Alcohol Is a More Destructive Drug

Alcohol Is a More Destructive Drug

The media and medical profession pay a great deal of attention to the damaging effects of methamphetamine, cocaine, and opioids, but alcohol is a more destructive drug. In 2019, alcohol directly caused the deaths of almost 79,000 people in the United States from illnesses and car crashes. In 2020, the first full year of the COVID pandemic, more than 99,000 people under age 65 died directly from the use of alcohol. That was a 25.5% increase and more lives than COVID claimed that year for those under 65.

There is a widespread belief among many college students that you can’t have fun unless you drink. At the University of Notre Dame, Ted Mandell teaches a class called “Drunk on Film.” The subtitle of the course is “The Psychology of Storytelling with Alcohol and Its Effects on Alcohol Consumption.” Using film clips from movies and alcohol commercials, he helps students understand the problems with drinking and how advertisers and filmmakers seduce them into thinking that excessive alcohol consumption is normal and desirable.

One film that Mandell uses is a 20-minute clip from a documentary by Sut Jhally titled “Advertising at the Edge of Apocalypse.” It shows how alcohol advertising weds drinking to the sports industry and portrays alcohol as an alluring lifestyle. You would think that bright college students could see the indoctrination by the alcohol industry and its role in destructive sex and health issues. However, that is simply not the case. Stress is a part of the problem students face, but peer pressure is a more powerful motivator to drink.

From a Christian perspective, if you believe that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) and should be cared for both physically and mentally, that should lead you to avoid alcohol. Seeing the results for people who drink alcohol and use other recreational drugs should be a motivator to avoid them. Our culture condemns the use of meth and crack but sanctions the use of alcohol and marijuana. Looking at the evidence should convince thinking people that alcohol is a more destructive drug.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported in The Week, April 8, 2022, and “Under the Influence” in Notre Dame Magazine, spring 2022.

Why Does the Moon Look Larger Near the Horizon?

Why Does the Moon Look Larger Near the Horizon?
Full Moon over New York City

Perhaps you saw the total lunar eclipse last night, or maybe it was only umbral (partial) in your area. Either way, it reminds us of God’s intricate design that allows advanced life on this planet. As you watched the Moon, you may have seen it close to the horizon or high in the sky. Why does the Moon look larger near the horizon? Is it really larger, or are your senses being fooled?

Here is a simple experiment you can do with a camera or smartphone. Take a picture of the Moon when it rises and then take another picture of it high in the sky on the same night. Now compare the Moon’s size in the two pictures. You will see that the Moon is the same size. Better yet, stretch out your arm and compare the Moon’s size to your thumb at the two positions on the same night.

If you are thinking that the Moon looks larger at the horizon because it is farther away at that time, that is clearly not the case. The Moon’s distance, and therefore apparent size, does vary somewhat throughout the year, but not on the same night. The difference in apparent size when the Moon is closest to Earth and farthest away is only about 7%. The human eye can barely detect that difference.

So why does the Moon look larger near the horizon? First, realize that it is not our eyes but the human brain that does the seeing. When the Moon is near the horizon, we compare it to distant trees and buildings that we know are large, so we think the Moon looks larger. However, when it is in the middle of the vast, open sky, the Moon seems small by comparison.

We interpret what we see based on previous experiences and prejudices. That means our brain interprets new information filtered through those prejudices. That brings up another question. How does the human mind interpret other areas of understanding, such as the existence of God? Are there filters in your line of sight that can block you from seeing the truth?

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Discover Magazine

Animals Are Not Helpless Creatures

Animals Are Not Helpless Creatures
Chimpanzee with Injured Lip

Sometimes people suggest that animals are at the mercy of the elements and therefore plagued with disease, pain, and suffering. The fact is that animals are not helpless creatures suffering from massive illnesses and infections that make their lives a painful misery. Instead, the Creator has given animals immune systems to resist disease and an awareness of ways to treat injuries.

By watching animals, humans have learned that certain plants can fight infections and help to heal wounds. For example, we use aloe to relieve sunburn pain, but animals have been using it for various skin conditions for many years. Various plants bring comfort to animals when they are sick or injured, and humans have copied plant use by animals for treating a variety of ailments.

