Do Animals Fall in Love?

Do Animals Fall in Love?

Discover magazine carried a story titled “Fowls in Love” about two Canada geese nicknamed Arnold and Amelia. Many animals pair up to raise young or for protection. However, evolutionary survival of the fittest fails to explain animals sticking together when one of the pair becomes injured and unable to assist in survival. So do animals fall in love?

The Birdsey Cape Wildlife Center staff in Barnstable, Massachusetts, noticed the male goose limping. He had an open fracture that wouldn’t heal on its own. They caught Arnold and prepared to do surgery to repair his foot. The female goose observed the procedure through the clinic’s sliding glass door. When Arnold awoke from surgery, Amelia was allowed into the room, and she used her beak to preen his feathers. For the next 14 days, Amelia was at the center daily, sharing Arnold’s meals and spending time with him.

After Arnold was released, the staff observed the pair together for two weeks until they left with a passing flock of Canada geese. Do animals fall in love? The article writer concludes that the two geese were in love. The article ends with this statement by the veterinarian who did the surgery, “There has to be some internal motivating force that allows that animal to behave in a particular way, and we call it love – that internal driving force.”

This is a classic example of anthropomorphism, attaching human characteristics to an animal. The biblical concept of love is spelled out uniquely in the New Testament by the Greek word “agape,” meaning to consider the object of one’s attention to be of incredible worth. Jesus used agape in His teachings, and we find it in New Testament references to marriage. Human marriage is not just for survival.

We have numerous geese where we live on the St. Joseph river in Michigan. They are always in pairs, and getting near to one of them or their chicks invites an attack from the mate. Raccoons learn to avoid pairs but will go after an isolated goose or chick. Do animals fall in love, or is there a survival reason?

God has placed an instinctive drive in geese to maximize their chances of survival and success in raising young. The bond between Arnold and Amelia demonstrates how strong the instinctive drive is. It is not the biblical concept of love. When Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies and not resist evil (Matthew 5:38-45), He tells them to do something animals cannot do.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “Fowls in Love” in the January/February 2023 issue of Discover magazine, page 14

Each Octopus Arm Moves as if it Has its Own Brain

Each Octopus Arm Moves as if it Has its Own Brain

What does it take to enable an octopus to use all eight arms efficiently? Each arm may be in contact with a different substance, and they are soft and pliable, so they can bend and twist in response to whatever stimuli they receive. As a result, each octopus arm moves as if it has its own brain.

Researchers recently discovered that the arms gather data and move independently or with other arms without consulting the octopus’s brain. The octopus has a central brain connected to a nerve ring that connects to each arm. In addition to the arms’ connections to the brain, a nerve connects each arm to another, located two arms away. This arrangement allows each arm to communicate directly with others and with the central brain. The arm’s connections to other arms allow rapid communication to function quickly and efficiently.

Researchers are still studying how the octopus puts all this together to move eight arms in a well-coordinated way. Roger Hanlon, a researcher with the Marine Biological Laboratory, said, “We are in that intriguing ‘mild state of confusion’ that is simultaneously perplexing and exhilarating when unexpected discoveries are revealed.”

God’s design of every form of life is amazing and offers much for science to study and learn. Our understanding of how nerves function and how the brain interprets the signals it receives from the nerves is still in a primitive stage. However, we know that each octopus arm moves as if it has its own brain, making the octopus a very complex and intelligent animal. We see God’s wisdom and creative ability displayed in every form of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Scientific American for March, 2023 pages 11-12 and the journal Current Biology

The Heart Is on the Left, but Why?

The Heart Is on the Left, but Why?

When I was in high school, a required health course involved a plastic model of the human body with the skin removed and all the organs visible. We named the model “Oscar” and tried to change the arrangement of the organs. We learned that correct internal organ placement is essential, and the heart is on the left.

Getting all the organs into Oscar was difficult because they were hard plastic, and not all organs are symmetrical. We learned that there were reasons for the human body’s design, and the heart is on the left, but we didn’t know why?

