Design of an Elephant’s Trunk

Design of an Elephant’s Trunk

Some of the exciting things about the natural world are the cases where the design is so advanced that any evolutionary explanation is difficult to believe. An excellent example of that is the design of an elephant’s trunk.

Recent ultrasound studies of elephant trunks have shown they are incredibly complex examples of design. The elephant is the only living land animal to have a long boneless appendage. A septum stretching the length of the trunk separates the trunk’s two nostrils. The elephant can expand each nostril’s volume up to 64%. The flow rate of water through the trunk averages about 3.7 liters per second, which would be the same as 24 shower heads operating all at once.

An elephant’s trunk is not just a drinking straw. When the elephant uses the trunk for something other than water, such as food, the nostrils don’t expand, but the elephant uses its lungs to suck up the food. The nostrils can bring air in at more than 150 meters per second, 30 times as fast as in a human’s sneeze.

Research is continuing on the muscular design of an elephant’s trunk. The intricate muscular structure and lack of joints give the elephant a highly complex trunk movement. Engineers have built robotic devices based on the design of an elephant’s trunk,

One researcher commented, “You never know where bio-inspiration will lead.” Designs from Velcro to airplane wings have come about by studying what God has created in living things. Everywhere we look, we see that a wonder-working hand has gone before.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News July 3 & 17, 2021 page 11.

Human Sexuality and God’s Design

Human Sexuality and God’s Design

Human sexuality has been a concern of people throughout time, and the Bible deals with the subject extensively. When I was in college, I worked under the direction of Mrs. Wardell Pomeroy. Her husband was a co-worker with Alfred Kinsey, founder of the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University. At that time, I was an atheist, as was Kinsey, so I considered him a hero. One of Mrs. Pomeroy’s sons became a Christian minister, and that precipitated numerous discussions.

Kinsey had no place for God in his research. His view was that since humans are just mammals, we should be able to enjoy sex with any other mammal of our choosing. The Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky said it well: “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” As belief in God has decreased in western culture, Kinsey’s view of human sexuality has become widely accepted.

The New Testament teaches that the healthiest, most meaningful, most satisfying, and most pleasurable sexual experience is with a single marriage partner. Furthermore, the marriage should be a covenant of love, loyalty, care, and faithfulness. In Matthew 19:5, Jesus said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The Greek word translated “cleave” in the King James Version is “proskollao,” which means to “glue to” or “adhere to.” It is absolute and total unity, not just a physical union. God created human sexuality as a cleaving apparatus.

So what does the evidence show as working in human sexuality? Does the atheist view expressed by Kinsey and Pomeroy work? Every study on this subject has demonstrated that sexual activity outside of the biblical concept of marriage does not work. Here are some examples:

The National Survey of Counseling Directors – A study of 6500 sexually active adolescent girls found that they are three times more likely to be depressed. As a result, they are nearly three times as likely to attempt suicide as peers who are not sexually active.

The National Health and Social Life Council – Their most recent survey found that sexually active singles have the most sexual problems and get the least pleasure from sex. It also showed that couples in long-term marriages were the most satisfied demographic group.

The prominent scholar J.D. Unwin studied 86 civilizations and found that all 86 demonstrated that sexual fidelity was the most important predictor of a society’s ascendancy and strength. Unwin was not a believer and expressed amazement at his own findings.

Atheists are forced to conclude that sex is an evolutionary product and that human sexuality functions the same as that of any other mammal. The biblical view is that sex in humans is not just to produce offspring. Additionally, Human sexuality is a designed tool to assist and promote human relationships and provide stability in civilization. A great deal of the unrest and conflict in America today is rooted in society’s acceptance of the atheist view of sexuality.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Statistics from Reflections on the Existence of God by Richard Simmons, Union Hill Publishing © 2019.

Birds are Better Than Pesticides

Birds are Better Than Pesticides

One of the major scourges that farmers face is crop damage from insects. Farmers spend massive amounts of money on pesticides to get rid of the pests that invade almost every crop they grow. There is also a significant problem with rodents in some crops, and again chemical elimination of rodents is expensive and does a great deal of collateral damage. The solution to all of this is birds. Birds are better than pesticides.

