Playing God With DNA Doesn’t Work

Playing God With DNA Doesn't Work

One of the promises of modern genetics is that in the future, we will create “designer babies.” The idea is that if you produce a group of embryos and then look at the DNA of each of them, you can select which embryo you want to become your child. The other embryos would be destroyed. The process is called “preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).” You might call it playing God with DNA.

With PGD, the embryos are created through in vitro fertilization. Technicians remove a single cell from each embryo and test it for single-gene variants which cause cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, or other diseases. Many diseases such as diabetes may result from variants in hundreds or thousands of genes. The risk for heart disease may involve millions of gene variants.

Medical scientists are working to establish a polygenic score, which would indicate intelligence, height, and other traits by examining the DNA. They call these factors “enhancements.” The problem is that those traits may also be the result of multiple genetic variants. Playing God by trying to select the attributes for a “designer baby” can be not only immoral but dangerous.

A group of researchers published a study in the journal Cell on November 21, 2019, in which they attempted to learn how reliable polygenic scores would be for determining height or IQ. The research indicates that the DNA genetic predictions about those enhancements are unreliable and insignificant at best. Among other problems is that “differences in diet, lifestyle, exposure to pollution, culture, undiscovered genetic variants, and other unknown factors can influence how complex traits develop.”

The original use of polygenic scores was to help people know if a lethal or disruptive disease was a part of their heredity. Being able to repair the DNA or choosing not to have children is an option that would be useful to couples. Embryo selection for non-medical traits such as height, intelligence, or gender is a whole different question.

An article on this study in ScienceNews.org quoted Dr. Nicholas Katsanis, who is a human geneticist at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Dr. Katsanis said, “The idea that we’re going to do genetic screening for anything other than medically actionable items is the definition of eugenics. That we’re even contemplating this is disturbing.”

We agree that humans playing God in areas like this is immoral and likely to be disastrous at worst and disappointing at best.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Influence of Christianity on Society

Influence of Christianity on Society

Evolutionary biologist Joseph Henrich and his colleagues conducted a study of the historical influence of Christianity in Europe. The research focused on the Catholic Church and its ban on marriages between cousins, step-relatives, and in-laws.

The researchers took data from 440 regions under the influence of the Catholic Church in 36 European countries from A.D. 550 to 1500. They found that for each 500 years under the church’s influence, there was a 91% drop in those marriages which the church considered incestuous. They used 24 psychological metrics such as individualism, creativity, conformity, honesty, and trust. The longer the population was exposed to the Church influence, the higher its individualism, nonconformity, and trust of strangers.

However you view this study, it is clear is that faith institutions affect the culture in which they exist. As we look at America in the past 50 years, what has changed in the way we live and how we view institutions? As the influence of Christianity wanes and Christian values are discarded, what influence has replaced it? How has “survival of the fittest” and the emphasis on material things altered our culture?

An evolutionary view has replaced the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our children are being taught that we are the product of evolutionary change driven by the influence of social evolution embodying materialism and survival of the fittest. The result has already been catastrophic with violence, abuse, racism, drug use, and high suicide and divorce rates.

This study shows that on an academic level, the influence of a social institution like the Catholic Church is vast and varied. Where the Catholic Church has failed is when it introduces practices and beliefs that are not biblical – like celibacy, the papacy, and the use of force over doctrinal issues. Neither do we argue for denominational Christianity, or institutions constructed by men based on human wisdom and power. We argue for the validity of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the guidance given in the teachings of the New Testament. The influence of Christianity is critical for the survival of America and the world.

Relying on evolution to guide what we do and how we do it is a recipe for disaster. “Be not deceived, evil company is the ruin of a good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33 New English Bible).

— John N. Clayton © 2019

You can read the research report in Science HERE or an article about it in Science News HERE.

Forcing a Women’s Shelter to Accept Men

Forcing a Women's Shelter to Accept Men

The consequences of our culture refusing to accept God’s teaching and His creating of male and female continues to produce bizarre results. We are not talking about equal rights for equal pay, but of human compassion and care. We are talking about forcing a women’s shelter to accept men.

The Hope Center in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, is a faith-based women’s shelter that provides hot meals, job training, and beds for homeless women. Most of them have escaped from sex trafficking and abuse. When the Center refused to admit an intoxicated man in a pink nightgown, the city of Anchorage charged them with gender discrimination. Like similar laws in other cities, Anchorage has a law banning discrimination based on gender identity.

The Genesis account makes it clear that “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). For a variety of causes ranging from abuse to chemical issues, some people struggle with their sexual identity. These folks need our care, compassion, and support. Attempting to create a sexless society where there are no distinctions between male and female is a sure way to create chaos. Men can’t have babies, and some women are not equipped to handle certain roles due to physical size and strength. That is not discrimination; it’s just a fact. Sometimes there are needs peculiar to gender, and certainly, a women’s shelter meets some of those needs.