We learned there is a reason for the brain to be at the top of the body to avoid a stroke. The pressure in a column of liquid is greater at the bottom than at the top. For that reason, a blood vessel can rupture in our feet but still not be critical to our survival. If our brain were in the lower part of the body, a broken blood vessel would lead to a stroke.

So what determines where our organs are placed? A recent study led by Harvard Medical School researchers gave some answers to that question. In early embryonic development, a cluster of cells called the left-right organizer contains some hair-like structures called motile cilia. They sense the biomechanical forces that shape the body plan. The cilia beat rapidly, moving extracellular fluid in the correct direction to move organs to the proper place to function most efficiently. They are the reason why the heart is on the left side.

Incorrect left-right placement of the internal organs can result in various disorders, including heterotaxy syndrome and primary ciliary dyskinesia. These disorders can cause recurring respiratory infections and congenital heart disease.

In Psalms 139:10-14, David speaks of God’s right hand forming him in the womb. In verse 14, David says, “I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” The more we learn about how our bodies are designed and formed, the more we understand the truth of that statement.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: National Science Foundation Research News and the journal Science

How Cells Dispose of Waste – Autophagy

How Cells Dispose of Waste - Autophagy

If you remember your high school biology course, you may recall two organelles within the cell. One is mitochondria, which produce energy for the cell. The other is the endoplasmic reticulum which assembles the proteins to carry out the cell’s job. So naturally, any process as complex as those organelles do will produce some waste byproducts, some of which are toxic. Autophagy is the process of how cells dispose of waste.

In 2016 Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in understanding the process. Autophagy degrades some mitochondria and carries out the removal of toxins. The name comes from Greek words that mean “self-eating.” New autophagy research is critical because disease prevention requires efficiently removing toxins from the cell. If autophagy is reduced or impaired, it can start or catalyze the growth of cancerous cells. Scientific understanding of how cells dispose of waste by autophagy may also improve the treatment of other diseases.

The description of autophagy we received in high school biology was greatly simplified, and even scientists today still have much to learn. According to current researchers, “the cell is a complex driver of machinery which is continually being built, put into motion, and eventually broken down.” We know that any machine must be carefully designed and manufactured in a controlled way. That means the living cell is a clear example of the complexity of life.

Creating life required clever engineering and great attention to detail. Autophagy is just one part of what God designed into all living cells. Proverbs 8 personifies “Wisdom” describing her involvement in God’s creative process. That wisdom is apparent in how cells dispose of waste.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: The journal Cell

Does Naturalistic Evolution Explain Life?

Human Cell - Does Naturalistic Evolution Explain Life?
Simplified Illustration of Human Cell

George Gaylord Simpson wrote in his book The Meaning of Evolution (1949), “It is already evident that all the objective phenomena of the history of life can be explained by purely naturalistic…materialistic factors.” In other words, neo-Darwinism explains life. With that in mind, he writes, “Therefore, man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.” Despite Simpson’s confidence, does naturalistic evolution explain life?

It is worth noting that Simpson began the paragraph from which I took the above quotes with these words, “Although many details remain to be worked out…” That is an understatement! Those who insist that naturalistic, materialistic evolution explains life completely are purposely overlooking “many details.” Does naturalistic evolution explain life? Here are a few of the problems with that explanation:

The Origin of Life- How did non-living matter become alive?

The Origin of the Genetic Code- DNA contains a massive amount of information, and information originates from intelligent sources.

The Origin of Sexual Reproduction- Most plants and animals reproduce sexually, requiring both male and female gametes. How did this complex process originate and continue?

The Lack of Transitional Fossils– If the evolution of all life has been a gradual process, why don’t we see an abundance of fossils showing transitional stages between life forms? How can you explain the sudden appearance of life forms, such as in the “Cambrian Explosion,” which Darwin admitted was a mystery?

The Development of Complex Organ Systems How could they happen by gradual changes?

The Development of Irreducibly Complex Molecular Machines– They exist within every living cell and require every part to be in place for them to function. Therefore, explaining their origin through a step-by-step process seems impossible.