God has always built into the natural environment a way to keep insects and rodents in check. Predators prevent the overpopulation of these pest challenges to human farmers. When humans kill off the predators, the only recourse is using chemicals. New studies have shown how vital birds are to the control of insects and rodents. Birds are better than pesticides. Here are some examples:

FLOOD CONTROL DAMS AND LEVEES – Ground squirrels and gophers burrow under dams and levees, causing the collapse of these structures. Chemical use of anticoagulant rodenticides cost Ventura County, California, $7500 a year and also killed coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions. So instead, the county installed raptor perches to attract owls, hawks, and falcons. Studies showed that those birds were 67% more effective in controlling rodent burrows and saved $7500.

INDONESIAN CACAO PLANTATIONS – Yields of cacao, used for making chocolate, have increased by 290 pounds per acre after adding bird boxes to the fields.

EUROPEAN APPLE GROWERS – Growers have reduced caterpillar damage by 50% by adding nest boxes that attract insectivorous birds known as great tits.

COFFEE BEANS – Farmers in Jamaica added bird boxes and reduced the number of coffee berry borers, increasing profits by $126 per acre.

CALIFORNIA VINEYARDS – Pocket gophers and voles were damaging crops up to $58 per acre. A single family of barn owls placed in a nest box killed 3,000 rodents in a single year. Armyworms are a problem for U.S. Vineyards as well as for beet growers. In California, nest boxes have attracted bluebirds that eat 2.4 times the number of armyworms as areas without bird boxes.

WALNUT GROVES – Moth Larvae are a problem for walnut growers. Placing bird boxes eliminated four times as many of the larvae as other methods.

Humans have created many problems by not using God’s methods of controlling pests. Research shows that chemicals which cause cancer and other issues are not nearly as effective as birds in eliminating the scourges farmers face. Birds are better than pesticides.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Living Bird, Summer 2021, Volume 40 # 3, pages 33 – 42. Available from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Lesson from a Butterfly

Lesson from a Butterfly

We recently saw an article by Julie Marcussen that brings a great lesson to us concerning the life struggles we all have. This lesson from a butterfly has to do with God’s design in living things. Also, it says something we all need to consider. The story goes like this:

A man found the cocoon of a butterfly and watched it hoping to see a beautiful butterfly come from the cocoon. One day a small opening appeared in the cocoon. He watched the butterfly try to force its body through that small opening, but its progress was painfully slow, and it finally seemed to stop and not make any more progress. It appeared that the butterfly had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.

So, the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon allowing the butterfly to emerge. But when it came out of the cocoon, the butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly expecting that at any moment, the wings would expand to support the body, which would contract.

It never happened.
The butterfly spent the rest of its short life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings, unable to fly. The man, in his kindness, didn’t understand that the restricting cocoon and the struggle for the butterfly to get through the small opening were a designed system to force the fluid from the body into its wings. Only then could it be ready for flight once it was free of the cocoon. That is the lesson from a butterfly.

Sometimes we need life’s struggles to prepare us to deal with the world in which we live. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it could cripple us. Expecting God to remove every problem, temptation, and consequence of bad choices would not allow us to be strong enough to have any value or purpose in our lives. We, too, would never fly.

This life and its struggles mold and prepare us for an existence with God free of problems and struggles. We can learn this lesson from a butterfly. Having struggled through the small opening of our existence we call “life” will make our heavenly existence just that more beautiful.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

God’s Solution for Climate Change

God’s Solution for Climate Change -Forests

It is becoming more and more difficult for the naysayers to deny that we are facing climate change. Some areas are experiencing too much rain, while others are facing catastrophic drought. It is hard to miss the changes in ocean temperatures and how that is affecting ocean life. People have offered all kinds of solutions to stop or reverse what is going on in the world’s climate, but the solutions are expensive and unproven. Perhaps we need to turn to God’s solution for climate change.

Science News published an extensive series of reports under the title “Can Trees Save the World.” The subject matter is broken into three major topics: (1) The Promise and Pitfall of Trees (2) First, Protect Today’s Forests (3) The Forested Farms of the Future. The articles point out the many things trees do to provide climates in which humans can survive.

For example, trees capture and sequester carbon, break up the soil, and inject nutrients into all kinds of soils. Trees provide food for a wide variety of life forms, including humans. Those food sources include fruit, fungus, and plant materials. The report gives an encouraging message of how trees can change the climate situation that threatens humans today,

It is worth noting that according to the Genesis account, the first form of life God created was plants (Genesis 1:11). This was before He established the Sun and Moon as controllers of “signs and for seasons and for days and for years.” The sequence of plants in these verses is “deshe” (grasses), “eseb” (herbs – gymnosperms), and finally “ets peri zera” (tree yielding fruit whose seed is in itself).

