What is a Fetus According to Science?

What is a Fetus According to Science?

One of the most distressing aspects of the abortion debate is the refusal of the press to address scientific facts. What is a fetus? According to Dr. Michael Egnor, Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, there are three choices scientifically: 

  1. It is a part of the mother’s body.
  2. It is not a part of the mother’s body but an individual of another species. 
  3. It is not any kind of living thing but just a clump of biological molecules undergoing chemical reactions

So, then what is a fetus?

If you accept # 1, then all pregnant women are chromosome mosaics with two sets of genomes. That means that 50% of all pregnant women are hermaphrodites having both male and female tissue. If the new life begins with a piece of the mother’s body becoming a new organism, that would be called “budding.” Budding is a form of asexual reproduction used by some species of worms, sponges, corals, and microorganisms. That is not a means of human reproduction. The fetus is not a part of the mother’s body, which is why women experience morning sickness. Her immune system is trying to reject something that is not a part of her body. 

If you accept # 2, then the fetus is a parasitic disease. The transition of this non-human parasite into a human being would be an example of speciation. You would have to call the fetus “Homo-fetus” as it evolves into homo sapiens.

If you accept #3 and say that a fetus is just a clump of biological molecules undergoing chemical reactions, then each pregnancy is an “origin of life” event. It is non-living matter transforming into life. 

Dr. Egnor says that all three of those options are “scientific nonsense.” What is a fetus according to science? He says that the scientific fact is that human life begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg. He concludes his article by saying, “The term’ person’ is a moral and legal category, not a scientific category, and it is a category open to moral discussion and debate. But “human being” is a scientific term, and it is not open to debate. The science is settled. Human life begins at fertilization, and cogent moral reasoning about abortion must begin with that scientific fact.” 

The bottom line is that humanity must decide whether or not it is acceptable to kill a human being who is a burden. We are going down a dangerous and destructive road when we avoid the scientific evidence and the biblical view of the value of human life. Whatever argument someone can make for abortion can also be used to justify the termination of those who are disabled, mentally ill, or too old to function without assistance.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “If a Fetus Isn’t a Human Being, What Is It?” by Dr. Michael Egnor on evolutionnews.org

Conflict Between Faith and Science – Or Not?

Conflict Between Faith and Science – Or Not? - Museum of the Bible

A new “Scripture and Science” exhibition has opened at The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. The exhibit shows that the Bible has encouraged and nourished science. Curator of the exhibition Dr. Anthony Schmidt, explained, “While there is this persistent myth that there is this ongoing conflict between faith and science, we highlight the ways that the Bible has left an impact on some of history’s greatest thinkers – scientists [and] natural philosophers.” The exhibition points out that the Bible has not been an impediment to science but has encouraged and nourished science.

The exhibit is organized around six key questions: (1) How did it all begin? (2) What keeps the universe running? (3) How did life begin? (4) What makes me human? (5) What can we accomplish? (6) How will it all end? These are all questions that swarm around the supposed conflict between faith and science.

The exhibit quotes prominent scientists, including Robert Jastrow, Arno Penzias, Arthur Holly Compton, Fred Hoyle, Charles Townes, Guillermo Gonzalez, Leslie Wickman, Deborah Haarsma, and the Discovery Institute staff. Many of these are Nobel Prize winners.

In the section on “What makes me human?” Nancy Pearcey, the author of the book Total Truth, explains how our concept of human dignity stems from the biblical concept that we are created in the image of God. Also in that section, a display shows how that biblical understanding challenged scientific racism. It tells the story of a young African man, Ota Benga, who was put on display at the Bronx Zoo as an evolutionary link. That ended when Christian leaders objected, led by African-American minister James Gordon who said, “We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls.”

