Design of the Umbilical Cord

Design of the Umbilical Cord

Science still doesn’t fully understand the design of the umbilical cord that allows a baby to live inside its mother for nine months. The umbilical cord supplies the baby with oxygen, nutrients, and antibodies. Birthing techniques before the 20th century delayed cutting the cord, but that has changed since birthing moved from the home to the hospital. However, new data shows that delaying cutting the umbilical cord can boost the baby’s blood volume, red blood cell count, and iron stores and ease the transition to breathing.

The issue of when to cut the umbilical cord has become exceptionally well-studied in the case of premature babies. Nearly one million premature babies worldwide die every year, and a study of 10,000 preemies shows that when doctors delay clamping and cutting the umbilical cord, the survival rate improves. Yale University School of Medicine expert Jessica Illuzzi says, “longer is better.” The design of the umbilical cord is amazing.

Some pro-abortion advocates say the unborn child is just an extension of the mother’s body. It can be cut off and discarded like a fingernail or a lock of hair. There is no scientific support for such a claim. From the mother’s morning sickness to the baby’s physical characteristics and genetic makeup, all evidence shows the child is a unique individual. The fact that the unborn child depends for survival on the mother and the design of the umbilical cord does not change the fact that the baby is a unique human and not part of the mother. Every facet of the reproductive process shows God’s wisdom.

Women have the right to choose whether to be a mother, but the decision must be made before sexually engaging with a man. In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, options are available. As the father of three adopted children, I know how that adoption can be a positive experience for everyone involved, and there is an acute shortage of babies for adoption.

The psychological damage of abortion for women is well documented. Part of that damage comes from knowing that a child created in God’s image has been destroyed. The system of producing life designed by God has been disrupted, which is an affront to the Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Lifeline Decision” in Scientific American for February 2024, page 13.

Different From Any Other Life Form on Earth

Different From Any Other Life Form on Earth - The Good Samaritan
The Good Samaritan – Credit: Good News Productions Intl. and College Press

One of the conflicts between naturalists and Christians is whether humans have unique characteristics or are just animals conforming to the survival rules of nature. The biblical view of humans is that we are created in the image of God. That means we have a spiritual makeup that is different from any other life form on Earth.

Someone sent us an article about a student who asked the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead what she considered the first evidence of civilization in an ancient culture. Mead reportedly said the earliest evidence is a broken and healed femur. She pointed out that if animals break a leg, they die. They become easy prey for predators as they can’t get to a water source to drink or hunt for food. If you are a naturalist believing that chance environmental factors drive all life, that is the only option.

If you find a skeleton with a healed femur, you know that someone at that time cared for the person. Healing of a broken femur takes time. Someone carried the person to a safe place and protected them for a significant time, feeding them, providing water, and supplying medical help until the bone healed. Mead’s point is well taken and shows how humans are different from any other life form on Earth.

In Luke 10:30-37, Jesus tells a parable about a man usually referred to as the good Samaritan. A man has been robbed and is lying beside the road naked and half dead. What jumps out to us in the story is that two men who saw the injured person and refused to help were a priest and a Levite, religious leaders. The Jews hated Samaritans, but it was a Samaritan who took care of the injured man. The point is clear that followers of Christ should care for others who are less fortunate. Failure to do that shows an unwillingness to do what Jesus taught.

Humans are different from any other life form on Earth. We recognize the needs of other humans and are called to act on those needs. Doing that is evidence of God’s image in us. A predator might eat the injured man, obeying the natural animal instincts. Because of human uniqueness, we are called to love and serve others.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Basal Cognition in Living Cells

Basal Cognition in Living Cells

Flatworms called planaria live in the muck of lakes and ponds worldwide. Scientists are intrigued by the fact that if you tear the worm in half, its head will grow a new tail, and its tail will grow a new head, giving you two worms. A new field of science involves the study of basal cognition in living cells outside of the brain.

Many years ago, I was involved with a project that attempted to fight the presence of invasive lampreys in the Great Lakes. Lampreys are eel-like fish that swim up tributary rivers to spawn. We placed barriers on streams to catch and kill the lampreys. The problem was that those who worked the lamprey traps were told to cut the eels in half and throw them back in the river to avoid the stink and mess of dead eels on land. They didn’t understand that returning the eels to water doubled their population because both halves survived.

In the case of the planarian, researchers at Tuft University found that the worm not only survived, but the tail contained previous memory. Both the head and tail of the worm remembered the location of a food source learned before the worm was cut in half. Michael Levin at Tufts has shown that cells can use subtle changes in electric fields as a kind of memory. This basal cognition in living cells works using electrical signals in animals and plants.

