Natural Solutions for Wildfires and Drought

Natural Solutions for Wildfires and Drought - Beavers
Natural Solutions for Wildfires and Drought - Beaver Dams

People worldwide need water for drinking, growing crops, bathing, and even for transportation. The problem is not so much the lack of precipitation as it is distribution. In the western United States, a massive amount of water accumulates as snow on the mountains during the winter season. This snow melts, and the water runs off in spring and summer. Some it soaks into the ground and creates a wealth of aquifers that carry the water underground for many miles. Humans have tapped this water with wells lowering the water table, causing a scarcity of natural springs and water available near the surface. That causes vegetation to dry up and die, making wildfires a major issue. There are natural solutions for wildfires and drought.

Wildfires that have occurred in the western United States in the past two years were relatively rare in the past. As water tables continue to drop, we can expect to see more fires, water shortages, and more demand for this vital resource. Private landowners have found a partial solution by building small rock dams that slow runoff and allow more water to soak into the ground raising the water table. In the Gunnison, Colorado area, landowners have constructed some 2,000 of those dams known as zuni bowls. The result is that places that were formerly brown through much of the summer and fall are becoming green.

Others seeking natural solutions for wildfires and drought reintroduce beavers into areas where there are streams and rivers they can dam and make ponds. In the past, people have trapped and removed beavers to allow land development projects. Today, people are even planting trees for beavers to use for dam building. When beaver dams create ponds and raise the water table, they create a whole new ecosystem restoring birds and other water animals while reducing the threat of wildfires. In July of 2018, the Sharps fire scorched the Baugh Creek region near Hailey, Idaho. The fire reduced everything to charcoal except the vegetation along beaver-built ponds, which remained green oases.

God created the Earth with natural solutions for wildfires and drought. Human activity often upsets that balance, but we are learning how to restore God’s water solutions. Beavers are among the resources God created to do the job. We just need to know how to use the tools God gave us.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, March 27, 2021.

What Makes You Special?

What Makes You Special?

What makes you special? As we look at the many creatures that inhabit planet Earth, we see that humans are unique.

Unlike most animals, we walk on two legs. Even primates that can stand upright spend much of their time on all-fours. Standing upright frees our hands for making and using tools. It also allows us to use our hands for creating art and writing stories and books. Most animals are covered with a thick layer of hair to protect them from the harsh environment. We protect ourselves by clothing that we design using our creativity and that we make using our hands.

Our opposable thumbs allow us to do things that no animal can. Most apes and monkeys have opposable thumbs, but only humans can bring their thumbs in opposition to any of our four fingers. That is unique, but it’s not what makes you special.

Humans can speak and write. The design and position of our larynx, tongue, and mouth make it physically possible to create sounds that form words. Beyond our physical traits, the ability to understand symbolism is essential for advanced communication. You can understand the meaning of words, even the meaning of the words formed by the letters you are reading. But still, there is more to what makes you special.

Human children are dependent on their parents for a much longer time than any animal, and our family relationships are important throughout life. We are capable of an “agape” type of love that emphasizes others’ needs rather than ourselves. We learn to love in our families as our parents model a godly love for us.

Our brain is unique, not because of its size but because of what it can do. There are animals with larger brains. The sperm whale has the largest. When you compare brain weight to body size, many birds have brains that make up 8 percent of their body weight. The human brain is only about 2.5 percent of our body weight, but it far exceeds any animal’s brain in intelligence.

The most remarkable difference–and the biggest mystery to science–is what is often referred to as “mind.” How can mere atoms and molecules form cells and neural connections to create the human sense of advanced self-consciousness and purpose? We believe this most unique feature of humans is more than the physical action of neurons. We prefer to call it our soul, that brings us closer to what makes you special.

We have to look beyond the physical realm to understand what makes humans special. Our creativity, our search for beauty, our desire for loving relationships, our seeking after justice, and our desire to worship all indicate that we know there is something beyond what this world offers. We believe those desires are in your soul because God created you in His image and designed you to have a relationship with Him. That is truly what makes you special.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

COVID-19 Vaccines and Design

COVID-19 Vaccines and Design

We received the following article on COVID-19 vaccines and design from Phillip Eichman. He is one of our readers who has a doctorate in biology and writes for us from time to time.