Faith did conflict with scientific racism. However, this exhibition debunks the myth of the conflict between faith and science. It will continue at the Museum of the Bible until January 15, 2024.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Museum of the Bible’s website and evolutionnews.org

Asking a Computer if God Exists

Asking a Computer if God Exists

Years ago, I heard a joke that went something like this. Scientists developed a massively powerful computer that could answer any question. The researchers asked the computer, “How did the universe begin?” The computer whirred, lights flashed, and out popped this answer: “See Genesis 1:1.” That joke originated when computers filled a large room, had spinning reels of tape and flashing lights, and used punch cards. Now, computers are small, use keyboards and monitors, have voice recognition, and speak in many languages. Soon we may have quantum computers with capabilities only dreamed of today. Have you ever tried asking a computer if God exists?

A topic that has received much publicity in recent months is artificial intelligence (AI). As computers become more humanlike with their ability to speak and answer questions, we are coming to depend on them more and more. Knowledgeable people suggest that the growth of AI will dramatically affect business, medicine, and entertainment. Other areas expected to face major changes because of AI are work, war, and education.

Recently, I have seen articles concerning a new AI development that worries educators. It’s called ChatGPT. This app can do more than answer questions. It can write essays. A student with an assignment to write a 500-word essay on a subject can input the topic and let ChatGPT write the paper. I decided this would be a good opportunity for asking a computer if God exists.

Going back to that old story, I asked the computer, “How did the universe begin?” ChatGPT responded with a 237-word essay on the Big Bang that agreed with current scientific theories. It was nicely worded, grammatically correct, and would probably satisfy a school teacher. However, it didn’t fully answer the question, just as the Big Bang theory does not.

Then I asked ChatGPT to write an essay about proving the existence of God. The result was 430 words that read in part:

“One of the most commonly cited arguments for the existence of God is the cosmological argument. This argument states that the universe had a beginning, and that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Therefore, it is reasoned that the universe must have been caused by something that exists outside of the universe, and that this cause is God. This argument is based on the principle of causality, which states that for every effect, there must be a cause.
Another argument for the existence of God is the teleological argument. This argument states that the universe is complex and ordered, with many intricate systems and processes that work together in harmony. This complexity and order is argued to be the result of an intelligent designer, which is God. The design argument is based on the idea that the universe is too complex and ordered to be the result of chance, and that it must have been created by an intelligent being.
A third argument that is often used to prove the existence of God is the moral argument. This argument states that humans have a moral sense, and that this moral sense must come from a higher being, which is God. The moral argument is based on the idea that moral laws and values cannot be explained by natural causes, but must be the result of an intelligent and moral being.
Some people argue that the existence of God can be known through personal experience, through faith. They believe that God can reveal himself in personal experiences, such as through prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices. They argue that the existence of God is something that can be known through a personal relationship with God, and not something that can be proven through reason or science.”

That summarized the arguments for God’s existence. Then, however, I decided to make the question more direct by asking a computer if God exists. So I asked ChatGPT, “Does God exist?” The answer came back in 195 words that concluded with:

“Ultimately, the question of whether or not God exists is a matter of personal belief and faith. It is important for individuals to form their own opinions on the matter based on their own experiences, beliefs and personal understanding of the world.”

Since ChatGPT never referred me to Genesis 1:1, I decided to ask, “What do we learn from Genesis 1:1?” I received this response:

“It teaches that God is the creator of all things, including the heavens and the earth. Additionally, it implies that God’s creation of the universe was a purposeful and deliberate act, rather than the result of chance or natural processes.”

I certainly can’t argue with that. I conclude that asking a computer if God exists will never result in a definitive answer to the question. Each of us must reach our own conclusion based on examining the evidence with an open mind.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: ChatGPT from OpenAI

A Grass Called Wheat and the Bread of Life

A Grass Called Wheat and the Bread of Life

The cultivation of a grass called wheat (Triticum aestivum) reaches far back into history. That grass became one of the first domesticated food crops and has been a primary staple food for people ever since. Today, wheat is grown on more land area than any other commercial crop and continues to be an essential food grain source for people. As a result, world trade in wheat is higher than for all other crops combined.

