Quingiang Biota and the Cambrian Explosion

Quingiang Biota and the Cambrian Explosion

Paleontologists who study the earliest fossils of life on Earth refer to an event they call the “Cambrian Explosion.” The fossils from that event are unique because they have advanced body plans and no previous ancestors. A vast range of marine species that lived in an ancient sea suddenly appeared in the fossil record. A new discovery of fossils from the Cambrian Explosion is known as the Quingiang biota. Scientists are calling it one of the most significant fossil discoveries in the last 100 years.

Scientists made the find near the Danshui River in the Hubei province of China. It appears to be an ancient mudslide that buried a vast range of fossils. The site contains at least 20,000 individual specimens. At last report, 4,351 fossils have been examined, and they represent 101 different species. Fifty-three of those are new to science meaning that fossils of those species have not been found before. Because they were buried so quickly, not just shells, but even some soft parts have been preserved including muscles, guts, etc.

This find gives further support to the Cambrian Explosion model that says marine life suddenly appeared on planet Earth. This conflicts with the Darwinian concept that life evolved over a long time with one form gradually changing into another. The biblical narrative tells us “God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life” (Genesis 1:20). That is what the Quingiang biota shows.
— John N. Clayton ©2019

Data from The Week, April 12, 2019, page 21 and wikipedia.org.

Black Hole Picture and The Beginning

Black Hole Picture

On April 11, 2019, scientists released the first actual image ever taken of a black hole. The black hole picture used wavelengths that are outside of what our eyes can detect. Astronomers used eight radio telescopes to see wavelengths that are beyond human vision. They photographed a black hole that is as large as our entire solar system, so it is a supermassive black hole.

This scientific accomplishment is significant because it allows scientists to test some of the predictions of Albert Einstein even down to the shape of the hole. A black hole is so massive that even light itself cannot escape the gravitational pull. The relationship of gravity and the shape of space is a concept proposed by Einstein that has radically improved our understanding of the nature of the universe.

There are important implications for apologetics in this discovery as well. A significant question that has been debated by atheists and believers for hundreds of years is whether the universe had a beginning or whether it has always existed. The biblical concept is that there was a beginning. Well-known atheists have claimed that matter/energy is eternal and just gets changed from one form to another forever. The nature of a black hole is that it sucks in everything that gets near it, including light. There is no escaping a black hole and attempts to propose a way around this fact such as wormholes and white holes have all been disproven.

If the universe has existed forever, and if black holes are continuously sucking in all matter including electromagnetic radiation, what would be the ultimate result? It seems pretty obvious that everything would have been sucked up by black holes and there would be nothing left but one supermassive black hole. That obviously isn’t the case, so there must have been a beginning to the creation.

If there was a beginning, there had to be a cause to that beginning. Ideas such as string theory and brane theory have attempted to get around this logical point without success. If there was a cause, there has to be a causer. The design, intelligence, and purpose that we see in the cosmos identify some of the properties of that causer, and God fits those criteria uniquely.

The black hole picture is another case where the advancement of science provides evidence for the factual nature of, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the Earth. “

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Exoplanets and TESS

Exoplanets and TESS
Data is coming in from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, known as TESS for short. It is the most powerful telescope ever deployed to look for planets orbiting other stars. Over two years, TESS can cover all 360 degrees of sky visible from Earth’s orbit. Our previous satellite called Kepler could only scan a small segment of the sky. Already Tess has identified over 300 probable exoplanets including one named HD 21749b which has the lowest known temperature for a planet orbiting a bright nearby star. (“Nearby” being 53 light-years away.)

The problem with this is that what astronomers consider “cool” is not cool from our standpoint. The surface temperature of HD 21749b is 150 degrees Celsius, which is way too hot for liquid water. (Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.) A year on that planet equals 36 Earth days as it makes a complete orbit around its star. Most of the other exoplanets found at this time are vastly hotter than HD 21749b.

Astronomers have found other planetary systems, but they again have properties that would preclude any kind of life. Some of them have a planetary density equal to that of pure water. Some have orbits that are highly eccentric. Pi Mensae b, for example, has an orbit that varies widely. Its closest distance to its star approximately equals the distance from Earth to our Sun. The longest distance is similar to Jupiter’s distance from the Sun.

All of this continues to tell us that Earth is a unique planet orbiting a unique star. It is possible that those stars with exoplanets are undergoing an evolutionary process that could result in Earth-like planets billions of years from now. As we study them, we are learning more and more about what God did to create the “heaven and the earth.” God’s power and design become more amazing to us as we learn more about the universe. The more we learn, the more we see what Frank C. Baxter, who hosted the old Bell System Science TV Series, called “the wonder-working hand that has gone before us.”
–John N. Clayton © 2019

If you would like the nostalgia of watching Frank Baxter in the Bell System Science Series click HERE or HERE.

