Autotomy and Decapitation

Autotomy and Decapitation
Elysia marginata sea slug

Japanese scientists have released a study of autotomy and decapitation in sea slugs. Researchers found that two species of sea slugs have the amazing ability to separate their heads from their bodies. The sea slug’s head continues to move while it regenerates a heart and other organs.

Autotomy is not a new phenomenon in the animal world. Many of us have seen lizards drop their tails to avoid predators. The tail continues to move to distract the predator while the lizard escapes. But this is the first instance where an animal drops its entire body. Both lizards and the sea slugs can use autotomy as many times as is needed. Japanese scientists have seen specimens regrow their bodies several times.

The slug’s head gets its energy to survive from photosynthesis taking place in cells it has acquired from its algae diet. The researchers believe the sea slug releases its body to get rid of parasites. The scientific community is interested in how this could be applied to replacing human body parts.

The complexity of what appears to be a simple animal is astounding. It’s a good demonstration that God has created animals with unique properties and abilities. Autotomy and decapitation reminds us that there are many things we observe in the natural world that we may use to solve some of the problems humans face.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

You can read the research report in Current Biology and see pictures and video HERE.

Fight For Clean Air

Fight For Clean Air

When I graduated from college, I was invited to a classmate’s wedding in Gary, Indiana. At the reception, I saw a silver serving dish enclosed in a plastic bag. To be helpful, I removed it from the bag when the serving line started. I was reprimanded for doing so because the silver dish began turning black in less than an hour. The problem was that a steel mill upwind from the house was putting hydrogen sulfide into the air. It was an early introduction to the fight for clean air.

With my background in chemistry, I knew that sulfur has economic value. I asked a local businessman why the factory had not installed a scrubber to remove and sell the valuable element. He told me that if the steel company was required to add the scrubber, it would move out of the area because of the cost. The company did nothing even when it was subjected to a daily fine. Local people tolerated the air pollution because of job security and the economic consequences of enforcing clean air requirements.

The April 2021 issue of National Geographic carries an article titled “The Fight for Clean Air.” The subtitle is “The Deadly Cost of Dirty Air.” It begins with these words:

Dirty air affects nearly all of the body’s essential systems. It may cause about 20% of all deaths from strokes and coronary disease, triggering heart attacks and arrhythmias, congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. It’s linked to lung, bladder, colon, kidney and stomach cancers and to childhood leukemia. It harms kids’ cognitive development and raises older people’s risk of contracting dementia or dying from Parkinson’s disease. It’s been linked to diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, decreased fertility, miscarriage, mood disorders, sleep apnea…”

That is only the beginning of the article. As you read through the list, ask yourself how many of these problems have affected you or those you love? How many people have blamed God for things that are on that list? The article documents the numbers and claims that air pollution causes seven million premature deaths a year.

Greed and selfishness lead to the construction of factories that put massive amounts of waste materials into the air while avoiding the investment needed to clean the air. People with money move away from the area with polluted air leaving the poor and disadvantaged to breathe the pollutants. This creates a separation between the rich and the poor, spilling over into the racial issues of our day.

The Bible teaches us to be concerned about the well-being of everyone. The pain and suffering that air pollution brings is not the “will of God.” It violates the principles taught by Jesus Christ. We support the fight for clean air on our planet.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

The God Question

The God Question

We frequently receive the God question from skeptics. Their challenges are something like this: “Since humans created God to explain what they didn’t understand, and since we now can explain everything, there is no need for God.” This relates to the “god of the gaps” argument, which simply says that people invented God to fill in the gaps in human understanding. There is no question that various cultures and religions have used that way of thinking. When people didn’t understand what caused volcanos, they invented a god or goddess to explain them. Even today, some people in Hawaii sincerely believe that volcanos are sacred and have a supernatural origin.

The “god of the gaps” thinking is rooted in ignorance, but so is the question, “Who created God?The problem with the God question in this form is that the questioner has a concept of God which is physical and, in some cases, human-like in form and function. The biblical concept of God is unique in that it challenges us to think more deeply than any physical or human makeup.

The question also assumes that there was a time when God did not exist. The problem with that thinking is that God created time. In Revelation 22:13, God says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Personified Wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8:22-23 and says, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning before the Earth ever was.” Peter wrote that “with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

God is not a man (Numbers 23:19) nor like any physical being. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24) and does not possess flesh and blood (Matthew 16:17). Acts 17:28 tells us that “..in Him we live and move and have our being.” We find those descriptions difficult to understand because they are outside the realm of our experience. Modern science tells us that there are dimensions beyond our own three dimensions of X, Y, and Z. Mathematics tells us that there are eleven spatial dimensions, but we cannot even define our fourth dimension of time.