Although small, a wheat kernel has three main parts that enable it to feed the world. The source of white flour comes from the endosperm, which makes up about 83% of the kernel. Bran is the outer coat of the kernel, making up about 14%, and provides an excellent source of fiber. The smallest part of the kernel is the germ. It makes up only about 2.5% of the kernel and stores the embryo. People who mill flour separate the germ from other parts of the wheat kernel because it contains fat that limits flour’s shelf-life.

The endosperm of the wheat kernel contains a protein called gluten. It allows bread dough to rise by trapping minute bubbles of carbon dioxide when fermentation occurs in the leavened dough. Unfortunately, a small segment of the world’s population has to avoid eating gluten because of gluten sensitivity or a more serious autoimmune disorder known as coeliac disease. However, wheat is the most nourishing of the cereal grains, containing vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and fats to make a highly nutritious combination.

The grass called wheat is mentioned many times in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus referred to wheat in His parables and used it to illustrate principles in other ways. For example, people use wheat to make bread, and Jesus referred to himself as the Bread of Life. For thousands of years, wheat has been a vital part of the human diet, and the need for it only becomes greater as the population grows. Likewise, people worldwide need Jesus, the Bread of Life, who can teach us how to live in peace, give us meaning and purpose in life, and bring us into a relationship with God.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Why Would a Good God Create Viruses?

Why Would a Good God Create Viruses?

Think of the many illnesses that viruses cause, such as rabies, polio, Ebola, measles, mumps, yellow fever, influenza, HIV, chicken pox, hepatitis, shingles, rabies, and, of course, COVID. That is only a partial list. Some skeptics use this as an argument against the existence of God. Why would a good God create viruses?

Viruses are diverse and abundant beyond what we can imagine. The truth is that life on Earth could not exist without them. Even though many of them cause harm, they are essential tools in God’s construction of life.

By the usual definition of life, viruses are not alive since they cannot reproduce on their own. Instead, they must enter a living cell and coopt its replication functions to produce more of themselves. First, they hijack the 3D-printing machinery of the cell that turns genetic information into proteins. Then they damage the cell as they break out and spread to other cells. At least, that’s what happens in the case of the diseases mentioned. In COVID, the damage is to the victim’s respiratory tissue cells. So, why would a good God create viruses?

Viruses are present in every species of living creatures. They can be considered parasites, but sometimes they are in a symbiotic, or mutually beneficial, relationship with their host. They may remain dormant or even contribute to adaptive benefits. Problems often arise when a virus from one species enters another species. That is what happened with COVID and many other viral diseases. Most of them are known to have come into the human population from animals.

Scientists have only recently discovered that some viruses serve as food for certain microbes. They found that a single-celled microbe in the genus Hateria can live and grow on a virus diet, eating up to a million viruses per day. In turn, microbes are eaten by larger plankton which are consumed by larger predators which find their way into the stomachs of ever larger creatures going up the food chain to sustain life.

In addition to viruses contributing adaptive benefits to their hosts and providing food for microbes, they also serve other ecological roles. For example, some viruses infect algae. Algae blooms harm marine life, but the invading viruses help to control these aquatic algae blooms. Scientists have also found that viruses have contributed genes to human DNA that assist in embryonic development and help us resist infections and even fight off cancer.

So there are answers to the skeptic’s challenge, “Why would a good God create viruses?” Viruses are not evil, but they are a reflection of the design of the world in which we live. Their complexity allows them to shape and mold every aspect of the design of life.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

References: “Viruses as prey? It’s just one of the surprising roles they play” and “How viruses shape our world” on NationalGeographic.com

Flamingos Sleep Standing on One Leg

Flamingos Sleep Standing on One Leg

Most of us have seen flamingos or at least pictures of them. Their bright pink plumage is hard to miss, and it is quite a sight when they travel in groups. We also may have marveled at a bird that eats with its head upside down. Even more remarkable is the fact that flamingos sleep standing on one leg. Because they retract the other leg into their body, people assumed that the one-legged stance was to conserve body heat. However, researchers investigating this odd behavior have found that it is both an energy-saving and safety design.

