Recursive Sequences and Language

Recursive Sequences and Language - Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

One of the most interesting differences between animals and humans is language. All animals communicate, and most animals that humans relate to use sounds to facilitate their communication. In recent studies, researchers have suggested that the use of recursive sequences by monkeys and crows is a type of language. However, communication and language are not the same.

The dictionary definition of recursive is “doing or saying the same thing several times in order to produce a particular result.” The newest research shows that crows and monkeys use recursive sequences at a level comparable to what a three or four-year-old child would do. There are a variety of explanations as to why these animals use recursive sequences, but this does not mean that crows and monkeys are using language or that they possess culture or express identity.

A woodpecker likes to pound on the flashing of my chimney
with such enthusiasm that people can hear it throughout the neighborhood. This is communication warning all other woodpeckers to stay out of his territory. Likewise, the cardinal that sits in a bush near my office window “sings,” but the song is a warning, not an expression of language or music.

The dictionary defines language as “a system of conventional spoken, manual (signed), or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves. The functions of language include communication, the expression of identity, play, imaginative expression, and emotional release.”

The Bible defines humans as beings uniquely created in the image of God. This is a spiritual definition and does not involve intelligence or skills. We see the spiritual nature of humans in a variety of characteristics. Those include our creative ability in art and music, self-concept and recognition, and the ability to feel guilt, sympathy, and empathy. Those are all manifestations of the spiritual nature of humans. Recursive sequences may or may not be among these characteristics, but they are not a singular indicator of being human. Because of our spiritual nature, humans also have the capacity to worship and envision life beyond death.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: https://dictionary.cambridge.org.

Difference Between Pain and Suffering

Difference Between Pain and Suffering

One of the attributes unique to humans is the ability to suffer. You may think the words “suffering” and “pain” are synonyms, but they describe different things. The difference between pain and suffering demonstrates the uniqueness of humans.

Pain is a physical characteristic of almost all living things. It is easy to show that when a nervous system experiences a violent stimulus, it produces an electric signal. For animals, the nervous system is connected to a muscular system that frees the organism from damaging stimuli. This design is present in all members of the animal kingdom to protect them from being wiped out by predators or destructive environmental agents.

The difference between pain and suffering shows us that suffering is a different response and serves a different purpose. Romans 8:16-18 tells us that Christians are joint heirs with Christ and that Christians will suffer with Christ. This means that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.” It is obvious that not all Christians have been physically crucified as Jesus was.

In 2 Corinthians 1:5-7, Paul writes, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so … we endure the same sufferings … for your salvation and our hope for you is knowing that you are partakers in the suffering.” In Philippians 3:8-10, Paul says that he has suffered the loss of all things and refers to the fellowship of His sufferings. In Colossians 1:24, Paul talks about his sufferings for the church in Colosse. Hebrews 2:10 refers to Christ enabling his followers to be made perfect in their salvation through sufferings. Christ himself, according to Hebrews 5:8, “earned obedience by the things he suffered.” This theme is repeated in 1 Peter 1:11, 4:13, and 5:10.

The context of all of these passages is clear. There is a difference between pain and suffering. We are not talking about physical things like being burned, scourged, tortured, or beaten. The early Christians did endure those things, but that is not what the passages above describe.

The simplest example of the sufferings described is what we endure when we have what we call a broken heart. Having heartbreak does not refer to something physical. Most of us who have had our hearts broken would be glad to take a beating instead. A physical beating does not last long. I have had physical pain from a beating, but that pain is a distant memory. The heartbreak of watching my wife die is still heavy upon me, even though it happened more than a decade ago.

Being a Christian in today’s world shares some of the sufferings that first-century Christians endured. Some of us have suffered being rejected and disowned by family. Others have lost good jobs because of their faith. Speaking out in favor of Christ and Christianity, in general, can result in verbal abuse, ridicule, ostracism, exclusion, and rejection. This suffering is real and scars you emotionally and sometimes spiritually.