Researchers recently discovered that not only can plants offer relief to animals, but insects are also medically beneficial. More surprising is that animals know about these remedies and can use them. For example, scientists have observed chimpanzees catching a tiny flying insect and placing it on a wound or sore to provide relief. Researchers have not yet identified that insect, but they have seen primates use other arthropods and certain leaves to help heal wounds and provide relief from pain.

When humans don’t upset the system, animals are not helpless creatures. They have a minimum of suffering, and they even know ways to treat wounds and infections. Death in the undisturbed animal world is rapid and purposeful. Human interference with the natural balance often results in prolonged suffering for animals.

Too often, we prolong the suffering of other humans with expensive treatments that don’t produce a quality of life. However, we have much to learn from the world God created, and perhaps a tiny flying insect can be one more aid to healing or pain relief if the researchers can just find out what it is.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Current Biology Volume 32, Issue 3

Where Biblical Morality Violates Government Regulations

Where Biblical Morality Violates Government Regulations

The persecution of Christians by governments began during the time of Paul and Peter and continues today in various countries. There are times and places where biblical morality violates government regulations, resulting in imprisonment. For example, today, in communist China, we see that simply meeting together to worship can result in lengthy jail sentences.

We assume that places where biblical morality violates government regulations are far away in countries where dictators, kings, or dominant philosophies control the population. At the same time, we assume that won’t happen in democratic America, where we are all free to live as the Bible teaches. However, in today’s America, that is not the case.

In 1968, the Fair Housing Act of the Civil Rights Act became law. The law intended to ensure that people were not denied housing because of race, religion, or national origin. On his first day in office, President Biden expanded that to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The administration has further expanded it to include facilities used by the general public, meaning that a bathroom that only one gender can use violates the law.

This regulation has become a particular problem for high schools and colleges. For example, what happens when a young man goes into a bathroom or locker room occupied by a woman, or vice versa? We see the situation where a male cannot be denied access to a female bathroom. A dormitory confined to one gender also becomes illegal. That presents a problem for Christian colleges and universities.

A Christian college is suing the federal government over this issue in the case of College of the Ozarks v. Biden. With elections coming up, it would be good to know the position of politicians in situations where biblical morality violates government regulations.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Attitude Toward the Existence of God

Attitude Toward the Existence of God

One of our readers sent us a quote that contains a great piece of advice we want to share with you. The statement was made by preacher and author Chuck Swindall. It has been quoted many times on the internet and elsewhere, but we see it as relating to a person’s attitude toward the existence of God:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude….I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how to react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.”

As Jesus talked to the people of His day, He frequently said, “how do you think” or “what do you think.” He wanted them to look at what they believed and why. The parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14 dealt specifically with attitude and how it affects how we think and act. A person’s attitude toward the existence of God determines whether or not they are willing to examine the evidence. Furthermore, believing in God’s existence and accepting His love through Jesus Christ can change our attitude toward others and toward life itself. How is your attitude?

The Unique Design of Our Solar System

The Unique Design of Our Solar System
Our Solar System (Distances and Locations Not to Scale)

We have pointed out that recent reports from NASA reveal that astronomers have found more than 5000 planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. These extra-solar planets show that our solar system is a rarity in space. The unique design of our solar system strongly supports the idea that it is a product of intelligent creation, not a cosmic accident.

One might suggest that having a life-bearing planet is like trying to shoot something. If you shoot enough times, you will eventually hit the target. So likewise, if we find enough planets outside of our solar system, we will ultimately find one like Earth that can support life and even beings like ourselves. However, recent discoveries show that our solar system is so unique that it cannot be a chance production.

One discovery from the observation of exoplanets is the uniqueness of having a rocky planet orbiting this far from a star. In a study of 169 detected and confirmed rocky planets orbiting nuclear burning stars, more than 90% of them orbit their stars ten times more closely than Earth orbits the Sun. Being closer to their stars would mean that the lighter elements in those planets would be burned away, so those planets should be denser than our rocky planets. However, the data shows the exoplanets have a density of 4.472 grams/cc, while Mercury, Venus, and Earth are 5.395 grams/cc. What does this fact suggest?

