Nazca Lines and Birds

Nazca Lines and BirdsOne of the enduring UFO claims has been the massive drawings on Peru’s Nazca desert plateau. As far back as Eric Von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods in 1968, there have been those who claim that people on the Earth could not have made the drawings. They claim that the lines marked out landing strips for alien space crafts. It has been proven that people CAN, in fact, make huge drawings visible from space. However, there have not been good explanations as to what the Nazca drawings represent. Masaki Eda, a zooarchaeologist from Hokkaido University in Japan, seems to have found some clues in his recent study of the Nazca Lines and birds.

The large hummingbird drawing, which has been popularized, is an excellent portrayal of a bird known as the long-tailed hermit. Two other drawings that Eda has identified are a pelican and a guano bird. This doesn’t answer all of the mysteries of the Nazca lines, however, because those birds are rainforest or coastal birds, and the Nazca plateau is a desert. Social anthropologists studying the religions and myths of the people of the area may tell us more. There is still much to be learned about the Nazca lines and birds.

As we have emphasized before, the question of life in space is not a biblical issue and has no bearing on the scientific evidence for the existence of God. It is essential to realize that we live in a world that is as God describes it in the Bible, and He has given us the responsibility to care for it. Aliens are not our creators. The evidence does not support substituting UFOs or alien abduction theories for honoring God and living the life Christ calls us to live.
— John N. Clayton ©

Biblical Giants and Fake Giants

Biblical Giants and Fake GiantsOne of the enduring religious myths of all cultures is the myth of giant humans. Jack and the Beanstalk is just one of the great folk tales that frequently have religious roots. There is great confusion concerning biblical giants and fake giants.

The truth is that nowhere in the Bible is there a reference to humans two or three times the size of modern humans. Furthermore, there is absolutely no factual find of a giant human skull or body. There have been fakes, scams, hoaxes, and money-making frauds but no factual support for giant humans.

Concerning biblical giants, here are the Hebrew words that the King James Version translated as “giant”:

“Gibbor” Job 16:14

“Rapha” Deuteronomy 2:11, 20; 3:11,13; Joshua 12:4; 13:12; 15:8; 17:15; 18:16; 2 Samuel 21:16, 18, 20, 22 ; 1 Chronicles 20:4, 6, 8.

“Nephilim” Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33.

A careful study of these three words shows that none of them refer to the stature of the individual. Any Hebrew dictionary will explain what the words meant when they were written. I use The New Bible Dictionary published by Eerdmans. Here are the meanings:

“Gibbor” Refers to a mighty man or hero. It is translated that way in most cases, such as in Genesis 6:4, Joshua 1:14, and 1 Samuel 9:1. However, as you can see above, the KJV also translated it as “giant,” which is misleading.

“Rapha” Usually refers to descent from Rephaim of Deuteronomy 2:20 etc. Historical and archaeological records show humans that were roughly the size of humans today. The average height of humans at that time was close to five feet. In Jesus’ time, a man five feet three inches tall is referred to in some literature as a man of great stature. Goliath, by the way, is never described as a “giant” in the Bible. First Samuel 17:4 give Goliath’s height, but there is some confusion as to whether it 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) or 9 feet 9 inches (2.97 m).

“Nephilim” Literally means “fallen ones” and the context of Genesis 6:4 is clearly referring to people who had rejected God and were pagans who violated God’s laws and guidance. Israel’s constant drift into paganism and idolatry is what the passage deals with, not aliens or spirit creatures.

As to fake giants, there have been many. One of the most famous was the Cardiff Giant in 1869. George Hull was a scammer who repeatedly went after religious people. He took an eleven-foot block of gypsum from a quarry and sculptured it into a giant that looked like a petrified human. He buried the “giant” on a farm and over a year later hire some people to dig a well at that spot. The diggers uncovered the “giant,” it got widespread media attention, and eventually, it sold for what would have been $600,000 today.