The God question that atheists and skeptics bring up shows that they fail to understand that God is outside of time and space and, therefore, He always existed. Quantum mechanics has shown us a whole new realm of physics where some of the laws of classical physics no longer apply. No well-educated person would deny the studies of quantum mechanics which fill modern scientific journals. The only question remaining is whether the things that lie in the quantum world are without design or purpose and therefore show no intelligence behind them. The quantum world is incomplete because it offers no reason for there being something instead of nothing.

The concept of good and evil offers an answer to the God questions. It tells us why there is something. John 1:1-5 provides a glimpse into that question when it says, “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” The word “logos,” from which we get the word “logic,” involves the metaphysical concept of right and wrong. The purpose of human existence is the struggle between good and evil.

Job stretched his mind to understand that he was a major player in the war between good and evil in Job 42:1-6. Understanding God’s nature and that we are beings created in His image opens a new understanding of the God question. It shows us the fallacy of asking, “Who created God?” and expecting a physical answer. God fills the cosmos (Jeremiah 23:23-24), and our studies into the nature of matter have opened a whole new door to better understanding the God question.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Sexual Promiscuity and Cancer

Sexual Promiscuity and Cancer

God’s plan for sex is pretty much ignored in our society today. That leads to all kinds of problems for those who engage in sexual relationships with multiple partners. We get strong objections from those who feel “hooking up” is normal human behavior and that the Bible is just out of date. Sex involves more than intercourse, and the detrimental effects of promiscuity are clear. In addition to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and massive psychological problems, there is strong evidence linking sexual promiscuity and cancer.

The study involved 5,700 men and women with an average age of 64. Researchers found that women who had ten or more sexual partners in their lifetimes were 91% more likely to have had cancer than those with zero or one partner. For men, the number was 69% higher.

Researchers are still studying the base causes and why the cancer rate was so much higher for women. Cancer has multiple causes, and the reproductive systems of men and women make them vulnerable to different kinds of cancer. The link between sexual promiscuity and cancer indicates that God’s plan for sex is the best.

“Why me” is a constant refrain from people when they find out they have cancer. The more we know about the disease, the more we realize that it is often human-caused.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference British Medical Journal Sexual and Reproductive Health Volume 46, Issue 2

Effect of Christianity on Teens

Effect of Christianity on Teens

Atheists and skeptics claim that Christianity is harmful to children. The root of this claim is probably unfortunate incidents in the lives of those who make it. Recent studies do not support the claim. The March 2021 issue of Christianity Today published an excerpt from a book by Rebecca McLaughlin titled 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about Christianity. It contained some interesting statements about the effect of Christianity on teens.

Therapist Erica Komisar writing in the Wall Street Journal in 2019 said, “Don’t believe in God? Lie to your children.” The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that belief in Christianity “contributes to a wide range of health and well-being outcomes later in life.” Even a quote from atheist Richard Dawkins said, “the evidence that people who believe in God seem to behave better than those who don’t.”

In my 41 years of teaching in public schools, I dealt with all kinds of kids in all types of situations and saw the effect of Christianity on teens. The young people who were active in their religious beliefs were the best students and acknowledged school community leaders. Kids that were in trouble with the law, or with the school, or who were actively involved in gangs were almost universally kids who did not have a Christian foundation. I found that a vast number of my students did not have a Bible. I kept a Bible on my desk, and it not only precipitated a lot of questions, but it was frequently stolen.

On four different occasions, students went to the school administration requesting that I be allowed to present my lectures on evidence for God’s existence to the student body. This culminated in “minicourses,” where the students could come to my presentations or go to various other activities, including recreational ones in the gymnasium or the swimming pool. We had good attendance at the lectureships, and I usually gave them in the school auditorium.

An old biblical proverb says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Young people need to see the evidence for God’s existence and the validity of the Bible system of how to live. In our present age, that evidence is primarily hidden from young people. That is what the Does God Exist? Ministry is attempting to address. Kids hear the arguments against faith and Christianity from the media and aggressive atheists. For them to make their own decisions, they need to hear the positive evidence for faith. There is a positive effect of Christianity on teens.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Pope Francis on LGBTQ Issues

Pope Francis on LGBTQ Issues

On March 16, 2021, the media was full of articles about Pope Francis stating that “homosexual unions are not similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” The Vatican said, “God can not bless sin” further confusing the media. In a 2019 interview for the documentary Francesco, Pope Francis made a public endorsement of same-sex civil unions and said, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God.” These statements have led to confusion concerning Pope Francis on LGBTQ issues.

