Marijuana Use Has Consequences

Marijuana Use Has Consequences
Drug promoters, politicians, and even stockbrokers have flooded the media with claims about marijuana, and almost everything they have said about marijuana use is wrong. When you read the scientific studies about marijuana, they contradict what the promoters of the drug have said. Here are some factual data from scientific sources and from the National Academy of Medicine for you to consider:

“Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”

Marijuana use as a pain killer is too weak to work for people who truly need opiates such as terminal cancer patients.

Marijuana does not reduce opiate use. The United States which is the western country with the most cannabis use also has by far the worst problem with opioids. The January 2018 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry carried a report showing that people who used cannabis in 2001 were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later.

Teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly are three times as likely to develop schizophrenia.

In 2014 there were 90,000 cases of “diagnosable cannabis use disorder,” which is triple the number in 2006.

A study published in June of 2018 in Frontiers of Forensic Psychiatry showed that over a three-year period men with psychosis who used cannabis had a 50% chance of becoming violent. That is four times higher than those with psychosis who didn’t use cannabis. A study of 1600 psychiatric patients in Italy showed a 10-fold increase in violence in those using cannabis.

A 2007 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia on 88 defendants who had committed homicide found that two-thirds were misusing cannabis — more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.

The Journal of Interpersonal Violence in 2012 reported a study of 9,000 adolescents which found that marijuana use doubled domestic violence, and a Chinese study found a fivefold increase.

States that have legalized marijuana have had a 37% increase in murders and a 25% increase in aggravated assaults.

We want to emphasize that studies on the medical uses of marijuana are ongoing. If marijuana use can be beneficial for medical purposes over the long haul, it certainly should be used. However, the legalization for recreational use is a recipe for disaster.
–John N. Clayton © 2019
For more on this, see the excellent article by Alex Berenson in the January issue of Imprimis Monthly available from Hillsdale College, 33 E. College St., Hillsdale MI 49242. It is available online HERE.
We have posted before about the consequences of marijuana use HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Gene Editing Controversy Continues

Gene Editing Controversy Continues
We recently reported on the gene editing controversy when a scientist used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to produce “superior” human babies. Jiankui He, a Chinese geneticist, announced that twin girls had been born with genes edited by his medical team to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.

For several years experts have predicted that it will be possible in the future to produce “designer babies” by the technique He has used. The twins’ father has HIV, but their mother does not. We pointed out previously that human knowledge is not good enough to know what collateral damage we may create in such a project. There are also issues about whether humans should ever genetically modify human life. Playing God has enormous responsibilities, and the gene editing controversy brings up concern about the old “Frankenstein Complex.”

Since He’s announcement there have been numerous articles and responses by experts in the field backing what we said in our article:

Researchers say there was virtually no chance the girls would have been infected with HIV since their mother doesn’t carry the virus.

No evidence can verify that the editing was successful and didn’t damage other genes.

Previous CRISPR/Cas9 research has shown that some cells in embryos may be incompletely edited or escape editing entirely creating what is called a “mosaic embryo.”

He was asked why the research was done in secret and why he chose to violate established rules of CRISPR/Cas9. He refused to answer those questions.

Julian Savulescu who is a bioethicist at the University of Oxford said, “I liken it to Russian roulette. You can pull the trigger and not kill, but it doesn’t mean that what you did was right.” We would suggest that this gene editing controversy is a classic of example of the fact that science cannot determine the way its discoveries will be used. In this case, it appears this was a desire to become famous, rather than trying to improve the well being of human life.

There are many Christians who are scientists working with CRISPR/Cas9 and who have stated their dismay and feeling that their greatest fears are being realized. The gene editing controversy continues, and we will hear more of this.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

DNA Barcodes Support Biblical Record

DNA Barcodes Support Biblical Record
Nearly every day the newspaper has an article that announces some new research on DNA. One of the recent applications of DNA research is to classify living things. Classification is an old issue, going back to Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:19-20 God brought all kinds of living organisms before Adam so that he could name them. In 1 Kings 4:33 Solomon wrestled with the issue as well. Our current system of naming living things was brought into existence by Carl Linnaeus in the 1700s, but it is gradually being replaced by what is called DNA barcodes.