There are biological reasons why an 11-foot human couldn’t survive. A man named Robert Wadlow grew to eight feet eleven inches, but only lived to age 22 and was in very bad health. The Bible does not talk about giants of 12 feet or so, and there is no evidence that giants have ever lived. We need to study the text to see what the Scriptures say about biblical giants, and fake giants should arouse our skepticism.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Skeptic magazine. Volume 24 #2 2019, pages 64-73.

Human Genetic History

Human Genetic History and Denisova CaveAs more and more people have their genetic history analyzed to find out where their ancestors came from, interest has increased in the origins of human genetic history. There has been a lot of speculation on this question, and some skeptics have tried to claim that the Genesis account is incompatible with the human genome, and particularly with the very early specimens of ancient humans including Denisovans and Neanderthals.

Science News (June 8, 2019) published an interesting article by Bruce Bower about recent finds of these hominids and how they may fit into human genetic history. The first point we want to make is that the Bible has an economy of language on this subject. We do not know anything about the appearance of Adam and Eve or their offspring from the biblical account. We don’t know when they lived, or where they went as they left the Fertile Crescent where they were created. People whose denominations have established a doctrinal view on these questions do so with no biblical support.

Recent finds of the Denisovans in the Tibetan Plateau show that great migrations had taken place because the name “Denisovan” comes from the original discoveries made in Siberia’s Denisova Cave (shown in picture). Anthropologists have also found remains of the Denisovans in China. Modern humans in Asia, Melanesia, Australia, and Papua New Guinea have some Denisovan DNA. In fact, these populations show protein sequences which are more closely related to the Denisovans than the Neanderthals.

There is an old battle that has been going on among scientists for at least the last 100 years. It’s the battle between the “splitters” and the “lumpers” and how they handle human genetic history. The splitters are those who tend to put a new species identification on every new find. In this case, they have identified each of these groups as being independent of each other, so Denisovans, Neanderthals, and modern humans are each classified as a different species. The lumpers tend to say these are all variations in the original DNA, and they must all be one species since they can and did interbreed.

The biblical account takes a “lumpers” view on this question. There is more support for that view as we see evidence of ancient people doing all the things we do and finding segments of their genetic makeup in our own genome. If modern anthropologists found the skeletons of Adam and Eve, it’s hard to imagine how they would fit them into human genetic history. They certainly lived before all of the racial variations.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Neanderthal Research Continues

Neanderthal ResearchThe familiar name “Neanderthal” came from the place where scientists found the first skulls in 1856 near Neander, Germany. Writers have published numerous articles about Neanderthals. Most of the articles have been very misleading about who the Neanderthals were, what they looked like, how they lived, and what connection they have to modern humans. Neanderthal research presents a changing picture.

The popular perception of Neanderthals has been connected to the term “ape-man” often used to describe them. At the Max Planck Institute early in the 20th century, a French paleontologist depicted Neanderthals as “apelike and backward.” In 1953, a movie titled The Neanderthal Man popularized them as primitive humans with passions and desires common to apes. The view for years was that the Neanderthals were brutes who huddled in cold caves gnawing on slabs of slain mammoths.

The truth is that Neanderthals walked upright and had larger brains and larger lung capacities than modern humans. They made complex tools, built shelters, created and traded jewelry, wore clothes, created art, buried their dead, had language and a form of worship. What has convinced scientists to change their understanding has been Neanderthal research and the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome. Comparisons of the Neanderthal genome and the modern European genome shows that up to 4% of modern human genes came from Neanderthals. They were not brutes or ape-men. They were totally human.

Probably much of the reason for the negative stereotyping is the “out of Africa” scenario promoted by many as the origin of human history. Some scientists have not wanted to admit that human origins seem to have come from a more northern source. Dr. Joao Zilhao, a Portuguese paleoanthropologist and an expert on Neanderthals, says: “The mainstream narrative of our origins has been fairly straightforward: the exodus of modern humans from Africa was depicted like it was a biblical event: Chosen ones replacing debased Europeans, the Neanderthals. Nonsense, all of it.”

