We previously discussed the discovery that hydroxyl radicals are natural agents that clean the atmosphere. They help remove some of the pollution that humans cause. The hydroxyl radicals are produced by lightning. People often see lightning as a harmful and destructive agent on planet Earth. However, lightning is a useful tool in God’s creation.
NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” for September 29, 2021, featured an interesting article about a type of lightning called gigantic jets. The gigantic jet shown on the APOD post moved roughly 70 kilometers in just under a second. These gigantic jets are different from the common lightning traveling from cloud to cloud or cloud to ground that we all have seen. We are less familiar with other types of lightning known as blue jets, red sprites, and these gigantic jets.
As we have said before, lightning is also part of the nitrogen-fixing system in Earth’s atmosphere. Lightning converts the nitrogen that makes up 78% of our air into the nitrates essential for plant growth. Thus, lightning is a useful tool in God’s creation to help produce our food and clean our air.
Symbiosis is one evidence of design in nature that we have discussed before. In the following excerpt from his book The Source, John Clayton told about a three-way symbiosis:
One area that strongly resists a natural explanation is the area of symbiotic relationships. A symbiotic relationship is one in which two organisms live in such a close relationship that one cannot live without the other and vice versa. For example, certain plants cannot live without certain insects that pollinate them or clean them or store up certain nutrients for them. At the same time, the plant provides nourishment and/or protection for the insect. Sometimes such relationships exist between two plants or two animals, like the venomous jellyfish known as the Portuguese man o’ war and the tiny fish living among its tentacles yet never getting stung. These types of two-way symbiotic relationships are difficult to explain by natural causes because the question automatically arises, which came first?
Suppose you agree that there are problems answering this question with two codependent life forms. How much more difficult would it be to explain the simultaneous evolution of a three-way symbiosis? Yet this is what we find with a leaf-cutting ant species in South America. These ants live in colonies of up to eight million. That is a number that surprisingly represents the collective biomass of an adult cow.
These ants cultivate mushrooms as a farmer grows crops, using leaf cuttings instead of soil. However, the ants are not able to eat the leaves because the leaves contain a natural insecticide. Neither can the mushrooms live on the leaves because they are coated with a prohibitive wax. To make the three-way symbiosis work, the ants must carefully avoid the poison as they scrape the wax off the leaves. Without the wax, the leaves decay into a mulch in which the mushrooms can grow. The mushrooms, in turn, harmlessly absorb the insecticide, converting it into edible food for the ants. Neither creature could live without the other.
But there is more. Recent studies have revealed another partner necessary to sustain the ant/mushroom relationship. The mushrooms have a parasite enemy that would destroy them. However, they can be protected with an antibiotic produced by a specific bacterium that, coincidentally, lives on the ants’ bodies. So the bacterium depends on the host ant’s body for life. The ant depends on the food produced by the mushrooms for life. Finally, the mushrooms depend on the ants’ farming practices and the ants’ pet bacterium for life.
This three-way symbiosis is irreducibly complex. If anyone of the partners is missing, the entire group dies. The only way such a codependent society could be produced is by intelligent design. Any other attempted explanation quickly becomes a quest for the impossible dream.
Our Catholic friends are struggling with political conflicts. Six of the nine current Supreme Court Justices are Catholics, as are President Biden, the Speaker of the House, and many other government officials. One of the Catholic political conflicts is allowing the president to participate in the Eucharist because of his position on abortion.
Previously, Biden said he believed that life begins at conception. Now he supports abortion and the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. (The Hyde Amendment bans federal funding for most abortions.) Pope Francis waded into the Catholic political conflicts by saying, “The Eucharist is not the reward of saints, it is the bread of sinners.” This seems to be at odds with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and indicates some strife within modern Catholicism. In the 2020 election, Catholic voters cast 20% of the votes, so they play a significant role in American politics.
The wisdom of Jesus in telling his followers to separate politics from His spiritual message (Matthew 22:21) is demonstrated in current Catholic political conflicts. As a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and living in the shadow of that school, I have seen the struggles that result from mixing religion and politics.
Our primary concern about the Catholic political conflicts is the domino effect of the struggles. Many people leaving Catholicism separate themselves from any kind of religious faith. God’s word is the real answer for how we should live. Read Matthew 5–7 and see what authentic Christianity is. Read Acts 2:14-42 and see the message Peter gave to seeking people. This is the same Peter that Catholicism looks to as the founder of their faith. However, Peter would not have recognized much of what is practiced by many Catholics today.
