“How Many Gallons of Gas Does One Dinosaur Make?”

Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex
Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex

Marilyn vos Savant has a column in Parade magazine. In the February 5, 2017, issue (page 8) the above was the title of her column, taken from a reader. We get this same question in one form or another on a fairly regular basis, and it is usually from an adult, not a child. The view of many people seems to be that the gasoline that drives our cars and all of our fossil fuels came from the bodies of dinosaurs that were smushed into crude oil. The fact that the Sinclair Oil Company had a green brontosaurus as their mascot for a long time probably contributed to this misunderstanding. The real answer has a lot to do with our view of how God has provided for advanced human civilization. Reflect on this issue for a moment, and ask yourself what you would answer when a young person asks you where did crude oil come from? In a Bible class context the question might be, “How did God make crude oil?”

The answer to this question comes from our view of how God does things. Do we view God as a magician who zaps things into existence? Did God just zap petroleum products deep underground so that we could find them and use them to drive the industrial age and our infatuation with gasoline-powered cars? We have tried to suggest over the years that God has used natural processes for most of what He has done. In Genesis 1, the word for “create” indicating a process that only God can do is only used three times–verses 1, 21, and 27. These are all major items–space/time in verse 1, life in verse 21, and the human soul in verse 27. All of the other verses in Genesis 1 use a word for “make” or “formed” which implies a natural process. The bottom line is that most of what Genesis 1 describes were things formed by natural processes, not miraculous acts of God. In Genesis 2:3 both words are referred to as methods that God had used: “…he had rested from all his work which God (elohim) created (bara) and made (asah).” (Hebrew words in parentheses.)

So where did the gasoline for your car come from? The answer is that it came from an ecology that God created and shaped to produce it. That ecology was warm, had a special chemical balance, and was full of an animal called foraminifera–a single-celled organism that formed a drop of crude oil in its body during its life processes. When the organism died, the skeletal remains formed diatomaceous earth and the drop of oil from its body united with hundreds of other drops to make a pool of crude oil. The agents that served as the gardeners to provide nutrients, prune, spread seeds, and generally control the ecology were the dinosaurs. Because God used this method, scientists can locate oil deposits literally miles below the earth’s surface. If God had formed the petroleum with a magic trick, humans would not be able to locate these resources. Because we know how the oil was formed, we know where to find it.

God used an incredible group of animals to prepare the things that humans would need. Not only was oil produced in this way, but coal, and iron and a plethora of other resources. God employed engineering skill and ecological genius to give us the standard of living we enjoy today. This is much more exciting than smushed dinosaurs.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

A Visit to the Galapagos Islands

Blue-Footed Boobies on the Galapagos Islands
Blue-Footed Boobies on the Galapagos Islands

(Today is the birthday of Charles Darwin and has been proclaimed by many organizations as “Darwin Day.” This post by John Clayton is a condensed version of an article in the printed DOES GOD EXIST? Journal for May/June 2013.)

The Galapagos Islands are located some 600 miles west of Ecuador. They were made famous by the studies and work of Charles Darwin who visited the islands in 1835 at the age of 26. His studies led him to some understandings which violated the religious traditions of his day. They also were seized upon by some philosophers to justify a belief system that rejected God and depended on naturalism as the faith upon which they lived their lives.

The reason I have always wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands is that evolution has been used as a club by many skeptics and atheists against belief in God and acceptance of the Bible as His word. In our ministry, we have maintained that science and faith are friends and not enemies and that science supports the biblical record. We have also maintained that since the same God who created all living things also gave us the biblical record, no scientific fact can conflict with what the Bible says. If there is a conflict, I believe it is because we have bad science or bad theology or both.