Animals do not show any evidence of the kind of suffering we have described. Animal behavior is based on food and instinctive drives to reproduce. Guilt, empathy, and sympathy are not part of animal behavior. Claims of grief in animals such as elephants may or may not be real. If it is real, it is based on the social structure of the pack or group and not because the animal is suffering from the memory of a loss that will extend for the rest of the animal’s life.

We can see the difference between pain and suffering in humans because we have a unique spiritual makeup that allows suffering and enables us to relate to the suffering of others. Because we are created in the image of God, we can understand how an agape type of love is possible. That is why Christianity is the one hope the world has for the peace of all people. Your soul suffers, and this suffering can last a lifetime. We need to help animals avoid pain, but human empathy is what may someday foster world peace. That hope is always before us and is unique to humans.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Observing Fibonacci Day

Observing Fibonacci Day

Humans look for ways to celebrate certain days. We laugh at Groundhog Day and use Valentine’s Day for special human relationships. Some days have extensive significance, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Veteran’s Day. We are now observing Fibonacci Day on November 23. Fibonacci Day is an unusual celebration of a remarkable mathematical sequence.

Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician who noticed in the year 1202 some interesting oddities about a particular sequence of numbers: 1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55, 89,144, 233. Notice that when you add any two sequential numbers, you get the next number. For example 5 + 8 = 13; 8 + 13 = 21; etc. If you divide two sequential numbers, you get .618034, which some mathematicians have called the “golden mean.”

Applying this Fibonacci sequence to architecture, you get a practical application. A rectangle using any two sequential numbers is aesthetically pleasing to human eyes. If you cut a square off any of these rectangles, you get another rectangle with the Fibonacci sequence. If you connect the corners of the squares in a series of Fibonacci rectangles, you get a spiral (see sketch).

An amazing thing about this is that there are an unlimited number of examples of Fibonacci spirals in the natural world. A small sampling includes:
*The spiral arms of galaxies curl in a Fibonacci spiral.
*The curl of a wave in the ocean fits the Fibonacci spiral.
*The snail shells curl in a Fibonacci curve.
*Elephant tusks curve in a Fibonacci spiral.
*The roots of human teeth curve in a Fibonacci spiral.
*Spider webs fit the Fibonacci spiral
*Keys on the piano are 5 black and 8 white, 13 in all, fitting the ratio.

*Musical chords producing pleasing sounds have the Fibonacci ratio.
*Bacteria growth curves fit the Fibonacci ratio.

There is no natural or evolutionary reason for the Fibonacci sequence. Notice it isn’t just in one discipline but in widely separated areas of study.

The Fibonacci Association publishes a magazine called the Fibonacci Quarterly, and people have written several books about the Fibonacci ratio. If you are observing Fibonacci Day, realize that this demonstrates God’s design in the creation. Chance does not produce a pattern across multiple disciplines like this.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

For more on this, go to DoesGodExist.tv and watch program number 5.

A Mother Carries Her Child for Decades – Not Just Nine Months

A Mother Carries Her Child for Decades – Not Just Nine Months

We all know that a mother carries her unborn child for nine months until the baby is born. However, most people don’t realize that a mother carries her child for decades. That is true even of a woman who chooses to abort her child.

The term “chimera” (pronounced ky-mer-uh) refers to an animal made up of parts of different animals. It goes back to ancient mythology, which told of a creature made of parts from various animals, such as a goat, a lion, and a snake. The Bible even speaks about a vision of multiple animal combinations in the book of Revelation. However, in human mothers, scientists see microchimerism in which fetal cells and DNA are left behind in the mother’s body.

The unborn baby, commonly called a fetus, is not part of the mother’s body and has his or her own DNA. The baby is like a foreign object inside the mother. That’s the reason for “morning sickness,” as the mother’s immune system tries to reject it. The often repeated slogan “my body, my choice” does not consider that the baby is not part of the woman’s body and has no choice in the matter.

