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

Mount Rushmore and DNA

Mount Rushmore and DNAIf you have the opportunity, I encourage you to visit two locations in the United States. One of them is the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and the other is Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. They are both very impressive; however, they have a big difference. Mount Rushmore and DNA have something in common that the Grand Canyon does not.

The Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore are both made of stone, and both are very complex. The Grand Canyon is much larger, but Mount Rushmore demonstrates specified complexity while the Grand Canyon does not. The specified complexity of Mount Rushmore indicates that natural forces did not create it. It is evident that some intelligence has acted on the granite of that mountain to give it specified features. By contrast, the complex features of the Grand Canyon did not require the direct act of intelligent agents, but only natural forces.

How do I know that Mount Rushmore was acted on by intelligence? First, I recognized that the shape of the mountain is very improbable and highly complex. It doesn’t look like any mountain I have ever seen before. But then, the Grand Canyon is also very improbable and highly complex, and it is not exactly like any canyon I have seen before. More than that, I recognize that the patterns on Mount Rushmore match something that I have seen before—pictures of some US presidents. Very few people would argue with my idea that this mountain shows design by intelligent beings while natural forces can explain the Grand Canyon without requiring the direct action of intelligent agents.

So what do Mount Rushmore and DNA have in common? In recent years, scientists have unlocked the secrets of DNA. We know that the base sequences of DNA are very improbable and contain a highly complex set of instructions. The nucleotide base sequences specify the complex synthesis of proteins in three dimensions. Those who are familiar with computer programming recognize that there are “design patterns” in DNA. There is more than just complexity; there is SPECIFIED complexity to accomplish a complex task. Intelligent people write programs for computers to perform tasks, such as to create an animation of the synthesizing of a protein. Would it not require intelligence to arrange the base sequences in DNA to synthesize actual complex proteins in three dimensions?

In Mount Rushmore and DNA, we see something complex and very improbable. Mount Rushmore shows a recognizable pattern designed to accomplish a task—to show us the faces of some American presidents. DNA is millions of times more complex than Mount Rushmore, and unlike the Grand Canyon, it contains specified complexity. It contains the instructions for making a complex living creature such as a human being. Is it reasonable to say that Mount Rushmore was intelligently designed and that DNA just happened with no intelligent guidance? We suggest that to do so is not rational.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Ballooning Spiders

Ballooning SpidersNearly two centuries ago a young biologist on a ship 60 miles from the nearest coastline was amazed by some spiders. The spiders were showing up on his ship when they had not been there before. Since his discovery, other researchers have seen similar mysterious migrations of ballooning spiders across open waters. Scientists have studied this amazing technique on Robinson Crusoe Island in the Pacific Ocean 415 miles off the coast of Chile.

The spiders climb to a high point and secure themselves with silk. The spiders have fine hairs called trichobothria which they use to sense wind direction and electric conditions. When it rains, electrons are carried to the ground making the ground negatively charged and the upper atmosphere positively charged. The spiders sense the field that results from this separation of charge. When conditions are right, the spiders release a silk that is so light that even the slightest breeze will keep it afloat. As the spiders spin off this low-density silk, their spinnerets also acquire a negative charge from the ground. The negative charge of the ground repels the negative charge on the silk. When the electric field and the breeze are strong enough, the spiders release the securing silk and become lifted into the air.

The ballooning spiders can rise up to 2.8 miles high and ride the winds for thousands of miles needing no food or water. When they land, they attach themselves and deposit their eggs. The ones that land on Robinson Crusoe Island are called ghost spiders.

The question of why this system is built into the spider’s DNA, how it knows when to send out different kinds of silk, and how it knows to use its legs for flight control is still being studied. There is no connection to other spiders and no compelling force to make them leave their original habitat.

We suggest that God has built incredible designs into all living things that allow the whole world to be populated and repopulated when climate change or other natural processes cause local extinction. By the way, the young biologist who first noticed the ballooning spiders technique was Charles Darwin.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from National Geographic, May 2019, page 28.