Knowing How to Die

Knowing How to Die

One of the significant challenges of living in the present age is knowing how to die. That may sound crazy, but it really is a problem. Thanks to medical advancements, people who would have died quickly and perhaps even died in their sleep are now kept alive by machines, drugs, and demands for their organs. Unfortunately, in some cases, this has caused enormous pain.

Knowing how to die has also created a whole industry ranging from medical practitioners to organizations that major in helping people die. Compassion and Choices, Zero Population Growth, and various hospice programs are involved in this issue and have publications promoting their services. Switzerland and Holland have made assisted suicide legal, and France is struggling with the problem. Some states in the U.S. have legalized doctor-assisted suicide, and other state legislatures are wrestling with the concept.

There are many challenging issues in this question. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul wrote, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy and you are the temple of God.” Also, in that book, in chapter 6, verses 15-20, Paul condemns prostitution for the same reason.

The human body as a special creation of God is described beautifully in Psalms 139:14. Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that we are created in the image of God, referring to our spiritual makeup and not our physical bodies. However, the vehicle God created and in which His Spirit dwells is a wonderful creation we must protect. This principle prohibits suicide when the body can continue functioning if left alone. But if the body is dying and only medical intervention keeps it alive, that is certainly not the same as natural death.

When people know they are about to die, they have many things to do. Taking care of their possessions, repairing relationships, and making provisions for the next stage of existence are all essential. What we neglect to a great degree is the one thing we all fear the most–pain. In this day of medical advancement, we should be able to control pain in the physical body. Restricting the use of drugs to relieve pain in a dying person is cruel and flies in the face of what God has told us.

Proverbs 31:4-7 makes it clear that the “strong drink” of that day was not for Kings because it would pervert their judgment. Instead, it should be “for him that is ready to perish … let him drink and remember his misery no more.” God determines when a person dies, but we can address the pain involved and leave the difficult question of knowing how to die to the Lord.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

T Cells and Antibodies Fight Pathogens

T Cells and Antibodies Fight Pathogens

T lymphocytes or T cells are one of the most amazing devices designed into your body. T cells are critical to defending your body against viral invaders (pathogens). T cells are white blood cells that work with proteins called antibodies to recognize and fight pathogens. When your immune system detects a pathogen, your body starts producing T cells and antibodies to fight it.

T cells are created in the bone marrow and then travel to the thymus gland right in front of the heart, where they mature. The T cells then circulate in the blood and lymphatic system, searching for pathogens by detecting the antigens on their surfaces. When they find pathogens, T cells and antibodies work to neutralize them, protecting your cells.

If a virus is new, it may take time for your body to generate the necessary T cells and antibodies to fight it. That’s where vaccines step in to give your body a head start so that if you get infected by a new pathogen, your body is prepared and ready to fight it. After clearing the infection, some of the T cells remain in case it returns.

The amazing immune system is the product of careful design and not some kind of accident. The more complexity we see in a system, the less likely it is a product of blind chance. The statement in Psalms 139:14 describes the wonder of T cells and antibodies: “I will praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works and that my soul knows full well.”

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Mayo Clinic Health Letter for October 2022, page 8.

Frozen Frogs that Thaw Out and Live

Frozen Frogs that Thaw Out and Live

Among the most incredible designs in the natural world is how God equipped various animals to survive winter. Some of the methods are relatively obvious. Burrowing deep under the frost line is one method. We have noted in the past the complex way bears give birth to young and retain urine while hibernating. Wood frogs are unique because they don’t burrow underground for protection from the cold. Instead, they become frozen frogs during the cold months.

Wood frogs are amphibians, meaning they are cold-blooded because they can’t generate any body heat. In winter, the water freezes in the frog’s cells but doesn’t expand and rupture them. They have a natural antifreeze preventing the cells from bursting when they freeze.

When spring arrives, the water inside the frog melts, and the frog awakens. Males immediately begin making a sound like a quacking duck, attracting females. Next, the male will grasp the female with his forelimbs wrapping around her torso. He squeezes until she releases her eggs into the water, where he fertilizes them. The males have a thumb that swells during the breeding season, enabling them to grasp the females.

