Keeping Balance in Nature

Keeping Balance in Nature with BearsAmong the design features built into the creation is that of avoiding over-eating of plants by herbivores or over predation of herbivores by carnivores. Sometimes there are surprising ways of keeping balance in nature.

Did you know, for example, that bears help control the production of caterpillars? A January 29, 2019, posting by Yellowstone National Park staff reports that Yellowstone bears in August eat an astonishing 40,000 moths a day. The moths are migrating from grasslands over the mountains in Yellowstone, and they are actually above timberline. This allows the bears to climb up and get easy nutrition as they prepare for hibernation in the coming winter. From an ecological standpoint, it limits how many caterpillars are produced, preserving plants for many animals in nearby grasslands.

One of the things science continues to learn about is how many factors are involved in keeping the balance of any ecosystem. The design of all ecosystems is so complex that knowing how many checks and balances are required is almost impossible.

Frequently humans have upset the balance God built into the creation with catastrophic results. The problem of controlling insect swarms is as old as recorded human history. Who would have thought that bears above the timberline in Yellowstone National Park would make a massive contribution to the ecology of nearby grasslands? Keeping balance in Nature requires intelligent planning and design.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

World’s Fastest Jaws

Worlds Fastest Jaws - Mystrium camillae Insects are the most prolific of all animal groups on the planet. History records instances in which scourges of insects have caused massive destruction when they are not held in check. One of the most effective controllers of insect populations is other insects. An example of that is a species of ants with the world’s fastest jaws.

Recent studies by entomologists using high-speed cameras have shown that the ant Mystrium camillae can snap its mandibles at speeds that are 5,000 times faster than the blink of an eye. Their jaws close with so much force that even if they don’t touch their prey, they can stun them. This is part of a designed system that helps maintain balance. Sometimes humans cause nature to become out of balance. In the natural world without human mismanagement, there are animals and plants that keep nature in balance.

Designing life systems that can exist over the long haul is incredibly difficult. One of the problems in space travel is developing systems that will provide food for astronauts over a period of many years. Several experiments have been tried, but none have been successful. God’s design of life systems on Earth is amazing. We frequently see species with special equipment like the world’s fastest jaws of the Mystrium camillae. They were designed to maintain a balanced world where humans can thrive.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: National Wildlife, June/July 2019, page 8.

Natural Selection as Creative Agent

Natural Selection as Creative Agent - Polar BearsYesterday we pointed out that both evolutionary naturalists and many creationists believe that, given enough time, anything can happen. They assume that once the first life-form came into being (which cannot be explained by natural selection) that time and natural selection would create all the vastly different forms of life. There are many reasons why natural selection as creative agent will not work no matter how much time you give it. We presented three reasons yesterday. Here are three more:

1-Natural selection tends to produce over-specialization. One of the fundamental laws of biology and evolution is Dollo’s Law. The French biologist Louis Dollo proposed that law in 1890. It says that once evolutionary characteristics have evolved, they cannot revert to the form from which they came. We now know why that is true by our advances in genetics. What it tells us is that as natural selection lets an animal become more and more specialized, it can not revert back to what it was before. Polar bears that have evolved by natural selection to their present state cannot return back to the black bear genetics of their ancestors. That may mean that they will become extinct if global climate change continues. Natural selection as creative agent won’t work because it is pretty much a one-way process.

2-Natural selection deals only with survival. The development of beauty does not always involve survival. Some coloration in birds, for example, does not aid their survival but results in incredible beauty. Jesus talked about the lilies of the field and birds of the air as blessed with beauty and function. While this has significant meaning for us aesthetically, sometimes the beauty of plants and animals may actually threaten their physical survival. We have discussed this point many times in our “Dandy Designs” column and elsewhere.

3-Natural selection stands at odds with the concept of entropy. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that in any closed system, things tend to move from a condition of order to a state of disorder. One can argue that the Earth is not a closed system because the Sun is adding energy. When living things eat, they add energy in the form of the chemicals in the food they consume.

The fact is, however, that in all biological systems, there is a tendency for life to become disordered. We call it aging. My body continues to produce a higher and higher level of entropy (disorder) as the years go by. All biological systems do this. To suggest that biological systems become more and more specialized by natural processes violates the very basic laws of physics and chemistry. The cosmos itself is moving towards disorder. Unless intelligence can add organizing energy and reverse the natural tendency to age, everything is doomed from our bodies to our planet.