Scientists have found basal cognition in the Venus flytrap and the touch-me-not plant. The touch-me-not leaves will fold and wilt if touched to prevent being eaten. Scientists found that if the plant is jostled throughout the day without being hurt, it will learn to ignore jostling. The Venus flytrap can count, snapping shut only if two of the sensory hairs on its trap are tripped in rapid succession. It pours digestive juices into the closed trap only if sensory hairs are tripped three more times.

RNA seems to be a medium of memory storage for cells. Taking RNA from a slug that had experienced an electric shock and injecting it into a new slug causes the new slug to recoil from the touch that preceded the shock in the old slug.

This research shows that intelligence does not always require a brain but is wired into all living things and is vital to all life. The practical use of these discoveries of bioelectricity may help treat cancer where cells are not cooperating with the rest of the body. God’s design of life is far more highly engineered than anyone suspected. We have a lot to learn about basal cognition in living cells.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Minds Everywhere” in Scientific American for February 2024, pages 44-51.

Why Do People Choose Atheism?

Why Do People Choose Atheism?

For the past few days, we have looked at facts about atheists compiled by the Pew Research Center. We saw that people who identify as atheists in the United States are primarily male and younger than the general population. We also saw that they scored higher than the general population in a religious knowledge survey that included Christianity-related questions. We also pointed out that they often grew up in a church but left their faith in college. Why do people choose atheism over faith in God?

I think it is safe to say that some choose atheism because they don’t want to follow the moral standards of Christianity. By rejecting God, they can reject His moral standards without pangs of conscience. Living immorally becomes easier when we can pretend that there is no higher authority who sets standards of moral conduct. According to Pew Research, less than half (42%) of Americans believe that it is necessary to believe in God to have good moral values. But that is much higher than in France, where only 15% think that belief in God is essential for good morals. Interestingly, in some Muslim-dominated countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia, 98% to 99% say that a person must believe in God to be moral.

Atheists not only refuse to believe in God, but they also think that faith is a negative factor in society. In the U.S., 71% of atheists say that the decline in religious influence in public life is a good thing. About the same amount (70%) say that churches and other religious institutions do more harm than good. They overlook how many hospitals, orphanages, and charitable organizations have been founded and are supported by Christians. Many Western European countries, such as Belgium, France, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands, have high rates of atheism (14-16%). That contrasts with the percentage of atheists in many Eastern European countries, including Romania, Ukraine, Bosnia, Poland, and Lithuania (1-2%). Even in Russia, only 4% of the population claims atheism. Could that be because the people of those countries lived for years under atheism, and they understand its consequences?

Reading the atheism data on the Pew Research Center website brings many questions to my mind. Why do people choose atheism over faith in God? The answer is as complex and diverse as human beings. At Does God Exist? our mission is to share evidence for God’s existence, the truth of the Bible, and Jesus Christ as the one who can restore us to a relationship with our Creator.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Reference: Pew Research Center

What Makes an Atheist?

What Makes an Atheist?

Yesterday, we pondered statistics about atheism from the Pew Research Center. We considered what an atheist is. We saw that atheists are more highly educated, with 43% having college degrees compared to 27% of the American general public. They also are politically more affiliated with the Democrat party and lean more toward political liberalism. They do have spiritual thoughts and find meaning in family. However, atheists also find much more meaning in money, hobbies, and travel than do Christians or the general population. What makes an atheist? Why do people turn to atheism?

We often blame the fact that young people turn to atheism in college on the influence of American higher education. Educational institutions have become more liberal and atheistic, but perhaps the churches are partially to blame. We learn about God from two sources. In addition to the Bible, the world around us is filled with the life and wonder of God’s creation. “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So, they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:20 NLT).

Many young people who grow up in the church are taught Bible stories along with a distorted scientific perspective of creation. When they get to college, they face new freedoms and challenges to the scientific “facts” they learned in church. The earth and sky seem to be showing something that can’t fit into the human-made interpretations of Bible chronology they have learned. They face a conflict that they must resolve. Too often, they resolve it by throwing out the truth of the Bible along with the scientific errors that have been falsely attached to it.

The bottom line is that the Bible does not tell us the age of the universe or planet Earth. Everything the Bible does tell us agrees with scientific facts. As we have said many times before, science and faith are friends. If there are apparent conflicts, it is because we have bad science or bad theology. The fact that there has been too much of both often turns our college students into atheists.

One more fact from the Pew Research Center is that in a religious knowledge survey, atheists ranked ahead of U.S. adults overall in answering fact-based questions about religion. That indicates that what makes an atheist involves more than a lack of religious knowledge. We will continue with that thought tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Reference: Pew Research Center

What Is an Atheist?