You can compare DNA barcodes to the barcodes we see when we shop for merchandise. Instead of bars, DNA barcodes are a string of DNA nucleotides. In 2003 scientists began to identify species by these nucleotides. Mitochondria are rod-shaped organelles that can be considered the power generators of the cell. They convert oxygen and nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical energy that powers the cell’s metabolic activities. There is one gene named cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COX1) which is found in mitochondria. It is passed only from mother to offspring. The mixing of traits from the father and mother does not happen in this mitochondria, so the DNA nucleotides in mitochondria make it ideal to use in identifying species.

Studies by M.Y. Stoeckle and D.S. Thaler have involved analyzing the DNA barcodes from five million individual organisms which represent 100,000 different species. What they found was that barcode variations within a species vary by small amounts, and there are huge gaps between the species. What that means historically is that each species is essentially an island not connected to other species. If all species came from a common ancestor, you would not see this, but you would see a river from island to island.

The biblical record is very consistent in identifying the groupings of living things. In our materials, we have referred to these “islands” as being “trees in the forest of life.” First Corinthians 15:39 identifies these “islands” or “trees” in this way: “There is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts (mammals), another flesh of birds and another flesh of fish.” This same grouping is used consistently in the Bible with Genesis 1 & 2 in describing the creation of life, Genesis 7:14 describing what Noah took on the Ark, and 1 Kings 4:33.

There are many more trees or islands than the Bible describes, and they contain living things that may vary enormously. A major debate in science is whether the dinosaurs were birds or reptiles. DNA barcodes may answer that question, but the implications for the biblical record are not significant. The single “tree of evolution” which has been popular for a very long time does not fit the DNA bar code evidence, but the biblical system does. New research is leading to new understandings both scientifically and biblically. It is an exciting time to be alive and to learn from new scientific tools how accurate the biblical record is and how wise God has been in His creation techniques.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

For further information, go to this website: https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/cells/mitochondria/mitochondria.html

Largest Body Organ

Largest Body Organ - Skin
As you think about all of the organs in your body and how important they are, don’t forget the largest body organ. It’s also the one that is most visible—your skin.

Have you ever considered how incredible your skin is? The hands of a laborer may be rough like sandpaper, but his abdominal skin could be smooth and soft. The calves of your legs have skin bonded tightly to a muscle layer. The skin on your elbow can be lifted loosely in rolls. If you used a microscope to examine the skin of our scalp, lip, heel, and finger, you might think you were studying sample from different species.

Your skin is the largest body organ, and there is no other organ like it. It flexes, folds, stretches, and bends around joints. It’s sensitive to touch. The skin of your finger pads is sensitive enough to detect a grain of dust on a smooth surface or read Braille letters in a book. When you blush (something that only humans do), the blood vessels of your skin suddenly rush many times more blood than usual. Your skin even regenerates itself when it’s damaged.

Your skin shows emotions, cools and insulates your body, protects you from germs, serves as a receptor for all kinds of stimuli, and gives you that unique appearance. We often cut off the hair growing out of our skin or add some substance to soften and beautify our skin. We seldom take a moment to realize what a fantastic organ it is.

Of all the vital organs of your body, your skin is the most visible. Skin color or texture may vary from person to person, but regardless of those factors, it protects what is inside. Your largest body organ is another incredible design by a Master Designer.
–Roland Earnst © 2019

Holy Kiss Greeting Benefits

Holy Kiss Hugging
On at least five occasions the Bible encourages Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss. (See Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26 and 1 Peter 5:14.)

The Greek word used for kiss here is “philema.” It refers to a token of friendship as opposed to a kiss with sexual purposes. The holy kiss was a standard greeting in the world of Jesus’ day, but other greetings and salutations have the same emotional effect.

