COVID-19 and the Origin of Disease

COVID-19 and the Origin of Disease

As I write this in Mid-February of 2020, over 2000 people have died from the coronavirus known as SARS-COV-2 or COVID-19. The cause of the virus has been the subject of many television shows, research papers, and religious rants. Scientific evidence concerning the virus is pretty clear, but the media has spread wild claims by nutritionists, religionists, and holistic practitioners that have misled many people. It is essential to separate the snake oil sellers from valid research and holistic claims from valid medical treatment. What is the origin of disease?

There are always religious extremists who will say that diseases like the Coronavirus are God’s punishment for sinful human beings. That claim violates the nature of God, and it is unsupported by the evidence. James 1:17 tells us that God is the giver of every “good and perfect” gift, and verse 13 clearly indicates that He does not tempt us with evil. Jesus never sent disease or punishment on any human being–not even Judas. By the same token, God does not prevent the natural consequences of sin or bad choices. Judas chose to destroy himself, but God did not strike him dead. It would be contrary to God’s nature to send a disease that would kill innocent people for any reason, and children and older adults are dying from this coronavirus.

So what is the origin of disease and the COVID-19 virus? Virtually all of the infectious diseases that humans experience are transmitted to humans from animals. HIV came into the human population from monkeys, and the SARs group of viruses came from animals. Many viral agents cause no problems for an animal, but when they are transmitted to humans, the virus runs wild and can kill. HIV causes no problems in monkeys, but when it gets into the human body, the result can be death. The coronavirus started in Wuhan, China, and appears to have begun in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Eating animals that are carrying the virus or keeping animals with the virus as pets make it easy for humans to become infected.

The Bible was written long before people understood bacteria, viruses, or the importance of personal hygiene. Despite that, it advised hygiene practices and ways of securing and preparing food that minimized the chance of epidemics like the one we are experiencing now. It appears that animals in China carried the virus, and due to Chinese diets and food preparation methods, it got a foothold in humans. COVID-19 creates an acute respiratory syndrome disease that quickly spreads from human to human and especially threatens people with weak respiratory systems.

The origin of disease is not a punishment from God. God did not send HIV to punish homosexuals, and He didn’t send COVID-19 to punish the Chinese for their government’s atheistic stance. At the same time, God’s love is demonstrated through His people. As everyone else is fleeing the Hubei province, Christian medical missionaries are moving in to provide help and treatment to those who are suffering.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Associated Press release 2/20/20.

Importance of Ice in Earth’s Design

Importance of Ice in Earth's Design - Snow on Mountains

In a recent discussion about global warming, a man said to me that we would be better of if we could get rid of all the ice on Earth. I’m sure some of that sentiment came because we were in the midst of an ice storm. We get lots of snow in Michigan, but when the temperature is zero degrees outside, we don’t see freezing rain, just snow. Another member of the discussion pointed out the need for ice so he could do his favorite sport of ice fishing. In truth, the importance of ice is more than just ice-fishing or winter sports.

The design of the water molecule allows us to have ice, and without it, planet Earth would be in serious trouble. The water molecule is polar, meaning that it has a positive end and a negative end. When water freezes, the positive end of one molecule attaches to the negative end of another molecule. If the temperature is low enough, we have a rigid form of water we call ice.

Many people don’t realize the importance of ice. It is a major design feature of Earth and its ecosystems. Ice has a lower density than liquid water, which allows lakes to freeze from the top. That provides winter protection for all the life that lives in water environments. Marine and freshwater life-forms of both animals and plants could not exist if it were not for the design of the water molecule and the formation of ice.

Ice is also a significant controller of the water cycle on Earth. Job 37:6 indicates that snow is a conscious creation of God. Job 38:22 speaks of the “treasures of the snow” which God says He has “reserved against a time of trouble.” People living in the western United States can tell you of the importance of snow and ice, which locks up water in the winter so that it is available during the heat of the summer. If all the ice on planet Earth melted, what would happen to the sea level? There are debates about how much the oceans would rise, but there is no question but that the state of Florida would be submerged.

Ice in the form of snow cleans our air. It provides insulation in very cold places allowing mammals to survive underground during the winter months. We should not underestimate the importance of ice because it is truly a treasure in whatever form it comes. We must do what we can to maintain the water cycle and the balance that God built into the design of planet Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Flood Geology and John C. Whitcomb

Flood Geology in the Grand Canyon

The co-author of The Genesis Flood, John C. Whitcomb Jr., passed away on February 4, 2020. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris wrote the book advocating Flood Geology and supporting Young Earth Creationism.

Morris was an engineer, and Whitcomb was a theologian. John C. Whitcomb was long associated with Grace Theological Seminary, where he received his degree and taught until 1990. Grace is located in Winona Lake, Indiana, and associated with the Grace Brethren Church, which has Anabaptist and Calvinist roots.

