Alien Invasions Causing Extinctions

Alien Invasions such as the Brown Tree Snake on Guam cause extinctions

New research published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on March 4, 2019, indicates that alien invasions are causing extinctions of native animals. Humans are mostly to blame.

When humans throw the world of plants and animals out of balance, the result is extinctions. We can destroy God’s designed balance when we introduce a non-native species into an environment. The introduced species without natural predators uses up local resources leaving native species without food. There are many examples.

One example is the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) which was accidentally introduced to Guam aboard a military cargo ship after World War II. Those snakes are native to Australia and Indonesia where natural predators control them. On Guam, they have decimated 50 percent of the native bird and lizard species and two of the three bat species on the island. The brown tree snakes considered those native species to be tasty treats, and the snakes had no predators to control them. The result was the extinction of many species, some of which existed nowhere else on Earth. Alien invasions of brown tree snakes forever changed the ecosystem of Guam.

In other cases, humans throw nature out of balance by their direct actions. An example of that is the over-hunting of sea otters. Sea otters kept the purple sea urchins in check. Steller’s sea cows (Hydrodamalis gigas)were giant relatives of manatees, and they lived on kelp. Without control by sea otters, the purple sea urchins ate so much of the kelp that Steller’s sea cows had no food, and they became extinct. However, the research project indicated that direct interference by humans in cases like this has less impact on extinctions than the alien invasions have.

Sometimes humans make the mistake of bringing in another non-native species to control the first one. That technique often makes the problems worse. Usually, by the time people discover the problem of alien invasions, it’s too late to fix it.

The research concludes that 25 percent of plant extinctions and 33 percent of animal extinctions were caused by alien invasions – the introduction of non-native species. The bottom line is that humans have not been good stewards of the planet God has given us to enjoy and protect. God gave humans the responsibility to have dominion over creation and “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Romans 13:1-4 indicates that those who rule over people have the responsibility to protect. We might say the same of us who rule over the creatures.

— Roland Earnst © 2019

Benefits of Trees

Benefits of Trees

We take for granted many things that God has built into the Earth so that we can survive. Among those are trees. World Ark magazine for the spring of 2019 published some interesting data that demonstrate the benefits of trees:

One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide in a year. That is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.

One acre of forest produces six tons of oxygen a year. That is also enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.

A single average-sized tree produces 260 pounds of oxygen a year, which is enough for two people.

Large areas of asphalt or cement attract and retain the Sun’s heat artificially boosting local temperatures. Trees are the only cure for this overheating.

Trees are the most efficient way to reduce urban noise.

Planting a tree on the west side of your house can block enough of the Sun’s heat to save $25 on your air conditioning bill every year. Trees also serve as natural windbreakers to reduce your heating bill in winter.

Some trees, such as apple trees, attract birds which eat invasive caterpillars.

Property values are increased up to 15% by having trees in yards and throughout neighborhoods.


Joyce Kilmer’s wrote, “I think I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.” That is even more true when we realize the multiple hidden benefits of trees.

“And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit whose seed was in itself after its kind: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:12).

The last verse of Kilmer’s poem says:

“Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”

–John N. Clayton © 2019

What Good Are Termites?

What Good Are Termites? Termite Mound

We have had the great pleasure of presenting our lectureships in Australia. One of the common questions from college groups has been, “What good are termites?” The termite mounds in some places we saw were over 10 feet (3 m) tall. People frequently complained that they couldn’t build structures out of wood. There were so many termites that the wood didn’t last long enough to make it cost effective.

Science News
(February 16, 2019, page 4) carried an interesting article about termites. Kate Parr is a tropical ecologist from the University of Liverpool in England conducting research for the university and the Natural History Museum in London. She has been examining how ants and termites affect the decomposition and consumption of organic material in rainforests.

As they conducted their study, the research area went through a drought. During the drought, termite numbers doubled, and decomposition rates increased dramatically. They found that during the drought in areas where termites were not disturbed, and their numbers increased there was a greater amount of soil moisture, more nutrient mixing, and better seedling survival rates. Areas where the termites had been eliminated had massive die-offs of plants which affected the animal population. In times of normal moisture with no drought conditions, there was no difference in all these variables. What good are termites? It seems apparent that the termites allowed life to prosper during droughts. In places like the Australian outback, the presence of termites is apparently vital for the avoidance of drought die-offs.

One aspect of design in the cosmos is the fact that there always seem to be animals that serve a unique roll in an area when destructive agents threaten the balance of the ecology. The role of insects and small life-forms in the existence of life on Earth is an area that is very understudied. But new discoveries are coming fast and furious as we see the designs of God allowing life to exist even under the most severe environmental conditions.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

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.