PLAIN WATER WILL TELL YOU THE STORY (C. 1958)

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Excerpted from The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, edited by John Clover Monsma. New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1958

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By Thomas David Parks, Research Chemist

Ph.D., University of Illinois. Formerly Chairman Department of Chemistry, Stanford Research Institute; at present Di­rector of Research, Clorox Chemical Company. Specialist in microchemistry, electrolytic phenomena, X-ray diffraction and synthetic resins.

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Whittaker Chambers in his book Witness tells of a simple incident which was probably the turning point of his life (and perhaps of the affairs of mankind). He was watching his little daughter and unconsciously became aware of the shape of her ears. He thought to himself how im­possible that such delicate convolutions could have come about by chance. They could have been created only by premeditated design. But he pushed this thought out of his agnostic mind because he realized that the next step in logical sequence would have to be: design presupposes God —a thesis he was not yet ready to accept. I have known many scientists among my professors and fellow research workers who have had similar thoughts about observed facts in chemistry and physics, even though they have not spoken from the depths of despair that Whittaker Chambers found himself in.

I see order and design all about me in the inorganic world. I cannot believe that they are there by the haphazard, fortu­nate coming together of atoms. For me this design demands an intelligence, and this intelligence I call God.

Probably to a chemist the periodic arrangement of the elements is the most arresting. One of the first things a fresh­man chemistry student learns is the periodicity or order found in the elements. This order has been variously de­scribed and classified but we usually credit Mendeleev, the Russian chemist of the last century, with our periodic table. Not only did this arrangement provide a means of studying the known elements and their compounds but it also gave impetus to the search for those elements which had not yet been discovered. Their very existence was postu­lated by vacant spaces in the orderly arrangement of the table.

Chemists today still use the periodic table to aid them in their study of reactions and to predict properties of unknown or new compounds. That they have been successful is sound testimony to the fact that beautiful order exists in the in­organic world.

But the order we see around us is not a relentless omnip­otence. It is tempered with beneficence—a testimony to the fact that good and pleasure are as much a concern of Divine Intelligence as the immutable laws of Nature. Look around you at the exceptions and deviations that do, in fact, defy the laws of cold rationality.

Take, for example, water. From its formula weight—18— one would predict it would be a gas at ordinary temperatures and pressures. Ammonia—with a formula weight of 17—is a gas at temperatures as low as minus 330 C. at atmospheric pressure. Hydrogen sulfide, closely related to water by posi­tion in the periodic table and with a formula weight of 34, is a gas at temperatures down to minus 590 C. The fact that water exists as a liquid at all, at ordinary temperatures, is something to make one stop and think.

Water has many other properties, however, which are in­teresting and which taken together are to me strong evi­dence of design. On a gross scale it should be pointed out that water covers about three-quarters of our planet, Earth, and as such exerts a tremendous influence on the tempera­tures and weather conditions which prevail. One can imagine catastrophic variations in temperature if water did not have a unique combination of properties. Water has a high heat of melting, a long period of liquidity, and a very high heat of vaporization. As such, it is a wonderful shock absorber to changes in temperature. In other words, without the built-in resistance to temperature which water exhibits, this earth would be much less suitable for life and much less pleasant for human activity.

There are other unique properties of water which appeal to me as having been designed by a Creator who has concern for His creatures. Water is the only known substance which becomes lighter as it freezes. This is tremendously important to life. Because of it, ice floats instead of sinking to the bottom of lakes and rivers and gradually forming a solid mass. On the top of the water it forms a layer of insulation to maintain the water below at a temperature above freezing. Fish and other marine life are preserved and the ice melts rapidly in the spring.

Other very interesting properties of this common sub­stance, water, could be pointed out. For example, it has a high surface tension which aids in plant growth by transport­ing nutrients through the soil. It has a high dialetric constant which makes it the best solvent known and as such plays a vital role in the life processes of our bodies as a principal constituent of our blood. It has a high vapor pressure over a very wide range of temperature and still remains liquid throughout the whole range needed for life.

Many scientists have studied these amazing properties of water and have developed theories to account for the phe­nomena observed. But even if we learn to understand the “How” of the whole subject, we still must search for an answer to the “Why.” And water is not the only marvelous substance! There are any number of other substances with properties so nearly sensational that our finite human mind cannot but halt—and quietly genuflect in wonderment.

Personally, I have found my explanation of these marvels —a satisfying explanation—in relating Nature’s order to a Supreme Intelligence and its design to a Supreme Designer, and in it all I see more than cold, rational planning—I see the concern and love of a Creator for His creatures.

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