I want to thank each of you for this opportunity to talk about creation and share some exciting things about Ashland Creation Colloquium, our start-up ministry. All of creation points to a Creator. I’ll define creation both as the historical narrative in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, as well as the totality of the universe today. Let’s take a look at nature to examine a thing or two about thermodynamics, looking specifically at hurricanes as heat engines — something which plays an important part in our writing contest.
Jupiter Inlet Island in Jupiter, Florida, is a peculiar point. Not only is it the eastern-most spot in Florida, but it’s also the point where the Gulf Stream comes closest to the eastern seaboard of the United States. Yet, with a trajectory aimed at the lighthouse in 2004, Hurricane Frances came to an unprecedented halt, as the eyewall continued to rotate freely just 30-miles offshore. This unusual occurrence in the hurricane’s path was due to a weather system over Florida that blocked the hurricane’s course — a forecast that was historically unparalleled. However, as rare as this event was, Hurricane Frances eventually wobbled and came onshore making landfall on Hutchinson Island, Florida, just 30-miles north of the lighthouse.
Nicolas Carnot was a French physicists regarded as the Father of Thermodynamics.
Hurricanes are also known as Carnot heat engines. A hurricane is a conduit that moves heat energy from a warm reservoir to a cool reservoir (i.e., from the warm surface temperatures of the ocean to the cooler temperatures of the upper level atmosphere). And as the case is with any hurricane — such as Frances — when hurricanes perform this work, they move across the warm, tropical waters, creating upswells that leave much cooler oceanic surface temperatures in their wakes. A short article in the journal Nature named “Hurricane Heat Engines” renders a clear, concise description of this kind of thermodynamic mechanics.
The study of science can boggle our minds because it delves into the fascinating mechanisms of the world around us. At Ashland Creation Colloquium, we challenge students to examine the creation and explain how it reveals the Creator.
Ashland Creation Colloquium
So I want to highlight the vision of Ashland Creation Colloquium. Our ministry seeks educators, scientists, Bible scholars, various other professionals, and like-minded people who advocate God’s work in creation, and who share a passion for creation science research, a young but robust field. We promote a six day, young earth view of creation. The word colloquium refers to a way of putting words and phrases into common, everyday language. Beyond this definition the meaning of the word colloquium falls along the lines of a seminar or symposium. We presently sponsor a scientific writing contest for high school students. Winning participants receive the opportunity to have their work published informally on our website, studiesoncreation.org. In the near future, we hope to sponsor a professional-style symposium where participants will be able to share their research in person with other like-minded young people.
We believe that our location in Ashland, Ohio, provides the perfect setting for a science outreach. Let’s take a moment to explore the landscape surrounding Ashland.
There are fascinating ecological and geological settings in and around Ashland. For example, the mosaic for our contest flyer captures a nearby niche — Clear Fork Gorge at Mohican State Park. This gorge is thought to be a product of glaciation. And the carving out of Big and Little Lyons Falls within the gorge itself is the end result of a process still ongoing today.
Similarly, there are intriguing ecological niches across northern Ohio that remind us of glaciation. Today, we can look out over the remnant marshes along the southwest shore of Lake Erie and enjoy several key resting spots that these wetlands offer to numerous migrating species of birds. In addition, the ecological conditions many years ago in Licking County, Ohio, preserved the Burning Tree Mastodon — the most complete mastodon skeleton ever found to date. Since 2009, a copy of the Burning Tree Mastodon skeleton has been on display just south of Cincinnati at the Creation Museum. This type of preservation gives us a window of opportunity with which we can peer into past ecosystems.
Now let’s discuss geological time stamps — the glacial grooves. Glacial grooves are gouged, or scratched, into bedrock as a glacier moves downstream. They form when boulders and coarse gravel get trapped under the glacial ice, and then abrade the land as the glacier pushes and pulls them along. Out west, Washington State has a known formation in Mount Rainer National Park. Another well-known example is tucked-away on the Canadian side of Lake Huron. But Kelleys Island, Ohio, out on Lake Erie, holds the record for the largest and most readily-accessible glacial grooves in the world. Remarkably, the glacial grooves on Kelleys Island offer us a broader glimpse into the order and magnitude of glaciation across the Great Lakes region as a whole, and in doing so we discover details which inspire new and bold questions on geological shaping.
All of creation points to a Creator.
As I mentioned earlier, all of creation points to a Creator. The truth that our organization adheres to is that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and although it is not a book of science, everything the Bible says about science is true.
As an example, consider Orion and the Pleiades. The Book of Job says that the Pleiades is confined, whereas the three stars making up Orion’s belt are not. In recent decades, observations from modern physics and astronomy have shown that the constellation Pleiades, appearing to the right of Orion as a faint ball of light, is in reality a globular star cluster containing hundreds of stars. By imposing a gravitational pull, each star in the Pleiades constellation constrains its neighbor within the cluster. Conversely, similar observations of the most identifiable and perfectly aligned three stars in the night sky, those comprising the belt of Orion – that is, the stars Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka – reveal no such gravitational attraction on each other. In other words, despite their linear appearance, distances among these three stars go well beyond the constraining gravitational effects of any one star on either of the other two. Therefore, the alignment of Orion’s belt is much more than just an illusion of accidental geometry and optics.
Let’s consider a puzzle. Despite the limitations of our human condition, why are we able to understand the universe? Why can we study it — from far-reaching macroscopic vistas, as seen in Orion and the Pleiades, to the delicate microscopic level of subatomic particles, such as protons, neutrons, and electrons? Answering these types of questions is what Ashland Creation Colloquium is all about.
