Synergy – Working Together

Synergy – Working TogetherThe word “synergy” comes from a Greek word meaning “working together.” We have often mentioned “symbiotic” relationships where living things work together in various ways. When non-biological forces work together with living things, we can call it synergy.

Synergy describes the relationship between plate tectonics and life on Earth working together. Plate tectonics involves plates of Earth’s crust moving in relation to each other. Plate tectonics is the force responsible for making continents and mountains and for causing volcanoes and earthquakes. Without photosynthetic life (plants), plate tectonics would have shut down because photosynthetic organisms provide energy for Earth’s geochemical cycles. Without plate tectonics, Earth’s crust would be a solid lid sealing vital nutrients and elements beneath the surface. The nutrients needed by plants would not be available. That means there would be no photosynthetic life.

Animals and humans depend on plants for food. The animals that don’t eat plants feed on the animals that do. It’s photosynthesis that removes the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releases oxygen. All animals need oxygen, and excess carbon dioxide would result in a greenhouse effect, heating the Earth and making life impossible.

The point is that plate tectonics requires photosynthetic life, and life requires plate tectonics. Therefore all forms of life on Earth require both photosynthesis and plate tectonics working together in the right balance to exist. Was this balanced synergy system merely accidental, or was it planned? We think it shows intelligent planning by a divine Engineer.

For a fuller explanation of this, we recommend Dr. Hugh Ross’s book Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity’s Home.
— Rolnd Earnst © 2019

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

Zoopharmacognosy Animal Doctors

Zoopharmacognosy Animal Doctors Zoopharmacognosy is a word you don’t see every day. It’s actually a combination of three Greek words which mean “animal” (zoo), “drug” (pharma), and “knowing” (gnosy). It refers to animals using plants, soils, insects, or drugs to solve specific medical problems. It is animals (not humans) medicating themselves. Mammals, birds, and even insects use zoopharmacognosy to cure medical problems, and sometimes to prevent them. Here are a few examples.

It is fairly common to see a sick dog or cat eating grass to induce vomiting.

Sick chimpanzees swallow bitter leaves of Aspilia, a plant that contains an anti-parasitic chemical. The leaves are covered with bristles and bitter tasting so the chimps roll up the leaves and swallow them whole like we might take a pill.

Others chimps and bonobos with diarrhea will split open the stem of an Aframomum plant and suck the bitter juice. The juice contains chemicals which kill parasites which cause diarrhea.

Spider monkeys in Brazil have been seen eating seed pods from a tree known as monkey ear or elephant ear (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) during mating season. The fruit contains progesterone which promotes female fertility.

Brown bears make a paste from the chewed roots of osha (Ligusticum porteri) mixed with saliva and rub it into their fur to repel insects and soothe the bites. The plant contains coumarins which repel fleas and ticks.

To get rid of lice, many songbirds with put ants on their feathers or even roll in an anthill. The ants secrete formic acid, which kills feather lice.

Ants infected with Beauveria bassiana, a soil fungus, will eat harmful substances that are antifungal.

Many kinds of animals will eat dirt to absorb toxins, to combat parasites, or as an antacid. Sometimes they eat dirt to supplement minerals that are missing in their diet.

Pregnant elephants will chew the leaves of a specific tree in the Boraginaceae family to induce labor. Kenyan women make tea from those leaves to help with childbirth. In many cases, people have learned medicines and tonics from animals.

There are many more examples of zoopharmacognosy in which animals act as their own doctors. How did animals get this knowledge? It seems to be instinctive, not learned. Perhaps this instinct was put within the genetic code of these animals by their Creator.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

California Poppies Thrive

California Poppies ThriveThe past twelve months have been a time that most native Californians will never forget. After several years of drought, the entire state was affected by massive forest fires. When the fires were finally out, it seemed that everything would get back to normal, but then the rains started. Between the heavy snow and the unusually heavy rains, massive flooding became an issue. Without vegetation to stop the runoff, gloom and doom predictors were having a field day. The future looked bad, especially for southern California, but then came the California poppies.

