Marijuana Use Has Consequences

Marijuana Use Has Consequences
Drug promoters, politicians, and even stockbrokers have flooded the media with claims about marijuana, and almost everything they have said about marijuana use is wrong. When you read the scientific studies about marijuana, they contradict what the promoters of the drug have said. Here are some factual data from scientific sources and from the National Academy of Medicine for you to consider:

“Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”

Marijuana use as a pain killer is too weak to work for people who truly need opiates such as terminal cancer patients.

Marijuana does not reduce opiate use. The United States which is the western country with the most cannabis use also has by far the worst problem with opioids. The January 2018 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry carried a report showing that people who used cannabis in 2001 were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later.

Teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly are three times as likely to develop schizophrenia.

In 2014 there were 90,000 cases of “diagnosable cannabis use disorder,” which is triple the number in 2006.

A study published in June of 2018 in Frontiers of Forensic Psychiatry showed that over a three-year period men with psychosis who used cannabis had a 50% chance of becoming violent. That is four times higher than those with psychosis who didn’t use cannabis. A study of 1600 psychiatric patients in Italy showed a 10-fold increase in violence in those using cannabis.

A 2007 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia on 88 defendants who had committed homicide found that two-thirds were misusing cannabis — more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.

The Journal of Interpersonal Violence in 2012 reported a study of 9,000 adolescents which found that marijuana use doubled domestic violence, and a Chinese study found a fivefold increase.

States that have legalized marijuana have had a 37% increase in murders and a 25% increase in aggravated assaults.

We want to emphasize that studies on the medical uses of marijuana are ongoing. If marijuana use can be beneficial for medical purposes over the long haul, it certainly should be used. However, the legalization for recreational use is a recipe for disaster.
–John N. Clayton © 2019
For more on this, see the excellent article by Alex Berenson in the January issue of Imprimis Monthly available from Hillsdale College, 33 E. College St., Hillsdale MI 49242. It is available online HERE.
We have posted before about the consequences of marijuana use HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Ice Algae – Designed Polar Grass

Ice Algae
Have you ever wondered how animals that live near Earth’s North and South Poles survive? What do they eat, and how can any kind of food chain exist? The answer to this is ice algae.

Unlike most plants, algae do not have flowers, roots, stems, leaves, or vascular tissue. However, ice algae, like most plants, provide the starting point for a food chain. In this case, it is a food chain in very cold places. Tiny krill, penguins, seals, polar bears, and blue whales all depend on ice algae to survive. In 2016 Dr. Thomas Brown of the Scottish Association for Marine Science studied polar bears and found that 86% of the polar bears’ nutrition came from a food chain that originated with ice algae.

Ice algae have chlorophyll so they can use whatever light is available for photosynthesis. There are a variety of types of algae that live in different conditions. Some live on the surface of the ocean, some on the floor of the ocean, and some in or on the ice itself. Ice algae produce fatty acids which supply nutritional value for animals that live in what would otherwise be a nutritional void. Because there is ice algae, animal life is abundant under, in, and around the ice at both poles.

God has provided interesting food chains all over the planet. As we study global warming and its effect on life in places like the polar seas, we see more of His handiwork and learn why we need to take care of it. The admonition of Genesis 2:15 to “take care of the garden to dress it and keep it” applies as much to us today as it did to Adam and Eve.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from National Wildlife, February/March 2019, pages 14-16.

 

Pine Trees Stay Green in Winter

Pine Trees Stay Green in Winter
Have you ever wondered how pine trees stay green in winter? How can they keep their needles in the cold when leafy (deciduous) trees are barren? There is more than one reason for the winter beauty of the pines.

Water retention is one key to remaining green all year. The needles of pine trees have a waxy coating that acts as a water barrier. Their tubular shape also helps to reduce water loss, and a substance in the sap acts as antifreeze. The water that remains in the needles allows them to carry on photosynthesis, even in cold temperatures. The water and the antifreeze component are delicately balanced allowing pine trees to live in cold or hot climates.