Imagine the problems that will develop if women’s shelters have to admit any man who says he thinks he is a woman. The Bible clearly tells us that humans have roles, both in the secular world and in the Church. In the Anchorage case, a lawsuit was filed in federal court, which resulted in a temporary order preventing the city from forcing a women’s shelter to accept men. In October, Anchorage agreed to make that order permanent.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Sex Selective Abortion

Sex Selective Abortion

The abortion issue is not only a political football, but now it has become a threat to population stability. That is because of sex selective abortions.

In India, 50,000 babies are aborted each month because they are girls, and females are considered to be a burden on the family. One long-term effect of the 17.3 million baby girls killed in India during the past 30 years is a huge gender imbalance in the population. In any human society, there is roughly a 50/50 balance between males and females. That means that if baby girls are aborted, there will be many males without wives, and that disrupts marriage, families, and children.

You don’t have to go to India to see cases of sex selective abortion. In 2016 the state of Indiana passed a law protecting the unborn from abortions based on race, sex, or disability. Planned Parenthood went to court to have the law overturned, and the court ruled that the law is unconstitutional. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to address the case. We have been told that there are counselors who are advising expectant mothers to have an abortion because their baby is a girl.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made this comment about the case:
“Enshrining the constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex, or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the views of the 20th Century eugenics movement.”

We would add to that comment that sex selective abortion shows even more clearly that abortion is infanticide. If you wait until you can determine the sex of the pre-born child, you are simply murdering an infant. We consider Herod’s killing of the innocents described in Matthew 2:16 as barbaric. In our world today, the slaughter far exceeds what Herod did.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Freedom Insider, October 2019, pages 1-2, from Alliance Defending Freedom.

Rhino Horns and Poachers

Rhino Horns and Poachers

There’s an amazing balance in the design of living things in this world. Many times humans throw the system out of balance. The rhinoceros is endangered not because of natural predators, but because of humans. Rhino horns can sell for thousands of dollars for their collectible value and their use in traditional Asian medicine, so poachers take advantage of that.

People are willing to pay a high price for the rhino horns for decorative or medicinal purposes. Killing these animals to use their horns for decorative trophies is shameful. Killing them for medicine is useless. Their horns consist of only keratin, which is the same as human hair or fingernails. In reality, the rhino horn is one really tough bundle of nose hairs glued together by material extruded from sebaceous glands in the animal’s nose. Superstitious beliefs have caused people to grind the rhino horns into powder and drink the powder in water or inhale it for supposed health benefits.

Wild rhinos numbered over half-a-million at the beginning of the twentieth century. Today there are fewer than 30,000. The International Rhino Foundation reports that three rhinos are killed each day by poachers just to obtain their horns. Trying to catch the poachers and stop them in the act is nearly impossible. Sawing off the rhino’s horn to make it unattractive to poachers is not a good solution. Science is looking for a better way.

Researchers from the University of Oxford have designed fake rhino horns that look and feel like the real thing. More than that, they have similar material properties to the real horns. They used hairs from the tails of horses (close relatives of rhinos) and cemented them together with a silk-protein based organic filler. Molding the structure into the shape of a rhino horn, you get a realistic imitation. Even examining the internal structure on cross-section reveals identical characteristics. It also handles grinding and high temperatures like the real deal.

These fake rhino horns can be manufactured rather economically, so the rhinoceros horn market could be flooded with them to disrupt the black market. Furthermore, when the horns are ground into powder for medicinal purposes, they will be just as effective real horns, meaning not effective at all.

Education doesn’t work as long as people have superstitious religious beliefs about the power of rhino horns. Perhaps the fake horns will help. The best answer to the problem of human abuse of this well-designed world is to realize that the Creator has given us the job of being caretakers of the creation. (Genesis 2:15) If we believe there is a Creator who holds us responsible, we have good reason to handle the Earth and the life on it with care.

— Roland Earnst © 2019

Death of the Marlboro Man

Death of the Marlboro Man

As science began to show the harmful effects of smoking, cigarette companies tried to dissuade fears by adding filters to their products. The Phillip Morris Company initially marketed the Marlboro brand as a cigarette for women. In 1954 the Leo Burnett advertising agency set out to reach a broader market by introducing the Marlboro Man.

Originally the ads featured rugged-looking men in various roles, but in the early 1960s, they settled on cowboys in “Marlboro Country.” The idea was to appeal to young men, “post adolescent kids” by using a masculine cowboy in a ranch setting. One of the men who played the role was a real rancher in Colorado by the name of Robert Norris. Executives at the advertising agency saw him in a newspaper picture with his friend, actor John Wayne. Norris had the looks and the ranch, where the agency took hundreds of photos of him for use in the ad campaign.

