Atomic Structure

We as Christians know far too little about the physical sciences.  We, who of all the peoples in the world are the only ones who can give a proper interpretation to the facts of science, often know next to nothing about science.  In fact, there are even many sincere church members who are of the opinion that the physical sciences are anti-Christian by nature and serve to lead the children of God astray.  In support of this claim they cite the fact that many young men who were brought up in the fear of the Lord by believing parents became infidels and atheists after turning to a career in medicine, chemistry, physics, or engineering.  But they overlook the fact that there are many scientists who have, in spite of their scientific profession, remained loyal to God.

And since it is my sincere belief that there is no field of study in which the existence, the power and the greatness of God are manifested so plainly as in the physical sciences, I shall attempt in this article to acquaint you with some of the fundamental facts of science.

If someone was to tell you that the floor upon which you are standing or the chair in which you are sitting has far more space than matter in it, you might not believe him, but it is nevertheless true.  There is so little matter in your body that it could all be compressed into the space occupied by the head of a pin. It is very true that matter is a rare thing in the universe, and even the strongest, hardest steel is mostly space.

“But, how is this possible?” you may ask. “Is not steel solid? How can it be that it is mostly space?”

The answer lies in the way in which every particle of matter in the universe is built up.  Perhaps most of you have heard that everything is made up of extremely small particles called molecules, but you may not realize how extremely small these molecules are, and you may not know that these tiny molecules are built up of still smaller particles.

As to the size of these molecules an illustration may serve best to convey to you the proper idea.  Suppose that you were to take a glass of water and were to pour that glass of water into the middle of the ocean.  And then suppose that twenty years from today, after this glass of water had been thoroughly mixed with all the water of the ocean, after it had evaporated and fallen on other parts of the earth as rain, you were to take a glass of water out of the ocean; just how many molecules of water that were in that original glass of water that you twenty years previously had thrown into the ocean would you now expect to find in this glass of water? Without quite considering the vastness of the ocean and the countless number of glasses contained therein, some of you might venture what you consider a liberal guess of one.  But even at that your guess is far too low.  No, there is not only one molecule of water from that original glass in this one, there are not even only ten: there are no less than two hundred molecules of water out of that original glass in this one.  In other words, there are two hundred times more molecules of water in one glass than there are glasses of water in the ocean, lakes, rivers, ponds, and clouds.

Did you say that this is unbelievable? Maybe it is, but still it is not all.  Every molecule of water is made up of three smaller particles known as atoms.  Two of these atoms are hydrogen atoms and one is an oxygen atom.  And ever atom is built up of still smaller particles known as protons and electrons.  Each of the protons carries a small positive charge of electricity, and each electron carries a small negative charge.  And the electron is so extremely small that it takes 1845 electrons to equal the weight of one proton.

Now each oxygen atom contains sixteen protons and sixteen electrons.  All sixteen protons and eight of the electrons are in the center of the atom known as the nucleus.  But the remaining eight electrons revolve around the nucleus at varying distances from it just as the planets of the solar system revolve around the sun.  These electrons contribute very little to the mass of the atom but they increase its size millions of times just as the planets of the solar system, although adding little to the mass of the system, greatly increase its size.  This is the reason why there is so little matter and so very much space even in the hardest steel, for every element is built on the same general structure as oxygen.

Now these electrons, revolving at tremendous speeds around the nucleus, always remain in the same relative positions with respect to each other.  And every atom, outside of the atoms of the radioactive elements, always contains the same number of protons and electrons, never losing or gaining any.  Now the importance of this last fact becomes evident as soon as one considers the destruction which such a radioactive element as radium is capable of doing.  And the worldly scientist attributes this to mere chance.  He says that this is so because of the laws which happened to come into this universe by chance. But we as Christian believe that these things did not come about by chance but are rather the work of the all-wise, omnipotent God.  It is He who upholds every molecule. It is He who keeps every electron in its proper relation to the other electrons in the atom.  And it is He who causes each atom to always keep the same number of electrons and protons, and not to allow them to lose electrons and protons with the resulting destructive effects as in the case of radium and the other radioactive elements.  Just imagine for one moment what death and destruction would prevail in this world if suddenly every element were to become radio-active.  Every living thing would soon be killed and only destruction would reign.