LABORATORY LESSONS (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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LABORATORY LESSONS

By Elmer W. Meyer, Research Chemist

B.Sc, Iowa State College, M.Sc., University of Pennsylvania; Research Chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture; specialist in synthetic detergents. Doing research for im­proved detergents for specific or general soils.

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As a chemist I believe in a personal God. I believe there is a “Divine Intelligence” who created the world and all that is contained therein, and for me this “Divine Intelli­gence” and this personal God are identical.

It is impossible for me to conceive the law and order of the universe as being the result of pure chance. The odds are simply too great. Law, order and intelligence go hand in hand.

Also, as a scientist I believe that God has permanent con­trol of His world. He sees to it that there is fixedness and permanence in Nature’s laws. When I step into my laboratory I know that the laws that hold true today will hold true tomorrow, and the next day, and as long as the universe exists. Otherwise

Beaker with boiling water

my life in the laboratory would be a succes­sion of quandaries; a life of uncertainty and doubts, rendering all scientific activity futile; in fact, impossible. For example, I can go into the laboratory and heat a beaker filled with pure water until it boils. Without the use of a thermometer I know that the temperature of the boiling water is 100 degrees (centigrade) as long as the atmospheric pressure is 760 mm. of mercury. If the pressure is less than 760 mm., less energy will have to be applied in the form of heat to cause the molecules of water to break away in the form of vapor or steam, so the boiling point will be correspondingly less than 100 degrees. Conversely, if the pressure is greater than 760 mm. the boiling point will be greater than 100 degrees. This experiment I can perform time and time again, and so long as I know the pressure I can predict with cer­tainty the boiling point of the water.

The chemist performs wonders almost routinely by intelli­gently using this pressure-temperature relationship. By dis­tilling at greatly reduced pressures he can obtain fruit es­sences, dehydrated potatoes, dried milk, etc. Our gasoline and oil industry could hardly exist without making use of this simple, fundamental relationship. In fact, much of our research and many of our industrial processes are, in one respect or another, dependent upon this pressure-tempera­ture relationship. This relationship is permanent and can hardly be an accident of pure chance.

Nor is the periodic chart of the elements a matter of chance. It is a beautifully designed scheme of law and order in the universe. As the name suggests, the chart is an assembly of all the elements in a uniquely orderly fashion, with a periodic recurrence of similar properties (qualities, or characteristics). In the periodic chart all the elements are grouped according to their atomic numbers. The atomic number is the number of protons in the nucleus of the atom. Thus, hydrogen, the simplest element, has one proton in its nucleus; helium, two; lithium, three; and so on.

Arranged in order of increasing atomic weights, the proper­ties of the elements go through a repeated cycle of changes. All the elements in any given horizontal row differ from their neighbors by one proton and one electron. In the vertical rows of this grouping all the elements have the same number of electrons in their outer shells. It is because of this similarity in electronic configuration that the elements in a vertical row have similar properties. Thus lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium, caesium, and francium each have one electron in its outermost shell, and for this reason make up a family of elements with similar properties. Six of the elements, helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon, all have their outermost shells filled in a stable configuration and for this reason show practically no tendency to combine with other elements. These six are all inert gases.

A result of random chemicals coming together?

In a similar manner all the other elements are grouped in families with similar properties, with similar electronic con­figurations. This beautiful arrangement is hardly a matter of chance. Suppose that I were able to heat in a giant furnace an infinite number of protons, neutrons, electrons, and “atomic glue” (which holds the atoms together). What would be the odds of my getting 100 or so different elements, each of which had its own characteristic properties and would fit into an orderly arrangement such as we have in the periodic chart? I might as well ask, what would be the odds of my baking a mixture of flour, water, sugar, apples, cherries and peaches together and obtaining separate and individual apple, cherry, and peach pies?

If I were to walk into the forest and suddenly find a clearing with a cozy cottage surrounded by flowers and beau­tiful shrubbery, I would conclude that somebody built this cottage and planted the flowers and shrubbery. It would seem ridiculous to me to say that they just happened. And so it is with the elements, and the periodic chart, and all the laws of Nature. Simple logic requires that somebody planned them, and made and established them. To me this planner and maker is God.

Moreover, I have long ago identified this God with the God of the Bible. At first certain difficulties presented them­selves in the matter of the Bible’s scientific accuracy, but they were cleared away. For example, I used to ponder a statement that Jesus made in Matthew 5: 13— “Ye are the salt of the earth. But if the salt have lost its savor, where­with shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” The parallel verse in Luke 14: 34, 35 seemed just as confusing: “Salt is good, but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill, but men cast it out.”

Salt is essential for life in general, and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes.

As a chemist I reasoned that salt is a very stable chemical body, sodium chloride. Salt just doesn’t go bad on standing around. There are two possible ways in which it could lose its savor: (1) it could enter into a chemical reaction and thus no longer be sodium chloride; or (2) it could be so badly contaminated with impurities that its characteristic taste would be masked. I ruled out the first possibility on the ground that Christ was too good a teacher to make reference to a chemical reaction or process that the masses would not understand. The answer, then, must he in the impurities.

All the while I was thinking of the nice clean table salt that we take so much for granted. A little research brought the answer.

Salt was accepted and collected as taxes by the Romans from the people of the Holy Land. One of the main sources of salt for Palestinians, of course, was the Dead Sea, or Salt Sea. So oppressive were these taxes that the people adulter­ated the salt with sand or other earthy material (the salt to begin with wasn’t our nice pure table salt). The government purified the salt by spreading it in big vats or tanks, filling them with water and drawing off the concentrated salt solu­tion or brine. All that remained was the earthy, insoluble material. Indeed, the salt had lost its savor because it was no longer salt. It was fit to be trodden under foot.

And this wasn’t the only way that salt could lose its savor. The surface waters of the Dead Sea, on evaporation, have a chemical salts content of about 31 percent sodium chloride, 13 percent calcium chloride, and 48 percent magnesium chloride, together with other impurities. The calcium and magnesium chlorides are hygroscopic (take water out of the air) and will thus literally dissolve the sodium chloride. A bit­ter tasting composition results. It was the custom to store vast amounts of this salt in houses that had earthen floors. In time, the salt next to the ground “spoiled” because of the dampness. Since it would be harmful to fertile land because of its salt content, no man would allow it to be thrown on his field. The only place left was the street, where it was trodden under foot of man.

Thus the Bible was proved scientifically accurate, even in its many small details—for this was just a lone example. And, returning to the larger aspect of the matter, this same Bible, rightly interpreted, to me presents a reliable account of the origin of the universe, as well as its direction and support. I have found nothing in natural science, in chemistry, that conflicts with the Bible. Nor do I find anything in the Bible that conflicts with science. The God of Genesis, I am con­vinced, is the sole answer to both the “genesis” and the unfailing, detailed management of the world.

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