Neanderthals were not apes or brutes of a different species of humans. They were a race of humans that had specific physiological characteristics that are somewhat different from the appearance of humans today. The Neanderthal Museum near Dusseldorf, Germany, displays a recreation of a Neanderthal by renowned paleo-artists Adrie and Alfons Kennis. He is groomed, wearing a business suit, and looking like the politician he could have been. For that matter, his name might have been Adam. As Neanderthal research continues, we will see what develops.
— John N. Clayton

Reference: Smithsonian Magazine, May 2019.

Vestigial Organs and Immune System

 Vestigial Organs - Appendix and Immune System

Many of us have taken classes in biology in which we were told that one of the arguments for Darwinian evolution is the presence of vestigial organs. New research questions whether vestigial organs are evidence of evolution or evidence of design.

The argument for the appendix being vestigial was that this fingerlike projection on our colons was a second stomach in earlier stages of evolution. The theory was that since we now cook our food, there is no need for the appendix and it has become useless. The same was said of the tonsils, adenoids, and gall bladder, so they could be removed with no consequences. I can tell you from personal experience that having these three items removed from your body does have negative implications for your general health.

Scientific American (March 2019, page 20) published a report of a 2017 study by an evolutionary biologist named Heather Smith. She is the director of the Anatomical Laboratories at Midwestern University in Arizona. Her study questions whether those organs are really vestigial. She examined 533 species of mammals and found that there is an immunological and gastrointestinal purpose for the appendix. The appendix contains a layer of gut bacteria that are important in fighting disease. Like the tonsils and adenoids, the appendix serves a vital role in defense of our bodies against infection.

It seems that the evolutionary explanation of the use of these organs is not totally correct. While things like wisdom teeth may be examples of vestigial organs; tonsils, adenoids the appendix and the gall bladder are not. The design of the human body is so complex that science is still trying to figure out all of the design features that enable us to survive.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Fake Artifact Claims

Fake Artifact Claims
One of the problems with putting together an accurate picture of the past is determining what is real and what isn’t. Whether we are talking about fossils or archaeological discoveries, there are always people who make fake artifact claims. Sometimes they do it as a means to get notoriety, sometimes to get money, and sometimes both. Time magazine, February 4-11, 2019, page 10, presented is a short list of famous fakes:

THE PILTDOWN MAN was introduced as a missing link in human evolution. Amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson claimed to have discovered the skull in 1912. Forty years later it was exposed as a forgery. The portrait painted in 1915 by John Cooke shows a group of distinguished scientists examining the faked skull. Notice the picture of Charles Darwin on the wall.

SCOTTISH STONE CIRCLE has been a subject of archaeological interest because it was considered to be a remnant of early man. It turned out to be a structure that a local farmer built in the 1990s.

THE GOLDEN TIARA was supposed to have belonged to an ancient Scythian king. The Louvre purchased it in 1896, and it was later shown to be a fake made by an Odessa goldsmith.

THE MISSISSIPPI MUMMY was part of the old Capitol Museum since 1920. It was claimed to be from the time of Christ and perhaps related to Joseph and Mary’s time in Egypt. In 1969 a medical student X-rayed it and found it was composed of paper-mâché, a wooden frame, and nails. Fake artifact claims often take a long time to be discovered.

PINGYI MISSING LINK TO DINOSAURS was a fossil pictured on the cover of National Geographic in 1999 as proof that birds descended from dinosaurs. The fossil is actually a fake composed by a local farmer. Chinese paleontologists estimate that more than 80% of the marine reptiles displayed in China’s museums are forged.