The Creation Science Writing Contest
Because of our desire to encourage the next generation of creation scientists, we have created a writing contest that requires students to spend time researching, analyzing, and reporting on facets of our observable universe that testify to biblical creation. Our research and communication goals are the foundation for this writing contest, which is now open to high school students around the country. Our hope is that the contest will attract students who express an interest in creation science research, a field that spans the sciences, as well as history, math, language, philosophy, and education.
The writing prompts are stepping stones to more advanced topics.
Students can pick from eight writing prompts which are divided into five questions and three historical perspectives. These prompts serve as stepping stones to more complex topics of study. For example, while the question about medical imaging asks students to describe the processes involved in PET scans (positron emission tomography), it really nudges them to consider the greater ramifications of particle physics. Remember how we discussed hurricanes as heat engines earlier? Well, for our question on the heating and cooling of the planet, students must not only consider and explain why the earth’s surface temperature is -33° Celsius (-27° Fahrenheit), but also why hurricanes turn out to be heat engines. Our hope is that this question might attract students who are interested in climatology, meteorology, or oceanography and even encourage them to consider one of these fields as a career path.
Let’s talk philosophy, or worldviews.
C.S. Lewis said, “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator (Lawgiver).” So, again I ask, “Why are we able to understand the universe, or even study it?” Perhaps the reason relates to the rational intelligibility of the universe. As an example of rational intelligibility, I’ll draw a connection linking mathematics to one specific application — an example of pure math applied to carpentry.
At its very core, math is divided into pure math (abstract concepts) and applied math. For example, the square root of 25 is 5, which is written as √25 = 5. This is purely a mathematical concept. Abstract mathematical concepts are those features that seem good to know, but at the very same time may not seem so obvious and applicable in everyday life. But if we use math to build or frame a window, we have to apply mathematical concepts. If an ordinary window has a dimensional width of 3.0 feet along the top and bottom by a dimensional length of 4.0 feet up and down along the sides, its diagonal must be 5.0 feet.
This 3-4-5 dimension gives us a special type of right triangle called a 3-4-5 right triangle. And as all triangles should, the 3-4-5 right triangle reminds us of the Pythagorean theorem, which says a2 + b2 = c2, or in this case, 32 + 42 = 52.
Technical insert: Although one might claim the Pythagorean theorem is another example of an abstract mathematical concept, I would argue it’s more pseudo-abstract because it is so commonly studied and well-known for its use in the geometry of triangles as well as various triangular-like applications in the real world, such as navigation.
So, when scribing a diagonal across our 3-foot-by-4-foot window, the window reduces to two identical right triangles. When we check the math to determine whether or not our window is properly aligned, we invoke the Pythagorean theorem as follows: 32 + 42 = c2, which means 9 + 16 = c2. We then get 25 = c2 and we take the square root of 25, which gives us c = √25 = 5. However, if our 3-foot-by-4-foot window ends up with a diagonal greater or lesser than 5.0 feet, then we know the window is neither square nor plum.
This window illustration demonstrates how we as human beings can learn and apply universal concepts. And this sort of understanding is what we mean when we use the term rational intelligibility.
Why is it that mathematics relates to the physical world?
Dale McIntyre, professor of Mathematics at Grove City College has said, “God certainly inhabits the work of believers and unbelievers alike and uses it to ends far beyond the original vision of those workers! And how often this has happened in mathematics!” Ashland Creation Colloquium previously celebrated this phenomenon in our recent blog on the Radon transform.
In 1917, Austrian mathematician Johann Radon introduced a mathematical concept that came to be named after him. The Radon transform was at first used purely in mathematics — in an area of math known as differential equations. But, half a century later, physicist Allan Cormack applied this transform to his theory of computed tomography (or CAT scans), and it worked! As a result of Cormack’s efforts, this abstract mathematical concept (the Radon transform) validated the theory of CAT scans and has been recognized not so much for being a purely mathematical construct as intended by Johann Radon, but rather for its application in the mathematics of CAT scans in medicine ever since!
So why is it that mathematics relates to the physical world? According to John Lennox, Professor Emeritus at the University of Oxford, “The existence of laws of physics…strongly implies that there is a God who formulates such laws and ensures that the physical realm conforms to them.” God designed both mathematics and the physical universe that uses that math. His great intelligence created an orderly, understandable world. In Job 38:33, God asks Job, “Do you know the laws of heaven? Can you impose its authority on earth?” Just like us, Job may not have known each and every one of these laws (the laws of heaven), but the Creator who designed them certainly does.
Most people wonder why they exist. If they believe they are the products of random chance, they may see no transcendent reason for their lives. But God created the world in an orderly fashion and with a great purpose. John Lennox also said, “The more we learn about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator God, who designed the universe for a purpose, gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.” God’s orderliness belies His intentional design and purpose. Perhaps Christian author Jim Berg has said it best: “Order is the fingerprint of God upon all His works.”
The rational intelligibility and purpose of the universe — and of the planet earth in particular — speak of design. So if there is a Mind (Creator) behind the universe, then why are we here? What is our purpose? I think these sorts of questions exercise our hearts the most. I personally believe our purpose is to have a personal relationship with that Mind, the God of the Bible, through His Son Jesus.
Clearly, preparing Christian students to advocate the biblical account of creation is an investment well worth the effort. Our creation science writing contest challenges students to investigate the scientific data and tackle big questions as they research for the writing prompts. Our great hope is that this experience will encourage them to pursue more complex areas of study as they seek to serve the Lord.
Note: This blog is the edited and expanded written format of a presentation given at Maranatha Baptist Church in Ashland, Ohio, on March 4, 2018.