Some people think that a kiss or a hug is a way to spread cold germs from one person to another. The Carnegie Mellon Institute has been conducting studies as to the collateral effects of a kiss or a hug. They are seeking to learn what physiological or psychological value there might be. They concluded that this activity protects the participants from a common cold by alleviating stress and by bolstering the immune system. Carnegie Mellon Institute’s Michael Murphy reported the results of the study. He said, “A warm hug on the same day as an argument can boost positive feelings and reduce bad ones.”

Most of the things God calls us to do as we interact with each other have a practical value in dealing with life. Read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 if you want to see more ways to make life better. A holy kiss or a hug should be easy, but the things Jesus presented in the Sermon on the Mount are much more difficult.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Saturday Evening Post, January/February 2019, page 67.

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil Church Yard
The Week magazine in their January 18, 2019, issue has a story about “sacred clay.” It is soil found in the churchyard of Sacred Heart Church in the Boho Highlands of rural Northern Ireland. For over 200 years people have used the Sacred Heart miracle soil as a remedy for a variety of ailments.

Scientists have been studying the soil and have found that it can halt the growth of the top six superbugs, including MRSA. The researchers discovered a previously unknown strain of streptomyces bacterium that is responsible for the soil’s seemingly miraculous ability. One of the problems of treating diseases like MRSA is that pathogens develop a resistance to common drugs, and science needs to find new antibiotics to control them. The Sacred Heart soil has a natural antibiotic.

The U.K. Times magazine reported on the Sacred Heart miracle soil. It quoted the key researcher Gerry Quinn in reference to folk cures. Quinn said, “Some of these cures might have been perfectly effective but the people just didn’t have any knowledge of the scientific principles or biochemistry behind them.” Science can help us to know the difference between bogus medical claims and treatments that really work.

The question of how this particular antibiotic got into the churchyard soil will stir debate. One of my friends who is a Catholic priest maintains that God has sent many cures through the Catholic Church, but people don’t want to believe in God’s activity on the Earth today. We would suggest that in all areas of nature there is balance, because God designed it that way. If scientists continue to look to nature they may find natural cures for most human maladies. They may even find them not only in church yards but in the yards of leading atheists.
–John N. Clayton ©2019

Surrogate Motherhood and Abortion Find Common Ground

Surrogate Motherhood and Abortion vs Loving Family
Surrogate motherhood is becoming more common. In a surrogacy contract, a woman agrees to allow someone to rent her body to have their child. The parents do that because of an issue that the mother cannot carry the baby, or because they just don’t want to go through the inconvenience of a pregnancy and birth. We have read of movie actresses who do this to avoid having to be off screen for 9 ½ months. Some fertility specialists are selling surrogacy as a part of their offering.

The January/February 2019 issue of Citizen magazine (page 13-15) reported the case of a surrogacy contract running into difficulty. The surrogate mother had agreed to deliver twins–a boy and a girl. A male embryo and a female embryo were implanted into her body. At that point, complications arose. The female embryo failed to implant, and the male embryo split into male twins. The surrogate mother developed pre-eclampsia, and her organs began to shut down forcing delivery of the baby boys ten weeks early. This caused the boys to battle for their lives in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. The couple who had paid to have a boy and a girl became hostile because they weren’t getting what they had paid for. The couple were not interested in the boys, but the surrogate mother bonded with the twins. When they were placed in the neonatal unit, she was left “with a deep sense of emptiness, anxiety, and regret.” She is now advocating for a ban on surrogate motherhood.

The Supreme Court has refused to hear two cases on surrogacy issues. In both cases, the surrogate mothers wanted to keep the children. In one case the woman was carrying triplets for a single man who wished to abort at least one due to financial concerns. The other was a mother who learned that the couple she was working for had strong racial prejudices. In both cases, the surrogates lost. There are no national laws that deal with surrogacy, and every state is different. A documentary last fall titled “Big Fertility: It’s All About the Money” pointed out that the practice of surrogate motherhood exploits low-income women and families. We would suggest that surrogacy is wrong on a moral basis.

