Diversity of Life on Earth

Diversity of Life on Earth

We read reports of scientific research from all over the globe. Scientists are discovering how various forms of life exist on this planet. There is a diversity of life on Earth, even in environments where you wouldn’t expect life to survive.

One such environment is in the deepest part of the ocean, where animals must live in total darkness. The design that enables them to survive with no light from the Sun or Moon is bioluminescence. These animals generate their own light so they can find each other and locate prey. There is a whole chain of life in the darkness of the deep ocean, and we are learning that this ecosystem absorbs greenhouse gases that affect the atmosphere for land creatures.

We see this kind of balance in oceans of the past. Long ago, sea animals were large enough to maintain balance in the sea by eating tremendous quantities of food. For example, a marine reptile carnivore known as ichthyosaur was up to 66 feet (20 meters) long. When the asteroid strike wiped out the giant creatures, including the dinosaurs and ichthyosaurs, the smaller life forms survived and established a new food chain.

Scientists are discovering unique designs that enable animals to survive what would appear to be impossible conditions. For example, how can a boa constrictor breathe as it squeezes the life out of prey and ingests it? Why doesn’t the act of compression force the air out of the snake, suffocating it? The answer is that boas have 200 pairs of ribs and some of the ribs squeeze the prey while others are designed to allow the snake to breathe.

The diversity of life on Earth allows specialized equipment designed for living in any environment. Even humans are diverse. Modern pygmies are well-designed to live in a jungle environment. Fossils of a hominin named Homo naledi tell us that ancient small humans existed in environments with fewer resources. Most of what we know about them comes from a burial chamber found in a cave in South Africa.

We see the diversity of life on Earth today, even in humans able to survive in challenging environments. Racial characteristics in humans offer survival benefits in the diverse habitats of our planet, and they are not a basis for discrimination. We need to understand that diversity in animals and humans is an expression of God’s wisdom and design for life everywhere on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Saturday Evening Post May/June 2022 (pages 36-39); The Week March 18 (page 21) and April 15, 2022 (page 21); USA Today and South Bend Tribune for May 2, 2022; and Archaeology for May/June 2022 (pages 9-10).

The Contrast Between Forests and Cities

The Contrast Between Forests and Cities - Amazon Rainforest
Amazon Rainforest

Genesis 1:11-12 describes Earth having three kinds of plants which most versions translate as grass (“deshe” in Hebrew), herbs (“eseb” in Hebrew, meaning a non-woody plant with seasonal foliage such as most vegetables), and fruit trees (“ets” bearing fruit “peri” in Hebrew). Genesis 2:9 tells us that “the Lord God made every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.” The first mention of cities in the Bible is in Genesis 11:1-9 with the Tower of Babel. Then in Genesis 13:12, Lot chooses to live “in the cities of the plain,” Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible shows a contrast between forests and cities.

The habitat of early humans described in the first chapters of Genesis is very different from the cement-paved cities filled with massive structures that we see in the western world today. The construction of cement jungles has brought on an enormous number of social problems as well as pandemics and nutritional issues. As we see the contrast between forests and cities, we are slowly beginning to understand that God’s original design works best.

Archaeologists have a new airborne laser research tool called LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). It enables them to see through the canopy of vegetation, and they are discovering ancient cities hidden by the rainforests. Researchers are finding causeways, hydrological networks, massive structures, and elaborate ceremonial centers. They are seeing the remains of the Maya in South America, the Angkor in Cambodia, and an area called Kuk Swamp in New Guinea.

In these ancient cities, palm trees, Brazil nuts, sugar cane, bananas, and many tropical fruits were harvested from trees that surrounded dwellings. In addition, people grew small patches of maize and millet between the trees. Today, we are beginning to insert green spaces into our cities, and new varieties of plant products are showing up in our grocery stores.

Archaeologists have found evidence of millions of people living in cities in the Amazon basin, Africa, and Asia. The first attempt at farming in Britain was some 6,000 years ago, but in the Fertile Crescent, farming dates back to 11,000 years ago. The Fertile Crescent is the biblical location of the Garden of Eden, which brings us back to God’s original plan for human habitation.