Mathematical Difficulties- Mathematicians have calculated that the number of gradual changes required to go from unicellular life to all of the diverse life forms, including humans, would be mathematically impossible within the span of Earth’s 4.5 billion years of existence.

Barriers Between the Types of Life Forms- It is possible with intelligent breeding to produce new varieties of dogs, cows, or roses. However, they are still dogs, cows, or roses. The evidence for one type of living creature evolving into another life form is lacking.

Those are just a few of the details that “remain to be worked out.” Darwin recognized some of them, such as the biological big bang of the Cambrian era and the lack of intermediate fossils. He expected those details would be resolved in the future. More than a century and a half later, there is still no resolution to those problems, and many more have been added to the list.

Does naturalistic evolution explain life? Many scientists accept it because the scientific community would shun them if they didn’t. Others accept it not because of its explanatory power but because they see no acceptable alternative. So when someone says that evolution has disproven the need for God, remind them that these are only a few of the reasons why naturalistic evolution falls short of explaining why we are here.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Sleep as a Great Time Waster

Sleep as a Great Time Waster - Or Not

As a teenager, it was frustrating that I was supposed to spend a third of my time asleep. I thought of sleep as a great time waster when there were so many things I wanted to do. I thought I could accomplish much more by staying awake.

The truth is that humans need sleep, and so do all animals. Birds, fish, and even insects need periods of dormancy to survive. Even plants need “sleep.” Sunlight empowers photosynthesis in plants to produce the nutrients they need for survival and growth. Therefore, it seems that plants should grow faster if they had sunlight 24 hours a day. Not so. If you set up an indoor garden with artificial lights, you will find that the plants need dark periods. You can even change the “seasons” for the plants by varying the percentage of darkness and light.

Instead of seeing sleep as a great time waster, we know that it is a vital biological process essential for the survival and well-being of living things. Sleep is necessary to maintain good health by restoring and repairing the body’s tissues and organs. During sleep, the body produces hormones that help repair damaged tissues and build new ones. Sleep plays a critical role in the immune system, as it helps the body produce cytokines, a type of protein required to fight infection and inflammation.

Sleep is also crucial for the regulation of metabolic processes. Working with our circadian rhythm, sleep helps to regulate appetite and energy balance. Sleep deprivation can lead to increased hunger and decreased production of hormones that regulate appetite, such as leptin and ghrelin. This can lead to weight gain and obesity, increasing the risk of developing several chronic health conditions.

Sleep is essential for more than just physical well-being. During sleep, our brain processes and consolidates memories and data acquired during awake times. The lack of sleep can impair attention, memory, decision-making, and emotions. Sleep aids in the consolidation of learning and the formation of new memories. During sleep, the brain replays and consolidates memories from the previous day, helping to strengthen and make them more resistant to forgetting.

Now that I am old, I appreciate sleep much more than I did as a teenager. I no longer see sleep as a great time waster but as a blessing from God. I have found that some of my best ideas come to me at night. I can wake up with a new idea or a fresh way of looking at things. Sleep has cleared away the fog in my mind so I can see things I had overlooked.

I am also thankful that God doesn’t sleep. We can sleep because He is our protector 24/7/365. Psalms 121:3b-4 says, “He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” So when our melatonin level increases and our circadian clock tells us it’s time to sleep, we can rest knowing that God is still at work keeping the world going. “The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NCV).

— Roland Earnst © 2023

When Obeying God Doesn’t Make Sense

When Obeying God Doesn’t Make Sense

God’s first command to Adam and Eve did not seem to make sense. God created many beautiful trees, but one of them was different. God told the first couple they could eat the fruit from any of the trees, with only one exception. They must have thought that obeying God doesn’t make sense. Why should one tree be off-limits?

Sometimes we must tell our children to avoid doing something that doesn’t make sense to them. To a small child, we say, “Stay out of the street.” They look at that open space where they could run or ride a tricycle. It seems like a fun place to venture into. Genesis 3:6 says that Eve saw the forbidden tree was “good for food” and “pleasant to the eyes.” How could it be possible that God was right when He said that eating from that tree would lead to death (Genesis 2:17)?

