Coordinated Vigilance

Coordinated Vigilance in the family

Research shows that rabbitfish in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef forage for food in pairs using “coordinated vigilance” to avoid predators. The rabbitfish take turns foraging for algae in reef crevices while the partner is on guard duty in “an upright vigilance position.” Researchers said, “Both behaviors are strongly coordinated, and partners regularly alternate their positions.” The researchers say this reciprocity is “thought to require a suite of complex cognitive abilities.” In other words, how could fish that “lack complex social and cognitive skills” have evolved this system?

Scientists have studied cooperative behavior in some mammals and a few birds. Teamwork in fish is almost nonexistent, but God has placed this unique genetic value in rabbitfish. This is especially interesting when you look at humans. In Genesis 2:18-24, God created a helper for Adam. The Hebrew word “ezer” used in these verses does not indicate that woman is inferior to man or of lesser importance. The idea is that a woman can do what a man cannot do for himself. Like the rabbitfish and other life forms, coordinated vigilance is built into the genetics of various living things to allow them to survive.

The New Testament passages Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 indicate that fathers have a role to play in the family in relationship to children. The concept is that God intends for coordinated vigilance with husband and wife to be the foundation of the family. In human societies, when coordinated vigilance is not practiced, the whole structure of culture falls apart. This does not bode well for societies around the world today.

Our nation’s violence and struggles will only get worse as society distances itself from God and His instructions. We promote the Bible as the word of God because the evidence shows that when people follow biblical instructions, society works. When people fail to follow them, the culture disintegrates.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: nih.gov

God Used Two Methods

God Used Two Methods to bring everything into existence

In the Spring 2024 issue of God and Nature, Dr. John Carpenter has an excellent article on God’s two methods for bringing things into existence. Dr. Carpenter, a Hebrew and Greek scholar, brings a great understanding of two Hebrew terms in Genesis. Genesis uses the terms “bara” and “asah” to show that God used two methods to bring everything into existence.

The first method that Genesis refers to, “bara,” is creating the physical world and time into existence from nothing. Proverbs 8:22-23 describes this as wisdom and says, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of His works before His deeds of old. I was formed long ages ago at the very beginning when the world came to be.” The Hebrew word “bara” is never used to refer to something humans can do. We find it in Genesis 1:1. It is not used again until Genesis 1:27 to describe humans as being in the image of God, referring to our spiritual makeup. Genesis 2:3 describes the two methods God used: “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created (bara) and made (asah).”

That brings us to the second method God used to bring things into existence. “Asah” refers to things that both God and humans can do. That is to take what has already been created and change it to something new. Everything from Genesis 1:2 to Genesis 1:26 involves God making, not creating. The only other Hebrew word that refers to this process is “yatsar” used in Genesis 2:7. That term describes what a potter would do and is used here to refer to God forming the man’s human body, not his spiritual makeup in God’s image).

God used two methods to “create” and “make.” Humans have duplicated what God has done in making things, including work in genetics and genome projects. What sets humans apart from everything else is not our physical makeup. The difference between human DNA and other primates’ DNA is not huge, but human spiritual makeup is a huge difference.

Unfortunately, many denominations refuse to take the Bible literally and twist it to fit their creeds. Science and the Bible agree 100% in what they say, but bad science and bad theology do exist. No one has all the answers, but the evidence is there for all to see and study. Listen to God and not to human theologies, which were an issue in Paul’s day and are an even greater issue today.

In our booklet “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word,” we echo the same point that the Genesis account, with its use of “bara” and “asah,” demonstrates that God used two methods to bring everything into existence. This understanding, when coupled with a literal interpretation of the Bible, reveals a remarkable harmony between science and the Bible, providing reassurance of their compatibility.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: John B. Carpenter in God and Nature, a publication of the American Scientific Affiliation, spring 2024

Fly Wings Differ from Bird or Bat Wings

Fly Wings Differ from Bird or Bat Wings

How does a fly fly? That may sound silly, but we know a little about how a fly’s wings work through AI, robotics, and high-speed photography. We can divide living, powered flyers into four classes: insects (including flies), birds, bats, and pterosaurs (which are extinct). Except for insects, their wings all seem to be modified limbs. Fly wings differ from bird or bat wings.

