Data on Neanderthals and DNA

Data on Neanderthals and DNA - Neanderthal Woman
Neanderthal Woman Sculpture in National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, Spain

News reports of the data on Neanderthals have often contained misinformation. Neanderthals (or Neandertals) were not apes, and they were not primitive subhumans. They engaged in activities similar to modern humans. Our suggestion for many years has been that we should think of the Neanderthals as a race of humans. When one looks at the different races of humans in today’s world, we see huge variations. A pygmy is much different from a Scandinavian, and yet from a scientific standpoint, they are one species. They can mate and produce fertile offspring, which was has been the usual way of defining a species.

The newest data on Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) is that they interbred with those we call Homo sapiens, and their genes are being discovered in populations in Europe and western Asia. Science News carried an article titled “Neanderthals and Humans Mated Often.” It reported on the DNA evidence linking Neanderthals to modern humans.

If scientists found the remains of Adam and Eve, what would their DNA look like? The Bible gives us no indication of what Adam and Eve were like regarding their race or physical characteristics. The sons of Noah were Ham, Shem, and Japheth. In the original Hebrew, Ham means dark-colored and Japheth means fair. The term Neanderthal comes from where scientists found their first bones in the Neander Valley of Germany. The name has nothing to do with skin color. If we found the fossil remains of Adam and Eve, what name would we give them?

The only thing we know is that Eve was the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20). How long ago she lived and how we would classify her today is pure speculation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News for May 8 and May 22, 2021 (page 7)

Cricket Megaphones

Cricket Megaphones

Have you ever thought about how a tiny cricket can make so much noise? Researchers have found that male tree crickets use leaves to make baffles that double the volume of their calls. You could call them cricket megaphones.

Cricket wings are resonance structures reverberating with the vibration caused by rubbing the wings together. This reverberation is like the body of a violin, but the sound is weak because the insect is so small. To make a baffle, the male cricket cuts a hole in a leaf and then crawls halfway through the hole, so its wings cause the leaf to vibrate like a loudspeaker. The advantage is that female crickets are attracted to the males with the loudest call.

The discussion among biologists is about whether this qualifies as tool use. Rittik Deb, an ecologist at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, says crickets show that sophisticated behaviors aren’t just for big complex brains. Deb says his work “really turns that idea on its head.”

Not everything about this behavior is beneficial to the cricket because increasing the volume of their calls makes them sitting ducks for predators like geckos and spiders. It would seem that this controls the cricket population, but it provides a food source for other living things. For that reason, it appears that evolutionary processes would eventually put a stop to cricket megaphones.

A more likely scenario is that the behavior is programmed into the crickets’ DNA to keep a balance in nature. In places where geckos and/or spiders are in abundance, the cricket population remains small. In Australia, we saw large numbers of geckos and large spiders in the homes of people with whom we stayed. We did not see insect problems in those same homes. In America, we have much to learn about the natural controls that God has built into our world. As more evidence unfolds, we see that human attempts to control insects with chemicals are unnecessary.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Science News, January 16, 2021.

Your DNA Code

Your DNA Code

It’s a program code written in four biological compounds that we identify with the initials A, G, T, and C. It’s three billion letters long. If you printed it on standard sheets of paper in 12-point font size and stacked those sheets, the stack would be as high as the Washington Monument (555 feet or 169 meters). What is the program? It’s your DNA code that gives the blueprint for your body.

If you spent ten hours per day seven days a week reading one letter per second, it would take you just under 75 years to read the entire program. In other words, it would require your lifetime to read the code that describes your physical blueprint. However, instead of being printed on paper, those four letters are paired in two-letter sets like the rungs of a 3-D spiral ladder. Then they are folded neatly into the nucleus of every cell of your body. Small changes in the coding of those letters could change the color of your hair or your eyes. It could change your body shape or size. It could determine if you have a physical or mental illness.

Your DNA code is comparable to that of every other person on Earth, but it is unique to you alone in many details. That’s why detectives use DNA forensic tests to determine the identity of a person who has committed a crime. Similarities in DNA can indicate who we are related to or where our ancestors originated.

