Apathy May Lead to Dementia

Apathy May Lead to Dementia

Because we are living longer, the incidence of dementia has also increased. One form is frontotemporal dementia, which hits most of its victims between ages 45 and 65. There is a gene for frontotemporal dementia, but having the gene does not mean that the person is doomed to have the disease. Keeping our body and brain active may play a role in whether that gene will be expressed. Apathy may lead to dementia.

Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that there is a correlation between apathy and frontotemporal dementia. Their studies show that people who are lazy, in depression, or have lost interest in life becoming apathetic toward their daily activities are potential victims of frontotemporal dementia.

God never intended for people to be inert. In ancient times, people struggled for existence, and life expectancy was short enough that dementia wasn’t an issue. In today’s world, that is not the case. Passively watching television instead of getting involved in activities, social interaction, or reading can make a difference in whether our gene for frontotemporal dementia will be expressed.

A person’s role in Church activities may also be a factor in frontotemporal dementia. We have seen “Golden Ager” programs in many churches where we have conducted workshops and VBS programs. The people were active, dynamic, mentally alert, and living into their 90’s with vigor and enthusiasm.

You can retire from your secular employment, but don’t retire from God. Apathy may lead to dementia, but staying active supports mental health and freedom from frontotemporal dementia.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from The Week, January 29, 2021, page 22.

The Value of Gold

The Value of Gold

I recently came across an incredibly ignorant statement blaming God for causing all the strife in the world. The reason this person gave was that God created gold which causes class distinctions, wars, and constant conflicts. Humans have indeed fought over gold, but it is also true that the value of gold to human existence is much more than a source of wealth and prestige. Gold is one of the most useful things God has given us.

A single ounce of gold can be drawn into a thread 50 miles (80 km) long without breaking. Gold is not just ductile; it is also malleable so that it can be pounded out into sheets. It reflects infrared radiation making it useful for coating spacecraft and the suits that astronauts wear. Because of its resistance to tarnish, people have used gold in jewelry, but its practical uses far outshine any aesthetic value. Since it doesn’t tarnish and is an excellent conductor of electricity, engineers use gold plating on critical electronic contacts.

Gold can be combined with other elements for a variety of uses. The value of gold includes the use in medicine. People have used gold in medicine throughout human history. Doctors today use injections of gold salts to reduce the swelling and pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Oncologists use gold to help shrink cancerous tumors.

One might ask, “Why is gold so rare?” Actually, it isn’t. Researchers at Arizona State University showed that the sewage produced each year in a city of a million people includes 2.6 million dollars worth of gold and silver and the oceans contain 20 million tons of gold. There are 244,000 tons of gold on our planet, but we have already extracted about 80% of the world’s supply. We are now finding massive amounts of gold in space objects. Scientists believe that a metallic asteroid named 16 Psyche has a core of almost solid gold, perhaps worth a few hundred quintillion dollars.

The value of gold is not its financial worth but its properties, giving it an incredible number of uses. Humans have treated gold as a symbol of beauty and value and often fought over it. But like everything God has created, gold is a blessing for which we should be thankful and not greedy.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Reader’s Digest, March 2021, pages 28-30.

Animal Engineers and Survival Ecosystems

Animal Engineers and Survival Ecosystems
A sand goanna monitor lizard (Varanus gouldii) peers out from its tunnel.

One of the most interesting demonstrations of design in the natural world is the way some animals build structures that provide for the needs of other animals. The work of these animal engineers creates new ecosystems for survival.

The classic North American example is the beaver, which goes to great lengths to provide a whole ecosystem that benefits other life forms. One might question whether a dam is necessary for a beaver to eat plant material and raise babies. Dam building requires the beaver to spend massive amounts, and the dam is easily destroyed. A large number of other life forms depend on beaver dams and the ponds that form behind them.

Science News (February 13, 2021) published a similar example found in Australia. Life forms in northwestern Australia have to survive in a challenging environment with little water and extreme heat. How do all those animals survive in the harsh conditions?

The answer to that question is large monitor lizards. Two species of monitor lizards dig holes that are up to 13 feet (4 m) deep with numerous side channels. The monitor lizard lays its eggs at the bottom of the long, spiral-shaped tunnel. After the monitor lizard abandons the nest, other animals use the side channels to escape the extreme environment above ground. Arthropods, toads, snakes, lizards are included in 28 different vertebrate species using the abandoned monitor lizard lairs. Researchers have found up to 750 creatures in a single monitor’s pit and side channels.