I recently got a letter from a friend of mine who lives in southern California. The letter included pictures of what a few months ago was ugly, dark-colored, barren rock. The new images were ablaze with color. The California poppies withstood the fire because their seeds are not combustible and germinate faster in the conditions the fires produced. The seeds are also shaped in such a way that they don’t wash out even in heavy rain. With no competition, no predation to destroy the young plants, the poppies grew and bloomed like crazy.

Norma Privitt writing in the July/August/September 2019 issue of Power for Today described it this way:

“What a year this has been for California poppies! Abundant rain has unleashed God’s glorious array of orange flowers over all the barren hills. Even the limitations of TV do not restrict the obvious explosion of color. We traveled to view the poppies in previous years when their glory was only a smidgen of this year’s, but so many have made this year’s pilgrimage their cars line both sides of the roads, and finally, shuttle buses have had to be arranged. It almost seems symbolic that the plant that will anchor the soil and allow the land to begin to recover is a plant that blooms with brilliant orange drawing attention to God’s provision, even when human greed and abuse cause pain.”

Through California poppies, God has provided a way to bring beauty and hope even when things look dark and bleak.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Saguaro Desert Old-Timers

Saguaro Desert Old-TimersThe saguaro (pronounced suh-wah-roh) cactus is found only in the Sonoran Desert areas of southern Arizona, northern Mexico, and a small area of southeast California. We call them saguaro desert old-timers for a good reason. Saguaros grow very slowly as a single stem for perhaps 75 years before developing arms. Plants with five arms may be 200 years old.

Saguaro flowers bloom at night from April to June. They close by noon the next day, never to open again. Saguaro flowers can only be fertilized by cross-pollination so there must be a creature to carry pollen from one plant to another. Because the flowers bloom at night, bats are the pollinators. They drink the nectar and transfer pollen from plant to plant.

A successfully pollinated flower will produce a green, oval-shaped fruit with bright red pulp. Many desert creatures eat the fruit and aid the saguaros by spreading their seeds. Only a small percentage of the seeds will ever germinate, but that’s okay because each flower produces as many as 4000 seeds.

Not only do the saguaros have a symbiotic relationship with the bats which consume their nectar and the many creatures who consume its fruit, but it also provides shelter for many desert animals. Saguaros become apartment houses for birds, lizards, desert rodents, and reptiles, as well as a whole entourage of insects.

Saguaros are remarkably well-designed for life in a dry climate. The outside of the plant has pleats like an accordion. The pleats allow expansion for storing large quantities of water when the rains come. As with other cacti, the saguaro has needles rather than leaves to reduce the loss of moisture by transpiration.

Saguaro desert old-timers are designed in a marvelous way to live in the harsh conditions of the desert while providing food and shelter for various desert creatures. They are another indication of a Master Designer of life.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Romantic Get-Away Inside a Sponge

Venus flower basket
The Venus’ flower basket (Euplectella aspergillum) is a deep ocean sponge with fascinating properties and an unusual symbiotic relationship with a pair of crustaceans. We call it a romantic get-away inside a sponge.

The Venus’ flower basket is classified as a glass sponge because its body is made of silica, which is chemically the same as glass. The silica fibers are woven together to make a hollow, cylindrical vase-like structure. The fibers form a fine mesh which is rigid and strong enough to survive deep underwater. The picture shows a Venus’ flower basket more than 8400 feet (2572 meters) under the ocean’s surface.

Glassy fibers thin as a human hair but more flexible and sturdier than human-made optical fibers attach the sponge to the ocean floor. The sponge forms the fibers at ocean temperatures while human-made glass fibers require high-temperature furnaces to melt the glass. Human-made fibers are brittle while the sponge’s fibers are more flexible. Scientists are studying these sponges to find ways to make better fiber-optic cables.

We think it’s amazing that the Venus’ flower basket lights its fibers using bioluminescence to attract prey. Even more interesting to us is the symbiotic relationship these sponges have with some crustaceans called Stenopodidea. The Venus’ flower basket holds captive two of those small shrimp-like creatures, one male and one female, inside the sponge’s hollow mesh tube. The captive creatures clean the flower basket by eating the tiny organisms attracted by the sponge’s light and consume any waste the sponge leaves. The sponge provides the crustaceans with protection from predators.

