God’s Environmental Solutions

God's Environmental SolutionsWith a growing human population, environmental toxins, the warming of our planet, and the shortages of potable water, we recognize that Earth is under stress. News reports tell of people dying because of ecological problems. It is essential to understand that all of this pain, death, and turmoil are unnecessary. When God created planet Earth, He built into it many self-correcting tools for survival. If you name a major problem that threatens the long term existence of humans, I believe there is a built-in device that can correct the problem. God designed the Earth to withstand even the abuse that selfishness, ignorance, and greed have brought upon it. Here are a few examples of God’s environmental solutions:

Carbon dioxide and global warming. Several greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, but the main one is carbon dioxide. Not only do animals exhale carbon dioxide, but fires produce it, so human-caused fires are a contributor. God beautifully designed planet Earth with tools to contain carbon dioxide. Plants take it out of the air and release oxygen as a product of photosynthesis. This system is highly efficient as a single tree can take care of the carbon produced by one human. Plants in the ocean do the same thing. Human deforestation of both the land and the sea thwarts the system God put in place to sustain life on Earth. God’s environmental solutions are there if we will use them.

Water. Oceans cover roughly 3/4ths of Earth’s surface, but water shortages plague a significant percentage of the world’s population. The obvious problem is that because of minerals in the water, ocean water cannot be consumed directly by humans or most animals or plants. But the 50-quadrillion tons of minerals in the oceans, including 4.5 billion tons of uranium, have 14,000 industrial uses. God’s environmental solutions not only provide enough water for every living thing on the planet but also a wealth of minerals to sustain an advanced society.

Toxins. In the past five years, science has discovered that a Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata) can survive on arsenic. Arsenic is a significant pollutant poisoning millions of people in the world, causing skin lesions, cancer, and other illnesses. Finding a plant that removes arsenic from the environment is a significant breakthrough. Over the past several years, we have mentioned other plants that provide environmental cleansing. Scientists have found bacteria that eat plastics and others that consume crude oil. These are more of God’s environmental solutions to tackle the plastic trash and oil spills in the ocean.

We need to allocate research funding to learn more about God’s environmental solutions to counter ecological problems. God has given us resources to repair the damage we have done to the environment. Maybe the problems we see around us will bring us to accept what God has provided and have the heart to think beyond our own selfish interests.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Scientific American, September 2019, page 18.

Labor Day Weekend USA

Labor Day Weekend USAThis weekend is Labor Day weekend in the United States because the first Monday in September is a federal holiday. Since it is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day, this tradition goes back a long way. Like most of our holidays, Labor Day has taken on all kinds of unrelated meanings. At one time it was the last day you could wear white or seersucker and be in style. Many consider Labor Day to be the unofficial end of summer. Workers often take their vacations to end on Labor Day.

Biblically there is a lot to support the emphasis on labor. The Old Testament is full of stories and characters who demonstrated an incredible willingness to work. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:17 – 2:18 talked of his labors and what they taught him. Nehemiah (4:16-21) talked about how hard the Jews worked to rebuild the walls in the face of enormous opposition. Noah’s building of the ark and Moses’ long journey to the promised land are examples of hard work. Paul gave instructions in 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 for Christians to work with their own hands and be independent.

Beyond that, the Bible condemns laziness. Proverbs contains multiple charges for us to be active in labor (See Proverbs 6:9-11 and 26:16-17). In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul told Christians that if someone will not work, they should also not eat. God has told us that physical labor is the responsibility of all humans, but equally important is spiritual labor.

Romans 2:5-11 tells us that we must work for good no matter who we are because only doers of God’s instructions will be justified. And what are doers? Matthew 25:33-40 tells us that it is those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, take in the strangers, cloth the naked, visit the sick and visit those who are in prison. When we engage in such actions, we build and demonstrate our faith. James 2:14-20 points out that just having faith doesn’t meet needs and doesn’t provide salvation. James wrote that faith without works is dead.