The politics and debate surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines have obscured the intrinsic beauty of the cellular mechanism that makes these vaccines possible. Earlier vaccines that many of us received, such as smallpox and polio vaccines, contained a weakened or inactivated virus. The COVID-19 vaccines contain only a tiny piece of viral genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA).

The amount of research and development that went into these vaccines is amazing. Scientists first determined the genome of the virus, then isolated the genes and produced a functional piece of viral mRNA. When injected into your shoulder, this viral mRNA directs the production of a viral protein that your immune system recognizes as foreign, ultimately resulting in immunity to the virus. When I took a molecular biology course as an undergraduate in the early 1970s, something like these vaccines might have seemed more like science fiction than basic science.

Clearly, the fact that these mRNA vaccines have been developed and appear to function as expected shows us that living things are not merely a random bunch of parts thrown together. Rather, they are exceedingly complex, finely tuned machines that result from intelligent planning and design. COVID-19 vaccines and design provide further evidence that the universe did not just happen.

— Phillip Eichman © 2021

Autotomy and Decapitation

Autotomy and Decapitation
Elysia marginata sea slug

Japanese scientists have released a study of autotomy and decapitation in sea slugs. Researchers found that two species of sea slugs have the amazing ability to separate their heads from their bodies. The sea slug’s head continues to move while it regenerates a heart and other organs.

Autotomy is not a new phenomenon in the animal world. Many of us have seen lizards drop their tails to avoid predators. The tail continues to move to distract the predator while the lizard escapes. But this is the first instance where an animal drops its entire body. Both lizards and the sea slugs can use autotomy as many times as is needed. Japanese scientists have seen specimens regrow their bodies several times.

The slug’s head gets its energy to survive from photosynthesis taking place in cells it has acquired from its algae diet. The researchers believe the sea slug releases its body to get rid of parasites. The scientific community is interested in how this could be applied to replacing human body parts.

The complexity of what appears to be a simple animal is astounding. It’s a good demonstration that God has created animals with unique properties and abilities. Autotomy and decapitation reminds us that there are many things we observe in the natural world that we may use to solve some of the problems humans face.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

You can read the research report in Current Biology and see pictures and video HERE.

Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity

Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity
Photo of the Suez Canal blocked by the giant ship taken from the International Space Station.
Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

The Moon does many things that affect life on Earth. Sometimes its power can help in ways we never considered, such as opening the Suez Canal.

For a week, we saw news reports about a giant ship blocking that canal which carries much of the world’s shipping. The offending vessel is one of the world’s largest container ships, and it got stuck on the sand and turned sideways to block the entire channel. Tugboats and dredging vessels worked to dislodge it, but they were toy boats by comparison. You could think of a child with a toy shovel and sand bucket trying to free a beached whale and push it back into the ocean. I saw a news report with an “expert” saying it could take weeks to free the vessel.

Then, the Moon stepped in. The March full-moon arrived over the weekend and helped to free the ship. We have said before that the Moon does many things to support life on Earth. Its light helps nocturnal animals, and sometimes humans, to find their way. The Moon’s gravity stabilizes the Earth’s tilt which causes the seasons. The gravity also causes the tides that clean the ocean’s shores and estuaries. The tides and the moonlight play an essential role in the reproduction of sea turtles and many crustaceans. The tides even help to free stuck ships.

On March 29, the container ship Ever Given became dislodged, opening the Suez Canal. The 1,300 foot-long ((400 m) vessel would still be stuck if the Moon’s gravity had not raised the water level to lift it enough that the tug boats could move it. Tides are highest during the full-moon. At that time, the Sun and the Moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. Their gravity pulls on the water raising the tides. In this case, that force was enough to free a ship the size of the Empire State Building from being stuck in the mud and thus to open the Suez Canal.

One more thing about the Moon is that it has just the right size to allow us to have total solar eclipses, which benefit scientists in their study of the Sun. We never stop marveling at the powerful forces in God’s creation.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Reference: Space.com

Space Is Not Orderly and Simple

Space Is Not Orderly and Simple

Our Milky Way galaxy is somewhat orderly, with the stars orbiting what appears to be a large mass at the center – probably a black hole. Simulations of galaxies shown on science programs present a consistent whirlpool of material, all spinning in the same direction and obeying the physical laws we teach in a high school physics class. But space is not orderly and simple.