We were riding through the Arizona desert shortly before sunset on a Does God Exist? canyonlands field trip. We saw a storm in the distance, and it quickly surrounded us. Then, the storm lifted to reveal the sunset. We couldn’t stop gazing out of the bus window to enjoy the beauty of it all.
This incident reminded us that God sends the sunshine, and the rain, even in the desert. It also reminded us that God created a beautiful world and gave us the ability to enjoy that beauty. I think that ability is evidence that God created us in His image. God must enjoy beauty because He has created a universe of beautiful things that humans will never even see. We are aware of some of them only because our telescopes or space probes sometimes give us small glimpses of the beauty normally hidden from our eyes.
Even on our planet, there are beautiful things to be seen in locations where few people ever go. After scaling mountain peaks, a few of us enjoy the beauty of the valley below. While on the mountain, we look down and see beautiful flowers that grow in the rocky soil and cold air. Colorful plants and animals live and grow in the ocean, where only the most adventurous humans can enjoy their beauty. God sees all of the beauty, wherever it may be.
Are there any creatures other than humans that will stop to enjoy the beauty of a sunset? Thankfully, God has gifted humans with that ability. However, we often fail to do so because we think we are too busy. However, if we pause long enough to enjoy the beauty, we might be compelled to give thanks not only for the beauty but also for the ability to enjoy it.
The dictionary defines an intoxicant as “that which produces feelings of pleasure or happiness in a person.” America is becoming a land of intoxicants. The enormous success of science and technology has given our culture a comfortable lifestyle and a sense of security. The illusion of self-sufficiency is constantly reinforced by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and even many churches.
In the meantime, our culture is rejecting the words of Ephesians 5:15-18 despite the evidence that they are true: “Look carefully how you walk. Do not act thoughtlessly, but like sensible men. Make the most of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. You can not afford to be reckless but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don’t get your stimulus from wine but let the Spirit stimulate your souls.”
America is becoming a land of intoxicants lagging behind other countries in recognizing the destructive nature of substance abuse. The American entertainment industry pushes alcohol. Even country music, which used to emphasize the negative effects of alcohol, is now saturated with promoting it as a way to pleasure and happiness. The destructive nature of alcohol is astounding. Biotech Investor’s Journal for September 2021 published a research report on the harm caused by alcohol compared to 20 other recreational drugs. Alcohol ranks # 1 in harmful effects, far beyond LSD, Meth, Crack Cocaine, and Heroin.
Some countries have recognized the serious consequences of alcohol and have passed laws to control it. For example, Scotland and Sweden have passed stringent laws to mitigate the use of alcohol. In America, the maximum blood alcohol content allowed for a motorist is 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or .08%. In Scotland, the limit is .05%, with penalties of the automatic loss of license, fines up to $7000, a criminal record, and possibly a prison sentence. In Sweden, the limit is .02%.
For some who claim to be Christians, their religious experience may be an intoxicant. The desire to find an intoxicant in Church has led to the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God will supply wealth (materialism) to His children. Other intoxicants for some religious people are emotional experiences of speaking in tongues or even out-of-the-body experiences.
The Bible’s description of successful Christian living involves recognizing that Satan controls activities on Earth (1 John 5:19). If we are looking for heaven on Earth, we are in for disappointment and pain. The Bible indicates that the influence of Satan is all around us. (See 1 Corinthians 15:33; James 1:27, 4:4; 2 Peter 1:4, 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17.)
As America is becoming a land of intoxicants, people learn that using intoxication to find pleasure and happiness doesn’t work. However, being a light in a dark world (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:14-15) brings contentment and satisfaction that not only leads to a meaningful existence on the Earth but ultimately to eternal joy and happiness with our Lord.
Human rights advocates frequently demand social changes without understanding the consequences of the choices they promote. An example of that is the current transgender craze among teenagers. It’s relatively easy for teenagers to change their names, but the medical treatment of transgender people has become a significant challenge for all concerned. Unfortunately, politicians have advanced transgender legislation without understanding the implications. There are many areas of gender change problems.
