The Creation Explanation
|Design in the Universe|
"O LORD our Lord, how excellent is
Your name in all the earth, You who set Your glory above the heavens!...When I consider
Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
what is man that You are mindful of him..." "The heavens declare the glory of
God; and the firmament shows His handiwork."
The Psalmist often rejoiced in the powerful revelation of the wisdom and knowledge of the infinite, personal Creator God. Everywhere as we have considered the scientific evidence, we have seen the order, the design, the coordination which speaks of intelligent, purposeful design. In this chapter we will briefly span the vast range of space from the nucleus of the atom to the distant galaxies to observe the underlying order of the physical universe and the facts that support the biblical record of creation.
The Design of the Atom1
The modern history of the atom may be said to have begun in 1808 when John Dalton published his Atomic Theory. He proposed that all matter is composed of tiny indivisible particles which he called atoms, the atoms of various elements differing from each other, but all the atoms of a given element being identical. Ninety-two different naturally occurring chemical elements have been discovered on the earth. In 1897 J.J. Thompson discovered the electron and in 1902 Ernest Rutherford showed it to be a part of the atom. Rutherford also discovered the nucleus of the atom in 1911 and the proton in 1914. The neutron was discovered in 1932 by James Chadwick, and thus was completed the disclosure of the three basic particles of which all atoms are composed--the electron, proton, and neutron. Their properties are indicated in figure 6-1.
Scientists are always looking for patterns in the facts which they find, patterns which will lead them to an understanding of the underlying order and laws revealed in the observed facts. With the finding of the nucleus it became apparent that the atom consisted of a central, tiny but massive, positively charged nucleus to which light, negatively charged electrons were bound by electrostatic attraction. It was proposed that the electrons travel around the nucleus in circular orbits something like planets orbiting the sun (figure 6-1). But according to classical electromagnetic theory, a charge moving in a curved path radiates electromagnetic energy. Therefore, it was reasoned that an electron moving in an atomic orbit around the nucleus would gradually dissipate its energy and fall into the nucleus (figure 6-2).
table 6-1. Basic Atomic Particles
figure 6-1. Original simple concept of the atomic orbit of an electron.
Excited atoms do in fact radiate their energy, but not gradually. They emit packets or photons of radiation having definite wavelengths corresponding to definite amounts of energy. For example, sometimes the atoms in a hot gas give off light which, when passed through a narrow slit and a prism, is dispersed into an emission spectrum, a band of different colors of light containing bright lines of particular colors or wavelengths (figure 6-3). For a given gas these spectral lines are arranged in characteristic, precise patterns along the spectrum according to wavelength (figure 6-4).
figure 6-2. According to classical physical theory an electron moving in an orbit would gradually radiate its energy and fall into the nucleus.
figure 6-3. Schematic diagram of a prism spectroscope.
It was these patterns that led physicist Niels Bohr to propose that the electrons in an atom orbit the nucleus in elliptical paths which have definite energies. As long as an electron remains in a particular orbit, it radiates no energy. This new idea of Bohr was a radical a departure from the classical theory described earlier. He proposed that only when an electron jumps from a higher energy orbit to a lower energy orbit is energy radiated.
NOTE: BELOW THE NUMBERS INDICATING WAVELENGTH PLACE THE FOLLOWING LEGEND:
"WAVELENGTH IN MILLIMICRONS"
figure 6-4. The visible light line spectrum of hydrogen atoms, called the Balmer series.
The amount radiated corresponds to the difference in energy of the two orbits. The electron loses electrostatic potential energy and kinetic energy as it falls to a lower energy orbit nearer to the nucleus. These discrete amounts of energy are the quanta of radiation which correspond to the exact wavelengths of light that produce the sharp lines in the emission spectrum of a gas.
Bohr's initial rudimentary theory of the atom was later replaced by the quantum mechanical or wave mechanical theory of atomic structure upon which the modern understanding of the atom is based. An electron in an atom is no longer considered to be moving in a simple orbit. Rather, its exact location and velocity at any time is unknown, but its probability of being found at any point is known. Thus the electron is spread out in a probability cloud which has a wave-like character around the nucleus. These electron probability clouds have interesting shapes which are described precisely by the mathematics of quantum mechanics (figure 6-5). When an excited atom undergoes a transition from
figure 6-5. Some electron cloud patterns: Hydrogen atom in lowest energy or ground state, hydrogen atom in an excited state, and carbon atom in ground state.
one electron probability cloud pattern to another one of lower energy, a photon of a particular energy and wavelength is emitted from the atom. Thus the pattern of lines in the emission spectra of gases led ultimately to an understanding of a marvelously complex set of patterns of electron probability clouds in atoms. It was further found that in the heavier elements with more electrons in their atoms, the electrons are arranged in groups called shells at different energy levels.
It was soon realized that the chemical and physical properties of the elements are determined by the electron cloud patterns and electron shells. Years before, around 1870, a Russian chemist, Mendeleev, had discovered a pattern of chemical properties for the different elements. He found that if the elements were arranged in order of increasing atomic weight, they fell into groups or periods with repeating patterns of chemical properties. This is demonstrated in the Periodic Table of the Elements shown partially in Table 4. Now it was possible to relate the pattern of chemical properties to the theoretical patterns of electron clouds calculated by the mathematical equations of quantum mechanics.
The structures of hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds, or crystalline substances such as minerals, and the types of reactions which occur in chemical laboratories and in the cells of living things can all be related to the patterns of the Periodic Table, to the patterns of the electron clouds of atoms, and to the patterns of spectral lines in the emission spectra of excited gases. And these interrelated patterns are connected by the fundamental laws of physics.
These remarkable conquests of modern science have led many to say, "Science is explaining everything on the basis of physical principles. There is nothing else. But this attitude ignores the fact that patterns, the marvelous order, and the system of physical
table 6-2 Periodic Table of the Elements (partial)
laws supply powerful evidence in support of the belief that intelligent, purposeful design is the cause of the order, patterns and laws of nature. And it should also be recognized that theoretical physicists are themselves not in complete agreement as to the physical significance of the mathematical equations which they use to describe atomic structure. Theoretical physicist Louis DeBroglie said, "Recent theoretical views suggest that a mechanistic view of nature cannot be pushed beyond a certain point, and that the fundamental laws can only be expressed in abstract terms, defying all attempts at an intelligible description."2
1. Glasstone, Samuel, Sourcebook On Atomic Energy, 3rd Edition (Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1967); Pauling, Linus, The Nature of the Chemical bond, 3rd Edition (Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, New York, 1960).
2. Quoted by Glasstone, op. cit., p. 82.