacture flour and clothing. Resource: Who Was Adam?

blog__inline--five-best-scientific-evidences-4Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Fine-tuning: More than 100 different features of the universe and the laws of physics must be exquisitely fine-tuned to make advanced life possible. More than 800 different features of our galaxy and planetary system must be fine-tuned for advanced life to possibly exist. The fine-tuning evidences rise exponentially as one proceeds from what is needed for microbes, to what is needed for plants and animals, to what is needed for humans, to what is needed for billions of humans to understand and respond to the Creator’s offer of redemption from sin and evil. The fine-tuning evidence also rises exponentially as scientists progressively learn more about the universe, Earth, and Earth’s life. Resources: Improbable Planet; The Creator and the Cosmos

blog__inline--five-best-scientific-evidences-5Image credit: Photo taken by the author from the NIV Bible

Genesis 1: Genesis 1:2 establishes the frame of reference for the six-day creation account as the surface of Earth’s waters, and it describes four initial conditions: ubiquitous darkness and water on Earth’s surface, no life, and unfit conditions for life. On day 1, Earth’s atmosphere becomes translucent (“let there be light”). On day 4, the atmosphere becomes transparent (“let there be lights in the expanse of the sky”). The Hebrew word for day, yom, has four literal definitions, one of which is a long, finite time period. That day 7 is not closed out by an “evening and morning” implies that the creation days are consecutive long time periods. Thus, Genesis 1 accurately predicted both the description, timing, and order of the events of creation. Resource: Navigating Genesis

In addition to the resource books, Reasons to Believe (RTB) scientists have written many articles and blogs on these five scientific evidences for God that can be accessed for free at reasons.org. RTB scientists also answer questions on these subjects on their personal Facebook and Twitter pages.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Rapid Landmass Emergence Affirms Creation Day 3

BY HUGH ROSS – JUNE 11, 2018

When I first read Genesis 1 at age 17, the plate tectonics theory was in its infancy. Researchers were still not certain whether continents had always existed on Earth’s surface or if the planet had transitioned over several billion years from a water world into its present state, where continents cover 29 percent of its surface. I remember wondering at that time if, while science had not disproved anything written in Genesis 1, it would actually advance to proving that Genesis 1 got both the descriptions and the chronological order of creation events correct? Uppermost in my mind back then was whether or not the new science of plate tectonics would vindicate Genesis 1’s statements about the continental landmasses being formed on creation day 3.

Two years later, I had the privilege of taking a newly designed geophysics class from Jack Jacobs and Don Russell, two of the founders of plate tectonics theory. The course used the textbook they had written with J. Tuzo Wilson.There I learned about the emerging strong evidence that Earth has had a long history of powerful plate tectonics that gave rise to continents, mountain ranges, and volcanoes. I recognized that this model of Earth’s history was at least broadly consistent with the biblical description of creation day 3.

However, Genesis 1 implies that the majority of continental landmass growth occurred within a short time period when Earth was about half or a little less than half its present age, which could correlate to the first part of day 3. So the question becomes, does Earth’s geological history support such rapid landmass growth?

In 1982, geoscientists used major element chemistry of lutites (fine-grained sedimentary rock consisting of clay or silt-sized particles or both) to infer that much of the continental landmass formation occurred 2.1–2.5 billion years ago.Then in 2016, geoscientists used radiometric dating and the oxygen-18 to oxygen-16 (O-18/O-16) isotope ratio of shale deposits around the world to more accurately determine that indeed the bulk of continental landmass formation occurred about 2.5 billion years ago.3 Figure 1 shows the continental landmass growth as a percentage of Earth’s total surface area based on the O-18/O-16 ratio. I have been using this figure in my talks and books on the concordance of Genesis 1 with the established scientific record.

blog__inline--rapid-landmass-emergence-1Figure 1: Growth of Continents as a Percentage of Earth’s Surface Area Based on O-18/O16 Ratios Alone. Image credit: Hugh Ross

In the May 2018 issue of Nature, a team of geologists and geophysicists led by Ilya Bindeman provided the most accurate constraint, to date, on the emergence of continents over the past 3.7 billion years. They are the first team to use triple-oxygen isotope ratio analysis on shale deposits from all continents.4 Shales are useful for this kind of research because they are the dominant sedimentary rock on Earth and they are the products of chemical and physical weathering of landmasses. Hence, shales are an excellent proxy for how much of Earth’s surface is comprised of landmasses.