Scientific research has delved into the intricacies of fly flight. Dr. Michael Dickinson, a professor of bioengineering and aeronautics at Cal Tech, has constructed miniature flight simulators and wind tunnels to unravel the mysteries of the fly’s flight. His work has revealed that flies have a unique and incredibly complex biomechanical hinge, a structure that researchers have attempted to replicate with robotics.

Twelve neurons and twelve muscles control flight in insects. Flies have a hinge connecting the wings to the muscles in a structure like a complex 3-D puzzle. To study the movement of the fly’s wings, researchers recorded 70,000 individual wingbeats with high-speed cameras at 15,000 frames per second. When you see a fly land on a window, look carefully at the hardware that it possesses. It has feet that can stick to glass, and its ability to fly in any direction makes it hard to swat.

The design features built into these small insects enable them to survive in a world where many creatures eat them to survive. We are not promoting a “save the fly” campaign, but animals from fish to chameleons depend on flies for food. The fly population will never be wiped out because of the design features enabling them to survive.

This complex design is clearly not a product of gradual change from the modified limb structures of bird or bat wings. Fly wings differ from bird or bat wings. Instead, they are exquisite, unique structures that experts are studying to understand how the wings work. Perhaps they will learn some things to enhance human flying machines. Even the scourge of flies has something to teach us, and we suggest that one of those things is the wisdom of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

References: evolutionnews.com and nature.com

The Bombardier Beetle Takes Aim

The Bombardier Beetle Takes Aim

The bombardier beetle’s defense mechanism is a fascinating display of complexity. It defends itself by shooting a very hot (212 degrees F) stream of acidic material at an invading predator. The beetle mixes hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone, which would explode in ordinary situations, but the bombardier beetle adds an inhibitor to control the reaction. A catalyst breaks down the peroxide, and a chemical known as peroxidase breaks down the hydroquinones so that the explosion does not occur.

The bombardier beetle has twin tail tubes that swivel like a gun turret to aim the hot, acidic mixture at enemies. Slow-motion photography has shown that the chemistry occurs in separate small bursts, so the beetle is not a one-shot wonder but can shoot repeatedly at a predator. This contrasts with skunks, which usually have one shot and require an extended time to replenish the odor fluid.

While many have proposed elaborate evolutionary theories to explain the bombardier beetle’s defense mechanism, The bombardier beetle’s defense mechanism is a fascinating display of complexity. It defends itself by shooting a very hot (212 degrees F) stream of the concept of intelligent design as a plausible alternative explanation.

Like all forms of life on our planet, the bombardier beetle has been designed with specialized equipment to survive in a world of predation. Proverbs 8 talks about the wisdom of God, and Romans 1:20 speaks of living things as a demonstration that allows us to “know there is a God through the things He has made.” The bombardier beetle seems to be a good example of both of these statements.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Spiders on Mars

Spiders on Mars
Mars “Spiders”

An article by Eric Lagatta published in USA TODAY (April 2024) told about spiders on Mars. To Lagatta’s credit, the word “spiders” was in quotes, indicating that it might be misleading because they don’t indicate life but have a chemical explanation.

Like Earth, Mars has seasons, but they last about twice as long. In the long, dark Martian winter, temperatures are cold enough to freeze carbon dioxide, which settles and covers its dark surface. As the temperature warms, the lower layers return to the gaseous state and break through the surface layers, bringing dark dust up from the Martian surface. The gas and dust become geysers in the thin Martian atmosphere. Next, the dust settles to the surface, forming radial blotches resembling giant spider legs. The area where the pictures were taken is a 53-mile-wide asteroid crater in the south polar region of Mars, called “Inca City” because it resembles the Inca ruins in South America.

The Inca City and spiders on Mars do not indicate life. Earth, in its unique capacity to support life in our solar system, is a marvel. God has blessed us with a planet that provides everything humans need to survive. If there is life on Mars, it would have to be microscopic and deep underground. There are no “ruins” of previous civilizations on the planet and no evidence of life existing there today.

We need to learn to get along with each other because aliens from Mars or anywhere else in the solar system are not coming to help us. Also, living on Mars will be extraordinarily difficult for humans. We may go to Mars to learn more about it, but God created the Earth for us to live on and entrusted us with its care. There would be no point in abandoning it and taking our destructive lifestyles elsewhere.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: usatoday.com

Planet Parade Syzygy

Planet Parade Syzygy

Just before sunrise Monday morning, June 3, 2024, six planets and an asteroid will form a “planet parade.” That means they will appear in a straight line as viewed from Earth. The planets involved are Mercury, Jupiter, Uranus, an asteroid, Mars, Neptune, and Saturn, going from the horizon up.  Understand that is how we see them from Earth because Mercury and Jupiter are nowhere near each other.

