When Is Someone Dead?

When Is Someone Dead?

Yale researchers have restored cellular activity to pig brains hours after the animals had been killed at a slaughterhouse. A new technique for treating heart attacks is to cool the body, but that causes brain function to disappear completely. Certain drugs also cause brain function to cease. The question becomes, “When is someone dead?”

The current medical definition of death is when a person has no eye movement, no pain response or gag responses, and does not attempt to breathe independently. The “World Brain Death Project” reported on these facts and definitions in the August 3, 2020, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their report carried suggested recommendations for doctors to follow.

Dr. Paul Graham Fisher at Stanford said, “This is only a first step. Complex cultural, religious, and even legal forces thwart a simple and universally accepted definition of brain death.” In 2013 a girl named Jahi McGrath was brain dead after a tonsillectomy. Her parents refused to accept that fact and, with support from religious and civil-rights groups, moved her to New Jersey. That state allows religious objections to any diagnosis. There she spent more than four years on a ventilator, finally dying of liver failure in June of 2018.

We have gotten to the point in medicine where it is not easy to answer the question, “When is someone dead?” From a biblical standpoint, death is when the soul leaves the body and returns to God, but how do you determine that?

When there is no quality of life and no hope of physical recovery, a Christian may desire no heroic medical attempts for resuscitation. If you do not believe in God and the soul, then clinging to life is all you have. The question of when is someone dead becomes much more of a concern. Either way, for those left behind, letting go of a loved one is always hard. But for Christians, accepting death is much easier.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Science News, September 12, 2020, pages 2, 8, & 9.

Antarctic Glaciers and Flooding

Antarctic Glaciers and Flooding
Thwaites Glacier

Two of the most massive Antarctic glaciers have broken loose from their land connections and are floating in the ocean. This is a concern because if both glaciers melt, there would be enough water to raise the world’s oceans by ten feet. It is not only another evidence of global warming but also a warning to the world that we must pay attention to the coming rise in sea level.

Understand that when ice is exposed to the air on land, it absorbs a minimum of heat, so melting on a landmass is very slow. In water, however, heat exchange is very rapid. We all know that hypothermia takes place when a human gets into icy water. The melting of ice is much faster once it is in water, and the Thwaites glacier, the larger of the two Antarctic glaciers involved, is one of the fastest-changing glaciers on Earth.

Job 38:22-23 refers to the “treasures of the snow” and says that this frozen water is “reserved against the time of trouble.” In Earth’s design, the snow and ice preserve water and provide a vital heat sink to the whole planet. We see evidence that the oceans have been much higher in Earth’s geological history than they are today. There have also been times when they were much lower. The polar ice caps have been the primary water storage areas. Glaciers are also part of the design of Earth to make it hospitable for Life.

If the sea level rises ten feet, imagine what would happen to the world’s major cities located on the edge of the oceans. Since the mass of these two glaciers is enormous, this is not an immediate threat. But it is a potential catastrophe we can avoid if we recognize that the possible flooding is a consequence of human actions, not a vindictive act of God. We can avoid what has already begun to happen by taking care of the planet as God instructed us to do.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: A report about Antarctic glaciers in the September 14, 2020, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Look at the Evidence!!

Look at the Evidence!!

If there is one phrase that needs to shout to everyone on the planet in 2020, it is “Look at the evidence!!” From the president of this country to the teenagers across this land, there has been a huge failure to look at the scientific evidence. Despite all the evidence for how the Covid-19 virus spreads, we still have young people who party without masks, even in a closed interior environment. In spite of the fires on the west coast, the significant increase in hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, the melting of the polar ice caps, and the rise in temperature of the oceans, we still have people denying climate change. Even within the Church, we have a disdain for scientific evidence.

Those who follow Jesus Christ should be the most likely to respond to evidence. Jesus appealed to people to look at the evidence. He told people to see for themselves that things are true. When Thomas was unable to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, how did Jesus convince him? Did He engage Thomas in a philosophical/theological discussion about how the resurrection was logically reasonable? Did He demand that Thomas believe as a test of faith? Read John 20:27-29 and see what He did.

The fact is that the resurrection, all of Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, and most of the miracles before He died were to provide evidence so that people could believe. Just like today, some people refused to look at the evidence. They suggested that the miracles were fake, but the kind of miracles Jesus performed could not be faked.

It wasn’t just the miracles that Jesus used to validate His existence as the Son of God. His teachings did that as well. The parables of Jesus were not unbelievable fantasy stories. They were practical, true-to-life, easy to understand evidences for the truths He was teaching. When Jesus talked about relying on God, did He use theological and philosophical models to convince His listeners? Read passages like Matthew 6:25-34. You will find Jesus talking about examples that everyone knew about–fowls of the air, changing one’s height, and the flowers of the field.