Unlike previous studies, Bindeman’s team analyzed both the O-18/O-16 ratio and the oxygen-17 to oxygen-16 (O-17/O-16) isotope ratio in the shale deposits. Theirs is also the most extensive sample of shale deposits. They analyzed shales from 278 outcrops and drill holes on all seven continents. The combined use of two isotope ratios enabled Bindeman’s team to determine exactly how the shale deposits were formed. This knowledge allowed them to accurately reconstruct Earth’s past surface conditions. Figure 2 shows the growth history of Earth’s continental landmasses based on the data presented in the Bindeman team’s paper.

blog__inline--rapid-landmass-emergence-2Figure 2: Growth of Continents as a Percentage of Earth’s Surface Area Based on O-18/O16 and O17/O16 Ratios. Image credit: Hugh Ross

blog__inline--rapid-landmass-emergence-3Figure 3: Continental Landmass Coverage at Different Times. Image credit: Hugh Ross and Wikipedia Commons

Figure 3 shows rough maps of the extent of continental landmasses on Earth’s surface at three different times. The full paper published in Nature includes a gorgeous image showing, in accurate detail, first the extent of Earth’s landmasses previous to 2.45 billion years ago, showing only two mini-continents or cratons, and second the extent of Earth’s landmasses after 2.32 billion years ago, showing the extent of Kenorland, the first supercontinent. The two maps show that in less than 0.13 billion years, landmass coverage expanded by about 13 times.

The formation of Kenorland permitted, for the first time, recycling of nutrients from the landmasses to the oceans and back sufficient enough to sustain longterm advanced life. Kenorland’s rapid formation also coincided with the Great Oxygenation Event, which I describe in detail in my book Improbable Planet.5 The Great Oxygenation Event was critical for paving the way for sustaining longterm advanced life.

The more accurately determined growth history of Earth’s continents is more consistent with the implication in Genesis 1:9 that nearly all continental landmass growth occurred within a short time period when Earth was about half or a little less than half its present age. The research achieved by Bindeman’s team affirms that the more we learn about science and the record of nature, the more reasons we gain to trust the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God.

Endnotes
  1. J. A. Jacobs, R. D. Russell, and J. Tuzo Wilson, Physics and Geology (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959).
  2. H. W. Nesbitt and G. M. Young, “Early Proterozoic Climates and Plate Motions Inferred from Major Element Chemistry of Lutites,” Nature 299 (October 1982): 715–17, https://doi:10.1038/299715a0.
  3. J. W. Valley et al., “4.4 Billion Years of Crustal Maturation: Oxygen Isotope Ratios of Magmati Zircon,” Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 150 (December 2005): 561–80, https://doi:10.1007/s00410-005-0025-8; I. N. Bindeman, A. Bekker, and D. O. Zakharov, “Oxygen Isotope Perspective on Crustal Evolution on Early Earth: A Record of Precambrian Shale with Emphasis on Paleoproterozoic Glaciation and Great Oxygenation Event,” Earth and Planetary Science Letters 437 (March 2016): 101–13, https://doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.12.029.
  4. I. N. Bindeman et al., “Rapid Emergence of Subaerial Landmasses and Onset of Modern Hydrologic Cycle 2.5 Billion Years Ago,” Nature 557 (May 23, 2018): 545–48, https://doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0131-1.
  5. Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity’s Home (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 119–27.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Hawking’s Final Word on the Beginning

BY JEFF ZWEERINK – MAY 11, 2018

Did the universe begin to exist or not? The final paper from Stephen Hawking indicates that the universe did have a beginning. Here are the details.

This question has rattled around in the psyche of the scientific community for more than a century now, ever since Einstein developed his general theory of relativity. The dominant view during most of that time held that the universe had existed forever (i.e., it had no beginning). Even though general relativity hinted that the universe might have a beginning, scientists proposed many models that circumvented this conclusion.

In 1964, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation—a discovery that established the validity of big bang models. A few years later, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose developed some powerful theorems that affirmed the conclusion that big bang models included the notion that the universe began to exist. Examining the theorems more closely reveals that the evidence for the beginning ultimately derives from the fact that the space-time trajectories of all matter in the universe cross, leading to a singularity (a region of infinite density) where the laws of physics break down.

However, physicists largely agree that infinities arising in a model indicate that the model is an inadequate description of reality. Consequently, Hawking developed other models without singularities over the last 40–50 years, specifically, his “no-boundary” proposal. In 2010, Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow published a book titled The Grand Design, where Hawking states, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” Hawking basically says that the universe exists, not because a God created it with a beginning. Rather, the laws of physics pop the universe into existence.

It’s this context that makes Hawking’s final publication (with Thomas Hertog) particularly interesting. In the paper, Hertog and Hawking seek to develop a model of inflation that is consistent with quantum mechanics rather than relying on a background universe evolving according to general relativity. After developing such a model, Hertog and Hawking make two interesting claims.

First, rather than producing a large (likely infinite) multiverse containing regions with great variability, inflation generates a comparatively small, rather smooth multiverse. Second, and more interesting to me, is their description of the past history of the universe.

Rather than affirm the conclusion of the previous “no-boundary” proposal, the new theory arrives at a different conclusion. According to Hertog, “now we’re saying that there is a boundary in our past.” Hertog also states, “when we trace the evolution of our universe backwards in time, at some point we arrive at the threshold of eternal inflation, where our familiar notion of time ceases to have any meaning.”

I am not claiming that Hawking believed the universe began to exist, or that the debate about the beginning in the scientific community is settled. What I find remarkable is that one of the most well-known cosmologists of our time supports a model of the universe that looks a lot like the one described in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.”

Resources

If you would like to learn more about the scientific case for a beginning, check out this postwhere I describe my DVD titled How Do We Know the Universe Had a Beginning?