With the naked eye, you should be able to see Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter, with Jupiter being the brightest. With binoculars, you might be able to see Uranus. With a telescope and knowing where to look, you will see all seven; if the sky is clear, you are away from light pollution and have a clear view of the eastern horizon. However, a crescent moon will make viewing a little more difficult. By Thursday, the Moon will be out of the way to better view the planets, but Mercury and Jupiter will have switched places. The change of position will be caused by the outer planets (Jupiter) appearing to move more slowly than the inner planets (Mercury).

The planets’ ability to appear close together in the sky shows how flat our solar system is. In other words, the planets orbit the Sun in nearly the same plane rather than in random directions. That fact allows the outer planets, especially Jupiter, to serve as comet sweepers, protecting Earth from dangerous objects coming in from beyond the solar system.

A syzygy is a true alignment of planets, which happens very rarely. This planet parade is an interesting apparent alignment, and “syzygy” is a good word to remember the next time you play Scrabble. This beautiful view of our solar system reminds us of God’s wise artistic and engineering design.

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2024

Reference: cnn.com

What Created the Universe from Nothing?

Dr. Robert Jastrow - What Created the Universe from Nothing?
Dr. Robert Jastrow (1925-2008)

At the beginning of the 20th century, many scientists, including astronomers and physicists, believed that the universe was eternal. Since it had no beginning, there was no need to explain what created the universe. In other words, there was no need for God.

That began to change in 1905 with Albert Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity. His calculations indicated that the universe was either expanding or contracting, but he could not accept that. He invented a “cosmological constant” to balance the effect of gravity. Other scientists recognized his error, which he later admitted was the greatest blunder of his life. Then Georges Lemaître theorized, and Edwin Hubble confirmed that the universe was expanding. Since it is expanding, going back in time to the distant past, the universe would become progressively smaller until it began as an infinitely small and dense “singularity.” That was the beginning of time, space, matter, and energy.

The concept of a beginning posed a significant challenge for many scientists due to its religious implications. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century, science continued to confirm that the universe had a beginning. Robert Jastrow, a prominent American physicist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was one such scientist. Despite describing himself as an “agnostic, and not a believer,” He found the idea of a beginning unsettling as it implied a Creator. In his 1978 book God and the Astronomers, he expressed his discomfort in these words:

“This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth… The development is unexpected because science has had such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Even though scientists have scaled that mountain and made great progress in determining when the universe was created, they still cannot explain what created it from nothing. If there was nothing, how can there be a “what” to do the creating? Many scientists are believers in God, but others need to turn to the Bible to find the eternal Creator, the uncaused cause, the One Who created the universe and us for a purpose.

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Animals Do Not Possess Human Values or Empathy

Animals Do Not Possess Human Values or Empathy
Warthog

One result of evolutionary thinking is believing that humans are not unique but just animals at the top of the evolutionary ladder. As a result of that message, many people treat animals as if they are humans, at times even raising wild animals in their homes. The problem is that animals do not possess human values or empathy, and their instinctive behavior may cause unexpected problems.

In some cases, animals have reverted to instinctive drives, causing them to attack their owners. A man named Austin Riley in Boerne, Texas, found a newborn warthog whose mother had died. Riley took the tiny warthog, nursed it, and raised it for five years. He named the pet warthog Waylon after Waylon Jennings, a country singer known for his outlaw behavior. When Riley would lie down and listen to sports radio, Waylon would lie down beside him. Riley would take Waylon to Whataburger to get something to eat, and Waylon would sit in the front seat “happy as can be.” Waylon grew to weigh 250 pounds and was identified with Pumbaa in the popular Lion King movie, with the Swahili expression “hakuna matata,” meaning “no worries.” However, there was something to worry about in this case because animals do not possess human values or empathy.