God built the cosmos with laws that function to allow life to exist. He created life itself and built into it certain characteristics that caused Paul to write: “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). Natural selection is one of the things God has made, and it allows nature to function. Natural selection as creative agent cannot explain the beautiful, complex world around us. It only applies to those changes which improve the chances for life to survive. Time is not a friend to aging or complexity. The older my car gets, the more likely it is to break down. That is true of my body and the natural world around me as well.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Time as Creative Agent

Time as Creative Agent - PlatypusOne of the major misunderstandings of many creationists and naturalists alike is the belief that, given enough time, anything can happen. Those who believe in naturalism deny that God had anything to do with creation. They promote the idea that evolution by natural selection can explain everything as long as there is adequate time for it to act. Time as creative agent does not work for many reasons.

We can all agree on what will happen if you have two animals in identical environments and one of them can run very fast and the other one cannot. When a predator comes to eat them, the one who cannot run fast is more likely to get eaten. This process cannot explain how a platypus could be produced from animals that have existed in Australia now or in the past. Atheists would maintain that given enough time such a change would have happened naturally, excluding God’s role in the production of every form of life on the planet. Time as creative agent cannot replace the role of God the creator.

Some creationists seem to agree. They assume that the only rebuttal to the atheist belief is to maintain that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. They argue that such a change couldn’t happen in that short of a time. The reality is that natural selection cannot explain the creation, no matter how much time has been available for life to evolve.

There are a large number of reasons why natural selection and time as creative agent do not explain what we see in the creation. Here are just three simple ones:

1-Natural selection only deals with what has already been created.
Any theoretical explanation of how a living thing has come into existence starts by assuming the existence of an ancestral form of life. Not only is it assumed that the life-form existed, but its properties are also assumed. To explain why the male platypus has a poisonous spur on its back leg, one has to assume that it evolved from an animal that had a spur which served some other purpose. One must also assume that the ancestor used venom in some way. To explain the “radar” unit in the platypus’s nose, one has to assume that there was some kind of appendage that housed the nerve cells. Then one must assume that nerve endings with a frequency equivalent to the electromagnetic signals of the platypus’ prey were present in some primitive form.

Those oversimplified proposals are just the start. The baby platypus has to lick the milk off the mother’s stomach because she has no nipples. One can say that the nipples never evolved from the ancient ancestor, but the skin has to be porous enough for the milk to come through. The mammary glands also have to be in the right place, and the system has to be selective enough that milk can get out, but toxins cannot get in. With a good imagination, you can propose ways each of these things could happen. However, they would all have to happen simultaneously or they would be of no use and could, in fact, be life-threatening for the animal.

2-Natural selection does not propose the formation of organs with unique chemical properties, nor does it explain the chemicals themselves.
We have discussed the bombardier beetle, where a lethal combination of chemicals produces a spray that protects the beetle from predation. This is one of many specialized organs in the natural world that demands an organ that has no other function than the one the beetle uses. For natural selection to work, a previous organism would have to exist with a different a chemical having a different purpose from which this animal could evolve.

3-Natural selection ignores catastrophic extinctions. The more we study the geological record of the Earth, the more we see that massive changes have happened in the past that put an end to biological processes. Asteroid collisions, massive volcanic eruptions, massive flooding, global cooling which resulted in the freezing of all bodies of water, and solar eruptions are all well documented. These changes have been so violent that they terminated most life-forms and their development. Natural selection demands a uniformitarian past for traits to continue unabated and ultimately be incorporated into the genome of a new species.

Those are just three fundamental reasons why time as creative agent would not work. Those are only three hurdles that evolution by natural selection would have to cross to create all of the living things on Earth. Tomorrow we will look at three more.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

World’s Deepest Diving Mammal

Worlds Deepest Diving MammalRecent studies of the Cuvier’s beaked whale, also known as the goose-beaked whale, have established that it is the world’s deepest diving mammal.

Cuvier’s beaked whales dive to feed on squid and fish near the ocean floor. Researchers monitored the whales diving as deep as 2993 meters (about 1.9 miles) and staying down for more than two hours. The mean depth of the deep dives was 1400 meters for more than an hour. For example, the pressure on the whale’s body at 1800 meters (almost 6,000 feet) is 2,600 pounds per square inch (17,926 kPa). Human divers can only stand about 173 pounds per square inch (1196 kPa), which is a depth of 400 feet (122 m).

On average, these whales hold their breath for over an hour, and yet when they return to the surface, they can be ready for a shallow dive again in as little as two minutes. They tend to alternate between shallow and deep dives with the average time between deep dives being about 100 minutes. The design of the whale’s body that allows survival in these extreme environmental conditions is a subject of scientific research.

