Bristol Bay and God’s Design

Bristol Bay and God's Design
Bristol Bay

There are many fascinating facts about Alaska. One of them is how landlocked species of fish, animals, and plants receive the required nutrients. With the weather extremes, short growing season, and lack of soil, making the area biologically rich requires an extraordinary life form. Fishing lodges thrive throughout the Bristol Bay area because sport fishers consider it one of the most desirable places to catch wild salmon and trout. In addition to the sport fishing, native people and commercial fishing operations make a living in the Bristol Bay area. Both humans and wildlife in the area depend on one fish species, the red salmon, or as it is also known, the sockeye.

More than 60 million wild salmon pour into Bristol Bay every year, sustaining the wildlife and human economy. Sockeye eggs provide food for all five species of Pacific salmon, but they also allow the land-locked species Arctic char, Dolly Varden trout, and rainbow trout to exist. The fry, smolts, and adults support commercial and subsistence harvesting.

The total mass of sockeyes each year is in the millions of tons. After the sockeyes have spawned, they die, and their carcasses provide nutrients that allow plants to thrive in an area with very little soil. Without the sockeye, the entire Bristol Bay area would be a biological desert unable to support any fish or animals that eat fish.

Mining operations are trying hard to get permission to establish several kinds of mines in the Bristol Bay region. Undoubtedly, such operations would create roads capable of hauling metals, mining equipment, chemical leaching, and waste materials. Supplying food and managing waste from hundreds of miners and support personnel living in the Bristol Bay area for years at a time could destroy the fragile ecosystem, harming those who depend on it. The more scientists study the ecology of Alaska, the more they become aware of its fragility.

Bristol Bay speaks of our need to care for the creation that God has placed in our hands. It is hard to experience this area and believe its formation and natural balance happened because of blind, accidental chance. We must not allow it to become a showcase for selfish human greed and mismanagement.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: Alaska Magazine for February 2024, page 48.

Preparing for Winter – How Do They Know?

Preparing for Winter – How Do Living Things Know?

The ability of plants and animals to achieve maximum survival success in changing seasons is quite interesting. Here in Michigan, our winters can arrive suddenly and forcefully. It may be 75 degrees one day and below freezing the next. It was quite warm in early September, but many trees were already preparing for winter. The leaves of our sumac trees became brilliant red and started falling off the branches. As we approach the end of September, some species of maple trees are changing colors and dropping their leaves.

Several species of birds have left Michigan, heading south for the winter. We live on a river where we see a massive increase in fish activity. There is also a significant increase in the activity of insects, with some butterflies, such as monarchs, heading south in groups. The number of cocoons in our bushes and in our house has accelerated, and some species of bees and wasps have become more aggressive.

The big question is how living things seem to know it’s time to start preparing for winter, even when there is no significant temperature change. There have also been no clues from other weather factors like humidity, rainfall, wind velocity, and direction. The scientific evidence shows that living things pick up on less obvious signals that say, “Winter is coming, and you need to prepare.”

Some living things sense the length of daylight, telling them to prepare for winter. Another factor is the angle of the Sun’s rays, which controls what kind of light reaches Earth’s surface. The Sun’s light contains a variety of wavelengths. The higher energy wavelengths are refracted and scattered more than the longer, lower energy forms. The sky is blue because blue light has higher energy than the rest of the visible spectrum and thus is scattered and refracted more. The next highest energy wavelength is green. Plants are green because they reflect that color, protecting them from the next highest energy of light that reaches Earth’s surface.

As the Sun gets lower in the sky, wavelengths we can’t even see, such as ultraviolet, are refracted and scattered away from the surface. Living things detect that change and start preparation for winter. Explaining how this system of life came into existence is a real challenge for those who deny God’s creation of our planet and the life on it. It’s a joy to see the things God has made testifying about His intelligence and design as they start preparing for winter (Romans 1:20).

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Honey Buzzard Migration

Honey Buzzard
Honey Buzzard Migration
European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)

The more we learn about bird and insect migrations, the more we are astounded by how they do what they do. Chance explanations fail when the migrations become complex. The honey buzzard migration is another example of an incredible migration that defies chance explanation.

Researchers using a satellite tracking system in Finland released data on a bird known as the European honey buzzard. This bird actually does eat honey and will search out the nest of bees and hornets to find its food. Scientists knew that this bird spends its austral summer around the town of Reitz in Free State, South Africa, where bee nests are abundant. They tracked the honey buzzard migration as it left Africa on April 20th and arrived in Finland on June 2nd at the time when, once again, its favorite food was available. This bird enjoys summer twice by its migration, securing food and avoiding winter, but its route is very complicated.

