Extending Life Without Quality of Life

Extending Life Without Quality of Life

One of the challenges produced by the progress in medicine is the question of the role of doctors when a patient nears the time of death. In the old days, doctors had a code that said they would “do no harm,” which resulted in extending life without quality of life.

I had a personal experience with this issue when my disabled son Timothy was in the hospital after contracting COVID from a care worker. Doctors told me that Tim would never recover, but they had to give him a standard COVID treatment. Tim did survive but was not allowed to have any contact with family. He could not talk, was blind, could not stand or sit up, and could not feed himself. Eventually he was placed in a nursing home where I was allowed to visit him, and I did weekly. Although he could hear me, he was unable to respond. I read to him, tried to feed him, and ensured his stuffed animals were around him. After more than a year in the nursing home, he died.

The question in a case like Timothy’s becomes whether a doctor should be allowed to assist in dying when the apparent result was extending life without quality of life. Laws in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada allow doctors to administer euthanasia. The next step in these countries is to allow physicians to provide medical assistance in dying for the mentally ill. Canada has delayed the implementation of that option for physicians until 2027 to allow doctors and facilities time to adjust to this new law. Peter Singer, the DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, has advocated for euthanasia for virtually any cause.

For Christians, the issue is especially relevant. The New Testament in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says that God’s Spirit lives in our bodies and that the body is sacred for that reason. I Corinthians 6:15-17 uses that view to explain why prostitution is a sin. As modern medical science has advanced to the point of extending human life, it has also found ways to eliminate pain, but my son never showed evidence of suffering from pain. The problem remains of extending life without quality of life.

Euthanasia involves the same issues as abortion. Singer would empty prisons, nursing homes, and mental facilities by applying euthanasia to the people there. The fact is that much of the money spent on medical treatment is spent during the last year of life. Think of the savings if we were to eliminate everyone deemed to be within a year of dying. Do we really want to live in a culture that uses death as a means of removing a person who is inconvenient or difficult to sustain? But isn’t that what abortion is all about?

— John N. Clayton 2024

Reference: “Canada again delays assisted dying for the mentally ill” on BBC News for February 1, 2024.

Removal of the Useless Appendix

Removal of the Useless Appendix

When I was a teenager, I had a severe gastrointestinal problem that eventually resulted in the removal of my appendix. Doctors told me the appendix was a vestigial organ left over from my evolutionary past. The narrative was that while my hominid ancestors needed an appendix, I didn’t. In my college class on evolution, the professors told us the appendix was essentially a second stomach that animals needed to process coarse food. As humans evolved, we didn’t eat those foods, so removal of the useless appendix would not cause any problems.

Like many evolutionary arguments, this discussion of the appendix is rooted in ignorance. The appendix is a small worm-like organ that projects from the cecum, which is the first part of the large intestine. Charles Darwin identified the appendix as vestigial because people could live without it. With the information available to him at the time, Darwin’s view seemed reasonable and went unchallenged for a very long time. We now know better.

In contrast to the former call for removal of the useless appendix, we now know that it has at least two beneficial uses. The first is that it helps to support the immune system. The appendix has a high concentration of tissue that fights any bad things that might get into our gut. The second function, brought forward by Duke University researchers in 2007, is what they called a “safe house.” The appendix serves as a safe reservoir for our beneficial gut bacteria. A gastrointestinal problem resulting in diarrhea can flush out all of your good gut bacteria. The appendix repopulates the gut with bacteria after gastrointestinal issues.

People who have had their appendix removed tend to have more nasty bacteria in their gut than people who have not had that surgery. There is much about the human body that we don’t understand. In my lifetime, I have seen tonsils, gallbladders, and the appendix removed because medical science felt they served no purpose. We now know better as we see that God’s design of the human body is incredible. There may be a few things, such as body hair, that are unnecessary, but there are aesthetic reasons to retain even most of those.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Your appendix is not, in fact, useless. This anatomy professor explains” in NPR Health News for 2/2/2024.

A Question of Trust

A Question of Trust

Those who work with sheep have shared with me some of the problems of shepherding, such as disease, quality of fleece, and feed problems. But the strangest problem is what happens with lambs during their first week after birth. It’s a question of trust.

If something awakens a newborn lamb, it has an instinctive drive to follow whatever moves near it – usually its mother. That allows lambs in the wild to stay with the herd. The problem is that if something other than the mother is moving nearby, they will follow it. There are cases where a lamb followed an ATV, a predator, or even a bird.