The placenta is the link between mother and baby. The unborn baby gets nourishment through the placenta as it connects to the mother’s arteries. However, the baby can also shed some cells and DNA, which enter the mother’s bloodstream as early as two weeks after conception. Those fetal cells can find a home in various organs of the mother, including her heart and brain. Since those cells are from a different person, the result is microchimerism. The woman has part of another person remaining inside of her body.

Scientists have found that a mother carries her child for decades as the baby’s cells remain in her. If she has more than one child, she can retain cells from each of them in her body. Just as science has found that stem cells can be helpful in medical treatments because of their ability to form into different kinds of cells, the potent cells from the baby can become pancreas, heart, liver, or brain cells in the mother. Or they can become skin cells. Scientists have found cells from the baby in the scar tissue after a caesarian birth, indicating that the baby’s cells are helping the mother to heal.

Not only do fetal cells continue in the mother after normal births, but also they are left behind when there is a miscarriage or medical abortion. Surprisingly, studies indicate that more cells are left in the mother after an induced abortion than in a natural miscarriage. Furthermore, this transfer of cells works both ways. To a lesser extent, cells from the mother can get into the unborn baby. Since cells from previous siblings are still in the mother, even those can be passed on to the fetus. In other words, a second or third child may have cells from his or her older siblings.

What does this mean? It tells us that a mother carries her child for decades. As mothers carry with them a part of their children, there is good reason for the bonding between mother and child. Even when a woman decides to end her baby’s life before birth, she still carries some of that child with her. Being a mother is a precious blessing, and abortion is not something to be taken lightly.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

References: National Institutes of Health, “Health Shots” on National Public Radio, and Ariel Precision Medicine

COVID in Animals On the Rise

COVID in Animals On the Rise - Mink Farm
Mink Farm

The COVID pandemic has taught us a lot. People need to be aware that COVID has been found in 32 different kinds of animals. A few domestic cases have had a strong effect on humans both economically and medically. Realize that this data is just the recorded cases, and the actual case numbers of COVID in animals may be far higher.

The most significant instances of COVID in animals have been in the American mink. The problem is that mink farms have large numbers of animals confined in small spaces, allowing the virus to spread quickly. The November 2022 issue of Scientific American reported 787 cases in minks. As a result, some mink farmers have had to destroy their entire stock to stop the disease from spreading. White-tailed deer are the second-highest wild animal group, with 467 reported cases of COVID.

Dogs and cats had the next highest numbers–353 cats and 225 dogs with reported COVID infections. There is great concern about these domestic animals since they are in constant contact with humans. Rounding out the domesticated animals that can carry and spread the virus are cows, hamsters, and ferrets.

The remaining cases in both the wild and in zoos include lions, tigers, gorillas, otters, beavers, lynxes, and hippopotamuses. These cases show that the virus is very active among mammals and will continue to spread unless animal vaccines are produced and used. Our domestication and use of wild animals means that new strains of COVID in animals will continue to arise. Humans can get the virus from animals as well as other humans, and we can also pass it back to animals.

Studying the origins of the disease and compiling a database of infected species will make it easier for scientists to learn how to protect against COVID and other virus infections. We humans are often our own worst enemies, but God has given us the wisdom and the tools we need to be good stewards of life on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Covid Relay” in Scientific American magazine for November 2022, page 22 and ONLINE.

Cannibalism in Animals and Human Cannibalism

Cannibalism in Animals and Human Cannibalism

Many things separate humans from all other animal life on Earth. One difference involves cannibalism. Scientific research has shown the extent of cannibalism in animals. In the wild, there are countless examples of animals eating their own offspring, the offspring of others, or even a mate. Cannibalism is an easy way to get food, and among predators, nearly all animals who are carnivores sometimes practice cannibalism.

Population density is a significant factor leading to cannibalism in animals. Also, a sick animal unable to get food in the usual way will frequently resort to cannibalism. Some animals will eat other animals’ young to avoid their offspring having to compete for food. Animals such as bears and lions will kill and eat their offspring to stimulate the females into early estrus. Many reproductive issues are involved in animal cannibalism.

