How Many Bugs Are in Your Home?

How Many Bugs Are in Your Home?
Would you like to guess how many bugs are in your home? In the fall of 2017 researchers from the California Academy of Sciences published a survey of the bugs in 50 homes in and around Raleigh, North Carolina. The researchers took 10,000 samples from basements, bedrooms, kitchens, and attics. They identified 579 species from the 304 families of arthropods known to science. Arthropods include insects, mites and, spiders.

The researchers found ants, carpet beetles, gall midges, and cobweb spiders in 100% of the homes. In many of the houses, they found booklice, dark-winged fungus gnats, cellar spiders, scuttle flies, and dust mites. Misha Leong who was the lead author of the study says that most homes contain hundreds if not thousands of individual arthropods.

It is interesting that as people move toward buying organic and buying in bulk, they are increasing the bugs in their homes. Indian meal moths, for example, can contaminate oatmeal or chew through a sweater. They lay eggs in our food and closets, and the larvae chew through packaging leaving a mess of silk and frass (waste) behind. If we use the food quickly enough we eat the eggs, and since they don’t hurt us, we don’t even know they are there.

The reality is that we have and will always have lots of bugs in our homes. Many of them are beneficial to us. Booklice, for example, eat fungi and mold. Spiders eat insects and other harmful agents including flies and mosquitoes. Harmful spiders like the black widow and brown recluse are rare. Studies have also shown that many of our chronic diseases are related to our failure to be exposed to biological diversity. Leong says, “Rooms with more kinds of arthropods may be healthier rooms.”

God did not place us in a sterile world. The more we learn of what we live with each day, the more we realize the complexity of life. Living with bugs is essential to our long-term survival. How many bugs are in your home?
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible- Petrified Forest
For the past two days, we have been reviewing some of the things we saw and learned on the Canyonlands Educational Tour of last month. We explained our approach to the physical evidence of creation and all of the Scriptures that tell what happened. We say that the two sources must agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. And there has been plenty of both.

There has been great conflict between the physical evidence that the Earth is very old and denominational interpretations of the Bible’s creation week. As we visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest, the massive amount of evidence that the Earth is much more than 6,000 years old becomes obvious. So how do we resolve this apparent conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible? If we are not locked into those denominational belief systems, we can take the Bible literally. By that we mean, 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.

Genesis was written in the style of Hebrew poetry to all of humanity–those living in the days of Moses as well as those living in the 21st century. We cannot expect the account to deal with quantum mechanics, because the people of Moses’ day would not have understood it. The animals described in Genesis are animals that people of Moses’ day would know. Don’t look for duckbilled platypuses, echidnas, penguins, or dinosaurs in the Genesis account. Don’t look for descriptions of stellar production of heavy elements or evolution of stars or even continental drift.

We could list hundreds of things that you would not expect in the biblical account because the ancient Israelites would have no way to understand them. Furthermore, there would be no reason to give such details, and the Bible would be too heavy to carry. For that reason, the Bible begins with the single sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That sentence prepares the reader for a simplified description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals on the planet we call home. There is no conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible when taken literally. We will have more on that tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

Harvesting Organs from Prisoners

Harvesting Organs from Prisoners
One of the evidences for the validity of Christianity is the “fruit test.” Jesus said, “By their fruits, you shall know them,” and in Matthew 7:16-20 Jesus talks about the logic of the fruit test. Jesus dealt with the poor, the down-trodden, and that society might deem as “unfit” during His time in the flesh on this planet. One fundamental belief of Christianity is that the individual is of value, no matter what their circumstance. That includes prisoners. The atheist Chinese government’s harvesting organs from prisoners is brutal beyond belief.

Communist China has always been an opponent of Christian values and teaching. It has now been revealed that the organs of prisoners, especially members of the Falun Gong religious movement have been forcibly removed for transplanting into visitors who come to China for organ transplants.

If you view humans as just animals no different from any other, and you consider some have humans to be unproductive in society, why not use them as you would pigs to get organs that can enable the “fit” to live longer? But you don’t have to look to China for this kind of attitude. There are writers and scholars in America who are suggesting the same practice. We have referenced Peter Singer ethics professor at Princeton University as an example of such an advocate. (See our Nov/Dec 2010 issue, Vol. 37 #6 page 26).

First Corinthians 3:16 and 6:15-20 portray the individual as the dwelling place of the Spirit. Christian values are critical in medical ethics. China is an excellent example of what happens when these values are not used, and atheist values are applied. The result is such detestable practices as harvesting organs from prisoners for financial gain.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from The Week, October 5, 2018, page 15.

