DNA Barcodes Support Biblical Record

DNA Barcodes Support Biblical Record
Nearly every day the newspaper has an article that announces some new research on DNA. One of the recent applications of DNA research is to classify living things. Classification is an old issue, going back to Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:19-20 God brought all kinds of living organisms before Adam so that he could name them. In 1 Kings 4:33 Solomon wrestled with the issue as well. Our current system of naming living things was brought into existence by Carl Linnaeus in the 1700s, but it is gradually being replaced by what is called DNA barcodes.

You can compare DNA barcodes to the barcodes we see when we shop for merchandise. Instead of bars, DNA barcodes are a string of DNA nucleotides. In 2003 scientists began to identify species by these nucleotides. Mitochondria are rod-shaped organelles that can be considered the power generators of the cell. They convert oxygen and nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical energy that powers the cell’s metabolic activities. There is one gene named cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COX1) which is found in mitochondria. It is passed only from mother to offspring. The mixing of traits from the father and mother does not happen in this mitochondria, so the DNA nucleotides in mitochondria make it ideal to use in identifying species.

Studies by M.Y. Stoeckle and D.S. Thaler have involved analyzing the DNA barcodes from five million individual organisms which represent 100,000 different species. What they found was that barcode variations within a species vary by small amounts, and there are huge gaps between the species. What that means historically is that each species is essentially an island not connected to other species. If all species came from a common ancestor, you would not see this, but you would see a river from island to island.

The biblical record is very consistent in identifying the groupings of living things. In our materials, we have referred to these “islands” as being “trees in the forest of life.” First Corinthians 15:39 identifies these “islands” or “trees” in this way: “There is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts (mammals), another flesh of birds and another flesh of fish.” This same grouping is used consistently in the Bible with Genesis 1 & 2 in describing the creation of life, Genesis 7:14 describing what Noah took on the Ark, and 1 Kings 4:33.

There are many more trees or islands than the Bible describes, and they contain living things that may vary enormously. A major debate in science is whether the dinosaurs were birds or reptiles. DNA barcodes may answer that question, but the implications for the biblical record are not significant. The single “tree of evolution” which has been popular for a very long time does not fit the DNA bar code evidence, but the biblical system does. New research is leading to new understandings both scientifically and biblically. It is an exciting time to be alive and to learn from new scientific tools how accurate the biblical record is and how wise God has been in His creation techniques.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

For further information, go to this website: https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/cells/mitochondria/mitochondria.html

Best Animal Eye

Best Animal Eye
What is the best animal eye? Engineers at the University of Illinois have been researching that question. They have now built the world’s best camera by copying that animal. Their new camera could help military drones see camouflaged or shadowed targets. Their discovery also will allow surgeons to perform many kinds of operations more accurately. They have learned all this from the animal which possesses the best eye known to science. The best animal eye belongs to a small creature known as the mantis shrimp. Here are some of the ways the mantis shrimp’s eyes are superior to all others:

The eye of a mantis shrimp has a dozen different kinds of light receptor cells so they can sense properties of light invisible to other animals. Human eyes have only three types of light receptor cells.

The mantis shrimp eye can sense polarized light which has waves that undulate in one plane. Light reflecting off of a surface is always polarized. This ability allows the mantis shrimp to see objects that would otherwise be invisible because of blending into the background.

A mantis shrimp’s eyes are constructed so that each pixel has a rhabdom which is a rodlike structure made of light receptors. The rhabdoms have threadlike structures called microvilli alternately stacked at right angles. That means the shrimp has cells in the two hemispheres of the eye which are tilted 45 degrees to each other allowing their eyes to detect four polarization directions.

The eye of the mantis shrimp can detect an extensive range of light intensities of light to dark known as the dynamic range. This means that they can see clearly even when there is a very bright area next to a very dark area.

The mantis shrimp is the only animal that can sense a full spectrum of colors and can see the polarization of each color. That means that when there is a complicated background, the animal can still get a clear image.

Electrical and computer engineer Victor Gruev and his research team have already made a camera based on the best animal eye. It has a dynamic range which is about 10,000 times higher than today’s commercial cameras. Gruev and the team are working on a commercial version of their camera. Produced in bulk quantities the improved sensors would cost only $10 each.

There seems to be little doubt that this will be the camera of the future, and science has learned how to make it by studying the best animal eye of one of God’s smallest creatures.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Scientific American, February 2019, Page 12, or online HERE.
To see our earlier report on the mantis shrimp’s visual system click HERE.