A failure to properly use all the resources God has given us has brought pain, disease, and hunger throughout history. As we see the contrast between forests and cities, we come to appreciate the blessing of the resources God originally created.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Rethinking the Jungle” by Matthew Symonds in Current World Archaeology Magazine (#110) for December 2021/January 2022. Symonds shows that the jungle can support massive human populations without all the ills of modern agriculture and city dwelling. His approach is evolutionary, and much of the article comes from a new book by Patrick Roberts titled Jungle: How Tropical Forests Shaped the World – and Us (Viking/Penguin 2021, ISBN – 978-0241472743).

The Age of Methuselah in the Bible

What Was the Age of Methuselah?

A frequent challenge from atheists concerns the lifespan of early Bible characters. Genesis 5 contains the “generations of Adam” up to the time of Noah. It lists Methuselah as having lived 969 years. This chapter raises many questions, and atheists have ridiculed the idea that people ever lived that long. Anthropologists have methods for determining how old a person was when they died, and no data shows people ever living hundreds of years as we measure years today. Then what was the age of Methuselah?

It is essential to understand that this is not just a biblical peculiarity. Other ancient cultures have records of people living a very long time. The ancient Sumerian King List said that King Alulim ruled for 28,800 years, and others longer than that! However, the all-time longevity champ is a spiritual teacher in Jainism named Shreyansanatha, who was recorded to have lived 8,400,000 years. The message should be clear to us that none of these are our familiar calendar years as established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

There have been studies to determine how ancient people expressed time. The Hebrews used lunar cycles for reckoning time, but they have modified that because certain numbers had special significance. For example, seven indicated completeness, and six was just short of completeness. The Book of Revelation contains symbolic numbers that people have often erroneously misinterpreted.

A careful study of this subject will show that the intent of Genesis 5 is not to establish time or the chronological ages. Applying modern calendar concepts to Genesis would mean that Methuselah was killed by the flood of Noah. The message of the passage is not the age of Methuselah, but that he was a descendent of Enoch and an ancestor of Noah.

When you read any book of any culture, you have to look at who wrote it and to whom and why, and how the people it was written to would have understood it. That is especially true when considering the ages of ancient personalities.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

When the First Humans Lived and How they Looked

When the First Humans Lived and How they Looked
Neanderthal reconstruction at Natural History Museum, London

Those who maintain that humans have been on Earth for less than 10,000 years face many evidence problems. This website has consistently pointed out that the Bible does not tell us when the first humans lived and how they looked.

The word “Adam” in Hebrew simply means “of the ground,” and Genesis tells us that God made Adam of “the dust (aphar) of the ground” (see Genesis 2:7 and 3:19). Genesis 1:29 and 2:9-16 tell us that the first humans began as vegetarians. The Bible does not tell us how long humans existed as “gatherers,” but Genesis 3:17-19 portrays humans becoming farmers securing food “by the sweat of your face.”

Some in the religious community view all of this as happening within the past 6,000 years. They may also view Adam as a white European with blue eyes and brown hair. Genesis 5:5 tells us that Adam lived for 930 years. If James 4:14 is correct, and human life “is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away,” there is an obvious biblical disconnect. The truth is that the Bible does not tell us when the first humans lived and how they looked.

Discover magazine’s January/February 2022 issue has an article about what they call “2021’s hottest fossil.” Discovered in northeast China, this specimen was named “Homo longi.” Some scientists think it may be a Denisovan or a Neanderthal. Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo sapiens, and possibly Homo longi all seem to have interbred and contributed DNA to you and me. They may have looked different from us, and their living styles were undoubtedly different. However, while they were primitive by modern standards, the discoveries show ornamental beads, primitive tools, and funerary ritual materials, indicating an awareness of the spiritual and a concept of life after death.

More to the point, the scientific evidence indicates that the first humans lived far more than 6,000 years ago and looked different from the average caucasian today. Many believers in God try to discredit the dating methods or deny the interpretation or even the existence of the fossils. That is becoming increasingly difficult as science gathers more evidence and improves dating and reconstruction techniques.