Warthogs have lower tusks protruding from muscular jaws like blades. The tusks are curved, so the warthog can do incredible damage to any animal or person by twisting its head. Warthogs are designed to protect themselves from lions, their main enemies in their native Africa. On an October evening in 2022, Austin came to Waylon’s pen, and the warthog greeted him happily as he went to the feeding trough. Twenty minutes after feeding Waylon, Austin fed Daisy a potbellied pig he raised from a piglet and then walked to his ATV. Suddenly, Waylon attacked Austin, ripping his legs, wrist, abdomen, and neck. Doctors say that Austin lost half of his blood, and his treatment required ten surgeries. Medical studies of Waylon showed he did not have rabies.

The bottom line is that wild animals are not good pets. Animals do not possess human values or empathy. I have known friends who had snakes, alligators, turtles, deer, eagles, crows, chimps, goldfish, and even sharks for pets. In many cases, a time came when the animals acted aggressively toward their keepers. The point is that humans can behave like animals, but animals cannot behave like humans. Humans are created in God’s image, which is expressed in how we live and care for one another at all stages of life. The world would be a much better place if everyone followed the teachings of Jesus Christ in Matthew chapters 5 to 7.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: boingboing.net and Texas Monthly

Free Radicals are Chemically Reactive

Free Radicals are Chemically Reactive

One of the least understood design features of living things is the role of free radicals. The design of atoms and molecules calls for electrons to be paired for stability, but a free radical has unpaired electrons. With their unpaired valence electrons, free radicals are chemically reactive. Although some free radicals are essential to life, the accumulation of free radicals can cause cell damage.

Stress conditions such as radiation can cause harmful free radicals. Researchers have found that tiny animals called tardigrades (or water bears) exposed to stressful conditions curl up into a state of dormancy called a tun. That can explain their ability to survive in the vacuum of space, frigid temperatures, or radiation bombardment. The metabolism of the tardigrades shuts down in the tun state, but why is unclear. This intriguing discovery could potentially lead to practical applications such as medical treatments that slow the aging process, offering a glimmer of hope in the face of free radical damage.

Free radicals are not chemically reactive due to some process of evolution. Scientists are studying the design of atoms and molecules with magnetic properties related to electron spin. This phenomenon goes back to creation itself. When God produced matter/energy in the beginning, electron spin, magnetic pairing, and free radical production were built into the very design of atoms and molecules. This design structure allows life to exist. 

The future is bright as scientists learn more about the effect of free radicals on human health. Learning about the complexity of matter and life reminds us of “Wisdom’s” comment in Proverbs 8:22-23: “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His work, before His deeds of old. I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning before the world began.”

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: Scientific American for May 2024, pages 10-11.

Learn from the Woodpecker Design

Learn from the Woodpecker Design

Woodpeckers can hammer 25 strokes while their heads travel more than 20 feet per second. If you banged your head into a tree for a few seconds, the results would be headaches, detached retinas, concussions, eye damage from flying wood chips, and massive skin damage. With all the talk about brain damage from football collisions, perhaps we can learn from the woodpecker design. 

Many design features protect woodpecker brains. Their skulls are thick and heavily ossified to prevent shattering. Shock-absorbing tissue between the eyes and around the skull acts as a crash helmet. Spongy material separates the skull and bill. A sac of fluid surrounds human brains, but a tough membrane surrounds a woodpecker’s brain to prevent it from bouncing around. The woodpecker brain is tiny, weighing a fraction of an ounce, so it has much less inertia. 

Woodpecker eyes are held tightly in place by bone and surrounding tissue to prevent damage. A membrane blinks over the eye to keep out wood chips. The nostrils are covered with fine bristly feathers or are narrow slits to protect the bird’s air chambers. Woodpeckers have long tongues that reach deep inside tree openings to capture insects. The tongue wraps around inside the skull, further protecting the brain when the bird is hammering on the tree. The woodpecker’s bill is solid and shaped like a chisel. Thick and strong neck muscles absorb the kinetic energy. 

Woodpeckers are essential to forest ecosystems. They control worms and insects that can infect trees, avoiding blight and infections. Medical personnel dealing with head trauma have much to learn from the woodpecker design. Design features requiring so many specialized features are difficult to explain by chance. A step-by-step evolutionary process can’t explain the production of the many unique features. God’s creatures are designed to do specific jobs, and “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). 

— John N. Clayton © 2024

References: Audubon Magazine for Jan/Feb 1999, page 104, and National Geographic “Wildlife.”