Architect-Engineer, Magician, or Chance

Architect/Engineer, Magician, or Chance

One of the things that John Clayton often emphasizes is that God is an architect-engineer. Some people see God as a magician. As John likes to say, they see God “zapping” things into existence. So which is correct— architect-engineer, magician, or chance?

If we think of God as a magician, we are rejecting science. We are like the ancients who saw magic in lightning, volcanoes, wind, fire, and everything else. They saw magic in the created things, and they worshipped the creation. So they had a god of the volcano, a god of the river, a god of the harvest, and on and on.

Science today has told us what causes volcanoes and hurricanes, so we no longer see them as gods. Science tells us how stars begin and how they die. It tells us how the elements are formed within stars. Science also tells us how our solar system developed. Plate tectonics reveals the processes that gave us today’s continents, and scientists are studying the formation of our atmosphere. We see how millions of things came together to provide us with a habitable planet. Were all of those merely fortunate accidents, or were they intelligently designed? Remember, the alternatives are architect/engineer, magician, or chance.

The greatest mystery of all is how non-living elements became life. How did those elements come together to form amino acids, proteins, RNA, DNA, and living cells? We are still far from understanding that, but it is evident that the chance of it happening without a guiding intelligence is vanishingly small.

However, once that life threshold has been crossed, the accepted faith in the science community is that evolution took over from there. The accepted science dogma today is the worship of evolution. That dogma says naturalistic evolution is the god that developed all forms of life, including ourselves. For a scientist to deny that dogma is to commit heresy. Any scientist who wants to keep his or her job, credentials, prestige, or credibility must adhere to the dogma and worship the god Evolution. It all happened by natural selection acting on random mutations, and you better believe it, or at least pretend you do.

But, is chance a viable explanation? Does our everyday experience of designed things, from shovels and lawnmowers to cars and computers, tells us anything? It should say to us that those things don’t design themselves. It should be evident that intelligence, not mere chance, was involved in all of them.

Again, the alternatives are architect-engineer, magician, or chance. If we rule out chance, that leaves us with two options. If God is a magician who “zapped” everything into existence and made it look old, the study of science becomes futile. Why would God try to fool us into thinking we can study the ancient creation processes when there is no such thing?

If God is an architect-engineer, we can study the creation and see how He worked to design and engineer the universe, our solar system, our planet, and even life. We don’t see those creations as gods. Instead, we see the God who created them, and we worship Him. The bottom line is that we see evidence of God in the things He has made (Romans 1:20).

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Teaching Human Evolution

Teaching Human Evolution

Researchers at Penn State University and the National Center for Science Education report that teaching human evolution in public schools has doubled since 2007. The study shows that the percentage of public school science teachers who teach evolution as established science has grown from 51% in 2007 to 67% in 2019. Simultaneously, the percentage of science teachers who discuss intelligent design has dropped from 23% to 14%.

The problem with data like this is that terminology is not defined. There is a difference between teaching human evolution according to neo-Darwinian theory and teaching the fact that living things can change. Nobody denies that new breeds of dogs, roses, corn, cattle, and fish have come into existence within recorded human history. There is also no doubt that racial variations of humans are happening as we watch. The Bible even describes evolutionary change as we read about what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks in Genesis 30:31-43. It is difficult to imagine a competent biology teacher not explaining how these changes come about, and how we can use them to solve the problems of hunger and disease today.

It is also easy to see how a teacher can destroy children’s faith by teaching that chance physical changes determine everything about humans. Teaching human evolution from primates makes humans no different from any other form of life on Earth. Children do not need to be taught that survival of the fittest governs every part of all life. There is a close correlation between the teaching of human evolution, playground bullying, and the historical justification of slavery. They all center around the survival of the fittest.

This ministry is based on the belief that science and faith in God are symbiotic. They support each other. It is bad science to teach theory as fact. It is also wrong to be selective in what valid data we use to make decisions about what we teach children. As a science teacher in public schools for 41 years, I know the pressure that teachers face. But avoiding bad science and bad theology is the answer to the evolution/creation controversy. The current pandemic may offer parents and teachers a unique opportunity to improve the education of our students and reduce the tension between science and faith in America today.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Christianity Today, September 2020 page 22 and CHRISTIANITYTODAY.COM.