As the crustaceans spawn, their offspring are small enough to escape from the basket and find their own sponge-home where they grow until they are trapped. Because a pair of crustaceans spend their lives together inside the sponge, Asian cultures sometimes use a dried Venus’ flower basket as a wedding gift to symbolize “till death do us part.”

The Venus’ flower basket and the crustaceans benefit each other by mutual cooperation, which we call symbiosis. One more thing, the bioluminescence comes from bacteria that the sponge collects. This amazing three-way partnership occurs deep under the ocean where humans have only recently explored. We think this romantic get-away inside a sponge is another evidence of Divine design, not chance mutations.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Beautiful Tulips in History and Culture

Beautiful Tulips in History and CultureTheir vibrantly colored blossoms are symbolic of spring. Tulips are part of the lily family (Liliaceae) and exist in many different species. They flower in the spring and die back in summer when the life is stored in an underground bulb until the next spring. Beautiful tulips are an excellent example of the beauty designed into this planet.

Tulips are known for their bold colors and attractive shape. Most varieties are almost perfectly symmetrical. The blooms have three petals and three sepals, but the tulip appears to have six petals because the sepals are large and generally the same color as the petals. You can find tulips in almost any color from white to black, but the bright and sunny colors are the most popular.

Without a doubt, beautiful tulips have a rich and interesting history. They originally grew wild in temperate areas from southern Europe to central Asia. They were first cultivated in Asia around the tenth century. Diplomats who visited the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century brought them back to Europe where they became hugely popular.

The tulip obsession began with Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius in 1594. He was the first person to identify “broken tulips,” which is a virus infection that causes impressive streaks in the petals. He would go on to create many different color variations of the flower. His amazing tulips led to a period from 1634 to 1637 called “tulip mania” when enthusiasm for the flower created an economic frenzy. Tulips quickly became the most expensive flowers in the world. At the peak of tulip mania, some bulbs were selling for ten times more than the annual income of a skilled worker. People even used tulip bulbs as currency. Artists of the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt, depicted tulips in their paintings.

Today, the tulip is the national flower of Turkey and Afghanistan, but the most prolific producer of tulips is the Netherlands. There are annual tulip festivals around the world including the Netherlands, England, Switzerland, Canada, and even Australia, where the spring bloom occurs in September and October. Several locations in the United States have tulip festivals, including Holland, Michigan, which is near where we live.

It’s interesting how tulips could have such an impact on economics, culture, and history. God gave us beautiful tulips, and human intelligence has modified them to develop a variety of colors and patterns. If human intelligence could do that, think how much more intelligence was required to create the living plant with the genetic code that made it all possible.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Unique Spiders with Amazing Speed

Unique Spiders with Amazing SpeedOne of the evidences for God is the specialized design features built into living organisms. There are indications of design and intelligence that are difficult, if not impossible, to explain by chance. There are about 35,000 named species of spiders, but scientists are still discovering more unique spiders.

Spiders have many features that allow them to provide balance in the natural world by eating insects which would otherwise pose a threat to all life on Earth. Spiders capture their prey in various ways. We usually think of spiders making webs. Most of them do, but not all. Many unique spiders use other tactics to grab insects, while the ones that make webs use a variety of shapes and patterns in a variety of locations. Even the way they use their webs varies.

One family of spiders called ray spiders (Theridiosomatidae) make cone-shaped webs. But even ray spiders don’t all use their cone-shaped webs in the same way. In the Peruvian Amazon, there is a ray spider that weaves a cone and attaches a single strand of silk to its tip. The spider reels in the strand to put tension on the web. Instead of waiting for an insect to fly into the web, this spider takes a more proactive approach. When an insect flies in front of the cone, the spider releases the single strand. With the tension released, the web shoots out with the spider riding the tip of it like a slingshot. The helpless insect gets nabbed in mid-air. For obvious reasons, this spider is called the slingshot spider.

The tip of the cone with the spider attached reaches the target with amazing speed before the insect can escape. Scientists have measured the acceleration of the spider riding the slingshot at 100 times the acceleration of a cheetah, the fastest land animal on the planet. As far as unique spiders, we believe that the slingshot spider holds the title of world’s fastest spider.

