Oxygen Generators and More

Oxygen Generators and More

They are microscopic plants. You may never see them individually, but they exist by the millions on or near the surface of oceans, lakes, and rivers, even in polar regions. Scientists call them phytoplankton which comes from two Greek words that mean “plant drifter.” We call them oxygen generators.

You can see masses of green phytoplankton on the water surface because of the green chlorophyll they contain. Chlorophyll enables them to use sunlight and nutrients from the water to produce the nourishment they need to live. In the process of photosynthesis, they are oxygen generators. Of course, humans and all animals must have the oxygen to breathe, and phytoplankton play an essential role in our climate by controlling the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In the ocean, tiny animals called krill eat phytoplankton. In turn, the krill provide the diet for many fish and even for huge baleen whales. Those whales stir up the ocean, bringing to the surface minerals which the phytoplankton need. As whales eat and grow, they take in large amounts of carbon. When they die, their bodies containing the carbon sink to the bottom of the ocean. This well-engineered system helps prevent the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Phytoplankton are incredibly diverse, with thousands of different species. The microscopic photo shows members of one class of phytoplankton known as diatoms. The carcasses of phytoplankton, algae, and other marine plants deposited on the sea beds long ago became the petroleum we use today.

Diatoms produce silicon shells, and when they die, those shells form deep deposits on the ocean floor. People mine those microscopic shells and use them for what we call diatomite or diatomaceous earth used in industry for fine polishing and for filtering liquids. In addition, gardeners sprinkle diatomaceous earth around their plants to protect them from insect pests. Scientists are also exploring uses for those microscopic shells in nanotechnology.

So, in addition to being oxygen generators, these tiny plants produce energy sources for humans and food for creatures of the ocean and freshwater lakes. Without them, our climate would be much different, and life would be difficult, if not impossible. Chance evolution doesn’t seem to be an adequate explanation for diverse phytoplankton. We see them as another example of design by the Master Designer of life.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Corpse Plant Design and Pollination

Corpse Plant Design and Pollination
Corpse Plant in Bloom at the University of Bonn Botanical Garden

The design of plants is so complex and precise that it speaks volumes about the design built into all of life. For example, on November 3, 2021, the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas had a public showing of the bloom of the Amorphophallus titanum plant, which attracted more than 5,000 people. This strange plant is called the corpse plant.

Amorphophallus titanum is an endangered plant endemic to Sumatra. People call it the corpse plant because the blossom smells like a rotting corpse. The plant requires growth for five to ten years before blooming for the first time. After that, it may bloom once every two to ten years. The bloom lasts for 24 to 48 hours in which it sends out the odor to attract carrion beetles and flesh flies as pollinators.

The flower, or spathe, of the corpse plant does more than just send out a smell to attract pollinators. The inside is a deep red color with furrows that give it the appearance of raw meat. Also, when blooming, it generates heat that brings it to human body temperature. As a result, the carrion beetles and flesh flies, which are programmed to be attracted to meat, find it irresistible.

Many insects and animals have a symbiotic relationship with certain plants. Sometimes a plant attracts an insect or animal for food or shelter, and the insect or animal provides pollination for the plant. Analysis of the powerful odor shows it involves at least seven chemicals that create foul smells we are familiar with, from rotting fish to feces. It is no accident that this plant has all of the right chemicals and physical features to attract the available pollinators in its native habitat.

The needs of every plant and animal are carefully provided for their survival. The evidence is apparent as Romans 1:20 tells us we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The corpse plant, carrion beetles, and flesh flies demonstrate the truth of that statement.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: AP Release 11/3/21.

You can watch a time-lapse video of a corpse plant blooming at UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley HERE.

God Has the Solution for Problems Humans Cause

God Has the Solution for Problems Humans Cause - Sea Urchin and Sea Otter

When humans mess things up, God has the solution for problems humans cause. Since 2014, kelp forests and starfish have virtually disappeared from Alaska to Mexico. Sunflower sea stars were the main predators for sea urchins. The sea stars were severely affected by pollution, exploitation of marine resources, agricultural runoff, and climate change. Now scientists say they are functionally extinct. Since the sunflower sea stars are gone, the sea urchins have multiplied out of control.

Northern California has lost 95% of its kelp forests. The problem is that sea urchins are herbivores, and they eat the lower stems of kelp, causing the plants to die. Because of that, Fish, abalone, and various other marine animals that depend on the kelp forests have died. In many places, spiky sea urchins now carpet the seafloor, and locals have called those areas “urchin barrens.”

A partial solution to this problem is the sea otter, a keystone species and a major natural predator of sea urchins. Sea otters have a very high metabolism to keep them warm in the cold water, and it makes them ravenous consumers of sea urchins. In a single day, a sea otter can eat 25% of its body weight in food.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have found that sea otters are eating three times as many urchins as in 2014. In areas where sea otters are active, the kelp beds are starting to return. Once again, God has the solution for problems humans cause.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Discover magazine December 2021, page 18, and DiscoverMagazine.com.