Fish That Can Live Out of Water

Mudskipper - Fish That Can Live Out of Water
Bowfin - Fish That Can Live Out of Water

Evolutionists often try to use fish that can live out of water to support various theories of the origins of living things. One example is a family of fish known as mudskippers (Oxudercinae).

Mudskippers can live as long as 2 ½ days out of water. They live along the shorelines in tidal pools where there is very little oxygen. They burrow into the mud when the tide goes out and stay there until the next incoming tide. Mudskippers inflate their mouth and the cavity around their gills with air. When the fish emerges from the mud, it deflates and immediately takes another gulp of air. Their mud burrows contain enough oxygen for the fish and its eggs to survive. This is a case where the fish modifies its environment to survive in a place where life would otherwise be impossible.

In Michigan, we have a fish called the bowfin (Amia calva) or popularly called dogfish. This species of fish shows up in some of the earliest rocks of the Earth. They have obviously been around for a long time, so sometimes they are called “living fossils.” In addition to gills, they have gas bladders with a small pneumatic duct that allows them to gulp air and survive for some time out of water.

Do these fish that can live out of water show a transition between aquatic and land animals? The short answer is “no.” They do show that living things were designed to adapt to changing environments and even to modify their environments for survival. The more science researches living things, the more we realize that God has designed animals and plants to make every ecosystem alive with life. It is up to us to take care of the environment as we marvel at God’s creative power and wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Second Law of Thermodynamics

Second Law of Thermodynamics

Yesterday we looked at the First Law of Thermodynamics. I said that in my 41 years of teaching high school physics, the hardest part was getting students to see how the subject applied to their lives. If they understood that life is not possible without the laws of thermodynamics, they would realize the importance of the topic and find it easier to understand. As with the First Law, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is essential to our existence.

THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS: In Any Energy Conversion, Some Energy is Lost in the Form of Heat, Which Cannot be Recovered as Useful Energy.

This statement of the Second Law is known as the Clausius statement. What it describes is heat death. In any closed system, things tend to move toward a condition of disorder. We call that disorder “entropy.” The law does not say that energy is destroyed, because that would violate the First Law. It merely states that there is always some energy that cannot be recovered in any physical process. Things always move toward a condition of disorder.

To help students understand the Second Law, I would have a student put a spoon on the desk. While I was talking to the class, one end of the spoon would get hot and start to smoke. I would deny it was hot by picking it up at the other end and then putting it back right where I found it. There it would continue to get hotter and hotter on one end. The class would go ballistic, and I would ask them, “What’s the problem?” After a barrage of nutty answers (it’s haunted, it’s an illusion, etc.), I would point out that they had faith in the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Common sense tells them that order (the cold end) cannot exist at the same time as disorder (the hot end). I had an induction coil under the desk-top that was heating the spoon, but we all know that one end cannot remain hot, and the other end cold. Gases diffuse, things fall apart, and people get old because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

My favorite example is a teenager’s room, which becomes more and more disordered with time in conformance to the Second Law. It is essential to understand that all of these examples assume that no one is improving the order from the outside. If Mother comes along and makes you clean up your room, then the room is no longer a closed system. Organizing energy is added from the outside. The Second Law applies to systems in which no external organizing energy is added to the system. The induction coil made the spoon an open system.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics has enormous implications for cosmology. It says that, like us, all stars and all galaxies will eventually die. The cosmos is not eternal. There had to be a specific point at which the cosmos had no unusable energy. At that point, there was no entropy. The biblical statement that there was a beginning is strongly attested to by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

We must point out that it is incorrect to apply the Second Law to planet Earth or to anything on Earth. Some creationists have attempted to attack evolution based on the Second Law, but Earth is not a closed system. Photosynthesis works because the Sun is adding energy to the Earth. Biological systems can have energy added to them by any number of methods such as light, radiation, heat, or thermal vents. The added energy improves order, reducing entropy. Although the Second Law verifies many biblical statements, it is not a tool to attack evolution.

Tomorrow we will examine the Third Law of Thermodynamics.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Note: Laws are quoted from Physics, Principles and Problems, Glencoe Publications of Macmillan/McGraw Hill, PO Box 508, Columbus, Ohio 43216, pages 256-259.