The Marlboro Man campaign was so successful that by 1972, Marlboro cigarettes were leading the industry. Robert Norris was not the first, or the last, Marlboro Man. But one interesting thing about him is that he didn’t smoke. In fact, according to his son Bobby, he told his children, “I don’t ever want to see you smoking.” Eventually, one of his children asked, “If you don’t want us smoking, why are you doing cigarette commercials?” That day he called Phillip Morris and resigned from the job.

What can we learn from this? For one thing, as we have said before, human greed causes human suffering. Companies often follow the “survival of the fittest” mentality looking to enhance their bottom line at the expense of the public. Also, as every parent should know, our children will follow our example more than our words.

Norris was the Marlboro Man for 12 years, but he was not the only one. The campaign lasted until 1999. A major reason for its ending was the death of the actors who played the role and actually smoked. Five of them died of smoking-related illnesses. The cowboy theme of the campaign earned Marlboros the nickname “cowboy killers.” Robert Norris, who didn’t smoke, died in November of 2019 at age 90.

Norris’ friend, “six-pack-a-day” smoker John Wayne survived lung cancer in 1964 but died of stomach cancer in 1979. According to the “John Wayne Official” Twitter page, Norris and his wife “spent many Thanksgivings” with John Wayne. Perhaps John Wayne should have followed the example of Robert Norris. My father died from the effects of smoking more than 35 years ago, and this week I lost a friend because he was not able to kick the habit. Meanwhile, those who profit from smoking and vaping continue to demonstrate that they care more about money than people. They need to learn something about the concept of repentance.

— Roland Earnst © 2019

Negative Data on Marijuana

Negative Data on MarijuanaThe current craze on the use of marijuana has convinced many people that it is a miracle drug that will take care of all health issues. Some claim that it can not only help in cases of mental illness and dementia but that it also can cure cancer, Crone’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other common maladies. There are medical uses of components of marijuana that are promising and may be refined and used as pharmaceuticals in years ahead. What many are ignoring is negative data on marijuana.

There are good reasons to avoid using marijuana in some cases. In Colorado, the following negative factors are connected to the use of recreational marijuana:

1) Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, there has been an 8% rise in homelessness. The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice has shown that the legalization of marijuana has attracted transient people to the state.

2) The Colorado Health Department has shown a 400% increase in children younger than eight years of age who have been poisoned by high potency cannabis leading to emergency room visits.

3) Children ages 1 to 13 have been exposed to second-hand marijuana smoke in thousands of homes.

4) A study by the University of Colorado of 639 teenagers treated in 2015 in one Colorado hospital system either had cannabis in their urine or told a doctor they had used it.

5) The Highway Loss Data Institute has reported that Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have seen a 3% jump in auto collision claims since the legalization of marijuana in those states.

Having cannabis available as a controlled medical substance is one thing. It is another thing to make recreational marijuana available to anyone and everyone knowing the negative data on marijuana use. Like cigarette smoke, this is a health hazard that doesn’t just involve the user but also involves people in the user’s house and environment.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Rebecca R. Bibbs in the Herald Bulletin 11/4/19, page A2.

Presenting Alternative Lifestyles to Young Children

Presenting Alternative Lifestyles to Young ChildrenWe have frequently pointed out that the teachings of Jesus Christ make it clear that we must love and respect those with whom we disagree. Matthew 5:39-48 is hard to misunderstand. We must not attempt to harm anyone, including those who might be teaching things that oppose what the Bible says. There is no excuse for those who claim to be Christians to physically attack anyone because they are a part of the LGBT movement. At the same time, we have to be concerned and vocally oppose those who promote immoral behavior, especially when it involves presenting alternative lifestyles to young children.

Recently the popular children’s show “Arthur” on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) ran an episode entitled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone.” It featured a wedding ceremony between Mr. Ratburn and a character named Patrick. This program is funded by tax dollars and is aimed at preschool children. Disney has placed LGBT characters in the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast and its television cartoon series Doc McStuffins. Drag Queen events have been held in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, in programs aimed at preschool children.

LGBT leaders claim that these promotions of their lifestyles are no different than a PBS program on Christmas music, or Christmas events held in public venues. It would seem that presenting material to preschoolers about drag queens and gay marriage is far more complicated than historical stories. Since tax dollars fund PBS, and religious programming is constantly refused by the same media, it seems that promotion of the LGBT lifestyle should also be prohibited.

The bottom line is that parents need to monitor what their children are exposed to. You can’t rely on PBS or Disney to offer only factual and moral material and avoid presenting alternative lifestyles to young children.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Family Research Council, October 2019 newsletter pages 1-4.

Rossby Waves and Earth’s Climate

Rossby Waves and Earth's ClimateWe have previously discussed the movement of air around the Earth, and the circulation pattern called the Hadley cells. Another important factor in Earth’s climate is Rossby waves.