Role of Elephants in Desert Survival

Role of Elephants in Desert Survival

There are many natural situations where, to a casual observer, an animal or plant appears to be a useless consumer of resources. As conservationists try to solicit funds to protect elephants, others say those animals have no useful function. Elephants consume vegetation which can cause hardships in periods of drought. However, as scientists study the role of elephants in desert survival, the need for these animals has become increasingly understood.

Savannah elephants live in eastern and southern Africa
, with the highest densities in Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa. In those regions, termites build huge mounds, and they bring a large number of elements and compounds to the surface as they dig. Eventually, the mounds flatten, creating depressions that fill with water during the rainy season. At that time, elephants come and dig up the nutrients they need as they wallow in the mud. They leave the area coated with soil which they carry away, leaving a deeper depression that eventually becomes a large water hole.

In addition to enlarging the water hole
, the elephants deposit massive amounts of dung. The dung contains plant seeds that grow to become the start of vegetation around the water hole. That vegetation brings insects which, in turn, bring birds. Wading birds carry in fish eggs, bringing a wide variety of life to what was a desert. The oasis this process produces is critically essential to animal and plant life and humans.

The role of elephants in desert survival in Africa makes preserving them a key to the survival of all life in the region. Elephants have unique properties critical to the success of this system. Matriarch elephants remember where previous water holes were and lead their group back to dig and enlarge those holes, eventually making it an oasis. Some plants are correlated to bloom and provide seeds at the proper time for other forms of life. If the water hole dries up, some fish, amphibians, and reptiles can burrow into the soil and survive for up to five years, waiting for the next rain.

Earth’s design automatically produces all kinds of ecosystems, including deserts. God has designed life to adapt and exist, even in extreme environments, and the role of elephants in desert survival is a great example.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: PBS network program on elephants, termites, and life in the dry African desert on November 5, 2021.

Ultimate Meaning, Purpose, and Morality

Ultimate Meaning, Purpose, and Morality in God's Creation

I enjoy watching BBC’s video programs “Planet Earth” and “The Blue Planet” written and narrated by David Attenborough. Those programs display the fantastic beauty and design of this planet and its many living creatures. Seeing the way planet Earth’s systems work together like a well-designed machine fills me with awe. However, I find it amazing that Attenborough believes that this incredible beauty and structure came about by mere chance and natural selection without any design, purpose, or meaning. How can he not realize that ultimate meaning, purpose, and morality come from the God who created these wonders?

In his book Miracles, Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis refers to unbelievers as “naturalists.” He wrote, “A moment after they have admitted that good and evil are illusions, you will find them exhorting us to work for posterity, to educate, revolutionise, liquidate, live and die for the good of the human race.” Lewis called that “very odd.” Attenborough teaches us about the beautiful design of our planet without a Designer. He advocates for the environment, even though that environment may have no ultimate purpose or meaning. A BBC interviewer once asked Attenborough if he ever had any religious faith, and he replied “no.” He said, “It never really occurred to me to believe in God.”

When asked why he does not believe in a creator, Attenborough will point out what he considers an evil creature, such as the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus that infects children’s eyes in tropical climates. He said creationists believe that God created each individual species, so why would “an all-merciful God who cares for each of us individually” make a creature like that. However, as John Clayton has pointed out many times, the Bible says God created “kinds” of animals, not each individual species. (See Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, and 25.) But then He specially created the first humans in His image (Genesis 1:27).

Attenborough strongly advocates for various environmentalist causes telling us what we ought or ought not to do. C.S. Lewis said that those who don’t believe in God often tell us what we ought to do, but their natural impulses can say nothing about objective right or wrong. Lewis wrote, “Do they remember while they are writing thus that when they tell us we ‘ought to make a better world’ the words ‘ought’ and ‘better’ must, on their own showing, refer to an irrationally conditioned impulse which cannot be true or false any more than a vomit or a yawn?”

Lewis goes on to say that if we make moral judgments, “then we must believe that the conscience of man is not a product of Nature.” He writes that it “can be valid only if it is an offshoot of some absolute moral wisdom…” In other words, ultimate meaning, purpose, and morality come from God, not evolution.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

References: Miracles by C.S. Lewis, and “David Attenborough” on Wikipedia

Three-Way Symbiosis Is Hard to Explain

Three-Way Symbiosis Is Hard to Explain

Symbiosis is one evidence of design in nature that we have discussed before. In the following excerpt from his book The Source, John Clayton told about a three-way symbiosis:

One area that strongly resists a natural explanation is the area of symbiotic relationships. A symbiotic relationship is one in which two organisms live in such a close relationship that one cannot live without the other and vice versa. For example, certain plants cannot live without certain insects that pollinate them or clean them or store up certain nutrients for them. At the same time, the plant provides nourishment and/or protection for the insect.