All of this is a demonstration of a challenge to scientists to continually be aware that the old “rule of graduate work” made in jest is always with us. It says “make sure your data conforms to your conclusions.” Fake artifact claims sometimes result from the pressure put on researchers to publish or perish. When the truth becomes known it can be painfully embarrassing for the scientists involved. For us laymen, no matter what our belief system is, it is essential to be careful with our sources of information.
–John N. Clayton

Artistic Expression and Human History

Artistic Expression and Human History
One of the interesting challenges to human evolution has to do with our capacity for artistic creation. Why do human artistic expressions display beauty and color? There is no good evidence that animals express themselves aesthetically – be it music, color, artistic expression, abstractionism, or worship. When people have claimed that animals express themselves in these areas, the claims have turned out to be anthropomorphisms by those making the claims. We all tend to attach human attributes to animal actions, but the evidence supports the view that animals don’t do those things. On the other hand, artistic expression and human history go together.

One evidence of artistic work has to do with the pictures left on cave walls in various locations. Those drawings do not show a sequence of development. In other words, you don’t see older drawings that are more primitive than recent ones. There is a story that Picasso examined the Cromagnon cave drawings and said, “We have learned nothing about art in our entire history on planet earth.”

USA Today (November 9, 2018) published an article on new art finds in Borneo and Indonesia. They are much older than any of the drawings in Spain and France. Dr. Maxime Aubert who led the discovery says the paintings are 4,000 years older than any other find. Aubert says “they are the earliest known figurative artwork.” In addition to the drawings of mystic animals, there are hand stencils and cave paintings of human scenes, and extensive use of color.

Genesis 4:21-22 indicates that humans developed tools and musical instruments early. Human history has included artwork and musical synthesis from a very early time. We would suggest this is all tied to our spiritual nature. It is our soul that gives us the capacity to do all the things that set humans apart from animals. The new finds support the view that these abilities were present in human’s from the beginning, not developed over a long time. Artistic expression and human history cannot be separated.
John N. Clayton © 2018

Clayton Museum Adds Children’s Section

Clayton Museum- Onager
Foster Stanback is a collector of artifacts of historical significance. In 2015 he established a museum in York Nebraska to house many of those artifacts. Because of our long association with Foster, he honored our work together by naming it the Clayton Museum of Ancient History.

The Clayton Museum houses an amazing collection of items from the time of Christ and earlier. The museum focuses on ancient Mesopotamia and the Roman Empire. The oldest artifacts are an Egyptian mace head and an ax head, both approximately 5000 years old. You can see a 3500-year-old Egyptian toolkit comparable to what was used at the time the Israelites were slaves in Egypt.

The Roman collection from the first to third centuries is especially impressive since it includes everything from personal grooming items to weapons of war. You can see an authentic Roman gladius (sword), a Roman soldier’s helmet, and pieces of armor. A reconstructed Roman onager (a type of catapult) stands near the center of the museum. The displays help us to understand the conditions and way of life that existed in Biblical times and during the time of Christ.

The Clayton Museum of Ancient History has had over 10,000 visitors, including many school groups. They have added a section devoted to children, with interactive displays and a variety of kid-friendly exhibits. The museum is ideally suited for families as there is something for everyone. It is located on the York College campus in York, Nebraska, in the lower level of the Mackey Center. Parking and admission are free. For hours and a map click HERE. You can call for information or to schedule a tour (402)363-5748.
–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

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?

Intelligent Design or Beneficial Accidents?
An atheist once said, “We are as much a product of blind forces as is the falling of a stone to earth or the ebb and flow of the tides. We have just happened, and man was made flesh by a long series of singularly beneficial accidents.” The other view is that we are the result of design and planning. Do you consider yourself the result of intelligent design or beneficial accidents?

C. S. Lewis, an atheist who became a believer, wrote, “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists’ and astronomers’ as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident would be able to give correct account of all the other accidents.”

We suggest that you ask yourself this question: “Can I rationally believe that the incredible complexity of my body is the result of mindless forces, or does it indicate design?” If our thoughts are merely accidental byproducts of the movement of atoms in a brain that accidentally assembled itself, then nothing has any real meaning.

At DOES GOD EXIST? we believe that we are not accidents. The human body exhibits evidence of design, not chance accidents. Our thoughts are rational because we are the product of a rational God. Intelligent design or beneficial accidents — which do you choose?
–Roland Earnst © 2018