Simple explanations don’t work with galaxies like M64, sometimes called “The Evil Eye Galaxy” or “The Black Eye Galaxy.” In that galaxy, stars and gas close to the core orbit in one direction, but those further out rotate around the core in the opposite direction. Astronomers believe that this behavior indicates two galaxies collided, producing the confusion, but why the systems are in the same plane doesn’t match that explanation well.

There are cases in our solar system where objects revolve in different directions, including the moons of Mars and some other planets. Uranus is tilted on its side, spinning perpendicular to the ecliptic. Space is not orderly and simple or as benign as science fiction might like to portray it. Each time science makes a discovery showing that space is not orderly and simple, we have to wonder at God’s creative nature. Did He put some of these things together to challenge our creative thinking?

The most exciting aspect of all this is the unique stability and beauty of our planet. On March 27, 2021, NASA released a report stating that new telescope observations show there is no chance of something in space colliding with Earth that would threaten our existence for at least the next 100 years. We should thank God for His marvelous creation and for the fact that He designed our planet for the long haul. Now, all we need to do is to take better care of it.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

For more on M64 see the “Astronomy Picture of the Day” for March 29, 2021.

So You Want a New Body?

So You Want a New Body?

So you want a new body? Scientific American (April 2021 issue) published an article titled “A New You in 80 Days.” It contains news of a study by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. It includes surprising information about how rapidly the human body generates new cells.

Different parts of your body turn over new cells at different rates. Fat and muscle cells make up 72% of our bodies by mass. Those cells last an average of 12 to 50 years. By number, there are far more cells in our blood, and they last only three to 120 days. The cells lining our gut live less than a week.

Every day, your body replaces 330 billion cells, which is about 1% of the total. That means in 80 to 100 days your body will replace 30 trillion cells. That is approximately the total number of cells in your body. So you want a new body, but don’t forget the larger fat and muscle cells will last for years while the smaller cells get replaced. Some cells last a lifetime, including brain, heart, and eye cells.

The study does not include the bacteria and viruses that are in our bodies. There are about 38 trillion of them. That is more than the number of your body cells, but they are much smaller and have a total weight of only seven to eleven ounces (200 to 300 g). By mass, cells make up 68% of our bodies. Fluids outside of cells make up 25%, and solids such as minerals in our bones complete the other 7%. By number, 87% of the cells in our bodies are the microscopic red blood cells.

A report like this can help us understand how complex the human body is. I remember how simple cars were 50 years ago when compared to today. When I was in high school, I had a friend who could tear his car down and put it back together in less than a day. That was in 1950. Today’s cars are so complex that such a feat would be impossible, but that also means it is difficult to fix when something goes wrong. The complexity of our bodies makes the treatment of our bodies difficult when something goes wrong, and, like today’s cars, there is a lot that can go wrong.

So you want a new body? That won’t happen in this life. We are reminded of the words of the psalmist in Psalms 139:14, “I will praise you, Lord, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful. I know that full well.”

— John N. Clayton © 2021

What Design Looks Like

What Design Looks Like
Architectural Design Team

In his book The Blind Watchmaker biologist and militant atheist Richard Dawkins wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He then argues that we must ignore appearance and realize that those complicated things were not designed. Can we recognize what design looks like?

Francis Crick, also an atheist, was one of the scientists who solved the mystery of the DNA molecule’s structural design. In his book What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, he wrote that “biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”

Even Charles Darwin admitted in a paragraph near the end of his book On the Origin of Species that many scientists rejected his theory, and he concluded that it was because they had closed minds. It seems that scientists in Darwin’s day and most people in our day see design in living things, and design calls for a Designer.

It is counter-intuitive to think that the rich tapestry of life is merely a chance accident with no design and no Designer. In our everyday experience, we know what design looks like. We never see anything complex and functional come into being without intelligent operatives designing it. That is true of buildings, automobiles, computers, books, and websites. Those and many other things around us show design, and they don’t happen without a designer. To believe that dead molecules came together on their own, came to life, and began to reproduce and breathe and think and write books and ask questions requires a great “leap of faith.”

Atheist Thomas Nagel, a professor of philosophy at New York University, wrote a book titled Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. In that book, he wrote, “It is prima facie implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.” On the other hand, in his book “The Last Word,” Nagel wrote, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers…I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God…”

For years, Antony Flew was a renowned philosopher described as “the best-known atheist in the English-speaking world.” He had a successful career of disputing God’s existence until he examined the design in living cells. His last book published in 2004 was titled There Is a God.