Scientists are trying to understand how the wood frog’s cells can freeze without rupturing, causing death. Medical science wants to know how to freeze living tissue without damaging it for organ transplants. Many questions are still unanswered in the freezing and recovery of the wood frog. Why don’t all amphibians have this capability, and why is it limited to these creatures?

God has designed special equipment and chemicals to sustain life in all kinds of environments. So when we look at incredible designs, such as frozen frogs, we can know there is a God who created these unusual life forms. (Romans 1:20).

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Geographic October 2022, page 28.

Animal Environmentalists – Pygmy Marmosets

Animal Environmentalists – Pygmy Marmosets

People have only recently begun to realize that we must manage the environment in a way that doesn’t destroy the resources we need for survival. However, we see many examples of animals using conservation measures to preserve a vital resource. A classic example of animal environmentalists is the pygmy marmoset in the western Amazon of South America. 

Pygmy marmosets are the world’s smallest monkeys. The heaviest they get is about four ounces, and their largest size is nine inches. Because of their “cuteness,” people have captured and sold them as pets since they don’t bite, are quiet, and are easy to feed. People feed them sugar syrup along with a few supplements. In the wild, one of their main foods is high-sugar-content tree sap. Pygmy marmosets drill holes into a tree and lap up the flowing sap, and they can keep the hole open as long as needed. 

The interesting thing is how pygmy marmosets manage this resource. Drilling holes in multiple trees gives them enough nutrients to sustain a large population. However, making many holes in a tree and keeping them open would eventually kill the tree. So how do these animal environmentalists avoid killing off their food supply?

The PBS program Nature told of researchers who spent a month studying the pygmy marmoset lifestyle in an extremely remote part of the western Amazon away from human interference. The answer is that the monkeys let the holes heal over and switch locations to avoid extracting too much sap from one tree. In this way, they don’t damage the trees and have a constant food source. The question is, how do they know to do this? The human way of doing things might be to pull out everything from one tree and then go to the next until none were left. 

God has built a system of checks and balances into the natural world, allowing it to function indefinitely. It is only when humans upset the balance that trouble ensues. Animal environmentalists such as pygmy marmosets display the wisdom of God’s creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Source: The PBS program Nature, which initially aired on October 9, 2019

What Good Is a Mouse?

What Good Is a Mouse?

Most of us have an aversion to the mice that invade our homes and businesses. I saw my wife jump onto a chair when a mouse ran through our kitchen. When I asked her why she was so afraid of a two-inch-long rodent, I promptly got a lecture about the diseases mice carry. That was followed by a challenge to God about why He created such a varmint. What good is a mouse?

The fact is that mice are essential to Earth’s design. Mice provide food for a wide variety of other forms of life and serve as God’s tools for various important environmental uses. For example, beach mice help to maintain our ocean shorelines. In this day of rising sea levels, we need tools to prevent shore erosion that allows flooding and storm damage to cause massive damage and kill people. Humans have removed mangroves and stripped barrier islands of the vegetation that ordinarily would keep the water in check. That results in catastrophic damage from storm surges. 

A segment in the PBS Nature television series in September showed how scientists have found that beach mice are correcting this problem. They dig underground tunnels where they can escape from predators. In those chambers, the mice store large quantities of seeds from sea oat plants. Sea oats grow rapidly and send out root structures that lock the sand grains together.

When a mouse is captured by a predator or moves to another location, it leaves the sea oat seeds behind. The seeds sprout and proliferate, thanks to fertilizer that came from the mice. The result is that in a short time, a barrier island or dune will have a jungle of sea oats growing on it to break up waves, dissipate energy, and stop flooding from storm surges. 

All animals can indeed bring viruses and germs to humans if we allow them to be close to us. However, animals do many good things for us, and even the mouse is an example. God created everything for a purpose, and beach mice provide good ecological benefits through their lifestyle. So what good is a mouse? Looking closely, we can see the purpose of mice and all other living things that share our planet. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

God Created Two Books

God Created Two Books

How have you arrived at the belief system that governs your life? God created two books we are called to use as the basis for our lives, morals, and religious practice. Since these two books have one author, they must be complimentary and cannot conflict. It is strange that many people read one book and refuse to look at the other. That is true of both atheists and religionists.