We cannot speak for the Catholic Church or Pope Francis on LGBTQ issues, but we suggest that the problem is very complex and that the Vatican, as one priest at John Carroll University put it, “is trying to thread a needle” on this issue. The Pope stated, “What we have to have is a civil union law. That way, they are legally covered.” Later the Pope said they are legally covered but not church-sanctioned.

Several facts make this issue difficult. One is that most gays did not choose to have homosexual tendencies. Why they do is related to a great extent to the acts of others. The breakdown of the family, abuse, chemical difficulties, and peer pressure are just a few of the contributors to same-sex pressures. It is becoming more and more evident that multiple causes are leading to LGBTQ behavior.

Another problem is that for many LGBTQ participants, the things necessary to maintain that lifestyle are very difficult. They may have to take hormone therapy for the rest of their lives, causing side effects and a shortened life expectancy. Some STDs are more readily transmitted in homosexual acts than in heterosexual acts.

In a free society, people can choose their sexual identity, but that creates complications. People born male who choose to be transgender females by surgery and drugs or merely by identifying as females have a huge advantage in sports. Should LGBTQ participants be allowed to adopt children or to have children conceived in a science laboratory? The Pope has said that the Catholic Church can bless people who live in “fidelity,” which apparently includes same-sex unions.

The Bible speaks strongly against same-sex unions, although some religious leaders have danced around those biblical statements. God’s plan for marriage and family remains the same. The Pope’s statement that “homosexual unions are not similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” is consistent with the biblical position.

We suggest that LGBTQ participants have the right to practice their beliefs without abuse, but the Church cannot sanction sexual relationships that the Bible strongly condemns. It seems to us that this is the point of Pope Francis on LGBTQ issues. If that is the case, we would agree with that position. We also recommend reading the book Caring Beyond the Margins by Guy Hammond, a man who has struggled with same-sex attraction. You can read our review of that book HERE.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Vaping Weed is at least as bad as Smoking Cigarettes

Vaping Weed is at least as bad as Smoking Cigarettes

States across the United States are rapidly approving the recreational use of marijuana, but scientific evidence suggests this is a dangerous development. Very little research has been done on marijuana vaping, but available evidence shows that vaping weed is at least as bad as smoking cigarettes.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified a new disease called EVALI. That is short for E-Vaping Associated Lung Injury. An apparent culprit in this problem is vitamin E acetate, a sticky oil substance often added to vaping products. This is especially common in vaping products that contain THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana.

The Center for Disease Control says that 84% of the EVALI cases involve cannabis-containing products. As of February of 2020, cases of EVALI had caused 68 deaths in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Those numbers now are far more significant, and virtually all of them are in young adults. Teenagers are twice as likely to have “wheezing or whistling” in their lungs after vaping marijuana as compared to smoking cigarettes.

As followers of Jesus, 1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Vaping weed is at least as bad as smoking cigarettes, and both are destructive acts that damage the body and can lead to death. As our society turns away from God and rejects the notion that our bodies are designed creations of God, young people are less concerned about taking care of them.

The consequences of rejecting God are enormous, and one consequence is the threat to our health. The COVID-19 pandemic should have made us all aware of the importance of caring for our lungs. These studies on the destructive nature of vaping have centered on young people, so the results are not due to old age.

First Corinthians 3:16 tells us of the sacred nature of our bodies. Verse 17 says, “If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” This is not some violence done to humans by God, but the natural consequence of abusing God’s creation. We cannot blame God when we fail to care for what He has given us.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

You can find more information on this study HERE and HERE.

Simplified Cosmological Argument

Simplified Cosmological Argument

It is always interesting to read or hear arguments by atheists and skeptics about what we feature in this column. One recent phone call said, “The creation is too complex for rational discussion. All I know is that God didn’t do it.” In response to that, we want to look at the simplified cosmological argument.

The mechanics of matter/energy interactions are indeed complex.
However, it is an ignorant argument to suggest that since they are difficult to understand, you can reject God’s existence. Here is the simplified cosmological argument for God as the creator that anyone can understand, even without understanding scientific theories.

STEP 1: BELIEVE THAT YOU EXIST. If you don’t believe that you exist, then the whole discussion is untestable, can’t be falsified, and is beyond scientific investigation or debate.

STEP 2: BELIEVE THAT THERE WAS A BEGINNING TO THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE. All observations and the laws of physics demand a specific start to the creation – be it the “big bang” or some other description.