Human Wildlife Management

Human Wildlife Management of the Red Wolf
Environmentalists claim that animal species are becoming extinct and that we must preserve their DNA. The problem with this claim is that as the environment changes, animals may not be able to survive. An example is animals that have a very specialized diet, such as eating mostly on bamboo. If something wipes out the bamboo, what are these animals to do? We can save samples of their DNA, but moving them away from their natural habitat to a different place where bamboo is growing may not be the answer. It can expose them to predators and diseases that were not present in their original environment. We call this human wildlife management. While in some cases it can correct what humans have done, there are many cases where humans are not the cause. Massive investments may only delay the inevitable extinction of an animal.

The red wolf is a current example of human wildlife management. Red wolves were once common across a large region of Texas and Louisiana. The red wolf was classified as endangered in 1967 and extinct in 1980, although some were living in zoos and wildlife facilities. In the 1970s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bred red wolves and in 1986 introduced them to the wild in North Carolina. By 2006 there were over 100 wolves in North Carolina, but the population was not healthy. Many were killed by farmers and ranchers so that by April of 2018, fewer than 50 remained.

Recently a pack of red wolves was found on Galveston Island in Texas. At first, red wolf advocates were delighted. Then they became dismayed when scientists found that the Galveston wolves had DNA that was different from the original red wolves. The change in the DNA may be in part from coyotes in the area. We would suggest that God created red wolves to occupy a particular environmental niche. When that niche was changed, no matter what changed it, another design feature kicked in. That design feature which God has placed in living things is hybridization.

Hybridization is the interbreeding of two animals who are genetically close but not identical. The offspring produced by this mix of genes is often stronger and more resilient than either of the parents. When the Endangered Species Act was implemented in the 1970s hybridization was considered to be something to avoid. The reality is that God’s design allows animals to continue to prosper through hybridization.

Elizabeth Heppenheimer is a biologist from Princeton who has been studying the wolves on Galveston Island. She says, “Now we know hybridization is relatively common in natural systems and does not always have negative consequences, but the policy (of human wildlife management) hasn’t quite caught up with this notion.”

God’s methods work, and when humans try to replace God’s design with human judgments and controls, the results are frequently not what is best.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from “DNA Discovery” by David Warren, Associated Press January 15, 2019.

Ice Algae – Designed Polar Grass

Ice Algae
Have you ever wondered how animals that live near Earth’s North and South Poles survive? What do they eat, and how can any kind of food chain exist? The answer to this is ice algae.

Unlike most plants, algae do not have flowers, roots, stems, leaves, or vascular tissue. However, ice algae, like most plants, provide the starting point for a food chain. In this case, it is a food chain in very cold places. Tiny krill, penguins, seals, polar bears, and blue whales all depend on ice algae to survive. In 2016 Dr. Thomas Brown of the Scottish Association for Marine Science studied polar bears and found that 86% of the polar bears’ nutrition came from a food chain that originated with ice algae.

Ice algae have chlorophyll so they can use whatever light is available for photosynthesis. There are a variety of types of algae that live in different conditions. Some live on the surface of the ocean, some on the floor of the ocean, and some in or on the ice itself. Ice algae produce fatty acids which supply nutritional value for animals that live in what would otherwise be a nutritional void. Because there is ice algae, animal life is abundant under, in, and around the ice at both poles.

God has provided interesting food chains all over the planet. As we study global warming and its effect on life in places like the polar seas, we see more of His handiwork and learn why we need to take care of it. The admonition of Genesis 2:15 to “take care of the garden to dress it and keep it” applies as much to us today as it did to Adam and Eve.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from National Wildlife, February/March 2019, pages 14-16.

 

Seeing With Whiskers

Seeing with Whiskers
Have you ever wondered how cats can navigate in a dark room? Dr. Hendrick Van der Loos is an expert on the role of whiskers in animals. His research team at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland has shown an amazing demonstration of what cats can do by seeing with whiskers.

They blindfold cats and put them in a room with toys and other obstacles scattered around. The cats could navigate the room as well as cats with full sight because of their whiskers. The ancient Egyptians believed that cats had mysterious powers because they observed cats hunting mice in complete darkness.

We now know that not only cats but also walruses, pigs, seals, moles, and even whip-poor-wills have whiskers designed to meet their specific needs. The secret in all of these animals is that they possess specialized touch-sensitive hairs called vibrissae which are embedded deeply in the skin and resting in tiny sacs of fluid which pivot like a straw in a bottle of soda-pop. Brushing a whisker generates an electric signal in the fluid which is surrounded by nerves. The nerves feed the signal to the brain. This system is so sensitive that animals can detect the change of air currents around an object. They are seeing with whiskers which serve essentially as a tactile third eye.