God intended for us to be active and involved. Genesis 2:15 says, “God took the man and put him into the garden to dress it and keep it.” We are incomplete if we don’t work, be active, and complete what we were created to do both physically and spiritually. On Labor Day Weekend let’s celebrate the fact that we can work with our hands, be creative, worship God, and enjoy serving God and others in ways that bring glory to our Creator.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Elephant Ecology or Extinction

Elephant Ecology or ExtinctionThere are those who like to change things, even if they have not investigated all the ramifications of that change. When God’s creation is involved, there are especially drastic proposals that are sometimes a product of ignorance. There is an ongoing battle between those who want to preserve elephants as a species and those who say that elephants are an ecological disaster. Instead of elephant ecology, they believe that elephants need to travel the road to extinction.

Those who want to allow elephants to go the way of the dinosaurs say that the volume of plants they need to survive makes them too destructive to justify their existence. To support such claims, they show pictures of areas decimated by elephants and tell stories about the invasion of elephants into agricultural regions. Elephants, they say, have threatened the survival of whole communities of subsistence farmers by eating the plants humans depend on.

On the other side of the fence is the “Save the Elephant” campaign in Kenya. They maintain that there is interconnectivity in the natural world between all organisms. They argue that elephants provide a variety of connections to various African ecologies. Elephants are ecosystem engineers. Scientists tell us that elephants knock over trees, trample brush, prune branches, and disperse seeds, which increases the biodiversity of the areas in which they live. Elephant ecology helps to maintain the savannas and forests.

A recent discovery connects the largest animals in the African ecology with the smallest. Herpetologist Dr. Stephen Platt has been studying the Nay Ya Inn wetland in Myanmar (Burma). He found that frogs depend on elephants in a very surprising way. As elephants travel in wetland areas, they leave Jacuzzi-size pools in the ground that stay full of water during the dry season. Frogs depend on these pools to lay eggs and develop tadpoles to maintain their populations in a fragile environment. Platt says there other small organisms that also depend on these pools for their survival. In Platt’s words: “Such microcosms of life are probably commonplace, but almost no one has bothered to look before.”

Earth’s history has been full of examples where large animals supported an ecosystem that produced not only life, but also resources for humans. Dinosaurs were huge for a reason, and it was not to make movies. Like the elephant, dinosaurs provided for humans by being the ecosystem engineers of their day. Without them, we would not have the coal, gas, iron, and many other resources that make our modern world possible.

God has provided for us in some incredible ways, and elephant ecology has opened our minds to a whole new way of seeing that.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Scientific American, September 2019, page 16.

Arranging Books on a Shelf

Arranging Books on a ShelfMy wife recently did some major rearranging of the books in our library. We have a large number of books, and we needed to downsize and make it easier to find what we are looking for. She asked for my advice about arranging books on a shelf. This brought to my mind a column in Astronomy magazine in January of 2013. In Bob Berman’s “Strange Universe” column, he often presents some interesting facts, and we have referred to his articles previously. In that particular column, he wrote about what random events or “chance” can or cannot accomplish.

The connection with library books goes like this. If you have 4 books on a shelf, how many ways can you arrange them? The answer is “4 factorial,” which is 4 x 3 x 2. Multiply it out, and you find that there are 24 possible ways. However, what if you have 10 books to arrange? That would be 10 factorial, which is 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2. Multiply those numbers, and you will find there are 3,628,800 different ways to arrange 10 books on a shelf. We have way more than 10 books in our library, and I am not going to compute how many possible arrangements there are. Neither my calculator nor my brain could handle it.

When my wife asked for advice on arranging books on a shelf, she didn’t realize what a difficult question she was asking me. However, I had no problem giving a suggestion because I have enough intelligence to know what books should go together by topic. But if you were to put 10 books on a shelf at random, the chance that they would all be in alphabetical order would be about one in 3.6 million. Try it blindfolded and see how long it takes for you to get it right.