Darwin was studying the question of how animals came to be as we see them today. There are 13 species of finches scattered throughout the 13 main islands, six small islands, and 42 islets, where detailed studies of the finches have been conducted. In addition to the finches, there are various iguana species that cannot interbreed. The Galapagos land iguanas are infertile with the Galapagos marine iguanas. The marine iguanas feed on algae on the floor of the ocean and have a gland in their respiratory system that collects excess salt in their bodies and “sneezes” it away. Even the huge Galapagos tortoises, which can weigh over 500 pounds, are different on each island and infertile with the tortoises on other islands. Today our studies of DNA and the genomes of living things have shown how close these animals are to each other genetically. The incredible wisdom built into their DNA allows them to adapt and become unique for a particular environment. The research being done at the Charles Darwin Research Center is helping us to understand how to control and protect all forms of life on this planet.

In Darwin’s day, the claim of most theologians would have been that God created each tortoise separately, and placed each one on its island and that they were unchanged to this day. What Darwin maintained was that there was a design system built into the animals which allowed them to change to fit the physical conditions in which they found themselves. Since genetics was not a functional science at that time, Darwin had no idea what the design feature was that allowed this natural change, but he maintained it was the explanation for the finches and iguanas and tortoises.

What was going on theologically in Darwin’s day is essentially what is going on today. People had decided that the Bible was too radical to be believed. Not only did people not want to follow the Bible’s teachings, but they considered it to be primitive ignorance to suggest that Genesis was true. We now know that the genome of the iguanas contains enough stored information to allow the iguanas to live in a marine or land environment. The design of the genome is a fantastic demonstration of God’s wisdom and design allowing the finches to live in every ecological niche the Galapagos has to offer. Even the tortoises have subtle physical characteristics that enable them to reproduce and live in particular habitats.

What impressed me about the work going on in the research stations we visited was that it was good science and not speculative theories and philosophies. Researchers were not looking for a link between the finches and the iguanas. They were concerned with understanding how the natural history of the Galapagos had shaped and was being shaped by the forms of life that exist there. In talking with researchers, I encountered no one who felt there was a conflict between what they were doing and faith in God and the Bible. We had a guide assigned to our boat by the governmental agencies. He was very knowledgeable and expressed some wonderment that anyone would even suggest that somehow this area that he knew so well would be contributing to doubts about God and the Bible.

We have much to learn about how God has designed and created the Earth and it’s living creatures. There is no reason to fear that one’s faith will be destroyed because the beauty and wisdom of God shine as brightly in the Galapagos as any place on this planet. It is sad that in our day people have taken Darwin’s work and attempted to exclude God from our thought processes as we study life on Earth.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
For the complete article and pictures go to:
http://www.doesgodexist.org/MayJun13/DGEMayJun13.html

Dinosaur Demise

Dinosaur
Tarbosaurus Dinosaur

Everyone seems to have a fascination with dinosaurs. For kids, it may just be the old “monster under the bed” type of obsession, but adults have similar desires flavored by wanting to know more. Trying to suggest that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, as some creationists do, stretches credibility to the breaking point. Not only is there no credible evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived together (although the number of attempts never seems to diminish), but the conditions under which the dinosaurs lived would be virtually impossible for humans to survive. Temperatures, the composition of the atmosphere, and the efficiency of the dinosaur predators make most people at least doubt the cohabitation of humans and these huge reptiles. Movies like Jurassic Park help reinforce the difficulties of such a co-existence.

We have suggested that taking the Bible in a very literal way eliminates the need for trying to make a T. Rex a household pet. The Hebrew words used in the creation week all refer, if they are taken literally, to animals that Moses knew and/or had control over. Behemah in Genesis 1:24 refers to a cow, not a T. Rex. Kanaph oph in verse 21 refers to a chicken, not a pterodactyl. The creation week is an explanation to the Israelites about God’s creation of the living things they knew and depended on. Duckbilled Platypus is not in the creation week, nor are phytoplankton, bacteria, viruses, penguins, worms, arthropods in general, or dinosaurs. References to living things in passages like Exodus 20:11 are referring back to the creation week in the choice of words and the purpose.