Since the Human Genome Project completed the sequencing of human DNA in 2003, we have learned that our DNA is in many ways similar to that of other animals and insects, and even plants. Despite the similarities, there are significant differences that are not physical. Only humans have creativity, an appreciation for beauty, and a desire to worship. We believe that’s because God gave humans a special gift when He created us in His spiritual image, with a soul, not just a body.

We also believe that the enormous complexity of your DNA code could not have happened by chance. We suggest that the code that lays out the design of all living things was written by the same God who created humans in His image.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Bees Develop a Defense Against Killer Hornets

Bees Develop a Defense Against Killer Hornets
Vietnamese Honey Bees

One of the strangest battles in the natural world has been the war between killer hornets and honey bees. The large hornets invade the honey bees’ hives, carry off the bee larvae, and feed them to their offspring. Scientists are seeing bees develop a defense against killer hornets.

This battle has been going on in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal for some time. In 2019, the killer hornets arrived in Europe, Canada, and the United States. Beekeepers are desperately trying to find the killer hornet nests and destroy them. One of the problems they face is that a single hornet sting delivers about seven times as much venom as a bee sting, so encounters with them can be very painful.

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada have found that the bees develop a defense against killer hornets in Vietnam. The bees collect buffalo dung and pack it around the entrances to their hives. The animal feces reduced hornet intrusions by 94%. The honey bees did not use the dung until hornets started invading, and it surprised people who work with the bees. Because beehives are ideal places for disease to grow, bees are very careful about allowing any contamination of their hives. Any attempt to give an evolutionary explanation to this defense system by the bees is doomed because there has not been enough time for any behavioral changes to occur.

Because they can travel great distances by various methods, it is not surprising that insects from one geographical region will show up in a different area. When they do, it creates a problem because they don’t have predators to control them. Fire ants have caused problems in the United States for some time, and African bees are becoming problematic. It appears that the knowledge to use feces to repel their mortal enemies is built into the honey bee’s DNA. Scientists are trying to understand whether it is the smell or natural chemicals that keeps the hornets away. One thing is clear. The bees have a tool they know how to use.

When we see how bees develop a defense against killer hornets, it reminds us that living things are designed to preserve life. The intelligence of the living system is strong evidence of God’s creative ability. The next time you enjoy honey, remember that it is not just the honey itself that God has given you, but also the protection built into the honey bees who produced it.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/09/honey-bees-use-animal-poo-to-repel-giant-hornet-attacks

DNA Design and Science

DNA Design and Science

Most of us know that we have something called genes that determine our physical characteristics, which pass on to our children. Genes are pieces of a molecule called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This molecule consists of two chains of alternating sugar and phosphate groups that coil around each other to form a double helix. These simple units line up in that double helix in a way that carries information much like the pages of a huge book. The DNA design carries much of the information that makes us who we are.

The complexity of the DNA molecule is astounding, and its size is even more so. If all the DNA molecules in your body were uncoiled and laid end-to-end, it would stretch from here to Pluto and back. Humans do not have the largest DNA molecules. A flowering plant native to Japan called Paris Japonica has a DNA molecule 50 times longer than human DNA. 

DNA was discovered in 1869 by Swiss Biochemist Friedrich Miescher, who called it nuclein. In the early 1940s, bacteriologist Oswald Avery discovered DNA’s connection to genetics. James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA design in 1953. 

Because the molecule is so large and complex, the opportunities to study it and make practical use of it are almost limitless. Scientists are using synthetic DNA to create vaccines. Some DNA vaccines have been successful in animals. At this time, some scientists around the world are working on COVID-19 vaccines using DNA.

Scientists are developing other uses for DNA coding. The Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) is working to establish barcodes to identify plant and animal species. The use of DNA has solved many criminal investigations. Modification of DNA has given us genetically modified foods.

There are two lessons we can learn from this. First, the complexity of DNA design boggles the mind. Suggesting that it is the product of random chance seems much less likely than the idea that an intelligence designed it. That leads us to the question of whether we are playing God in some DNA experiments. We have previously talked about genetically modified babies. The extreme complexity of DNA makes it much more likely for a human error, causing harm to others. Scientists working with DNA manipulation should be guided by reverence for the Creator and the life that He created.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University

Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University

You are probably familiar with the name of Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein was a millionaire who sexually abused a number of minors. While the media covered the sordid details of his life, they largely ignored the relationship between Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University.