If you have seen pictures of Jesus carrying a lamb, you are seeing what ancient shepherds did. Isaiah 40:10-11 describes this in beautiful terms. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament frequently used an illustration of sheep. (See Mark 6:34; John 10:1-9; and 1 Peter 2:25). The sheep’s trust in the shepherd is amazing. They know his voice and will follow and trust the shepherd 100%.

It’s a question of trust for you and me also. We all know you can’t trust the government, the company you work for, neighbors, or perhaps even family members. Examining the life of Peter, you can see him growing from a man with no faith following Jesus, knowing that he could return to his fishing nets whenever he stopped trusting Jesus. By Mathew 16:16, you see Peter calling Jesus the Son of God. In Luke 5:4-5, he responds to Jesus by saying, “Nevertheless if you say so, I will let down the nets.” We tend to criticize Peter for what happened in Matthew 26:69-75, but given the same circumstance, I don’t know that my trust would be great enough to stand up and be martyred.

Satan attacks our trust when bad things erode our faith in God. Sickness, the death of a loved one, money issues, politics – the list of things that erode our trust in God is enormous. But Christians can do things to build trust. We need to count our blessings and remember when God provided an answer for a tough time in our lives. Spend some time looking at the alternative. Where would being an unbeliever take you? If you reject God, what purpose will you have in life?

Learn to avoid the naysayers and reflect on the evidence that God is real and His word is a proven guide to living with trust and joy. Our free video series on the web at doesgodexist.tv will give you evidence to trust God. Our free correspondence courses can give you evidence to build your faith. Don’t let a lack the pressures of the skeptical world destroy your faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a question of trust.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Plants Use Frogs to Spread Their Seeds

Plants Use Frogs to Spread Their Seeds

One evidence that God and not chance created all living things is the varied ways plants get their seeds into new places. A recent study of frogs at the University of Newcastle in Australia has shown that plants use frogs to spread their seeds. This comes as a surprise since frogs are primarily carnivorous, but frog skins attract seeds and can carry them considerable distances.

The researchers found that tree frogs can carry as many as 14 seeds on their legs, feet, bellies, and backs. Some of the seeds found on the frogs they studied did not grow in the area where the frogs live, so they were picked up somewhere else. We have pointed out that birds spread seeds. Wading birds will have fish eggs stuck to their feet and legs, so fish will appear in recently dug ponds where humans have not placed them.

The studies in Australia have raised concerns over the loss of amphibians due to pollution and habitat destruction. It isn’t just losing the frogs at issue, but also the function of frogs in supporting plant life. Plants use frogs to spread their seeds, allowing plants to move into areas that need plant cover.

Everywhere we look, we see multiple designs offering complexity that cannot be produced by chance. There is intelligence in the creation, and one place we see it is in the role of all life on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: American Scientist magazine, March/April 2024, page 72.

Ministering to the Needy and Homeless

Ministering to the Needy and Homeless

Across the United States, church officials are threatened with prison time for helping homeless people. Churches in Bryan, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Tempe, Arizona; Houston, Texas; Santa Ana, California; Brookings, Oregon; and Pottstown, Pennsylvania, have been threatened with legal action by city authorities for ministering to the needy and homeless.

The problem in these cities is that zoning laws and codes prohibit churches from serving food or providing shelter for people who are in need. When churches violate those rules, the police are required to shut down the services. In the cases cited, the cities offer no alternatives for churches ministering to the needy and homeless.

Jesus made it clear that His followers should meet the needs of those without life’s essentials. He said in Matthew 25:31-40 that His followers should provide people in need with food, water, clothing, medical help, and shelter for the homeless. He expects His followers to provide counseling and support for those in prison.

Eric Tars, the legal director at the National Homelessness Law Center, said, “You’re very much damned if you do, damned if you don’t.… Officials would have thrown the innkeeper in jail for offering his manger to Joseph and Mary because it wasn’t zoned for residency and didn’t meet the fire code.”

This situation is only going to get worse as migrants are bused into cities and left to fend for themselves. The secular world is not going to help them, and, as is always the case, it will be up to churches to find a way to address their needs. There are creative ways to address the problem, but any help will involve cost. The bottom line is whether churches want to do what Jesus taught His followers by ministering to the needy and homeless.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Could helping the homeless get you criminal charges? More churches getting in trouble” by Claire Thronton on USA Today

Going to Church as a Depressing Burden

Going to Church as a Depressing Burden or a Blessing

I recently received a comment from a woman saying, “I don’t need another burden in my life, and going to church is just another depressing burden.” How sad it is that Christians sometimes view going to church as a depressing burden. It should be a blessing.

Part of this problem may be that many preachers burden their listeners with guilt and unfulfilled expectations. Gathering with fellow believers should give us support and encouragement. A church service should, first of all, be a time of praising God and expressing gratitude for what He has done for us as individuals and as a group. It should then be a time to share what God has done in our lives and to encourage one another.

One of the most essential parts of “going to Church” is to experience love. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “Now I am giving you a new commandment that you are to love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples by your love for one another.” Having kind words to say to each other, asking questions, expressing concerns when there is a crisis in someone’s life, and giving a hug are all part of loving one another.

Isn’t it interesting that the difference between the English words “live” and “love” is the single letter “I.” The more we take “I” out of the way, the more we can give and experience love. The Greek word translated as “love” here is “agape,” indicating caring about the worth of every person. There is joy in doing what God calls us to do, but obsessing about “I” and losing love can make us think of going to church as a depressing burden.

If you don’t understand this, I suggest you look more carefully at why you “go to church” or what you are missing if you don’t go. If your religious experience is reading an essay or watching a service on TV, you are missing the essential personal contact. If you think of going to church as a depressing burden, there is something wrong.

An atheist whose life is guided by “survival of the fittest” cannot comprehend the kind of love that Jesus taught. By my count, Jesus used the word “agapao” 108 times in the gospels. The next most common word He used for “love” was “phileo,” meaning “friendship,” which He used 18 times. Church involvement gives us a chance to consider the worth of all humans, eliminating racism, sexism, envy, jealousy, and all phobias that afflict humans.

Going to church should be a blessing. If the Church is functioning as God intended, we will leave every visit to our local congregation encouraged, uplifted, and ready to face the world and spread God’s love.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Alligator Brumation in Cold Weather

Alligator Brumation in Cold Weather

One of the amazing examples of design in the animal world is how alligators survive weather cold enough to cover their ponds with ice. Warm-blooded animals (endotherms), such as bears and groundhogs, hibernate in cold weather. Cold-blooded animals (ectotherms), such as alligators, become dormant using different metabolic processes. It is called alligator brumation.

The Swamp Park in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, has made videos of alligator brumation. The alligators put their snouts out of the water, and their metabolic rate slows as they become lethargic. One park employee said, “We literally have gatercicles.” In Beaumont, Texas, there are some 550 alligators, including one 92-year-old that is 13 feet long and weighs over 1000 pounds. When his pond begins to freeze, he lets the ice freeze around his nose.

The design of the alligators’ body and metabolic structure allows them to survive in a temperate climate. It may not be obvious to most of us that alligators have an essential role in swamp environments. In the swamps in the southeastern part of the United States, they maintain a balance that benefits many other forms of life. As scientists try to understand that balance and how human encroachment affects it, the brumation system is essential.

Every form of life and ecosystem has a design that allows wise engineering. Cases like alligator brumation are amazing and speak of having been created with a particular need in mind. The more we know of the creation, the better we understand the mind and wisdom of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Social media videos of ‘gatorcicles’ draw big numbers as experts say the reptiles are alive and well” on NBC News Now for January 24, 2024, by Antonio Planas

Design of the Umbilical Cord

Design of the Umbilical Cord

Science still doesn’t fully understand the design of the umbilical cord that allows a baby to live inside its mother for nine months. The umbilical cord supplies the baby with oxygen, nutrients, and antibodies. Birthing techniques before the 20th century delayed cutting the cord, but that has changed since birthing moved from the home to the hospital. However, new data shows that delaying cutting the umbilical cord can boost the baby’s blood volume, red blood cell count, and iron stores and ease the transition to breathing.

The issue of when to cut the umbilical cord has become exceptionally well-studied in the case of premature babies. Nearly one million premature babies worldwide die every year, and a study of 10,000 preemies shows that when doctors delay clamping and cutting the umbilical cord, the survival rate improves. Yale University School of Medicine expert Jessica Illuzzi says, “longer is better.” The design of the umbilical cord is amazing.

Some pro-abortion advocates say the unborn child is just an extension of the mother’s body. It can be cut off and discarded like a fingernail or a lock of hair. There is no scientific support for such a claim. From the mother’s morning sickness to the baby’s physical characteristics and genetic makeup, all evidence shows the child is a unique individual. The fact that the unborn child depends for survival on the mother and the design of the umbilical cord does not change the fact that the baby is a unique human and not part of the mother. Every facet of the reproductive process shows God’s wisdom.

Women have the right to choose whether to be a mother, but the decision must be made before sexually engaging with a man. In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, options are available. As the father of three adopted children, I know how that adoption can be a positive experience for everyone involved, and there is an acute shortage of babies for adoption.

The psychological damage of abortion for women is well documented. Part of that damage comes from knowing that a child created in God’s image has been destroyed. The system of producing life designed by God has been disrupted, which is an affront to the Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Lifeline Decision” in Scientific American for February 2024, page 13.

Different From Any Other Life Form on Earth

Different From Any Other Life Form on Earth - The Good Samaritan
The Good Samaritan – Credit: Good News Productions Intl. and College Press

One of the conflicts between naturalists and Christians is whether humans have unique characteristics or are just animals conforming to the survival rules of nature. The biblical view of humans is that we are created in the image of God. That means we have a spiritual makeup that is different from any other life form on Earth.

Someone sent us an article about a student who asked the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead what she considered the first evidence of civilization in an ancient culture. Mead reportedly said the earliest evidence is a broken and healed femur. She pointed out that if animals break a leg, they die. They become easy prey for predators as they can’t get to a water source to drink or hunt for food. If you are a naturalist believing that chance environmental factors drive all life, that is the only option.

If you find a skeleton with a healed femur, you know that someone at that time cared for the person. Healing of a broken femur takes time. Someone carried the person to a safe place and protected them for a significant time, feeding them, providing water, and supplying medical help until the bone healed. Mead’s point is well taken and shows how humans are different from any other life form on Earth.

In Luke 10:30-37, Jesus tells a parable about a man usually referred to as the good Samaritan. A man has been robbed and is lying beside the road naked and half dead. What jumps out to us in the story is that two men who saw the injured person and refused to help were a priest and a Levite, religious leaders. The Jews hated Samaritans, but it was a Samaritan who took care of the injured man. The point is clear that followers of Christ should care for others who are less fortunate. Failure to do that shows an unwillingness to do what Jesus taught.

Humans are different from any other life form on Earth. We recognize the needs of other humans and are called to act on those needs. Doing that is evidence of God’s image in us. A predator might eat the injured man, obeying the natural animal instincts. Because of human uniqueness, we are called to love and serve others.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Basal Cognition in Living Cells

Basal Cognition in Living Cells

Flatworms called planaria live in the muck of lakes and ponds worldwide. Scientists are intrigued by the fact that if you tear the worm in half, its head will grow a new tail, and its tail will grow a new head, giving you two worms. A new field of science involves the study of basal cognition in living cells outside of the brain.

Many years ago, I was involved with a project that attempted to fight the presence of invasive lampreys in the Great Lakes. Lampreys are eel-like fish that swim up tributary rivers to spawn. We placed barriers on streams to catch and kill the lampreys. The problem was that those who worked the lamprey traps were told to cut the eels in half and throw them back in the river to avoid the stink and mess of dead eels on land. They didn’t understand that returning the eels to water doubled their population because both halves survived.

In the case of the planarian, researchers at Tuft University found that the worm not only survived, but the tail contained previous memory. Both the head and tail of the worm remembered the location of a food source learned before the worm was cut in half. Michael Levin at Tufts has shown that cells can use subtle changes in electric fields as a kind of memory. This basal cognition in living cells works using electrical signals in animals and plants.

Scientists have found basal cognition in the Venus flytrap and the touch-me-not plant. The touch-me-not leaves will fold and wilt if touched to prevent being eaten. Scientists found that if the plant is jostled throughout the day without being hurt, it will learn to ignore jostling. The Venus flytrap can count, snapping shut only if two of the sensory hairs on its trap are tripped in rapid succession. It pours digestive juices into the closed trap only if sensory hairs are tripped three more times.

RNA seems to be a medium of memory storage for cells. Taking RNA from a slug that had experienced an electric shock and injecting it into a new slug causes the new slug to recoil from the touch that preceded the shock in the old slug.

This research shows that intelligence does not always require a brain but is wired into all living things and is vital to all life. The practical use of these discoveries of bioelectricity may help treat cancer where cells are not cooperating with the rest of the body. God’s design of life is far more highly engineered than anyone suspected. We have a lot to learn about basal cognition in living cells.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Minds Everywhere” in Scientific American for February 2024, pages 44-51.