Design In Nature

Design In Nature
When a person says that the mindless forces of evolution can easily explain everything that appears to be design in nature, you have to wonder if that person understands the principles of statistics.

From a statistical standpoint the more parameters that exist, the less likely it is that a desired final result will occur. The odds of a single coin flipped into the air and landing on heads is one in two or 1/2. What are the odds of five flipped coins landing heads up? That would be 1/2 multiplied by itself five times. The answer is one in thirty-two or 1/32. If you throw fifty coins up at the same time, the chance of all fifty showing heads is so small as to be considered impossible. (Multiply 1/2 fifty times.)

In nature, we see situations where the odds would be equivalent to throwing a million (or more) coins up and having them all land on heads. There is no way that an open-minded, thinking person can begin to entertain the idea that blind chance can explain such events.

Books and movies on nature often use a phrase like “nature planned…” or “evolution engineered…” or “genetic forces created…” some natural phenomenon. If you truly believe that the forces that created and designed the universe with our planet and everything on it are “mindless, blind, mechanistic chance,” then you can’t attach words that indicate wisdom, purpose, design, engineering, or creativity.

The design in nature is hard to miss. It has to be rooted in the mind of a Designer. Some things are just beyond what mere chance can do.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Circadian Rhythm of the Biological Clock

Biological Clock and Circadian Rhythm
Living things, both plants and animals, have a biological clock that is extremely important for survival. The human master clock is located in the hypothalamus of the brain in a tiny region called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN controls what is known as the circadian rhythm, a 24-hour rhythm of the body.

The SCN interacts with many regions of the brain to control sleep, hormone levels, alertness, body temperature, digestive activity, immune functions, and other systems. It coordinates the various rhythms of the body to keep us going through the day. This biological clock works in many ways that we don’t even realize.

Specialized cells in the retina of the eye connect directly to the SCN. When the eye senses light, the SCN receives the message and starts body process going by telling the various systems what to do and when. When you wake up in the morning, the clock signals enzymes to start flowing for your first meal. Hormones raise body temperature and blood pressure so that you can face the day.

During the day, the biological clock starts various chemicals and hormones so they will be available and functioning when they’re needed. Therapeutic medicines work best when taken at certain optimum times according to the biological clock. At night the circadian rhythm in the SCN sends a message to the pineal gland to produce the hormone melatonin making us sleepy.

This is a highly-simplified summary of an amazingly complicated system. Complex systems like this don’t happen by chance indicating that this is another evidence of design. Day and night, months and seasons regulate the systems of humans and all other creatures. Genesis 1:11 tells us that God made the Sun and Moon to “mark seasons and days and years.” Those simple words contain profound truths that we have only begun to understand.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Honeybee Engineering

Honeybee Engineering
Bees are master engineers of the storing of dense fluids. Their fluid is honey, and they store it in a way that shows excellent honeybee engineering.

Worker bees gorge on honey and excrete slivers of wax. Other workers take that wax and position and mold it into a column of six-sided cells. The bees cluster to keep the temperature of the wax at 35 degrees C (95 degrees F) so that it’s firm but malleable. Each wax partition is less than .1 mm thick with a tolerance of .002 mm. The cell walls must be at a 120-degree angle in relation to each other to make a lattice of regular hexagons.

There are only three regular polygons which pack together snugly without leaving gaps–equilateral triangles, squares, and regular hexagons. The perimeter of a hexagonal cell that encloses an area is less than that of a square or a triangular cell making it the most economical shape. Using the same quantity of wax, hexagonal cells can hold more honey than square or triangular cells. Mathematicians have tried other options, such as using curved sides or a mixture of polygons. They have confirmed that curved polygons could not do as well as straight-line hexagons. Mathematicians can’t beat honeybee engineering.

How do the bees keep the honey in the cells? They tip the cells upward at an angle of 13 degrees from the horizontal. That is precisely the angle needed to stop the honey from dripping out. There is one more problem. How can the bees seal off the bottom of the columns? A flat bottom would not do. Bees construct the base with three, four-sided diamond shapes that meet in a point. Two rows of cells are placed back-to-back and offset so that they interlock. With the cells backing up each other, only one layer of wax acts as the bottom for both cells. Mathematicians have proven that the angles of the diamond-shaped cell bottoms (109.5 and 70.5 degrees) give the maximum volume for storage.