Genesis 1:1 talks about the miraculous creation of the universe and the Earth in particular. The word for Earth (erets) normally refers to a functional planet–not a blob of gook. The method God used to produce the Earth is not given. Proverbs 8:22 discusses this in some references to God’s wisdom and planning, but not the mechanics of how God did what He did. The use of living ecosystems to produce a functional Earth is not out of the question, and the evidence shows that this is how God did it. Dinosaurs were the gardeners of prehistoric Earth, with some dinosaurs pruning and spreading the seeds of plants that produced coal and other resources humans would need.

In verse two of Genesis 1, we are told that the Earth became empty and wasted and that darkness came on the face of the Earth. The Hebrew tohu bohu choshek is normally used to address a destructive change. If in fact, biological systems were preparing the Earth for humans in verse 1, then verse 2 indicates a change. The evidence strongly supports this understanding. In Science News for February 4, 2017, pages 16-26, there is an excellent article by Thomas Sumner reporting on new research into the demise of the dinosaurs. It is titled “Devastation Detectives, ” and it reports on new data that backs up the asteroid impact that made the Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan. It also shows that in addition to the asteroid strike, massive volcanic eruptions were taking place on the opposite side of the planet that contributed to the renovation of the Earth. The evidence is that the destruction was complete. Fish have been found with their gills filled with silicon dust, and the atmosphere seems to have been so full of ash and materials from these catastrophes that the Earth was in darkness. The congruence of all this and the biblical account is too complete to ignore.

I am aware that our critics will say that we are just fitting science to the Bible or vice-versa. We would plead guilty to that charge. Science is facts, and if we believe that the Bible came from the Creator of the universe, then the facts must fit the Bible. If they don’t fit, we either have misunderstood the facts of science, or we have misunderstood the Bible. When God says something, we should not question it. When God just says He did it, we are free to look at the evidence and try to understand how. That is what science is about, and it leads to a better way of living for all of us. The way the new data fits Genesis 1:1-2 is too complete to ignore. Genesis is not a myth, but it is also not complete. There are many things we would like to know more about, and the role of the dinosaurs is certainly one of those things. For more on the Hebrew of Genesis, go to our doesgodexist.org website and read “God’s Revelation Through His Rocks and His Word.”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

God’s Carbon Sink

Carbon Element Periodic Table
In our age of scary stories about global warming when alarmists are warning that humans are destroying the Earth by our huge carbon footprint, it is always good to hear something positive. That is especially true when that positive thing is something people have held up as negative for a very long time. I have stood on the edge of a huge swamp in the southern part of the United States and wondered what possible use an area like that would have. You can talk about providing a home for insects, birds, or rare tropical plants, but the swamp still looks like a wasteland with its mile after mile of muck and dead vegetation.

Imagine a swamp that covers 56,000 square miles and has a depth of 20 feet of ugly black muck. Why would God create a place like that? What possible use can it have? That huge swamp is the Cuvette Centrale peatlands in Africa’s central Congo Basin, and it has been accumulating for nearly 11,000 years. We now know that this particular swamp is a huge carbon sink. Recent measurements by scientists show that this one swamp holds about thirty billion tons of carbon. That’s the equivalent of 20 years of United States fossil fuel emissions. Satellite measurements have shown this swamp is sixteen times larger than previous estimates. Chemical studies show it is highly acidic and devoid of oxygen so it traps carbon that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere.

Planet Earth can sustain the amount of life it does because it is was engineered with a design anticipating the various cycles and conditions that are needed for life to continue. There seems to be a number of design features that help to balance our carbon footprint. Caring for a place like this huge swamp means being careful about how we use what God has given us. Reference: The Week, February 3, 2017, page 19, and https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/11/worlds-largest-peatland-vast-carbon-storage-capacity-found-congo.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Where is God in the Gender Revolution?