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Does the Multiverse Help Naturalism?

BY JEFF ZWEERINK – MAY 18, 2018

Perhaps our universe isn’t as finely tuned as we thought! We know that life requires stars and planets to form. Overly rapid expansion of the universe would prevent this from happening and a larger amount of dark energy means that the universe expands more rapidly. Yet a recent paper shows that the amount of dark energy in the universe could be hundreds of times larger and yet still permit stars and planets to form. This result seems to reduce the role of fine-tuning, right? Sort of, but not really. In fact, this discovery makes multiverse explanations for the intricate balances that life requires even more difficult to accept—if you demand a purely naturalistic multiverse.

How Does the Multiverse Attempt to Explain Fine-Tuning?

Countless scientific results show that our universe looks designed to support life, and most scientists affirm this conclusion. The real question for many scientists is not if our universe appears designed, but whether it actually is designed. The multiverse currently provides a popular explanation for many who answer “no” to this question. Basically, the argument follows this line of reasoning:

  1. Yes, our universe looks fine-tuned for life.
  2. However, inflation (or any other multiverse-producing mechanism) produces an enormous number of universes and our best models say that the observed laws of physics exhibit great variability over those universes.
  3. Since life demands a rather specific set of conditions in order to exist, we must observe what appears to be a finely tuned universe.
  4. It is a mistake to conclude that our universe is designed because our universe naturally fits into the distribution produced by the multiverse.

In other words, although our universe appears atypical (because of the fine-tuning for life), in truth our universe is typical (given the multiverse and the fact that we exist).

Does This Explanation Work?

In order for the explanation to work one must ask, Does our universe appear typical? At first glance, the notion that it could have hundreds of times more dark energy and still support life seems to make our universe more typical. But it doesn’t for two reasons.

First, we must put the “hundreds of times more dark energy” in context. Some people will say that the dark energy must be fine-tuned to one part in 10120, but that is not a correct statement from a physics perspective. Rather, given our theoretical understanding of the earliest moments of the universe, scientists predict that the amount of dark energy should be 10120 times larger than we observe. Adjusting that statement to reflect recent discoveriesmeans that theoretically typical amounts of dark energy exceed the maximum amount possible in a habitable universe by a factor of 10117. Yes, the factor is smaller, but not in any significant way.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, a larger range of habitable universes makes our universe more atypical. Remember, we observe a much smaller amount of dark energy than expected from our best models. Additionally, the farther something gets from the expected value, the rarer that condition becomes.

Consider going out to see one (and only one) shooting star. The majority of shooting stars arise from particles around the size of a sand grain. Many more particles smaller than that hit Earth’s atmosphere, but they don’t meet the requirements necessary to produce a streak of light visible to the naked eye. So, the vast majority of particles are incredibly small (think size of a proton) but the typical size of particles that produce shooting stars are like sand grains. To reach the ground, the “particle” must be the size of a small rock (a few kilograms). Armed with this knowledge, you go out to observe your one shooting star. As you settle in and wait, a bright light appears overhead, persists for a brief time, and then a small pebble strikes you on the head. Given your knowledge, you must conclude that you witnessed a remarkable, or atypical, shooting star.

Let’s assume that a vast multiverse exists and that this multiverse produces a wide enough variety of universes to account for ours. We now know that our universe could contain much more dark energy and still form stars and planets. Yet, we observe much less dark energy than expected. Our universe is atypical. As Luke Barnes, one of the paper’s authors, states, “Our work shows that our ticket seems a little too lucky, so to speak. It’s more special than it needs to be for life. This is a problem for the Multiverse.”

Our ticket may be too lucky for the naturalist’s multiverse, but it makes perfect sense if God created our universe for us to observe and marvel at his handiwork!

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.

DONATE NOW


U.S. Mailing Address
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  • P (855) 732-7667
  • P (626) 335-1480
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Now We Can Hear God

By Will Myers
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In the Old Testament, we have the laws and the promise of the Messiah to come. The Old Testament has the New Testament concealed within. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed, and this is the coming of Christ Jesus with His teachings. The laws are to bring us to the Teacher who has the Holy Spirit from whom we learn all things. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and giver of God’s Spirit without limit.
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This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
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The Apostle Paul is making an inquiry into the minds of his followers in the above scriptures whether it’s the law or the Spirit whom we seek. The law can not create life, only the Spirit can give life. The law can help preserve life and guide unto the Giver of life Who is in Jesus Christ.
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One’s salvation is to receive Jesus and repent of sinning. The stronger one’s faith in Jesus Christ’s teachings then the more one can hear the Living God.
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For the law of the  Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
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We are saved not by our works but by the Grace of God; afterward, God judges our works and those who received Christ Jesus God shall use His Son’s works in you which are perfect in the sight of God. Truly, Christ Jesus is our Savior in these last days.
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Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.
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Not only can one hear God directing our lives through Jesus, but we can intercede with a prayer for something that we desire, and God shall answer our prayers.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
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The Spirit Of God is here in the name of Jesus and available to All. The true process of life is to listen to every word from the mouth of God and obey God in which we go from Glory to Glory without an end.
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