Denominations in the U.S.

The Map Gallery of Religion in the United States has maps showing the distribution of various religious groups in the United States. To view any of these maps in more detail, you can right click on the image, then select “view image.”

Leading Church Bodies — this map shows the group that has the largest number of adherents county by county. In the red counties, the Baptists are most numerous; light blue is for Catholics, orange is for Lutherans, green is for Methodists, and brown is for Mormons.

Baptists — dominant in the south:

Lutherans — dominant in the upper midwest:

Catholics — along the Mexican border; also strong in the northern states:

Other maps at the site show the distribution of Methodists, Mormons, Mennonites, Jews, Moslems, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and other groups.

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Tungurahua Volcano, Ecuador

NASA’s Earth Observatory web site has a good satellite image of the Tungurahua Volcano, which is presently erupting in Ecuador:

The description of this eruption from

Tungurahua Volcano in Ecuador has been erupting or restless for the past several months. Lava flows and pyroclastics have blanketed much of the surrounding landscape, forced evacuations of many villages, dammed the Chambo River and caused numerous fatalities and injuries.

Tungurahua is one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador, but many people decided to live on it’s flanks because of the rich soils and mild temperatures. The price for this has been abandonment of property and the risk of injury or death.

A few thoughts:

  • This could have easily been one of several Cascade Range volcanoes that are in a similar geologic setting: Lassen, Shasta, Hood, Rainier, Adams, and others. Some time in the upcoming decades, it will be.
  • Images such as this have transformed our ability to quickly assess hazards and damage from natural disasters.
  • There are real people in the villages around this volcano, experiencing loss of life, jobs, crops, livestock, and property.
  • A question for thought: are volcanoes evil?

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Water on Mars

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day shows two images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor. A comparison of the same crater in 1999 and 2005 shows that there is an active slope process occuring in a crater, and many interpret this to be a brief flow of liquid water down from the rim. Liquid water, of course, is essential for life, and this increases the chances for finding life on Mars.

A few observations:

  • There are alternative slope processes that could have caused the white scar, such as a simple landslide. A majority of workers think this is from water, but this could be because they want it to be caused by water.
  • Due to the low atmospheric pressure on Mars, water cannot exist for long as a liquid on the surface, even at temperatures above zero Celsius. On Mars, water will behave like dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) does on Earth. Rather than going from solid to liquid to gas as it is heated, it will go directly from solid to gas (sublimation). This is not to say that liquid water cannot exist on the Martian surface for brief amounts of time.
  • If there is life on Mars, it will likely be similar to bacteria on Earth.
  • If there wasn’t life on Mars before, it could be there now. Despite precautions, there is a chance that bacteria from Earth could have survived the journey on one of the probes that have landed on the surface.
  • Interplanetary contamination might occur naturally as well. We have meteorites on Earth that came from Mars; and Mars likely has meteorites that came from Earth. It is possible that bacteria could survive this trip.
  • There is no reason for Christians to be concerned about this type of research. There is no reason, Biblically, why there couldn’t be simple life scattered througout the universe.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day has offered a more convincing image of “water on Mars” in the past:

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O Chemis-tree, O Chemis-tree

It is that time of the year; time for chemists (and their students) to gather around their chemis-trees and sing chemis-tree carols.

Here’s one I wrote for the occasion:

(Tune: The Christmas Song)

Chestnuts roasting with an open fire
With a calorimeter
Chemis-tree carols being sung by a choir
And students dressed up with safety goggles

Everybody knows the specific heat of H2O
Is one calorie per gram degree Celsius
And though it’s been said, many times, many ways
Q=mC delta T

There are many more chemis-tree carols, of course, which can be found on the internet by searching for “chemis-tree carols.” After singing a number of chemis-tree carols, I ask my students to give their thoughts on “the true meaning of chemistry.”