Scientific evidence shows that plants were major factors in producing a climate that would allow humans to exist. It seems that correcting our climate problems should involve repeating what God used initially to prepare the planet for human life. We need to turn to God’s solution for climate change.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News for July 3/July 17, 2021, pages 19 -35.

The Complexity of the Cosmos

The Complexity of the Cosmos

The complexity of the cosmos is so incredible that it baffles the best scientific minds of our day. Scientists have employed elaborate machines to try to understand more of the nature of the creation.

When I was a high school student, we learned that the cosmos is made up of electrons, protons, and neutrons. All of chemistry and physics could be explained by the measurements of these three particles. When I took my first college course in nuclear science, I began to work in the cyclotron, assisting graduate Ph.D. candidates. I realized the creation was not as simple as it appears. As an atheist, this was distressing because I could see that human knowledge of the complexity of the cosmos was, at best, incomplete.

As a graduate student, I was privileged to work with equipment that could smash protons to see what was inside. “Fundamental particles” was a term that began to show up in the scientific literature, and gradually another “simple explanation of everything” began to emerge. It was called “The Standard Model of particle physics.” It consisted of leptons (such as the electron), and quarks which made up protons and neutrons.

This model also required force particles called bosons to hold things together. With larger and more powerful accelerators, scientists discovered still more particles which were the glue holding everything together. These particles were part of the structure of matter called gluons and the Higgs boson. The complexity of the cosmos was becoming more impressive.

Despite all of this work by literally thousands of physicists worldwide, they were still seeing things that didn’t fit all of the models. Galaxies were spinning too fast to hold together unless some unknown and unseen force was counteracting the centrifugal force of the rotation. The latest measurements show that 68.3% of the creation is made up of energy we can’t detect by any existing instrumentation. We can measure the mass of the cosmos, but 26.8% of the mass we know must be there because of gravitational fields is missing. Scientists now refer to the two missing quantities as “dark energy” and “dark matter.”

The complexity of the cosmos causes us to wonder at the intelligence that created all of this. We will examine this topic more tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Lightning and Hydroxyl Radicals

Lightning and Hydroxyl Radicals

Lightning and hydroxyl radicals are among the lesser-known agents that clean our atmosphere. Hydroxyl radicals are composed of a single oxygen atom combined with a hydrogen atom. Since the valence of these two atoms is minus two and plus one, respectively, the combined charge is minus one. That means that the OH- radical will attach itself to any plus-charged atom or molecule. Numerous molecules in our atmosphere offer a positive charge, such as carbon monoxide and methane. Also, many organic compounds have loosely held hydrogen atoms. When the hydroxyl radical attaches itself to another hydrogen atom, the product is water.

Even if you don’t understand all of the chemistry involved here, it should be evident that the materials the hydroxyl radicals attach themselves to are common atmospheric pollutants. Hydroxyl is an air cleaning compound designed to remove natural contaminants and human-caused pollution as well. In typical situations, the concentration of hydroxyl radicals is a few ppt (parts per trillion). Keeping our atmosphere free of damaging pollutants requires much more than that.

Recent discoveries have shown that lightning produces significant numbers of hydroxyls. In 2012, a NASA jet flying through storm clouds over Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas detected hydroxyl concentrations of thousands of ppt. Electricity from lightning can produce enough hydroxyl radicals to keep our air clean of any natural pollutants and help to reduce human-caused pollution.

We have said before that lightning takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and produces nitrates that provide essential nutrients for plants. Now we know that lightning is also indispensable as an air cleaning tool. With lightning and hydroxyl radicals, God has designed a tool that not only allows plants to provide our food but also cleans our air.

John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News for June 5, 2021, page 13, and ScienceDirect.com

Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

June 20, 2021, was the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest period of sunlight of any day this year. Now that we have passed the summer solstice, the days are getting shorter. That raises the question of why the summer solstice is not the hottest day of the year since the Sun is up for the longest time. The answer to that is simple. It’s because every day until September’s fall equinox has more hours of sunlight than darkness, and there is a heat lag. It takes a long time for Earth to heat up after winter, so normally the hottest day is well after the summer solstice.