Eve knew what God had told Adam about the tree. In Genesis 3:2, she goes even further when she says that even touching it would lead to death. Was she embellishing what God had said, or had she received further warnings? Did she know that if she touched it, she would want to eat it, just like the child who is near the street wants to step into it? Like that child, did the woman even understand what death is?

God couldn’t explain to Adam and Eve why He put that tree in the garden any more than the road builders could explain to the young child why they put the street in front of his house. The “why” didn’t really matter. The point is that just as the parent who tells a child to stay out of the street is wiser than the child, so God was wiser than the newly-created couple. Just as the child must learn to obey, so did Adam and Eve.

Learning to obey wise warnings is more important than knowing the reason. When we demand an explanation, we are saying that we are our own masters and will decide what we will do. Doing what God commands even when obeying God doesn’t make sense means that we believe He knows more than we do. It means we trust God, even though our desires and our culture tell us to take a different action. We must overcome our feelings and pride to obey, even when we want to run out into that street.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15). When Jesus says to love your enemies, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and pray for your persecutors, we think, “Obeying God doesn’t make sense.” (See Matthew 5:38-48.) Like the child running into the street or Eve reaching for the forbidden fruit, we want to rebel and trust our own understanding. But we need to remember the words of Jesus in John 15:10-11, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

— Roland Earnst © 2023

The Gravitational Constant and Earth’s Mass

The Gravitational Constant

“How much does planet Earth weigh?” We can’t put the planet on a scale, and the correct question is, “What is Earth’s Mass?” The scientific literature tells us Earth’s mass is six ronnagrams. That is six followed by 27 zeros (6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 g). Newton’s law of gravitation is expressed in the equation F=G(mm’/x2). The m and m’ are the masses of two objects, x is how far they are from each other, and G is the gravitational constant which makes the equation work. The value of G is 6.67430 x 10-11, that is .0000000000667430.

Any two objects with mass will attract each other. For example, you and the Earth are attracting each other, and you are attracted to the person sitting next to you, such as your spouse or significant other. So why don’t you feel that attraction to each other? (Gravitationally, that is.) If you put your mass and the other person’s mass into that equation, you will find that the force is extremely small. However, if you were in outer space and floating isolated from any other mass, you and that person would be drawn together.

So what is the point? This design of the gravitational constant is an amazing display of God’s wisdom and intelligence. Earth’s mass is so large that you can feel its attraction for you. That prevents you from flying off into space while allowing all of life to have mobility on the planet’s surface. The attraction of gravity on all objects in space pulls them together, with the force depending on the mass of the objects. The matter clumps into meteoroids, asteroids, and comets if the mass is relatively small. Greater mass results in stars and planets, with gravity pulling them into spherical shapes. Gravity also keeps solar systems and galaxies from flying apart. The gravitational constant acting on mass allows the cleansing of debris from space and the continuing production of new astronomical bodies.

The value of the gravitational constant (G) allows the creation of the universe, the Milky Way galaxy, our solar system, and planet Earth. It is just one of many mathematical constants that must be just right to allow matter and life to exist. How did such numbers get chosen? Is this some cosmological accident, or is it the product of intelligence?

Atheists respond by suggesting there are an infinite number of universes with different constants. We just happen to be in the one that got everything right. Unfortunately, there is no way to test this multiverse theory scientifically. It is more like a religious idea that has no purpose except to avoid believing in the existence of an intelligent Creator.

