Stromatolite – Oldest Fossil or Not

For many years the textbooks in paleontology classes have said the stromatolite was the first life form to appear on Earth and that its formation was the product of chance biochemical reactions. Now there are some challenges to this model.

There were several reasons for promoting the stromatolite as the oldest life-form. One reason was that it fit evolutionary models and made sense as far as the production of atmospheric oxygen is concerned. The other reason was that a primitive plant which is a form of algae leaves a conical formation of calcium carbonate in the ocean today. Those formations are similar to the stromatolite formations found in ancient rocks. Scientists found those formations in such diverse locations as the Gunflint Chert in Canada, the Isua Belt in Greenland, and the Ediacaran formation in Australia. I have seen the formations in Australia and Canada, and they are very similar and easy to recognize.

It turns out that the formations appear to be volcanic and not biologic in origin. If the conical formations organically originated they should all have the point of the cone pointing up. In at least one recent find, the top of the cone was pointing down. Dissection of the cones shows they are an elongated ridge and not really a symmetrical cone. Biological cones are almost always very symmetrical. Rocks around the structures have been metamorphosed by heat and pressure. The recent conclusion of scientists studying stromatolites is that they are the product of metamorphic activity on volcanic material and are not biologic.

Not all of the experts in paleontology are willing to buy into the idea that a stromatolite results from tectonics and not biology. One of the reasons is that this would require an overhaul of the theoretical model for the development of life on planet Earth. The Bible simply says that the first life-forms God created were plants. The biblical sequence of plant formation in Genesis 1:12-13 was:

“deshe” meaning grass
Translated “grass” in KJV and “vegetation” in some newer translations.

“eseb” meaning naked seed or gymnosperm
Translated “herb” in the KJV and “plants bearing seed” in some newer translations.

“ets” meaning flowering tree or angiosperm
Translated “fruit tree” in KJV and “trees bearing fruit” in newer translations.

It will be interesting to see where the newest scientific controversy leads. But the lesson of history is that when science makes new discoveries and verifies them, they always support the biblical record if we take it literally. This appears to be one more example of that.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Sources: Science News November 10, 2018, page 12 or online HERE
Nature for October 17, 2018 online HERE

Beneficial Fungus Called Smut

Beneficial Fungus Called Smut
Those of us who have grown sweet corn have almost always had to fight smut. That black and gray growth on corn looks disgusting. It is actually a fungus known scientifically as Ustilago maydis, and it has been around for a long time. Even though we dislike it, in some ways smut is a beneficial fungus.

Archaeologists studying ancient Puebloan people have found significant amounts of corn smut spores in their feces. That indicates that maize (corn) made up as much as 80% of the diet of ancestral Puebloan people and it included a great deal of the fungus.

One of the mysteries of ancient peoples in America is why they didn’t have nutritional diseases that were common in the world at that time. The most serious of those was the skin disease pellagra which is caused by a lack of niacin (vitamin B3) in the diet. The amino acid that prevents pellagra is missing from the maize but is present in high concentrations in the smut.

We generally have a negative attitude toward fungi, but there are many examples of beneficial fungus. Remember that penicillin was derived from a fungus. Now we find corn smut also offers a benefit. God has a use for everything He created, but sometimes it takes us a while to figure out what that use is.

We have a children’s book about beneficial fungi, and you can see it online HERE.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Archaeology, November/December 2018, page 20.

Leaf Designs to Preserve Trees

Leaf Designs to Preserve Trees
We live in a part of the world where there are many trees. We also experience heavy winds that frequently blow down human-made structures. It is interesting that healthy trees are almost never blown down. When you stop to think about it, you would expect trees to be major victims of high winds. That is not the case, and it is due to leaf designs to preserve trees.

To survive strong winds, trees need two things. The most obvious is structural support–strong, flexible branches, sturdy trunks, broad bases, and good root anchorage. A more subtle requirement is leaf designs to preserve trees. Leaves must have minimal wind drag. A fluid, such as air, flowing around an object generates drag. To minimize drag requires some streamlining to reduce the amount of friction between the fluid and the object. A highly streamlined object will usually be gently rounded upstream and elongated and pointed downstream.