Whitcomb and Morris used the so-called Flood Geology to fit scientific data into their religious beliefs. Ronald Numbers, the author of the book The Creationists, says, “By showing how the deluge of Noah compressed earth history into no more than 10,000 years, Whitcomb and Morris at one stroke eliminated the need for ‘biblical gymnastics’ and deprived evolutionists of the time required for the natural origin of species.”

The problem with their approach was that neither of them was trained in geology. Many of those reading The Genesis Flood were also not trained in geology and had grown up in a religious tradition that demanded a young earth. Dispensationalists hailed the book as gospel, and end times teachers and preachers used it extensively as a source of information. The result was the wide acceptance of Flood Geology as the book became a best-seller.

We are dealing with a different population in the 21st century. Young people today have had academic training in geology and earth science. National Geographic, Smithsonian, and Scientific American have popularized modern understanding of the facts of astronomy and geology. Most of us know that the cosmos is larger than 6,000 light-years, indicating that the light from distant stars has been traveling for far longer than 6,000 years. In places such as the Grand Canyon, we can see rock layers that contain fossils that were clearly not produced by a flood. Anyone with basic geology knows the difference between a clastic sedimentary rock and a chemically precipitated rock. That understanding tells us that a flood did not produce structures like the Grand Canyon since they are mostly made up of rocks that are never associated with a flood.

Flood Geology, which Whitcomb and Morris wrote about in 1961, will not stand up in 2020. Students of the Bible today know that the Genesis account is not dated or timed. They know that attempts to use the Bible as a clock of history are not only bad theology but violate the intent of the writers. For more on this discussion, please read “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word,” which is available free at THIS LINK.

We need to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris spoke where the Bible is silent. Today many of those who believe that their message accurately presents what the Bible teaches are leaving the Christian faith and looking for more plausible explanations. The “Does God Exist” ministry is dedicated to showing people that God does exist, that He is the Creator, and that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. We do not defend the claims of those who have twisted God’s Word to fit their human theological beliefs.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Drake Equation and Planet Civilizations

Drake Equation author Frank Drake

In the long history of looking for life elsewhere in the cosmos, one of the exciting discoveries has been learning the things a planet needs to support life. In 1961, American astronomer Frank Drake proposed what is called the Drake Equation. He was looking for a way to calculate the number of inhabited planets in our galaxy with which communication might be possible. Drake’s equation lists seven parameters that would determine the answer to that question. They are:

1) The rate of formation of stars in our galaxy.

2) The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

3) The number of planets per solar system with an environment suitable for life.

4) The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

5) The fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

6) The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

7) The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

If you knew each of these probabilities, you could calculate how many planets in our galaxy might be inhabited by intelligent beings with whom we could communicate. Drake gave each of these parameters a number or probability, but they were wild guesses. Once you have the numbers, all you need to do is multiply each of these variables by each other.

Let me explain. What are the odds of drawing the ace of spaces from a card deck twice in a row back to back? The odds of drawing one ace of spades out of a full deck is 1 out of 52 since there are 52 cards in a deck. To calculate the odds of doing that twice in a row would be 1 out of 52 times one out of 52. You multiply the individual probabilities, so the total probability would be one out of 2704. If you knew the likelihood of each parameter in the Drake equation, multiplying them together would give you the theoretical odds that we could receive radio communication from intelligent life on another planet in our galaxy.

Going back to the card analogy, if you drew one time out of a deck of 52 cards, the odds would be one out of 52. If you drew the ace of spades 52 times in a row, the number would be astronomical since you would multiply the result 52 times! The problem with the Drake equation is that the parameters are unknown and are probably unknowable.

There are also variables that the Drake equation didn’t include, such as the type of star. For example, a supermassive star will have a very short life expectancy. Researchers at Rice University reported in January of 2020 that many stars have extended magnetic fields which overlap the Goldilocks zones of most exoplanets. (As we have explained before, we say that a planet is in the Goldilocks zone when it can contain water in the liquid state). These strong magnetic fields will strip away any atmosphere the planet might have. Our Sun has a magnetic field, but it is not strong enough to strip electrons from atoms and molecules in the Goldilocks zone where Earth is located.

More variables regularly show up, and they tell us that our solar system and Sun have been carefully designed and formatted so that we can exist. Psalms 1:19 continues to take on new meaning with every discovery we make in space. “The heavens (do) declare the glory of God, and the firmament (does) show His handiwork.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Astronomy magazine March 2020, page 9.

Frank Drake was involved in the founding of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which we have discussed previously HERE and HERE and HERE.

Battle of the Splitters and Lumpers

Battle of the Splitters and Lumpers

As we have reported before, an interesting debate in the scientific community has been the battle of the splitters and lumpers.

