A Flower or a Weed?

Daisy - A Flower or a Weed?
This wildflower can be found growing in fields and meadows. Its soft petals and yellow core make it universally recognizable. Many related plants are called daisies, but the common daisy (Bellis perennis) is native to Europe and is sometimes called the English daisy due to its native location. However, daisies have become so prevalent around the world that some say they make up almost 10% of all flowering plants on Earth. This leads to the question of whether it’s a flower or a weed.

The name “daisy” comes from “day’s eye” because the head closes at night and opens with the sunrise. You may look at the common daisy and believe that the head is a solo flower. In reality, it’s a composite flower made up of a cluster of flowers called an inflorescence. Each inflorescence grows on a single, leafless stem with rounded leaves growing from the base. Common daisies resemble another wildflower known as chamomile. However, chamomile has multiple flower heads growing on the same stalk.

Common daisies are robust and can thrive in many different types of soil, in full sun or partial shade, as long as minimum temperatures remain above -30 degrees F (-34 C). They grow on every continent except Antarctica. Daisies can grow in practically any valley, meadow, or field. If the conditions are right, daisies will populate themselves in enormous numbers engulfing the ground like weeds. A meadow full of daisies is a beautiful natural scene. However, in some areas, they are considered to be invasive weeds. In fact, they are so hardy they may crowd out noxious weeds. So is it a flower or a weed?

Daisies are beautiful to look at, but they can also be beneficial in other ways. Daisies can help improve the biodiversity of the household garden by attracting pollinating insects as well as birds that feed on the insects. Young daisy leaves can be added to salads, and they supply vitamin C. The buds and petals are also edible in soups or salads. Some people have also used them for treating gastrointestinal disorders. Children use them to make daisy chains, and young women count the petals to the refrain “he loves me; he loves me not.”

So the question of whether it’s a flower or a weed depends on your perspective. We prefer to think of them as flowers. Whether wild or cultivated, we find the number and variety of flowers in the world amazing. Apparently, God loves beauty, and He has given humans the ability to enjoy it also. After all, the Creator made us in His image.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Guilty of Anthropomorphism

 Guilty of Anthropomorphism - Smiling Chimp with Sunglasses

The Oxford English Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as “the attribution of human traits, emotions or intentions to non-human entities.” We are all guilty of anthropomorphism when we attribute the behavior of our pets to human emotions. The Oxford dictionary goes on to say that anthropomorphism “is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.”

When a dog is jumping around and barking and licking us, we assume that the behavior of the dog is because of joy. In reality, this is an instinctive behavior in animals when establishing dominance within the pack. When the same dog tucks its tail between its legs and slinks away, we assume it is feeling guilty when it is an act of submission for fear of being attacked.

Some scientists attempt to prove that humans are just animals acting out animal responses to various environments. They conduct experiments to show that animals do the things we think are unique to humans. An example is attempting to explain the human smile. For us humans, a smile is an expression of happiness, warmth, and friendliness. When an animal grins, it shows its teeth expressing terror or aggression. When you see a monkey or ape grin on a commercial, sitcom, or movie, there is a trainer behind the camera threatening it.

Human traits which are not seen in animals include worship, guilt, sympathy, and creativity in art and music. It is essential to look at other explanations when considering the behavior of animals. Recently people witnessed a female whale carrying her dead calf for nearly a week. Several newspaper articles were guilty of anthropomorphism by saying that the whale was expressing grief. Many times animals in the wild avoid the scavenging of a dead sibling or offspring by maintaining a vigil over the corpse. That instinctive action assures that the offspring is, in fact, dead, and avoids spreading the disease that killed the dead animal.

I remember a field trip I had in my NSF graduate workshop for science teachers. At an aquarium in Chicago, we watched a demonstration of natural selection. A hungry northern pike was placed in an aquarium with three small fish. One was a wounded and incapacitated minnow. Another was a slightly wounded but otherwise relatively healthy fish of the same species. The third was a healthy well-fed fish. The lesson plan said that the students should predict which of the three fish the pike would eat. Our group of teachers all agreed it would be the incapacitated minnow. For the next 30 minutes, we watched the pike tear up the aquarium trying to get the healthy minnow and avoiding the two wounded fish. We teachers debated as to why that happened, but the aquarium workers said it was frequently the case.

Humans are unique because we are created in the image of God. That allows us to do things that reflect that unique makeup. When we interpret animal behavior in human terms, we are guilty of anthropomorphism.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

For more on the data see Discover Magazine, April 2019, page 52 -57.

New Abortion Laws and Life

New Abortion Laws and Life

Recently we have seen a surge in new abortion laws. New York has passed an abortion law that allows the killing of the baby up to the time of birth. To celebrate this achievement Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the top of the Empire State Building to be illuminated with pink lights.

