Shrimp with a Powerful Punch

Shrimp with a Powerful Punch

The peacock mantis is a colorful shrimp with a powerful punch. These crustaceans have front appendages they use as clubs to cripple their prey or defend themselves from predators. Their punch is so quick that researchers studying it had to use a high-resolution camera shooting 20,000 frames per second.

Biologists have been wrestling with whether this is a learned behavior or if it is innate and designed into the shrimp’s genetic makeup. A new study by Duke University researchers has found the answer. Using peacock mantis shrimp captured in the Philippines and the high-speed camera, they studied the shrimp’s larvae. These larvae are about the size of a grain of rice and have transparent exoskeletons. Unlike the opaque exoskeleton of an adult mantis shrimp, researchers could see the internal working of the larvae.

The scientists found that the shrimp larvae began practicing their punches only nine days after hatching and without adult shrimp contact. They determined that the shrimp’s behavior is innate, not learned. That means the design of the genome of the peacock mantis shrimp contains addresses that produce not only the club-like appendage but also the behavioral instructions on how to use it. In other words, these shrimp with a powerful punch were designed that way.

The more you study the specialized abilities of animals, the more you see that very little of their behavior is learned. Most living things are designed with the equipment they need to survive and the skills that allow them to use that equipment. From the monarch butterfly to the whales to tiny crustaceans, the world is full of incredible life forms equipped for survival and designed with built-in instructions for using that equipment. Everywhere we look, we see evidence of God’s design.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: NATIONAL WILDLIFE magazine for October/November 2021, (page 8).

We have previously written about the peacock mantis shrimp’s powerful punch HERE.

We have also written about this shrimp’s amazing eyesight HERE and HERE.

A Chimp Named Washoe

Chimpanzees - A Chimp Named Washoe
Chimpanzees

In the 1960s, a husband and wife team conducted an experiment with a chimp named Washoe. R. Allen Gardner was a psychologist, and his wife Beatrix was a zoologist. They took a young chimpanzee and attempted to raise it like a human child. The name came from a native American tribe and Washoe County, Nevada.

The couple taught Washoe American Sign Language (ASL), which they said he learned very quickly. Over time, Washoe learned 350 words and used them in combination, such as “Gimme Sweet.” R. Allen Gardner recently passed away, and his work has been revived in several popular magazines and journals.

When Gardner published the report about raising a chimp named Washoe, some people used it to say that chimps are merely less developed humans. They said the Gardner’s had to use ASL because the anatomical structure of a chimpanzee’s mouth and throat was simply inadequate to speak in human language. Furthermore, Washoe taught a bonobo named Kanzi to use ASL. Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, had a department called The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute which closed in 2013. Washoe died there in 2007.

Scientists have conducted many experiments on the interaction between chimps and humans. Sometimes they had negative results when the chimps reverted to their normal behavior as seen in the wild. Animal rights proponents have pushed to have chimps receive the same rights as humans. Some evolutionists would point to this as proof that humans and chimpanzees evolved from a common ancestor.

While the research is interesting and the creativity of the Gardners is impressive, there are some important things to point out. There has never been a question about whether animals can mimic human sounds. A parrot can rattle off human words and even phrases. There have even been dogs that could make a sound that resembles human words. Learning sounds and putting them into a form that elicits the desired response is not language. Webster defines language as “a system of communication which consists of a set of sounds and written symbols used by the people of a particular country or region for talking or writing,”

Mimicking a sound is not language. A chimp named Washoe using ASL is not human language. Humans project ideas, feelings, and artistic expression of life in music and art using language. The evidence supports a vast difference between animals and humans, as described in the Genesis account.
The Bible tells us that humans are uniquely created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). That refers to our spiritual makeup expressed in language and may or may not include sound. Baby humans learn to mimic, but it isn’t until they reach some level of maturity that they express spiritual creativity. Humans express the image of God in morality and the structure of society, as well as in language, art expression, and appreciation of beauty. The more we learn about animals, the more we appreciate how well-designed they are, but they are not humans.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

We previously reported that Koko, the gorilla raised by Penny Patterson, also mastered ASL. You can read about that HERE and HERE.

Happiness Is Beyond Reach

Happiness Is Beyond Reach

Before COVID, the World Health Organization announced that depression was the most widespread illness in the world. Even with COVID, that is probably still true. The Yale College Council has found that more than half of undergraduates sought mental health care from the university during their time of enrollment. In his book Straw Dogs, Atheist John Gray wrote, “Drug use is a tacit admission of a forbidden truth in Western Culture. What is that truth? It is that for most people happiness is beyond reach.”

