Exoplanets and TESS

Exoplanets and TESS
Data is coming in from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, known as TESS for short. It is the most powerful telescope ever deployed to look for planets orbiting other stars. Over two years, TESS can cover all 360 degrees of sky visible from Earth’s orbit. Our previous satellite called Kepler could only scan a small segment of the sky. Already Tess has identified over 300 probable exoplanets including one named HD 21749b which has the lowest known temperature for a planet orbiting a bright nearby star. (“Nearby” being 53 light-years away.)

The problem with this is that what astronomers consider “cool” is not cool from our standpoint. The surface temperature of HD 21749b is 150 degrees Celsius, which is way too hot for liquid water. (Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.) A year on that planet equals 36 Earth days as it makes a complete orbit around its star. Most of the other exoplanets found at this time are vastly hotter than HD 21749b.

Astronomers have found other planetary systems, but they again have properties that would preclude any kind of life. Some of them have a planetary density equal to that of pure water. Some have orbits that are highly eccentric. Pi Mensae b, for example, has an orbit that varies widely. Its closest distance to its star approximately equals the distance from Earth to our Sun. The longest distance is similar to Jupiter’s distance from the Sun.

All of this continues to tell us that Earth is a unique planet orbiting a unique star. It is possible that those stars with exoplanets are undergoing an evolutionary process that could result in Earth-like planets billions of years from now. As we study them, we are learning more and more about what God did to create the “heaven and the earth.” God’s power and design become more amazing to us as we learn more about the universe. The more we learn, the more we see what Frank C. Baxter, who hosted the old Bell System Science TV Series, called “the wonder-working hand that has gone before us.”
–John N. Clayton © 2019

If you would like the nostalgia of watching Frank Baxter in the Bell System Science Series click HERE or HERE.

Impact Craters and Uniformitarianism

Impact Craters and Uniformitarianism
One of the underlying assumptions of Darwinism is something called uniformitarianism which says that no process operated in the past that is not going on today. The snappy way of saying it is “the past is the key to understanding the present.” Impact craters disrupt the uniform history of Earth.

Evolution assumes that the conditions on Earth’s surface have been relatively stable as they are today. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been earthquakes or forest fires or hurricanes or global warming in the past because obviously there have been. What it does mean is that there have not been global events that would affect all living things. Something like a global flood would not be uniformitarian. If water covered all of the land, vast numbers of animals would have drowned causing a profound effect on the history of life.

The December 22, 2018 – January 5, 2019 issue of Science News (page 40) carried a fascinating report on how many impact craters there are in the crust of the Earth. We have taken groups to see the Barringer Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona. It is a relatively small impact crater only 1.2 Km in diameter. The Chicxulub Crater in Mexico was 150 Km in diameter. Scientists believe it had global implications for life. We have reported on this crater before, and we have talked about other craters scientists have discovered. There are now 190 confirmed impact craters in the Earth Impact Database at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. Scientists estimate that there are perhaps 350 impact craters that have yet to be discovered.

Most scientists accept the idea that astronomical catastrophes like Chicxulub caused major die-offs of life. As the planet warms and ice melts exposing more surface rocks, it is becoming more evident that impacts have been major causal agents of punctuations in Earth’s history. One of the differences between the biblical account and the Darwinian theory is the question of whether or not uniformitarianism is true. The Bible teaches us that Earth’s history is mostly uniformitarian, but rare catastrophes like the flood of Noah have punctuated the history of our planet. Once again it appears that the biblical record fits the evidence better than the theories of evolutionary scientists.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

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

Darwin Day – Evolution Weekend

Darwin Day – Evolution Weekend
February 12 is Darwin Day to mark the birthday of Charles Darwin. There is an organization which exists to encourage encourages schools, museums, churches, and universities through the registry of the Darwin Day Celebration website. The stated purpose is to “honor the life and work of Charles Darwin.” The National Center for Science Education is the major supporter of the celebration.

Leading up to Darwin Day, February 8-10 this year is designated as Evolution Weekend. Michael Zimmerman who initiated this event says, “Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between science and religion.” He goes on to say, “Those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.” According to Zimmerman, 202 congregations in 45 states and five foreign countries are holding Evolution Weekend events. Several large denominations are a part of this effort.

We agree that we do not have to choose between science and faith. We have posted many articles pointing out that evolution is not the issue. Change certainly happens in living things, and the Bible talks about specific examples of evolution such as what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks. The issue is Naturalism, based on common descent from one-celled life to human beings.

Naturalism is a philosophy which denies God had anything to do with the history of life on Earth. Naturalism insists that we can explain everything we see by natural means which we can discover through science. This is an atheistic philosophy, and it is poorly supported by the evidence. The fact that life is designed to be able to change is the basis of agriculture, medicine, and environmental science. Darwinism does not even begin to explain where life came from as we pointed out in THIS PREVIOUS POST.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Too Much Water on Earth?