A flamingo’s knee is located close to its body. The joint you may have thought was the knees is actually the ankle. Researchers found that flamingos can lock their knee and stabilize their center of gravity over one leg. When flamingos sleep standing on one leg, they are very stable. When asleep, their swaying decreases sevenfold compared to when they are awake. They have virtually no muscle movements in their legs and feet while they sleep. In fact, dead flamingos are capable of standing on one leg when placed in a vertical position.

Roosting is one of the most dangerous times for any bird because predators can sneak up on them. However, Flamingos can roost while standing in water away from the shore, significantly reducing their risk of being eaten. The design of their legs and knees allows this unusual method of survival.

God has provided special equipment for survival to all living things. We cannot see the unique characteristics of flamingos as accidental mutations. God’s design is incredible and allows the great diversity we see in life on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

Perhaps the most sought-after quest in physics today is what scientists call the unified theory of everything. Physics researchers are pushing to discover a uniting concept that would combine all the forces in the universe into one equation and one understanding.

For most of us, this goal seems useless, but every new understanding of the forces in the natural world has led to good things for humanity. For example, Newton’s laws of gravity and mechanics led to the industrial revolution, which raised the standard of living for everyone on the planet. Maxwell and Faraday discovered the laws of electricity and magnetism, which gave us all the conveniences electricity provides. Heisenberg and Schrodinger discovered the quantum laws which led to lasers, transistors, computers, and the internet.

As modern researchers explore the details of all these theories looking for the theory of everything, it becomes increasingly apparent that they all come from the same source. There is a single relationship that connects all of the forces in the creation. Understanding the design of each of those forces brings us new applications to improve our lives in the future.

Dr. Michio Kaku has been a leader in this quest to find the theory of everything, and his latest book is titled, The God Equation. It is striking that these new understandings are very compatible with the biblical concept of God. The Bible portrays God as outside of time and space. His properties include being in a different dimension from the creation and the single source of all things. While the media popularizes string theory and time travel, they are the products of a vivid imagination. The real application of the unified theory of everything is the fact that there is a single source to all we see and experience, and that single source is God.

Science and faith always agree and support each other. It is human limitations that stop us from advancing scientifically and spiritually. How one comes to faith in God varies from person to person, but the teachings of Jesus Christ are easily understood and lead us to faith in the one Source of everything now and for eternity – God.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Discover magazine for Jan/Feb 2023, pages 9-11.

Sand Scorpions and Earthquake Epicenters

Sand Scorpions and Earthquake Epicenters
Sand Scorpion

An environmental design feature we often overlook is the need to control insect populations. Insects do many good things, but if their numbers are not controlled, they can wipe out other forms of life – especially plants. Sand scorpions help control insects in the Mohave Desert using a method similar to how geologists locate earthquake epicenters.

Earthquakes generate longitudinal and transverse waves. Longitudinal waves travel faster. Close to the earthquake epicenters, the two wave types arrive at about the same time, but farther from the epicenter, the time difference becomes greater. Geologists can accurately compute the earthquake’s epicenter by measuring the difference at various locations.

Sand scorpions use a similar technique to locate their prey. The scorpion has eight legs that can detect vibrations of one angstrom (which is the size of a hydrogen atom). An insect traveling either under the surface or on the surface of the ground creates tiny vibrations. The scorpion detects the direction of the prey by comparing when its legs receive the signal from the prey’s movement. Legs closer to the prey detect the signal before legs further away, and the time difference between the two types of waves is a few microseconds.

By comparing the time difference, the scorpion can compute the distance and direction to the prey. The scorpion then moves in that direction and stops at the distance indicated by the arrival times of the vibrations. It then stabs with its pincers at that point and gets its meal without seeing its prey.

