God’s Rototiller the Lyrebird

God's Rototiller the Lyrebird

One of the less known necessities of the natural world is the need to aerate the soil. Without some device to rototill your gardens, the ground would be so hard nothing could grow in it. Worms, moles, groundhogs, and insects work the ground so plants can grow, but the world’s most efficient agent to do this is God’s rototiller, the lyrebird.

These birds of eastern Australia have rake-like feet that are so strong they can crush scorpions. Lyrebirds do more than any other form of life to till the soil. One lyrebird can turn over and aerate 388 tons of material on the ground every year while reducing fire risk. Lyrebirds eat insects that they kick up as they work the soil, reducing the danger of insect infestations.

Humans have learned what it takes the get the soil to yield its best crop. We plow and disk the ground to prepare it for producing plants that give us our food. God’s rototiller, the lyrebird, does it more efficiently by controlling even the pests that would defeat our efforts. The natural world continues to reveal God’s design in ways that we are just beginning to understand.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: National Geographic February 2021, page 20.

Chemicals in Cosmetics – What Price Beauty?

Chemicals in Cosmetics – What Price Beauty?

A large percentage of the problems we have in life are our own doing. One of the places where this is becoming increasingly apparent is in the chemicals used in cosmetics.

The list of human problems is multiplying as more chemicals are used in beauty aids. Toluene is a solvent used in nail polishes and has been linked to miscarriages and some cancers. Foundations and eye shadows contain parabens, which disrupt hormones causing allergies and have been linked to miscarriages, cancer, and ADHD. Lipsticks and other cosmetics contain formaldehyde which causes cancer. Shampoos and conditioners contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which can cause liver damage, thyroid disease, and developmental issues. Many perfumes and deodorants contain phthalates which contribute to asthma, diabetes, and ADHD.

In their winter edition of Solutions magazine, the Environmental Defense Fund published stories of women working in beauty salons who have had miscarriages. The list of diseases they link to beauty products includes many soaps and lotions.

We cannot blame God when we use chemicals in cosmetics that cause serious diseases or organ failure. The real issue here is that most of us don’t know what will harm us and what will not. We urge our readers to look at the product labels to see the chemicals in cosmetics and lotions to ensure that what we use to improve our looks doesn’t cause serious health issues.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Arctic Ground Squirrels Hibernate

Arctic Ground Squirrels Hibernate

Squirrels in Arctic areas seem to have a hibernation technique which could be described as suspended animation. Arctic ground squirrels (Urocitellus purryii) go into a state of deep torpor breathing once a minute with a heart rate of five beats per minute. Every two to three weeks, the squirrels revive for 12 to 24 hours, but they don’t eat, drink, or eliminate during that time.

Researchers from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, have found that hibernating Arctic ground squirrels have skeletal muscle breakdown, releasing nitrogen to compensate for lack of food. Even though this is happening, the squirrel’s total muscle mass doesn’t change. It appears that they have protein stored up to handle their needs, but scientists are trying to understand where and how that protein is made available. This is another designed characteristic that allows life to exist in the Arctic.

Realize that there are unique problems in an ecosystem that is shut down for eight months. The design of larger animals allows them to migrate, and caribou herds go great distances to survive the Arctic winter. The migration of salmon into Arctic waters is another provision for animal survival. The salmon become food for Arctic animals, and their bodies become fertilizer so plants can grow in an area with virtually no soil.

Smaller animals have a big problem because they can’t migrate, and their plant-based food sources have a very short growing season. It appears that Arctic ground squirrels are a vital link in maintaining the balance of food and plant growth. The squirrels bury seeds so new plants can grow, and they provide a nutrient source for predators like wolves and wolverines. The complexity of how they do this has led to a whole new area of biology with its own magazine–Nature Metabolism.

Scientists are researching the Arctic ground squirrels’ metabolism to understand how this complex system works. Whatever the biochemistry involved, it is highly complex and strongly supports the belief that God designed life forms to survive even in a cold environment.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Nature Metabolism December 7, 2020 and Science News for January 30, 2021, page 10.

Practical Value of Christ’s Teaching on forgiveness

Practical Value of Christ's Teaching on forgiveness

Many teachings of Christianity offer solutions to the problems we face in the 21st century. Skeptics claim that the Bible is an ancient book of myths with no relevance to life in the modern era. That is not true! The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness speaks to divine inspiration and validates the Christian life.

One area that relates to depression and mental illness is how we forgive people who have wronged us. The evolutionary explanation tells us to live by the survival of the fittest, and getting even is a key to survival. In reality, that doesn’t work, but Christ’s teaching on forgiveness does.

Trying to demonstrate your superiority by getting even contaminates all human relationships. I have seen unbelieving friends and family members spend much of their lives trying to get even with someone who wronged them. People are often estranged from siblings, parents, or children because they follow an unchristian approach to perceived wrongs.

Christ taught a different approach. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus told his followers, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive those who sin against you, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.” This is in such contrast to human nature that in Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Christ how many times he must forgive a brother. Peter thought he was generous by suggesting a limit of seven times. Jesus responded by saying seventy times seven. He didn’t mean 490 times. He was saying that forgiveness of a brother, friend, or even an enemy is unlimited.