The gravitational constant is only one of many constants that must be fine-tuned for the existence of life in any universe. We have no reason to believe there are other universes, but if there are, they would also have to be created. We believe God created our universe for a purpose. The Bible gives a purpose for human life and states clearly that the creation described in Genesis 1:1 was by a God who created with Wisdom, as we read in Proverbs 8:1, 22 -31.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

The Universe Has a Purpose

Roger Penrose thinks the Universe Has a Purpose
Roger Penrose in 2011 – Cirone-Musi, Festival della Scienza

“In a certain sense, you might say that the universe has a purpose, but I’m not sure what the purpose is. I don’t believe in any religion I’ve seen. So in that sense, I am an atheist.” – Roger Penrose

That statement by the British mathematician, mathematical physicist, philosopher of science, and Nobel Laureate in physics Roger Penrose appeared in an interview in New Scientist magazine. Penrose has won many awards and honors for his brilliant achievements. One of his endeavors has been to explore the origin of consciousness. He believes that the known laws of physics cannot explain the phenomenon of consciousness. The first of his three books on the subject was The Emperor’s New Mind (1989). Since then, he has worked with an anesthesiologist to develop a view of consciousness that he calls “orchestrated objective reduction” (Orch OR).

In the New Scientist interview, Penrose said, “whatever consciousness is, it must be beyond computable physics.” Penrose doesn’t think that consciousness is accidental. He said, “I think the presence of consciousness, if I can put it like that, is not an accident.”

If consciousness is not an accident, then it must be intentional. How can something be intentional without a mind that intends for it to be? How can it have a purpose without a purpose giver? Penrose stated in the interview that “nobody knows where the fundamental constants of nature come from.” He suggests that if those fundamental constants didn’t have the specific values they have, then the chemistry of life could not exist, and we wouldn’t be here. If those constants have the precise values for life, how could that happen without a conscious Designer?

Roger Penrose is a man whom God has gifted with a brilliant mind that, even at age 91, is still pursuing an understanding of the universe and consciousness. He clearly states that he does not believe the universe and consciousness are accidents, but he is seeking to explain them by quantum mechanics. However, he admits, “I would say that there is something going on that might resonate with a religious perspective.”

We agree with Penrose that the universe has a purpose. Purpose in the universe and purpose in consciousness can best be explained by a conscious Mind outside of the universe and beyond the reach of scientific analysis. This is not a “god-of-the-gaps” concept but logically seeking the best explanation. Following through with that understanding means that you, like everyone else, also have a purpose.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: New Scientist magazine November 14, 2022

The Most Mysterious Number in Physics

The Most Mysterious Number in Physics

Many physical constants determine the structure of the universe. All of them have units or dimensions, such as the speed of light (c) or the gravity constant (G). That is, all of them except one. That one is the fine-structure constant represented by the Greek letter alpha (α). The fine-structure constant seems to be a random number with no units or dimensions, but it keeps showing up in physics calculations. It has been described as the most mysterious number in physics. American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman called it “a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by humans.”

Recognition of the fine-structure constant originated with German theoretical physicist Arnold Sommerfeld in 1916. Chemists can identify different elements in the lab by the spectral lines they emit or absorb when their electrons change energy levels. Astronomers analyze the spectral lines of stars to determine what elements they contain. Some spectral lines are split, showing a fine structure. To explain this, Sommerfeld introduced a new constant into his equations and called it the fine-structure constant. It has no units like the speed of light or other constants. It is just a number – a ratio.

The fine-structure constant shows the strength of the interaction between electrons and photons. It also shows up in many other ratios in physics. The value is approximately 0.007,297,352,569 or 1/137. Physicists consider it mysterious because they don’t know where it came from or why it has that value. They can’t explain why it exists at all. But if you are not a physicist, why should you care about the most mysterious number in physics?

If the fine-structure constant had any other value, life as we know it would not be possible. If you changed that number, you would change the universe. A different value for the fine-structure constant would change the size of atoms and alter chemistry and nuclear reactions. No stable matter, no life, and no intelligent beings would exist. We wouldn’t be here.

Richard Feynman wrote that “all good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it.” Apparently, they worry about where it came from and why it is what it is. Feynman further wrote, “You might say the ‘hand of God’ wrote that number, and ‘we don’t know how He pushed His pencil.”

Feynman was joking about the most mysterious number in physics, but we think it was written by the “hand of God.” We also believe “He pushed His pencil” so that He could create humans for a purpose. More on that tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Feynman quotes taken from The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard Feynman Princeton University Press ©1985