Like some other modern issues, the Bible doesn’t address surrogacy. The fact that the Bible does not condemn something doesn’t mean we can’t judge whether it is compatible with God’s will. The connection between mother and child during the pregnancy is unique. As the parent of three adopted children, I can tell you that the love we have as a family is massive. However, the relationship between my wife and my two girls was not the same as their relationship with their children born naturally. Data shows that babies bond with their birth mothers during the pregnancy.

Abortion advocates maintain that a baby is merely an extension of the mother’s body. So she has the right to exterminate the baby because it is just an unwanted part of her body. Surrogate motherhood assumes that the baby is a singular physical entity that can be engaged or terminated at the will of the adults involved, for any reason.

The Bible tells us that humans are uniquely created in the image of God. The baby possesses a soul and is fully human. Luke 1:41-44 tells us that when Elizabeth saw Mary who was pregnant with Jesus, the unborn John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. The significance of motherhood is emphasized all through the Bible. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:15 that women “shall be saved in childbearing.” That doesn’t mean that women must have babies to be saved, but that the role of being a mother is sacred and unique.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Membrane Structure and Water – A Response

Membrane Structure and Water
In our January 10, 2019 post we discussed attempts to redefine life. Some scientists are doing that to justify the assumption that there are massive amounts of life in the cosmos. Is that true? We have pointed out that the Bible is silent on this subject. However, this question brings up some other issues about membrane structure and water. Dr. Phillip Eichman is a scientist with a Ph.D. in biology who has written many articles for our printed journal. He also wrote a book titled Understanding Evolution: A Christian Perspective. He made this observation of our previous post.

“I found your blog about the search for non-water-based life forms interesting. I took a course at IUPUI (Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis) called “Biological Membranes.” We spent a whole semester studying the structure and function of different types of biological membranes. It was one of the best courses that I have taken, and it really helped to pull a lot of things together.

“The professor had been a student or post-doc of Sidney Fox and was very critical of his proteinoid microsphere theory. He (my prof) believed that any life form must have a lipid membrane to survive.

“If you think about it, water is as essential to the formation of a membrane as are the phospholipids. It’s that hydrophobic/hydrophilic interaction that allows the membrane to form. Those compounds you mentioned are all aliphatic hydrocarbons and are nonpolar, so they won’t form any type of membrane like what we know about on Earth.

“When I was teaching even basic courses like Fundamentals of Biology, I spent a lot of time on the nature of the water molecule and also on membrane structure. Biology just doesn’t make sense without understanding those things.

“They may find something out there with a different type of membrane, but I will wait to see it myself. I used to tell my students that the membrane keeps the inside in and the outside out. Without that, a cell as we know it just won’t work.

“P.S. I wrote a short article on membrane structure 20+ years ago. It has been cited several times even though it was in an obscure journal. It is still accessible even though it is probably dated now. Here is the link: http://shipseducation.net/9-2/membrane.htm

–John N. Clayton and Phillip Eichman © 2019

James Watson’s Racial Remarks

James Watson's Racial Remarks
One of the most famous scientists in recent history is James Watson. Watson along with Francis Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, and they received a Nobel Prize for their work. Even though he is 90 years old, Watson has been highly sought after as a speaker. James Watson’s racial remarks have changed things.

In early January of 2019, Watson was interviewed in a PBS documentary titled “American Masters: Decoding Genetics.” In that interview, he said that “genes are responsible for inferior intelligence among blacks.” There are so many problems with this claim that it is hard to know where to start. There are valuable lessons to be learned as well.