STEP 3. BELIEVE THAT THE BEGINNING WAS CAUSED. If there was a beginning to the physical creation, something or someone had to be the cause. Matter/energy can not create itself.

STEP 4: DECIDE WHAT THE NATURE OF THE CAUSE WAS. You have two choices here. Either the cause was an intelligence, or the cause was blind, mechanistic, opportunistic chance.

STEP 5: EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE. What does the evidence show? Is chance a statistically reasonable possibility? Is there evidence of design and purpose in the creation?

STEP 6: DEAL WITH THE QUESTION OF WHY THERE IS SOMETHING INSTEAD OF NOTHING. Philosophers can debate this as long as they wish, but if the cosmos is a product of blind chance, then there is no meaningful purpose to human existence. It also means that evil does not exist, and all events on the planet revolve around the survival of the fittest. If there is an intelligence that resides in a personal God, then evil exists, and the war between good and evil gives a purpose for all human existence.

The book of Job explores these points, and Jesus Christ clearly laid out our purpose in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7. You are here for a reason. Not only do “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1) but so does the Earth, and so do God’s people. That is the simplified cosmological argument.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Indiana House Bill 1577 and Abortions

Indiana House Bill 1577 and Abortions

This month, the Indiana Senate is considering Indiana House bill 1577. In February, it passed the Indiana House of Representatives by a vote of 67 to 29. The bill would allow mental health providers to deny their services to a woman seeking an abortion if doing so would go against the provider’s ethical, moral, or religious beliefs. Present law allows other healthcare providers that option.

The bill would also prohibit an abortion-producing drug from being given to women who are more than eight weeks pregnant. Indiana House Bill 1577 would also require abortion clinics to provide the woman with a printed ultrasound image of the fetus. Promotors of ultrasound imaging say it is “the most impactful material used to change their minds.” Also, girls under 18 years could not get an abortion without notarized parental consent. Present Indiana law requires a consent form, but it does not have to be notarized.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposes the bill because it would add extra steps to women seeking abortions. They are threatening a lawsuit, saying the bill is unconstitutional. Perhaps the most controversial part of the bill is the requirement that doctors inform women that it is possible to reverse the effects of the abortion pill. An assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology testified to the Indiana House that it would be unethical because it is “untrue and potentially dangerous.” The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists support the requirement saying it is true and safe.

Our society’s rejection of God’s plan for sex, marriage, and family has caused this whole confusion about the requirements of Indiana House Bill 1577. When people reject God’s design for any aspect of human activity, there will be damage to the participants and even the innocents who are not part of the decision.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: News and Tribune and Legiscan

Why Do We Need Wetlands?

Why Do We Need Wetlands?
The Pantanal

A giant wetland called the Pantanal is located mostly in Brazil and partly in Bolivia and Paraguay. It’s the world’s largest tropical wetland covering as much as 75,000 square miles (195,000 sq km). You might think that such a vast area is a lot of wasted space that should be drained and used for other purposes. Why do we need wetlands anyway?

The Pantanal is located in a depression in the Earth’s crust surrounded by highlands. Several rivers flow into the Pantanal, bringing sediment and making it an inland river delta. In the rainy season, up to eighty-percent of the floodplain is covered with water. In the dry season, the floodplain becomes dry. Forests of trees grow in the higher areas of the Pantanal. In the lower seasonally inundated areas, grasslands are growing.

The area’s topography creates various biome regions supporting plants that are native to rainforests, savannahs, and semi-arid lands. There are 3,500 plant species in the Pantanal, 1000 bird species, 480 reptile species, 400 fish species, and 300 mammal species. In other words, the Pantanal supports an incredible variety of aquatic plants and a very diverse menagerie of animals.

Some of the animals living in the Pantanal are rare or endangered. We need wetlands like the Pantanal to support these various plants and animals, plus thousands of invertebrate species. More than that, wetlands are natural water treatment systems that remove pollutants and chemicals, purifying and replenishing the groundwater. Wetlands also provide a buffer against flooding in other areas.

Why do we need wetlands? They are an essential part of the hydraulic system God created for planet Earth described thousands of years ago in Job 36:27, 28, “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture, and abundant showers fall on mankind.” That ancient book describes the water cycle with scientific accuracy.

We need wetlands for what they do for our water supply and the support they provide for plants and animals essential to the balance of nature. Human activity threatens the Pantanal, as well as many other wetlands. We must become better stewards of the blessings God has placed in our care.

— Roland Earnst 2021