Why do some tribal groups practice human cannibalism? The answer is almost never because of food shortages which often lead to cannibalism in animals. However, there is one biblical case where hunger led to cannibalism. Second Kings 6:24-29 tells about a war that caused famine in Samaria, leading two women to agree that they would boil their two sons and eat them. The first woman’s son was cooked and eaten, but the second woman hid her son. The response of the King when he hears of this shows that it was not an accepted practice.

There are cases where people in extreme duress have eaten human flesh. However, human cannibalism practiced in jungle civilizations involves religious reasons, not the desire for humans as food. Instead, they would eat an enemy’s brain to gain their knowledge or their body to gain their strength.

It isn’t just our culture that finds human cannibalism repulsive. Christianity teaches that the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Our Christian heritage has taught us that human life and the temple in which it resides are special and sacred.

Jesus told His followers to love their enemies. The Greek word “love” here is “agape,” which means “to consider of enormous value.” Our enemies are still unique with eternal souls, making them of incredible worth. This is far from the atheist philosophy of “survival of the fittest.” Killing a human is contrary to all that Jesus uniquely taught. As society drifts away from Christ and His teachings, spiritual cannibalism takes over, leading to war, suffering, and perhaps even physical cannibalism.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Scientific American November 2022, page 19

God’s Original Equipment Is Better Than What Humans Make

God’s Original Equipment Is Better Than What Humans Make

One of the things I have learned about my body is that God’s original equipment is better than what humans make. The dental equipment that various dentists have put into my mouth has usually lasted only about 20 years, but I still have some of my original teeth. My eyes are starting to show aging after working well for years, but I go through glasses at an alarming rate. Trifocals don’t work as well as the eyes I had as a teenager.

The desire to put off children until later in life to pursue a career has caused many couples to freeze embryos for later in vitro fertilization. In Scandanavia, 78,000 human embryos have been frozen, and 18,000 pregnancies have resulted from in vitro fertilization. Studies show that 74% of the mothers who used IVF suffered from high blood pressure, while only 4.3% of women had blood pressure problems with natural childbirth.

High blood pressure is dangerous in pregnancy because it can lead to preeclampsia which can cause complications for both the mother and child. This has implications for the abortion issue and family planning organizations. The bottom line is that women must decide what is most important in their lives. God has given them the ability to have a baby, and God’s original equipment is better than what humans make. Having a child is a choice a woman should make, but babies should not be an afterthought.

The financial stresses on families may force women to make hard decisions. Still, human interference with the original design of the reproductive process causes significant problems for families, women, and babies. Which is more important, having a high-level career or raising a child? Trying to do both and doing them successfully is a daunting challenge.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: CNN.com and The Week for 10/14/22, page 22

Should We Treat an Aborted Fetus as a Deceased Person?

Should We Treat an Aborted Fetus as a Deceased Person?

In 2016, when Mike Pence was governor, the state of Indiana passed a law requiring “the burial or cremation of any fetus.” The question at hand is should we treat an aborted fetus as a deceased person? Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Finally, in 2019, the court ruled that Indiana law had a legitimate interest in disposing of fetal remains.

In 2020, a group of women who had abortions in Indiana, along with abortion providers and an abortion clinic, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. They said that the requirements caused abortion and miscarriage patients “shame, stigma, anguish, and anger” because they “send the unmistakable message that someone who has had an abortion or miscarriage is responsible for the death of a person.”

In September of 2022, U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young ruled that the law violated the U.S. Constitution because it infringes upon the religious and free speech rights of people who don’t believe that aborted fetuses have any rights.

Whether we should treat an aborted fetus as a deceased person highlights the real issue in the abortion question. That is, whether or not a baby is a human before birth. Those who argue for abortion do not have scientific support for their position. The unborn child is not “an extension of the mother’s body.” Every medical attempt to define when a baby is a human fails because of the criteria used. Using brain waves, the ability to live outside the womb, the heartbeat, or when the fetus responds to outside stimuli are all arbitrary and change as technology advances.