Using the things that God has created to teach and make doctrinal points is not denigrating God. Read Romans 1:19-32 and notice what Paul uses to convict the Romans of the destructive path they are following.

Today, we see vast numbers of people refusing to look at the evidence. We don’t need to engage them in philosophical discussions. We need to show them the evidence that God does exist, that He is the God of the Bible, and that Jesus is His Son.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University

Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University

You are probably familiar with the name of Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein was a millionaire who sexually abused a number of minors. While the media covered the sordid details of his life, they largely ignored the relationship between Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University.

Epstein donated $6.5 million to Harvard with $200,000 going to the psychology department. As a result, he was appointed as a visiting fellow, even though he had no academic qualifications. Epstein had a close connection with Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and visited their offices over 40 times between 2010 and 2018, even though he was a registered sex offender at the time. That meant he had a key card and pass code with which he could enter buildings during off-hours.

Epstein fancied himself as a latter-day eugenicist who wanted to seed the human race with his own DNA. He was able to get some researchers at Harvard to give support to his ideas. When Epstein got into trouble, several faculty members defended him, and they even visited him in jail. Epstein’s lawyer was Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz who managed to enlist the help of Harvard psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker.

This affair between Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University shows clearly that academic institutions are vulnerable to being bought. Academic institutions must ensure that research funding is based on merit, not cronyism. There have been cases where researchers faked a discovery because their funding would be cut off if they didn’t produce results. Survival of the fittest seems to be the moral standard used in research funding, and having money to do research only comes to those who are viewed as being “fit.” Fitness, in this case, means being able to produce discoveries that get front page acclamation.

We continually receive claims of discoveries that would support our mission to show that science and faith are compatible. When we investigate them, we find the discoveries are either exaggerated, misrepresented, or simply don’t exist.

The only book you can trust is the Bible. Our goal is to motivate readers to go back to the Bible and check out our claims and statements. Research the claims and discoveries we report on to make sure they are accurate and correctly reported. If there are any problems, please let us know.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Our data is from an article in Scientific American, September 2020, by Naomi Oreskes, history of science professor at Harvard, page 84.

Did Science Find Life on Venus?

Did Science Find Life on Venus?
Venus

The media loves to jump on any sensational scientific finding, even if their headlines totally misrepresent what science has discovered. We have seen several headlines suggesting that scientists have found life in the atmosphere of Venus. Did science find life on Venus?

The fact is that a Japanese robotic satellite that has been orbiting Venus since 2015 records data in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. The satellite has detected spectra for the chemical phosphine (PH3). Phosphine is a flammable, toxic gas made of one phosphorous atom attached to three hydrogen atoms. It is difficult to make in a typical chemistry lab. Biologists know that there are microbes that can make phosphine. Finding the chemical in the upper clouds of Venus, where the temperatures are low enough for the gas to exist, raised some questions about whether microbes could have produced it.

It is possible that the phosphine could have been produced by conditions on Venus that are not available on Earth. Such conditions could be very low pressures, long term effects of ultraviolet light, and long periods of time. The environment of Venus is highly toxic, even to microbes, so microbe production is unlikely. Scientists have found many of the chemicals essential to life or possibly produced by living organisms on several moons in the solar system. The creation process produces chemicals that can be associated with life, including water. The environmental parameters of all of these places are so extreme that no astronomer expects to see an alien walking around.

The Bible doesn’t say that Earth is the only place where life exists, and it may be that God has created life elsewhere. As humans leave our planet searching for chemicals and materials to meet the 21st century’s needs, we may find a storehouse of essential materials, both metallic and biological. Did science find life on Venus? No. This newest media hype does not tell us anything we didn’t already know, but the discovery is interesting.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Our Atmospheric Shield

Our Atmospheric Shield

One of the fantastic and vital features of planet Earth is our atmospheric shield. We have often mentioned the NASA website Astronomy Picture of the Day (apod.nasa.gov). Every day NASA posts a different astronomy picture to show us something of the cosmos. This is an excellent service because most of us don’t have access to giant telescopes, and we can’t see light in wavelengths outside of the visible spectrum.

On September 12, 2020, NASA’s posting showed a time-lapse series of pictures taken by the New South Wales observatory in Australia. This observatory is located at 33 degrees south latitude in an area with minimal light pollution, so there is minimal obstruction of the night sky. The pictures were recorded on 372 nights and run like a movie. What you see are sporadic meteors, fireballs, meteor showers, and even a lightning sprite. The series shows over 1000 meteors.