Like the beaver, monitor lizards provide an environment that allows life in a place where survival is difficult. In the natural world, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. That is not true when animal engineers are needed to allow a diversity of life in a challenging environment. The more we learn of God’s creation, the more examples we find of intelligence and design, which frequently involve animal engineers.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

K2-141b Is Not Another Earth

K2-141b Is Not Another Earth

In their desperate attempt to find an inhabited planet, some media people have jumped to the conclusion that any planet close to 8000 miles (13,000 km) in diameter will be inhabited. One of the candidates orbiting a star in our galaxy is called K2-141b, and it is reasonably close to us in size and location, a little under 200 light-years away. However, K2-141b is not another Earth.

Astronomers have discovered that its atmosphere has all the elemental components of rocks. That has to mean that the surface temperature of the planet is hot enough to vaporize rocks. That would be more than 5400 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 C). K2-141b is not another Earth.

At this time, when people are concerned about global warming, we must consider how many factors on Earth and the surrounding area give use the proper temperature for life to exist. Without the variables that keep our planet cool, we could not have a surface temperature of less than 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 C). The size, temperature, and activity of the Sun have to be just right. The amount of ocean surface that reflects solar heat back into space is crucial. The factors that restrict greenhouse gases, the relatively low value of volcanic activity, the lack of exothermic chemical reactions, the reflectivity of clouds, and many other factors all influence our temperature.

Even though K2-141b is not another Earth, there may be other planets with conditions that permit surface temperatures between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius, allowing liquid water. But evidence shows that such planets are rare, and their design would be from the same source as our planet. If God has created life elsewhere on a planet that will allow life to exist over the long haul, it will be another demonstration of incredible wisdom and design. Our planet is exceptional, and taking care of it should be a high priority for all of us.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Astronomy magazine, March 2021, page 9.

Value of Insects in the Ecosystem

Value of Insects in the Ecosystem

We get many interesting responses to our daily articles on this website. Recently, several people responded to our emphasis on the value of insects. Bugs can indeed bother us. Some bite or sting, while others eat our vegetation encroaching on our food supply. Despite those things, we have pointed out that entomologists tell us that insects are beneficial.

Akito Kawahara, a curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said that most people are unaware of the value of insects. Kawahara points out that insects annually contribute 70 billion dollars to the U.S. economy by their roles in pollination and waste disposal processing. Everyone knows that insects are involved in pollinating flowering plants, but they may not realize that insects are the linchpins, holding together almost all land-based ecosystems. Also, insects provide food sources for birds, bats, freshwater fish, and numerous land animals.

Not realizing the value of insects, humans have done much to eradicate them. We have reduced their habitat, used massive amounts of pesticides, and made them victims of pollution. Sometimes, we have brought in invasive species of animals and plants that harm the ecosystems. We have also done things that accelerate climate change. The National Academy of Sciences suggests initiating a campaign to encourage people to avoid using bug zappers, practice insect conservation, do less mowing, and use insect-friendly soaps and sealants.

God set up a working system that has produced a high standard of living for thousands of years. We are threatening to unbalance the system by our capacity for high tech devices and materials. Sometimes insect populations get out of control and damage human resources, such as the locust invasions of recent years. It is often human interference with the natural controlling agents that have caused the insect infestations. People need to be aware of the value of insects to life on this planet.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from National Science Foundation

Counting Birds for Science

Counting Birds for Science

How many bird species can you identify? There are over 10,000 known species of birds in the world, and I am sure you could not identify them all. But God can. More than that, He sees each one individually (Matthew 10:29). That staggers my mind. Sometimes I can’t keep up with counting birds at my backyard bird feeders.

We often feature birds in our daily Facebook postings, and many times we have talked about birds on this website. (For example, HERE, HERE, and HERE.) Birds are fascinating, beautiful, and intelligent creatures. Birds, like mammals, can be trained to do things and respond to humans in various ways. We see that as a purposeful design by our Creator to allow us to bond with these animals.

Watching birds fly through the air and listening to their beautiful songs are fascinating and enjoyable activities. Since the beginning, humans have longed for the ability to fly and see the world from our feathered friends’ perspective. Sometimes, people have been careless in causing harm or even extinction to bird species. When we see the many ways birds benefit life on Earth, we must recognize that we should be good stewards of what God has given us.