What Is an Atheist?

What is an atheist? We may use the word around like we know what an atheist is, but do we? According to Merriam-Webster, an atheist is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods.” Historically, Christians were called “atheists” for believing in only one God instead of the pantheon of pagan gods. Today, data from the Pew Research Center (which we talked about yesterday) indicates that it is not easy to define what an atheist is.

Reading through the Pew Research Center findings, I found some interesting facts. In 2009, 2% of Americans described themselves as atheists. In 2018 and 2019, that increased to 4%. However, 18% of those who self-described as atheists said that they “believe in some kind of higher power.” Even more surprising is that 54% of atheists say they “often feel a sense of wonder about the universe.” Apparently, even atheists have an innate spiritual sense. Could that be because humans are created in God’s image? When we ask, “What is an atheist?” perhaps we also should ask what keeps them from believing. Could it sometimes be the actions of believers?

Surprisingly, about a third of American atheists say they think about meaning and purpose in life at least once a week, and they “often feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being.” Two-thirds (63%) listed family as a source of meaning. That compares to 73% of Christians finding meaning in the family. However, Atheists placed much greater meaning on money, hobbies, and travel than did Christians or Americans in general. Is that an attempt to fill the empty spiritual void?

When we ask, “What is an atheist?” we should keep in mind that most U.S. atheists are men (68%). They are also relatively young, with a median age of 34, compared to 46 for the general public. Of the American general public, only 27% have a college degree. Among those who identify as atheists, 43% have graduated from college. Can we blame the high percentage of college-educated atheists on atheistic professors in American higher education? Maybe some blame lies in the many churches that teach anti-scientific doctrines, which college students quickly learn cannot be accurate. Hold that thought until we continue this discussion tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Reference: Pew Research Center

American Religious Beliefs in 2023

American Religious Beliefs in 2023

On January 24, 2024, the Pew Research Center released 2023 data on American religious beliefs. It suggests that the rise of religious “nones” may be slowing. The “nones” are people who claim no religious affiliation, and they have been the fastest-growing religious belief group in America. In the past 50 years, “nones” went from less than 5% to 30% of all Americans. However, this latest report put the “nones” at 28%. Some of the other numbers reported are:

  • Nones are 17% atheist, 20% agnostic, and 63% nothing in particular.
  • Thirty years ago, 90% of Americans were “Christian,” and now that number is 60%.
  • 69% of nones are younger than 50.
  • 97% of nones attend religious services a few times a year or not at all.
  • 56% say they believe in “some higher power” aside from the God of the Bible.

The Pew Research Center has a good reputation for gathering data, but still, there is no such thing as an infallible academic survey. Sampling is complex and affected by many variables, but Pew Research has worked hard to avoid pitfalls as much as possible. 

The “Does God Exist Ministry” began in 1968 when we were concerned about American religious beliefs. We saw massive ignorance about the evidence for the existence of God, the validity of Jesus Christ as God’s Son, and the inspiration of the Bible. There is a tendency for churches to pretend that everyone believes in God. Believers have suggested that teaching about the evidence for believing in God, Jesus, and the Bible is a waste of time. There have even been attempts by religionists to shut down this ministry, and the refusal to look at science-based evidence has grown. 

Our concern about American religious beliefs is why we offer free correspondence courses and a variety of video lessons on our website doesgodexist.tv. We want anyone with an open mind to see evidence from science and to share that with others. We encourage everyone to know why they believe what they believe. Understand that science is simply knowledge, and it strongly supports faith. If someone thinks there is a conflict between science and faith, they either have bad science, bad theology, or both. 

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Has the rise of religious ‘nones’ come to an end in the U.S.?” Pew Research Center, January 24, 2024.

Elephantnose Fish Designed for Survival

Elephantnose Fish Designed for Survival

We can see evidence of a creator in the design features of living things that allow life to flourish in hostile environments. One of those environments is the very muddy rivers in Western and Central Africa. They are so muddy that underwater visibility is less than an inch. How do fish find food and avoid obstacles in muddy rivers like that? Peters’s elephantnose fish have the answer.

Peters’s elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii) have an electrolocation system. An organ on their tails sends out weak electric field pulses. Receptors on the fish’s skin detect distortions to the field caused by any object or creature nearby. The fish also has a trunklike nose, which is full of electroreceptors. Peters’s elephantnose fish can make unusual movements to catch prey or avoid objects. It can even paddle backward in what researchers call a “moonwalk.” 

