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.

Playing God With DNA Doesn’t Work

Playing God With DNA Doesn't Work

One of the promises of modern genetics is that in the future, we will create “designer babies.” The idea is that if you produce a group of embryos and then look at the DNA of each of them, you can select which embryo you want to become your child. The other embryos would be destroyed. The process is called “preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).” You might call it playing God with DNA.

With PGD, the embryos are created through in vitro fertilization. Technicians remove a single cell from each embryo and test it for single-gene variants which cause cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, or other diseases. Many diseases such as diabetes may result from variants in hundreds or thousands of genes. The risk for heart disease may involve millions of gene variants.

Medical scientists are working to establish a polygenic score, which would indicate intelligence, height, and other traits by examining the DNA. They call these factors “enhancements.” The problem is that those traits may also be the result of multiple genetic variants. Playing God by trying to select the attributes for a “designer baby” can be not only immoral but dangerous.

A group of researchers published a study in the journal Cell on November 21, 2019, in which they attempted to learn how reliable polygenic scores would be for determining height or IQ. The research indicates that the DNA genetic predictions about those enhancements are unreliable and insignificant at best. Among other problems is that “differences in diet, lifestyle, exposure to pollution, culture, undiscovered genetic variants, and other unknown factors can influence how complex traits develop.”

The original use of polygenic scores was to help people know if a lethal or disruptive disease was a part of their heredity. Being able to repair the DNA or choosing not to have children is an option that would be useful to couples. Embryo selection for non-medical traits such as height, intelligence, or gender is a whole different question.

An article on this study in ScienceNews.org quoted Dr. Nicholas Katsanis, who is a human geneticist at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Dr. Katsanis said, “The idea that we’re going to do genetic screening for anything other than medically actionable items is the definition of eugenics. That we’re even contemplating this is disturbing.”

We agree that humans playing God in areas like this is immoral and likely to be disastrous at worst and disappointing at best.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Philistine People and DNA

Philistine People and DNA
Ashkelon Archaeology Site

One of the main groups described in the Old Testament is the Philistine people. Genesis 10:14 tells us that the Philistines came from Casluhim, the son of Mizraim, the son of Ham. Abraham and Isaac had dealings with the Philistine king Abimelech and his general Phichol.

The Bible goes on to tell us that when the Israelites left Egypt, the Philistines had settled along the coast between Egypt and Gaza (Exodus 13:17-18). There they prevented the Israelites from moving through the area. There were many Philistine encounters after Israel had moved into the Promised Land. We are all familiar with the story of Samson and the Philistine temptress Delilah. David and the Philistine Goliath is also a familiar story. Skeptics throughout the years have tried to suggest that these are all myths and that such characters and peoples never existed.

Scientists recently found the remains of ten individuals buried at the ancient Philistine city of Ashkelon. Archaeogeneticists used the DNA to compile genetic evidence that supports the biblical account. Michal Feldman of the Max Planck Institute says that the genetic evidence indicates a seafaring population from southern Europe settled along the eastern Mediterranean coast and inhabited Ashkelon between 3400 and 3150 years ago.

The Philistine people certainly existed, and as scientists gather more evidence, their interactions with ancient Israel seem to be without question. Science continues to confirm the Bible in many ways.

Reference: Science News, August 3, 2019, page 16.

Chemistry of Water Is Essential to Life

Chemistry of Water Is Essential to LifeThere are many “pop-science” articles showing up in the media, suggesting that life on planet Earth is not unique. They are suggesting that there may be other chemistries with different molecular structures elsewhere in the cosmos. The truth is that the chemistry of water is essential to life.

The key to this question is a basic chemistry issue involving the water molecule. We have posted previously on the nature of the water molecule. You can also access articles from our printed publications by using the search engine on doesgodexist.org.

The main point is that the water molecule is polar. The bonding positions on the oxygen atoms in water are 105 degrees apart. Because of that, the two hydrogen atoms that bond with the oxygen atom are on one end of the molecule and oxygen is on the other end. That makes the water molecule polar, and it gives water unique properties, including the ability to dissolve most inorganic compounds.

Discover magazine (July/August 2019, page 82) carried an excellent explanation of why the chemistry of water is essential to life, making it possible for life to exist. Here is a quote from the article:

“For the chemical processes of life to happen, molecules must be able to connect, separate, and reconnect in specific ways. Think about DNA replication, for instance. The base pairs that make up the genetic code bond when their negatively charged hydrogen atoms are attracted to positively charged atoms in another nucleotide. Those bonds hold the two strands of the double helix together, but because hydrogen in water molecules also bond this way, it’s relatively easy for enzymes to ‘unzip’ the double helix for replication, then bind the two new strands together again. However, the molecules of life won’t work in hydrocarbons the way they do in water. That’s because most hydrocarbons don’t tend to form hydrogen bonds.”

In Genesis 1:2, the very first action of God on the newly created Earth is that His “Spirit moved on the face of the waters.” In Proverbs 8, wisdom speaks of the fact that in the creation process there was a time when there was no liquid water (Verse 24). We are finding water scattered throughout the cosmos, and it has become pretty apparent that water was a created and carefully designed tool to allow the basics of life. The chemistry of water is essential to life.

In baptism, we see water having a spiritual significance as well. Water is essential to much of God’s plan and compelling evidence of His wisdom and design in all areas of our existence.
— John N. Clayton © 2019