The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness is proven by the fact that failing to forgive will eat you alive, mentally and emotionally. Most of us have no problem forgiving the mistakes of a small child an unlimited number of times. We need to have that same spirit in dealing with family members and others. If you are a Christian and someone has wronged you, don’t carry a grudge and build a wall between you and that person.

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Our capacity to forgive is one of the most critical demonstrators of that love. If you are not a Christian, I suggest that there is help from God in feeling forgiveness, leading to better mental health and freedom from depression. The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness demonstrates that it is not based on human wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Anniversary of a Star Explosion – SN 1987A

Anniversary of a Star Explosion – SN 1987A

Today is the thirty-fourth anniversary of a significant astronomical event. It’s the anniversary of a star explosion. On February 23, 1987, astronomers and other observers on Earth witnessed the explosion of a star with a mass about twenty times that of our Sun. They called it supernova SN 1987A.

The explosion was bright enough to see with the naked eye. While Earth observers saw it in 1987, the explosion happened long before that. Since the star was located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy 160,000 light-years from Earth, we witnessed an event that occurred 160,000 years in the past.

There have been other supernovas, but SN 1987A was the brightest supernova observed since the telescope’s invention. It was also the brightest since Chinese astronomers observed a star exploding in A.D. 1054. For the past thirty-four years, astronomers have studied the ring of fire as it expands outward from that explosion. The picture showing the remnant of the explosion is a composite image from 2014. It combines visible light from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and x-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

What do we learn from our study of the stars, supernovas, nebulae, and everything else we can see in the universe? We learn the processes God used to create the universe, our galaxy, and our planet. As we examine supernovas, we understand that God used them to forge the heavier elements that make up our planet and our bodies.

Studying the creation process also shows us the incredible precision required to make the universe possible and create life on this planet. On this thirty-fourth anniversary of a star explosion, we are reminded of the words of an ancient psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1).

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Could Adam Create Art?

Could Adam Create Art?
Ancient Cave Art in Chauvet Cave, France

One of the characteristics unique to humans is the creation of art. Some people have made desperate attempts to prove that gorillas, chimps, and elephants create art. When you look at their “art,” you realize that it is merely swashes of color enabled by the researchers working with the animals. Is art just something that evolved, or could Adam create art?

Archaeologists and other scientists have found that ancient humans created art. That very ancient art is not simple swashes of color but complex pictures. Paintings found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi seem to portray a fight between a group of pigs. This discovery is significant because evolutionists have always maintained that humans did not create art until Ice Age Europe. They insisted that humans had not evolved to the point of being able to express historical events in pictures until that time.

Archaeologists have found an even older example of artwork in the Ramie region of Israel, and it consists of symbols cut into a bone fragment. Symbols tell of beliefs beyond survival and express thoughts beyond the mundane affairs of life. People used symbolic expressions from the very beginning of human history. These examples tell us that humans were created with the capacity to express themselves in art.

So the answer to the question, “could Adam create art” would be “yes.” The unique capacities of humans were built into Adam because he was created in the image of God. The human spiritual makeup expressed itself in art from the earliest days of human existence.

Genesis 4:19-26 tells about the first descendants of Adam and Eve. Jubal “was the father of all who play the harp and flute.” Those verses also tell us that Tubal-Cain was the first artisan in brass and iron. These descriptions were all before the birth of Seth. That means Adam and Eve were still around as musical instruments and artisans in metal were doing their creative works.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, February 13, 2021, page 32 and Bible History Daily for February 18, 2021.

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.

Even Christians Have Abortions

Even Christians Have Abortions

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly stated that killing a baby is a choice women have the right to make. We have pointed out before that it is scientifically impossible to support the view that a fetus is just an extension of the mother’s body. Morning sickness happens because the mother’s body tries to reject a foreign object. Nearly 50 million babies, each with their own genome, have been aborted in the United States, and even Christians have abortions.

It is easy to carry a sign around opposing abortion or write an article condemning it. The fact is that if a woman finds herself pregnant and doesn’t want the baby, she has an excruciating decision to make. No one should trivialize an unwanted pregnancy or throw stones at a woman who has had an abortion.

It is essential to look at ourselves and see that we don’t become hypocritical when faced with a situation where abortion seems to be the easiest answer – either for us or someone we love. “40 Days for Life” is a pro-life movement claiming the involvement of over 20,000 churches and more than a million participants. Carmen Pate, working with that group, released disturbing statistics that even Christians have abortions. Of the women who have had abortions, 43% identify themselves as Protestants, and 27% identify as Catholic. One in four women has had at least one abortion by age 45.

The abortion dilemma continues to divide America and is a challenging problem to solve. The real answer is to stop endorsing promiscuity and provide better ways for couples who want children to adopt babies. As an adoptive father of three children, I am so thankful that my kids’ biological mothers were strong enough to allow them to live and grow into productive adults.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

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