LGBT and GOD
We live in an age of pluralism. While the word “pluralism” is applied to religion and the idea that there are many equally valid paths to God, the concept also applies to other areas of life. There is a push in intellectual circles now to say that democracy is not the only path to political stability, that even dictatorships may be equally valid. The current rage in the popular media, however, is to say that “gender is a spectrum”–a plurality of sexes. That was stated in National Geographic‘s January issue (page 61) which was totally dedicated to what it calls “the gender revolution.” Television specials and documentaries on transgender cases have become a major feature of the media, and people are flooded with a pluralistic view of the whole gender question.

The biblical position on this issue is quite clear. Genesis 1:27 indicates that God created male and female and blessed them. Genesis 2:21-24 tells us that woman and man were distinct with the Hebrew issa being used to differentiate woman from man who is identified by the Hebrew word is. These terms indicate how close man and woman were, but the wording leads to the conclusion that woman was taken out of man to meet a specific need–to be a “help meet.” So what do we make of the current situation where we have boys claiming they are really girls and girls claiming they are boys?

Let us say from the outset that it is not our job to judge or condemn those who are transgenders. We do want to suggest some causes to the gender issues and suggest that God has given us tools to deal with the issue whether it is in our bodies, families, communities, or culture. As you read through the National Geographic issue on “The Gender Revolution,” you have to be impressed with the fact that culture has a huge effect on the gender issue. The magazine has gone to one culture after another to show how the culture impacts and forces sexual identity and sexual roles on their people. As Westerners, we may be appalled at what is forced on children in other cultures, and yet in our own culture drugs are used to control and facilitate sexual identity. It may also be true that human pollution of our environment has caused some changes in our genome and in the chemistry of human hormones.

God gave us the ideal sexual arrangement. Not only is there a unity with woman being taken out of man, but we also see a combined oneness in Genesis 2:24 where man and woman were to become “one flesh.” That isn’t just a sexual reference, but a stable platform from which man and woman could live, make decisions, and build a family. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul emphasizes this oneness in very clear terms. In Romans 1:24-32 he castigates those who consciously reject God and His plan by deliberately corrupting God’s ideal sexual arrangement. There are adults who would be condemned by these verses for their attitudes and practices. However, that certainly does not apply to innocent children who are struggling with sexual identity due to culture or perhaps by drugs forced upon them.

There are real questions about whether claims of sexual feelings and biological drives have psychosomatic causes, as expressed in an article in New Atlantis by John’s Hopkins researchers that we discussed yesterday. But our role as Christians in this and all other moral issues is to offer help and support to those victimized by the culture, the drug establishment, or human contamination of God’s intended system of life. We are not the judges of others or the enforcers of God’s plan. At the same time, we do encourage others to realize that God’s plan for man and woman works. The lesson of history is that attempts to change that plan have universally brought pain and frustration to humanity.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Challenges of Sexual Preference Issues

LGBT
One of the most contentious issues in our culture today is the challenge of the LGBT community to biblical Christianity. We use the term “biblical Christianity” because many denominations have denied that the Bible opposes homosexuality by either denying the inspiration of the passages that condemn homosexuality or by explaining them away. One might explain Genesis 19 and the story of Lot and the men of Sodom by saying that God condemned homosexual rape, but It is difficult to read Romans 1:24-27 and maintain that it refers only to rape. Various Old Testament laws condemned sexual behavior outside of marriage, and twisting Scripture to justify the current values of our society does violence to biblical Christianity.

The question then becomes, “Why would God create men and women with strong biological drives and only allow those drives to be satisfied in marriage to a single member of the opposite sex?” The companion issue is, “Why would God create a person with a strong attraction to people of their own sex and then condemn that relationship?” This question has led to a wholesale rejection of the Bible as the literal God-breathed Word of God by many, and to complete atheism by others. We have addressed this issue in the past, but new challenges are arising that make it important for us to answer the current situation.

