God Created Two Books

God Created Two Books

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

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

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

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

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

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Endothermic or Ectothermic – What’s the Difference?

Endothermic or Ectothermic – What’s the Difference?

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

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

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

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

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

— John N. Clayton © 2022

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

Natural Insect Control by an Insect

Natural Insect Control by an Insect - Praying Mantis

People struggle with many insects that give us diseases, impact our food supply, and even damage our clothing. Mosquitoes, locusts, grasshoppers, cockroaches, crickets, and the like have been a scourge prompting the use of pesticides. The pesticides, in turn, have brought cancer and attacks on our immune systems. Yet, we often overlook the fact that God has given us natural insect control by providing agents that eat insects, including birds, bats, fish, and even insects. One insect-eating insect that looks like it came from another planet is known to entomologists as “Mantis religiosa” but is commonly called the praying mantis.

The mantis has bulging eyes and a triangular-shaped head that swivels atop a long neck, giving it an odd extraterrestrial look. It is the only insect with three-dimensional vision. It holds its two front legs at an angle as if folded in prayer while actually poised to ambush prey. Those forelegs are armed with spikes so that when they capture an insect, it cannot escape.

Humans introduced the praying mantis from Europe into New York state in 1900 to control grasshopper infestations. Mantises are voracious eaters and can even be cannibalistic. Their population is partly controlled by eating each other when the food supply becomes reduced. Females sometimes eat the males and the egg capsules when there is a food shortage.

A mistake humans have made is using chemicals to control insect populations instead of using the natural controls God has given us. Spraying massive amounts of insect-killing chemicals kills everything, including insect-eating birds, fish, and insects like the praying mantis. We often hear people blaming God for the diseases and afflictions humans have caused.

The more we study the creation, the more we see natural insect control agents. They may require work and a more significant time investment than the easy process of spraying, but they cause far less collateral damage.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: The Spokesman-Review for 8/30/22 page A01 by Linda Welford and Wikipedia

Foods Derived from Flowers Need Auxin

Foods Derived from Flowers Need Auxin
Strawberries – the only fruit with seeds on the outside

What seems like a simple question may have a very complex and essential answer. The question is this: How does a flowering plant develop fruits and seeds? This is a crucial question to answer for the production of common food crops such as peanuts, corn, rice, strawberries, and all other foods derived from flowers.

The time when flowers turn some of their parts into seeds or fruit determines when the fruit will be ready to harvest, how big it will be, and what nutrients and water must be applied at what time.

Zhongchi Liu at the University of Maryland has identified a gene called AGL62 that stimulates plant production of a growth hormone called “auxin.” Once the gene activates, the plant synthesizes auxin, causing the creation of a seedcoat. The seedcoat is the outer layer protecting the endosperm, the part of a seed that provides food for a developing plant embryo and fruit. More auxin can boost grain size and stimulate fruit enlargement. If there is insufficient auxin, the crop produced will be smaller, and the fruit will not be commercially viable.

Liu has been working with strawberries because they are easier to study, but it applies to virtually all foods derived from flowers. This is another example of the design God built into the creation of life. When humans finally understand the design, it opens up a way to produce more food for a hungry world.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Research News from the National Science Foundation

Invasive Species and Environmental Problems

Invasive Species and Environmental Problems - Lionfish
Red Lionfish

It is interesting to hear skeptics blaming God for the existence of invasive plants and animals. There is no question that non-native species thrive in the United States. However, some species brought to this country have no natural predators to keep them in check. As a result, they cause crop damage, human health problems, and environmental damage. There are nearly 6,500 invasive species in America, and they cause more damage every year than all natural disasters combined. The stories of how they got here are interesting. Here are some examples:

NUTRIA – Also known as coypu or “swamp rats,” these South American rodents were brought to America by fur farmers in the 20th century.
BROWN GARDEN SNAIL – These mollusks were brought to California as food by French immigrants in the 1850s.
KUDZU – This Asian vine was brought to the U.S. as an ornamental plant in 1876, and farmers used it to feed livestock and reduce soil erosion. To make kudzu widely available to farmers, government agencies provided 85 million seedlings.
WILD BOAR – These animals were native to Eurasia and brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s for hunting. Early settlers in the 1500s introduced domestic pigs as a food source. Unfortunately, some escaped pigs mated with the boars resulting in the invasive species we have today.
LIONFISH – These beautiful fish with venomous spines are natives of the South Pacific and Indian oceans. Aquarium enthusiasts brought them to the U.S. between 1985 and 1992, but when released, they wipe out native fish populations.
DANDELION – Early European settlers brought these “weeds” to the U.S. for food and medicinal purposes.

These invasive species and others cause billions of dollars in economic damage annually. However, we should understand that not all non-native species are considered invasive. For example, corn and wheat are not native to the United States but were brought here as successful food crops.

In Genesis 9:3, God told Noah, “Everything that moves shall be food for you, just as I have given you green plants.” God has given us a wide variety of food sources designed to thrive in various ecological environments, but we must be good stewards of how we use and spread them.

Problems arise when people purposely or accidentally transport plants or animals to new locations where they become out of control. Without predators to control populations, they can throw an entire environment out of balance. Most of our environmental problems are human-caused, and invasive species of plants and animals are good examples.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Discover magazine for September/October 2022 (pages 34 – 41)

Structural Color in Plants

Structural Color in Plants - Viburnum tinus
Viburnum tinus berries

When you see a peacock with brilliant green in its feathers, realize that it has no green feathers. Its feathers are actually brown, but God has used a clever optical trick to make them look green to us. We call it structural color. Likewise, many butterflies have bright blue spots on their wings, but there are no blue pigments in a butterfly’s wings. 

Some plants produce fruits that look blue to us without having any blue pigment in the fruits. The only plants known to produce blue fruits in this way are Viburnum tinus and Lantana strigocamara. You will not get a blue stain if you crush their berries in your fingers. On the other hand, if you crush a common blueberry, its blue pigments will stain your fingers.

When you see a blue pigment, it is blue because it absorbs all other colors while reflecting blue. Structural color uses microscopic pyramid-like structures that manipulate the light. Since blue light has higher energy than other colors, it escapes the structure. Structural color requires no pigments, and you might call it an optical illusion.

Color is essential in the natural world. For example, animals with color vision use colors to camouflage, attract others, or discern whether something is good to eat. The problem with using pigments to produce color is that the chemistry to get a particular color is quite complex, but structural color does not involve any chemistry. 

People have used chemicals to produce the colors we see in our fabrics, but some colors can be costly and time-consuming to produce. God has created a chemical-free method to produce much of the beauty we see in the world around us. Beauty in structural color gives evidence of a wise Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Science Foundation Research News

Chemical and Medical Side Effects

Chemical and Medical Side Effects

We live in a time of incredible advances in chemistry and medicine. However, we face the problem of chemical and medical side effects from modern drugs and food additives. Therefore, a medication designed to address one problem will often create other unexpected issues. I can give personal testimony to that.

I have blood pressure issues that are hereditary and a product of my age. For two years, doctors tried various medications to lower my blood pressure, but nothing worked. Finally, a doctor found a new drug that does work. My hypertension is under control, and I am thankful for that. This new drug, in conjunction with some previous medications, together with my new regime of exercise and eating habits, has greatly reduced my risk for a stroke.

The problem with this new medication is that it has side effects that were unknown when I started taking it. It affects my vision, balance, breathing, and sleep. When I complained to my doctor, who likes to be a comedian, he said, “Well do you want to die of a stroke or the side effects?”