Why am I talking about arranging books on a shelf? What’s the point? There are many more than 10 options when it comes to designing any part of the complex universe in which we live. What are the chances that they all came together without any intelligent direction? The possibility would be far lower than for all of the books in our library to be in alphabetical order, or even in topical order, if we just randomly put them on the shelves. The question then becomes: “Can anyone believe that this universe, our solar system, planet Earth, life, consciousness, and intelligence all happened by chance?” My library disproves that theory.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Dinosaur Blood Pressure

Dinosaur Blood Pressure in BarosaurusIt’s an animal that does not exist on Earth today and which poses some serious challenges to a chance explanations. It’s a dinosaur called the barosaurus. Skeletal remains of this animal show that its head would have towered fifty feet (more than 15 m) above the ground. We have seen drawings of these huge herbivorous dinosaurs. Many of us have seen the reconstructions based on the bones such as the one shown in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. No one denies the size of the animal. The problems come when we start looking at its anatomy. The problem of dinosaur blood pressure raises some serious questions.

The animal with the longest neck today is the giraffe. To get blood to its brain, a giraffe has a systolic blood pressure as high as 350. Systolic pressure is the pressure produced when the heart contracts. For humans, anything over 140 is considered high. To create that much pressure, the weight of the giraffe’s heart weighs is about 25 pounds (11.3 kg). A human heart weighs about 11 ounces (310 grams). For a barosaurus, the heart would have to weigh tons. Also, the blood vessels would have to be extraordinarily thick. It is difficult, if not impossible, to believe that such conditions could exist.

Years ago, two scientists working at the investigative Cardiology Laboratory at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York developed a proposal that barosaurus had eight hearts. They suggested a heart like ours pumped blood from the body to the lungs and back. They then suggested a complicated series of seven other hearts. Their idea was that there would be a single-chamber secondary heart above the primary one. It would have one-way valves to boost the blood into the neck. Above the second heart, the artery would divide into two branches sending blood to the brain. Three hearts along each branching artery would pump the blood to the next heart until it reached the brain. This arrangement would reduce the dinosaur blood pressure so that the systolic pressure would max out at about 180.

This is a theory which in all probability will always remain as just another imaginative proposal. It is doubtful that there will ever be any way to test it. The point is that the anatomical complexity and the number of critical parameters required would make this dinosaur blood pressure system virtually impossible to happen by chance. Each heart’s pressure would have to be critically adjusted to just enough to move the blood to the next level. If the dinosaur blood pressure were too high, it would damage the delicate valves of the next heart. What would happen when the animal ran? Each heart would have to speed up, but not at the same rate.

We suggest that proposals like this defy any possible accidental cause. If a person wants to accept chance as a faith proposition in spite of its inadequacies, they are certainly free to do so. But the more variables that must be controlled to achieve the desired effect, the less likely it is that the result can be a product of chance. They can better be explained by design.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Spiritual Leprosy

Physical Leprosy and Spiritual LeprosyI have recently been involved in a study of leprosy. It seems to me that sin is spiritual leprosy.

Our modern-day version of leprosy is Hansen’s disease, which is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease, meaning that the immune system attempts to confine the bacteria since it can’t eradicate them. The disease infects the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract. Skin lesions are an external sign of the disease, and the condition is progressive. Leprosy does not make body parts fall off as some have said, but because of secondary infections, it does horrible collateral damage. There was and is no cure for leprosy. We have learned to control it, but not to eradicate it. In Jesus’ day, quarantine was the only remedy, controlled by the religious leaders of Israel. (Read Leviticus 13-14.)

I find it interesting that in the spiritual realm, there are significant parallels to leprosy. Some have tried to minimize sin and suggest that the idea of sin is just a device conceived by religious groups to control their members. The truth is that sin is real and has adverse effects on human lives similar to leprosy. As with physical leprosy, we can control or contain spiritual leprosy, but we can’t eradicate it in this life. Here are some of the parallels to leprosy that we should consider:

SIN SEPARATES US. Leprosy separated the victim from family and friends. They had to live “outside the camp.” Leprosy affected the person’s whole being, not just their skin. The skin condition was a symptom, not a cause. Sin does the same thing. It separates a person from family, friends, and associates. Sin affects a person in profound ways – what we think is funny, what we think about, how easily we lie or use people. Sin propels prejudice, stereotyping, and hatred. First John 2:11 tells us sin causes a person to walk in darkness, blinding the eyes.

