Beauty of Earth’s Diversity

Beauty of Earths DiversityThe plant in the picture is called the “bird of paradise.” It is neither a bird, nor is it found in paradise. However, it is indeed a beautiful example of the beauty of Earth’s diversity in the plant world. One of the primary reasons many of us enjoy travel and visiting museums, zoos, and arboretums is that we are enthralled with the incredible diversity of living things.

We want to suggest that this diversity is more than a device to entertain us humans. From a scientific standpoint, it is the diversity of life on Earth that has led to the high standard of living available to us on this planet. As geneticists unravel the genome of living things, it becomes more and more apparent why agricultural breeding practices of the past have been successful. The production of super chickens, super cows, low-fat pork, and all the other unique breeds has been possible because of all the different genetic options God built into life. If, for example, there had been only one set of genes for all bovines on this planet, such cattle as the Charolais would not have been possible. It is only because we have an infinite number of genetic possibilities to draw from that we can select those that will serve our particular needs.

In plants, this is equally obvious. We have only begun to appreciate all that plants can do. Scientists have studied only a small percentage of all plants on this planet to see how we can use them. Cures for cancer, AIDS, the common cold, and a variety of other ailments may well be in a plant we have not yet investigated. It is self-evident in today’s world that solving the problem of hunger lies in the fuller use of plants. The diversity of plants holds the key to better nutrition, more and better fabrics to protect and shelter us, and even the improvement of air quality.

In God’s creative wisdom, He gave us a wide diversity of life of all kinds and told us to “take care of the Garden, dress it, and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The future has vast potential for good if we will use in a constructive way all that God has given us. To arbitrarily destroy any of this diversity and thus end its potential usefulness is not only poor management of the “Garden,” but also the worst kind of foolishness.

We also suggest that the beauty of Earth’s diversity of humans offers the potential for vast good. Each of us has a gift designed into our makeup that uniquely qualifies us to bring great blessings to others. Paul said it best:

“According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service, if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8). See also 1 Corinthians 12:8-27.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Cotyledon’s Engineered Preparation for life

Cotyledon’s Engineered Preparation for lifePlant seedlings emerging from the ground use the cotyledon’s engineered preparation for life. You may not be familiar with cotyledons, but you have undoubtedly seen them on newly emerged seedlings.

To get the idea, think about some other engineered devices that serve an essential preparatory function. When skydivers jump from a plane, they use carefully engineered equipment. The first thing they deploy to prepare for landing is a pilot chute. The pilot chute can’t land them safely on the ground. Its purpose is to deploy the main parachute. Perhaps more familiar to most people is the limited-use spare tire for automobiles. Those “donuts,” as many people call them, are not designed for high-speed driving or for driving long distances. They are engineered to get you to the nearest service station where the punctured tire can be repaired or replaced. The pilot chute and the limited-use spare tire are examples of engineered preparation.

Just as the pilot chute is packed into the jumper’s gear and the donut is packed into the vehicle, there is something packed into the seed called a cotyledon. Scientists classify flowering plants (angiosperms) as monocots or dicots depending whether they have one or two cotyledons folded into the seed. As soon as the seed has sent a taproot into the soil, it pulls in moisture and uses the hydrostatic pressure to push up a green shoot bearing the cotyledons. As those “donuts” break through the surface, they inflate to provide temporary, emergency photosynthesis. The seedling begins to drink up the water and nutrients from the taproot and use energy from sunlight to kickstart the photosynthesis process.

As the cotyledon’s engineered preparation for life gets the new plant started, real leaves begin to form. In a sense, the cotyledons have taken the plant to the first service station or deployed the main chute. Now it is ready to go from a seedling to a full-grown plant or tree. The seedling still has many challenges ahead, just as the parachutist or motorist does. But just as having the pilot chute or the donut packed and ready for deployment aids the jumper or the driver, the cotyledon supports the plant. Would anyone suggest the pilot chute or donut are merely accidents? We know those devices would not be possible without engineering design. In truth, cotyledons require far more complex engineering that only the master Designer can do.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Spring-loaded Movement in Living Things

Spring-loaded Movement in Living ThingsAn interesting study of living things in the world around us involves how things move from one place to another. There are many creatures with muscles that move their legs or wings to travel from place-to-place. Other forms of life use spring-loaded movement with power greater than muscles can provide.

The larvae of the gall midge Asphondylia flip with power by using a built-in latch that acts as a spring. Gall midges lay their eggs on silverrod or goldenrod plants (Solidago). The midges grow from an egg to a larva inside a gall that grows on the plant. The larva’s body forms into an ellipse by meshing together the back and front using a velcro-like surface on each end. As the midge larva grows, the tension on the surfaces increases until it finally breaks free, shooting the midge as far as 36 times its body length. We previously reported on the so-called “Dracula ant” (Mystrium camillae) which has the world’s fastest jaws that operate on a mechanism which gives them spring-loaded movement.