We also have chemical and medical side effects from food additives and drinks. People in Christ’s day used fermented grape juice because the water was unsafe to drink. The “wine” available then had a very low percentage of alcohol, around 4%. Today, distillation processes allow the alcohol percentage to be vastly higher, and alcohol poisoning is a significant issue. Recently in Missouri, 19-year-old Daniel Santulli suffered severe brain damage after being forced to drink alcohol as part of hazing during a pledge reveal party for the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. When I was a fraternity pledge at Indiana University, my fellow pledges were forced to drink alcohol until they could no longer walk. Then they were then driven to a remote country road and dropped off.

Now the college drug of choice is marijuana. Modern marijuana has levels of THC (the drug responsible for psychoactive effects) 15% higher than in the 1970s. British studies show that these high THC levels increase the probability of addiction. We are now seeing fatal accidents caused by marijuana, as Newsweek reports that car accident rates have risen in states after legalizing marijuana sales. Science has not adequately studied the long-term side effects of marijuana.

In addition to drugs, people use food additives and supplements without scientific studies exploring their long-term side effects. God has given us plants and substances such as alcohol that we can use to alleviate human suffering. However, chemical and medical side effects are likely to increase suffering when we use them as untested recreational drugs or food additives.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: KOMO Mid-Missouri News, Newsweek, The Week August 12, 2022, page 22, and AP in the South Bend Tribune 6/2/22 page 6A.

Soil Derived from Barren Rock

Soil Derived from Barren Rock

I have had the privilege of walking along a still hot lava flow in Hawaii and watching it cool and crack, exposing a red hot glowing interior. As a student of geology, I have seen the bedrock that tells of the composition of the early Earth in places throughout North and South America and England. There can be very little doubt that the creation of planet Earth left a ball of sterile, barren rock orbiting the Sun. Having lived for 85 years on this planet, I have had the joy of seeing soil derived from barren rock supporting vast plant and animal life.

The story of how soil is produced is a story of wisdom and design unique to our planet. Therefore, it is essential that we understand the importance of the soil God gave us and how to take care of it in our age of expanding populations.

National Geographic published an excellent article by Ferris Jabr titled “Out of Sight,” containing pictures by Oliver Meckes and Nicole Ottawa. The pictures show the agents God created to convert the barren rock of our planet into soil that can grow a forest. A single gram of forest soil (1/454th of a pound) can contain as many as a billion bacteria, a million fungi, hundreds of thousands of protozoa, and nearly a thousand roundworms. The pictures of those microscopic organisms are incredible.

Soil derived from barren rock began with fundamental processes caused by rain, wind, and ice. Once the elements broke down the rocks to small sizes, the microscopic living organisms went to work. Microbes, fungi, lichen, and tiny plants broke down the sand-size rocks and enriched them with minerals life could use. In Hawaii, you can see the black sand beaches produced in modern times and the places where those agents have processed soil in which plants can live. Over time, the elements in early soils, such as carbon, phosphorus, and potassium, were processed to produce advanced soil structure.

The Genesis creation account does not explain God’s methods of preparing the planet for human life. Proverbs 8:22-36 finds Wisdom narrating the processes of creation. But even Wisdom can’t describe the process of soil derived from barren rocks to people with no microscopes or technical language. Today, we are uniquely privileged to see God’s handiwork and to marvel at the incredible complexity involved in the creation of dirt.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Out of Sight” by Ferris Jabr in the September 2022 issue of National Geographic, pages 82 -99, with pictures by Oliver Meckes and Nicole Ottawa.

Wildfire Aftermath and Recovery

Wildfire Aftermath and Recovery

If you are like me, you have watched with pain the terrible wildfires in the western United States. We tend to focus on the folks who have lost homes or barely got out with the clothing on their backs. However, the long-term effects of wildfires are not as bad as the human tragedy often caused by human mismanagement. Several research studies funded by the National Science Foundation have dealt with wildfire aftermath and recovery.