A blindfolded cat can catch and kill a mouse. High-speed photography shows that a cat on the prowl for a mouse holds its whiskers in a fan-shaped pattern. Just before pouncing, the cat shifts its whiskers forward around its mouth. When the cat makes contact with the mouse, the whiskers tell the cat which way the mouse is dodging. As the whiskers wrap around the mouse, the cat can detect ahead of time which direction the mouse is trying to go.

A walrus will cruise around the floor of the ocean with its rump up and its head down stirring up the sea floor, so sight is useless. The walrus roots through the clouded water sorting out anything that might be good to eat by seeing with whiskers. Since walruses feed at night, there is the added benefit of being able to eat 24 hours a day. Moles have whiskers around their feet and tails which can detect insects in total darkness underground. Whip-poor-wills, nighthawks, and nightjars have whiskers near their beaks and are active after dark.

Human whiskers are just hair, and they serve only decorative purposes. True whiskers were designed by God to provide special tools for animals to survive. They allow the normal processes of life to be carried on 24/7, and they speak eloquently of God’s wisdom and design in the world all around us.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Tully Monster

Tully Monster
During my senior year in high school amateur fossil collector Francis Tully discovered the fossil of an extraordinary animal in the Mazon Creek collecting area near Chicago. It was so odd that the state of Illinois made it the state’s official fossil. The scientific name of this extinct animal is Tullimonstrum gregarium, but it is colloquially known as the Tully monster.

The rocks around Chicago are part of an old reef, and a well-known part of the rock formation is the world’s largest gravel pit called “Thornton Reef.” I have taken students to that quarry several times when I was teaching earth science. It is an amazing fossil collecting area.

The Tully monster was tube-shaped with eyes on a stalk sticking off of the ten-inch long body. It had a mouth which was very long and terminated in what appeared to be a single pincer style of grabber similar to a lobster. Newer finds suggest that the animal had a notochord which was essentially a primitive backbone. The shape of the notochord is similar to that seen in lampreys. Researchers at Yale University say lampreys are analogs, but there is a great deal left to learn about the mysterious lifestyle of this ancient creature.

A very unusual set of circumstances is required to preserve an animal fossil such as Tully monster. Finds like that are rare events, but since the 1950s many more Tully monster fossils have been found, all in Illinois. We have much to learn about what animals lived and how they lived in the past. Future discoveries will alter our understanding of how God prepared the Earth for humans.

At the same time, there is much we can understand about what has led to the Earth we enjoy. That is because much of Earth’s history has been preserved in the rocks. A booklet available on our doesgodexist.org website is “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word.” We encourage you to read that free online booklet for more information on this topic.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Scientific American, May 2016, page 14, and Wikipedia.

Why Don’t Birds Have Ears?

Why Dont Birds Have Ears?
Someone asked, “Why don’t birds have ears?” Actually, birds do have ears. What they don’t have is what biologists call “auricles” and zoologists call “pinnas.” Those are the things that stick out from the heads of people and most mammals and that we usually call “ears.”

The most critical ear parts are not outside but inside the head. Birds have those parts. Most birds have excellent hearing in spite of not having visible “ears.” The ear openings are not visible because they’re covered with feathers. The feathers are often designed to channel the sounds into the ear canal, just as our auricles are.

Parrots have such good hearing that before the invention of radar they were used to detect the engine hum of distant enemy airplanes. They would squawk a warning of danger. Migrating birds use sounds along with other clues to find their destination. Homing pigeons listen for sounds to help guide them to their familiar roost.

Another design factor to consider is wind resistance. What would happen if birds had ears that stuck out from their heads? It would slow them down in flight. Also, consider the noise you hear when facing into the wind on a blustery day. Without the pinnas, birds don’t pick up so much wind noise when they’re flying.

So now you know the answer if someone asks, “Why don’t birds have ears?” Don’t worry about not seeing ears poking out from a bird’s head. It’s just another indication of good design by the Master Designer of life.
–Roland Earnst ©2019

Shivering in the Cold

Shivering in the Cold
As I write this on January 21, my outdoor thermometer says that the temperature here in Michigan is -5 degrees Fahrenheit. I just graded a correspondence course from a young lady who lives in Tennessee. She asked, “How can the squirrels I see outside live when it is so cold here, and not even shiver?” It was 35 degrees Fahrenheit where she lives. Why don’t we see squirrels and other animals shivering in the cold?

Recently an atheist said that if God did exist, He wouldn’t make incredibly cold places like Alaska. In his mind, God is just too cruel to believe in. He would rather have the whole planet be like where he lives in central Florida.

