Evolution Has Multiple Meanings

Evolution Has Multiple Meanings

Yesterday, I mentioned that I sometimes get people to think by saying that I believe in evolution. For some, the word only brings to mind the concept of “man from monkey.” However, evolution has multiple meanings. We looked at three of them yesterday, and none of the definitions say anything about the existence of God. So here are two more evolution concepts.

#4. MICROEVOLUTIONARY CHANGE. These are changes in a biological population over time, usually in response to environmental factors. We see this in viruses evolving to become resistant to drugs. Humans have created new breeds of dogs and cattle through microevolution. In the Bible, Jacob used microevolution in dealing with Laban’s flocks. (See Genesis 30:31-42.) Microevolution, change within a species, is the basis of modern agriculture.

#5. MACROEVOLUTION. This is a process of change from common descent. The key word is “process” and describes how, over time, it can lead to a new species. In microbiology, a microbe may get its DNA mixed up with the DNA of another microbe and produce a new species. Farmers in California can tell you about insects that evolved with the ability to cause damage to crops. Some plants have changed to the point where they are no longer fertile with the original plant from which they came. Fish have also speciated.

Is macroevolution a tool God uses to produce the massive numbers of new species in the world today? To suggest that macroevolution happens only by chance requires more faith than believing that God built a system allowing new plants and animals to exist on a changing Earth.

So, we see that evolution has multiple meanings. But, no matter what definition we use, it simply describes how God has operated and continues to operate. So, when I say that I believe in evolution, you must know what I mean by that. As we noted yesterday, everyone believes in some form of evolution, but that does not disprove God’s existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

I Believe in Evolution

I Believe in Evolution

I have, on occasion, made the statement that I believe in evolution. My purpose for saying that is to get people to think. What does “evolution” mean? For many people, the statement means “man from monkey,” and that is as far as they go. There are at least five ways in which people use the word” evolution.” None of them have anything to do with the existence of God. Think about the ways people use the word “evolution.”

#1. ANY CHANGE OVER TIME. We talk about stars evolving from blue hot stars to red dwarfs. We speak about an athletic program evolving. This is simply change over time and has no relevance to our faith.

#2. CULTURAL EVOLUTION. A cultural group may change radically over time due to many things. America has evolved from a country made mostly of immigrants to a country made of people born in this country. Our nation has evolved, and even our vocabulary recognizes this. When I was a kid, America was perceived as a “melting pot” where we could all be one and leave our ethnicity behind. That has evolved into a pluralistic society where people determine their ancestry and try to retain it. That evolution has brought enormous political implications,

#3. PROGRESSIVE EVOLUTIONARY REVELATION. Our understanding of the atom has evolved in my lifetime. My chemistry class in high school and college taught me that the atom had a nucleus with electrons orbiting it in concentric circles around that core. Now, when I teach chemistry, I talk about orbitals and electrons moving in figure eights and cloverleaf patterns in various numbers. Knowledge can change understanding, and that is evolutionary revelation. The Bible uses evolutionary revelation, with the Old Testament introducing the nature and operation of God and progressively revealing the nature of Jesus Christ and the future of believers.

So, when I say that I believe in evolution, you must know what I mean by that. If anyone says they do or don’t believe in evolution, ask them to define what they mean by “evolution.” The truth is that everyone believes in some form of evolution. Tomorrow, we will look at the two remaining primary uses of the word.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Bible is Too Hard to Understand

The Bible is Too Hard to Understand

What is the number one reason why people have trouble understanding the Bible? It isn’t the language. It isn’t what translation you use. Also, it isn’t because you need a high level of education to make sense of it. Jesus taught things that are easy to understand. On the other hand, Satan leads us to say the Bible is too hard to understand to justify why we are not following what it says. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus was talking to common folk like us. The Jewish scholars may have had a hard time understanding His message, but the common folks did not.

Think of what is hard to understand in today’s world. Can anyone make sense of the war in Ukraine and the mindset of the Russian leaders who are bringing such pain and suffering to innocent people? Why do evolution and “survival of the fittest” have such an attraction to people of the world? Why are we obsessed with video games that bring images of fighting, death, and destruction into our homes? Why is sexual misconduct front-page news every day? The physical world doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Until you get your mind around the fact that the Bible and the teachings of Jesus are devoted to the spiritual, you will struggle with it. Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world” and “don’t worry about tomorrow.” The idea of agape” love has meaning only if you understand the spiritual and are not hung up on material desires. If you think the Bible is too hard to understand, you are probably thinking only of the material realm.

A classic example of material thinking is confusion about the concept of heaven and hell. In 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Paul writes about the change that takes place when we die. This passage uses two Greek terms: “psychikon soma” refers to our physical body, and “pneumatikon soma” refers to our spiritual body. If you picture heaven and hell as physical places, you will get confused. This passage makes it clear that it is our spiritual makeup that inherits hell or heaven, depending on the choices we make in life.

We may not be able to imagine the joy of a spiritual existence without time or pain or suffering. However, we can understand that hell is not a place in the center of the Earth with demons with red suits and pitchforks tormenting us.

Jesus offers freedom from all the misery and fears of this physical existence. That is REAL freedom. If you think the Bible is too hard to understand, train yourself to think in spiritual terms. Then the Bible and what it offers will make sense to you.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Vulture Bees and Evolution

Vulture Bees and Evolution - Bee in the Trigona genus
A stingless bee in the Trigona genus

One of the interesting design features that we see in the biological world is how waste material is recycled into the environment. When something dies, all of its body must return to the bio-system. Otherwise, the bodies of dead animals and plants would cover Earth’s surface. Vultures and hyenas play an essential role in recycling dead bodies. In past columns, we have written about birds that eat bones. Vulture bees are another agent that takes a dead carcass and reduces it to the elemental constituents.

We are all familiar with bees that flit from flower to flower, searching for nectar. Vulture or carrion bees are three species of stingless bees in the genus Trigona, living in the jungles of Central and South America. To prevent them from getting sick on rotting meat, they have the same gut bacteria as vultures and hyenas.

The jungle poses a different environment from open terrain. A dead animal carcass can quickly turn slimy and stinky in the warm and humid jungle environment. However, vulture bees have a digestive system that can handle any dead animal, even lizards and snakes.

Studies of the vulture bees show that they have one-third more acid-producing gut bacteria and some microbes not found in other bees. Vulture bees regurgitate some of the meat they eat into their nests, where it serves as food for young bees, and their gut bacteria prevent further decay of the meat to protect the colony.

Researchers trying to give an evolutionary explanation
to the existence of these bees face a problem. According to Science News, entomologist Jessica Maccaro of the University of California expressed it well: “It’s hard to know which evolved first – the gut bacteria or the bees’ ability to eat meat. But bees probably first turned to meat because there was so much competition for nectar for food.”

It is hard to imagine a bee choosing to eat meat to reduce competition for food. It seems more plausible that vulture bees are part of God’s designed system to recycle nutrients from dead material to protect the environment.

— John N. Claton © 2022

Reference: Science News January 29, 2022, page 4 and the American Society for Microbiology

Evolution Is Not Creation

Evolution Is Not Creation

An error shared by some creationists and some evolutionists is confusing evolution with creation. One problem is that the terms “creation” and “evolution” do not mean the same thing to different people. Regardless of how we use the terms, evolution is not creation. Evolution and creation are two completely different subjects that are only very remotely related.

We see the concept of creation in the very first verse of Genesis 1. “Reshith Elohim bara shamayim erets” is the Hebrew of this verse. Each of these words has great significance:

Reshith tells us that there was a beginning to time, space, and matter-energy. Our studies in quantum physics continue to support that statement.

Elohim is a plural word for God and conveys the power and nature of the agent that produced the beginning.

Barais a word used only in reference to God and implies a process beyond human capacity to reproduce.

Shamayim refers to “heaved up things,” meaning the expanding universe.

Erets refers to our functional planet. It is used 648 times in the Old Testament.

A person might deny God as the causal agent of time, space, and matter-energy. Nevertheless, the creation’s characteristics strongly suggest intelligence and wisdom. However, this entire subject has very little to do with evolution. “Evolution” means “unfolding change.” The evolutionist starts with the assumption that not only time, space, and matter-energy existed, but that they existed in a form that allowed change to take place.

Many evolutionary scientists bring into their thinking the question of God’s role in shaping what He had already created. The other option is naturalistic evolution which attributes all we see in the natural world to chance. But, regardless of how you define the terms, realize that evolution is not creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

For some interesting points on this topic from the perspective of a scientist who is a Christian, we suggest “How might God have Guided Evolution? Scientific and Theological Viewpoints” by Dr. Peter Bussey. It was published in the June 2021 issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation. Dr. Bussey is Emeritus Reader in Physics with the University of Glasgow in Scotland and works with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and its Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator.

Edward O Wilson Was an Authority on Ants

Edward O. Wilson Was an Authority on Ants

You may recognize the name Edward O. Wilson whom evolutionists associate with sociobiology. However, the Harvard biologist who passed away in December at the age of 92 was actually more famous for his detailed study of ants. There are currently over 15,000 known species of ants, with probably thousands more, and Edward O Wilson was an authority on ants.

Wilson’s studies included ants that can walk under water to find dead insects or glide from one tree to another or join together to make a raft to carry their queen and eggs to safety away from a flooded nest. Wilson pointed out the complex social organization of an ant colony. He wrote that “Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species.”

Wilson summarized his work by saying, “Our sense of wonder grows exponentially: the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery and the more we seek knowledge to create new mystery.” Proverbs 6:6 gives a similar message: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.” We have considered the ways of ants many times on this website and in our printed journal. You can find links to some of those articles below.

Edward O Wilson was an authority on ants, and although we disagree with his agnosticism and materialistic Darwinism, we applaud him for giving us information about the world of ants. His work reinforces the message of Romans 1:20 that “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.”

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Columnist Rich Lowry in the Herald Bulletin for December 23, 2021.

Here are links to some of our previous articles on ants:

Ants and survival rafts.

Ants with prism cooling.

Armor for leafcutter ants.

Ants and tool use.

Ants as farmers.

Ant leaf-cutting tool.

Ant doorways.

Ants in the Sahara Desert.

Ants working together.

The Missing Link in Human Evolution?

The Missing Link in Human Evolution?
Taung child – Facial forensic reconstruction by Arc-Team, Antrocon NPO,
Cicero Moraes, University of Padua – CC-BY-SA 4.0

In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin hypothesized that the evolutionary ancestors of modern humans originated in Africa. He pointed out that African apes most resemble humans, but he lacked fossil evidence to support his conjecture. The missing link, as it was called, showed up more than 50 years later.

In 1924, some miners working in a limestone quarry in Taung, South Africa, found a fossil of a child. Anatomists determined that this 3-to-4-year-old child had some humanlike and some apelike features. They called this “Taung Child” the missing link between apes and humans. Scientists gave it the name Australopithecus africanus, which means southern African ape.

Critics pointed out that young apes have similarities to young humans, but the resemblance goes away as they mature. However, racist attitudes were strong at the time, and eugenics was accepted as real science. Meanwhile, anthropologists were busy categorizing people into races. Western researchers wanted to justify their claim that Africans were more primitive and less evolved than other people, thus justifying slavery and racism.

One of the challenges to people who believe the Bible is making sense of the fossils and interpretations we read about or see in a museum or video documentary. The basic proposal of the “Does God Exist?” ministry is that science and faith are friends. We are interested in understanding–not conflict or debate. As science makes discoveries in various fields, our understanding may grow. We are seeing more evidence for God’s existence in the design of the universe and life.

The history of paleoanthropology has shown that people have used scientific discoveries in political battles and as justification for slavery, eugenics, and racism. The Bible simply says God created man of the dust of the earth. It does not tell us how long ago or give any other details. The most important thing is that He created humans in His own image (Genesis 1:27). That spiritual creation makes ALL humans equal and of infinite value. Christians recognize that fact (Galatians 3:26-29). Even scientists studying mitochondrial DNA have determined that every human alive today can be traced back to one woman they have called “Mitochondrial Eve.”

As science continues to look for the missing link, paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood said that from a scientific perspective, “Our origin story is a work in progress.” In other words, even scientists have trouble making sense of the fossils. Scientific discoveries in various fields may tell us more about how God did what He did, but science cannot tell us how to live successfully. Only the teachings of Jesus Christ that we find in the Bible can do that.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: “Tracing the Origins of Humans” by Erin Wayman in Science News September 25, 2021, (pages 20 -28)

Glasswing Butterflies – Practically Invisible

Glasswing Butterflies – Practically Invisible
Glasswing Butterflies are Beautifully Transparent

We often overlook how hard it is to maintain the balance between different kinds of life in the natural world. For example, if an animal is too successful at avoiding predators and reproducing, it will eat up all of its available food. If it is not successful enough, it will become extinct because predators will wipe it out. Then the predators will be short of food. The design of life which allows animals and plants to exist in balance with their environment is amazing.

One design factor that protects many animals is camouflage. An excellent example of that is an insect known as glasswing butterflies (Greta oto) which have transparent wings. One scientist said that “transparency is the ultimate form of camouflage” because the insect can blend into any background, but transparency is “really hard to do.” Glasswings live in the rainforests of Central and South America.

Most living things are visible because they reflect light. However, microscopic studies of glasswing butterflies show that the wing material has low absorption, low reflection, and low scattering of light. Microscopic nanopillars on the wing’s surface are designed to minimize light reflection and smooth the refraction index gradient between the wing surface and the air. The result is a practically invisible wing except for the dark brown borders tinted with red or orange.

If you believe that natural selection is the sole cause of this design, why don’t all butterflies have transparent wings? This feature obviously favors the survival of the butterfly. Most butterflies have colorful, eye-catching wing patterns that make them visible while giving us an appreciation for the role of beauty in the creation.

From an evolutionary standpoint, there should be no butterflies left with colorful wings, but glasswing butterflies are the exception, not the rule. God has designed creatures to survive in all kinds of environments.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, July 31, 2021, page 32.

The Bible Description of Humans

The Bible Description of Humans

Yesterday we asked the question, “What is a human?” Evolutionists say that humans are the product of millions of years of evolution. That belief says that survival of the fittest and chance evolutionary processes made you who you are. Also, it has logically led to slavery, racial prejudice, ethnic cleansing, and abortion. But is that true, or should we accept the Bible description of humans?

Genesis 2:3 uses two different Hebrew words to describe the creation process. The passage says, “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because that in it He rested from all His work which God created (bara in Hebrew) and made (asah in Hebrew).” Some translations don’t distinguish between them, but the words refer to two different processes.

Asah” refers to making something from materials that have already been created. In contrast to “asah,” the word “bara” refers to something only God can do in creating something that did not exist before. Those two words describe two different processes, and the distinction is essential.

There are two other significant Hebrew words used in the Genesis creation account. One of them is “yatshur.” It describes artistic work in the creative process. It means to form or shape as a sculptor would do. Genesis 2:7 tells us that “God formed (yatshur) man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” The reference to the living being uses the Hebrew word “nephesh,” which refers to a breathing creature. It is also used to refer to animals.

The similarity between “asah” and “yatshur” is that they both refer to the shaping of something from materials already created (bara). Genesis uses the word “asah” when referring to God making animals. Psalms 94:9 uses “yatshur” to describe the formation of the human eye. Jeremiah 1:5 uses it to refer to the formation of the fetus in the womb.

The word “bara” is connected to the Bible description of humans. Tomorrow we will take a closer look at that.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

What Is a Human?

What Is a Human?

What is a human? Do you define humans as naked apes? Is your concept of being human that we are just animals and nothing more? Are we just the end product of millions of years of evolution? If so, have you considered where that belief logically takes you? Believing that survival of the fittest and chance evolutionary processes made you what you are has led to slavery, racial prejudice, abortion, ethnic cleansing, and a distorted view of sex.

If humans are only animals and “survival of the fittest” determines the value of a race, then inferior races should serve superior races. This, of course, was the whole basis of Hitler’s extermination of the Jews. The history of the world is full of the enslavement of other humans. Even today, white supremacy is based on evolutionary assumptions. Abortion is justified on the belief that an unborn child is not human and should not inconvenience others. Ethnic cleansing is based on the notion that one ethnic group is superior to another and justifies eliminating the inferior group.

The history of America’s use of evolution is horrendous. In 1904 a Mbuti tribal man was kidnapped from the Belgian Congo and exhibited as an attraction in New York City’s Bronx Zoo. In 1911 a museum in San Francisco showcased a Yahi man calling him “the last wild Indian in California.”

Today, most cultures view sex as a recreation at best and a tool of control at worst. Most evolutionists would not entertain the notion that sex can create a unique and incredible bond between a man and a woman for life.

So what is a human? We will continue to examine that question tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Archaeology magazine, March/April 2021 page 42.