Mysterious Denisovans and Anthropology

Mysterious Denisovans - Anthropologist finding Human Skull

Over ten years ago, scientists found some human remains in Siberia’s Denisova Cave. They looked different from any human remains known at the time. Scientists have continued to study the mysterious Denisovans.

The past year of 2019 turned out to be a banner year for more data on these ancient humans. A breakthrough came with more remains that have been found in Tibet. Genetic evidence relates these specimens to humans in East Asia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. New genetic studies show that there are Denisovan genes in Neandertal and Homo sapiens. Paleogeneticist E. Andrew Bennett says that there is no doubt that interbreeding occurred among all of these ancient humans.

The biblical account tells us that all humans on Earth came from a single ancestor. The Hebrew word translated Adam literally means “of the ground,” and the description of that first human is not dated or timed. The biblical point that all humans came from one, simply means that there are no different species of humans. The variations in the human genome are racial. They show the adaption to various climates, altitudes, and diets. Bennett says, “It is better to talk about different populations, not different species.” The mysterious Denisovans are merely another population of humans.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Science News December 21, 2019.

Evolution Experiments and their Results

Evolution Experiments and their Results

What if we could speed up time to test the concept of evolution? A scientist can’t wait millions or billions of years to study the process of natural selection as it creates new creatures. With that in mind, science must devise evolution experiments to study many generations in a much shorter time.

More than thirty years ago, Richard Lenski, who teaches at Michigan State University, began a project to study the evolution of the bacteria Escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli. The project is called the Long-Term Evolution Experiment (LTEE). The scientist and his assistants carefully track the naturally-occurring random mutations in succeeding generations of E. coli. The environment for the bacteria is optimized for these one-cell creatures to grow and reproduce. Mutations are often harmful, but sometimes beneficial mutations lead to an improvement in the bacteria’s reproductive ability. Natural selection removes the bacteria with harmful mutations while those with beneficial mutations become more fit and reproduce. It’s what we call survival of the fittest.

Since 1988, the evolution experiment has continued, and scientists have kept careful records of the changes. Since the generation period of these bacteria is much shorter than that of humans, the study has gone through 70,000 generations. That is equivalent to more than 1.75 million years of human generations.

Through thousands of generations, there have been billions of mutations. Beneficial mutations that have lasted and accumulated amount to dozens. It is interesting that as time passes, successful mutations become increasingly rare. What the scientists are looking for is what they call “historical contingency,” which means a succession of small, almost inconsequential changes that accumulate to create significant changes.

So how has the E. coli changed after the 70,000 generations in this evolution experiment? The latest generation of E. coli can reproduce 70% faster than their ancestors. They are still bacteria. In fact, they are still E. coli bacteria. They have not mutated into some more advanced form of life. Dr. Lenski wants to see funding made available to continue the experiment for another 30 or even 300 years in the hope of seeing more dramatic results.

The LTEE has inspired other scientists to conduct evolution experiments. There is one at Harvard experimenting with yeast. Other scientists have experimented with fruit flies (Drosophila) to study the evolution of multi-cell creatures. They have bombarded the fruit flies with radiation and chemicals, changing light levels, and changing temperatures. After thousands of generations, the result has been mutant fruit flies with extra eyes or wings that didn’t function. They were still fruit flies.

The bottom line is that multi-generation evolution experiments have not resulted in new creatures or even greatly improved old creatures. The changes resulting from mutations and natural selection are either harmful or insignificant. God created animals to adapt and change due to environmental forces. Humans can change and sometimes improve animals by selective breeding. We see that very clearly in the many and very different breeds of dogs. But the evidence seems to indicate that only God can make a Canine or a Drosophila or an Escherichia—or a human.

— Roland Earnst © 2019

You can read about the LTEE in the December 2019 issue of Discover magazine, page 49.

Wolf Spiders are One of God’s Dandy Designs

Wolf Spiders are One of God's Dandy DesignsThose of us who live in the United States Midwest are familiar with a very large spider species that we see frequently see in our sheds and outdoor equipment. These spiders have a creamy or golden cast with stripes on their heads and brown, gray, and black markings. Wolf Spiders are One of God’s Dandy Designs.

Wolf spiders have stout bodies covered with sensory hairs. They can run very quickly, and they don’t spin webs. Wolf spiders have eight eyes arranged in three rows. The bottom row has four small eyes, the second row has two large forward-facing eyes, and the top eyes are toward the back and side of the head.

After mating, female wolf spiders place their eggs in a silken sac. They attach the pouch to their bodies and carry them around until they are ready to hatch. When they hatch, the mother assists them by carrying them on her back. She can carry up to 100 spiderlings until they are prepared to function on their own. Sometimes the females will step into a water source and allow the babies to crawl down and get a drink and then crawl back up for safety.

Wolf spiders are agents designed to keep a balance in nature. Their diet consists of ants, grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects that pose a threat to humans and our crops. They can bite a human, but while the bite is uncomfortable, it is never lethal. Wolf spiders are one of God’s Dandy Designs to keep things in balance and prevent our crops from being ruined by insects. Eradicating spiders is not a good idea, and wolf spiders are one of the best friends we have.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from the Herald Bulletin by Sheryl Myers October 29, 2019.

Race and Skin Color

Race and Skin ColorWhy do humans have different races and skin colors? If we all came from “Mother Eve,” should we not all be the same color? In the past, some people suggested that people of other races were not really human, and they used that argument to justify everything from slavery to infanticide. What is the truth about race and skin color?

It is interesting scientifically that only humans have mostly naked skin and along with that, different colors of skin. Other animals have hair and mostly light-colored skin. As science has told us more about skin color and confirmed that we all came from common ancestors, we find clues about race and skin color and how we should treat one another.

The most fundamental reason for skin color differences is the fact that humans live at different latitudes. It is quite evident that human populations that have lived near the equator for many generations tend to have darker skin. As one moves from equatorial Africa toward the north, there is a constant change in skin color. By the time you get to northern Scandinavia, you have very light-skinned people with blond hair and blue eyes. People living near the equator have black skin, black eyes, and black hair.

It’s easy to understand why. Take two tin cans and paint one black and the other white. Fill them with boiling water and measure their temperature five minutes later. Dark colors radiate heat faster than light ones, so the darker can will be cooler than the white one. In equatorial Africa, the problems of heat release are very significant, because our brain cannot be allowed to overheat.

Another factor is ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which can cause many changes in living tissue, including cancer. Human skin produces a substance known as melanin for protection. Melanin, God’s sunscreen, is a large organic molecule which both physically and chemically reduces the effects of UV radiation. Melanin absorbs UV rays causing them to lose energy. It also neutralizes harmful chemicals called free radicals that form in the skin after damage from UV radiation.

Dark skin absorbs a high percentage of UV light. It is essential, however, not to lose all the UV. Another thing that UV light does is to allow the body to produce vitamin D. Farther from the equator, the amount of UV is less, so dark-skinned people may not get enough UV light to make vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D causes rickets, so lighter skin is better at latitudes away from the equator.

As humans have migrated all over the globe, their ability to produce nutrients like vitamin D has been reduced in some groups. The Inuit people in Alaska don’t get enough vitamin D from the Sun, but they eat fish, which is very high in vitamin D. Their diet compensates for the low UV exposure. The presence of melanin in the skin, the complex biochemical system that produces vitamin D, and the ability of the body to protect itself against overheating and nutritional problems all speak well of the wisdom and design of our bodies.

Psalms 139:14 says, “I will praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Instead of allowing race and skin color to divide and cause hostility between us, we should celebrate God’s wisdom and design. They show that we have a universal Creator who designed and equipped us marvelously to live on a planet that has varied conditions and environments.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Learn from Trilobite Eyes

Learn from Trilobite EyesOne of the more interesting fossils you will ever find is a trilobite. This three-lobed ocean-going creature was an arthropod related to insects and crabs. Its closest living relative is probably the horseshoe crab, although behaviorally, it may have been more like a lobster or crayfish. Today we find beautifully preserved trilobite specimens in rocks dating back to the beginning of life on Earth. What can we learn from trilobite eyes?

We can study and learn from trilobite eyes because they were made of the mineral calcite. Calcite is the same mineral that makes up limestone, so it is quite hard and efficiently preserved. In its purest form, it is perfectly clear. Calcite possesses what scientists call a double index of refraction. Because of the arrangement of atoms in calcite, light arriving at one angle passes undisturbed while light at another angle will be split into two beams.