The starting point for interpreting this data is the Sun. It has a very unusual lack of refractory elements (those elements which boil easily). That is especially true of lithium which is 170 times lower in abundance in the Sun than in the rest of the solar system. Scientists have advanced various theories about why that is, but it means that the Sun’s flaring activity is at a very low level compared with similar stars. Thus the Sun has an exceptionally low level of harmful ultraviolet and X-ray radiation.

As we look at rocky extra-solar planets orbiting other stars, we see they are very close to their stars. Since the stars would burn off the light elements with low boiling temperatures, we would expect to see rocky material left behind. The fact that our Sun has rocky planets that are farther away is because of the Sun’s unusually low levels of refractory elements and low levels of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation.

Other factors about exoplanet systems demonstrate the unique design of our solar system. For example, Earth’s chemical composition is unique. The extra-solar planets scientists have studied do not have the chemicals needed in the amounts required for advanced life forms to exist. Also, our Moon plays an essential role in the system that allows Earth to retain its atmosphere and hydrosphere.

With more data from astronomers studying extra-solar planets, it becomes increasingly clear that our Sun and our solar system are not typical products of accidental chances in space. The number of parameters that our unique solar system possesses speak of design. The unique design of our solar system shows that God’s creative hand has done much more than we imagined. This shows the truth of the old cliche that “the more we know of the creation, the more we appreciate the role of the Creator.”

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: We thank Gary Colvin for sending us the spring 2022 issue of Salvo magazine, which contains the article “Sun In a Million” written and documented by astronomer Hugh Ross.

Diversity of Life on Earth

Diversity of Life on Earth

We read reports of scientific research from all over the globe. Scientists are discovering how various forms of life exist on this planet. There is a diversity of life on Earth, even in environments where you wouldn’t expect life to survive.

One such environment is in the deepest part of the ocean, where animals must live in total darkness. The design that enables them to survive with no light from the Sun or Moon is bioluminescence. These animals generate their own light so they can find each other and locate prey. There is a whole chain of life in the darkness of the deep ocean, and we are learning that this ecosystem absorbs greenhouse gases that affect the atmosphere for land creatures.

We see this kind of balance in oceans of the past. Long ago, sea animals were large enough to maintain balance in the sea by eating tremendous quantities of food. For example, a marine reptile carnivore known as ichthyosaur was up to 66 feet (20 meters) long. When the asteroid strike wiped out the giant creatures, including the dinosaurs and ichthyosaurs, the smaller life forms survived and established a new food chain.

Scientists are discovering unique designs that enable animals to survive what would appear to be impossible conditions. For example, how can a boa constrictor breathe as it squeezes the life out of prey and ingests it? Why doesn’t the act of compression force the air out of the snake, suffocating it? The answer is that boas have 200 pairs of ribs and some of the ribs squeeze the prey while others are designed to allow the snake to breathe.

The diversity of life on Earth allows specialized equipment designed for living in any environment. Even humans are diverse. Modern pygmies are well-designed to live in a jungle environment. Fossils of a hominin named Homo naledi tell us that ancient small humans existed in environments with fewer resources. Most of what we know about them comes from a burial chamber found in a cave in South Africa.

We see the diversity of life on Earth today, even in humans able to survive in challenging environments. Racial characteristics in humans offer survival benefits in the diverse habitats of our planet, and they are not a basis for discrimination. We need to understand that diversity in animals and humans is an expression of God’s wisdom and design for life everywhere on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Saturday Evening Post May/June 2022 (pages 36-39); The Week March 18 (page 21) and April 15, 2022 (page 21); USA Today and South Bend Tribune for May 2, 2022; and Archaeology for May/June 2022 (pages 9-10).

Known Exoplanets Number 5009

Known Exoplanets Number 5009

As new space telescopes look out into the cosmos, astronomers discover more planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. NASA reports that known exoplanets number 5009. The process God used to create “heaven and earth” resulted in a lot of extra material in various forms throughout the cosmos. In 1999, astronomers discovered the first exoplanet, and since then, the number has kept growing.

At first glance, one might feel that since there are so many planets, some of them must be inhabited by sentient beings like ourselves. However, we find that is not the case when we examine the breakdown of the types of planets that astronomers have discovered. Even though known exoplanets number 5009, only 200 are worlds like Earth, made up of solid rock. The rest are gas planets like the Jovian planets Jupiter or Neptune, or they are huge solid planets with massive gravitational forces that would crush living beings. We should remind you that a world suitable for sentient life requires at least 47 other variables that we have listed in a chart you can see at THIS LINK.

