Moral Implications of Sex Change

Moral Implications of Sex Change

A moral issue facing teenagers in America today is whether to change their birth sex. Some young people claim that their gender is misapplied. In other words, some girls claim they are actually boys, and some boys claim they are girls. In addition to legal and relational issues, there are also moral implications of sex change.

Medical procedures are now available using drugs and surgery to implement the sex change some feel they should have. The cause of these feelings is highly complex and may involve environmental factors, social pressure, identity issues, the breakdown of the nuclear family, or just a social fad.

The trend has become very complicated on many levels. One area affected is sports competition which began with sex-changed Russian athletes who seemed to have an advantage in certain sports. In the legal area, parents of girls have brought court cases claiming they have been denied scholarships and awards because a transgender athlete had the body of a male. There are also cases where the sex of a child was changed without the parents’ permission or knowledge.

The Bible clearly spells out God’s design of male and female. To change the sex of a child with surgery, puberty blockers, and hormones means they will need a constant regimen of drugs for the remainder of their life. While court cases are swirling, many in the medical profession are concerned because the long-term effect is unknown. For that reason, Alabama and Arkansas have passed laws making it a crime to administer or prescribe these procedures and drugs to a child under the age of 19.

We have laws to protect people, such as requiring the use of seat belts, but the question of where human rights begin and end is often not very clear. We sympathize with parents and children who are struggling with this issue. Unfortunately, the implications are often not spelled out in advance, and the moral implications of sex change are large.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Wire Reports for May 10, 2022, in the South Bend Tribune on that date (page 8A).

Animals Are Not Helpless Creatures

Animals Are Not Helpless Creatures
Chimpanzee with Injured Lip

Sometimes people suggest that animals are at the mercy of the elements and therefore plagued with disease, pain, and suffering. The fact is that animals are not helpless creatures suffering from massive illnesses and infections that make their lives a painful misery. Instead, the Creator has given animals immune systems to resist disease and an awareness of ways to treat injuries.

By watching animals, humans have learned that certain plants can fight infections and help to heal wounds. For example, we use aloe to relieve sunburn pain, but animals have been using it for various skin conditions for many years. Various plants bring comfort to animals when they are sick or injured, and humans have copied plant use by animals for treating a variety of ailments.

Researchers recently discovered that not only can plants offer relief to animals, but insects are also medically beneficial. More surprising is that animals know about these remedies and can use them. For example, scientists have observed chimpanzees catching a tiny flying insect and placing it on a wound or sore to provide relief. Researchers have not yet identified that insect, but they have seen primates use other arthropods and certain leaves to help heal wounds and provide relief from pain.

When humans don’t upset the system, animals are not helpless creatures. They have a minimum of suffering, and they even know ways to treat wounds and infections. Death in the undisturbed animal world is rapid and purposeful. Human interference with the natural balance often results in prolonged suffering for animals.

Too often, we prolong the suffering of other humans with expensive treatments that don’t produce a quality of life. However, we have much to learn from the world God created, and perhaps a tiny flying insect can be one more aid to healing or pain relief if the researchers can just find out what it is.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Current Biology Volume 32, Issue 3

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).

Newly Discovered Human Body Parts

Newly Discovered Human Body Parts

It would be an understatement to say that medical science has learned many things about the human body. But, at the same time, it would be correct to say that we have much more to learn. Recently, scientists have reported two newly discovered human body parts.

One of the recent discoveries is located inside the passageways of the lungs and plays a vital role in the proper functioning of the respiratory system. Researchers found some unique cells they named respiratory airway secretory cells (RAS). They discovered the RAS cells in the lung’s delicate, branching passageways known as bronchioles. Tiny air sacs called alveoli located at the tips of the bronchioles remove carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen in the blood vessels. The RAS cells are designed to transform into new alveoli cells to replace ones that become damaged. When pollution causes damage, the RAS cells stand ready to come to the rescue. But, of course, humans sometimes abuse their lungs by smoking or vaping, which can cause more damage than the RAS cells can correct.

The other recently discovered body part is critical for chewing our food. The masseter muscle raises the lower jaw as we chew. Medical scientists knew that there were two muscle layers inside the masseter. However, researchers have found a third muscle layer deep inside the masseter. They said that the newly discovered layer helps stabilize the lower jaw and is the only part of the masseter that can pull the jawbone backward. The researchers propose to name this muscle layer the “Musculus masseter pars coronidea.” Perhaps we can abbreviate that to MMPC.