There is also the question of why they go to such extremes when the same food is available closer to the surface. One interesting aspect of the behaviors of all animals is their role in maintaining balance in the ecosystem. Like all other environments, the deep ocean needs predators to keep a balance between deep ocean life-forms and their food supply. As science begins to explore the deepest parts of the ocean, we see that there is a whole ecology that keeps life in balance. Cuvier’s beaked whale, the world’s deepest diving mammal, is part of that designed system which indicates a Designer.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

More information on the research is available on PlosOne at this LINK.

Facts About Plant Design

Facts About Plant Design including WatermelonOne of our gardener friends sent us these interesting facts about plant design:

Seeds may be dropped into the ground upside down or sideways, yet the plants always come up to the surface.

One grain of corn will produce a stalk on which there may be two ears, with perhaps 742 grains on each ear.

A light crop of wheat will produce approximately 30 grains on each stalk. A good crop of wheat will produce approximately 60 grains on each stalk. There will always be an even number of grains.

Beans grow up a pole from left to right. Morning glories grow up a pole from right to left. If turned upside down, “twining” plants will uncoil and recircle their support. Guide a twiner in the “wrong” direction, and the plant will rewind itself. The higher the twiner grows, the more tightly it clasps its support.

Dandelions will grow above their surroundings whether the grass is two, ten, or twenty inches, for it must grow up into the sunlight.

An average watermelon will have ten stripes on it. Larger ones may have 12 to 16 stripes, but they always an even number.

Those are just a few facts about plant design. Every form of life in the vegetable and animal kingdom has a predetermined set of characteristics – a master plan perfect in every detail – God’s plan. God has a perfect plan for my life and yours, which supplies all our needs – His Word (2 Peter 1:3). By His grace, we receive strength to rise above all our circumstances (Romans 8:31).
— Bob Schweikard © 2019

Cryptobenthic Fish and Coral Reefs

Cryptobenthic Fish and Coral ReefsThose of us who have spent many happy hours snorkeling in coral reefs tend to look at the big fish that we see in the reef. Groupers, sharks, rays, and parrotfish attract our attention. We can easily miss what makes the reef ecosystem work so that the larger fish can live there. Scientists are learning about cryptobenthic fish in the coral reefs.

Hanging around the reefs are tiny fish that are less than five centimeters long and easily escape our attention. They are known as cryptobenthic fish, and they exist in various species, some of which are known as blennies and gobies. Large numbers of them live in the rocks and crevices, and many of them are nocturnal.

Science News (June 22, 2019) reported on a recent study by scientists from Simon Fraser University in Canada. The study shows that these small fish provide a base to the food chain and allow the larger fish to survive. They don’t venture far from the corals that are attached to the floor of the reef. The cryptobenthic species include 17 families of fish that scientists have identified so far. Researchers in the past have overlooked most of them. Deron Burkepile, an ecologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says: “Their role is extremely important. We have definitely overlooked these little cryptobenthic species.”

As we look for the design features that God has built into every ecosystem on Earth, we find complexity and sophistication, allowing the system to function. New studies of the tiny cryptobenthic fish in coral reefs will tell us a great deal about the complexity of the reefs and what makes them work.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Zoopharmacognosy Animal Doctors

Zoopharmacognosy Animal Doctors Zoopharmacognosy is a word you don’t see every day. It’s actually a combination of three Greek words which mean “animal” (zoo), “drug” (pharma), and “knowing” (gnosy). It refers to animals using plants, soils, insects, or drugs to solve specific medical problems. It is animals (not humans) medicating themselves. Mammals, birds, and even insects use zoopharmacognosy to cure medical problems, and sometimes to prevent them. Here are a few examples.

It is fairly common to see a sick dog or cat eating grass to induce vomiting.

Sick chimpanzees swallow bitter leaves of Aspilia, a plant that contains an anti-parasitic chemical. The leaves are covered with bristles and bitter tasting so the chimps roll up the leaves and swallow them whole like we might take a pill.

Others chimps and bonobos with diarrhea will split open the stem of an Aframomum plant and suck the bitter juice. The juice contains chemicals which kill parasites which cause diarrhea.

Spider monkeys in Brazil have been seen eating seed pods from a tree known as monkey ear or elephant ear (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) during mating season. The fruit contains progesterone which promotes female fertility.

Brown bears make a paste from the chewed roots of osha (Ligusticum porteri) mixed with saliva and rub it into their fur to repel insects and soothe the bites. The plant contains coumarins which repel fleas and ticks.