An annual worldwide event known as The Great Backyard Bird Count is now in progress. It’s a science project that you can get involved in no matter who you are or where you live. This year, from February 12-15 people worldwide will be counting birds in their vicinity. By doing that, they are helping to compile a database of birds. All you have to do is take at least one period of 15 minutes or more and make a list of all the birds you see in your backyard, in a local park, outside your apartment window, or anywhere else that’s convenient. Just record your location, start and end times, and the number and types of birds you see.

Of course, you can spend more than 15 minutes, or you can do it on each of the four days, or even multiple times per day. As in past years, the statistics from bird watchers worldwide will be tabulated by scientists to get a better picture of the world bird population and health. To help you identify birds, you can consult websites such as WhatBird.com and AllAboutBirds.org, which are free to use.

Counting birds is a science project that anyone can do. To learn the details of how you can get involved in this worldwide project, sign up for free at www.birdcount.org. We think that learning more about God’s creation helps us see our Creator’s wisdom and love. (Matthew 6:26)

— Roland Earnst © 2021

What Color Is Your River?

What Color Is Your River?

In my lifetime I have spent a lot of time on rivers. Living in Canada, I became acquainted with beautiful blue water with a clarity that allowed you to see the river’s bottom even at 20 feet. When my family moved to Bloomington, Indiana, I became involved with the White River, which was anything but white or blue. What color is your river?

In our 12 trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I saw changes in the water from time to time. The river was sometimes brown and other times crystal blue depending on how much upstream water was being released from the Glen Canyon Dam. I now live on the Saint Joseph River in southern Michigan. I have read the notes of the first explorers who came through this area in which they tell of being able to see the bottom of the river through 20 feet of water. Now you can only see about a foot down. There has been a massive change in Americas’ rivers through the years.

In 1984, Satellites started taking pictures of rivers in the United States. Over 230,000 images have been taken and analyzed by the University of Pittsburgh, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University. The data shows that only five percent of Americas’ rivers are still blue. Twenty-eight percent are green, which in most cases is caused by algae. The remainder are yellow, with 11,629 miles of rivers having become distinctly greener since 1984.

As rivers change from blue to yellow to green, what can live in the rivers also changes. In the Saint Joseph River, where we live in Michigan, the kind of fish that live in the river today are far different from the native trout seen by the early settlers of this area. Today the river has large numbers of suckers and carp. There are some bass and panfish, and we do have salmon from Lake Michigan migrating up the river to spawn. Transplanted fish like walleye are popular, but the whole ecological makeup has changed.

What color is your river? More important is the question of what is causing the rivers to change color? The causes, according to the studies, are farm fertilizer runoff, dams, sewage, and global warming, which has raised the temperature so that cold-water fish cannot live in the river. This is more than the loss of recreational use of waterways. Numerous diseases, including cancer, are related to what is in the water we drink, bathe in, and provide to our animals.

The question of what color is your river leads to asking what you can do about it. Christians need to be vocal in encouraging our culture to initiate significant efforts to turn our waterways blue again. It is interesting that in Revelation 22:1-2, when the inspired writer wanted to portray some of the properties of heaven to mortal humans, he describes “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal.” In ancient times, when people wanted to worship and get away from the hassle of human activity, they went to a river. (See Acts 16:13.) Today most of our rivers are not that attractive.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Associated Press article by Seth Borenstein, January 9, 2021.

Cricket Megaphones

Cricket Megaphones

Have you ever thought about how a tiny cricket can make so much noise? Researchers have found that male tree crickets use leaves to make baffles that double the volume of their calls. You could call them cricket megaphones.

Cricket wings are resonance structures reverberating with the vibration caused by rubbing the wings together. This reverberation is like the body of a violin, but the sound is weak because the insect is so small. To make a baffle, the male cricket cuts a hole in a leaf and then crawls halfway through the hole, so its wings cause the leaf to vibrate like a loudspeaker. The advantage is that female crickets are attracted to the males with the loudest call.

The discussion among biologists is about whether this qualifies as tool use. Rittik Deb, an ecologist at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, says crickets show that sophisticated behaviors aren’t just for big complex brains. Deb says his work “really turns that idea on its head.”