Our stereotypical views of when the first humans lived and how they looked are tainted by racism and tradition and don’t change the evidence. Adam lived long ago, was created in God’s image, began as a gatherer, and eventually became a farmer. We create conflict when we depict Adam living 6,000 years ago.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Discover magazine January/February 2022

Life After Death – A Concept Common to Humans

Life After Death – A Concept Common to Humans

Humans from the earliest times have believed in life after death. One of the unique human properties is that we alone believe in a continued existence when our physical life has ended. Most animals simply abandon a dead member of their species. There has been some attempt to claim that elephants, whales, and apes exhibit mourning and stay with the body of a deceased member of their group. However, many researchers agree that interpreting their actions as mourning is not justified. Humans tend to view animal behavior in our image, a process known as anthropomorphism.

As science discovers more fossils of ancient humans, the pattern of preparing a deceased member of the group for another existence becomes apparent. Anthropologists are interested in a South African cave system burial site. There they have found 28 skull fragments and six teeth of what appears to be a child with human characteristics 35 feet (10.6 m) below ground. The bones do not seem to have been washed into the cave or dragged in by scavengers or predators. Researchers gave the specimen the scientific identity of Homo naledi.

Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg reports that this fossil shows strong evidence of a “ritualized body disposal” of the specimen, which they nicknamed “Leti.” Ancient burial sites have almost always indicated that others prepared the deceased for life after death. Sometimes the body is mummified, and sometimes jewelry or weapons are left with the body. There are even cases where an animal or mate was buried with the deceased.

There is a scant reference to life after death in the Old Testament. In 2 Samuel 12:23, David expressed faith that he would see his deceased baby in the future. Job said that after his body had been destroyed, he knew he would see God (Job 19:25-27). Daniel saw a “man clothed in linen” who told him he would “rest” and then “at the end of the days” he would rise and “receive his allotted inheritance” (Daniel 12:13).

The New Testament is full of references to life after death, especially in the teachings of Jesus Christ. The war between good and evil is rooted in the understanding that death is a product of this physical world and Christ has conquered it. (See 2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 20:14 and 21:4.)

Human spiritual nature is unique because God created us in His image. Our soul allows us to think beyond this life and anticipate an eternal, time-independent relationship with God. That concept has been present in humans from the very beginning and is still present today. Our spiritual nature allows us to express ourselves in art, music, and worship. It also gives us the hope of eternal life in an existence beyond anything this world has to offer.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News 12/4/21, page 15.

Human Evolution from Lower Life Forms

Human Evolution from Lower Life Forms

According to new research, a majority of Americans accept human evolution from lower life forms. Researchers asked people whether they believed that “human beings as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” The result was that 52% of the people questioned said yes, 36% said no, and 12% said they didn’t know. 

The data also shows that only 34% of Republicans accepted human evolution as opposed to 83% of Democrats. The study’s authors say that “religious fundamentalism” is the primary factor obstructing belief in human evolution from lower life forms. They went on to qualify who is a religious fundamentalist by five criteria. They include whether a person believes in a personal God and accepts a literal reading of the Bible. It was also based on how often they attended religious services in a typical week and how frequently they prayed. Finally, the definition involved whether they agreed with this statement: “We depend too much on science and not enough on faith.” Obviously, this is broader than the typical definition of “fundamentalist.” 

It would be interesting to see someone study how these numbers correlate with moral conduct, cases of abuse, and other social ills that are increasing in our culture. The survey supposedly used “a representative national sample,” but any study like this would likely have difficulty finding a truly representative sample. For example, data from the Bible Belt would be different from New England, and the nature of the people doing the sampling can skew the data. 

As a majority of Americans accept human evolution from lower life forms, we see the educational programs and materials from DOES GOD EXIST? becoming increasingly important. With our culture becoming more polarized, extremists on both sides make progress increasingly difficult.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: This study was reported by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. The journal Public Understanding of Science published the research.