For healthy trees, the leaves offer the most surface area and thus the most drag. Trees most commonly blow over when in full leaf, so leaf design is critical to the survival of the tree. Different trees have different design features, but all of them are designed to avoid destruction in a wind storm. American holly leaves have a method that involves the leaves being able to flatten themselves against each other. When the wind becomes strong, the leaves turn and lie flat significantly reducing the drag.

Tulip tree leaf design allows the leaves to roll up when the wind gets strong. The blade of the leaf points away from the stem. As the wind blows against the leaf, it forms a cone pointing upwind at the stem. The blade forms the broad area of the cone away from the wind direction. The higher the wind, the tighter the cone and the less the wind resistance. Black locust leaves similarly roll together to produce a cylinder.

Each of these designs depends on the properties of the leaf. If the leaves were too stiff, they could not assume the right geometry. The flexibility of their stems has to be high, and the surface of the leaf must be carefully designed and restricted. You can argue that natural selection does all designing and that given enough time it will select the proper shape. But remember that changes in climate mean you don’t have infinite time to apply the process.

God’s engineering wisdom gave us leaf designs to preserve trees. The leaf design allows the longest season for each tree. Sit in your backyard on a breezy day and watch what the leaves do to preserve that tree you prize so highly.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Does Earth Have Enough Food?

Does Earth Have Enough Food?
When God put the first man upon the Earth, He told him to take care of the garden–to dress it and keep it (Genesis 2:15). We have not done a very good job of keeping the Earth, and the result has been disastrous in a variety of ways. When Noah left the Ark, God told him, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. As I gave you green plants, I give you everything.” (Genesis 9:3). Did God give us enough? Does Earth have enough food to feed our growing population?

The first point we need to make is that we waste most of the food we grow. Various research groups give different estimates of what percentage of our food is either discarded, spoiled, or not harvested properly. All studies of this topic have shown numbers indicating that we waste more than 75% of the food that is available.

One area where we do not use food efficiently involves plants and animals that grow at astronomical rates. Some fish and water invertebrates can produce many thousands of eggs from a single female. The Ocean Conservancy has called attention to the growth rates of mahi-mahi, an ocean fish found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. That species offers a vast supply of meat for harvesting. In one year of growth, the mahi-mahi can attain a length of over four feet, and the fish can reproduce as early as four months of age.

God has provided a wide variety of food sources for us. Does Earth have enough food to feed a growing population? Yes, we do have the potential to produce enough food for all people on Earth to eat. World starvation issues are due to our failure to develop food resources and to our massive waste of food. It is not because God didn’t give us enough to supply our needs.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Splash published by the Ocean Conservancy for Fall 2016, page 3.

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible- Petrified Forest
For the past two days, we have been reviewing some of the things we saw and learned on the Canyonlands Educational Tour of last month. We explained our approach to the physical evidence of creation and all of the Scriptures that tell what happened. We say that the two sources must agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. And there has been plenty of both.

There has been great conflict between the physical evidence that the Earth is very old and denominational interpretations of the Bible’s creation week. As we visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest, the massive amount of evidence that the Earth is much more than 6,000 years old becomes obvious. So how do we resolve this apparent conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible? If we are not locked into those denominational belief systems, we can take the Bible literally. By that we mean, look at who wrote it, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it.

Genesis was written in the style of Hebrew poetry to all of humanity–those living in the days of Moses as well as those living in the 21st century. We cannot expect the account to deal with quantum mechanics, because the people of Moses’ day would not have understood it. The animals described in Genesis are animals that people of Moses’ day would know. Don’t look for duckbilled platypuses, echidnas, penguins, or dinosaurs in the Genesis account. Don’t look for descriptions of stellar production of heavy elements or evolution of stars or even continental drift.

We could list hundreds of things that you would not expect in the biblical account because the ancient Israelites would have no way to understand them. Furthermore, there would be no reason to give such details, and the Bible would be too heavy to carry. For that reason, the Bible begins with the single sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That sentence prepares the reader for a simplified description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals on the planet we call home. There is no conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible when taken literally. We will have more on that tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

Design In Nature

Design In Nature
When a person says that the mindless forces of evolution can easily explain everything that appears to be design in nature, you have to wonder if that person understands the principles of statistics.