In today’s world, having an abortion is safer than natural childbirth. The number of women who die in childbirth worldwide is vast, and even in the United States, there is a risk in giving birth. When you look at the arguments for abortion, consider how they can be applied to euthanasia for a person with age or mental issues. Some people want to use similar arguments to eliminate the cost and personal inconvenience of people at the other end of life’s journey. Ethics proponents like Dr. Peter Singer use them to justify euthanizing the mentally ill and the severely physically disabled.

Should we treat an aborted fetus as a deceased person? As our civilization embraces atheism, naturalism, and humanism, will it embrace a 100% materialistic view of human value? The recent ruling in Indiana seems to indicate that is the case.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Indianapolis Star and USA Today Network for September 30, 2022.

What It Means To Be Human

What It Means To Be Human
Staghorn fern Platycerium bifurcatum

In my lifetime, the definition of what it means to be human has gone through many changes. When I was in high school, defining a human was based on the use of tools. Since then, people have observed crows, monkeys, and ants using primitive tools. Physical characteristics like brain size and erect posture fail on several fronts and, therefore, cannot be what distinguishes humans. Some have suggested that group dynamics are characteristic of humans, but bees, ants, and naked mole rats exhibit very complex group dynamics.

Scientists use the term “eusociality” for instances where colony members play various and separate roles to ensure the group’s survival. Now researchers have discovered plants that display eusociality. Dr. Kevin Burns at Victoria University of Wellington led a study of the staghorn fern Platycerium bifurcatum, an epiphytic plant. Epiphytic plants grow on other plants or trees and get their moisture and nutrients from the air. These staghorn ferns grow in colonies on trees in Australia.

Ferns reproduce by spores that originate on the fronds, which are the leaves of the ferns. The research team found that these ferns produce two types of fronds. Strap fronds are long and narrow and produce energy for the colony by photosynthesis. Some also produce spores for reproduction, but 40% do not. Nest fronds varied in size and shape and did not contribute to reproduction. Instead, they anchor the colony to the tree and provide for water and nutrient storage. In this colony of ferns, we see separate roles to ensure colony survival. With each of the roles contributing to the colony’s survival, this is an example of eusociality.

In the system of life on this planet, we see animals and even plants that do surprising things, showing design by an intelligent Creator. With that in mind, defining what it means to be human cannot be merely based on what we can do. The biblical definition of humans avoids that problem by describing humans as created in the image of God. Our spiritual makeup is what makes us unique. Our physical characteristics and what we can do physically cannot define what it means to be human. We are created in the Creator’s image, which sets us apart from the rest of the creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: National Wildlife, October–November 2022, page 8, and Ecology.

Infectious Diseases Can Spread from Animals to Humans

Infectious Diseases Can Spread from Animals to Humans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that three-quarters of “new or emerging infectious diseases” in humans originated in animals. Medical scientists call them zoonotic infections. Furthermore, six of every ten known infectious diseases can spread from animals to humans. Diseases that originated in animals include SARS, Zika, Ebola, West Nile, HIV, COVID, and Monkeypox. Some diseases, such as HIV, have jumped to humans because of sexual relationships between humans and animals.

As the human population grows, people have more contact with animals and use more animals for food. In addition, the pet trade has seen a massive increase, with a wider variety of animals being confined to homes and sharing everything from beds to meals with their human owners.

Those who blame God for the diseases that are such a serious problem should understand that God never intended for animals to replace humans as family members. A virus that may be of no consequence or even helpful to an animal can cause severe problems for humans. The Old Testament contains strict hygienic rules designed to minimize disease transmission when raising and using animals for food. The rules also forbid using blood as food and any sexual relationship with animals. (See Leviticus 17:12 and Deuteronomy 27:21.).

We may think the biblical instructions for using and managing animals were just for religious purposes. However, it is evident that God knew infectious diseases can spread from animals to humans, and He wanted to protect His people. This is one more example of the consequences of rejecting the Bible as a source of information on how we should live and what our priorities should be.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention