Coordinated Vigilance

Coordinated Vigilance in the family

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

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

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

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

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: nih.gov

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Monarch Butterfly Migration and Generations
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed
Monarch Butterfly Migration and Generations
Monarch Butterfly

Some people have asked questions that show confusion about monarch butterfly migration. The idea that one butterfly migrates from northern latitudes to Mexico and back is incorrect. The monarch’s life begins in March and April as eggs on milkweed plants. They hatch into tiny caterpillars in about four days. After two weeks, the full-grown caterpillar will attach itself using silk to make a chrysalis. In about ten days, a butterfly will emerge and fly away. The butterfly will feed on flowers and fruit for two to six weeks. This first-generation monarch will die after laying eggs for the second generation.

The four-stage life cycle of the second, third, and fourth generations is the same as what we just outlined, but the fifth generation is different. The fifth generation is born in September and October, but the butterflies don’t die after two to six weeks. They complete the monarch butterfly migration to warmer climates in Texas, California, and Mexico. There, they hibernate for six to eight months, and the whole process starts again.

We have talked about hummingbirds, where one individual makes the journey from northern areas to subtropical climates. In the case of monarch butterfly migration, the journey involves five generations. How they make such a journey with five individuals who never see each other is the object of several studies. It seems rather obvious that their DNA has a built-in GPS, allowing this incredible journey. No one would suggest that a GPS is a product of blind mechanistic chance. There has to be a design to enable such a system to work. That design is the product of an intelligence that is not only built into the GPS but also the instructions for what to do in each of the four steps of this remarkable insect’s life.

God is the designer of the monarch butterfly migration system, and the design features we are coming to understand reflect God’s wisdom and purpose. What a great time we live in, to be able to understand the complexities of life and yet know there is still much for us to learn.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Data from Old Farmer’s Almanac

Does God Answer Prayers?

Does God Answer Prayers?

If you have not read yesterday’s post, please do so. Atheist challenges to prayer are very vocal and common. Madalyn Murray O’Hair stated the atheist position well: “No God ever gave any man anything, nor ever answered any prayer at any time – nor ever will.” God’s response to this statement is well stated in James 4:1 -3, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Does God answer prayers?

Both atheists and believers have many misunderstandings about prayer:
#1) God cannot eliminate our purpose for existing by answering a prayer that takes away the human ability to choose between good and evil.

#2) Galatians 6:7 tells us, “A man reaps what he sows.” There will be consequences when we do what God has told us not to do. If you jump off a cliff, you can’t expect God to prevent you from hitting the bottom.

#3) As humans, we don’t always know what to ask for, and we don’t know the collateral damage of things we ask for. Garth Brooks has a wonderful song titled “Unanswered Prayer.” Listen to the words and be aware of their message.

#4) We tend to experience an answer to prayer by assuming the answer was a product of chance or human wisdom. Does a medical cure for something mean that God had no role in the healing? Most doctors will tell you that they don’t cure diseases. They help the body fight off the cause.

#5) God doesn’t do for us what we can do for ourselves.

What would be the result if God answered every human whim and desire? I was in a church service where a farmer prayed for rain. Later, another member prayed it wouldn’t rain on his daughter’s wedding. During the Civil War, people on both sides prayed for victory for their side.

Does God answer prayers? Most 12-step participants, most of us who have sought a purpose for existing, most of us who have prayed for personal peace and comfort, and most of us who have struggled with our approaching death can tell you that prayer helps in obvious ways. Our misunderstanding of why God wants us to pray prevents us from comprehending the value of prayer.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Why Didn’t God Answer My Prayer?

Why Didn’t God Answer My Prayer?

It is interesting that the more vocal atheists of our day spend a lot of time talking about prayer. Many of them became atheists because when they were younger, God didn’t answer a prayer as they thought He should. The death of a family member, especially a mother or father, is the most common story we have heard as a reason for not believing in God. The common phrase is, “Why didn’t God answer my prayer? If He really exists, why did He let my child (or mother, father, spouse) die?’

The songbook we use at our worship time contains 45 songs about prayer. Eleven of them promise that God will take care of you and not deny anything you ask. Skeptics have said the song “God Will Take Care of You” by Civilla and Walter Martin “is an outright lie.” Atheists often quote the line, “Nothing you ask will be denied.”

The other side of this issue is what we should legitimately pray for. My wife recently lost a hearing aid. She prayed for several days about the loss, and just when she had given up, the hearing aid appeared on the seat of our car. Does God micromanage our lives to help us find lost objects?

For any Bible promise, we must ask what was said, who said it, why, and how the people hearing it would have understood it. In passages like Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you …” He goes on to say, “Your Father in heaven will give good gifts to those who ask for them.” These passages and many others tell Christians that God will answer prayers. The reality is that physical answers do not always come to us, at least not as we expect.

When my son was born, we had great joy, but we soon realized that he had some medical problems. We prayed for his vision problems, and the doctors told us that he would be able to see well enough to function – but he became blind. We prayed that he would have the intelligence to overcome blindness, but it turned out he was mentally challenged. We prayed his body would be strong, but we learned he had cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and was schizophrenic. I went through a “why me” stage and a period of anger at God for allowing my son to have all these problems. I asked, “Why didn’t God answer my prayers?” My atheist parents attempted to get the state to remove the child from our home. That alienated me from them for many years.

One aspect of prayer that many never understand is that God knows the future. He answers prayers in ways that have eternal implications that allow us to have an unintended purpose in life. My experience opened doors that I didn’t even know existed. My son’s problems have molded and shaped me into a radically different person. I have a mission and a purpose in life that I would never have had without the way my prayers were answered. Perhaps the question should be, “Why didn’t God answer my prayer in the way I expected? We will continue with more thoughts on prayer tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Note: The story of my son is available in a book titled “Timothy, My Son and My Teacher,” available directly from our ministry or powervine.store.

God Used Two Methods

God Used Two Methods to bring everything into existence

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

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

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

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

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

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

— John N. Clayton © 2024

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

Fly Wings Differ from Bird or Bat Wings

Fly Wings Differ from Bird or Bat Wings

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

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

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

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

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

— John N. Clayton © 2024

References: evolutionnews.com and nature.com

The Bombardier Beetle Takes Aim

The Bombardier Beetle Takes Aim

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

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

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

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

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Spiders on Mars

Spiders on Mars
Mars “Spiders”

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

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

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

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

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: usatoday.com

Planet Parade Syzygy

Planet Parade Syzygy

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

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

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

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

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2024

Reference: cnn.com

You Just have to Believe

You Just have to Believe

Some preachers and church leaders try to tell you, “Don’t question your faith. You just have to believe.” We never find that kind of attitude in the teaching of Jesus or any of the apostles. It is easy to assume that the people we are talking to believe in God, that the Bible is the true Word of God, and that Jesus is a real person who lived, died, and rose from the dead.

It’s a common misconception that everyone in the church has unwavering faith. In reality, a significant portion of people, including those sitting in church pews, have their own doubts and questions. Over the past decade, our ministry has seen a surge in responses, particularly from teenagers and young adults who are grappling with their faith.

Jesus had to deal with the doubts of people who rejected what He said. The Bible describes multiple cases in which people showed Jesus a lack of faith. In Mark 9:17-27, we read of a father with a son who had an epileptic-like issue. Jesus told the distraught father, “All things are possible for one who has faith.” The father cried out with tears, “Lord, I have faith, help me where faith runs short.” Have you ever had a struggle in which you want to believe but are paralyzed by doubt?

How did Jesus handle people’s doubts? The answer is “evidence.” When Thomas doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead, Jesus did not condemn or even chastise him but gave him evidence ( John 20:24-29). Verses 30 and 31 tell us that Jesus did many other things which gave his disciples evidence, “These things are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you might have life through His name.”

The purpose of miracles was not to attract a crowd, raise money, or campaign for some particular office. In Matthew 8:24 -27, we see Jesus controlling wind and waves, and His followers’ response was, “What kind of a man is this that even the winds and the sea obey Him.” Miracles served a purpose, and when men tried to duplicate the things Jesus did, the results were catastrophic. (See Acts 19:13-16.)

In our day, evidence is still a key to faith. The creation speaks of God’s existence, and archaeological evidence for the validity of the Bible is strong. All around us, we can see the catastrophe when people reject the teachings of Christ and devise their own plan for living. We present evidence in the courses we offer, our printed publications, and our websites. We have far more reason to believe than did people in biblical times when mass media was unavailable and scientific knowledge was minimal. Romans 1:19-20 says it well, and verses 28-32 tell us the consequences of rejecting the evidence.”

— John N. Clayton © 2024