Researchers have found that by swiveling the trunklike nose (called a schnauzenorgan) and shaking the electrically-charged tail, a Peters’s elephantnose fish can create a mental 3-D map of its environment without seeing it. Experiments have shown that this system is very accurate and efficient. In one test, the fish could identify a shape and correctly respond to that shape 94% of the time.

We suggest that such a unique design seen in Peters’s elephantnose fish gives strong evidence that life is not an accident. The evidence indicates it was designed by an intelligent Creator to allow every part of our planet to be inhabited by unique forms of life, even places that would be lethal to most life forms. This doesn’t happen by accident but rather by the God who created life. We can study and learn about the Creator because He created us in His image and shows Himself to us in the things He has made (Romans 1:20).

— John N. Clayton © 2024

References: “Weakly electric fish use self-generated motion to discriminate object shape” in the journal Animal Behaviour, Volume 205, November 2023, pages 47-63, reported in Science Direct and in Scientific American, February 2024, page 18.

Celebrating Our Own Special Holidays

Celebrating Our Own Special Holidays

We recently received an article from a Christian woman working in a Christian assisted living facility telling about the value of special days to those in care facilities. She pointed out Romans 14:5, which says, “One person decides that one day is holier than another. Another person decides that all days are the same. Every person must make his own decision.” The word “holiday” in its original use meant “holy day,” and holy means “sacred, dedicated to God.” We need to find reasons for celebrating our own special holidays.

Our sister in Christ found that she could improve the lives of residents in the facility where she worked by making every day memorable by assigning notable food names to certain days. One day would be Fettuccine Alfredo Day, and another might be Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day. Incorporating food holidays into meal planning gave residents something to look forward to. It told everyone that small celebrations remind us that every day is special and life is worth living.

In ancient Israel, there were a host of special days to remind the people of the blessings of God in ways they might otherwise overlook. They had frequent celebrations of a good harvest, of being free from domination by others, and of the good things that had happened in the past. Jesus used parables to talk about good things even though the circumstances of the common people were bleak at that time. Think of how special days Americans celebrate can bring joy into our lives.

We need to avoid gloom and doom mentalities and rejoice in the good things God has given us. Besides positive national celebrations, add ways of celebrating our own special holidays as we remember the good things God has done. And don’t forget to bring these special celebrations to those who are isolated and fighting the battles of health and old age.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Lunar Cycles, Lunar Influence, and Lunacy

Lunar Cycles, Lunar Influence, and Lunacy

The Latin name for the Moon is “luna.” Many English words are derived from that root, including lunacy, lunatic, and even loon, as in “crazy as a loon.” Having grown up in the north, I know that hearing the cries of loons cry could lead to thoughts of them being crazy. Lunar cycles occur naturally, but many people believe a “lunar influence” is connected to abnormal behavior.

People have given unique names to certain full-moon appearances, such as blue moon, sturgeon moon, harvest moon, cold moon, snow moon, pink moon, flower moon, strawberry moon, hunter moon, beaver moon, worm moon, and wolf moon (which we will have tonight). You can find those names in the Farmer’s Almanac, so it should not be surprising that most of them have connections to agriculture or to a time when people did not have electric lights clouding their view of the sky. I have found that seeing the full moon in remote areas hundreds of miles away from city lights is a moving experience. If you were fishing, harvesting, hunting, or plowing, you would have no problem with just the Moon for illumination.

The Moon is not just an accident, nor is its influence on life. Genesis 1:14 describes God clearing Earth’s cloud cover to let the lights of the heavens (Sun and Moon) become visible “for signs and seasons and for days and years.” Some birds use the Moon for migration journeys that coincide with specific lunar phases. Many animals respond to both circadian rhythms and a lunar clock.

So, how does the Moon affect human activity? Studies show that there are more animal bites from cats, rats, and horses during full moons, probably because more humans are doing more things at night during a full moon. Also, data show there are more crimes during full moons. Apparently, criminals can use the light of a full moon for their activities just as farmers can.

The Bible refers to lunar cycles for time and mentions lunar festivals (Colossians 2:16) but otherwise makes no particular connections to the Moon. All of the claims of abnormal human behavior during various lunar cycles are in the realm of what is called “folklore.” Erika Brady, who teaches folklore at Western Kentucky University, says, “It’s a way of imposing order on something that feels frighteningly out of control.”

I hope you can take some time tonight to admire the full moon away from city lights and imagine how ancient people depended on it for nighttime light to carry on their lives. Meanwhile, don’t worry about it affecting you psychologically or causing biological changes. The animals and insects may be altered by lunar cycles, but you are not a bug or a werewolf.

— John N. Clayton © 2024