Milk Production and Greenhouse Gases

Milk Production and Greenhouse GasesHow do you feed millions of humans and meet their nutritional needs without destroying the planet with greenhouse gases? The World Wildlife Federation has released data on one of the primary sources of food for more than six billion people worldwide – milk. The average person in the United States consumed 643 pounds (292 kg) of dairy products in 2017, including milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Those foods came from 9.3 million dairy cows, but there are 278 million in the world. Milk production has grown by 30% from 2005 to 2015, and that comes to 909 million tons. India is the leading producer with 20% of the world’s supply. The U.S. has 12%.

The design of cattle that can produce that much milk was recognized in prehistoric times, and cattle were worshiped because they provided so much food for humans. Skeptics would respond that the environmental impact of cattle is so huge that it is a bad design. It does take 144 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk in the U.S., with over 93% of it involved in growing feed for the cattle. The average dairy cow will eat 100 pounds of feed, and 9% of American cropland is used to grow feed crops for dairy cows. A cow will produce 17 gallons of urine and manure, which can pollute rivers and lakes, and they generate greenhouse gases.

The fact is that only 2% of the total U.S. emission of greenhouse gases comes from milk production. The Northern Great Plains cover 180 million acres in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The land became rich in resources and healthy when grazing animals such as bison aerated and fertilized the soil. With the past numbers of those animals gone, scientists now say that something else must fill that niche or erosion will increase, and invasive plants will take over. Studies by the World Wildlife Federation show that cattle production areas in the Northern Great Plains have lower per acre emissions than row crop agriculture such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. The most recent study shows “done right, ranching can help conserve biodiversity while minimizing its own environmental footprint.”

Like everything else that God has given us, milk production must be managed carefully and with a concern about “taking care of the garden, dressing and keeping it” (Genesis 2:15). Milk is one of God’s great blessings, and a land “flowing with milk and honey” is held out as the most favorable place to live.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: World Wildlife Federation Winter Quarter Report 2019-20. .

Wolf Spiders are One of God’s Dandy Designs

Wolf Spiders are One of God's Dandy DesignsThose of us who live in the United States Midwest are familiar with a very large spider species that we see frequently see in our sheds and outdoor equipment. These spiders have a creamy or golden cast with stripes on their heads and brown, gray, and black markings. Wolf Spiders are One of God’s Dandy Designs.

Wolf spiders have stout bodies covered with sensory hairs. They can run very quickly, and they don’t spin webs. Wolf spiders have eight eyes arranged in three rows. The bottom row has four small eyes, the second row has two large forward-facing eyes, and the top eyes are toward the back and side of the head.

After mating, female wolf spiders place their eggs in a silken sac. They attach the pouch to their bodies and carry them around until they are ready to hatch. When they hatch, the mother assists them by carrying them on her back. She can carry up to 100 spiderlings until they are prepared to function on their own. Sometimes the females will step into a water source and allow the babies to crawl down and get a drink and then crawl back up for safety.

Wolf spiders are agents designed to keep a balance in nature. Their diet consists of ants, grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects that pose a threat to humans and our crops. They can bite a human, but while the bite is uncomfortable, it is never lethal. Wolf spiders are one of God’s Dandy Designs to keep things in balance and prevent our crops from being ruined by insects. Eradicating spiders is not a good idea, and wolf spiders are one of the best friends we have.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from the Herald Bulletin by Sheryl Myers October 29, 2019.

Care and Maintenance of Pets

Care and Maintenance of PetsI am totally in awe of how much pets mean to people and how much they do for their owners. As people become more and more aware of the need to take care of planet Earth, they realize the environmental impact of the care and maintenance of pets.

When God created life on this planet, He built balance into all life. There were natural limits to the population of animals. There was a healthy relationship between prey and predator. Then humans killed off certain predators and transported animals to new areas where they had no predators. They sometimes adopted wild animals as pets and later released them or allowed them to escape into the wild. Those actions upset the balance, and today we are paying the price for that disturbance.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service tells us that cats, many of them feral, kill billions of birds every year. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature reports that wild and free-roaming dogs are a threat to the survival of almost 200 species around the world. Sometimes people obtain a cute baby crocodilian for a pet, and when it grows too large, they release it into the wild where it can become a danger to other animals or people. The Florida Everglades has a problem with Burmese pythons, which people released when they became too large for pets.