The Missing Link in Human Evolution?

The Missing Link in Human Evolution?
Taung child – Facial forensic reconstruction by Arc-Team, Antrocon NPO,
Cicero Moraes, University of Padua – CC-BY-SA 4.0

In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin hypothesized that the evolutionary ancestors of modern humans originated in Africa. He pointed out that African apes most resemble humans, but he lacked fossil evidence to support his conjecture. The missing link, as it was called, showed up more than 50 years later.

In 1924, some miners working in a limestone quarry in Taung, South Africa, found a fossil of a child. Anatomists determined that this 3-to-4-year-old child had some humanlike and some apelike features. They called this “Taung Child” the missing link between apes and humans. Scientists gave it the name Australopithecus africanus, which means southern African ape.

Critics pointed out that young apes have similarities to young humans, but the resemblance goes away as they mature. However, racist attitudes were strong at the time, and eugenics was accepted as real science. Meanwhile, anthropologists were busy categorizing people into races. Western researchers wanted to justify their claim that Africans were more primitive and less evolved than other people, thus justifying slavery and racism.

One of the challenges to people who believe the Bible is making sense of the fossils and interpretations we read about or see in a museum or video documentary. The basic proposal of the “Does God Exist?” ministry is that science and faith are friends. We are interested in understanding–not conflict or debate. As science makes discoveries in various fields, our understanding may grow. We are seeing more evidence for God’s existence in the design of the universe and life.

The history of paleoanthropology has shown that people have used scientific discoveries in political battles and as justification for slavery, eugenics, and racism. The Bible simply says God created man of the dust of the earth. It does not tell us how long ago or give any other details. The most important thing is that He created humans in His own image (Genesis 1:27). That spiritual creation makes ALL humans equal and of infinite value. Christians recognize that fact (Galatians 3:26-29). Even scientists studying mitochondrial DNA have determined that every human alive today can be traced back to one woman they have called “Mitochondrial Eve.”

As science continues to look for the missing link, paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood said that from a scientific perspective, “Our origin story is a work in progress.” In other words, even scientists have trouble making sense of the fossils. Scientific discoveries in various fields may tell us more about how God did what He did, but science cannot tell us how to live successfully. Only the teachings of Jesus Christ that we find in the Bible can do that.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: “Tracing the Origins of Humans” by Erin Wayman in Science News September 25, 2021, (pages 20 -28)

Difficult Genesis Issues – Where Did Cain Get His Wife? 

Difficult Genesis Issues - Where Did Cain Get His Wife? 

Several Genesis verses contain some issues that have bothered many people. For example, are we supposed to understand the ages of the people chronologically? If so, how did they live so long? Who was Cain afraid of, and where did those people come from? Where did Cain get his wife? Those are some of the difficult Genesis issues people have tried to resolve. 

The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation is the product of scientists who believe in God and accept the Bible as His Word. They have advanced academic degrees, and their articles are very scholarly. Recent issues have carried some interesting discussions of difficult Genesis issues, including the account of Adam and Eve. The September issue contains an article by Dr. Roy Clouser. He contends that we have ignored the Jewish understanding of Genesis, causing credibility issues with the biblical account. Clouser maintains that the ages of biblical characters were not intended to be understood as chronological but symbolic of their character or accomplishments. For example, Methuselah living 969 years would indicate higher qualities than Adam’s 600 years. 

That is an interesting explanation. I am now 83 years old chronologically, and I cannot fathom living for 600 years. The physical weakness that comes from age seems to be built into humans as it is in the rest of the world. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they had access to the Tree of Life that would allow them to live forever. The traditional explanation that the human fall into sin brought physical death into the world for the first time has credibility issues with most people. 

Clouser makes an interesting comparison between Genesis 2:7, where God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and John 20:22, where Jesus breathed on His disciples. Genesis tells us that “God formed man of the dust of the ground,” clearly referring to man’s body. Then the verse says, “and man became a living soul.” Genesis 1:26-27 describes the man and woman as created in the image of God. That, of course, refers to the spiritual image because God is a Spirit and not a limited physical being. When humans sinned, God’s spirit departed from them. However, John 20:22 tells us that Jesus “breathed on them (His disciples) and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” 

Other difficult Genesis issues include when Cain says, “Everyone who finds me will try to kill me” (Genesis 4:14). Who are those who would try to kill Cain, and where did they come from? Where did Cain get his wife? Cain also builds a city, and that requires large numbers of humans. My response has always been that Adam and Eve had many children in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, all of humanity rebelled against God and were forced out of the Garden and lost a relationship with God. Clouser presents a different interpretation that warrants more study. 

The fact is that the biblical account is accurate and deals with salvation through Jesus Christ. However, understanding how we got to where we are is very complex and will always leave some questions for further study. It is our understanding of the difficult Genesis issues that is in question–not the accuracy of the biblical record

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Racist Attitudes and the Facts

Racist Attitudes and the Facts

The history of modern civilization has been marred by human power struggles using racist attitudes to promote their agenda. European Enlightenment scholars decided that humans should be divided into discrete groups as some animal species are. They attached meaning to skin color using cultural stereotypes that included temperament, intelligence, and behavior. Slave owners used this concept to justify enslaving African people. Nazis in Germany sought to define a Germanic people based on racial exceptionalism.

Racist attitudes have even shown up in medicine. In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic struck Philadelphia. White physicians claimed that black people were immune to yellow fever even as it killed many blacks. In 2016, a study of 200 medical students at the University of Virginia found that half of them believed there were biological differences between blacks and whites. Those differences included the belief that black people have thicker skin and higher pain tolerance than whites. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some reports said that black people couldn’t catch the virus, and a few months later, more articles came out saying that blacks were more susceptible to it.

The biblical discussion about race is entirely different from the power struggle that has gone on for a very long time. Genesis 3:20 tells us that Adam called his wife Eve “because she was the mother of all living.” That means that all races go back to Eve, and we are thus all related. In Acts 17:26, Paul told the intellectuals in Athens that God “has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth…” These passages emphasize the oneness of all humans. 

In a National Geographic article, Angela Saini wrote that science has shown “that we are genetically more alike than any other primate species and that individual difference far outweighs any group difference.” Saini warns against the narrative that “searches the margins of our genomes for the tiny statistical differences between populations, consciously or unconsciously playing to those who seek to divide us in other ways.”

Racist attitudes are not justified by biology or the Bible. Racism is a cultural activity, and it opposes the Bible in loud and clear terms. Those who claim to be Christians and yet practice racial discrimination need to read their Bibles and not listen to Satan’s agents sowing hatred and division among the human family. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: “The Story of Human Difference” by Angela Saini in National Geographic , September 2021, pages 15-17 and American Journal of Public Health

Human Precursors in the Fossil Record

Are Neanderthals Human Precursors in the Fossil Record?
Neanderthal Man in London Museum

Bible skeptics claim that God did not uniquely create humans because scientists find human precursors in the fossil record. Instead, they say that Darwinian evolution can explain all human traits, and we are just more advanced animals.

The Bible defines humans in terms of spiritual characteristics, not physical attributes. Our capacity to create art and music, worship, show empathy, and display guilt indicates that we are unique. Our use of language and symbolism and our ability to be taught to think define humans from a biblical perspective. The critical factors are not brain size, the shape of the mandible, or standing erect.

Skeptics often use the fossil remains of Neanderthals to show that there are human precursors in the fossil record leading to human evolution. We have maintained that the properties of the Neanderthals are racial variations and not a different species from humans. Paleontologists have found Neanderthal fossils buried with religious artifacts. Scientists recently used computerized tomography (CT) scans to study Neanderthal specimens. Their findings suggest that the hearing and speaking organs of Neanderthals should give them language and communication abilities “…as efficient and complex as modern human speech,”

The descendants of Adam and Eve had the genetic code to enable them to adapt to whatever climate and conditions they encountered. So, while the racial variations were striking, the fact is that they were clearly human.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: World Archaeology Magazine # 107 page 9.