From a statistical standpoint the more parameters that exist, the less likely it is that a desired final result will occur. The odds of a single coin flipped into the air and landing on heads is one in two or 1/2. What are the odds of five flipped coins landing heads up? That would be 1/2 multiplied by itself five times. The answer is one in thirty-two or 1/32. If you throw fifty coins up at the same time, the chance of all fifty showing heads is so small as to be considered impossible. (Multiply 1/2 fifty times.)

In nature, we see situations where the odds would be equivalent to throwing a million (or more) coins up and having them all land on heads. There is no way that an open-minded, thinking person can begin to entertain the idea that blind chance can explain such events.

Books and movies on nature often use a phrase like “nature planned…” or “evolution engineered…” or “genetic forces created…” some natural phenomenon. If you truly believe that the forces that created and designed the universe with our planet and everything on it are “mindless, blind, mechanistic chance,” then you can’t attach words that indicate wisdom, purpose, design, engineering, or creativity.

The design in nature is hard to miss. It has to be rooted in the mind of a Designer. Some things are just beyond what mere chance can do.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Circadian Rhythm of the Biological Clock

Biological Clock and Circadian Rhythm
Living things, both plants and animals, have a biological clock that is extremely important for survival. The human master clock is located in the hypothalamus of the brain in a tiny region called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN controls what is known as the circadian rhythm, a 24-hour rhythm of the body.

The SCN interacts with many regions of the brain to control sleep, hormone levels, alertness, body temperature, digestive activity, immune functions, and other systems. It coordinates the various rhythms of the body to keep us going through the day. This biological clock works in many ways that we don’t even realize.

Specialized cells in the retina of the eye connect directly to the SCN. When the eye senses light, the SCN receives the message and starts body process going by telling the various systems what to do and when. When you wake up in the morning, the clock signals enzymes to start flowing for your first meal. Hormones raise body temperature and blood pressure so that you can face the day.

During the day, the biological clock starts various chemicals and hormones so they will be available and functioning when they’re needed. Therapeutic medicines work best when taken at certain optimum times according to the biological clock. At night the circadian rhythm in the SCN sends a message to the pineal gland to produce the hormone melatonin making us sleepy.

This is a highly-simplified summary of an amazingly complicated system. Complex systems like this don’t happen by chance indicating that this is another evidence of design. Day and night, months and seasons regulate the systems of humans and all other creatures. Genesis 1:11 tells us that God made the Sun and Moon to “mark seasons and days and years.” Those simple words contain profound truths that we have only begun to understand.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Why Are Plants Green?

Why Are Plants Green?
Why are plants green? The answer to this is some pretty basic physics.

The colors of light that we receive from the Sun have different energies. Red is the lowest of these energies followed by yellow, green, and blue. The sunlight with the highest energy that actually reaches the surface of the Earth is green. Blue light, which is more energetic, is refracted away by Earth’s atmosphere and scattered as it interacts with molecules in our upper atmosphere. That’s why the sky is blue.

When you look at an object, the color you see is the color reflected by that object. A red ball is red because it reflects red and absorbs all other colors. A green leaf is green because it reflects green and absorbs all other colors. If the highest energy of light reaching the surface of the Earth is green, and if the leaf reflects green, what does this do for the leaf? The answer should be pretty obvious – it keeps the leaf from absorbing too much energy and getting cooked. In the fall of the year when the leaves lose their chlorophyll A, which gives them the green color, what happens? The leaf gets cooked, falls off the tree, and we have to scrape it off the yard.

If a planet had a different atmosphere so that a different energy of light reached its surface, its plants would have to be a different color. To quote Kermit the Frog “It’s not easy being green.” Why are plants green? They are green because green is essential to life on Earth.

This explanation is greatly oversimplified. Obviously, not all plants have green leaves. Some plants live under a canopy of other trees and have to use a different system. The design of life on Earth is incredible, and the green trees and grass around us testify to the wisdom of God in making a place for life to exist.

We have a children’s book titled Why Is the Sky Blue, Why Is the Grass Green. You can read it and all of our children’s books on our Grandpa John’s Science Club site using THIS LINK.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Blaming California Wildfires on God

Blaming California Wildfires on God
I am writing this article near Redding, California. We have been involved in lectureships in California during this month of August 2018. The fires that are burning in this state have been a constant source of inconvenience for us. They are a major tragedy for people here who have lost homes, businesses, and health. Smoke makes travel difficult, but for people with respiratory problems, the smoke can be lethal. Over and over we have heard references to “why did God do this to us” or in other cases “thank God for…” While we understand the emotions that go with all that is happening, we need to stop blaming California wildfires on God.