Using a method similar to the way geologists locate earthquake epicenters, sand scorpions, hunting primarily at night, can control insect populations in the Mohave Desert. The many ways the natural system maintains balance is an excellent testimony for design. The creation is not an accident but the product of a Supreme Intelligence that has built these systems into our world.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Halliday, Resnick, and Walker Fundamentals of Physics 6th edition in the “Waves” chapter, and a research report by Dr. Bijan Nemati at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Human Metabolism and Food Energy Production

Human Metabolism and Food Energy Production

Some say that the human body is no different from the bodies of other mammals, and in some senses, that is true. We all have hearts, stomachs, livers, etc., and our body chemistry is pretty much the same. If that were not true, we would be unable to eat meat or maintain a body temperature different from our environment. Still, despite these similarities, there are huge differences between human metabolism and the way we produce the food energy our bodies use.

For our body size, humans consume more calories each day than any other mammal. Evolutionists attempt to relate humans to chimps, gorillas, and orangutans, but the way humans handle food energy is radically different from the apes. When a baby human is born, its metabolism is very similar to an adult human, but it skyrockets over the first year of life. By the first birthday, toddlers burn over 50% more energy than we would expect for their size. Much of this consumption is to develop the brain. Throughout childhood, human metabolism will decline, reaching adult levels at around age 20, with boys declining more slowly than girls. After that, the energy expenditure is steady from age 20 until about age 60, and then it declines again.

Chimps, gorillas, and orangutans foraging for food can obtain between 200 and 300 k/cal each hour. At that rate, it takes apes about seven hours of foraging to get the k/cal they need for the day. Human metabolism requires more k/cal per day – around 2000 for women and 2500 for men, depending on body mass, activity, and age. Human hunter-gatherers can easily bring in 3000 to 5000 food k/cal per hour. Farmers produce much more than that. Until the middle 1800s, more than half of America’s workforce were farmers. Since humans have not had to spend so many hours obtaining food, we have time to devote ourselves to science, medicine, teaching, and the arts.

Human efficiency of food production allows children the freedom to grow and learn without spending every waking hour finding food. The problem we have involves food distribution and food waste. Our bodies are amazing machines of human metabolism. Herman Pontzer of the Duke Global Health Institute wrote, “The human body is a wonder of coordinated chaos. Every second of every day, each of your 37 trillion cells is hard at work, pulling in nutrients, building new proteins, and doing the myriad of other tasks that keep you alive.”

The human body is uniquely designed to serve others and serve God. That fact led the Psalmist to write, “I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know that full well” (Psalms 139:14). It also speaks to the value of human life and the importance of living as God has called us to live.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “New Human Metabolism Research Upends Conventional Wisdom about How We Burn Calories” by Herman Pontzer in Scientific American magazine, January 2023.

BabylonBee Satire with a Message

BabylonBee Satire with a Message

I often enjoy the posts on the satirical website BabylonBee.com. Many times the BabylonBee satire relates to Christian faith, and that is true of the one posted on October 8, 2022. It tells the fictional story of two friends named Brad and Vince. Brad was suffering after losing his job and being diagnosed with lupus. Vince tried to “comfort” him by saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle in life.” Brad was suspicious that “Vince isn’t real accurate with these Bible quotes.” I agree with Brad that we can misuse the Bible when trying to comfort someone.

Vince was apparently using I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (ESV) First, let me point out that the verse does not say that God gives you these trials and temptations. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” In other words, God does not “give” us “more than we can handle in life.”

With that clarified, we can agree that the tempter, Satan, certainly tries to give us more trials and temptations than we can stand. In the BabylonBee satire, Brad decided to check the Bible for himself. His reaction was, “Wow. Like half the characters in here just lay down and beg to die at some point…Moses, Elijah, Jonah, Jeremiah, Job – all tell God they wish they could just cash it in. Then you have the Psalms of David – the man apparently lived half his life in total despair.”

As Brad realized, even though God doesn’t give us the bad things in life, He doesn’t always protect us from them. God gives us the good things. James 1:17 says, “Every good give and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” The problem comes when we blame God for the bad things and then try to face them on our own. Again, James 1:12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

I like the way the BabylonBee satire ends. “Brad was sharing with Vince the good news that sometimes, the place where you are completely crushed and defeated is the easiest place to hear God speak.” That’s it! God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but if we allow it, those things can bring us closer to Him as we realize we can’t handle them by ourselves.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: BabylonBee.com/news