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. 

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

CCL Center is a Valuable New Resource

CCL Center is a Valuable New Resource

On October 9-10, we attended a seminar on archaeology presented by Dr. Rick Bullard at the new CCL Center in Florence, Kentucky. We also toured the Elliott Library and Museum located there. Suppose you are interested in historical books dating back to the early 17th century, original bibles, archaeological finds, and a library with books and artifacts related to the Restoration Movement. In that case, this is a learning center you should visit.

The Christian Church Leadership Center is unique in that it houses rare items not found in any other museum. The library’s curator is Jim Lloyd, and he has a thorough understanding of the books and the issues relating to the history of religion in America. Dr. David Fincher, president of Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Missouri, was our host and the man behind the CCL project. In addition, he has connections with David Lipscomb University in Nashville and York College in Nebraska, home of the Clayton Museum of Ancient History.

We also enjoyed talking at length with Dr. William Custer, an expert in apologetics and the philosophy of religion. Custer is a graduate of the University of Chicago and an associate of Norman Geissler. These men and the CCL Center are interested in working with Does God Exist? to provide apologetics training to leaders in Churches of Christ and Christian Churches.

The CCL Center is offering monthly Saturday presentations by respected scholars on apologetics and topics related to the Restoration Movement. The session we attended, led by Dr. Bullard, was titled “Archaeology and the Bible: Stories and Artifacts.” Dr. Bullard is an archaeology professor who has spent many weeks on actual digs in the Holy Land. His father, Dr. Reuben Bullard, was a well-known archeologist and author of many books and articles. The program included lunch and a tour of the library and museum. For information about upcoming sessions, visit their website at the link below.

The CCL Center is about a 20-minute drive from the young earth Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter theme park. It is a tragedy that many people who visit those commercialized dispensational museums are unaware of the CCL Center with its positive biblical teaching. Attending sessions at the CCL Center is much less expensive, and the library and museum do not charge. We recommend the CCL Center as a new opportunity for solid biblical learning in the Cincinnati area.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

For coming events at the CCL Center: ccleadership.org/events/

For information about the Elliott Library: elliottlibrary.org/

Location: 8095 Connector Drive, Florence, Kentucky

Phone: 513-375-2645

Understanding Insect Brains

Understanding Insect Brains -Apple Fly
Apple Fly

One of the mysteries that concern farmers, medical researchers, and biologists alike is how bugs do what they do. How does the apple fly find the apple where it mates and lays its eggs that grow into apple maggots? How does a fly know when I lift a fly swatter that it needs to take off? How does that same fly find some food I left on the table? Scientists find a challenge in understanding insect brains.

The ordinary fly has 1/200,000 as many neurons as a human. But when robotics experts try to build a robot that can do what a fly can do using computer algorithms and bio-based solutions, they are spectacularly unsuccessful. Flying through three-dimensional space is especially difficult when ten meters is the farthest distance you can perceive visual information.

Research has shown that the common insect with wings, six legs, and several hundred lenses can solve problems in flight. They can locate objects of interest by combining sensory clues. Visual senses prevent them from running into things as they fly. Touch clues allow them to sense the wind. They have a sense of smell a million times more sensitive than what humans have. They use polarization patterns to help identify targets and temperatures ahead of them. According to leading entomologist Thomas Eisner of Cornell University, understanding insect brains requires us to “think like a fly.”

Remember that not running into things is only one concern an insect has. Avoiding enemies, mating, and recognizing an approaching object are also necessary skills. For example, apple maggots happen because the insect can identify color, shape, size, and odor to distinguish between an apple and a pear.

There are many reasons understanding insect brains is essential. For example, to avoid infestations of apple maggots without using harsh chemicals, we must understand the mechanisms of the apple fly and know how to defeat the process.

The skeptic will ask, “Why do these insects exist? Why did God allow apple maggots or the common housefly?” We must remember that insects are a staple in the food chain affecting many birds and mammals. Also, we must have living things that can process waste materials. Flies lay eggs that produce larvae called maggots that break down animal carcasses. Imagine a world where there were no processors of dead animals.

Thousands of years ago, God instructed the Israelites how to avoid most insect-carried diseases, such as by burying sewage instead of throwing it on the ground. Insects are a vital part of our world, and we could not exist without them. Managing resources intelligently is an essential part of human survival, and that requires understanding insect brains and how they work.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from: “Insect Decision Making” by Shannon Olson and Pavan Kumar Kaushik, American Scientist, Volume 109, November/December 2021, pages 368-375.

October Meteor Showers

Jupiter Comet Shield and October Meteor Showers
Jupiter Struck by Shoemaker-Levy 9

October is the month for two meteor showers—Draconid and Orionid. They get their names from the constellations closest to the places in the night sky where they seem to originate. The truth is that they have no connection to those constellations. Instead, these October meteor showers come from comets.

Meteor showers result from Earth passing through dust trails left by comets. The Draconids peaked this year on the night between October 8 and 9. They originate from debris left by comet 21P/Giaconini-Zinner that makes a revolution around the Sun every 6.6 years. Every October, when Earth passes through the dirty dust trail, the bits of debris burn up from friction as they enter the atmosphere at extremely high speed, and we see them as “shooting stars.”

The Orionid meteors are the result of Halley’s Comet. That comet makes a complete orbit around the Sun every 76 years, but Earth passes through the left-over debris twice a year in May and October. This year’s Orionid shower will peak on the night between October 20 and 21. However, a few of them may be visible even tonight as the October meteor showers almost overlap.

Unlike asteroids, which can be very large and cause severe damage, comet dust is beautiful but harmless. The Chixculub asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was 6.2 miles (10 km) in diameter. The impact was like a 100 million megaton bomb blast, and it wiped out three-fourths of all plant and animal life on Earth.

What if a whole comet struck planet Earth? The result would be catastrophic. We can find comfort in the fact that our solar system was designed with comet sweepers to prevent that from happening. The comet sweepers are named Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and the main one–Jupiter. Those giant outer planets all travel in the same plane, or ecliptic, as our planet. Comets come from outside the solar system, and because those outer planets are much larger, they have much more gravity. Since they are in line with Earth’s plane, they pull in the comets before they can reach our home planet.

The picture from NASA shows some fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 being pulled into Jupiter after the planet’s gravity ripped it into 21 pieces in July 1994. Those pieces were up to 1.2 miles in diameter and traveling at 134,000 miles per hour. Imagine what would have happened if that comet, or even one of those pieces, had hit the Earth! That is something to think about while watching the beauty of the October meteor showers. There is a reason why God designed the solar system the way He did. It was not an accident–and neither are we.

— Roland Earnst © 2021
Click HERE for information about viewing the Orionid Meteor Shower.