When science assumed that anatomical research had discovered every part of the human body, they found something new. Both of these discoveries can benefit medical treatments. The RAS cells may lead to new therapies for lung damage. Knowing the existence of the MMPC may help doctors when performing surgery on the jaw region. Finding these newly discovered human body parts indicates that we still have more to learn about our “fearfully and wonderfully made” bodies (Psalms 139:14).

— Roland Earnst © 2022

References: Nature.com and ScienceDirect.com

The Purpose of Beauty

 The Purpose of Beauty - Sunset

Humans are obsessed with beauty. We try to make ourselves more beautiful with clothing and cosmetics. We seek to create beauty in music and art, and we continually long for something even more beautiful. But, what is the purpose of beauty, and how can we explain excessive beauty in nature? That is what we have called “the problem of beauty,” which we have discussed all this week.

Beauty is not to provide protection or to solve problems. The purpose of beauty is to bring joy, peace, and meaning to life. However, as we seek beauty, we long for something even more beautiful. We strive to create it, and we desire to find it in people and in nature.

The prophet Isaiah in a vision, saw God’s throne room where one seraph cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). God’s glory is displayed in the beauty we see on this planet. The curse of sin has marred that beauty, but it still peaks through. It reminds us of the Creator of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). Theologian N.T. Wright asked the question that we all face at some time, “If the earth is full of God’s glory, why is it also so full of pain and anguish and screaming and despair?” That is what we call “the problem of pain.” I think we can see a glimpse of the answer in the purpose of beauty.

I suggest that humans appreciate and desire beauty because God created us in His image.
God creates beauty in the world around us to give us a sample of what is possible. When we see beauty, we long for more because we always find imperfections in the beauty we see here. Beautiful peacocks die. Colorful fall leaves turn brown and fall to the ground. The beauty of a sunset is fleeting. We long for more. We want to know what more God has in store for us.

The apostle John saw a vision of what God has waiting for those who accept His gift of eternal life. In Revelation chapters 21 and 22, he struggled to describe it in terms of the familiar, such as gold, pearls, and jewels, but he knew those words were inadequate. Perhaps the purpose of beauty in the world around us is to show us a glimpse of the glory of God’s beauty. We long for the revelation of the pure beauty of God’s kingdom. As we struggle to answer the problem of pain, perhaps the answer is before our eyes. The problem of beauty is only a hint, a clue, a sample of the ultimate beauty. I can’t wait to see the real thing.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Designed with Purpose and Beauty

Designed with Purpose and Beauty

Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species in 1859, and Ernst Haeckel published drawings of embryos in his book The Natural History of Creation in 1868. Haeckel intended his somewhat inaccurate drawings to support Darwin’s theory by showing that embryo development reflects evolutionary development. As we said in yesterday’s post, those who reject the idea of a creator God try to explain what appears to be designed with purpose and beauty by saying it has no purpose and no designer. Beauty in living things can be a problem, or it can be a blessing, depending on whether you accept or reject the Designer of life.

Physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg is an atheist who rejects belief in God because of the problem of pain, which we can summarize as: “Why would an all-powerful and loving God allow pain and suffering?” Weinberg explains his view in his book Dreams of a Final Theory. However, he can’t explain the problem of why living things appear to be designed with purpose and beauty. He made the understatement of the century when he wrote, “I have to admit that sometimes nature seems more beautiful than strictly necessary.”

Evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins, writing in his book Climbing Mount Improbable, told about a time when he was driving through the countryside with his six-year-old daughter. The girl was excited about seeing “pretty” wildflowers. Dawkins asked his daughter what she thought was the purpose of wildflowers. She replied, “To make the world pretty, and to help the bees make honey for us.” Dawkins said he was sorry that he “had to tell her that it wasn’t true.” According to Dawkins, biology is the study of things that appear to be designed for a purpose, but his atheism forces him to argue that there is no purpose.

The living world around us shows many examples of the problem of beauty. Various species sing songs and perform dances that go beyond what survival would require. Gibbons sing duets, and birds of paradise display their beauty with song and dance. Bower birds go to excess extremes to create works of art. The peacock’s beautiful tail is extravagant from a survival perspective. These animal attributes seem inefficient and not a method to adapt to the environment. They certainly go beyond survival of the fittest to what David Rothenberg, a philosopher at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, calls “survival of the beautiful.”