One of the books is the Bible, and it calls us to use it as a guide for life. Second Timothy 3:16-17 states it very clearly: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching, for training, for guiding and for moral discipline so that the man of God may be complete and adequately equipped for all good work.” Atheists reject this book because it involves denying one of a few physical pleasures and gives a purpose in living other than survival. Living selfishly has its rewards, and that is attractive.

God created two books, and the second book is the creation itself. The Bible is full of admonitions to use the things God has created as a means of knowing truth and learning how to live a productive and rewarding life. The Old Testament calls us to use what we see in the world around us as a guide to life. The entire book of Job carries that message. Numerous Psalms call us to see God’s wisdom and design and shape our beliefs in them. (See Psalms 8:3-9; 19:1; 53:1-4; 139:14-16.) Proverbs is full of admonitions to learn from the creation. (See Proverbs 6:6; 8:1-7 and 22-36.)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the created world as the basis of much of His teaching. (See Matthew 6:26-30; 7:16-20.) Romans 1:18 – 23 says of humans, “That which can be known of God lies plain before their eyes for God himself has made it clear to them. For those things of God which the eye can not see, ever since the creation of the world, are clearly perceived through the things that are made, and are clear to the eye of reason, even his eternal power and divine character so that men have no excuse.”

So God created two books, and it is clear why atheists do not wish to read and apply the Bible to guide their moral and spiritual lives. It is hard to understand why people who claim to believe in God refuse to look at the creation as a source of instruction and guidance. Some are too lazy to read the Bible and study its message, and others are too lazy to read the creation and learn its message. We need to read and study both books so that we can do what 1 Peter 3:15 tells us: “Revere Christ as Lord in your hearts and always be ready with your defense whenever you are called to account for the hope that is in you, yet argue gently and cautiously with meekness and respect.”

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Hippocratic Oath No Longer Used

The Hippocratic Oath No Longer Used
Bust of Hippocrates

In the past, the Hippocratic Oath was a sworn agreement made by medical students when they became doctors. It includes a promise “to share knowledge, to help the ill and not cause harm, and to never give a deadly drug or help another to use one.” Hippocrates (460 to 370 B.C.), a Greek physician known as the “father of medicine,” was concerned with the methods and ethics of medical treatment.

Hippocrates lived at the same time as Socrates, who extolled the doctor. He was in a clan known as the Asklepiads, devotees of Asklepios, a Greek god of health. They swore to the gods to keep themselves “pure and holy,” help the sick, and avoid “wrongdoing and harm to patients.” They vowed not to breach patient confidentiality, perform surgery for which they had not been trained, cause an abortion, poison, euthanize, or sexually abuse a patient.”

The Hippocratic Oath appeared in a collection of some 70 texts called the Hippocratic Corpus. By the 10th century, Christians had replaced Greek divinities in the Hippocratic Oath with the God of the Bible, and medical schools used that version until modern times. By the early 20th century, that began to change. In 1928 only 14 of 79 medical schools required their students to swear the Hippocratic Oath. No medical school in America requires it today.

In recent years, the ethics of medicine has become a major issue. Special interest groups like “Compassion and Choices” advocate for physician-assisted suicide. Laws in several states now allow doctors to prescribe lethal amounts of drugs for use in suicide.

Is the morality of a doctor important when you or a loved one are in declining health? What is the difference between a doctor who believes the body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16) and one who believes in survival of the fittest? This is a significant issue for all of us dealing with end-of-life issues, as all eventually will.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Bring Back Hippocrates” by Dr. Lydia S. Dugdale, a physician and ethicist at Columbia University in New York, in the Autumn issue of Plough Quarterly.

Endothermic or Ectothermic – What’s the Difference?

Endothermic or Ectothermic – What’s the Difference?

You are an endothermic mammal. That means your body’s metabolic rate controls your internal body temperature. We describe that condition by saying you are “warm-blooded.” Many life forms on our planet are “cold-blooded” (ectothermic) because the environment controls their internal body temperature. The limitation of being cold-blooded is that it requires warm environmental temperatures. Ectothermic life forms can’t survive in polar areas. Endothermic life can survive almost anywhere.

During the time of the dinosaurs, the planet was very hot. That means biological systems, including plants, grew quickly. Those conditions were part of God’s preparation of resources that humans would need, including oil, coal, topsoil, and oxygen. However, the geologic record shows a point in Earth’s history when the climate radically changed. 