Too Much Water on Earth?
“God goofed when He made so much water and so little land!” I recently heard a real estate salesman say that in a sales pitch to sell expensive lots. If you have taken a long intercontinental trip by plane or ship, you might tend to agree. Water covers roughly 75% of the surface of our planet. With our huge growth in human population, land suitable for human occupation is becoming scarce. Is there too much water on Earth? The answer to that question is a resounding “NO!!!” Every living cell depends on water, but the properties of water combined with its distribution and abundance cause its importance to go far beyond that fact.

Water is highly reflective. Ocean water reflects much of the light energy from the Sun back into space, so Earth’s surface does not become overheated. This is especially important because most of our surface water is in the Southern Hemisphere. When Earth’s orbit brings it closest to the Sun, the Southern Hemisphere faces the Sun. There is a massive potential for solar energy to overheat the land. Since most of Earth’s land area is in the Northern Hemisphere and most of the surface water is in the Southern Hemisphere, overheating doesn’t happen. This designed distribution of the land masses combined with the reflectivity of water protects us from overheating. We do not have too much water on Earth.

Water is a unique substance in terms of thermodynamic values. It is the standard frame of reference for specific heat and has a value of 1 calorie/gram. Water’s freezing and boiling points are zero and 100 degrees Celsius, which is a minimal difference in temperature compared to other substances. Water also has a high specific heat which means it can store the energy it absorbs better than other materials. Water’s heat of vaporization is 539.6 calories per gram, which is huge. The heat of vaporization is the amount of energy required to change water from the liquid state to the vapor state without changing its temperature. The capacity of water to store heat radically controls the climate. Water absorbs energy from the Sun and carries it in various ocean currents around the world. We don’t have too much water on Earth because it moderates the climates along all coasts of our planet. Planets and moons with no surface water experience violent storms and enormous variations in temperature.

Because water is a polar molecule, it can dissolve virtually all salts and many chemicals essential for life. The polar nature of the water molecule also allows it to be a condensation nucleus for the production of rain. As the oceans warm in tropical areas, the rate of water evaporation increases. As the water vapor cools, it needs something on which to condense. We all know that when the humidity is high, water condenses on our windows, our grass, and virtually any other exposed surface. To make rain, the water condenses on particles in the atmosphere. On land, the particles would be dust. Over the oceans, the particles are salt which is also a polar molecule and provides the ideal structure to make rain.

These simplified explanations should help us see that there is not too much water on Earth. We need all of that water to make life on Earth possible. Our climates, our movement of heat, the production of rain and snow, and the very formation of life itself all depend on water.

Genesis 1:2 tells us that God established water as one of the building blocks that allowed the Earth to support life. Verses 9-10 tell us that the “waters were gathered together into one place” and that those waters “were called seas, and God saw that it was good.” Proverbs 8:24 finds wisdom speaking of God’s creation. Wisdom tells us that water was created before there were mountains, hills, or dust. It has taken science thousands of years to understand why there is so much water. Today we now know that it is not only good, but it is vital to our existence.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Best Animal Eye

Best Animal Eye
What is the best animal eye? Engineers at the University of Illinois have been researching that question. They have now built the world’s best camera by copying that animal. Their new camera could help military drones see camouflaged or shadowed targets. Their discovery also will allow surgeons to perform many kinds of operations more accurately. They have learned all this from the animal which possesses the best eye known to science. The best animal eye belongs to a small creature known as the mantis shrimp. Here are some of the ways the mantis shrimp’s eyes are superior to all others:

The eye of a mantis shrimp has a dozen different kinds of light receptor cells so they can sense properties of light invisible to other animals. Human eyes have only three types of light receptor cells.

The mantis shrimp eye can sense polarized light which has waves that undulate in one plane. Light reflecting off of a surface is always polarized. This ability allows the mantis shrimp to see objects that would otherwise be invisible because of blending into the background.

A mantis shrimp’s eyes are constructed so that each pixel has a rhabdom which is a rodlike structure made of light receptors. The rhabdoms have threadlike structures called microvilli alternately stacked at right angles. That means the shrimp has cells in the two hemispheres of the eye which are tilted 45 degrees to each other allowing their eyes to detect four polarization directions.

The eye of the mantis shrimp can detect an extensive range of light intensities of light to dark known as the dynamic range. This means that they can see clearly even when there is a very bright area next to a very dark area.

The mantis shrimp is the only animal that can sense a full spectrum of colors and can see the polarization of each color. That means that when there is a complicated background, the animal can still get a clear image.