Is it possible that the excessive beauty of living things is merely an accident, or is life designed with purpose and beauty? What is beauty, and why do we care? We will conclude this discussion tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

The Problem of Beauty

The Problem of Beauty

One of the challenges that skeptics use to argue against the existence of God is often called “the problem of pain.” The argument goes something like this: “Why would an all-powerful and loving God allow pain and suffering?” We have dealt with that problem before, including on our website whypain.org. However, there is a contrasting argument for the existence of God that some have called “the problem of beauty.”

The problem of beauty asks the question: “How is it possible that evolution by natural selection could create such beauty in living things?” In other words, “How could natural selection acting on random mutations create beauty which seems to have no survival value?” Darwinian evolution operates on the survival of the fittest. So how can the seemingly simple process of natural selection or survival of the fittest explain many cases of beauty which seem to make animals less fit and thus less likely to survive?

Look around, and you will see beautiful designs that naturalistic evolution attempts to explain without a designer. Why do male cardinals have the beautiful red color? Why do butterflies have such exquisite designs and colors? Some animals display beautiful colors that make them more vulnerable to predators. Birds make sounds that we can describe as beautiful music. A male bird may sing for an hour, announcing himself not only to prospective mates but also to predators. How can those beautiful features promote the survival of the fittest?

Peacocks, lyrebirds, flowers, starfish, butterflies, and seashells all display beautiful features that cannot be fully explained as survival benefits. In some cases, they may be at least partially explained by mathematical principles. But then, where did mathematical principles in our three-dimensional world originate except from the Creator of all things. Why does the nightingale sing beautiful songs to the darkness? Why do some lizards display colorful crests? How can colorblind cuttlefish change their colors at will not just to camouflage but to send messages to other cuttlefish or predators or just to dazzle any observer? Why do flowers display not only beautiful colors but also soothing fragrances? The beauty of nature is visual, auditory, and even fragrant. Most of all, it is priceless.

It seems that natural selection acting on blind chance mutations cannot explain all of the beauty we see in living things–both plants and animals. If natural selection can’t explain it, does that indicate evidence for design by an Artist? Furthermore, how can we explain the fact that humans can recognize and appreciate beauty? Is that because the Artist created us in His image? These questions point out the problem of beauty. I hope you will join me as we continue to consider this problem tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Do Animals Have Equal Value to Humans?

The View that Animals Have Equal Value to Humans

Today, many people accept the view that animals have equal value to humans because we are just another animal species. However, the biblical concept of humans as God’s special creation emphasizes our uniqueness. We all tend to talk to our dogs or cats as if they are human, even though they are not. They also may be carriers of viruses that are not good for us. People have brought everything from snakes to chimpanzees into their households. Human interaction with animals has complicated our dealing with diseases because viruses such as the one that causes COVID can jump from animals to humans.

Apparently, viruses can also go from humans back to animals. The United States Department of Agriculture has found COVID infections in the deer populations in 14 states. Samples of 4,000 deer killed by hunters or hit by cars in Iowa showed that 60% of them had the COVID virus. However, there is no evidence that any of the deer showed symptoms. Virus-caused illnesses such as HIV, bird flu, chickenpox, others came directly or indirectly from animals.

It is interesting to notice how people treat their domesticated animals as if they were human. Animals that are not related may share physical characteristics designed for the environment in which they live. For example, a shark and a porpoise look similar in many ways, but one is a primitive fish and the other an advanced mammal. No one suggests that they are related. In the same way, we may share physical or emotional characteristics with members of the animal kingdom, but that does not mean we descended from them.

God told humans to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). We are to care for all of life and manage all living things with care and compassion. However, that command denies the view that animals have equal value to humans.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Week for February 25, 2022, page 22.

Amazing Digestive System Design

Amazing Digestive System Design
The Human Digestive System

The Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter for March 2022 has a great article titled “Your Amazing Digestive System.” It explains in great detail what happens to food from the time you look at it until it leaves the body. We take for granted what happens when we eat food, but the amazing digestive system is so complex that it is another extraordinary evidence of God’s wisdom and design. Consider the parts of the system as spelled out by the Tuft publication:

THE GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT: This tube runs from the mouth to the anus with a lining separating the food we eat from the inside of our body. Muscles and nerves control the speed of movement of the food, and nutrients are absorbed through the tube wall, which controls what nutrients are absorbed and how fast.