The splitters are scientists who consider every fossil specimen they find to be a different species and give it a unique name. The famous anthropologist Louis Leakey was an example of a splitter attaching numerous new names to specimens he discovered. Later it turned out that several specimens which he had given individual names were actually just variations of the same species. In recent years, anthropologists have given individual names to variations of the Neanderthals. Subsequent DNA evidence showed that many of those forms were just racial variations of the same species.

Lumpers suggest that, in general, we see many variations in a species, but we rarely see a new species. In modern days, we have various races that can look very different but are one species. A pygmy and a seven-foot-tall NBA basketball player have vast physical differences, but they are fertile with each other and therefore are one species.

It is becoming increasingly evident that ancient forms were not as diverse as some have assumed. A dinosaur discovered in the 1940s was given the name Nanotyrannus. The picture is an artist’s conception of what they looked like. It is now becoming clear to many scientists that the Nanotyrannus is a juvenile form of Tyrannosaurus rex. Because of their size, the diet of these two specimens was different. With reptiles who continue to grow, they can have a dramatic change in physical makeup as they age.

When we carry the battle of the splitters and lumpers to the question of human origins, the implications become extremely important. Were there many different species of humans that were infertile with each other? Or were they all one species, and the physical variations were simply adaptions to the environment and diet? The Bible indicates that all humans are one and that we all descended from a common human ancestor. The lumpers tend to agree, and the evidence continues to accumulate, verifying that we are all one.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Science News, February 1, 2020, page 15.

Dark Matter Mystery Deepens

Dark Matter Mystery Deepens

As we have explained before, scientists understand that a vast percentage of the matter in the creation is something they call dark matter. The simplest way to understand dark matter is to realize that when something is spinning around a core, there must be a force to keep the spinning mass from flying away because of centrifugal force. The dark matter mystery is the unknown quantity preventing spiral galaxies like the Milky Way from flying apart.

If you spin a child around so fast that their feet come off the ground, you must hold their hands tightly. If you let go, they would fly off away from you. Stars going around the center of a galaxy also have to be held by some force. The stars move so quickly that no known force could keep them where they are. That means there is a gravitational force we can’t see holding the stars in their position. We refer to the mass that exerts that gravitational force as dark matter.

Astrophysicist Peter van Dokkum of Yale University has announced the discovery of a galaxy known as DF2, which has stars and star clusters moving at a very slow pace around the core of the galaxy. In all other galaxies having stars at the same distance as stars in DF2, the stars are moving three times as fast as the stars in DF2. That can only mean that there is less dark matter in DF2.

This discovery increases the dark matter mystery because it appears that dark matter is not constant in the cosmos. The amount of dark matter in a galaxy depends on what is needed to keep everything moving at a speed that produces stability in the galactic system. There is a great deal of debate about this discovery, but it appears that the design of galaxies has a new variable that is critical to their existence. That critical factor is how much dark matter has been supplied to keep the system stable. God has tools affecting the creation that we are just beginning to understand. The role of dark matter is only one of those.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Astronomy magazine, March 2020 page 45-51.

Greatest Computer Ever Made

Greatest Computer Ever Made

What would the business world pay for the greatest computer ever made? It’s a computer that can absorb, store, and retrieve one billion gigabytes of data and has 125,000,000,000,000,000 units of memory (1.25e for our computer jocks). It can run on 1/500,000th of the energy required to run the most energy-efficient laptop computers and weighs less than three pounds. In reality, you are the proud possessor of such a computer. It’s your brain.

The computer in your head controls all of the organs in our body, the skeletal and muscular systems, and the central nervous system with its 90,000 miles (145,000 km) of nerve connections. The computer in your head is divided into two sections with the left brain and right brain doing different things. They are joined by a membrane called the corpus callosum, which separates the two halves of the brain and yet allows them to interact with one another. If the corpus callosum is severed, you essentially have two individuals produced, and they can still function.

We all know that many things can mess up our home computers. Spilling a foreign liquid on them, applying the wrong voltage and current, overheating them, having some outside person hack into them, or physically changing them by adding or removing parts can all cause terrible consequences. In the same way, our brains can be damaged by the same disrupters. Pollution, foreign liquids, alien chemicals, or outside physical damage can cause terrible consequences to the human brain. The result can be physical problems, mental problems, and emotional difficulties.

In spite of all that, we are amazed by discoveries of how the brain works, what it can do, and how we can help it. When we look at our smartphones, tablets, and computers, we are amazed at their design and complexity. We marvel at the intelligent minds that created them. The computer in our head was also designed by an Intelligence far beyond that of any human engineer. Indeed we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). We all possess the greatest computer ever made. Let us use it wisely, protect it, and allow it to tell us of the wisdom of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Value of a Whale

Value of a Whale - Humpback Breaching

Many years ago, an atheist challenged my statement that everything in the creation had a designed purpose and filled a need. My atheist friend insisted that the whale is one example of a poorly designed creature with no purpose. He said that they eat massive amounts of the ocean’s food that could be eaten by other, more useful creatures. He also challenged that they contribute nothing to the ecology of the oceans. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer to why whales are useful. Whale oil seemed to me to be a weak answer. Since then, I have learned the value of a whale.