Some plants like the Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) have a similar structure in their fruit. As the fruit grows, it builds up stress until the edges of the fruit break, shooting the seed great distances. That spring-loaded launch method spreads the seeds over a wider area. Also, we previously reported on the sandbox tree (Hura crepitans) nicknamed “the dynamite tree.” Its seedpods open explosively by a spring-loaded movement that scatters the seeds.

These are all design features built into the very structure of the organisms to allow locomotion. Even the smallest creatures such as ants and midge flies and plants that are rooted in place use spring-loaded movement. Everywhere we look in the creation, we see God’s designs at work. His wonder-working hand has created a great diversity in all of life.

As Paul wrote in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of Him (His wisdom, power, and design) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made even His eternal power and deity; so that mankind is without excuse…”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Science News, August 31, 2019, page 10.

National Geographic and Alternative Medicine

National Geographic and Alternative Medicine
We frequently refer to articles in National Geographic magazine. There have been times when the National Geographic Society has jumped to conclusions about some issue because of their bias to the currently held scientific beliefs. That is especially true when evolutionary theory is involved. However, their articles always have excellent photography and are usually well documented by credible scientists. That makes the relationship between National Geographic and alternative medicine very surprising.

The National Geographic Society has published six books promoting alternative medicine that are not only bad science but also bad journalism. These books go back to 2010, but in the last three years, the books have moved past just presenting data and have gone to promoting a wide range of alternative remedies.

In 2010 they released a book titled Guide to Medicinal Herbs followed by Complete Guide to Natural Home Remedies in 2012. Starting in 2014 the editors began promoting what they called Healing Remedies, Nature’s Best Remedies (2015), Natural Home Remedies (2017), and Nature’s Best Remedies (2019). These books claimed to offer ways to cure or heal illnesses. It is disturbing is that there is virtually no documentation nor any attempt to point out problems in the promoted “remedies” such as side effects or possible collateral damage.

It is important to understand that there are natural materials that can help treat physical problems in the human body. It is also important to know that this is a huge business with an expanding market making it attractive to every fast-talking con-artist. There is virtually no supervision of alternative medicine. That means people can make all kinds of claims without documenting them. To see National Geographic enter this circus is very disappointing. Skeptical Inquirer has taken on National Geographic in their September/October 2019 special issue titled “The Health Wars.” Skeptical Inquirer describes the problem this way:

Producing books full of claims that lack evidence and don’t even meet minimum scientific standards belies the NGS’s stated ‘passion for science.’ Some of the advice can actually harm. The inconsistencies among the books are troubling and weaken any argument that they are providing ‘information people can trust.’ The National Geographic Society should not sully its reputation by promoting health practices and products not supported by credible scientific evidence.”

We encourage those interested in alternative medicine to examine what is presented in this issue of Skeptical Inquirer about National Geographic and alternative medicine. Click HERE to read the article and always use caution when taking medical advice.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Facts About Plant Design

Facts About Plant Design including WatermelonOne of our gardener friends sent us these interesting facts about plant design:

Seeds may be dropped into the ground upside down or sideways, yet the plants always come up to the surface.

One grain of corn will produce a stalk on which there may be two ears, with perhaps 742 grains on each ear.

A light crop of wheat will produce approximately 30 grains on each stalk. A good crop of wheat will produce approximately 60 grains on each stalk. There will always be an even number of grains.

Beans grow up a pole from left to right. Morning glories grow up a pole from right to left. If turned upside down, “twining” plants will uncoil and recircle their support. Guide a twiner in the “wrong” direction, and the plant will rewind itself. The higher the twiner grows, the more tightly it clasps its support.

Dandelions will grow above their surroundings whether the grass is two, ten, or twenty inches, for it must grow up into the sunlight.

An average watermelon will have ten stripes on it. Larger ones may have 12 to 16 stripes, but they always an even number.

Those are just a few facts about plant design. Every form of life in the vegetable and animal kingdom has a predetermined set of characteristics – a master plan perfect in every detail – God’s plan. God has a perfect plan for my life and yours, which supplies all our needs – His Word (2 Peter 1:3). By His grace, we receive strength to rise above all our circumstances (Romans 8:31).
— Bob Schweikard © 2019

Algae Solutions to Human Problems

Algae Solutions to Human ProblemsWhen you hear the word algae, negative thoughts may come to your mind. You may have problems with algae growths in your pond or birdbath. You have heard about toxic algal blooms that have hit seafood industries on the Pacific Coast. Many of us have viewed the red tide in Florida first hand. There are lawsuits in progress against companies that allowed chemical runoffs to trigger the destructive growth of algae in lakes and the ocean causing economic hardship for fishing trades and seafood producers. Unlike human-caused algae problems, there is a promise of algae solutions to human problems.