Epstein donated $6.5 million to Harvard with $200,000 going to the psychology department. As a result, he was appointed as a visiting fellow, even though he had no academic qualifications. Epstein had a close connection with Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and visited their offices over 40 times between 2010 and 2018, even though he was a registered sex offender at the time. That meant he had a key card and pass code with which he could enter buildings during off-hours.

Epstein fancied himself as a latter-day eugenicist who wanted to seed the human race with his own DNA. He was able to get some researchers at Harvard to give support to his ideas. When Epstein got into trouble, several faculty members defended him, and they even visited him in jail. Epstein’s lawyer was Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz who managed to enlist the help of Harvard psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker.

This affair between Jeffrey Epstein and Harvard University shows clearly that academic institutions are vulnerable to being bought. Academic institutions must ensure that research funding is based on merit, not cronyism. There have been cases where researchers faked a discovery because their funding would be cut off if they didn’t produce results. Survival of the fittest seems to be the moral standard used in research funding, and having money to do research only comes to those who are viewed as being “fit.” Fitness, in this case, means being able to produce discoveries that get front page acclamation.

We continually receive claims of discoveries that would support our mission to show that science and faith are compatible. When we investigate them, we find the discoveries are either exaggerated, misrepresented, or simply don’t exist.

The only book you can trust is the Bible. Our goal is to motivate readers to go back to the Bible and check out our claims and statements. Research the claims and discoveries we report on to make sure they are accurate and correctly reported. If there are any problems, please let us know.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Our data is from an article in Scientific American, September 2020, by Naomi Oreskes, history of science professor at Harvard, page 84.

Sentinel Duty in Animal Behavior

Sentinel Duty in Animal Behavior

During my seven years in the army, I was in a survey crew. Our job was to go out into the wilderness and survey objects to be fired upon by the artillery unit. Because we were accustomed to being on our own and concealing our movement with the terrain and natural objects, we were frequently assigned sentinel duty. That meant our survey crew was deployed around the perimeter of where our unit was sleeping for the night. We were there to watch for any enemy coming close to our unit. In combat, we were especially vulnerable, because we had no protection ourselves, and were frequently in enemy territory. Sentinel duty was essential for the survival of the whole unit, but it was a dangerous duty.

Animals also practice sentinel duty. Birds are especially adept at having sentinels during their migratory journeys when they are vulnerable to hawks, wolves, foxes, cats, snakes, and a wide variety of mammals. Studies have shown that most birds migrating in groups have a single bird to watch for predators while the other birds in the flock are foraging. Because sentinels are by themselves, easy to identify, and further from a place of safety than the rest of the flock, they are frequently the first to be eaten.

For humans, giving your life to protect the group is considered a moral responsibility. Why would a bird serve as a sentinel? If you believe in “survival of the fittest,” then being a sentinel makes no sense at all. You and your progeny can be quickly removed from the population, and any beneficial DNA you may have had is gone forever. Sentinel duty does not select the most fit of the flock and allow them to survive and produce more offspring.

Many animal behaviors in the natural world do not promote the survival of the individual but contribute to the group’s advancement. Sentinel duty seems to be built into life-forms to allow survival in a constantly changing environment. God has designed a wide variety of behaviors into living things to enable Earth to be full of every kind of living creature. Sentinel duty is one of those genetically programmed behaviors.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Body Repair System at Work

Body Repair System at Work

Advertisements for food supplements, diet plans, and “miracle cures” on the internet and television, in magazines, and newspapers continuously remind us that things in our environment threaten our existence. We are indeed attacked by human-made toxins, natural toxins, air and water pollution, ultraviolet radiation and x-rays from the Sun, and contaminants in the foods we eat. We have a natural body repair system that takes care of most of those threats.

The chemistry of the human body is an incredibly complex system in which a wide variety of chemicals keep us alive. There are 60-trillion cells in an average human body, and each cell has a chemical signature for what it does. Cells in your pancreas produce insulin and pump it into your bloodstream. Your thyroid produces a chemical that governs your metabolism. Your bone marrow and thymus gland produce antibodies that ward off disease. Those are only a few examples of the body repair system.

Most cells have thousands of chemical reactions going on at any given moment. The facilitators of this chemical system are proteins called enzymes. For every one of the thousands of chemical reactions that go on in each cell of your body, there is one specific protein molecule. It has just the right shape to bring two other molecules together and form bonds. That means there are massive numbers of enzymes to fill that role.