Electrical and computer engineer Victor Gruev and his research team have already made a camera based on the best animal eye. It has a dynamic range which is about 10,000 times higher than today’s commercial cameras. Gruev and the team are working on a commercial version of their camera. Produced in bulk quantities the improved sensors would cost only $10 each.

There seems to be little doubt that this will be the camera of the future, and science has learned how to make it by studying the best animal eye of one of God’s smallest creatures.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Scientific American, February 2019, Page 12, or online HERE.
To see our earlier report on the mantis shrimp’s visual system click HERE.

Fake Artifact Claims

Fake Artifact Claims
One of the problems with putting together an accurate picture of the past is determining what is real and what isn’t. Whether we are talking about fossils or archaeological discoveries, there are always people who make fake artifact claims. Sometimes they do it as a means to get notoriety, sometimes to get money, and sometimes both. Time magazine, February 4-11, 2019, page 10, presented is a short list of famous fakes:

THE PILTDOWN MAN was introduced as a missing link in human evolution. Amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson claimed to have discovered the skull in 1912. Forty years later it was exposed as a forgery. The portrait painted in 1915 by John Cooke shows a group of distinguished scientists examining the faked skull. Notice the picture of Charles Darwin on the wall.

SCOTTISH STONE CIRCLE has been a subject of archaeological interest because it was considered to be a remnant of early man. It turned out to be a structure that a local farmer built in the 1990s.

THE GOLDEN TIARA was supposed to have belonged to an ancient Scythian king. The Louvre purchased it in 1896, and it was later shown to be a fake made by an Odessa goldsmith.

THE MISSISSIPPI MUMMY was part of the old Capitol Museum since 1920. It was claimed to be from the time of Christ and perhaps related to Joseph and Mary’s time in Egypt. In 1969 a medical student X-rayed it and found it was composed of paper-mâché, a wooden frame, and nails. Fake artifact claims often take a long time to be discovered.

PINGYI MISSING LINK TO DINOSAURS was a fossil pictured on the cover of National Geographic in 1999 as proof that birds descended from dinosaurs. The fossil is actually a fake composed by a local farmer. Chinese paleontologists estimate that more than 80% of the marine reptiles displayed in China’s museums are forged.

All of this is a demonstration of a challenge to scientists to continually be aware that the old “rule of graduate work” made in jest is always with us. It says “make sure your data conforms to your conclusions.” Fake artifact claims sometimes result from the pressure put on researchers to publish or perish. When the truth becomes known it can be painfully embarrassing for the scientists involved. For us laymen, no matter what our belief system is, it is essential to be careful with our sources of information.
–John N. Clayton

Human Wildlife Management

Human Wildlife Management of the Red Wolf
Environmentalists claim that animal species are becoming extinct and that we must preserve their DNA. The problem with this claim is that as the environment changes, animals may not be able to survive. An example is animals that have a very specialized diet, such as eating mostly on bamboo. If something wipes out the bamboo, what are these animals to do? We can save samples of their DNA, but moving them away from their natural habitat to a different place where bamboo is growing may not be the answer. It can expose them to predators and diseases that were not present in their original environment. We call this human wildlife management. While in some cases it can correct what humans have done, there are many cases where humans are not the cause. Massive investments may only delay the inevitable extinction of an animal.

The red wolf is a current example of human wildlife management. Red wolves were once common across a large region of Texas and Louisiana. The red wolf was classified as endangered in 1967 and extinct in 1980, although some were living in zoos and wildlife facilities. In the 1970s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bred red wolves and in 1986 introduced them to the wild in North Carolina. By 2006 there were over 100 wolves in North Carolina, but the population was not healthy. Many were killed by farmers and ranchers so that by April of 2018, fewer than 50 remained.

Recently a pack of red wolves was found on Galveston Island in Texas. At first, red wolf advocates were delighted. Then they became dismayed when scientists found that the Galveston wolves had DNA that was different from the original red wolves. The change in the DNA may be in part from coyotes in the area. We would suggest that God created red wolves to occupy a particular environmental niche. When that niche was changed, no matter what changed it, another design feature kicked in. That design feature which God has placed in living things is hybridization.

Hybridization is the interbreeding of two animals who are genetically close but not identical. The offspring produced by this mix of genes is often stronger and more resilient than either of the parents. When the Endangered Species Act was implemented in the 1970s hybridization was considered to be something to avoid. The reality is that God’s design allows animals to continue to prosper through hybridization.

Elizabeth Heppenheimer is a biologist from Princeton who has been studying the wolves on Galveston Island. She says, “Now we know hybridization is relatively common in natural systems and does not always have negative consequences, but the policy (of human wildlife management) hasn’t quite caught up with this notion.”

God’s methods work, and when humans try to replace God’s design with human judgments and controls, the results are frequently not what is best.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from “DNA Discovery” by David Warren, Associated Press January 15, 2019.