We have a great responsibility for control of the animals that God has given us to oversee. God said, “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the face of the earth” (Genesis 1:28). That doesn’t mean to destroy them. It means to take care of them and work to produce proper management of their lives. The selfishness and greed of humans harm the planet on several levels, including puppy mills and the neglect of animals in our control. The care and maintenance of pets is an area where we need to do better.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Learn from Trilobite Eyes

Learn from Trilobite EyesOne of the more interesting fossils you will ever find is a trilobite. This three-lobed ocean-going creature was an arthropod related to insects and crabs. Its closest living relative is probably the horseshoe crab, although behaviorally, it may have been more like a lobster or crayfish. Today we find beautifully preserved trilobite specimens in rocks dating back to the beginning of life on Earth. What can we learn from trilobite eyes?

We can study and learn from trilobite eyes because they were made of the mineral calcite. Calcite is the same mineral that makes up limestone, so it is quite hard and efficiently preserved. In its purest form, it is perfectly clear. Calcite possesses what scientists call a double index of refraction. Because of the arrangement of atoms in calcite, light arriving at one angle passes undisturbed while light at another angle will be split into two beams.

In addition to being made of calcite, the trilobite eye was made up of a honeycomb of hexagons. There could be several thousand hexagons in the eye arranged so that light from any angle would be refracted into the animal’s eye. If it came perpendicularly, the light would go straight to the back of the eye. If it came at an angle, the double index of refraction would still bring the light to the back of the eye. There was a small wall between the hexagons so that light from the hexagons did not overlap each other. When arthropods grow, they molt their outside layer, and the new larger layer hardens. The eye material would add hexagons as the animal got larger.

This kind of eye is similar to the eye of a housefly. Like flies, trilobites would have been especially good at detecting motion. They also would not have a problem with near-sightedness or far-sightedness. Something an inch away or a mile away would both be in focus at the same time.

There is one vision problem the trilobite would have. It’s called spherical aberration. The thickness of the materials in each hexagonal lens would not be the same, and that difference could distort the image. In the trilobite eye, this problem was solved by magnesium atoms added to the calcite in a way that corrects the aberration. Modern opticians do this with what they call a doublet lens.

Scientists have observed other special features in various species of trilobites. They have found some eyeless trilobites that probably lived in areas with no light, such as very deep in the ocean. Other eyes were mounted in ball-like structures that could move. Still others were positioned so that the animals could bury themselves in the sand like a stingray while their eyes could still look out for food or enemies.

There are many lessons we can learn from trilobite eyes. The incredible complexity is a tribute to God’s wisdom and design. In this case, the complexity is of particular interest because trilobites were some of the first animals to live on this planet. That fact presents a problem for those who say complexity is a result of evolutionary forces over a very long time. Trilobites already had a sophisticated visual system when they first appeared in the fossil record in the Cambrian period 500 million years ago. Darwinistic models cannot explain the trilobite eye, but the God of the Bible can.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Dinosaurs and the Bible

Dinosaurs and the BibleThe largest and best-funded apologetics organization in the world today is the Institute for Creation Research. They are strongly supported by fundamentalist Christian groups that have dispensational theologies. While they promote several denominational doctrines that aren’t supported by the Bible, and some of their science is not accurate, they do have a great deal of useful scientific data that supports the existence of God. However, they ran into a problem concerning “dinosaurs and the Bible.”

The most fundamental problem with the position of ICR is stated in these words from the November 2019 issue of their magazine Acts and Facts (page 4):

“Instead of attempting to harmonize the inerrant Word of God with a flimsy scientific model, Christians would do far better to simply take God’s Word at face value.”

The fact is that not all science is flimsy. Also, taking the Bible at face value when “face value” means a questionable interpretation of an inferior English translation. We have often dealt with dinosaurs and the Bible before. You can find some of our previous posts HERE and HERE.

There is no question but that those of us who believe in God and the Bible as His Word share common problems. In that same issue of Acts and Facts, Jayme Durant, the editor of the magazine, tells of trying to put up billboards in the Dallas area. They wanted to advertise the Discovery Center, a new multi-million dollar museum they have opened in the Dallas area. The billboards had their logo with the simple message “Dinosaurs and the Bible?” Two of the billboard companies would not allow ICR to display their message as long as they used the words “Bible” and “Dinosaur” together.

Here is the complete message of the sign owners:

“It’s controversial to have a statement that may challenge local beliefs. Saying ‘Dinosaurs and the Bible?’ may stir the pot in that area and cause problems for the sign in that area.”

Durant points out that “…making people think about something that might be outside their paradigm is apparently unacceptable by much of the American public.” Our society continues to show its bias and antagonism toward God and the Bible. Durant concludes her essay by writing, “You might be accused of stirring the pot. But that’s okay–your life is your billboard. And every day, you can choose the message you display.” We may not agree with ICR on dinosaurs and the Bible, but we certainly agree on that.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Tool Use Is Not What Makes Humans Unique

Tool Use Is Not What Makes Humans UniqueWhen I took my first anthropology course at Indiana University in 1958, the professors said that humans are the only animals that fashion and use tools. Later, scientists discovered that chimpanzees could smash rocks until they get one that has a sharp edge. Then they use that sharp edge as a tool to cut open fruit or dig for ants. Louis Leakey, the anthropology guru of that time, stated, “We are either going to have to change our definition of man, or invite the chimps to send a representative to the United Nations.” Tool use is not what makes humans unique.