One study of charcoal from Wales and Poland tells the story of plants consumed by fire millions of years ago. Botanists say that instead of the grasses, trees, and flowers we see today, previous ancient land plants were under an inch tall. Some waist-high or knee-high plants existed, but much of the landscape was covered with tiny plants. At that time, the big plants were fungi that towered over all other plants. A well-preserved prototaxite fossil fungus shows that they stood 30 feet tall.

Earth’s atmosphere at that time had very little oxygen, unlike the 21% figure we see today. Fires would not occur because of the lack of oxygen. Modern studies show that a fire of any size isn’t likely below 16% atmospheric oxygen. Once the level exceeded 16%, fires occurred, and wildfire aftermath and recovery paved the way for the large plants we know today. Modern plants can generate large amounts of oxygen to sustain animal life.

In today’s wildfire aftermath and recovery, there are always “green islands” where a tree cluster avoids being burned because of the topography or nearness to water. A high percentage of seeds from these patches of unburned trees remain to germinate and grow. The creatures that would ordinarily eat the small trees are no longer there, so the plants survive to rapidly reforest the area. That means areas with “green islands” do not need human tree planting. Most human effort and resources can go to places with no “green islands.”

These studies help us understand God’s methods of preparing Earth for humans and the animals we need. Genesis 1:11-12 gives the same picture that the scientists are finding. It says that the first form of plant life was the grasses – “deshe” in Hebrew means tender grass. The second group of plants is “eseb,” meaning “naked seed,” – gymnosperms. That is followed by the tree bearing fruit containing its seed – angiosperms. The Bible tells us the order of progression from early forms of plants to the ones we depend on today. The Bible does not tell us how God did it or how long it took, but scientific research today gives us that information.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Science Foundation “Research News”

Greatest Daily Migration on Earth

Greatest Daily Migration on Earth
Zooplankton in the Ocean

One of the amazing facts about life on our planet is the way living things fill every niche of the environment. As science extends our knowledge of Earth’s remote regions, we find massive amounts of life with incredible diversity. We find the largest animal population on the Earth in biomass, the volume of the Earth occupied, and numbers of individuals in water deeper than sunlight can reach. The ocean depths make up 90% of Earth’s living space, and we now understand that living there are more than a million species that science has not named or described. Furthermore, they are part of the greatest daily migration on Earth.

Every day, ten billion tons of animals known as zooplankton move upward from as far as 3,000 feet below the surface. The zooplankton include copepods, salps, krill, and fish larvae. At only 1,000 feet down, the water is 20 degrees Fahrenheit colder than at the surface, and the pressure is 30 times as great. For a tiny fish larva, making a 1000-foot journey in about an hour would be like a human swimmer going 50 miles in that amount of time. These animals begin their ascent at sunset and stay near the surface until sunrise when they descend back to the cold dark below.

The purpose of this greatest daily migration on Earth is to eat and avoid being eaten. These zooplankton animals feed on phytoplankton, the microscopic aquatic plants that live in the top few hundred feet of water. Fish and squid feed on the zooplankton, which find protection at the great ocean depths. The first hint of this massive migration occurred in World War II when ships and submarines used sonar to sweep the ocean for enemy subs. They discovered that the seafloor seemed to be moving up and down, creating a deep “scattering layer” that reflected sonar signals. Now we have research tools to explore this layer, which turns out to be alive.

Science is just now beginning to understand the importance of the greatest daily migration on Earth. This huge mass of animal life, their excrement, and their remains sequester carbon in the very deep waters, making them rich in nutrients. Winds along the shores of continents push the surface water from the continental edges out into the open ocean. Their exit causes water to come up from ocean depths to the surface along the continent’s edges, bringing nutrients with it.

Our understanding of this mass migration is helping us to understand the carbon cycle, climate change, and many ecological issues. This greatest daily migration on Earth is a part of God’s creation. It reminds us of Proverbs 8:28-29, which says that Wisdom was there, “…when He established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when He gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep His command, and when He marked out the foundations of the earth” (NIV).

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Scientific American, August 2022, pages 50 -67.