You might think the honey buzzard would just head north, but that would involve going over dangerous landforms and climate irregularities. Instead, the bird makes a 90-degree turn at the source of the Nile River and follows it. When the bird reaches the end of the Nile, it returns to the same longitude line where it started, avoiding the Mediterranean and the Sudan to eventually reach its destination in Finland.

Honey buzzards cover 10,000 kilometers in 42 days, averaging 230 kilometers daily. If you want to see honey buzzards attacking a bee nest, do a word search on the web, but don’t expect an explanation of its migratory route. The honey buzzard migration is programmed into the bird’s DNA, and how the program got there is another example of design by intelligence. Instinctive drives defy chance explanations because they involve a changing Earth with landforms and climate factors that happen too fast for gradual accommodation. We suggest that honey buzzard migration is another evidence of God’s design for all life forms in the creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

The Tragic Fires of Lahaina

Maui Map
The Tragic Fires of Lahaina Destroyed the Storefronts
Lahaina storefronts before the fire
The tragic fires of Lahaina destroyed the train station
Lahaina train station before the fire

Those who have not been to Maui may be unable to comprehend the tragic fires of Lahaina and what happened there. I lectured on Maui several times, visited Lahaina, and even lived in the area for a short time in Kehei. Knowing the area, I can understand the conditions leading to the wildfire that destroyed the town and killed so many people.

Maui is a beautiful island. There are two huge mountains and two primary sections of the island. Haleakala is a popular tourist area with a road to Hana on the east side of a volcanic mountain where there are many gardens and lush vegetation. The other side is a barren area of relatively recent lava flows.

On the island’s northern side, a mountain area known as Kahakuloa has an observatory at the top. Lahaina is located on the west side of this mountain. I worked with a church on the east side of Haleakala, a wet area with lush vegetation. Between these two mountains is a relatively flat area with the villages of Waikapu and Pounene and the main shopping area for locals and tourists.

Unlike Haleakala, Kahakuloa has weathered igneous rock on its west side, which has led to soil capable of supporting crops, primarily sugar cane. When we were there, the growers used fire to remove the processed sugar cane. The area was very dry, with a vast cattle ranch and people living in open houses and sheds because rain was infrequent.

What we have described here is a classic example of a rain shadow. Moist air moves up the sides of the two mountains, and as it cools, it drops its water as rain. All the moisture is gone by the time it gets to the top of the mountains. As a result, very dry air goes over the mountain and cascades down the other side, creating desert-like conditions. This is not an area to attract tourists, but with irrigation, it’s a productive agricultural area.

A fire on the mountain’s east side would not spread since lush green trees and grass do not burn easily. On the mountain’s west side, any dead cane, grass, or bushes would be great tinder. People must plan for climate changes, avoiding towns where drought conditions can produce the tragic fires of Lahaina.

Agriculture must use places to plant crops based on understanding the movement of air and water. The tragic fires of Lahaina were not an act of God but the result of human mismanagement of what God has given us. The question is whether we will learn from our mistakes or repeat them.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Predators Are Essential for Balance

Predators Are Essential for a Balanced System - Hammerhead Shark
Hammerhead Shark

We sometimes get letters from people who have been traumatized by seeing a television program where a carnivore slaughters an innocent animal. We have been conditioned by Disney-type movies such as Bambi or Nemo, showing cute and cuddly animals. The idea of them being eaten by other animals is not on our radar and certainly not what we want small children to see. But, in the real world, predators are essential.

The reality is that the design built into the living system involves population control and that design is far more humane than what happens without it. Predators are essential because when animals become so numerous they cannot find enough to eat, the result is cruel and painful.

There are countless examples of what happens when predators are removed from an area. Years ago, the deer population was in serious trouble in Indiana’s Brown County State Park. The state finally decided to allow a hunt because the deer were eating all of the park’s vegetation. When scientists studied the deer that hunters culled from the population, some 12-year-old deer weighed less than 50 pounds. Their immune system had been compromised because they were emaciated due to a lack of food. The wolves and other predators that had kept the deer population in balance with the food supply had been removed from the park, and the deer suffered as a result.

Animals are not humans in costumes. They do not have a concept of self, and death is not cruel. Starvation, pain, and disease are rare in populations controlled by predators. To vilify God based on animal predation is an unfortunate choice based on ignorance since predators are essential for a balanced system.

It is interesting that most large predators have their numbers limited by low birth rates and small numbers of offspring. Also, many predators’ numbers are limited because larger predators prey on them. Hammerhead sharks limit dangerous shark populations in the ocean. Seventy-one percent of the hammerhead’s diet consists of other sharks.


Designing a world that balances the environment and the animals it supports is incredibly difficult. Humans often upset the balance in nature, and some cases require replacing a predator they have removed from an ecosystem. Caring for all of God’s creatures is essential for our own health and survival.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Data on Hammerheads from “Sharkfest” PBS television special 7/25/23.

Non-Native Species Invasion

Non-native Species Invasion - Tree of Heaven and Spotted Lanternfly
Tree of Heaven and Spotted Lanternfly

As we look at the flora and fauna of our world, we see a beautifully designed system. Plants and animals sustain each other in a balanced network of life, but problems arise when humans do things that upset that balance. One way we do that is by accidentally or intentionally causing a non-native species invasion with no natural predator or forager. The species then has no control factor to balance it, and plant growth or animal reproduction becomes out of control.

An example of a non-native species invasion is the kudzu plant. This vine can grow up to a foot per day and is known as “the vine that ate the south.” It has taken over parks, roadsides, and forests in some areas. Kudzu vines wrap themselves around the trunks of native trees, out-competing their host for sunlight and even nutrients by girdling its bark and strangling the tree. 

Kudzu is native to Asia and some Pacific islands, but people brought it to North America as a decorative plant in the 1870s. As late as the 1940s, the U.S. government urged farmers to plant it to prevent soil erosion, and people promoted it as a fast-growing plant to shade porches. The consequences of human actions have become evident, costing millions of dollars.

One of the worst U.S. invaders is the inappropriately named tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima ), native to areas of China and Taiwan. It was brought to the United States in 1784 as a decorative tree. However, its habits of sending out shoots, known as suckers, colonizing areas, and suppressing competition by producing chemicals that inhibit the growth and reproduction of other plants. This non-native species invasion also creates an objectionable odor and hosts another invasive species, the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula). Eradicating this “tree of hell,” as some call it, is difficult because if you cut it down, it will quickly regrow from new shoots.

All of these invasive species serve a purpose in their native lands, where they fit into the balance of the natural world. The problem comes when humans upset God’s balanced system. In many ways, humans have not been good stewards of the job God assigned us to “rule over” the Earth (Genesis 1:26) and “work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). 

— Roland Earnst © 2023

References: Wikipedia- Kudzu in the U.S., Tree of Heaven, Spotted Lanternfly

Human Actions Lead to Wildfires

Human Actions Lead to Wildfires - Montreal in Smoke
Montreal in June 2023 during Canadian Wildfires

In our part of the country, people will remember the summer of 2023 as the “summer of smoke.” Canadian wildfires combined with wind directions have brought heavy smoke into our area. The smoke has been so dense that a friend living in Chicago told me he could not see across the street – a distance of about 20 yards. In the past, we personally experienced California wildfires and saw their massive damage. The message we need to understand is that human actions lead to wildfires.

God designed the natural world to prevent massive fires from developing. When we allow brush to accumulate, lightning, human carelessness, or arson starts a fire, it will explode into a conflagration of massive proportions. The role of grazing animals is one way the natural world has been designed to prevent these huge fires.

Ireland is a rainy country, but in 2021, wildfires burned near Dublin for six weeks. The fuel for those explosive fires is a flowering plant called gorse. It grows in dense thickets and is highly flammable when it dries in late summer. The removal of an indigenous goat breed known as old Irish goats allowed the heathland to become overgrown. The result was annual fire outbreaks.

By introducing the old Irish goats back to the area
where the gorse grows, the plant biomass is no longer a fuel source for the fires. An organization called the “Old Irish Goat Society” (OIGS) has been involved in a three-year project to reintroduce the endangered goat breed into areas suffering the threat of wildfires. One obvious risk in today’s world is that the goats will also eat desirable plants. In the past, carnivores prevented that from happening by limiting goat populations. The OIGS prevents that problem by equipping the goats with GPS colors that set off an alarm when the goats wander too far.

God built into the creation a variety of means of preventing wildfires. Once again, human actions lead to wildfires by altering the original system, which included grazing animals. Yellowstone National Park has similar results with elk herds. We must learn to allow the controlling agents that God built into the original system.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “Meet the Firefighting Goats of Dublin” in Discover magazine for July/August 2023, pages 10-11.

The Titan Vessel and Piezophysiology

Titanic Resting Spot - The Titan Vessel and Piezophysiology

The recent tragedy with the Titan vessel imploding brings to mind the science of piezophysiology, the study of living organisms under high pressure. The connection between the Titan vessel and piezophysiology is that deep sea fish must survive under massive hydrostatic pressures such as the Titan was subjected to. How do they survive?

Building deep-sea vehicles has been an enormous challenge for engineers. The standard has been to build vessels of titanium in a spherical shape to equalize the water pressure all around. The Titan hull was made of carbon fiber five inches thick, and it was 22 feet long. The elongated shape increased the pressure load on the midsection. The vessel had been subjected to stress during about two-dozen previous dives. Each of those dives might have created small unnoticed cracks in the carbon fibers, like splitting wood along the grain. Those tiny cracks could lead to rapid and catastrophic failure.

Let’s do a little math to get some idea of the amount of water pressure. Water has a density of 62.4 pounds per cubic foot. One mile of water would be 5,280 feet. Each foot of water would put 62.4 pounds on any object one mile down. That would be 329,472 pounds on each square foot of a submarine or a fish. That is 164.7 tons in fresh water and even more in salt water, and the Titanic is about 2.4 miles down.

Water doesn’t freeze at that depth because pressure lowers the freezing point. Those who study piezophysiology tell us that fish living at those depths have flexible bones and cartilage, do not have swim bladders, have special blood adapted to deep-sea conditions, and have bioluminescence to compensate for the darkness of deep ocean environments.

We learn from the Titan vessel and piezophysiology that surviving deep under the ocean requires wise engineering. Humans have much to learn about the creatures of the deep, but the difficulty of visiting deep sea environments limits our knowledge. However, every discovery of piezophysiology and related fields speaks to God’s wisdom and design of life that allows those creatures to exist in a world that is forbidding for humans.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Oxford Academic, quora.com, and “How the unconventional design of the Titan sub may have destined it for disaster” in apnews.com

Chemical Defense Against Predators

Chemical Defense Against Predators - Sonoran Desert Toad
Sonoran Desert Toad
Chemical Defense Against Predators - Giant Monkey Frog
Giant Monkey Frog

God’s design in the natural world provides protection for animals that would appear to be unable to defend themselves. Some animals can’t bite or run, and camouflage is not an option because their environment changes too quickly. Toads and frogs are classic examples of this, but they have an effective chemical defense against predators.

The Sonoran Desert toad (Incilius alvarius) in the desert southwest (also known as the Colorado River toad) defends itself with a chemical mix secreted through its skin. This toad is very large, and its desert environment makes hiding difficult. All toads secrete toxins through their skin, but the Sonoran Desert toad secretes a substance known as 5-MeO-DMT from glands behind each eye and on its legs. This chemical is a powerful hallucinogen secreted by no other toad or frog, and predators quickly learn to avoid it.

The giant leaf frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) in South America (also known as the giant monkey frog) secretes a chemical known as kambo, which causes violent regurgitation and seizures and even affects the heart function of predators. The chemicals differ with each species, and researchers are trying to determine how the defenses work. Sonoran Desert toads and giant leaf frogs are geographically isolated, yet they share a common problem of vulnerability. They both use a chemical defense against predators but with different chemicals.

Interest in the Sonoran Desert Toad has increased because people have found that licking the toad produces a high. The psychedelic effect has caused people to catch the frogs, threatening their survival. Although predators are smart enough to leave them alone, apparently, humans are not. Abusers call the 5-MeO-DMT toxin “the God molecule,” but researchers warn that it can cause cardiac arrest.

Researchers are studying the ability of toads and frogs to secrete a chemical defense against predators. The difference in the chemicals depending on the species is still a mystery, but it’s a testimony to the design built into the natural world, allowing diversity in living things. The statement of God’s design of humans in Psalms 139:14 is also true of every creature in God’s creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Science News (May 6 and 20, 2023, pages 21-22)

Every Life Form Benefits Humans

Every Life Form Benefits Humans

Genesis 1:31 tells us, “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” The creation is a carefully designed system that allows beauty and function, benefiting humans in every way. Every life form benefits humans in some way, but we may not understand how until we study all living things. Our websites and materials often point out surprising facts about how animals and plants benefit us.

Today we have many medicines, vaccines, and remedies for ailments derived from the creatures God created. However, many cures for human afflictions remain to be secured from other life forms that share the planet with us. Medical researchers are concerned that many creatures which might be able to help us cure disease and afflictions are becoming extinct because of the mismanagement of God’s creation.

Research on animal population changes from 1970 to 2018 shows that the number of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and fish declined by 69% during those years. The research was an exhaustive study of 5,230 species in 31,821 populations. The most significant loss was in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the decline was 94%. Africa was second with a loss of 66%.

The research also studied the causes of the decline in living things and found that overexploitation and habitat degradation were the main issues resulting in 70% of the loss. Pollution contributed to less than 10% of the decline. Thus, human greed and selfishness are causing most of the problems.

An old story tells about a man at the judgment asking God why He allowed him to die in a flood. God replied, “I sent you my workers with a canoe, a row boat, a motor boat, and an airboat, but you kept saying you were waiting for me to save you.” God’s creation design provides that every life form benefits humans. He has given us everything we need, from food to medicinal agents, but we continue to allow greed and selfishness to waste God’s provisions.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: March, 2023 issue of Population Connection magazine