One of the things I love about science is that it continues to look for understandings of the world in which we live. New studies of whales have revealed some facts that show the whale is incredibly useful. The current winter edition of Defenders of Wildlife magazine reports data on the value of a whale.

Whales live a long time, and they accumulate carbon in their bodies. When the whale dies, it takes that carbon to the ocean bottom, removing it from the atmosphere. New research shows that each whale takes 33 tons (30 metric tons) of carbon out of the atmosphere. By comparison, a tree absorbs 48 pounds (22 kg) of carbon dioxide a year. In 60 years, which is the lifespan of most whales, a tree would remove one ton of carbon from the air. Whales play a role in removing the greenhouse gas that people are concerned about today.

In a whale’s lifetime, it will bring minerals to the ocean surface to stimulate phytoplankton growth. This plankton contributes more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs 37 billion tons (33.5 metric tons) of carbon dioxide a year. Phytoplankton also sustains many fish species, and today, fishing is a 150 billion dollar industry.

So what is the value of a whale? Defenders of Wildlife maintains that each whale is worth more than two million dollars. God has a purpose for everything He created, but sometimes it takes us a long time to understand how His creatures help us.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Stars and Habitable Zones

Stars and Habitable Zones - NASA

The more scientists study Earth and other objects that surround us in space, the more variables we realize must be carefully controlled for life to exist. Many times before, in our posts, our videos, our books, and our printed quarterly, we have discussed the growing list of parameters that must be carefully chosen. NASA posted a graphic of different kinds of stars in the cosmos and whether they could support life. This picture of stars and habitable zones adds to our understanding of the unique qualities of our Sun.

Water is essential for life. Science defines life as having properties such as moving, breathing, eating, reproducing, and responding to outside stimuli. We don’t discuss “rock people” or “gas people” because they don’t fit that definition. For that reason, scientists are interested in stars and habitable zones–the just-right “Goldilocks zone” surrounding a star where water can exist as a liquid.

In their daily posting on apod.nasa.gov for January 31, 2020, NASA gives the distribution of Goldilocks zones for G spectral stars like our Sun, which are yellow, K dwarf stars, which are orange, and M stars, which are red. The other spectral groupings, such as blue stars, are not considered because of their high radiation levels and activity, which would make life impossible.

The most common type of star in our galaxy, making up 73% of all stars in the Milky Way, are M stars. These red stars have very active magnetic fields and massive radiation. Their Goldilocks zone would be minimal and very close to the star. Orange K stars make up 13% of the stars in the Milky Way. They have a modest Goldilocks zone but are fairly active with some radiation levels. Yellow G type stars like our Sun, make up only 6% of the stars in the Milky Way. These stars have very large Goldilocks zones, and they are very quiet compared to K stars.

As we consider stars and habitable zones, we must realize that the type of star is just the beginning of the variables necessary for a star system to support life. Other critical factors include the size of the star, the location of the planet relative to the star, and the shielding a planet has for protection from the radiation of the star. Also, the stability of the star’s location in the Milky Way is another factor that goes into a life-supporting planetary system.

Our existence is not a product of chance. The more we learn about the Earth, the Sun, and the stars and habitable zones within the Milky Way, the more we understand that the statement, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” is a massive understatement of what God did to make a place for us to exist.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Why We Need Tears

Why We Need Tears

The human body is amazing. Things we take for granted or try to explain in simple ways turn out to be incredibly complex when we fully understand how they work. Tears are a classic example. Most of us don’t realize why we need tears and that we have three different kinds.

Basal tears lubricate our eyes. They are generated in the lacrimal gland, which sits just above the eye and just under the eyebrow. The word “lacrimal” comes from the Latin word for tear, which is “lacrima.”

Reflex tears form in response to irritants. You are most familiar with them when you cut an onion or are exposed to smoke or dirt. These tears have a complex mix of saltwater mixed with antibodies, oils, and enzymes that are not present in basal tears.

Emotional tears carry protein-based hormones, including leucine-enkephalin, which is a natural pain killer released when the body is under stress. Crying causes the release of oxytocin and endorphins, which are chemicals that help us feel better. Crying also may generate social support, depending on the situation.

Interestingly, babies don’t produce tears until they are seven or eight months old. The average human produces 15 to 30 gallons of tears a year. It is incredible that such a simple thing as tears has such a complex design and serves so many different purposes. It is easy to see why we need tears.

The more I learn about God’s design of my body, the more I appreciate the statement of David: “I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works” (Psalms 139:14).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Reader’s Digest, February 2020, page 34-36.