Having surgery and taking hormones is a whole different issue compared to participation in sports or sharing bathrooms. But even beyond the physical gender change problems, the mental and psychological issues are also highly complex. Transgender youth are three to four times as likely as their peers to have depression or anxiety. Among 13,600 transgender and nonbinary youth surveyed in 2020, 52% had considered suicide in the previous year, and 21 % had attempted it.
Puberty blockers are a standard treatment of transgender young people. Those drugs suppress the natural release of estrogen and testosterone. Puberty blockers can limit the development of physical features such as breasts, and they delay bone development which can lead to weaker bones in adulthood. Since 80% of people who identify as transgender in early childhood do not continue to do so when they grow up, puberty blockers can have long-term consequences.
Taking estrogen causes transgender teenagers to have decreased muscle mass and changes in fat redistribution. It also causes the softening of the skin, the growth of breasts, and reduced growth of body hair. At the same time, it can cause a higher risk of breast cancer and seems to increase the risk of blood clots. In addition, transgender people taking testosterone experience suppressed menstruation, body fat redistribution, voice deepening, increased muscle mass, and facial and body hair growth. There also seems to be a greater risk of high cholesterol.
The causes of transgenderism are still being debated, and they seem to be very complex. Gender change problems are an issue that is not going away. We would suggest that the move away from nuclear families and the increased use of drugs are involved. When we discard God’s plan and design, the issues become very complicated. Playing God with human sexuality has always produced unfortunate results.
Unborn babies can hear the world around them. Recently Dianne Neal Matthews wrote in Guidepost’sMornings with Jesus about an experience with the birth of her grandchild. She traveled to the daughter’s home for the birth of her fourth child.
After the little girl was born, each family member got to hold her. As the newborn passed between the parents and each sibling, Mrs. Matthews was amazed at how calm, alert, and content she was. The baby had just left a warm and cozy environment inside her mother, and now she was experiencing a cool world with bright lights and new sensations on her skin. Yet, each time the baby was put into the arms of a family member who talked to the baby, she calmly responded, quietly moving her arms.
When Mrs. Matthews was able to hold her, the baby was not calm and settled. However, when returned to her mother, she became quiet and peaceful. Mrs. Matthews realized that the baby had been hearing familiar voices of the family for months, which made her feel safe. Because Mrs. Matthews lived far away, the baby had no experience with her unfamiliar voice.
Years ago, McCall’s magazine reported a story where a baby was subjected to a physical push from one direction outside the mother’s body each time a specific song was played. After three “pushes,” when the song was played again, the baby moved away from the direction of the push, clearly avoiding it. Issac Stern, the famous violinist, once told the story of playing a certain melody when his mother was present. She stopped him and asked where he got that melody. He was dumbfounded and had no idea. Then she told him, “I wrote that melody and played it a number of times when I was pregnant with you.”
A baby inside its mother’s womb is a baby – not an extension of the mother’s body. Unborn babies can hear the world around them. Unfortunately, our nation has now decided that killing a baby is acceptable if that baby is an inconvenience for the mother. This amounts to infanticide, similar to the ancient Roman practice of throwing unwanted babies into the street. That disregard for life was a part of what destroyed the Roman empire. One has to wonder how long God will tolerate infanticide by our nation.
In the Northern Hemisphere, we have just entered the period we call autumn or fall. Summer has ended. Earth’s axis tilt and its path around the Sun cause the Sun to be directly overhead at the equator. We refer to this as the equinox, which is Latin for “equal nights.” Thus, at this time, we have approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. As a new season begins, we see God’s design of fall.
For those living in the northern hemisphere, this time brings amazing things to see among the plants and animals around us. Tree leaves turn from green to a cascade of colors. They don’t all turn at the same time because of their system design. Some measure the length of the day and start turning colors when the equinox occurs. Others depend on temperature to change colors. In addition, we see fruits and nuts come to full maturity at this time, providing food for animals and ensuring the future growth of new plants.
We see God’s design of fall as animals prepare for winter. With the temperature change, some animals migrate to warmer areas. This movement coincides with the abundance of fruits and nuts, allowing nutrition for the journey. Some animals, such as hummingbirds, leave well ahead of freezing temperatures. Other animals change their color in preparation for winter camouflage in the snow. Still others retreat into a place underground where the temperatures will not drop below freezing.