To see the songs we sang in high school chemistry this year, keep on reading…

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Continue reading “O Chemis-tree, O Chemis-tree”

A deluded atheist and an honest atheist

Gene Edward Veith, at his Cranach blog, has a link to an intriguing review of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ new book The God Delusion. Dawkins has long been an evangelist for atheism, and is most famous for his books The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene.

The review, written by atheist Shannon Love, is found here, and is a fascinating read. Love dissects the typical historical arguments against religion that Dawkins uses, such as the inhumanity of the Crusades or the Inquisition. Love then points out the great evils that atheism thrust on the world in the 20th century: communism, nazism, and even the sexual revolution; as well as the great good done by contemporary religious people.

Here are some quotes from Love’s review:

Imagine my shock and even horror to discover that Dawkins’ book is trite, facile and just plain, well, dumb.

The entire scope of the facileness of the book will take several posts to address, but the most immediate flaw in the book is Dawkins’ uncritical acceptance of the idea that religion causes people to systematically make worse, i.e., less-humane or -accurate, decisions than does an atheistic worldview. I’ll tackle this argument first because it has long annoyed me, because empirically it isn’t true, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of history can discern the real pattern.

Atheists reflexively repeat the mantra that religion causes oppression, war and general cruelty of all kinds, while asserting or implying that atheism does not. Dawkins falls right into this mindless argument in the opening paragraphs of the book and never lets up.

Dawkins simply repeats the shallow and ahistorical version of history that any hip 19-year-old college freshman can regurgitate on cue. If Dawkins had approached the question from an empirical point of view, he would have readily determined that evidence for the degree to which religion does or does not promote inhumane decisions can only be found in the history of the last 300 years or so. Only during that time frame have atheistic ideologies gained any significant power to actually make good or bad decisions. Unfortunately for atheists, recent history shows that the more atheistic a political ideology, the more destruction it wreaks when it acquires power.

Moreover, Dawkins doesn’t appear to spend any time considering the positive role that religion has played in the last two-hundred years. I checked the index under “slavery” and found only three references, all of them complaining that religious people had not, throughout the history of mankind, always opposed slavery. Well, duh! Strangely, missing from Dawkins’ analysis is any mention of the role that Christian fervor played in virtually wiping out slavery worldwide. Indeed, slavery went from being a human universal to virtual extinction due to the efforts of individuals whom many people today regard as the trifecta of evil: Christian, capitalistic, white males.

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Electron transport chain and ATP synthase animations

ATP synthase moves me to worship the Creator.

Every cell on Earth, from simple bacteria to human brain cells, needs a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate; pictured to the left) in order to do a wide variety of tasks. ATP is used as the cell’s energy molecule; the source of energy for everything from cell movement and protein synthesis to muscle contraction and transport of ions and molecules across cell membranes.

ATP is synthesized by a variety of means, but the most prolific source of ATP in your body is what is called the electron transport chain, which is part of the overall cellular respiration process in which food molecules are broken down in the presence of oxygen. I am currently teaching about cellular respiration—glycolysis, Kreb’s cycle, and the electron transport chain—in my high school biology class, and have found animations on the internet that are useful for illustrating some difficult concepts. Even if you don’t know—or care—what glycolysis, Kreb’s cycle, or the electron transport chain are, these animations from North Dakota State University are worth watching.

This second picture is of ATP synthase, a complex of proteins that is used to create ATP. Just as many can be moved to worship the Creator while walking under the stars on a moonless night, I am moved to worship God as I contemplate how complex these giant molecular machines are, and how they are integrated into a whole system designed to extract energy from our food one tiny bit at a time.
Electron transport chain animation

ATP synthase animation

More Virtual Cell animations

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Question: How much ATP does a typical 70 kg (150 lb) person create and consume in a 24-hour period?Answer: About 70 kg. A human will produce and consume about his or her body weight in ATP during a 24-hour day. At any one time, your body contains on the order of 50 grams of ATP, and it is constantly synthesized and used as it is needed.