Remember that this picture sequence shows a relatively small area of sky. This does remind us that there is a constant rain of dust, pieces of rock, and other debris coming down upon our planet. People working with communication satellites are well aware of this because of constant damage to the orbiting objects. For those of us on Earth’s surface, our atmospheric shield burns up most of the solid space material. We don’t have to worry about getting hit by space debris or getting sandpapered by the small dust particles coming from outer space. That is just the solid stuff. Our atmospheric shield also refracts away non-solid radiation such as x-rays and gamma rays.

Providing a place where life can exist is not as easy as some think. One of the reasons we are not finding life in outer space is that designing and implementing our atmospheric shield was vital for the existence of life, and doing that was not simple. It required intelligence and a carefully implemented design. The simple statement, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the Earth” doesn’t tell us the incredible difficulty of doing that.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The Role of Women in the Bible

The Role of Women in the Bible

Those who do not wish to follow the Bible point out teachings that seem uncomfortable in the 21st century. One of those teachings is the role of women in the Bible and the limitations it seems to impose on them. These people often hold up 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 as proof that the Bible is a male chauvinistic book with a heavy bias against women. Both passages say that women are to be silent and not usurp the authority of the men. Critics also point out Titus 2: 3-5 as a passage that defines women as “keepers of the home” and obedient to their husbands.

The truth is that the life and teachings of Christ and the New Testament are the single most liberating teachings ever written about the role of women. The role of women in the Bible was ahead of its time. In studying a manuscript of any kind, you have to look at who wrote it, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it. All of those passages were written at a time when women were property, were dependent on either their husband or father, and had no personal rights.

Jesus set a whole new standard for dealing with women. In John 4, He not only treated a woman as an equal, to the dismay of His disciples, but He ignored the racial and ethnic prejudice of the current culture. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus treated Mary and Martha as significant players in His work. Mary Magdalene was active in Jesus’ ministry and was the first person He appeared to after His resurrection (Mark 16:9). Luke 8:1-3 tells us that a group of women were the prominent supporters of Jesus as He traveled and taught.

In 1 Corinthians 14:26-28, Paul advised a congregation about dealing with a worship service that had become a circus. Everyone was speaking at once, so Paul tells them to deal only with edifying speeches and otherwise to keep quiet. He concludes by saying, “God is not the author of confusion but of peace.” Then he addresses married women (not all women) and asks them to contribute to the solving of the chaos by discussing questions at home.

First Timothy 2:9-15 and Titus 2:3-5 are passages that deal with the roles of Christians in the culture in which they live. The family was not a significant part of Roman life. The Romans used family for politics, but the inconveniences of family life were brutally managed. An unwanted baby was thrown out in the street to die. (Our culture simply does this surgically or chemically before birth.) Paul writes to the young preachers Timothy and Titus to encourage the building of families according to God’s plan. These passages deal with the institution of families. Being a wife and mother was not the only role for a woman. The book of Acts tells of women with unique roles. Lydia had a high-end business, and many women are mentioned as having key roles in the early Church.

The early Church protected the roles of men and women. Women have a role available to them in being mothers (See 1 Timothy 2:15), but men have no role guaranteed to them. Women can indeed do just about anything a man can do, and in some cases, do it better. In that light, God gave men the role of being leaders in the worship service. That is one role men can fill, and God knew Christian women cared enough about their brothers in Christ to allow them to have that role. You don’t lose your identity by loving enough to allow another human being to do something you could do. The role of women in the Bible was counter-cultural for the time.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

How You Could Recognize Jesus

How You Could Recognize Jesus

I came across something written by Buck Griffith about how you could recognize Jesus. Griffith points out that Jesus did not have angel-like wings or a halo. Even the people who knew Him didn’t recognize Him shortly after His resurrection. Mary Magdalene didn’t, and the men on the road to Emmaus didn’t. However, you explain these biblical cases; the fact remains that people always have a hard time recognizing what Jesus looks like. Satan has the power to appear as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), so it can be difficult.

Interestingly, people portray Jesus according to their culture. Some artwork shows Him as a light-skinned, blue-eyed, Scandinavian. I have seen pictures showing Jesus as a black-skinned, dark-eyed African. I have also seen pictures showing Him as a man with typical oriental facial features. There was even a picture of a bald man with a goatee. The closest picture physically is one that shows Jesus with characteristic Jewish features.

The fact is that all of these pictures are correct. However, all of them must fit the description of Matthew 25. In that passage, Jesus gives six different scenarios that tell us how you could recognize Jesus in someone standing before you. Those six scenarios describe Jesus as being one who is hungry, thirsty, a stranger needing a place to sleep, naked, sick, and imprisoned. Jesus tells His followers who had taken care of people with these problems that Jesus was the one they had treated well (Matthew 25:35-40). He then condemns those who had not done those things, saying that they had failed to do it for Him.