Sometimes such relationships exist between two plants or two animals
, like the venomous jellyfish known as the Portuguese man o’ war and the tiny fish living among its tentacles yet never getting stung. These types of two-way symbiotic relationships are difficult to explain by natural causes because the question automatically arises, which came first?

Suppose you agree that there are problems answering this question with two codependent life forms. How much more difficult would it be to explain the simultaneous evolution of a three-way symbiosis? Yet this is what we find with a leaf-cutting ant species in South America. These ants live in colonies of up to eight million. That is a number that surprisingly represents the collective biomass of an adult cow.

These ants cultivate mushrooms as a farmer grows crops, using leaf cuttings instead of soil. However, the ants are not able to eat the leaves because the leaves contain a natural insecticide. Neither can the mushrooms live on the leaves because they are coated with a prohibitive wax.
To make the three-way symbiosis work, the ants must carefully avoid the poison as they scrape the wax off the leaves. Without the wax, the leaves decay into a mulch in which the mushrooms can grow. The mushrooms, in turn, harmlessly absorb the insecticide, converting it into edible food for the ants. Neither creature could live without the other.

But there is more. Recent studies have revealed another partner necessary to sustain the ant/mushroom relationship. The mushrooms have a parasite enemy that would destroy them. However, they can be protected with an antibiotic produced by a specific bacterium that, coincidentally, lives on the ants’ bodies. So the bacterium depends on the host ant’s body for life. The ant depends on the food produced by the mushrooms for life. Finally, the mushrooms depend on the ants’ farming practices and the ants’ pet bacterium for life.

This three-way symbiosis is irreducibly complex. If anyone of the partners is missing, the entire group dies. The only way such a codependent society could be produced is by intelligent design. Any other attempted explanation quickly becomes a quest for the impossible dream.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data came from articles in the journal Nature. You can find them HERE and HERE.

This article was adapted from The Source: Eternal Design or Infinite Accident? (page 47) by John N. Clayton. This book is available for purchase HERE.

God’s Design of Fall

God’s Design of Fall

In the Northern Hemisphere, we have just entered the period we call autumn or fall. Summer has ended. Earth’s axis tilt and its path around the Sun cause the Sun to be directly overhead at the equator. We refer to this as the equinox, which is Latin for “equal nights.” Thus, at this time, we have approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. As a new season begins, we see God’s design of fall.

For those living in the northern hemisphere, this time brings amazing things to see among the plants and animals around us. Tree leaves turn from green to a cascade of colors. They don’t all turn at the same time because of their system design. Some measure the length of the day and start turning colors when the equinox occurs. Others depend on temperature to change colors. In addition, we see fruits and nuts come to full maturity at this time, providing food for animals and ensuring the future growth of new plants.

We see God’s design of fall as animals prepare for winter. With the temperature change, some animals migrate to warmer areas. This movement coincides with the abundance of fruits and nuts, allowing nutrition for the journey. Some animals, such as hummingbirds, leave well ahead of freezing temperatures. Other animals change their color in preparation for winter camouflage in the snow. Still others retreat into a place underground where the temperatures will not drop below freezing.

The question is, how do all these plants and animals know when to do that? It cannot be a conscious, planned adjustment by the animals to the local situation. Many of the changes happen even before the cold weather arrives. Certainly, plants don’t think about cold weather coming and their need to prepare for freezing conditions. Some of the changes seem to be designed to provide humans with a sensation of beauty. A sea of green becomes a splendor of color as the plants eliminate chlorophyll “A” (which gives them their green color) to reveal various colored chemicals in the leaves.

Fall is not just about beauty, but it also brings amazing and beneficial changes. Plants that survive the winter are able to free themselves of insects and bacteria that can damage them. Some animals prepare for winter by fattening up to go into hibernation. Bears give birth during this period. God’s design of fall is a functional system that speaks of God’s wisdom.

We can see God’s wisdom and design in a unique way at this time of year. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” To those of us who listen, fall speaks of the purposes of God in His living things.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Plasma – The Fourth State of Matter

Plasma – The Fourth State of Matter

Plasma is the least understood state of matter. We are not talking about biological material but an unstable soup of electrons, positive ions, and atoms. After solid, liquid, and gas, plasma is the fourth state of matter, and it makes up 99.9% of the universe. The Sun is a ball of plasma along with some gas. The northern and southern lights are plasma. We see plasma in lightning and in the plasma globes in museum gift shops. In recent years, scientists have produced plasma, and engineers have used it to make the chips used in computers, automobiles, television sets, and musical greeting cards. Plasma also stimulates the light we get from fluorescent lamps and neon signs.

