Beauty of Earth’s Diversity

Beauty of Earths DiversityThe plant in the picture is called the “bird of paradise.” It is neither a bird, nor is it found in paradise. However, it is indeed a beautiful example of the beauty of Earth’s diversity in the plant world. One of the primary reasons many of us enjoy travel and visiting museums, zoos, and arboretums is that we are enthralled with the incredible diversity of living things.

We want to suggest that this diversity is more than a device to entertain us humans. From a scientific standpoint, it is the diversity of life on Earth that has led to the high standard of living available to us on this planet. As geneticists unravel the genome of living things, it becomes more and more apparent why agricultural breeding practices of the past have been successful. The production of super chickens, super cows, low-fat pork, and all the other unique breeds has been possible because of all the different genetic options God built into life. If, for example, there had been only one set of genes for all bovines on this planet, such cattle as the Charolais would not have been possible. It is only because we have an infinite number of genetic possibilities to draw from that we can select those that will serve our particular needs.

In plants, this is equally obvious. We have only begun to appreciate all that plants can do. Scientists have studied only a small percentage of all plants on this planet to see how we can use them. Cures for cancer, AIDS, the common cold, and a variety of other ailments may well be in a plant we have not yet investigated. It is self-evident in today’s world that solving the problem of hunger lies in the fuller use of plants. The diversity of plants holds the key to better nutrition, more and better fabrics to protect and shelter us, and even the improvement of air quality.

In God’s creative wisdom, He gave us a wide diversity of life of all kinds and told us to “take care of the Garden, dress it, and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The future has vast potential for good if we will use in a constructive way all that God has given us. To arbitrarily destroy any of this diversity and thus end its potential usefulness is not only poor management of the “Garden,” but also the worst kind of foolishness.

We also suggest that the beauty of Earth’s diversity of humans offers the potential for vast good. Each of us has a gift designed into our makeup that uniquely qualifies us to bring great blessings to others. Paul said it best:

“According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service, if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8). See also 1 Corinthians 12:8-27.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Magnetism and Life

Magnetism and LifeOne of the things that beginning chemistry students run into very early is the fact that magnetism plays a vital role in the way electrons and atoms work. I remember one of my favorite students who whined and complained when we talked about paired electrons and their dependence on magnetism. He said, “Why does chemistry have to be so terribly complicated? I could function very nicely without magnetism, thank you.” My response was that not only could he not function without magnetism, but he could not exist without magnetism. There is an inseparable bond between magnetism and life.

Most of us are aware of magnetism in only a vague way. We know that magnets stick things to our refrigerators, and we are familiar with magnetic compasses. We have some awareness that the Earth has a magnetic field, although we don’t know how or why. The simple fact is that, without magnetism, we would not exist. In addition to that, much of what allows us to live as we do depends on magnetism. Our appliances and electronic devices work because of magnets and magnetic principles. In fact, magnetism generates the electricity we use.

Earth’s magnetism and life are connected in a way that most people don’t understand. As charged particles come toward us from the Sun and other objects in space, Earth’s magnetic field deflects them away. Without this protective shield, radiation would be so high on the Earth’s surface that life would have a very difficult time surviving. Also, magnetism is an active force in living things. Many animals migrate from one geographic area to another using Earth’s magnetic field as a guide. We have even found that tiny magnets inside our bodies can be used to see things that are invisible to X-rays and ultrasound. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an important tool available to modem science.

The reason magnetism works is because of the design of the electron. Electrons possess a magnetic field. Each electron has a north and a south magnetic pole caused by the electron’s spin. We don’t know exactly how this works, but we do know that for chemical reactions to take place, electrons must have their magnetic field in a specific alignment. This magnetic property of electrons controls all chemical reactions and makes a variety of other chemical processes possible. If an electron had all of its electrons paired up magnetically, all of its energy fields filling the atom would be totally stable. Elements that have that arrangement are called inert, and examples are helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon.

In some materials, there are large numbers of unpaired electrons. The energy of unpaired electrons allows these elements to be very active, and we use those materials for a variety of special purposes. Atoms strive to have all magnetic fields balanced and closed, and that is the basis of modem chemistry. When electrons flow through a wire, their alignment causes their magnetic fields to add and grow. That is the basis of the electromagnet and the Earth’s magnetic field which protects us.