It’s difficult to believe that the honeycomb structure is an accident or the final product of trial and error. Mistakes are usually lethal or at least result in a loss of vital energy resources. Honeybee engineering has fascinated and amazed philosophers and mathematicians since the time of ancient Greece. We think the honeybee engineers learned the principles of structural math from the Master Engineer.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Why Poisonous Animals?

Why Poisonous Animals? Eastern Coral Snake
There are 2700 known species of snakes on this planet. Of all those, 412 species, or 15.2%, are poisonous. Five hundred thousand people are bitten every year, and 40,000 of them die. People are afflicted by poisonous lizards (two varieties), frogs, salamanders, and a variety of toxic insects. This brings up the question of why poisonous animals exist if a loving God made all things.

If you or someone you know has suffered an attack by one of these poisonous animals, you know that even when it is not deadly, it’s still a very unpleasant experience. The skeptic and even the non-skeptic is moved to ask why God would create a reptile or amphibian that could cause such terrible discomfort to humans. Why should an innocent child die because of picking up a pretty ribbon that turned out to be a coral snake?

If you have experienced an encounter, no canned explanation will make the pain and loss go away. But can we make any sense of why poisonous animals exist?

We must first begin by recognizing that God may not have created these animals as they are today. God did not create many animals (dog and cattle breeds for example) as they are today. They have changed over the years. It is possible that the same is true of poisonous animals, and their original ancestors may not have been deadly. However, the complexity of the poison systems in reptiles and amphibians seems to make this explanation a little imaginative, if not impossible. Even if true, it does not remove God’s awareness of the situation.

A better answer to this question of why poisonous animals exist lies in the wisdom and planning of God. The Bible says we can know God exists and see His wisdom by looking at the creation. (See Romans 1: 19-23; Psalms 19: 1.) The more we learn about the creation, the more we see God’s design.

One thing we have come to understand is the need for balance in ecosystems. We know that all living things serve a purpose in their natural setting. Animals and insects eat plants which keep the plants from crowding themselves out. Carnivorous animals keep the plant-eaters from wiping out their food supply. Because animals do not fear death as we do, the system is not as cruel and as callous as some would have us believe. In a balanced system, things generally function smoothly and efficiently.

One of the critical factors in maintaining balance is the survival of reasonable numbers of all species. Most reptiles and amphibians are soft-bodied, slow, and generally vulnerable. Camouflage protects some, but the poisonous glands of others are necessary to do the job. Not only does this protect that animal, but any animals that look similar. Poison also helps the animals catch their food. Rats and mice are the primary food source of many snakes, but without the venom, the snakes could never catch them. Very few snakes or poisonous animals of any kind will attack a human. Most bites occur when a person molests a poisonous animal. The obvious purpose of the poison is defense and obtaining food. Accidents do happen, but the poison was not given as a device to be used on humans.

Another important factor is that poisonous animals provide medicines that we cannot secure from any other source. Medicine from snake venom stops the agents which cause rheumatoid arthritis. There are many other examples of ways science has found to use the poisons from animals.

We can see that there are reasons why poisonous animals exist. Venomous animals do not prove that God didn’t thoughtfully and intelligently design the creation. We sometimes have to look a little more closely to see the ultimate wisdom of the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

God’s Elevator — The Vortex

God's Elevator — The Vortex
One of my favorite demonstrations as a physics teacher was to put a student on a frictionless stool and spin them around with their legs extended out in front of them. I would then tell them to pull in their legs. When they did that, their angular velocity increased dramatically—they spun faster. We see this when a spinning figure skater pulls in their arms and legs causing a dramatic increase in their rotational speed. This is an excellent demonstration of the conservation of energy and angular momentum. It is also a design feature that enables a wide variety of living things to fly without prohibitive losses of metabolic energy. We call it God’s elevator.

Instead of solids, what happens if the material that is spinning is a fluid – water or air for example. When water goes down the drain in your sink, it picks up speed as it gets near the center. In the very center, there won’t be any motion at all. In a hurricane, warm air is rising in the center, and as air rushes in to replace the rising air, it increases in speed. The center with no air rushing in is the eye of the hurricane, and the maximum velocity is in the wall near the eye.

A less dramatic example of the vortex is the convection cell on a hot summer day. The Sun heats the ground which then heats the air near the ground. The heated air rises, and as it does, the edges of the air are cooled by contact with the colder air around it. This creates a doughnut-shaped thermal vortex that rises to make an invisible, energy-saving elevator for any organism that can get into the doughnut. What this means is that an animal like a hawk does not have to beat its wings and spend enormous energy to soar to a high elevation. This is a huge saving in metabolic energy. An amazing number of living organisms use God’s elevator to get high into the sky and travel very long distances.