Consider the following facts:

Algae is probably our best tool for reducing greenhouse gases. Algae take carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. More than half of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere comes from converting carbon dioxide to oxygen and algae is the primary agent for doing that. There is good evidence that excessive algae growth in the past caused global cooling.

Phytoplankton algae grow world-wide and make up the base of aquatic food-chains, eventually leading to most of the seafood we eat.

Giant kelp, which are algae, provide food and protected ecosystems for ocean creatures.

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, such as spirulina contain proteins, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. People in many countries have been harvesting spirulina for nutrition since the 1940s. Japanese cooks use algae in soups and sushi wrappers. The additives agar and carrageenan from algae are used in ice cream and jellies.

Symbiotic relationships exist between algae and coral, helping to prevent storm damage to coral reefs that house sea life and protect shoreline structures. Algae solutions to human problems are many.

Research continues into how we can use algae to produce fuel. New foods made of algae are being developed. Most recently sea grapes, which are algae, have been used as green caviar because their texture and appearance looks like caviar and they are very nutritious.

God has provided for us in so many ways that it has taken our entire human history to discover them. For many years people did not eat tomatoes because they were considered to be poisonous. That seems silly to us today when whole industries are built around the tomato. In the future, perhaps we can say the same of algae. These rootless, leafless plants have incredible potential to provide algae solutions to human problems both here on Earth and as we travel into outer space.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Science Digest, July 2019

Seeds Are Alive

Seeds Are AliveWhen you walk into the forest and look up at the trees, it’s easy to realize that all of those structures towering over your head are alive. What you may not think about is that their seeds under your feet are alive also.

Many trees produce seeds to grow new trees. There are maple seeds with their familiar “helicopter” method of blowing in the wind. There are cottonwood seeds that look like “summer snow.” Those seeds and others are carried far away by the wind.

Oak trees produce seeds we call acorns. They’re too heavy for the wind to scatter them, so that’s the job of squirrels. Squirrels gather acorns and store them to eat later. When later comes, the squirrels have often forgotten where they stored their treasure. Instead of being eaten, the acorns grow into new trees to produce more acorns. Both the trees and the squirrels benefit from that arrangement.

The seed of a coconut tree is the coconut. The wind can’t blow coconuts around, and squirrels can’t carry them. They often grow near water, such as a stream or an ocean. A coconut falling into the sea can float to an island thousands of miles away, where it can take root and grow. Cherry trees produce their fruit with a seed we often call a pit. Birds eat the cherries and drop the seeds over a wide area.

The key to a seed beginning to grow is the breaking of the shell surrounding it. Many things can cause that to happen, such as moisture, temperature, fire, mechanical abrasion, or a combination of methods. Some seeds have to travel through the digestive system of birds or animals for them to begin to grow into a new plant.

Most seeds wait a year before they start to grow. Cherry seeds can wait for hundreds of years. Scientists discovered a lotus seed (Nelumbo nucifer) in a bog in China. They cracked the shell and started it growing. When they carbon-dated the shell, they found that the seed had been waiting for 2,000 years to sprout into a lotus plant.

Seeds are alive, waiting in dormancy to grow into what God created them to be. The amazing quality of life shows design by intelligence, not chance.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

A Flower or a Weed?

Daisy - A Flower or a Weed?
This wildflower can be found growing in fields and meadows. Its soft petals and yellow core make it universally recognizable. Many related plants are called daisies, but the common daisy (Bellis perennis) is native to Europe and is sometimes called the English daisy due to its native location. However, daisies have become so prevalent around the world that some say they make up almost 10% of all flowering plants on Earth. This leads to the question of whether it’s a flower or a weed.

The name “daisy” comes from “day’s eye” because the head closes at night and opens with the sunrise. You may look at the common daisy and believe that the head is a solo flower. In reality, it’s a composite flower made up of a cluster of flowers called an inflorescence. Each inflorescence grows on a single, leafless stem with rounded leaves growing from the base. Common daisies resemble another wildflower known as chamomile. However, chamomile has multiple flower heads growing on the same stalk.

Common daisies are robust and can thrive in many different types of soil, in full sun or partial shade, as long as minimum temperatures remain above -30 degrees F (-34 C). They grow on every continent except Antarctica. Daisies can grow in practically any valley, meadow, or field. If the conditions are right, daisies will populate themselves in enormous numbers engulfing the ground like weeds. A meadow full of daisies is a beautiful natural scene. However, in some areas, they are considered to be invasive weeds. In fact, they are so hardy they may crowd out noxious weeds. So is it a flower or a weed?