Since that time, other animals have been observed using tools and some even manufacturing tools. Nuthatches can find a stick that they can slide under the bark of a tree to get at a bug. Crows can fashion a stick and use it to get into a milk bottle. The picture shows a macaque using a stone to smash a crab shell for food. Science now says that less than one percent of all animals use tools, but that number keeps growing. Discover Magazine for November 2019 (page 22), contained an article about skunks picking up a rock and pounding on the ice in a pond to make a hole for drinking.

The Bible does not identify humans according to tool use or any technological accomplishment. Mentally challenged humans might not make tools or use them, but they are still humans, no matter what their abilities. What defines humans is our spiritual makeup, which the Bible describes as being in the image of God. This image gives us the capacity to express ourselves in worship, in artistic expression, and in the ability to feel guilt and be sympathetic. Tool use is just one of many designed characteristics built into the DNA of many forms of life. But tool use is not what makes humans unique.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Beauty of Earth’s Diversity

Beauty of Earths DiversityThe plant in the picture is called the “bird of paradise.” It is neither a bird, nor is it found in paradise. However, it is indeed a beautiful example of the beauty of Earth’s diversity in the plant world. One of the primary reasons many of us enjoy travel and visiting museums, zoos, and arboretums is that we are enthralled with the incredible diversity of living things.

We want to suggest that this diversity is more than a device to entertain us humans. From a scientific standpoint, it is the diversity of life on Earth that has led to the high standard of living available to us on this planet. As geneticists unravel the genome of living things, it becomes more and more apparent why agricultural breeding practices of the past have been successful. The production of super chickens, super cows, low-fat pork, and all the other unique breeds has been possible because of all the different genetic options God built into life. If, for example, there had been only one set of genes for all bovines on this planet, such cattle as the Charolais would not have been possible. It is only because we have an infinite number of genetic possibilities to draw from that we can select those that will serve our particular needs.

In plants, this is equally obvious. We have only begun to appreciate all that plants can do. Scientists have studied only a small percentage of all plants on this planet to see how we can use them. Cures for cancer, AIDS, the common cold, and a variety of other ailments may well be in a plant we have not yet investigated. It is self-evident in today’s world that solving the problem of hunger lies in the fuller use of plants. The diversity of plants holds the key to better nutrition, more and better fabrics to protect and shelter us, and even the improvement of air quality.

In God’s creative wisdom, He gave us a wide diversity of life of all kinds and told us to “take care of the Garden, dress it, and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The future has vast potential for good if we will use in a constructive way all that God has given us. To arbitrarily destroy any of this diversity and thus end its potential usefulness is not only poor management of the “Garden,” but also the worst kind of foolishness.

We also suggest that the beauty of Earth’s diversity of humans offers the potential for vast good. Each of us has a gift designed into our makeup that uniquely qualifies us to bring great blessings to others. Paul said it best:

“According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service, if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8). See also 1 Corinthians 12:8-27.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Great Auk and Human Stewardship Failure

Great Auk and Human Stewardship FailureIt was a flightless North Atlantic bird that stood upright 30-33 inches (75-85 cm) tall and weighed 11 pounds (5 kg). Its small wings were less than 6 inches (15 cm) long. It’s also the story of the great auk and human stewardship failure.

The fact that the great auk couldn’t fly and that it was large enough to provide a meal for hungry sailors is a major reason why it became extinct. People also killed them for their feathers. As the great auk was nearing extinction, people killed the last ones to stuff their skins and display them as trophies in museums and private collections.

Though the great auk couldn’t fly in the air, it did fly underwater. Some might say this bird was poorly designed with its large body and small wings. But underwater, those wings became fins to pursue and catch fish. Larger wings would have been a hindrance underwater. The large size of this bird gave evidence that it found abundant food and had no need to fly in the air.

Great auks had few predators, but since they couldn’t fly and were slow on land, they became easy prey for humans. When it was evident that they were becoming extinct, great auks became more valuable. Collectors wanted a stuffed bird for a trophy, and museums wanted one for display. At last, there was only one breeding pair and one egg left on Eldey Island off the coast of Iceland. On July 3, 1844, three men climbed up on Eldey Island, killed the last two birds, and smashed the egg. The great auk was no more.