The information above came from the chapter “Our Never-Ending Pursuit of Happiness” in Richard E. Simmon’s book Reflections on the Existence of God. (You can read our review of that book HERE.) Simmons also quoted from a book by Dr. Armand Nicholi of Harvard Medical School titled The Question of God. Dr. Nicholi says that one of the major causes of depression is a person’s worldview. We must point out that there are different kinds of depression, and medical causes of depression must be treated medically. However, that is not the point Nicholi was making.

An evidence for the validity of Christianity is that the teachings of Jesus Christ give a worldview that leads to fulfillment and happiness. If you have bought into a worldview that says there is no God, then finding happiness is only available to those who are “the fittest.” In that case, happiness is beyond reach because no matter who we are, we will eventually not be the fittest. Older adults struggle with the fact that they can no longer do what they did 50 years ago. The whole euthanasia issue is rooted in this realization.

For Christians, there is joy in seeing fruit in living the life Christ has called us to live. We find fulfillment in being able to give time, support, and encouragement to others. Jesus taught, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In other words, there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. We don’t have to be rich to give time, care, and love to others. Joy comes from having a worldview that says whatever happens in this life, it is the worst I will ever have to endure. Christ assures us of hope for something much better.

If you haven’t gotten involved in a service organization, you are missing something that combats depression. Join a local effort to help those in need and enjoy the company of people who are joyously serving others. Churches operate food banks and homes for the homeless. Dozens of organizations such as the Carter Center, Habitat for Humanity, Feeding America, Kids Wish, Americans Helping Americans, and Heifer International enable people to get involved in meeting the needs of others. Every time I have been involved in local or national programs like those, I have received more than I gave. It is hard to be depressed when you are a part of something bigger than yourself, reflecting the Christian worldview.

For most of us, we can do something about our depression. On the other hand, those who reject God and the Christian worldview will find the alternative only leads to frustration and the realization that happiness is beyond reach. If you are clinically depressed, please seek medical help. However, if you are just “down,” get up and get involved in some of the things Jesus talked about in Matthew 25:34-40. Happiness is not beyond reach.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

We have used other quotes from Richard E. Simmons III HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Zebra Finch Memory Mapping Skills

Zebra Finch Memory Mapping Skills

Researchers at the University of California – Berkeley have been studying the ability of birds to use a language skill called “fast mapping.” Until now, only humans have shown this ability. However, scientists are discovering zebra finch memory mapping skills.

The researchers examined 20 birds to see what they could remember and how they used the retained information. The researchers found that the finches could identify their mates’ calls 100% of the time. Furthermore, they could identify the calls of every member of their flock for more than a month. They could even do this when they heard the calls of the other finches as few as five times. Even more interesting is that they demonstrated these skills even with changing calls.

It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to see how valuable this memory ability is. For example, birds that flock together need to be able to recognize every member of their flock. Scientists are using this information to study other animals.

Memory is not dependent on the size of the brain.
The zebra finch is a very small bird, and some large animals do not seem to have the memory ability that these finches demonstrate.

Human memory is a subject of intense study, with dementia and Alzheimer’s increasingly becoming a problem that affects us all. Understanding the brain’s design that allows memory storage is essential to improving our ability to store and recall information. Perhaps the zebra finch memory mapping skills can help us understand more of how God designed brains to work.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: National Wildlife magazine, October/November 2021, page 8.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands

Visiting the Galapagos Islands - Galapagos Tortoise
Galapagos Tortoise

In 2013, we had the blessing of visiting the Galapagos Islands, and we spent some time at the Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora. When Charles Darwin studied the living creatures on the Galapagos, what he saw precipitated his understanding of how God’s design in nature works. At the time of Darwin, organized religion taught that every living thing on Earth was created independently by God, and Darwin had been indoctrinated with that belief. However, the Bible does not say that. 

While visiting the Galapagos Islands, Darwin examined the tortoises, iguanas, penguins, finches, sea lions, and other life forms. It made him realize that each creature had characteristics that enabled them to survive on each island’s habitat. The variations were minor, but they ensured survival, and it was clear that not all of the islands were of the same age. This led, 1859, to the publication of his book On The Origin of Species and to what Darwin called “evolution by natural selection.”

Darwin did not view his studies as contradicting the Bible. Furthermore, neither did anyone I talked with at Darwin Station or any other research facility in the Galapagos. In I Corinthians 15:39, Paul defines the various forms of life as the flesh of fish, the flesh of birds, the flesh of beasts, and the flesh of man. He did not say flesh of bluebird, the flesh of robin, the flesh of crow, the flesh of hawk, etc. It was not Darwin’s research but speculations that grew out of Darwin’s work that put human guesses at odds with the Bible.