There is something within us that tells us we see design when we look at living things. We know what design looks like, and we have to go against our intuition to accept the idea that everything, including ourselves and our thinking, is an accident. As you look around at the many things that appear to be designed, ask yourself, “Do I know what design looks like?” And then ask, “Could there be a Designer?” How you answer that second question will make a world of difference in your life.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Equinox All Year? Bad Idea

Equinox All Year? Bad Idea

Yesterday, March 20, 2021, the Sun was directly over the equator, and that brought in the spring (vernal) equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, it was the autumn equinox for those south of the equator. That means if you want to know what direction is due east, all you would need to do is watch the Sun come up, and due west was where the Sun went down. From now until June 20, the Sun will be moving farther north. We call that day the summer solstice. Where we live in the mid-Northern Hemisphere, the Sun will rise and set about 33 degrees north of due east and west on that day. Why do we need to have the Sun moving north and south in our sky anyway? Why can’t we have the equinox all year?

If the Sun continually stayed directly above the equator, life on Earth would be more difficult. Areas near the equator would be much too hot, and regions far from the equator would be much too cold. There would be two narrow “Goldilocks” areas in between that would be hospitable for life. Plants need a respite from the growing season to prepare for the next growth cycle. Animal life depends on the seasons for reproduction and growth. We would miss the beauty of the changing seasons. So having the equinox all year would not be a good idea. Then why does our planet have this variation in the direction of the Sun?

Earth’s axis tilts 23.5 degrees, and as our planet makes its annual journey around the Sun, the tilt varies toward or away from the Sun. At our summer solstice in June, the inclination is toward the Sun, and at the winter solstice, the axis tilts away from the Sun. That makes the Sun appear to move from 23.5 degrees north of the equator to 23.5 degrees south. At the equinox, for a moment, the Sun is precisely over the equator. The next question is, does this just happen to be a lucky accident?

Since this is just one more factor that makes Earth suitable for advanced life, how could we be so lucky? We have discussed before the many factors that must be just right for life to exist. This is one more, and we don’t think it’s an accident. We believe it’s another evidence of a wise Designer. God gave us seasons for a purpose (Genesis 1:14).

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Changes in Earth’s Magnetic Field

Changes in Earth's Magnetic Field

People who promote the theory of evolution generally ignore historical events that would be Inconsistent with neo-Darwinism. Darwinism depends on an acceptance of uniformitarianism, the belief that no process has ever operated in the past that is not going on today. Previously, we have talked about past asteroid collisions with the Earth, which is an example of a process that isn’t shaping our planet and life on Earth today. Researchers in New Zealand have released a new study of changes in Earth’s magnetic field. That process, which radically altered the Earth some 42,000 years ago, is not a factor in understanding modern geologic processes.

In a magnetic reversal, changes in Earth’s magnetic field cause the north and south magnetic poles to switch. Researchers at the University of New South Wales have shown that this transition took nearly 800 years to complete, and during that time, the planet would have had no magnetic field.

The lack of a magnetic field would have been a major catastrophe which is not going on today. Our magnetic field acts as a shield against high-energy charged particles coming primarily from the Sun. Without that shield, there would have been severe environmental threats to life on Earth. Their study suggests that tropical rain belts shifted, glaciers stretched across North America, and a severe drought hit Australia. The effects of the increased radiation on living things would have a strong genetic impact.

The researchers suggest that humans living during Earth’s magnetic field changes would have to retreat to caves for shelter from the radiation and the harsh weather conditions caused by the magnetic reversal. Chris Turney, one of the authors of the study, said that any humans living at that time would have seen what was happening as “the end of days.”

The notion that Earth has been a quiet incubator for life over a very long time is inconsistent with the evidence. Losing our magnetic field would be the start of a domino effect of changes, all of which would harm life. Our magnetic field is slowly decreasing now, but this data, and other studies like it, suggest that magnetic reversals are prolonged events lasting 800 years.

The Bible makes it clear that catastrophic events are rare in Earth’s human history. Noah’s flood, the death and resurrection of Christ, and His second coming seem to be the most apparent biblical events that are catastrophic. Our planet’s stability is a part of God’s design, and without it, we would not be here. But history is punctuated with events on the Earth that are not uniformitarian such as changes in Earth’s magnetic field. Those changes have altered our planet to make it hospitable for human life. They also make it impossible to have a faith that says chance and time can account for all life we see on planet Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week, March 12,202,1 page 21.