There are so many problems with that view it would take much more space to discuss them all. The fact is that many animals are designed for the cold, right on down to making their bodies not feel it. The February/March 2019 issue of National Wildlife (page 8) has an interesting discussion about species of animals that have cold-sensing nerve cells that don’t feel temperatures below 68 degrees F. This allows an animal’s body temperature to drop for long periods so they can hibernate. They do not experience the cold that would keep them awake. Animals that don’t hibernate can survive and be active in temperatures as low as 35 degrees F without feeling the cold, and they can do so for up to nine months.

There are many benefits of animal hibernation both for them and for the ecosystems in which they live. God is sensitive to the problems produced by very cold conditions or even uncomfortable temperatures for humans. He has designed not only the conditions but also the physiological makeup of the living things that exist within those systems so they won’t be left shivering in the cold.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Amoeba Can Solve TSP

Amoeba Can Solve TSP
A famous challenge in computer science is called “The Traveling Salesman Problem,” or TSP for sort. Scientists in Tokyo have found that a one-celled amoeba can solve TSP.

The problem goes like this:
Suppose you are a traveling salesperson going from city to city to sell your goods. You want to maximize your efficiency to make as much money in as little time as possible. You want to find the shortest path that will let you hit every city on your route one time and return you to the starting point.

There is no simple mathematical formula to find the best route. The only way to solve the problem is to calculate the length of each possible route and see which is the shortest. The problem gets exponentially harder as more cities are added to the route. With four cities there are only three different routes to consider, but with six cities there are 360 different routes. If you had ten cities or more, the number of routes could be in the millions. With an increase in the number of cities, the number of routes increases logarithmically.

The traveling salesman problem is one of a broad class of problems computer scientists call “NP-hard.” (NP stands for nondeterministic polynomial time. People involved in hacking encrypted systems and mining cryptocurrency are interested in this sort of problem.)

At Keio University in Tokyo, scientists have discovered that an amoeba can solve TSP, with the help of some human ingenuity. They used a single-cell slime mold amoeba known as Physarum polycephalum which moves toward food and away from light. The scientists built a chamber filled with channels and placed some food at the end of each channel. The channels represent a city on the salesman’s route. The amoeba would extend tendrils into the channels to get the food. As it reached the food, a light would go on in that channel so that the amoeba would not go back to the same “city.”

The advantage is that that the amoeba doesn’t have to calculate every individual path as most computer algorithms do. Instead, the amoeba just reacts passively to the conditions and figures out the best possible arrangement by itself. What this means is that for the amoeba, adding more cities (channels) only increases the time linearly rather than logarithmically.

The lead study author Masashi Aono said, “The mechanism by which the amoeba maintains the quality of the approximate solution, that is, the short route length, remains a mystery.” If researchers can figure out how the amoeba can solve TSP, it could speed up our ability to solve all kinds of challenging computational problems.

This design feature in one of God’s simplest creatures is another demonstration of how we can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:19-23).
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2019

Reference- https://www.sciencealert.com/an-amoeba-has-solved-an-exponentially-complex-problem-in-linear-time

Chocolate Flies at Work

Chocolate Flies at Work - Cacao Tree Flowers and Pod
Thank God for chocolate flies. No, we are not talking about chocolate-covered houseflies. That sounds repulsive to us too. We are talking about the tiny flies that are essential to the production of the chocolate we love.

Chocolate comes from the seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) which is native to the rainforests of South America. When early tribes in the Amazon and Orinoco River area discovered uses for the cacao tree, they started what became a chocolate craze that is still going on today. From there, interest in the trees and the tasty substance they produce spread to more of northern South America, into Central America, and into Mexico. The Aztecs even used cacao beans as money.

However, growing the cacao beans is not easy. The tiny white flowers that produce the beans require a small insect pollinator. The flowers grow out of the trunk of the tree where pollination by a bird or mammal would not be practical. Even bees or butterflies are too large. That’s where the chocolate flies come in. The pollinators that can do the job are tiny flies, or midges, in the family Ceratopogonidae. They are small enough to get into the flowers, and they are on the right work schedule. The cacao flowers open just before dawn—a time when the midges are most active. It seems like a planned arrangement. They are not really chocolate flies, but they are essential helpers for chocolate farmers.

As farmers began to grow cacao on plantations, the pollination process was not working well. Human pollination of the flowers by hand is a difficult job and not as effective as the work of the little flies. The midges were not doing the job because they prefer the shade of the rainforest over the open spaces of cacao plantations. Coincidentally cacao trees grow well in shady areas.

Farmers found a solution by planting small areas of cacao in the ecosystem of rainforest areas. Of course, that limits the areas where it can be grown and thus the amount of chocolate produced. However, the people of the world will not give up their desire for chocolate, and a fly the size of a pin-head makes it possible. This is just one more example of the importance of rainforests and the excellent design God has given this amazing planet.
–Roland Earnst © 2019