A more important point is why the summer solstice happens and how it is critical to life on planet Earth. The cause of the solstice and the equinox is that Earth is tilted on its axis by 23 ½ degrees. As it orbits the Sun, that tilt causes every point on Earth to experience different amounts of Sun each day and controls the angles at which the Sun’s rays hit Earth’s surface. On the equinox, the Sun is directly overhead at the equator. At noon, the Sun would shine down to the bottom of a well on the equator. Every other latitude on the planet would have the Sun’s rays hitting Earth’s surface at an angle that is not perpendicular.

As Earth revolves around the Sun, it is essentially a giant gyroscope with the poles always pointed in the same direction. It isn’t until the solstices that the Sun would shine right down a well at its northern or southern position, and that happens to be 23 ½ degrees north or south latitude. So why is that important?

If Earth did not have the axis tilt, we would not have the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Sun would always be directly overhead at the equator all the time. Land near the equator would be so hot that life could not exist there. Areas to the north and south would be extremely cold. The temperature differences would create extreme winds, making life difficult. When scientists ran computer simulations, they found that 23 ½ degrees is ideal for minimizing overheating and cooling.

Earth also has a heat sink designed into it—the oceans. Most of the southern hemisphere is covered with water, while the northern hemisphere has more land. Since Earth’s orbit is an ellipse rather than a perfect circle, the southern oceans absorb much of the heat when Earth is closest to the Sun. It just happens that Earth is closest to the Sun when the Southern Hemisphere is in the summer season. It seems like it was planned that way.

We are thankful that we had the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Earth’s tilt, spin, and distribution of land and water are not accidents. They are designed features of our planet that speak of God’s wisdom and planning in the creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Designing an Elephant Trunk

Designing an Elephant Trunk

We all know that elephants have useful trunks. As we learn more about what an elephant’s trunk can do, the more impressive it becomes. Designing an elephant trunk is not a project of chance.

The trunk is not just a snorkel. It is a highly complex device with 40,000 muscles and 150,000 separate muscle fascicles, bundles of muscle fibers. There is no bone or fat in the trunk. The Week magazine published a list of some of the characteristics of a captive elephant at Zoo Atlanta. They include:

1) Inhale water at speeds over 490 feet per second. (That’s 30 times faster than a human sneeze).

2) Issue a 110-decibel trumpet-like blast. (120 dB is considered the human limit without pain.)

3) Suck up food. (A skill thought to belong only to some fish.)

4) Rip up trees and lift 770 pounds. (350 kg)

5) Reach up to 23 feet. (7 m)

6) Hold 2.2 gallons in the trunk. (8.3 l)

7) Detect smells four times better than a bloodhound.

8) Lift a tortilla chip without breaking it.

The more complex a device is, the less likely it is to be the result of an accident or a series of accidents. The difference between the human nose and the elephant trunk is so striking that we should abandon attempts to relate the two. Lead researcher Andrew Schulz from Georgia Tech says that their research “pushes all of the extremes of what we understood animals to be able to do.”

The challenges of designing an elephant trunk strongly suggest that intelligence was involved. This is one more example of the credibility of the statement in Romans 1:20, “We can know there is a God through the things He has made.” 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week magazine for June 18, 2021. page 21

Donkeys Digging Wells in the Desert

Donkeys Digging Wells in the Desert

We don’t ordinarily think of donkeys as diggers, especially not as vital to the desert environment. A researcher from Aarhus University in Denmark has made a discovery that shows a special provision God made to use donkeys to provide water for other life forms. Erick Lundgren has documented donkeys digging wells in the desert. In 2014 Lundgren studied feral horses and donkeys and noticed them digging holes deep enough to reach groundwater.

From 2014 to 2018, Lundgren mapped groundwater in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and found that holes dug by donkeys provided 74% of available water for all forms of life in the area. The donkeys seemed to know where to find water, and 57 vertebrate species from migratory songbirds to mountain lions and even a bear came to the donkey wells to drink.

It is fascinating that this is not a local anomaly. Researchers have documented donkeys digging wells in Central Asia, so this action is built into the donkey’s genome. Attempting to make a case for accidental donkey well-digging fails when isolated populations have the same instinctive drive. They use it not only to survive themselves but to benefit an entire ecosystem.

Research into donkeys digging wells shows that the donkeys know where to dig because the digging is not random. The wells dug by donkeys decreased the distance between water sources to an average of 843 meters, making essential water available to more animals with less tension. We suggest this is a beautiful example of God’s design allowing animals to live in environments that would seem unlikely to support life.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, June 5, 2021, page 14.