The causes of LGBT are complex, numerous, and debated. Two renowned scientists at Johns Hopkins University Dr. Paul McHugh and Dr. Lawrence Mayer released a study last year showing that people are not born “gay” and that sexual orientation can change over a lifetime. Many years ago a study by Dr. Simon Levy and Dr. Dean Hamer seemed to support the idea that same-sex desires were inherited and a product of one’s genes. David Nimmons writing in Discover magazine (March 1994, pages 64-71) raised questions about the validity of the sampling used in that study, and Scientific American printed a discrediting article on the studies in November of 1995, page 26. In the twenty-plus years since all of this, there have been studies on all sides of the question of whether or not homosexual behavior is genetic. Reading through all of this contradictory research one is reminded of the old graduate student mentality, “Be sure your data conforms to your conclusions.”

It seems that the causes of homosexual tendencies are very much like the causes of cancer–there are multiple contributing causes. There is no question that sexual abuse in childhood can be a major contributing factor. There is some evidence that contamination from hormones being discharged into the environment as wastes may be a factor. The lack of a father figure in a young person’s life can be a factor. Chemical imbalances can also be an issue.

In spite of all the unknowns, there are several things that seem to be quite clear:

1) Same-sex attraction is not always, if ever, chosen. Many of the causes are things the person had no control over.

2) There is a difference between same-sex attraction and practicing homosexual behavior. We would refer you to page 22 of the September/October 2015 issue of our printed journal for the review of Guy Hammond’s book and our comments on it. (Available online at http://www.doesgodexist.org/PDF-Files/Bulletins/2015/SepOct15.pdf) You can be attracted to people of the same sex, but you can choose not to engage in sexual acts to support that attraction. We are not programmed by God to practice homosexuality or anything else. We have free will.

3) LGBT lifestyles are unhealthy. Studies on the life expectancy of “gay” men have consistently shown a much lower rate than the general population. HIV infections are far more likely in homosexual relationships. We have published data in our journal for many years giving the current statistics. Similarly, unhealthy lifestyles involve alcoholism, obesity, and indolence.

4) Blaming God for human choices is illogical. We don’t blame God because of the devastating effect of alcohol on humanity, and we should not blame God for the damage humans have done environmentally and socially. It is equally illogical to blame God because of our choices on sex.

5) “Homophobia” is unchristian. Christians should show the same love and compassion to everyone. Jesus called us as Christians to love even our enemies, to turn the other cheek when mistreated, and to live in peace as much as possible to the extent it depends on us. Every person is created in the image of God and is worthy of respect. More on this subject in tomorrow’s post.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Migrating Insects: Another Incredible Design

Migrating Insects - Arthropods
Arthropods

Over the years we have presented data on some amazing migrations. We have had several discussions about the Arctic tern and how it makes its incredible 12,000-mile journey. Research has shown that the Arctic tern uses multiple cues including magnetism, sight, smell, and even sound. We have also talked about whales, salmon, and sea turtles and the way they benefit multiple ecosystems by their migrations. Now we have a new migration that has just been discovered and is equivalent to 20,000 flying reindeer. It’s migrating insects.

According to the study, 2-5 million migrating insects fly over the United Kingdom each year. The study is reported in the December 23, 2016, issue of Science by a team headed by Jason Chapman. Tracking these arthropods involves the use of special radar designed to detect insects. The team estimates that the total biomass of these arthropods is 3200 tons which is 7.7 times more than the biomass of the songbirds in the same area. These are tiny creatures with some of them weighing less than 10 milligrams.

Chapman notes that these arthropods are not just accidentally caught up in the wind. Some of them climb to the top of a plant to launch their flight. Some stand on tiptoe and put out silk until the wind catches them and carries them away. The animals only launch when the wind is to the north from May to June, and in August and September, they launch when the wind blows to the south. Chapman concludes “these arthropods must have some kind of built-in compass plus a preferred direction and the genetics that change that preference as they or their offspring make the return migration.“

We would suggest the programming of the DNA of these creatures is not a product of chance. It is incredibly complex and requires an intelligent programmer. Migrating insects benefit the life forms that depend on them for food as well as having food benefits for themselves. They also avoid weather conditions that could be fatal to them. If that much is happening in the United Kingdom and Africa where the migrations end up, it most certainly is happening throughout the whole world. The complexity of this migration system over the Earth is far greater than anyone imagined.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Neptunian Influence