Our DNA contains the blueprints for making the enzymes, and our cells use those blueprints to make the proteins they need. If a cell is damaged, it dies, and another cell replaces it. If the DNA is damaged, then bad information is fed to the cells, and the result can be catastrophic. To avoid that problem, our DNA has segments known as genes. Each of the roughly 80,000 genes in the human body carries the information to assemble one enzyme and control one chemical reaction in the cell. This one enzyme can repair damage in the DNA, so the number of things that can kill a cell is significantly reduced by the body repair system.

Scientists are very interested in repair enzymes and how they keep our DNA functional. God has designed a system that enables us to live. Understanding that design is opening the door for new ways to cure the ills of humanity. Biochemists are researching and designing treatments for various genetic diseases. Reading about this kind of research always brings back the statement of David in Psalms 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works…”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Battle of the Splitters and Lumpers

Battle of the Splitters and Lumpers

As we have reported before, an interesting debate in the scientific community has been the battle of the splitters and lumpers.

The splitters are scientists who consider every fossil specimen they find to be a different species and give it a unique name. The famous anthropologist Louis Leakey was an example of a splitter attaching numerous new names to specimens he discovered. Later it turned out that several specimens which he had given individual names were actually just variations of the same species. In recent years, anthropologists have given individual names to variations of the Neanderthals. Subsequent DNA evidence showed that many of those forms were just racial variations of the same species.

Lumpers suggest that, in general, we see many variations in a species, but we rarely see a new species. In modern days, we have various races that can look very different but are one species. A pygmy and a seven-foot-tall NBA basketball player have vast physical differences, but they are fertile with each other and therefore are one species.

It is becoming increasingly evident that ancient forms were not as diverse as some have assumed. A dinosaur discovered in the 1940s was given the name Nanotyrannus. The picture is an artist’s conception of what they looked like. It is now becoming clear to many scientists that the Nanotyrannus is a juvenile form of Tyrannosaurus rex. Because of their size, the diet of these two specimens was different. With reptiles who continue to grow, they can have a dramatic change in physical makeup as they age.

When we carry the battle of the splitters and lumpers to the question of human origins, the implications become extremely important. Were there many different species of humans that were infertile with each other? Or were they all one species, and the physical variations were simply adaptions to the environment and diet? The Bible indicates that all humans are one and that we all descended from a common human ancestor. The lumpers tend to agree, and the evidence continues to accumulate, verifying that we are all one.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Science News, February 1, 2020, page 15.

We Are Not a Product of Chance According to Yale Professor

We Are Not a Product of Chance According to Yale Professor

Those who maintain that all life is a product of chance have a new opponent on their hands. He is Dr. David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale University, chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, and a member of the National Council of the Arts. He says that we are not a product of chance.

One of Dr. Gelernter’s main arguments is the difficulty of producing a stable and functional protein by blind, mechanical chance. Proteins are the work-horses of life. Proteins called enzymes catalyze all sorts of reactions and drive cellular metabolism. Other proteins, such as collagen, give cells shape and structure. Proteins drive nerve function, muscle function, and photosynthesis. The question is whether mindless, random changes in molecules can create all the different proteins necessary for life to exist.

The argument starts with amino acids, which we know can be formed by natural processes in specific environments. Statisticians calculate that the odds of amino acids forming a stable protein are 1 in 1074. As Gelernter writes, “To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is not different, in practice, from saying that they are zero.” For comparison, science tells us there are only 1080 atoms in the universe. Gelernter says, “The odds bury you. It can’t be done.

It is essential to understand that we are not talking about the formation of life here. Gelernter is talking about making chance mutations in existing DNA that result in a useful new protein that could play a role in evolution. Macroevolution, or the creation of new species, would require new genes that could create a meaningful new protein. This is simply one small step in producing the materials necessary for life.

We are not a product of chance. There is growing evidence of the design and planning that has gone into the making of life and us. Dr. Gelernter says he has been attacked by some atheistic scientists, because, as he says, “I am attacking their religion.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Spring 2019 issue of Claremont Review of Books titled “Giving up Darwin” and posted on line on May 1, 2019.