While working in California, we are blessed to be with Keith Crummer. Keith has been an ecosystem manager and forest management expert in California for over 30 years. He has degrees in forest management from the University of California at Berkeley and from Oregon State. As we discussed the incredible damage of this current series of fires, Crummer just shook his head in sadness. He told us that what is happening in California was caused by human ignorance and mismanagement.

One fact that astounded me is that there are more trees in the United States now than have ever existed in the history of this area. Before the white man arrived on the scene, trees grew and died just as they do today. When the biomass accumulated on the forest floor, small fires set by lightning or by spontaneous combustion eliminated it. Those fires wiped out small trees and allowed grasses to flourish which in turn supported deer, elk, and other mammals. That made the forest less dense. While fires existed, they were small fires that ran out of fuel very quickly.

Then humans moved in and stopped the fires and allowed vast amounts of biomass to accumulate on the forest floor. The trees became so dense that grass could not grow. Crummer said that scientists know that managing the forest involves harvesting the material that falls to the forest floor, thinning the trees, and using the energy that is available from them. This would eliminate the potential for uncontrolled burning because massive amounts of fuel would not be available. It would also allow animals like deer and elk to proliferate. The current fire catastrophe is 100% due to the mismanagement of the environment by people who thought they were doing the right thing by eliminating fires and refusing to allow cutting down trees or removing brush.

In the Genesis account, God told the first humans to “…fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over every living thing that moves on the earth” ( Genesis 1:28-30). “The Lord God took man and put him in the garden to work it and keep it…” (Genesis 2:15-16).

God did not tell them to merely preserve the creation. The creation is a living, changing, dynamic entity. It is our job to facilitate the changing Earth. Working and keeping the Earth means to control those things that would destroy what God created including the animals that live on it. We need to stop blaming California wildfires on God. After the fires in Yellowstone National Park, the elk and deer populations returned to levels close to what they were before humans arrived. If we had done what God commanded in Genesis and worked the forests of the western states, the fires today would not be spreading as they are.

So God did not “do it” to those who lost homes. We understand the anguish and desperation that our friends have experienced, but instead of blaming California wildfires on God we need to realize that politicians and bureaucrats have mismanaged the wonderful resources God has given us. Environmental extremists need to understand more fully what must be done to preserve and protect the environment for the benefit of future generations. Followers of Jesus Christ need to let those who are suffering know that we want to help them. God is not the cause of their burden, but He wants to send His people to love and support those who are suffering.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Biomass on Earth Measured

Biomass on Earth Mostly Plants
Biomass is the mass of living biological organisms. If you lumped all living things by category, what group of organisms do you think would have the greatest biomass on Earth? We aren’t talking about the number of individuals, but the mass of the different lifeforms.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 21 published a study of the different areas of the world and what form of life dominates in those areas. (Click Here to read the full report.) Plants contribute the primary biomass in the terrestrial environment. Animals are primary in the marine environment. Bacteria and archaea (single-celled microorganisms) dominate the deep subsurface environment.

You may find the results surprising. The total biomass of Earth consists of 80% plants. Bacteria make up the second largest biomass at 15%. After that in descending order are fungi, archaea, protists (unicellular organisms that sometimes form colonies), animals (including humans), and viruses. Soil fungi, protists, soil archaea, arthropods, annelids, and livestock all exceed humans in their biomass. Only wild mammals, nematodes, and wild birds have smaller biomasses than humans. In the marine environment the biomass is much smaller than on land, and after animals, the greatest biomass is in protists, archaea, fungi, and finally bacteria. It is interesting that tiny Antarctic krill contribute about the same biomass as humans.

As you think about the biomass on Earth, it becomes evident that for human life to exist, we need a huge biomass of supporting life-forms. It becomes apparent that we must take care of all of the living things that support us. It is also obvious that before human life could exist on Earth enormous preparation was required.

We have to be reminded of the words of the psalmist in Psalms 8: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him… You have made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beast of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the sea.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Reference: Scientific American, August 2018, page 16.