The design of the atom and the way magnetism is built into elements allows the existence of matter, life, and the protective system that sustains life on Earth. The connection between magnetism and life and the complexity of this system tells us that chance is not the guiding mechanism. There are intelligence and purpose in the system that makes life possible. The design of the cosmos that functions year after year speaks eloquently of the wisdom and power of its Creator.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Ocean Treasure House

Ocean Treasure HouseOceans are essential for life on Earth. As we learn more about the oceans, we realize more and more how important the ocean treasure house is to our survival.

Fish, shrimp, and lobsters are some of the blessings that come from the oceans. Those vast bodies of water contain a great wealth of biomass that can address human food needs. The very fact that these forms of life lay millions of eggs that can provide massive amounts of food quickly is a testimony to the vast ocean treasure house. As humans conserve and farm these resources, we see the potential for food production with minimal environmental impact.

But food is only one of the blessings that come from the oceans. The oceans of the world provide water for the land. Evaporation lifts massive amounts of water from the oceans. The moisture condenses and falls on the continents providing the vital water needed by all land forms of life.

The oceans also moderate temperatures on the land. When Earth is closest to the Sun, its tilt exposes the Southern Hemisphere to the direct radiation of the Sun. Since oceans mostly cover the Southern Hemisphere, the water reflects much of the radiation, and the rest is absorbed and stored in the water. The water carries this heat toward the polar areas of the planet, moderating temperatures and allowing life to exist in abundance at the higher latitudes.

When the Earth is at its farthest distance from the Sun, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun, exposing the land to the Sun’s radiation. The land surface absorbs more heat radiation and reflects less of it. The waters in the Southern Hemisphere moderate the climate by using their stored energy to supplement the heat from the Sun.

In addition to their thermodynamic uses, the oceans also control the gases that are critical for life on Earth. Photosynthetic processes taking place in the oceans produce most of our oxygen. The oceans are a significant carbon sink, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that would be in our atmosphere if the oceans did not exist. This not only restricts the adverse greenhouse effects of carbon dioxide but also recycles carbon in ways that benefit the entire planetary ecosystem.

Another ocean treasure house is the minerals they hold. The salt in the ocean is not just sodium chloride (regular table salt). The oceans contain a wide variety of elements that are critical to humans. They include iodine, magnesium, copper, and copious trace elements of biological importance. People who live far from the oceans benefit from these mineral resources because ancient oceans have deposited those minerals on land. Oceans gather and store the elements that humans need. While we have mined these ocean-deposited resources on land, we are now learning to take them directly from the ocean.

As science looks for life elsewhere in the cosmos, it is not likely that we will find it unless we find a planetary environment with oceans comparable to those on Earth. The ocean treasure house is a beautiful feature unique to planet Earth in our solar system. As science observes other stars and other systems, it becomes increasingly clear that planets like ours are exceedingly rare at best. God has provided the ocean treasure house that speaks eloquently of the Creator’s wisdom and power.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Cotyledon’s Engineered Preparation for life

Cotyledon’s Engineered Preparation for lifePlant seedlings emerging from the ground use the cotyledon’s engineered preparation for life. You may not be familiar with cotyledons, but you have undoubtedly seen them on newly emerged seedlings.

To get the idea, think about some other engineered devices that serve an essential preparatory function. When skydivers jump from a plane, they use carefully engineered equipment. The first thing they deploy to prepare for landing is a pilot chute. The pilot chute can’t land them safely on the ground. Its purpose is to deploy the main parachute. Perhaps more familiar to most people is the limited-use spare tire for automobiles. Those “donuts,” as many people call them, are not designed for high-speed driving or for driving long distances. They are engineered to get you to the nearest service station where the punctured tire can be repaired or replaced. The pilot chute and the limited-use spare tire are examples of engineered preparation.

Just as the pilot chute is packed into the jumper’s gear and the donut is packed into the vehicle, there is something packed into the seed called a cotyledon. Scientists classify flowering plants (angiosperms) as monocots or dicots depending whether they have one or two cotyledons folded into the seed. As soon as the seed has sent a taproot into the soil, it pulls in moisture and uses the hydrostatic pressure to push up a green shoot bearing the cotyledons. As those “donuts” break through the surface, they inflate to provide temporary, emergency photosynthesis. The seedling begins to drink up the water and nutrients from the taproot and use energy from sunlight to kickstart the photosynthesis process.

As the cotyledon’s engineered preparation for life gets the new plant started, real leaves begin to form. In a sense, the cotyledons have taken the plant to the first service station or deployed the main chute. Now it is ready to go from a seedling to a full-grown plant or tree. The seedling still has many challenges ahead, just as the parachutist or motorist does. But just as having the pilot chute or the donut packed and ready for deployment aids the jumper or the driver, the cotyledon supports the plant. Would anyone suggest the pilot chute or donut are merely accidents? We know those devices would not be possible without engineering design. In truth, cotyledons require far more complex engineering that only the master Designer can do.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Great Auk and Human Stewardship Failure

Great Auk and Human Stewardship FailureIt was a flightless North Atlantic bird that stood upright 30-33 inches (75-85 cm) tall and weighed 11 pounds (5 kg). Its small wings were less than 6 inches (15 cm) long. It’s also the story of the great auk and human stewardship failure.

The fact that the great auk couldn’t fly and that it was large enough to provide a meal for hungry sailors is a major reason why it became extinct. People also killed them for their feathers. As the great auk was nearing extinction, people killed the last ones to stuff their skins and display them as trophies in museums and private collections.

Though the great auk couldn’t fly in the air, it did fly underwater. Some might say this bird was poorly designed with its large body and small wings. But underwater, those wings became fins to pursue and catch fish. Larger wings would have been a hindrance underwater. The large size of this bird gave evidence that it found abundant food and had no need to fly in the air.

Great auks had few predators, but since they couldn’t fly and were slow on land, they became easy prey for humans. When it was evident that they were becoming extinct, great auks became more valuable. Collectors wanted a stuffed bird for a trophy, and museums wanted one for display. At last, there was only one breeding pair and one egg left on Eldey Island off the coast of Iceland. On July 3, 1844, three men climbed up on Eldey Island, killed the last two birds, and smashed the egg. The great auk was no more.

The picture shows a monument to the great auk in Iceland facing toward Eldey, the rocky island where the birds made their last stand. It tells the sad story of the great auk and human stewardship failure. God gave humans the duty to care for His creation. He commanded Adam and Eve to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Jesus told us that God cares for the birds. (See Matthew 6:26 and Luke 12:6.) The Apostle Paul in Romans 13:4 talks about human rulers. He wrote that they are “God’s servants for your good.” I think we can apply that concept of rulers to our duty toward the living creatures God created. We are stewards entrusted with caring for the world God gave us, including the living creatures.

Today there is a lack of regard even for human life. For the sake of convenience, people kill babies before they are born. Others set out to kill as many people as possible using guns or vehicles. The great auk and human stewardship failure is a reminder of how many times humans have failed to keep God’s commands. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by Grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5 CSV).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Formation of the Grand Canyon

Formation of the Grand CanyonFor many years science has studied the formation of the Grand Canyon. No single event produced the carving of the canyon. The north rim is higher than the south rim because the whole area has been bowed into what is called a monocline. Such flexing weakens rock just as bending a stick will weaken it at the point of maximum bending. In addition to bending and cracks which weaken sections of rock, water in the area is flowing toward the sea. The Colorado River flows in a path that wanders and winds through the area scouring its bed as it goes. Streams flow into the Colorado flow along the faults through weakened rock materials carving deeper and deeper. All of these things contribute to the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Another obvious contributor is time. How much time did it take to carve the canyon? Some science books will point out that the Colorado River is currently eroding one-half foot of rock every 1,000 years. Then they suggest that if you take the 5,000 feet of vertical rock missing from the canyon and divide it by .5 feet, it would take 10,000 of the 1,000-year-periods. In other words, it would take 10,000,000 years to carve the canyon.

What is wrong with that estimate? Well, first of all, the river is in granite now, which is harder than the sedimentary rocks above it. More important is the assumption that the volume of water in the canyon has been constant. In the past, glaciers melted, producing massive volumes of water in the canyon. Today with the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell controlling the flow (except in a simulation of spring floods), no such volume takes place. Estimating the time required to carve the canyon based on present erosion rates is a self-evident case of bad science.

Another example of bad science comes from creationists who point to Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington as an indication of the time required. Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 blowing out massive amounts of ash, scoria, pumice, and other extruded volcanic rocks. Erosion produced vast canyons on the flanks of the mountain in a few years. Those who say that proves large canyons can be carved in a short time are overlooking the fact that the volcanic rocks are relatively light, easy to erode, and highly porous. To make comparisons between the Grand Canyon and Mount St. Helens is like comparing butter with steel. (For more on this, click HERE.)

So how long did the formation of the Grand Canyon take? No one can answer that question, just as no one can tell you the date of Genesis 1:1. Only those willing to add to the Word of God will give a date. Many denominational creationists will do this to defend their human creeds and traditions, but I suggest that it is a dangerous thing to do.

What we see in the Grand Canyon is an incredible testimony to the power, patience, wisdom, and design of God. In His creation of the Earth, God has produced the elements He knew we would need. He has engineered a planet that processes and redistributes those materials in such a way that they are always available. The Grand Canyon gives us a glimpse of the inside workings of this great machine we call Earth. Genesis 1:1 tells us God created it, not how or when – or how it works. But God has given humans a curiosity, so we look for answers to the formation of the Grand Canyon. The important thing for us to remember is, “God saw all he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Ghostly Seadevil Finds a Mate in the Dark

Ghostly Seadevil Finds a Mate in the DarkMore than a mile (2250 meters) below the ocean, there is a world of darkness. Finding a mate in that dark place could be a challenge, but a species of anglerfish with the scientific name Haplophryne mollis has the problem solved. The solution is to keep your mate permanently attached. The so-called ghostly seadevil finds a mate in the dark and doesn’t let go.

The female sends out pheromones, chemicals which attract the males. The males, which are much smaller than the females, have a keen sense of smell to detect the pheromones in the water. Ghostly seadevils are called anglerfish because they have a “fishing lure” in front of their face to attract other fish which they eat. In the case of the ghostly seadevil, only the female has the lure, and it’s bioluminescent, meaning that it glows in the dark.

Once the male has detected the pheromone, he looks for the glowing lure. He examines the shape, color pattern, and flash pattern of the lure to tell if this is a female of his same species. If it is, he clamps onto her with his teeth and doesn’t let go. Eventually, their skin grows together, and their blood vessels join. She provides his nourishment, and he fertilizes the eggs which she lays. The eggs float upward to the ocean’s surface where they hatch, and the larvae feed on plankton. As they mature, the seadevils migrate back down into the ocean depths and repeat the cycle of life.

This is a drawing because pictures are hard to get in the dark ocean. In this case, you can see that two males have attached themselves. You can also see the bioluminescent lure on the front of the female fish’s head, and that’s how the ghostly seadevil finds a mate in the dark. They have a “ghostly” appearance because their bodies are translucent like many creatures living in darkness. This cycle of life seems strange, but it has too many coincidences to be accidental. We think it shows the creativity of the God who designed life to survive everywhere on Earth.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Animal Sizes and Human Benefits

Animal Sizes and Human BenefitsThere have always been large animals living on planet Earth, and there are also massive numbers of small animals. The question is whether there is a reason for each of these to exist. What is the reason for animal sizes?

Large animals require not only a lot of room but also significant amounts of food to provide energy for their massive bodies. In ancient times, dinosaurs became enormous. Their capacity to eat large quantities of plant material and spread the seeds was also huge. Today, our large animals such as rhinos and elephants are nowhere near the size of many of the dinosaurs. Still, they are large, and they consume enormous amounts of plant material. A whole ecosystem is built around these large animals, but the space available to house them is becoming smaller and smaller. Most scientific studies indicate the likely extinction of the large animal forms.

Researchers at England’s University of Southampton have been studying 15,500 mammal and bird species to ask what the future holds for large animals. Their studies show that in the next 100 years, the average body mass of mammals will shrink by 25%. As the larger animals become extinct, smaller, fertile animals will replace them.

The design of this system is amazing. In the primitive Earth, there was a need to provide resources in massive quantities over a large geographic area, and the larger animals could do that. As we dig into the fossil records of Earth, we see evidence of how successful this system was. Massive coal beds speak of conditions very different from those of today. Providing these resources required enormous animals.

Environmental change has made the production of these kinds of resources unnecessary. God designed the system in such a way that size fits the needs of the ecosystem. While we are reluctant to allow large animals to become extinct, their survival is no longer critical to the continuance of the ecosystem in which they live. Human influence has also been a factor in the reduction of animal sizes.

We find an example of the importance of small animal sizes in the oceans. Coral reefs are critical to the survival of ecosystems along the shorelines of the world. The United States Geological Survey reports that in U.S. Waters, coral reefs provide more than 1.8 billion dollars in flood protection benefits every year. The reefs are vast collections of tiny organisms which break waves, drain energy from ocean storms, and protect the land along the shoreline. In 2017 tropical storms caused more than $265 billion in damage in the United States. Much of that damage was due to the destruction of coral reefs.

God has designed animal sizes to allow them to benefit humans. He has left it to us to understand how these systems work and protect and nurture them. We live in an amazing world that has been created with wisdom and purpose. Understanding how animals benefit us will lead to protecting and caring for the world in which we live.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from National Wildlife, October/November 2019, page 8.

How the Elements Were Created

How the Elements Were CreatedScience has made significant progress in understanding many things about the universe and our planet and the life on it. However, there are many, many things that we have not yet begun to understand. There are also many things we think we understand, but we are still working on better understandings. One question involves how the elements were created.

At the time of the cosmic creation event (widely called the “big bang”), there were atoms with one proton and one electron and some with twice that many. We call simplest element hydrogen, and two hydrogen atoms combine to form helium in the process of nuclear fusion. More and more fusion took place and still is happening in our Sun and other stars. The process requires intense heat and pressure to fuse the atomic nuclei into a heavier atom.

In stars much more massive than our Sun, heavier elements up to iron can are being formed by fusing more and more atoms together. When you go beyond iron, and all the way up to uranium, even the biggest, brightest, and hottest stars can’t squeeze those atoms together. Scientists believe that the heavier elements are created in exploding stars known as supernovae. When they explode, the theory goes, ripples of turbulence form as the supernovae toss their stellar material into the void of the universe. The forces in that turbulence press more and more atoms together to make the heavier elements. As those atomic elements fly off into space, gravity pulls them into lumps which eventually become planets, such as the one on which we live.

A problem with that explanation is that when the atoms are blasted from the supernovae, they are all traveling in the same direction at perhaps the same speed. How can that produce enough force and heat to fuse them together? An alternate explanation is that the explosion within the supernova is not symmetrical, creating areas of greater density. Ultradense and ultrahot regions concentrated in small areas of the exploding mass perhaps give a better explanation of how the elements were created. (See a paper on that published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.)

Carbon is the basic building block of all living cells. Nitrogen and oxygen, which are the next steps above carbon, bond with it along with other atoms to form living molecules. A little higher on the atomic scale are sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other elements which are essential to life. Iron, nickel, copper, and other metals are in molecules within our bodies, and we use them in pure form to build our homes, cars, and electronics. The heavier radioactive elements such as uranium deep within the Earth generate the heat that creates a molten iron core that generates a magnetic field which surrounds and protects us. This is a very simple explanation of a very complex system that makes it possible for us to be here.

Science is only beginning to understand how the elements were created and how they are continuing to be created. How did this amazing, complex system come into being with the precision that put life on this planet? We could declare a god-of-the-gaps to say that we don’t understand it and therefore, God did it. It is much better for us to learn HOW God did it. As we begin to see the wisdom required to put this incredibly complex universe together, we become more in awe of the Creator. We don’t have a god-of-the-gaps who “zaps” things into existence like a magician. Our God is an engineer craftsman who creates complexity and beauty that leaves us without excuse. (See Romans 1:20.)
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Spring-loaded Movement in Living Things

Spring-loaded Movement in Living ThingsAn interesting study of living things in the world around us involves how things move from one place to another. There are many creatures with muscles that move their legs or wings to travel from place-to-place. Other forms of life use spring-loaded movement with power greater than muscles can provide.

The larvae of the gall midge Asphondylia flip with power by using a built-in latch that acts as a spring. Gall midges lay their eggs on silverrod or goldenrod plants (Solidago). The midges grow from an egg to a larva inside a gall that grows on the plant. The larva’s body forms into an ellipse by meshing together the back and front using a velcro-like surface on each end. As the midge larva grows, the tension on the surfaces increases until it finally breaks free, shooting the midge as far as 36 times its body length. We previously reported on the so-called “Dracula ant” (Mystrium camillae) which has the world’s fastest jaws that operate on a mechanism which gives them spring-loaded movement.

Some plants like the Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) have a similar structure in their fruit. As the fruit grows, it builds up stress until the edges of the fruit break, shooting the seed great distances. That spring-loaded launch method spreads the seeds over a wider area. Also, we previously reported on the sandbox tree (Hura crepitans) nicknamed “the dynamite tree.” Its seedpods open explosively by a spring-loaded movement that scatters the seeds.

These are all design features built into the very structure of the organisms to allow locomotion. Even the smallest creatures such as ants and midge flies and plants that are rooted in place use spring-loaded movement. Everywhere we look in the creation, we see God’s designs at work. His wonder-working hand has created a great diversity in all of life.

As Paul wrote in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of Him (His wisdom, power, and design) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made even His eternal power and deity; so that mankind is without excuse…”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Science News, August 31, 2019, page 10.