Not everything about this behavior is beneficial to the cricket because increasing the volume of their calls makes them sitting ducks for predators like geckos and spiders. It would seem that this controls the cricket population, but it provides a food source for other living things. For that reason, it appears that evolutionary processes would eventually put a stop to cricket megaphones.

A more likely scenario is that the behavior is programmed into the crickets’ DNA to keep a balance in nature. In places where geckos and/or spiders are in abundance, the cricket population remains small. In Australia, we saw large numbers of geckos and large spiders in the homes of people with whom we stayed. We did not see insect problems in those same homes. In America, we have much to learn about the natural controls that God has built into our world. As more evidence unfolds, we see that human attempts to control insects with chemicals are unnecessary.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Science News, January 16, 2021.

Hidden Design in a Bird’s Eye

Hidden Design in a Bird’s Eye

Most people know that birds have excellent vision. Eagles can spot a mouse from high overhead. How can they have such sharp vision? Science has revealed the hidden design in a bird’s eye.

The secret of a bird’s eyes was detected first, not in an eagle, but in the eye of a chicken. Color cones are cells in the retina located in the back of the eye. The cones capture the image that the lens focuses on the retina. Human eyes have cones of three different colors: red, blue, and green. Examining the retinas of chickens’ eyes, scientists found that they have five different colors of cones. But it isn’t the number of different color cones that is the most amazing feature.

Much more interesting is the arrangement of the cones. The cones for each color are different sizes. Imagine taking many circles in five different sizes and colors and arranging them on a surface, trying to fit the maximum number of circles into the area. If they were all the same size, you might put them into a grid, but since the circles are in five different sizes, packing the maximum number into the area becomes much more difficult. In packing cone cells onto a retina, more cones will give a higher resolution (sharper) image.

The arrangement of cones in the chicken retina seemed to be haphazard until scientists studied them more closely. What they found was something they call “hyperuniformity.” It’s a mathematically elegant concept that appears to be disordered but is actually optimized with a hidden order. You might call it “disordered hyperuniformity.” It’s the hidden design in a bird’s eye.

What appears disordered is the best possible arrangement to evenly distribute the maximum number of unevenly-sized cones over the retinal surface. Scientists are applying this to many other areas. Hyperuniformity could improve cameras and scanning equipment. It could also improve such diverse processes as mixing concrete, making glass, or any application where you need to distribute solid particles evenly.

How did the cells in the chicken’s eyes get arranged so perfectly? Was the hidden design in a bird’s eye an accident, or is this another example of the work of an intelligent Designer?

— Roland Earnst © 2021

You can read more about this and see illustrations HERE.

Earth Rock Found on the Moon

Earth Rock Found on the Moon
Lunar Sample 14321 NASA

Frequently, science clarifies biblical statements, but no scientific facts have ever contradicted the biblical account. Contradiction would be impossible since the God who created and made Earth also gave us the Bible. A recent example of their agreement is demonstrated by an Earth rock found on the moon.

The Bible uses an economy of language because an exhaustive explanation would have confused people reading it 500 years ago. The simple clarity of the Genesis account contrasts with literally thousands of scientific papers and books giving details of the biblical statement, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Another interesting passage in Genesis is the second verse, which indicates a change in the Earth. The most accurate translation of verse two is, “And the earth became without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s daily blog announced the results of an internal X-ray scan of lunar sample 14321. Alan Shepard picked up the 14321 sample during the Apollo 14 lunar mission. It shows chemistry identical to Earth’s material and completely different from lunar material. NASA says that the sample is older than Earth’s surface materials and indicates a dramatic event.

Various things could have caused this change in Earth’s surface. A massive volcanic event like the one that produced Mount Mazama (now called Crater Lake in Oregon) could blow material into space. Such volcanic eruptions produced lava, which enriched the soils allowing plant growth to be prolific in the ancient Earth. Another possibility is that a celestial object like an asteroid or comet hit our planet and blasted material into space, with some of it landing on the moon. Either way, an Earth rock found on the moon fits the biblical narrative.

The scientific information simply demonstrates the accuracy of the brief biblical account. When religious leaders challenged Galileo’s science, he wrote in a letter, “The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.” Science and the Bible are symbiotic – each beneficial to the other and in agreement with each other. However, they explain different aspects of human concern.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: APOD.NASA.gov for February 3, 2021.