Since 2013, genetic studies have shown that the animals in the Galapagos came from somewhere else. DNA sequencing has shown that the giant Galapagos tortoises have relatives living on the west coast of South America. The DNA sequences are over 90% identical. Because of the modifications, the tortoises can live in the Galapagos, where conditions are very different from South America. The Galapagos sea lion is almost identical to the California sea lion. The marine iguanas in the Galapagos are basically the same as the land lizards in Mexico and Central America. The Galapagos penguin is a virtual twin to the banded penguins of Peru. The DNA sequences give a clear picture of how the volcanic islands of the Galapagos became inhabited.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands in 1831-1836, Darwin didn’t have any way of knowing the genomes of these creatures, but he saw the similarities. We know that animals can be transported long distances by hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons, and floating debris. The animals that migrated to the Galapagos adapted to what they found. For example, Iguanas adapted to eating marine algae, and they multiplied in the Galapagos.

We are now using the design that God built into life and what we learned in the Galapagos to produce plants and animals that can provide more food and more nutritious food. The study of genetics is opening doors to our understanding of how to “take care of the garden (planet earth)” that God has placed in our care (Genesis 2:15). Let us do that wisely.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

You can learn more about our visit to the Galapagos Islands from the Does God Exist? Journal for May/June 2013. It is available to read on the doesgodexist.org website at THIS LINK. Another reference used in this post is the Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Indiana, for October 9, 2021, page B5. 

The Purpose for the Woolly Mammoth

The Purpose for the Woolly Mammoth

Often when we see fossil evidence of extinct animals, we wonder what purpose that animal served. For example, the giant plant-eating dinosaurs not only pruned the fast-growing plants of the world in which they lived, but they also spread the plant seeds and fertilized the ground where the plants grew. So what was the purpose for the woolly mammoth?

Russian researchers have found that woolly mammoths played a significant role in shaping the Siberian tundra in the ancient past. Today we see that massive amounts of moss dominate the terrain and causing a build-up of carbon dioxide. Woolly mammoths pulverized the moss, clearing the way for grass to spring up. They enriched the soil for the grass to grow, and the grass stopped soil erosion and took in carbon dioxide.

An American company wants to reconstruct the woolly mammoth’s genome and create herds of woolly mammoths to repeat what happened in the past. That company believes they can increase grass growth and create a whole industry based on herds of woolly mammoths.

This scenario sounds similar to the theme of the movie Jurassic Park. Unfortunately, we don’t have good information about what woolly mammoths were like, how they lived, and what diseases they carried. God had a purpose for woolly mammoths, and the research by the Russian scientists tells how that system worked in the past. When humans try to duplicate what God did, they usually do more damage than good.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Indiana, October 2, 2020, page A6.

Earth Is Spinning on its Axis

Earth Is Spinning on its Axis

Earth is spinning on its axis, and we can be thankful that it’s spinning at the right speed for life to exist.

If the Earth turned too slowly, surface temperatures would warm too much during the day and cool too much at night. Under those conditions, plants could not survive the long periods of darkness. If plants didn’t survive, animals and humans could not survive either.

If Earth rotated too fast, the temperature would go through wild extremes. Furthermore, a faster spin rate would create strong and dangerous cyclonic winds because of the Coriolis force. Jupiter spins nearly three times as fast as Earth, and astronomers can observe severe tornado and hurricane-like disturbances on its surface.

Earth’s spin rate is slowing and will continue to do so just as a spinning top slows down. However, there is no need to worry because the slowing is very gradual, lengthening the day by less than two milliseconds in a hundred years.

It’s the rotation of Earth on its axis that gives us day and night. In Genesis 1:14, we read about God moving away the clouds of darkness to reveal the Sun, Moon, and stars, which He had created in verse 1. Genesis 1:2 tells us that darkness covered the planet, and in Job 38:9, God tells us that the darkness was because of a garment of clouds. We need daylight for activities of life and night as a time of rest. Every animal, even insects, needs sleep. To thrive, plants also need a daily period of darkness.

Earth is spinning on its axis, and our day and night cycle is one of the many factors that make Earth the “Goldilocks” place–“just right” for humans to live. The chance of all those factors coming together by accident is beyond the realm of probability. Therefore, we suggest that this planet is not an accident but part of a divine design requiring a Designer.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

The Bible Reports Human History Without Condoning It

The Bible Reports Human History Without Condoning It

As we pointed out yesterday, critics of the Bible say that it describes many disgusting stories. Of course, that is true, but the critics fail to realize that the Bible accurately reports human history without condoning it.