The question is, how do all these plants and animals know when to do that? It cannot be a conscious, planned adjustment by the animals to the local situation. Many of the changes happen even before the cold weather arrives. Certainly, plants don’t think about cold weather coming and their need to prepare for freezing conditions. Some of the changes seem to be designed to provide humans with a sensation of beauty. A sea of green becomes a splendor of color as the plants eliminate chlorophyll “A” (which gives them their green color) to reveal various colored chemicals in the leaves.
Fall is not just about beauty, but it also brings amazing and beneficial changes. Plants that survive the winter are able to free themselves of insects and bacteria that can damage them. Some animals prepare for winter by fattening up to go into hibernation. Bears give birth during this period. God’s design of fall is a functional system that speaks of God’s wisdom.
We can see God’s wisdom and design in a unique way at this time of year.Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” To those of us who listen, fall speaks of the purposes of God in His living things.
Some religious people have claimed that taking the COVID vaccine is a response to fear. They have posted that idea online and in publications, saying that you won’t get sick from the virus if you have faith in God. This is a sad commentary on human ignorance of medical facts, the Bible, and how God works. It also shows a lack of understanding that the Church’s task is to help people. We need to follow 1 John 4:1: “…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they come from God.”
The history of “Christians” and vaccines is not good. They have sometimes been responsible for opposition to vaccines for smallpox, measles, and polio. This ignorance is destructive because vaccines have saved many lives. As Christians, we must do whatever we can to minister to the lost. One way to do that is to make sure we do nothing that harms people. My son died because a man who claimed to be a Christian didn’t care enough about him to get a vaccine or wear a mask so he wouldn’t carry the virus to him.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me all of you who labor … and you shall find rest…” The Church is people, not a building (1 Corinthians 3:16), and the Church’s task is to help people, not harm them. When Jesus was on Earth, He acted when humans could not. In Luke 5:4-9, when Peter had fished all night and caught nothing, Jesus told him to let down his net again. When he did, his catch was amazing.
Miracles in both the Old and New Testaments challenged humans to apply what God gave them. When the prophet Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times, he resisted that silly requirement. But when Naaman did it, his leprosy (the COVID of that day) was cured (2 Kings 5). God has given humans the ability to stop the virus, but we must use what He has given us.
The Bible makes it clear that God does not use force to accomplish His will. Even salvation is not forced on humans. In Acts 2:38-40, Peter says, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” The Church’s task is to help people by sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus. Read Colossians 2:13-3:2 and ask yourself if you want to be a part of the world driven by fear and selfishness, even in the name of religion? Christians must care enough about others and about “the temple of the Holy Spirit” to make sure we do no harm to either.
People have a fascination with wood, and we admire the beauty of wooden tables and furniture. Our love for wood is not just aesthetic because wood is also very practical for many uses. However, some people were concerned about bacteria on wooden toys and especially food contamination by bacteria on wooden cutting boards. For that reason, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended using plastic cutting boards rather than wooden ones.
The USDA said that it seemed to be common sense that non-porous surfaces like plastic would be less likely to hold bacteria and would be easier to keep clean and germ-free. For years, they advised against wooden cutting boards. However, they had to admit that they had no scientific studies to support that recommendation. It was just common sense.
Microbiologists at the University of Wisconsin in Madison tried to find decontamination techniques to make wood as safe as plastic. They found that if they inoculated wooden boards with either salmonella, listeria, or E.coli (all food poisoning agents), 99% of the bacteria were gone after 12 hours at room temperature. However, when they treated a plastic surface in the same way, the bacteria count increased after 12 hours. The bottom line is that, when left overnight, the bacteria on plastic multiplied, but the bacteria on wooden cutting boards died.
The researchers concluded that “wooden cutting boards are not a hazard to human health, but plastic cutting boards may be.” They proved that wood has anti-bacterial properties that plastic polymers don’t have. The researchers tested maple, birch, beech, black cherry, basswood, butternut, and American black walnut with the same results. Also, they found that bacteria on wooden cutting boards died whether the wood was new or old.
There are two things we can learn from this experiment. First, the USDA officials said they based their recommendation of acrylic or other non-porous materials on common sense and not scientific data. They had not done any research. When the scientific data came in, it showed that common sense was wrong. This is an excellent example of why we should “follow the science.” Secondly, for thousands of years, people had cut meat and prepared foods on surfaces made of the natural wood that God gave us. This experiment shows that the Designer of wood knew what He was doing.