Daisies are beautiful to look at, but they can also be beneficial in other ways. Daisies can help improve the biodiversity of the household garden by attracting pollinating insects as well as birds that feed on the insects. Young daisy leaves can be added to salads, and they supply vitamin C. The buds and petals are also edible in soups or salads. Some people have also used them for treating gastrointestinal disorders. Children use them to make daisy chains, and young women count the petals to the refrain “he loves me; he loves me not.”

So the question of whether it’s a flower or a weed depends on your perspective. We prefer to think of them as flowers. Whether wild or cultivated, we find the number and variety of flowers in the world amazing. Apparently, God loves beauty, and He has given humans the ability to enjoy it also. After all, the Creator made us in His image.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Zoopharmacognosy Animal Doctors

Zoopharmacognosy Animal Doctors Zoopharmacognosy is a word you don’t see every day. It’s actually a combination of three Greek words which mean “animal” (zoo), “drug” (pharma), and “knowing” (gnosy). It refers to animals using plants, soils, insects, or drugs to solve specific medical problems. It is animals (not humans) medicating themselves. Mammals, birds, and even insects use zoopharmacognosy to cure medical problems, and sometimes to prevent them. Here are a few examples.

It is fairly common to see a sick dog or cat eating grass to induce vomiting.

Sick chimpanzees swallow bitter leaves of Aspilia, a plant that contains an anti-parasitic chemical. The leaves are covered with bristles and bitter tasting so the chimps roll up the leaves and swallow them whole like we might take a pill.

Others chimps and bonobos with diarrhea will split open the stem of an Aframomum plant and suck the bitter juice. The juice contains chemicals which kill parasites which cause diarrhea.

Spider monkeys in Brazil have been seen eating seed pods from a tree known as monkey ear or elephant ear (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) during mating season. The fruit contains progesterone which promotes female fertility.

Brown bears make a paste from the chewed roots of osha (Ligusticum porteri) mixed with saliva and rub it into their fur to repel insects and soothe the bites. The plant contains coumarins which repel fleas and ticks.

To get rid of lice, many songbirds with put ants on their feathers or even roll in an anthill. The ants secrete formic acid, which kills feather lice.

Ants infected with Beauveria bassiana, a soil fungus, will eat harmful substances that are antifungal.

Many kinds of animals will eat dirt to absorb toxins, to combat parasites, or as an antacid. Sometimes they eat dirt to supplement minerals that are missing in their diet.

Pregnant elephants will chew the leaves of a specific tree in the Boraginaceae family to induce labor. Kenyan women make tea from those leaves to help with childbirth. In many cases, people have learned medicines and tonics from animals.

There are many more examples of zoopharmacognosy in which animals act as their own doctors. How did animals get this knowledge? It seems to be instinctive, not learned. Perhaps this instinct was put within the genetic code of these animals by their Creator.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

California Poppies Thrive

California Poppies ThriveThe past twelve months have been a time that most native Californians will never forget. After several years of drought, the entire state was affected by massive forest fires. When the fires were finally out, it seemed that everything would get back to normal, but then the rains started. Between the heavy snow and the unusually heavy rains, massive flooding became an issue. Without vegetation to stop the runoff, gloom and doom predictors were having a field day. The future looked bad, especially for southern California, but then came the California poppies.

I recently got a letter from a friend of mine who lives in southern California. The letter included pictures of what a few months ago was ugly, dark-colored, barren rock. The new images were ablaze with color. The California poppies withstood the fire because their seeds are not combustible and germinate faster in the conditions the fires produced. The seeds are also shaped in such a way that they don’t wash out even in heavy rain. With no competition, no predation to destroy the young plants, the poppies grew and bloomed like crazy.

Norma Privitt writing in the July/August/September 2019 issue of Power for Today described it this way:

“What a year this has been for California poppies! Abundant rain has unleashed God’s glorious array of orange flowers over all the barren hills. Even the limitations of TV do not restrict the obvious explosion of color. We traveled to view the poppies in previous years when their glory was only a smidgen of this year’s, but so many have made this year’s pilgrimage their cars line both sides of the roads, and finally, shuttle buses have had to be arranged. It almost seems symbolic that the plant that will anchor the soil and allow the land to begin to recover is a plant that blooms with brilliant orange drawing attention to God’s provision, even when human greed and abuse cause pain.”

Through California poppies, God has provided a way to bring beauty and hope even when things look dark and bleak.
— John N. Clayton © 2019