A bill has been introduced in Virginia duplicating New York’s law but also repealing safety standards for abortion facilities. Virginia governor Ralph Northam proposed that the Virginia law should be expanded to allow the killing of children who have been born alive but are undesirable.

The United States is now one of four nations in the world to allow abortion up to the point of birth. The others are China, North Korea, and Canada. There are now eight states plus Washington D.C. that allow abortions up to the time of delivery. The states are Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and New York.

There have been multiple studies, many of which we have reported on, showing that pre-born babies think, hear, feel pain, and react to things going on outside of the womb. The notion that a baby is “an extension of the mother’s body” is simply not supported by the evidence.

The godless world in which we live now promotes infanticide, the practice of culling babies who are considered for whatever reason to be undesirable. New abortion laws are reflecting a disregard for the value of a human life created in the image of God.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

For more on this see: Alliance Defending Freedom (ADFlegal.org)

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

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

Justifying Animal Behavior in Humans

Bonobos - Justifying Animal Behavior in Humans
We have received several letters from people suggesting that sexual practices among animals show that humans are not unique in their moral choices but are merely acting out their animal heritage. Our supposed animal heritage can then be used for justifying animal behavior in humans.

We have read articles and news releases describing animal behavior including the pedophilia practices of bonobo apes, and recreational sex, rape, and homosexuality in monkeys. We have seen documentaries on the fact that many males in the animal kingdom kill the babies of their own species. The supposed reason for that is to push the mothers of those babies to become more quickly receptive to the sexual advances of the males.

It is a foolish argument to suggest that humans are just animals and that all human behavior is inherited and therefore we can’t condemn it. One PBS program recently said that the greatest threat to the babies of bears and lions was from the males of their own species. I am sure that very few atheists would maintain that human males should not be condemned for killing their offspring.

The other major point we would make is that sexual activity in animals is almost always a way of expressing dominance and control. The pedophilia practices of the bonobos produce extreme violence among the clan. Using sex to show dominance or to establish a pecking order among the group is a long way from the purpose of human homosexuality.

God created humans in His image. That means that dominance and control is not the only focus of our relationships. The “oneness” that God intended for sexual relationships (Genesis 2:24) is a long way from establishing who is going to control the group in which they live. The “agape” love which humans are capable of, goes far beyond sex. In John 17:24-26 Jesus spells out agape in terms of God’s love for His son. Animals are not capable of that kind of love.

When humans misuse sex or use sex only for physical pleasure, the result is always catastrophic. After Amnon raped Tamar (see 2 Samuel 13) he “hated her exceedingly.” That was the beginning of a long series of tragedies for the whole family. Justifying animal behavior in humans violates the uniqueness of humans and human relationships, just as it did for both Tamar and Amnon. Animal sexual activity does not produce what God intended in the marriage relationship.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Artistic Expression and Human History

Artistic Expression and Human History
One of the interesting challenges to human evolution has to do with our capacity for artistic creation. Why do human artistic expressions display beauty and color? There is no good evidence that animals express themselves aesthetically – be it music, color, artistic expression, abstractionism, or worship. When people have claimed that animals express themselves in these areas, the claims have turned out to be anthropomorphisms by those making the claims. We all tend to attach human attributes to animal actions, but the evidence supports the view that animals don’t do those things. On the other hand, artistic expression and human history go together.

One evidence of artistic work has to do with the pictures left on cave walls in various locations. Those drawings do not show a sequence of development. In other words, you don’t see older drawings that are more primitive than recent ones. There is a story that Picasso examined the Cromagnon cave drawings and said, “We have learned nothing about art in our entire history on planet earth.”

USA Today (November 9, 2018) published an article on new art finds in Borneo and Indonesia. They are much older than any of the drawings in Spain and France. Dr. Maxime Aubert who led the discovery says the paintings are 4,000 years older than any other find. Aubert says “they are the earliest known figurative artwork.” In addition to the drawings of mystic animals, there are hand stencils and cave paintings of human scenes, and extensive use of color.

Genesis 4:21-22 indicates that humans developed tools and musical instruments early. Human history has included artwork and musical synthesis from a very early time. We would suggest this is all tied to our spiritual nature. It is our soul that gives us the capacity to do all the things that set humans apart from animals. The new finds support the view that these abilities were present in human’s from the beginning, not developed over a long time. Artistic expression and human history cannot be separated.
John N. Clayton © 2018

Modern Moral Belief

Modern Moral Belief
A recent Barna research study shows that two-thirds of American adults now believe that morality is relative to circumstances. This attitude says that what is right depends on the situation. It also says that what is right for me may not be right for you and what is right for you may not be right for me. This modern moral belief conflicts with absolute moral standards.