But there is another trick pine trees use to stay green, and that is overlapping of the needles’ time on the tree. Different pine species have different time schedules. White pines (Pinus strobus) retain their needles for eighteen months. The needles of red pines (Pinus resinosa) and jack pines (Pinus banksiana) stay on duty for two-and-a-half years. Various pines are on different schedules. New needles come in the summer and needles that have finished their term of service drop off in the fall. We may not notice the transition unless we are watching closely because the pine trees stay green in winter.

Walk through a pine forest, and you will find the ground cushioned with a bed of old needles. Pine needles outlast their leafy counterparts, but like all living things they don’t live forever. We think the design of pine trees and their beauty in summer and winter is another demonstration of God’s wonderful creation.
–Roland Earnst ©2019

Chocolate Flies at Work

Chocolate Flies at Work - Cacao Tree Flowers and Pod
Thank God for chocolate flies. No, we are not talking about chocolate-covered houseflies. That sounds repulsive to us too. We are talking about the tiny flies that are essential to the production of the chocolate we love.

Chocolate comes from the seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) which is native to the rainforests of South America. When early tribes in the Amazon and Orinoco River area discovered uses for the cacao tree, they started what became a chocolate craze that is still going on today. From there, interest in the trees and the tasty substance they produce spread to more of northern South America, into Central America, and into Mexico. The Aztecs even used cacao beans as money.

However, growing the cacao beans is not easy. The tiny white flowers that produce the beans require a small insect pollinator. The flowers grow out of the trunk of the tree where pollination by a bird or mammal would not be practical. Even bees or butterflies are too large. That’s where the chocolate flies come in. The pollinators that can do the job are tiny flies, or midges, in the family Ceratopogonidae. They are small enough to get into the flowers, and they are on the right work schedule. The cacao flowers open just before dawn—a time when the midges are most active. It seems like a planned arrangement. They are not really chocolate flies, but they are essential helpers for chocolate farmers.

As farmers began to grow cacao on plantations, the pollination process was not working well. Human pollination of the flowers by hand is a difficult job and not as effective as the work of the little flies. The midges were not doing the job because they prefer the shade of the rainforest over the open spaces of cacao plantations. Coincidentally cacao trees grow well in shady areas.

Farmers found a solution by planting small areas of cacao in the ecosystem of rainforest areas. Of course, that limits the areas where it can be grown and thus the amount of chocolate produced. However, the people of the world will not give up their desire for chocolate, and a fly the size of a pin-head makes it possible. This is just one more example of the importance of rainforests and the excellent design God has given this amazing planet.
–Roland Earnst © 2019

Design Is an Illusion – Not

Design Is an Illusion – Not
If you read our posts and publications regularly, you probably know that we are continually talking about design in the universe, on our planet, and especially in living things. We think that it is impossible to look at life and say that we see no design. However, some people can see the same things and say design is an illusion. They are willing to accept on faith that everything came into existence out of nothing and evolved by pure accident with no intelligence involved.

One person who refuses to see design in nature is a very well-known evolutionary biologist. Richard Dawkins has written several best-selling books that are supposed to be on the subject of biology. However, they are actually books on theology. The high point (or low point) of his books on theology is The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin 2006). He travels the world giving lectures on theology, under the guise of biology.

Dawkins’ field of study is biology, not theology, so we take his pronouncements with a grain of salt. However, even Dawkins has to admit that his biological studies appear to show design. In his book The Blind Watchmaker he wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” However, he then goes into theology by stating that design is an illusion and there is no designer. That means there is no ultimate purpose in life beyond day-to-day survival. In River Out of Eden Dawkins wrote, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good…”

No design, no purpose, no evil, and no good—that’s the way Dawkins describes the living things he has spent his life studying. Life, of course, includes human beings—you and I. If Dawkins is right, why should he study living things, or why should we? What is the purpose of using our purposeless lives to study purposeless things? Perhaps Dawkins has found his purpose in theology as he endeavors to convince everyone that there is no God.

As we think about this, we have to be amazed at how incredibly ironic the Dawkins delusion is. In the meantime, we will continue to admire the design we see in the world and pay homage to the Designer. Faced with the Dawkins challenge that design is an illusion, we choose to believe our eyes–and our common sense.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Stromatolite – Oldest Fossil or Not

Stromatolite
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