When God “created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), His methods involved forging massive amounts of gases and very few solid materials. Known exoplanets number 5009 now, but the number is sure to increase. Studies continue to show that our solar system and planet are unique. God’s wisdom in creating Earth the way He did becomes more evident as we explore space and realize how many resources we have available on this planet.

The “heavens declare the glory of God and the sky shows His handiwork” (Palms 19:1). We see more of His power and wisdom as our technology produces better images of the cosmos and how it was created in the beginning.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Science News April 23, 2022, and Time magazine for April11/April 18, 2022.

New Research into Bird Songs

New Research into Bird Songs

One of the adverse effects of evolutionary theory is that it closes off research that might offer important insights into animal behavior. Classic evolutionary theory says that males do what they do to secure mates. For example, a male has more color to attract females and improve the chances of securing a mate. Evolutionary theorists claim that male birds sing to secure a mate and more elaborate songs are more likely to attract females. New research into bird songs has given new insights.

Recent studies show that more than 64% of female birds in North America sing for the same reasons that male birds sing. A bird doesn’t sing only to attract a mate. Evolutionary theorists comparing bird singing to animals wearing antlers make an invalid comparison.

Territory is a significant concern for birds, and birds sing to mark territory. We have a woodpecker that drums on the flashing around our chimney, making a very loud sound. That drumming warns others of his species to stay out of the area he dominates. As I write this, a male cardinal is singing in a tree across the street, warning all other male cardinals to stay out of this region. We may think the song is purely to attract a female cardinal, but it is part of the cardinal defense mechanism.

Females also need to establish a territory. Females sing to communicate with their mates and later with their offspring. Assuming that bird singing is merely to attract a mate limits the design built into animal behavior. New research into bird songs has told us more about the singing behavior of female birds. Female bird songs have been neglected until recently, perhaps because male ornithologists were doing the research. As women became more involved in bird research and researchers paid less attention to forcing bird behavior into evolutionary theory, scientific literature has revealed new discoveries.

Since God created birds
, it is logical that He would have built into males and females the ability to communicate and secure their territory’s boundaries. As scientists conduct new research into bird songs, it reminds us of how much we have to learn about living things. We wonder what other things scientists will discover about animal behavior if they can overcome misunderstandings based on the evolutionary assumption of “survival of the fittest.”

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Scientific American May 2022, page 10.

Keystone Plants and Caterpillars

Keystone Plants and Caterpillars
Oak Trees are Keystone Superstars

As we think of the design of life in our world, we tend to focus on animals, birds, and fish. As scientists study the things that support these life forms, it becomes apparent that all land life on this planet depends on keystone plants and caterpillars. Plants capture solar energy during photosynthesis, but how that energy gets into a bird or other animal is primarily through caterpillars.

Caterpillars transfer more energy from plants than any other form of life. Ninety-six percent of terrestrial birds depend on the protein-packed bodies of caterpillars for food. Most of us are familiar with monarch butterflies that deposit their eggs on milkweeds because they are the only plants their caterpillars can eat. North America has 17,000 native plant species, and having a caterpillar that can eat plants from only the milkweed genus is very rare. Some plants are called “keystone” plants because they support many different caterpillars and other species.

The superstars of the keystone plants are the oak trees that provide food for 952 species of butterfly/moth (Lepidopteran) caterpillars. In addition to that, nesting birds, woodpeckers, squirrels, and other animals survive because of oak trees. A single oak tree will support tens of thousands of individual species of life in its lifetime. Goldenrod is another keystone plant, and it blooms from late summer to fall when other plants can’t support caterpillars. There are more than 100 goldenrod species in America, and they support both caterpillars and bees.

North American ecosystems are designed so that caterpillars are available to support birds and other caterpillar eaters. God’s intricate design of life is evident in keystone plants and caterpillars that eat them, transferring energy from the Sun to many birds and other animals.

As we learn about the creation we live in, we see more and more examples of God’s wisdom in design that sustains all life and speaks of the complexity of what may appear to be simple things.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Wildlife, April-May 2022, pages 29-35.