Neptune Photo from Voyager 2 - NASA
Neptune Photo from Voyager 2 – NASA

The planet Uranus was observed by scientists as early as 1690. For over 100 years astronomers watched this “last planet” in the solar system with wonder. The problem was that the orbit of the new planet did not follow the rules. The eccentricity of Uranus’ orbit told the astronomers that there was something very large and forceful that was having a real impact on what Uranus did and how it behaved. As time went by, better telescopes were built. Astronomers had watched Uranus long enough to know where the great influence was, so they turned their instruments to that part of the sky and were astounded to see still another planet–Neptune! The orbit of Neptune was established and studied, and it too did not quite obey the rules, so astronomers turned their most powerful instruments even further out and discovered Pluto. Most modern discoveries in astronomy are related to influence. We know where to look and what to look for because we see the influence of an object long before we see the object itself.

The same principle applies to human relationships and Christ. If people are Christians, their influence should be obvious to a stranger long before that stranger knows the source of the strength in the Christian’s life. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another.” Jesus also said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Scientists would never have thought of looking for the planet Neptune until they saw its influence on Uranus. Many people will never think of looking for Christ until they see his influence in the lives of Christians. We should not have to tell others we are Christians, but they should suspect it by the way we live and how we treat one another.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Extinct Animals in the Bible

Lascaux Painting of Aurochs
Lascaux Painting of Aurochs

In Discover magazine (March 2017, page 24) there is a reference to a species of wild cattle called aurochs that lived in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The article says that the aurochs was the first recorded animal to become extinct. The last aurochs died in Poland in 1627. These animals are portrayed in the ancient cave art of Chauvet-Pont d’Arc and Lascaux in southern France. They have been called “supercattle.” Julius Caesar saw aurochs and said of them, “In size these are little but inferior to elephants. They spare neither men nor beast.”

In the Bible, there are animals described that we do not find examples of in the living biosphere of today. In Job 40:15-24 there is a description of an animal which in the Hebrew is called behemoth. This word is the plural of the word behema used in Genesis 1:24 and many later verses throughout the Old Testament. Behema is usually translated as livestock or cattle, and there is no question but that this is the intent in Genesis 1. Behemoth would be a large, massive example of behema. It cannot refer to a dinosaur, even if we ignore the scientific evidence because the word always referred to an ungulate, which is a mammal. Suggestions that it was a hippopotamus are unlikely since there was another word for the hippo. It could refer to a giant sloth which also became extinct. However, the aurochs probably fits the description better.

Our point is that animals that lived at the time of Job and Moses may not be in existence today. While we cannot be sure what they were, there is no reason to suggest that this is an error by the author of Job. It is also no reason to say that the Bible describes mythical animals or that it refers to dinosaurs. Like every other argument that attempts to denigrate the integrity of the Bible or put it at odds with scientific evidence, better information shows the Bible to be true and accurate. (Hebrew word discussion from The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdman’s Publishing.)
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Human Embryos-People or Property?

Fetal Development
Fetal Development

A Missouri appeals court has ruled that a couple’s frozen embryos are joint property, not children. The woman sued her ex-husband for the right to implant the embryos they conceived through in-vitro fertilization. The court ruled that the embryos are joint property so both the woman and the man must consent to their use. This is in spite of Missouri state law which says that life begins at conception. The inconsistency of this ruling and of the mentality of the court is incredible. What would be the ruling if the embryos in question had been allowed to develop to nine months and the husband wanted to abort them in spite of the mother’s objection? Most pro-abortion politicians when asked the question of when an embryo becomes a human have responded by saying they haven’t investigated the issue, and yet that is fundamental to this entire debate. When the sperm meets the egg and fertilizes it, what is left if not a property or some other animal, it is a human being. We would suggest that the baby so conceived is a human and should have all the rights that you and I have. The court case was reported in Christianity Today, January/February 2017, page 20.
–John N. Clayton © 2017