As the entire planet cooled, areas at or near the poles became too cold for cold-blooded life to exist. Studies of bone growth rates and oxygen isotopes in ancient bones indicate a rapid change. This change would not be a problem for warm-blooded animals but would reduce the number, size, and activity of cold-blooded life forms.

The challenge would be to design living creatures that can translate food into enough internal heat to survive in a cold environment. Science News reported on studies of the inner ears of reptiles and mammals. In warm-blooded animals, the inner ear fluid is less viscous, requiring that the ear canals become smaller. As a result, fossils show a sharp change in inner ear morphology at the time when Earth’s climate became colder. 

Many other changes were required for life to go from ectothermic to endothermic. However, the inner ear structure is preserved in the fossils, making it useful for scientists to study the history of life on Earth. The complexity of endothermy reminds us again of the words of Psalms 139:14, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works.” In our time of changing climate, the design of life continues to show the wisdom involved in life’s creation. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Science News August 27, 2022, page 9, and Nature.com

The Cost of Raising a Child

The Cost of Raising a Child

The Brookings Institute writing in the Wall Street Journal reports that the average cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 has risen 9% over two years ago. The cost of raising a child is now $310,605 to feed, house, and provide primary care after birth. When you add to that the birthing cost, it becomes apparent that it is out of reach for many young couples and especially for young unmarried women. 

In our materialistic and selfish society, many people are unwilling to sacrifice to spend that kind of money. That means they will push for an abortion, or they will neglect the child’s basic needs if the baby is born. Even worse, some parents pay the $18,271 a year cost of raising a child but resent it and let the child know they resent it. In my 41 years of public school teaching in South Bend, Indiana, I saw the consequences of kids facing physical, mental, and spiritual neglect.

Like many things wrong with society today, the problem is with the religious convictions of many adults. What is the result if you are convinced that humans are the product of blind mechanistic chance and don’t view a child as a unique creation of God with value and importance? You will not devote the resources or energy to ensuring your child is fully equipped to deal with life’s challenges. 

The biblical plan for raising children is time-tested and proven to work. Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 warn fathers, “…provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” God’s plan calls for protecting children as a product of love. The cost of raising a child is more than money. A child must be treasured and nurtured not only in secular matters but in the knowledge of their value and spiritual nature. 

Kids are searching for adults who will value them as they are. Unfortunately, the gender changing and promiscuity of our young people today are a product of the failure of adults to be willing to pay the cost of raising a child, including financially, emotionally, and spiritually. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Week for September 2, 2022, page 16.

Mauna Kea Wekiu Bug

Mauna Kea Wekiu Bug
Mauna Kea Volcano Observatory

We have frequently pointed out the importance of recycling agents in the natural world. They are creatures that take waste material of any kind and process it so that our planet is not inundated with excrement and dead bodies. The microbes that process dead material and produce soil, the dung beetles that handle excrement, and the vultures that eat carrion are among those recyclers essential to our environment. From the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory comes a recent discovery of another recycling agent to handle waste most of us would not even know existed. It’s the Mauna Kea wekiu bug (Nysius wekiuicola).

In 1980, scientists on Mauna Kea in Hawaii discovered the wekiu bug that handles natural waste on the summits of mountains where it is too cold for life to exist. At these extreme elevations, the jet stream, typhoons, and other sources of high elevation winds deposit the dead bodies of insects and birds. Instead of those bodies piling up, the Mauna Kea wekiu bug processes them. It’s a beetle whose name comes from the Hawaiian word for “summit.” This bug is specially designed to process mountaintop waste.

The wekiu bug has a straw-shaped mouth that it inserts into a dead insect or bird, allowing the bug to draw out any fluids or nutrients. That leaves the hard parts, which crumble and are carried away by rain, snow, ice, and wind. Even in this very inhospitable area for life, with frequent temperatures well below freezing and no surviving plant life, these bugs process organic material. The Mauna Kea wekiu bug is another example of God’s design to provide balance in nature. He created a natural system designed to allow the constant reprocessing of organic materials so that our planet can support an abundance of all kinds of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The PBS series of Planet Earth for 2022 and Wikipedia.