In addition to being made of calcite, the trilobite eye was made up of a honeycomb of hexagons. There could be several thousand hexagons in the eye arranged so that light from any angle would be refracted into the animal’s eye. If it came perpendicularly, the light would go straight to the back of the eye. If it came at an angle, the double index of refraction would still bring the light to the back of the eye. There was a small wall between the hexagons so that light from the hexagons did not overlap each other. When arthropods grow, they molt their outside layer, and the new larger layer hardens. The eye material would add hexagons as the animal got larger.

This kind of eye is similar to the eye of a housefly. Like flies, trilobites would have been especially good at detecting motion. They also would not have a problem with near-sightedness or far-sightedness. Something an inch away or a mile away would both be in focus at the same time.

There is one vision problem the trilobite would have. It’s called spherical aberration. The thickness of the materials in each hexagonal lens would not be the same, and that difference could distort the image. In the trilobite eye, this problem was solved by magnesium atoms added to the calcite in a way that corrects the aberration. Modern opticians do this with what they call a doublet lens.

Scientists have observed other special features in various species of trilobites. They have found some eyeless trilobites that probably lived in areas with no light, such as very deep in the ocean. Other eyes were mounted in ball-like structures that could move. Still others were positioned so that the animals could bury themselves in the sand like a stingray while their eyes could still look out for food or enemies.

There are many lessons we can learn from trilobite eyes. The incredible complexity is a tribute to God’s wisdom and design. In this case, the complexity is of particular interest because trilobites were some of the first animals to live on this planet. That fact presents a problem for those who say complexity is a result of evolutionary forces over a very long time. Trilobites already had a sophisticated visual system when they first appeared in the fossil record in the Cambrian period 500 million years ago. Darwinistic models cannot explain the trilobite eye, but the God of the Bible can.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Do We Have Mosquitoes?

Why Do We Have Mosquitoes?Every summer and early fall, the newspapers start talking about how horrible mosquitoes are. Then I have to deal with questions of why mosquitoes exist. If there is a kind and loving God, why do we have to worry about the diseases that mosquitoes carry? I have heard some people give rather foolish answers to this question, and I don’t wish to over-simplify in discussing it. But why do we have mosquitoes?

Many years ago, one of my professors at Notre Dame was Dr. George B. Craig, whose specialty was mosquitoes. He was “an internationally recognized expert on the biology and control of mosquitoes” according to a publication of the National Academies of Sciences. As one of his students, I learned some fantastic things about mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are pollinating insects. Most species of mosquitoes pollinate plants and don’t “bite” anything.

The word “mosquito” is Spanish for “little fly” and there are some 3500 species of them. The larvae of the mosquito are a significant part of the diet of fish and other water creatures. The mutation which turned some of them into bloodsuckers seems to have come into existence in recent history. It appears they were not created that way, and certainly have not always carried malaria and other diseases. The fact that there were no mosquitoes in Hawaii until the white man came to the islands with water barrels containing mosquito larvae is another important point to consider. The question of “why do we have mosquitoes” won’t always get answered to everyone’s satisfaction, but at least we can raise some points to make people think.

The design of the various food chains on Earth is very complex. This is especially true in freshwater areas with unique problems. In Alaska, for example, the necessary minerals for plants and the food sources for bears come from the salmon runs that bring the nutrients. The soil is sparse and nutrient-poor, and much of the year, the cold prevents normal food chains from functioning. Insects provide a significant means of moving nutrients through the system, so they are the base of the food chain in those freshwater systems. Without mosquito larvae to feed the freshwater creatures, including the salmon, that life would not exist.

Research has not given us enough data to understand how mutations in insects allow them to become disease carriers. There are multiple possible answers to that question, and future discoveries will make it more clear. Those of us who live in the north may not like the mosquitoes that make our outside activities uncomfortable, but we know how to cope with them. Why do we have mosquitoes? As we tie our dry flies to fish for trout and salmon, we see why the beauty of the north is at least partially rooted in things that complicate our lives. Mosquitoes are among those complications.
— John N. Clayton © 2019