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

Darwin Day – Evolution Weekend

Darwin Day – Evolution Weekend
February 12 is Darwin Day to mark the birthday of Charles Darwin. There is an organization which exists to encourage encourages schools, museums, churches, and universities through the registry of the Darwin Day Celebration website. The stated purpose is to “honor the life and work of Charles Darwin.” The National Center for Science Education is the major supporter of the celebration.

Leading up to Darwin Day, February 8-10 this year is designated as Evolution Weekend. Michael Zimmerman who initiated this event says, “Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between science and religion.” He goes on to say, “Those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.” According to Zimmerman, 202 congregations in 45 states and five foreign countries are holding Evolution Weekend events. Several large denominations are a part of this effort.

We agree that we do not have to choose between science and faith. We have posted many articles pointing out that evolution is not the issue. Change certainly happens in living things, and the Bible talks about specific examples of evolution such as what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks. The issue is Naturalism, based on common descent from one-celled life to human beings.

Naturalism is a philosophy which denies God had anything to do with the history of life on Earth. Naturalism insists that we can explain everything we see by natural means which we can discover through science. This is an atheistic philosophy, and it is poorly supported by the evidence. The fact that life is designed to be able to change is the basis of agriculture, medicine, and environmental science. Darwinism does not even begin to explain where life came from as we pointed out in THIS PREVIOUS POST.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Too Much Water on Earth?

Too Much Water on Earth?
“God goofed when He made so much water and so little land!” I recently heard a real estate salesman say that in a sales pitch to sell expensive lots. If you have taken a long intercontinental trip by plane or ship, you might tend to agree. Water covers roughly 75% of the surface of our planet. With our huge growth in human population, land suitable for human occupation is becoming scarce. Is there too much water on Earth? The answer to that question is a resounding “NO!!!” Every living cell depends on water, but the properties of water combined with its distribution and abundance cause its importance to go far beyond that fact.

Water is highly reflective. Ocean water reflects much of the light energy from the Sun back into space, so Earth’s surface does not become overheated. This is especially important because most of our surface water is in the Southern Hemisphere. When Earth’s orbit brings it closest to the Sun, the Southern Hemisphere faces the Sun. There is a massive potential for solar energy to overheat the land. Since most of Earth’s land area is in the Northern Hemisphere and most of the surface water is in the Southern Hemisphere, overheating doesn’t happen. This designed distribution of the land masses combined with the reflectivity of water protects us from overheating. We do not have too much water on Earth.

Water is a unique substance in terms of thermodynamic values. It is the standard frame of reference for specific heat and has a value of 1 calorie/gram. Water’s freezing and boiling points are zero and 100 degrees Celsius, which is a minimal difference in temperature compared to other substances. Water also has a high specific heat which means it can store the energy it absorbs better than other materials. Water’s heat of vaporization is 539.6 calories per gram, which is huge. The heat of vaporization is the amount of energy required to change water from the liquid state to the vapor state without changing its temperature. The capacity of water to store heat radically controls the climate. Water absorbs energy from the Sun and carries it in various ocean currents around the world. We don’t have too much water on Earth because it moderates the climates along all coasts of our planet. Planets and moons with no surface water experience violent storms and enormous variations in temperature.

Because water is a polar molecule, it can dissolve virtually all salts and many chemicals essential for life. The polar nature of the water molecule also allows it to be a condensation nucleus for the production of rain. As the oceans warm in tropical areas, the rate of water evaporation increases. As the water vapor cools, it needs something on which to condense. We all know that when the humidity is high, water condenses on our windows, our grass, and virtually any other exposed surface. To make rain, the water condenses on particles in the atmosphere. On land, the particles would be dust. Over the oceans, the particles are salt which is also a polar molecule and provides the ideal structure to make rain.

These simplified explanations should help us see that there is not too much water on Earth. We need all of that water to make life on Earth possible. Our climates, our movement of heat, the production of rain and snow, and the very formation of life itself all depend on water.

Genesis 1:2 tells us that God established water as one of the building blocks that allowed the Earth to support life. Verses 9-10 tell us that the “waters were gathered together into one place” and that those waters “were called seas, and God saw that it was good.” Proverbs 8:24 finds wisdom speaking of God’s creation. Wisdom tells us that water was created before there were mountains, hills, or dust. It has taken science thousands of years to understand why there is so much water. Today we now know that it is not only good, but it is vital to our existence.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

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