SIN REQUIRES DIVINE ACTION. Lepers were the most hopeless people in that society, and only God could change their desperate state. The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-17 ends with the pagan Naaman saying, “I know there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.” Jesus highlighted the magnitude of the problem of leprosy in Matthew 10:8. There Jesus lists the major miracles of His ministry: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils and cleanse the lepers.” Cleansing lepers was right up there with raising the dead. Being embedded in sin is frequently a hopeless state. Sin is a primary cause of addiction, and addictions are hard to break. The notion of “looking to a higher power” is part of many programs to free people from addictions, and it means asking for divine help. Politicians have learned in recent years that a sin committed as a college student can follow you throughout your whole life. Spiritual leprosy is real. Denying it or trivializing it doesn’t change the consequences. Jesus is ready to heal, and there are a vast number of us in the world who can testify that His healing is real.

CURING LEPROSY AND CURING SIN HAVE TO BE DONE GOD’S WAY. The wonderful story of Naaman shows that only God’s solution works. Naaman became angry because the solution to his leprosy is too simple to believe. Being buried in baptism, as 1 Peter 3:21 tells us, is too simple for many people to believe. When someone says “I don’t see why…” they are following the lead of Naaman. They are saying that their intellectual understanding of the cure is not satiated so they won’t do it.

Romans 6:4 tells us that the real cure for sin is to “walk in newness of life…”. Acts 2:38 tells us that there is exclusive help for those who obey God and do as He commands. “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” means a cure for spiritual leprosy. It isn’t flashy or dependent on humans in any way. However, as with Naaman, there is power that can set us free from the clutches of sin and allow us to walk in newness of life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Storm Area 51 Craziness

Storm Area 51 CrazinessFor many years UFO and alien proponents have maintained that in the government is hiding aliens from outer space at a U.S. Air Force Testing Range in a remote area of Nevada. The believers call it “Area 51.” The story goes that there are secret discussions about elaborate plans for our planet. For most people, this is just a big joke, but for many others, this is their religion. It is their hope for getting away from the struggles of life and the violence and sickness around us. An internet meme called “Storm Area 51” has attracted people to come and celebrate the area.

Promoters have planned a three-day September music festival called Alienstock. They expect 10,000 people to come to Lincoln County, Nevada (population 5,200). The Alien Research Center in Hiko, Nevada, (population 110) plans an exposition in September. The internet post is inviting people to trespass into the military’s remote test area. They are hoping for 35,000 to 40,000 people for that. If that happens, a confrontation with the military is possible. There are only 184 hotel rooms in the entire county (over 10,000 square miles), so local officials are concerned about how far local resources will go.

You can laugh off “Storm Area 51” as a crackpot waste of time and money, but it has received wide publicity. The Associated Press ran an article on it on August 21, 2019, and it has been featured on web news outlets. You can be sure that significant numbers of people will be there. Many others who will not go still believe the propaganda barrage that has accompanied it. The old saying “If you don’t believe in SOMETHING you will believe ANYTHING” seems to be in order here.

Let us say once again, that the Bible doesn’t tell us that this is the only place where God has created life. However, there is no evidence of alien visitation or manipulation in the entire history of our planet. Spending money on a PR program like “Storm Area 51” is merely a foolish waste of money which could be used in far better ways.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

You Are a Spaceship with a Full Crew

You Are a SpaceshipOne of the most interesting sites on the web is the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” produced by NASA. This website features a new picture every day, usually of objects in deep space with an explanation of the image. On August 18, 2019, there was a beautiful artistic rendition of a human with a star-filled background titled “Human as Spaceship.” (Because of copyright we can’t show you the picture, but you can see it HERE.) The opening line of the explanation is, “You are a spaceship soaring through the universe.”

The point of the presentation is that as we soar through the universe, we are not alone. We are the captains of our ships, our human bodies because we are not a singular living organism. There are a massive number of separate organisms that exist inside our bodies that do specific things for us. They help digest food, fight disease and infection, and carry vital materials on a liquid highway (your bloodstream) from one end of your body to the other. These organisms are the crew of this spaceship. They are bacteria, fungi, and archaea, and they actually outnumber your own cells. Science still doesn’t know what many of these organisms do, but they have their own DNA, and together they make up the human microbiome. You are a spaceship with a massive crew.