Many people are looking for Christ with the wrong standards as to how to recognize Him. They want a super-hero with incredible physical characteristics. There is a beautiful story that illustrates this well and tells us how you could recognize Jesus. The story goes that a blind girl had a table stand at an airport with apples on it. A group of men came running through, racing to catch a flight. They hit the table and knocked the apples all over the place. One man stopped and helped the girl pick up the apples, separating the bruised or cut from the others. He handed them to the girl and gave her some money to cover the damaged apples. As he started to leave, she called out to him, “Thank you, sir. Are you Jesus?

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Buck Griffith works with NewLife Behavior Ministries, PO Box 270720, Corpus Christi, Texas 78427-0720.

Nepenthes or Pitcher Plants

Nepenthes or Pitcher Plants

One of the most interesting studies in botany is the study of plants that live in areas with little or no soil nutrients. Scientists give them the genus name Nepenthes. We commonly call them pitcher plants and they grow all around the Earth. These plants get their nitrogen and phosphorous by eating insects and animals. Darwin called them part of the “carnivorous syndrome.”

Most people don’t realize that there are well over 100 species of pitcher plants. Each species has some unique features, but there are many things they all have in common. All pitcher plants have a cup which is funnel-shaped or tubular with a sticky digestive fluid inside. The top of the tube has a rim called the peristome which is slippery and causes prey to tumble into the cup. There is a shelter over the top of the pitcher to keep out rainwater which would dilute the digestive juices.

There are highly specialized pitcher plants that eat different things. In 2009, botanists in the Philippines found plants that were nearly five feet (1.5 m) tall and had cups that were roughly a foot (.3 m) in diameter. In Borneo there are pitcher plants that can hold three quarts of liquid and trap lizards, mice, and other small rodents. One species secretes sugary nectar on the lid with a perch that attracts mountain tree shrews. The plant doesn’t eat the shrews, but as the shrew sits on the perch eating the nectar, the pitcher servies as what one study called a “tree shrew lavatory.” The shrew’s droppings provide nitrogen-rich food for the plant.

There are many areas where soils are deficient in nitrogen and phosphorous, but for different reasons and in different amounts. Insects provide the missing nutrients for most Nepenthes in North America. The needs in a desert salt flat are very different from the needs in a tropical rain forest. It is quite a challenge to explain how the diversity that we see has come about by evolution. Furthermore, scientists cannot find an intermediate species, either fossil or living, to explain how Nepenthes developed by evolution. We see a common plan design with local adaptations allowing plants to thrive in environments that lack the essential nutrients for them to prosper.

Nepenthes are so unique that people sometimes collect them for house plants. They are a reminder that God has provided well-designed plants and animals for unique locations. The study of the Nepenthes genus teaches us how special needs for life are met by the intelligence of God as plants and animals reflect God’s wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: World Wildlife Magazine, fall 2020, page 4.

Gender Identity and Lifestyles

Gender Identity and Lifestyles

No matter who you are or what your situation in life, dealing with gender identity and lifestyles in the 21st century is a challenge. Christians have a special difficulty because the Bible is quite clear on the topic. Genesis 1:24 states that a man should “leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Romans 1:24-32 describes in very negative terms those who “dishonor their own bodies between themselves.” Verses 26-27 leave no doubt that the passage is describing homosexual acts.

The problem is that humans don’t follow God’s teachings, and that leads to difficult choices. David’s sin with Bathsheba led to murder and massive family problems for David. Saul’s failure to obey God led to the loss of his kingship and to his death. We frequently create our own problems by disobeying God, and then we struggle to undo the consequences of our misconduct.

God’s plan for every human was to be conceived and raised in a home that was dominated by a loving father and mother. This is still the ideal, and it is the way to avoid many of the problems we see in our world today. But many children are born to and raised by a less than ideal set of parents. One consequence of this is that they have self-image problems and struggle with gender identity and lifestyles and their role in the world. In addition to that, many children are abused, causing them major psychological issues. As our world turns away from God and rejects biblical teachings, children are being taught things that conflict with God’s word and with common sense.

It is incorrect to say that all homosexuals choose that lifestyle. For many young people, homosexual behavior is a consequence of abuse, indoctrination, and a dysfunctional family. I have had gay people tell me that they hated being gay, but it was forced upon them. Many homosexuals are kind, productive, generous, and even spiritual people.

Christians must approach gender identity and lifestyles like any other behavioral issue. We must respect and be kind to everyone. We can love the person without loving everything about them. From personal experience, I can tell you that a homosexual couple living next door is much less of a problem than an alcoholic living next door. Sharing the love of Christ with others by serving them is the one sure way to build bridges of hope and faith.

— John N. Clayton © 2020