The claim that blacks have inferior intelligence is a very ignorant statement. I have a degree in psychometry which is the study of tests and how they are constructed and used. I.Q. tests are loaded with cultural bias, and there are many different types of I.Q. In my early days working under David Segal at Indiana University, I studied the Stanford-Benet I.Q. test and the Otis I.Q. test. As a personal demonstration of the problems with I.Q., my foster son Tim would consistently score 40-50 on the Stanford-Benet test, and yet he would score 90-100 on the Otis. The Otis was a test based on verbal skills. Because we read to Tim regularly during his childhood years, he had average verbal skills. The Stanford-Benet was not verbal but was based on reasoning. Tim was and is mentally challenged in those areas.

Many blacks do score lower on I.Q. tests that were written by upper-class whites in New England. On an I.Q. test written by a black author raised in a profoundly racist geographic area, blacks have better scores than whites. Unbiased testing does not support Watson’s assumption that blacks have inferior intelligence.

Another issue is that there are different kinds of intelligence. Koko, the gorilla trained by Penny Patterson, could use the sign language of the deaf. His I.Q. score was in the 90s, close to normal human values, on a test that measured literary capability. On a test that measured scientific reasoning, the scores were far lower. That test measured a different kind of intelligence.

Because of James Watson’s racial remarks, the laboratory he once led stripped him of honorary titles. The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory immediately printed a statement saying Watson’s comments were “reprehensible and completely without a scientific basis and were a misuse of science to justify prejudice.”

The Bible describes humans as created in the image of God, and condemns all attempts to separate humans on any criteria. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Because a man is an expert in one field of study does not mean his opinions should be held superior to others. Watson is an expert on DNA. He is not an expert on racial origins or how our understanding of the function of DNA impacts areas as nebulous as intelligence. James Watson’s racial remarks make that clear.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Alien Life Without Water

Is Alien Life Without Water Possible?
For all of my life, there have been articles, videos, and public presentations claiming that there must be life elsewhere in the universe. Now that we know there are thousands of planets in the creation, we see attempts to maintain that with so many planets there must be life somewhere. Scientists are even speculating alien life without water.

We need to remember that the Bible doesn’t say that this is the only planet where God created life, so this is not a biblical issue. The latest attempts to expand the window of what life is has rejuvenated the need to show the design built into the development of life. Life on Earth is based on carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The National Science Foundation has just funded a three-year program at Saint Louis University to explore what building blocks might be used to make a different kind of life. The chemicals they are considering are hexane, ethers, and chloroform. There is particular interest in whether these materials can form membranes that could be considered life.

The first problem is the definition of life. Life has traditionally been defined as “that which can move, breathe, respond to outside stimuli and reproduce.” An extraordinary chemistry is necessary to meet all of these criteria. Water is the basic substance of life on Earth. The water molecule is polar, meaning that one end of the molecule is negative and the other end is positive. Oxygen is the negative end. Oxygen’s bonding orbitals allow the attachment of two hydrogen atoms making that end positive. This polarity allows water to dissolve other molecules. Salt, for example, is made up of sodium which is positive and chlorine which is negative. When you put salt in water, the sodium is attracted to the oxygen end of the water molecule, and the chlorine is attracted to the hydrogen end of the molecule because unlike charges attract each other. This pulls the salt molecule apart and allows the salt to dissolve. Alien life without water seems impossible.

Hydrocarbons like methane have four hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atom symmetrically. That makes the molecule non-polar and unable to dissolve salt. Numerous experiments are underway to circumvent this problem including the use of vinyl cyanide (also called acrylonitrile) which has been found in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. Coming up with a formula for alien life without water will be difficult. How a substitute for oxidation would work has not even been publicized, so respiration would be an equally great challenge.

Chris Butch, a chemist of the Earth Life Institute, says “It’s like trying to build a car in your backyard out of lawnmower parts, versus having the Maserati factory build a supercar.” As science looks for something that can be called life elsewhere in the solar system, we should be impressed with the wisdom involved in the original building of life on planet Earth.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Astronomy magazine, February 2019, page 29-35.