In the 19th century, the Finnish physicist Karl Selim Lemström noticed that fir trees near the Arctic Circle grew faster when the aurora borealis was the strongest. From that beginning, scientists have found that not only does plasma enhance plant growth, but it also can kill the pathogens of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. In addition, some experiments have indicated that plasma can stimulate the growth of blood vessels in animal’s skin.

Experiments in various countries have shown that seeds treated with plasma germinate and sprout more quickly. Other scientists are experimenting with sending an electric current through the air to create plasma, releasing ionized nitrogen, which plants need for growth. Those nitrogen ions can dissolve in plasma-treated water that can both irrigate and fertilize plants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, is experimenting with using plasma in agriculture to replace chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides.

The early Earth had the right environment for plasma production
, which could have stimulated plant growth in the sea and on land. This new understanding of plasma is one more testimonial to the wisdom built into the creation. The fact that 99.9% of all matter in the cosmos is plasma emphasizes how precious the physical design of our planet is. The solid matter which makes up the Earth is nurtured by liquid water, gaseous air, and plasma.

The more we know of the creation, the more we understand the power and wisdom of the Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). When we see the Sun, the stars, the galaxies, the northern lights, and the lightning, we see plasma, a tool God uses to shape the creation and mold the world around us.

John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News for September 11, 2021, pages 18-22.

Animals Growing Crops

Animals Growing Crops

We generally think of farming as a human enterprise, but there are cases in the natural world of animals growing crops. In most cases, the crop they are raising could not survive without the animal tending it. Some good examples are living things that eat fungi or algae. 

Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan studied red algae called Polysiphonia. These algae have a symbiotic relationship with a species of damselfish (Stegastes nigricans). Red algae look like a brown carpet, and the damselfish make sure that the carpet is not disturbed. If any other species of algae shows up among the red algae, the damselfish will nip it off and take it out of the fish’s territory. If the damselfish is removed from the area, the red algae can’t survive. So it appears that the damselfish are critical to the survival of the red algae and vice versa. 

There have been other studies of certain species of ants, termites, and ambrosia beetles that grow fungi for food. Some of these “farmers” even use bacteria to produce pesticides to protect their fungus crops. How do such symbiotic relationships happen? Evolutionists suggest that initially, the animal had a varied diet but becoming dependent on one thing offered such an advantage that the animal gave up any other foods. 

The difficulties with the evolutionary explanation are many and quite complex. The nutritional issues are a problem because a single source of nutrition must have a balanced collection of minerals. Going from a varied diet to a single food does not seem to be an evolutionary advantage. Defending the food source is also an issue. For example, when the researchers removed the damselfish, other fish and sea urchins had eaten all of the red algae within days. 

Another explanation is that symbiotic relationships are part of the design of every animal’s genome. The earliest fossil remains of many animals show that a symbiotic relationship was already in place. We suggest that animals growing crops is part of God’s design. He gave them the genetic messaging and instinctive drive necessary for them to survive. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Original article in Science News August 12, 2006, page 102. You can find many other references on the web. 

Poison Ivy Vaccine On the Way?

Poison Ivy Vaccine On the Way?

Those of us who work in science have been amazed at the public’s fear of the COVID vaccine. We shouldn’t be. When the polio vaccine came out, the same thing happened. Before that, there were similar public reservations about the smallpox vaccine. Now we may have a new vaccine for people to worry about – a poison ivy vaccine.

Every year up to 50 million Americans struggle with poison ivy infections. Ten percent of lost-time injuries among U.S. Forest Service workers are due to poison ivy. Here in Michigan, birds immune to poison ivy spread it by eating the berries and dispersing the seeds. As the saying goes, “One man’s (or bird’s) meat is another man’s poison.

Studies at Duke University indicated that the amount of carbon dioxide in the air controls how much urushiol the poison ivy plant produces. Urushiol causes the rash that so many of us experience when we contact the poison ivy plant. So the increase of carbon dioxide in the air causes climate change and makes poison ivy worse.

Research is now on the verge of producing a poison ivy vaccine. The compound called PDC-APB injected as a vaccine every year or two could prevent poison ivy misery. The University of Mississippi developed the vaccine, and Hapten Sciences has licensed it. The compound has passed initial safety tests in humans and will be undergoing controlled effectiveness trials.

The painful rash from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac may become a thing of the past. God has put into the creation materials that can help humans avoid poison ivy problems and given humans the intelligence to discover them. You can be sure that some people will circulate misinformation about the poison ivy vaccine. However, as one who has been hospitalized three times with poison ivy experiences, I will be in line for the vaccine when it is available.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Scientific American, September 2021, page 24.