THE MOUTH: The smell and sight of food stimulate the secretion of saliva (which is why our mouths water), moistening and lubricating the food so we can swallow it. The saliva has an enzyme called salivary amylase, which begins to break down starches as the teeth grind the food into more digestible pieces.

THE ESOPHAGUS:
This tube is about a foot long and connects the throat to the stomach. It has muscles to push the food along and a valve that opens to let the food enter the stomach.

THE STOMACH: When food enters the stomach, gastric acid and digestive enzymes break down proteins and kill unwanted organisms. Stomach muscles contract and relax, reducing the food to a diluted paste.

THE SMALL INTESTINE: Most nutrients are absorbed here, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and micronutrients. This tube is about 20 feet long and an inch in diameter. The small intestine uses enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the gallbladder to break down the food. There are three sections to the small intestine, the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum, each absorbing different nutrients.

THE LARGE INTESTINE: Also called the colon, this muscular tube is three times wider than the small intestine but only about five feet long. The colon absorbs beneficial nutrients not previously absorbed. Anything the body can’t use is passed on to the rectum. The large intestine also absorbs water and has a complex organization of bacteria called “gut-microbiota.” Those microbes use fiber to produce beneficial compounds and produce many hormones required for our immune system.

Our amazing digestive system design defies any chance explanation. Each precisely designed part is an essential contributor to our ability to eat and digest food. It is no wonder that so many diseases can negatively affect the digestive system. It is hard to read all we know about this system and not be reminded of Psalms 139:14, “I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works and that my soul knows very well.”

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter

Mob Rule Mentality

Mob Rule Mentality

One of the worst characteristics of humans is the capacity to allow mob rule mentality to destroy clear thinking, evidence, logic, morals, and kindness. Evolutionists point to the similarities between human mob behavior and the gang behavior of wolves, meerkats, monkeys, and killer whales as evidence for their theories. There is no question that humans can act like these animals, but these animals cannot behave in the way Jesus taught us to live.

The Bible is not ignorant about this issue. In Acts 7, you can read the account of a man named Stephen, who was accused of blasphemy by a group opposed to Christianity. The group’s claims were false, and Stephen made a defense of his activity. However, rather than consider the evidence and think about what he said, the mob “ground their teeth at him in rage.” Then “they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed at him, dragged him out of the city … and they stoned Stephen.”

Another biblical example of mob rule mentality is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In Mark 15, we see Pilate trying to reason with the crowd. Yet, in typical mob behavior, the same people who had honored Christ not long before cried out for His crucifixion.

In Acts 19, the teaching of Paul in Ephesus caused resistance from the followers of the goddess Diana (Artemis). This resulted in a mob action endangering Paul’s life and forcing him to leave Ephesus. When mob rule mentality takes over, people ignore logic, evidence, and knowledge. The result is always destructive. If you examine the biblical examples, you will see that there are people feeding the mob lies, false information, and emotionalism.

So here we are in 2022, and mob rule mentality is still around. Mob rule dominates American politics. It isn’t just the January 6 mob that is at issue here. Both political parties have been guilty of being driven by mob rule. The irrational and anti-science mob rule over vaccines is killing people and bringing significant economic damage to the United States and Canada.

I have a friend who was active in a religious crusade by a well-known evangelist. Her job was to go forward when the evangelist extended an invitation to come to Christ. She and ten of her friends were paid to respond to the invitation. The reason was that once people started coming forward, others would follow. I have seen young people at a youth rally or a Christian camp come forward because “everyone else was coming forward.” These may be trivial examples, but they have long-range effects on people’s lives.

The Church must not adopt a mob rule mentality. We must not ask people to follow a human leader or blindly do what others do. Biblical conversions were primarily one-on-one. Even when Peter preached to the people in Acts 2, the plea that he and all the apostles made was to individuals (see Acts 2:37). Individuals responded for themselves and were baptized. The first-century Church was not a mob but individuals meeting in people’s homes (Acts 2:46).

Christians need to avoid being influenced by mob rule mentality, whether it’s a political mob, a religious mob, or a nationalistic mob. Paul wrote, “..study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands. That you may walk honestly toward those who are outside …” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

— John N. Clayton © 2022