The picture shows a monument to the great auk in Iceland facing toward Eldey, the rocky island where the birds made their last stand. It tells the sad story of the great auk and human stewardship failure. God gave humans the duty to care for His creation. He commanded Adam and Eve to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Jesus told us that God cares for the birds. (See Matthew 6:26 and Luke 12:6.) The Apostle Paul in Romans 13:4 talks about human rulers. He wrote that they are “God’s servants for your good.” I think we can apply that concept of rulers to our duty toward the living creatures God created. We are stewards entrusted with caring for the world God gave us, including the living creatures.

Today there is a lack of regard even for human life. For the sake of convenience, people kill babies before they are born. Others set out to kill as many people as possible using guns or vehicles. The great auk and human stewardship failure is a reminder of how many times humans have failed to keep God’s commands. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by Grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5 CSV).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Ghostly Seadevil Finds a Mate in the Dark

Ghostly Seadevil Finds a Mate in the DarkMore than a mile (2250 meters) below the ocean, there is a world of darkness. Finding a mate in that dark place could be a challenge, but a species of anglerfish with the scientific name Haplophryne mollis has the problem solved. The solution is to keep your mate permanently attached. The so-called ghostly seadevil finds a mate in the dark and doesn’t let go.

The female sends out pheromones, chemicals which attract the males. The males, which are much smaller than the females, have a keen sense of smell to detect the pheromones in the water. Ghostly seadevils are called anglerfish because they have a “fishing lure” in front of their face to attract other fish which they eat. In the case of the ghostly seadevil, only the female has the lure, and it’s bioluminescent, meaning that it glows in the dark.

Once the male has detected the pheromone, he looks for the glowing lure. He examines the shape, color pattern, and flash pattern of the lure to tell if this is a female of his same species. If it is, he clamps onto her with his teeth and doesn’t let go. Eventually, their skin grows together, and their blood vessels join. She provides his nourishment, and he fertilizes the eggs which she lays. The eggs float upward to the ocean’s surface where they hatch, and the larvae feed on plankton. As they mature, the seadevils migrate back down into the ocean depths and repeat the cycle of life.

This is a drawing because pictures are hard to get in the dark ocean. In this case, you can see that two males have attached themselves. You can also see the bioluminescent lure on the front of the female fish’s head, and that’s how the ghostly seadevil finds a mate in the dark. They have a “ghostly” appearance because their bodies are translucent like many creatures living in darkness. This cycle of life seems strange, but it has too many coincidences to be accidental. We think it shows the creativity of the God who designed life to survive everywhere on Earth.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Animal Sizes and Human Benefits

Animal Sizes and Human BenefitsThere have always been large animals living on planet Earth, and there are also massive numbers of small animals. The question is whether there is a reason for each of these to exist. What is the reason for animal sizes?

Large animals require not only a lot of room but also significant amounts of food to provide energy for their massive bodies. In ancient times, dinosaurs became enormous. Their capacity to eat large quantities of plant material and spread the seeds was also huge. Today, our large animals such as rhinos and elephants are nowhere near the size of many of the dinosaurs. Still, they are large, and they consume enormous amounts of plant material. A whole ecosystem is built around these large animals, but the space available to house them is becoming smaller and smaller. Most scientific studies indicate the likely extinction of the large animal forms.

Researchers at England’s University of Southampton have been studying 15,500 mammal and bird species to ask what the future holds for large animals. Their studies show that in the next 100 years, the average body mass of mammals will shrink by 25%. As the larger animals become extinct, smaller, fertile animals will replace them.

The design of this system is amazing. In the primitive Earth, there was a need to provide resources in massive quantities over a large geographic area, and the larger animals could do that. As we dig into the fossil records of Earth, we see evidence of how successful this system was. Massive coal beds speak of conditions very different from those of today. Providing these resources required enormous animals.

Environmental change has made the production of these kinds of resources unnecessary. God designed the system in such a way that size fits the needs of the ecosystem. While we are reluctant to allow large animals to become extinct, their survival is no longer critical to the continuance of the ecosystem in which they live. Human influence has also been a factor in the reduction of animal sizes.

We find an example of the importance of small animal sizes in the oceans. Coral reefs are critical to the survival of ecosystems along the shorelines of the world. The United States Geological Survey reports that in U.S. Waters, coral reefs provide more than 1.8 billion dollars in flood protection benefits every year. The reefs are vast collections of tiny organisms which break waves, drain energy from ocean storms, and protect the land along the shoreline. In 2017 tropical storms caused more than $265 billion in damage in the United States. Much of that damage was due to the destruction of coral reefs.

God has designed animal sizes to allow them to benefit humans. He has left it to us to understand how these systems work and protect and nurture them. We live in an amazing world that has been created with wisdom and purpose. Understanding how animals benefit us will lead to protecting and caring for the world in which we live.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from National Wildlife, October/November 2019, page 8.