Charles Darwin, while sailing on the Beagle, noticed a mass of spiderlings 60 miles off the South American coast. These organisms are terrestrial creatures, but they were able to travel enormous distances by using vortices. Moths use vortices to make journeys from where they are to new areas.

Recent studies of birds have shown that the wings of a bird create a vortex system which is like a ladder. There is almost no lift produced by the bird’s wings on their upstroke, but the downstroke creates a vortex. That vortex combines with vortices on the wing tips making a ring. The combination of these ring vortices makes a zigzagging ladder-like system which lifts the bird. This allows the bird to use a smaller amount of energy than if it merely powered itself through the air. That is why the birds in your backyard fly in a zigzag pattern rather than a smooth path.

Blackfly larvae that live on the bottom of a stream position themselves so that water flowing over the bottom of the tube-shaped larva goes faster creating a low pressure rising along their bodies. The resulting vortex brings up food particles along the floor of the stream to the filters that extend out the top of the larva. The number of examples of living things that use vortices to feed or to conserve energy as they travel seems to be endless.

How do these animals know to use the vortex effect? The way they position themselves and how they use the vortices in their environment works to their advantage. God’s elevator is a great testimony to His wisdom of design in the creation. We can know there is a God through the things He has made and how they use things like vortices to survive (Romans 1:20).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from Discover, August 1993 page 81-87.

Why Roosters Don’t Go Deaf

Why Roosters Don't Go Deaf
Roosters are loud! They can hit volumes as high as 140 decibels which is the level of sound on an aircraft carrier deck. For humans, a noise above 120 decibels, about the level of a chainsaw, can cause permanent hearing damage. So you may wonder why roosters don’t go deaf.

Belgian researchers writing in the journal Zoology have the answer. They examined the skull structure of the birds. The researchers found that they have a built-in defense against loud sounds in the form of a sound barrier. When a rooster adjusts its head and neck to crow, small flaps of tissue close the ear canal. They effectively act as earplugs to dampens the noise significantly.

On top of that, the study reveals that roosters can regenerate the tiny hair cells deep within the ear that can become damaged by loud noises. Humans can’t do that, which is why deafness caused by loud sounds is permanent for us. For roosters, a degree of deafness would likely only be temporary if it happened at all.

“Micro-CT scans of a rooster and chicken head show that in roosters the auditory canal closes when the beak is opened,” the researchers wrote. “In hens the diameter of the auditory canal only narrows but does not close completely. A morphological difference between the sexes in shape of a bursa-like slit which occurs in the outer ear canal causes the outer ear canal to close in roosters but not in hens.”

So now you know why roosters don’t go deaf. God’s design in every living thing on Earth shows wisdom and an exceptional understanding of the problems that each species faces. The more we learn about the creation, the more we understand the wisdom and creative nature of God. “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:19-20).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
You can read more about the research by clicking HERE.

Walnut Sphinx Accordion Worm

Walnut Sphinx Adult Form
One of the amazing things that we see in the natural world is that animals are designed so that they do not get wiped out by predators. A classic example is a caterpillar, which has no easy defense against birds who can find them even though camouflage is one of their primary defenses. The North American walnut sphinx moth caterpillar employs an unusual defense mechanism that gives it the nickname accordion worm.

This caterpillar is about two inches long and has air holes in its sides. It can compress its body to force air out through the holes. The accordion worm does this when threatened by a bird predator. The holes are spaced and designed so that the air passing through them sounds like the alarm calls of the particular bird species that threatens them. The whistle is not just a little squeak. The sound level is more than 80 decibels compared to a normal conversation which is around 50 to 60 decibels. When the caterpillar makes the sound, the birds that would eat the caterpillar scramble out of the area. Researchers from the University of Washington tell us that this is the first incidence of a deceptive alarm call between an insect and a bird.

God provides for all of life on our planet, and the complexity of keeping things in balance is remarkable. As we see the balance of nature becoming upset by human actions, we have to be impressed with what a delicate system of life the Earth contains. Romans 1:18 tells us that we can know God exists through the things He has made. Proverbs 8:1-6, 22-31 reminds us that wisdom has been a part of God’s creative process from the beginning.

If the accordion worm could not survive, it would not become the beautiful North American walnut sphinx moth in the picture. More and more we realize how important it is to take care of what God has created for us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from “News of the Wild” in National Wildlife, Summer 2018.