The Bible does not even whitewash its heroes. David’s horrible sin with Bathsheba is reported, but it certainly is not endorsed. A man named Jephthah makes a vow that he will sacrifice to God whatever comes out of his house if God gives him a victory (Judges 11:30-40). God did not command that, and He has always discouraged careless vows on the part of His people. In this case, Jephthah’s daughter was the first thing that came out to him after the victory. This was not a case of God commanding human sacrifice as atheists have claimed. Exactly what was done with the girl can be argued, but the message is about vows, not a command of God to engage in human sacrifice. The incident is reported but certainly was not condoned or commanded by God.

Another example is Judges 20:5-7, where a woman is raped and killed. Then her body is cut into pieces, and the parts are sent throughout Israel to rally a response to the crime. Again, this awful story is a news report, not a religious act done at the command of God.

We all know that whatever is on the news is not something the channel or the news reporter necessarily endorses. In the same way, the Bible reports human history without condoning it.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

This article was adapted from The Source: Eternal Design or Infinite Accident? (page 101) by John N. Clayton. This book is available for purchase HERE.

God Tolerates Human Actions He Does Not Desire

God Tolerates Human Actions He Does Not Desire - The Bible

Critics of the Bible say that it describes many disgusting stories. However, they are missing the point that God tolerates human actions He does not desire.

Polygamy is a good example. We all know that many biblical characters had more than one wife–especially in the Old Testament. In Genesis 2:24, God said the man was to have one wife, and that man and wife were to become one. Despite that, Lamech takes two wives in Genesis 4:19-22.

In Deuteronomy 17:17, God commands one wife, but Solomon takes hundreds of wives as God pleads with him not to do it (1 Kings 11:1-10). God is tolerant and does not force the issue, but the Bible shows the problems created by having multiple wives and refusing to do what God said.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells the Jews that God tolerated these things “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Matthew 19:3-9). However, when God gave instructions for the church leaders called bishops and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12, He specified that they were to have only one wife. What God wanted for marriage is described in Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.

God never commanded polygamy. He warned against it and tried to teach humans what a wonderful thing marriage could be with one man and one woman for life. Tragically, that concept has been lost today, but God tolerates human actions He does not desire.

Human actions are often contrary to God’s will. We will continue along this line of thought tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

This article was adapted from The Source: Eternal Design or Infinite Accident? (page 100) by John N. Clayton. This book is available for purchase HERE.

Unusual Giraffe Features

Unusual Giraffe Features

In an American Scientist magazine article titled “Watchdogs of the Savanna,” Charlotte Ricker described unusual giraffe features. Here are some of those features:

HEIGHT: A giraffe can be almost 19 feet (5.8 meters) tall. For that reason, the circulatory system has to be specially designed to provide enough pressure to supply blood to the brain. That requires special features of the blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. In addition, the long neck allows giraffes to obtain food that other herbivores can’t reach and to see predators from a distance. Because of that, other animals rely on giraffes to alert them of danger.

EYES: Giraffes have the largest eyes of any land animal, allowing them to see those predators. Their long and sensitive eyelashes keep insects away and sense thorns on the acacia tree branches they eat. 

PATTERN: The irregular brown markings on the giraffe are not just for appearance. They act as thermal windows with a complex circulatory system around each splotch to radiate or absorb heat.

SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP: Birds called the oxpeckers have feet designed to cling to the giraffe as they eat ticks and other insects from its skin. This provides food for the oxpeckers and protection for the giraffes. Oxpeckers even clean the giraffe’s teeth. 

LEGS: The giraffe’s thin legs have a “suspensory ligament,” which allows them to support their weight of up to a fourth of a ton (1270 kgs). This unusual giraffe feature gives them the ability to run up to 37 miles per hour (60 km/hr) and a kick strong enough to kill a lion. 

NECK: The neck contains seven cervical vertebrae, the same as a human, but each vertebra can be nearly a foot long. Ball and socket joints connect them for a 360-degree motion range. In addition, a special ligament from the skull to the base of the tail counteracts the weight of the neck and head to relieve muscle strain. 

When you see these unusual giraffe features, you have to ask how they originated. Are they the product of evolutionary processes, or were they designed by an intelligence to fulfill a specific purpose in a given environment? The more unique characteristics we see, the less likely that chance processes could have produced them. These are simplified explanations of a few of the design features of a very complex animal.

Looking at the complexity of all living things is an excellent testimony to the wisdom and planning of God. “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). 

For more information, read Charlott Ricker’s article “Watchdogs of the Savanna” in American Scientist magazine November/December 2021, page 330. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021