To get rid of lice, many songbirds with put ants on their feathers or even roll in an anthill. The ants secrete formic acid, which kills feather lice.

Ants infected with Beauveria bassiana, a soil fungus, will eat harmful substances that are antifungal.

Many kinds of animals will eat dirt to absorb toxins, to combat parasites, or as an antacid. Sometimes they eat dirt to supplement minerals that are missing in their diet.

Pregnant elephants will chew the leaves of a specific tree in the Boraginaceae family to induce labor. Kenyan women make tea from those leaves to help with childbirth. In many cases, people have learned medicines and tonics from animals.

There are many more examples of zoopharmacognosy in which animals act as their own doctors. How did animals get this knowledge? It seems to be instinctive, not learned. Perhaps this instinct was put within the genetic code of these animals by their Creator.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Saguaro Desert Old-Timers

Saguaro Desert Old-TimersThe saguaro (pronounced suh-wah-roh) cactus is found only in the Sonoran Desert areas of southern Arizona, northern Mexico, and a small area of southeast California. We call them saguaro desert old-timers for a good reason. Saguaros grow very slowly as a single stem for perhaps 75 years before developing arms. Plants with five arms may be 200 years old.

Saguaro flowers bloom at night from April to June. They close by noon the next day, never to open again. Saguaro flowers can only be fertilized by cross-pollination so there must be a creature to carry pollen from one plant to another. Because the flowers bloom at night, bats are the pollinators. They drink the nectar and transfer pollen from plant to plant.

A successfully pollinated flower will produce a green, oval-shaped fruit with bright red pulp. Many desert creatures eat the fruit and aid the saguaros by spreading their seeds. Only a small percentage of the seeds will ever germinate, but that’s okay because each flower produces as many as 4000 seeds.

Not only do the saguaros have a symbiotic relationship with the bats which consume their nectar and the many creatures who consume its fruit, but it also provides shelter for many desert animals. Saguaros become apartment houses for birds, lizards, desert rodents, and reptiles, as well as a whole entourage of insects.

Saguaros are remarkably well-designed for life in a dry climate. The outside of the plant has pleats like an accordion. The pleats allow expansion for storing large quantities of water when the rains come. As with other cacti, the saguaro has needles rather than leaves to reduce the loss of moisture by transpiration.

Saguaro desert old-timers are designed in a marvelous way to live in the harsh conditions of the desert while providing food and shelter for various desert creatures. They are another indication of a Master Designer of life.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Romantic Get-Away Inside a Sponge

Venus flower basket
The Venus’ flower basket (Euplectella aspergillum) is a deep ocean sponge with fascinating properties and an unusual symbiotic relationship with a pair of crustaceans. We call it a romantic get-away inside a sponge.

The Venus’ flower basket is classified as a glass sponge because its body is made of silica, which is chemically the same as glass. The silica fibers are woven together to make a hollow, cylindrical vase-like structure. The fibers form a fine mesh which is rigid and strong enough to survive deep underwater. The picture shows a Venus’ flower basket more than 8400 feet (2572 meters) under the ocean’s surface.

Glassy fibers thin as a human hair but more flexible and sturdier than human-made optical fibers attach the sponge to the ocean floor. The sponge forms the fibers at ocean temperatures while human-made glass fibers require high-temperature furnaces to melt the glass. Human-made fibers are brittle while the sponge’s fibers are more flexible. Scientists are studying these sponges to find ways to make better fiber-optic cables.

We think it’s amazing that the Venus’ flower basket lights its fibers using bioluminescence to attract prey. Even more interesting to us is the symbiotic relationship these sponges have with some crustaceans called Stenopodidea. The Venus’ flower basket holds captive two of those small shrimp-like creatures, one male and one female, inside the sponge’s hollow mesh tube. The captive creatures clean the flower basket by eating the tiny organisms attracted by the sponge’s light and consume any waste the sponge leaves. The sponge provides the crustaceans with protection from predators.

As the crustaceans spawn, their offspring are small enough to escape from the basket and find their own sponge-home where they grow until they are trapped. Because a pair of crustaceans spend their lives together inside the sponge, Asian cultures sometimes use a dried Venus’ flower basket as a wedding gift to symbolize “till death do us part.”

The Venus’ flower basket and the crustaceans benefit each other by mutual cooperation, which we call symbiosis. One more thing, the bioluminescence comes from bacteria that the sponge collects. This amazing three-way partnership occurs deep under the ocean where humans have only recently explored. We think this romantic get-away inside a sponge is another evidence of Divine design, not chance mutations.
— Roland Earnst © 2019