We have often said that if you are an atheist, you have no case to make for ANY moral standards. If there is no God and no existence beyond this life on Earth, why shouldn’t I do anything that I think will bring me pleasure? It appears that if this survey is correct, a majority of Americans support that view.

Our society continues to approve any form of sexuality that one wishes to engage in. We have pointed out that experts in ethics and morality like Peter Singer at Princeton, are suggesting that our society should approve the euthanizing of humans who cannot contribute to society and who put a drain on our nation financially. This would include the mentally challenged, the mentally ill, and people who have physical limitations due to paralysis or other physical impairment. It would have included killing people like the late Stephen Hawking or other notables with high intelligence but severe disabilities.

We cannot overemphasize the importance of showing people that God exists and that the Bible is His word. A person who accepts those facts realizes that we are responsible for how we live. Modern moral belief can’t stand up against absolute moral standards from God and His word. Having absolute moral standards from God makes all the difference in the way we must live. How we live makes all the difference in what kind of world our children and grandchildren will live in.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data: OneNewsNow

Creativity, Worship, and Thankfulness

Creativity, Worship, and Thankfulness
Three the things which separate humans from our animal friends are creativity, worship, and thankfulness. Humans, created in the image of God, display that image in our own creativity. We express creativity in various artistic and productive ways. One important area of human creativity is music. Birds sing, but all individuals of any species of bird sing the same song, and they have for as long as we have known that species. They are singing the song they were programmed to sing. The only exceptions are a few birds that imitate various sounds or imitate the songs of other birds. Imitation is not creativity. Humans sing and play, many different styles of music, and we are constantly creating new songs. We even combine worship with our creativity in music as we sing to honor God. Music moves us, excites us, and touches us deeply, making it a natural outlet for worship.

Thankfulness is another area that separates us from the animals. A couple of years ago, my wife and I were leaving a sandwich shop where we ate lunch. An elderly woman with a smile on her face came up to our car window holding a sandwich. I rolled down the window to see what she wanted, and she said, “Are you the ones who paid for my sandwich?” She said the employee in the store told her that a person ahead of her had paid, so she didn’t owe anything. I told her that I was glad for her, but we were not the ones who had done this generous act. As she went away, it was evident that the small kindness had made her day, but she was disappointed that she didn’t get to thank her benefactor.

There is something about humans that makes us want to express gratitude. Our pets are loyal to us because we feed them, and they get excited when they see us open the food container. But only humans are motivated to express true gratitude. We often show thankfulness toward each other, but our greatest debt of gratitude is to God. G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “the worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.” One evidence of God’s existence is that not only does He give us many good things, but He also has given us the desire and ability to say, “Thank you.”

Creativity, worship, and thankfulness are human traits. I am thankful for the creative ability God has given us. I am thankful for the ability to use that creativity in art, music, and worship. I am also thankful for the ability to express gratitude to God.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Tools and Intelligence

Tools and Intelligence
We tend to equate the use of tools and intelligence, but do they necessarily go together? Many kinds of animals use twigs, stones, or other objects as tools to gather food, to groom or defend themselves, or sometimes just to play. We are very familiar with how dogs can be taught to play with a ball or stick. Intelligent animals such as primates, mammals, and birds use or even create tools from materials around them.

Sometimes animals learn tool-use by watching other animals or humans. At other times tool-use seems to be instinctive. An internet search for “animals using tools” brings up many interesting videos. Ever since animal researcher Jane Goodall discovered chimpanzees using leaves and twigs as tools to obtain food in 1960, some people have suggested that tool-use is proof that humans are not unique from other animals—we have just evolved greater intelligence.

But the question is, “Does it take intelligence to use tools?” The short answer is “No.” Decorator crabs camouflage themselves with objects and plants, and they may pick up a sea anemone and use it to sweep across the sea floor picking up food. The assassin bug takes material from a termite’s nest to camouflage itself while waiting to grab a termite emerging from the nest. It then kills the termite and uses it as bait to coax other termites out of the nest. The larva of the green lacewing camouflages itself with objects such as sand grains to hide from and capture aphids.

Crabs, assassin bugs, and insect larvae have no “thinking” brain. They are not capable of being taught or learning by observation. How can they use objects as tools? In some cases, if the first of their kind could not use these tools, the species would have become extinct. We suggest that the Creator has “programmed” these unintelligent animals with the instincts they need to survive.

So as we consider tools and intelligence, we see unintelligent creatures using tools by instinct, and more intelligent creatures learning to use tools. Obviously, no animals can create and use the highly sophisticated tools that humans have, including computers, robots, and cars. But it’s the spiritual nature of humans that makes us different, and not our tools. Only humans worship God because He created us in His image.
–Roland Earnst © 2018