We sometimes seem to view God’s creation of the human body as a process similar to building a machine. To build a machine you would put together pre-manufactured parts in a prescribed way. To build a working and living human body requires a host of communities which do the jobs they were designed to do in ways that science is just beginning to understand.

David said it best in Psalms 139:14: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Are Humans Animals?

Are humans animals like bears?People have sometimes called me to task for referring to humans as animals. The point is well taken that humans are unique, but humans are not plants, and they are not minerals. According to all basic elementary science books, there are three kingdoms – plants, animals, and minerals. Are humans animals? Yes, we are animals.

The problem we seem to have is that we don’t understand what makes humans different from bears, for example. In our correspondence courses, we have questions about what distinguishes a human from other forms of animal life. I find it interesting that the answers my students give are so poorly considered. Some will say that we think, but all animals think. Some say we have emotions, but all animals have emotions. Others will say we stand erect, but kangaroos, birds, and bears all stand erect. Still others say it’s our brain size, but whales have bigger brains than we do, and bears have very large brains.

I recently watched a National Geographic program on bears. The program emphasized that female bears in the wild that give birth to unhealthy or significantly deformed cubs will kill and eat them. AOL News on the web (August 18, 2019) carried a story about two Russian fishermen who rescued two bear cubs from drowning. The mother bear was swimming across a lake with two cubs on her back when she became tired and chilled. Her solution was to shake the two cubs off of her back, leaving them to drown while she continued her journey to the other side of the lake. These are behaviors that would be unlikely in a human mother. What is it that makes humans different? Why do human mothers continue to care for children with deformities or severe health issues? Why do human mothers usually show incredible resilience when their child is threatened?

When someone asks, “Are humans animals?” I reply, “Yes, but not JUST animals. Humans are not driven by “survival of the fittest.” There are characteristics of humans that cause us to care for those who are not “fit.” These human qualities also provide for an innate sense of the love of beauty in art or music or in a natural setting. What is it in humans that causes us to worship, to feel guilt, and to be sympathetic. What causes us to be driven by an “agape” type of love – self-sacrificing, nonsexual, and unrelated to our survival?

It isn’t any physical characteristic that makes humans special. Our spiritual makeup is the source of all those things that set humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. We are created in the image of God. That isn’t just an empty cliché. It is an observable difference between humans and the animal world around us. We can behave like bears if we choose, but bears cannot behave as humans.

Are humans animals? Yes, but not JUST animals. The word the Bible uses to describe the distinctive characteristic of humans is “soul.” It’s the part of us that never dies, and it separates us from all other forms of life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Entrapped for His Faith

Entrapped for His FaithWe have previously mentioned Christian business owners who have been sued for refusing to do something that violated their Christian faith. One of the individuals we mentioned before is Jack Phillips who owns a business called “Masterpiece Cakeshop” in Colorado. Because some people didn’t respect his religious beliefs, they set up a plan so he would be entrapped for his faith.

The big issue here is whether a business owner has the right to refuse goods or services that violates that owners religious convictions. That battle is going on in the courts in various cases. When Mr. Phillps declined to design a cake for a same-sex wedding, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission prosecuted him, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Phillips won against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the Supreme Court. Then someone set up a plan for Phillips to be entrapped for his faith. An attorney called Masterpiece Cakeshop and requested a cake that would be blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate a gender transition. Mr. Phillips believes that God created us male and female and that humans have no right to change the way God created us. He declined to make the cake. The attorney then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and the Colorado government began to prosecute Mr. Phillips again.

It turns out that the attorney was not celebrating a gender transition. The request was an attempt to set Mr. Phillips up to be entrapped for his faith and dragged into court again. The question is whether individual freedom still exists in the United States. Can a person freely follow their faith and allow it to influence what they do professionally?

The information on this case comes from a legal organization called Alliance Defending Freedom in their August 2019, bulletin. More and more, Christians are being attacked for their faith both in the physical world and in the legal world. Thankfully the attacks cannot be made in the spiritual world in which we function.
— John N. Clayton © 2019