Because the equator is hot, heated air rises and moves away from the equator, dropping its moisture as it cools. At about 30 degrees latitude, the now dry air falls back to the Earth, producing deserts. As the air reaches Earth’s surface, it moves north and south, creating the trade winds in the subtropical area and the prevailing mid-latitude winds in latitudes between 30 degrees and the polar regions.

A wide range of things alters this simplified picture. When greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide accumulate, they reflect infrared radiation causing the Earth’s atmosphere to become hotter. This effect isn’t uniform, however. Because of melting sea ice, Earth’s poles are affected by greenhouse gases more than the area of the equator. This causes a thermal imbalance between the poles and the equator affecting circulation around the poles and creating Rossby waves.

As the thermal imbalance has become greater and the air more wobbly in recent years, that affects the jet stream. The wobbles this past year have caused the northern jet stream to go further south than usual, bringing cold into Arizona in late spring. When the jet stream swung north, it brought hot tropical air toward the poles. On its way north, it brought unusual amounts of water into Oklahoma while Anchorage, Alaska, got temperatures over 90 degrees for the first time ever. Rossby waves is the name applied to the meandering high-altitude winds that have a major influence on Earth’s weather.

All of this shows us how fragile Earth’s climate is. Weather patterns depend on a wide range of variables which include the:
*size of the Earth’s atmosphere
*tilt of the Earth
*distribution of land compared to water
*chemical makeup of the atmosphere
*kind of radiation coming from the Sun and how that radiation is absorbed and reflected
*nature of Earth’s surface (whether ice or black dirt)
All of those factors go into making Earth a habitable planet.

We exist on this planet because of the precision design and construction of Earth and its atmosphere. The fact that it has stayed stable long enough for human life to exist for thousands and thousands of years is a testimony to the careful design and construction. Proverbs 8 finds “wisdom” speaking about its role in the creation process. Wisdom says she was there before the creation (verse 22-23) and that wisdom was a part of the preparation of the heavens (verse 26-28).

As we see the results of the small changes that have happened to the atmosphere in the past 100 years and the instability of Rossby waves, we wonder at Earth’s design and the wisdom of God who created it.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Astronomy, December, 2019, page 64.

Race and Skin Color

Race and Skin ColorWhy do humans have different races and skin colors? If we all came from “Mother Eve,” should we not all be the same color? In the past, some people suggested that people of other races were not really human, and they used that argument to justify everything from slavery to infanticide. What is the truth about race and skin color?

It is interesting scientifically that only humans have mostly naked skin and along with that, different colors of skin. Other animals have hair and mostly light-colored skin. As science has told us more about skin color and confirmed that we all came from common ancestors, we find clues about race and skin color and how we should treat one another.

The most fundamental reason for skin color differences is the fact that humans live at different latitudes. It is quite evident that human populations that have lived near the equator for many generations tend to have darker skin. As one moves from equatorial Africa toward the north, there is a constant change in skin color. By the time you get to northern Scandinavia, you have very light-skinned people with blond hair and blue eyes. People living near the equator have black skin, black eyes, and black hair.

It’s easy to understand why. Take two tin cans and paint one black and the other white. Fill them with boiling water and measure their temperature five minutes later. Dark colors radiate heat faster than light ones, so the darker can will be cooler than the white one. In equatorial Africa, the problems of heat release are very significant, because our brain cannot be allowed to overheat.

Another factor is ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which can cause many changes in living tissue, including cancer. Human skin produces a substance known as melanin for protection. Melanin, God’s sunscreen, is a large organic molecule which both physically and chemically reduces the effects of UV radiation. Melanin absorbs UV rays causing them to lose energy. It also neutralizes harmful chemicals called free radicals that form in the skin after damage from UV radiation.

Dark skin absorbs a high percentage of UV light. It is essential, however, not to lose all the UV. Another thing that UV light does is to allow the body to produce vitamin D. Farther from the equator, the amount of UV is less, so dark-skinned people may not get enough UV light to make vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D causes rickets, so lighter skin is better at latitudes away from the equator.

As humans have migrated all over the globe, their ability to produce nutrients like vitamin D has been reduced in some groups. The Inuit people in Alaska don’t get enough vitamin D from the Sun, but they eat fish, which is very high in vitamin D. Their diet compensates for the low UV exposure. The presence of melanin in the skin, the complex biochemical system that produces vitamin D, and the ability of the body to protect itself against overheating and nutritional problems all speak well of the wisdom and design of our bodies.

Psalms 139:14 says, “I will praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Instead of allowing race and skin color to divide and cause hostility between us, we should celebrate God’s wisdom and design. They show that we have a universal Creator who designed and equipped us marvelously to live on a planet that has varied conditions and environments.
— John N. Clayton © 2019