This spider creates a very complex and well-designed food-collecting tool. The spider must make the cone in exactly the right shape, and with the right chemical make up of the strands for elasticity. Who taught the slingshot spider this amazing trick and gave it the physiology needed to carry it out? We see God’s design and chemistry in everything from the atom to the universe to every living thing on Earth, including unique spiders.
— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst

Reference: Science News, April 13, 2019, page 5.

Science and Technology vs. Greed and Stupidity

Science and Technology vs. Greed and StupidityIf you believe everything you read about science and technology in magazines and newspapers, you might want to question how much of it is factual. The way the media presents the stories, you might get the idea that science and technology are making such rapid advancements that in a few decades, we will solve all of the problems of humanity. There is no question that incredible advances have been made in medicine and agriculture. However, what many people don’t realize is that while some critical areas are advancing, others seem to be losing ground.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us: “An American mom today is 50% more likely to die in childbirth than her own mother was.” The primary cause seems to be that health professionals have biases causing them to overlook symptoms. Food shortages are also creating an increase in disease and death due to malnutrition. The primary cause is that there has been a 20% drop in the abundance of food production in countries that depend on their domestic food supply. Humans have reduced the population of pollinators, including wild bees, endangering crop production. Over-fishing is beginning to threaten the primary source of protein for billions of people. The human destruction of mangrove forests and coastal coral reefs has placed 300 million people at increased risk of flooding.

God has given us not only the resources to feed every human on the planet today, but also the way to live with each other to allow the maximum potential for the food and medicine to reach the people who need it. The Genesis account tells us that God gave Adam everything he needed and that by the sweat of his brow, he would be able to eat. Humans have allowed power and control to rule what we do. We have made money and possessions the focus of our activity instead of focusing on God and serving others. In the process, food has become a weapon. Instead of “taking care of the garden, dressing and keeping it” (Genesis 2:15), we have exploited and abused the good things God gave us.

The world continues to reject the teachings of Jesus, replacing them with selfishness, greed, and a moral code that teaches “survival of the fittest.” The result is that we all reap the consequences of what we have sown. Bringing people to believe in God and Jesus Christ not only has meaning in terms of what lies beyond this life, but it also is at the root of the quality of life we and our descendants will have in the future. Science and technology can’t solve all of our problems as long as greed and stupidity get in the way.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Half-Slumber Design in Animals

Half-Slumber Design in AnimalsWe have a clock in our brain that is based on circadian rhythms. The clock is connected to Earth’s rotation, and it provides daily periods of rest and recovery called sleep. Animals have it too, and for many animals, sleep is a dangerous time if there are predators around. Scientists have discovered that many animals, especially marine mammals, have a half-slumber system designed to keep them safe and yet allow them to sleep.

The half-slumber system allows half of the brain to sleep while the other half is awake and able to respond to danger or navigational needs. Studies in dolphins have shown that there are different regions of the brain that work together to allow one side of the brain to function while the other side sleeps. The hypothalamus contains ventrolateral preoptic nuclei that exchange messages between the left and the right sides of the brain. They determine which side sleeps and which side remains alert to danger. This also allows movement of the dolphin’s fins and tails to generate body heat in the coolness of the marine environment. It also allows the animal to surface, to breath, and to swim with its companions.

Northern fur seals have a similar system but highly modified. The fur seals come out on land and assume a posture that allows them to put one flipper in the water which they paddle with while keeping the other three flippers in the air to avoid heat loss. Their nostrils are out of the water, allowing breathing and one eye is open and looking for predators. The part of the seal’s brain that provides vision is not connected to the other functions of breathing or movement.

Birds also use the half-slumber design. Mallard ducks have a unique system where the ducks form a group. Ducks on the outside of the group have one eye open, and their brains function differently than ducks at the center of the group. Migrating birds that fly for very long times also use the half-slumber design with one eye and one side of the brain watching where the bird is going while the other side of the brain slumbers. Great frigate birds fly for ten days at a time using this system. Swainson’s thrush gets its sleep by taking micro naps when it is perched.

It seems that every creature using the half-slumber design to get its required sleep uses it differently. The changes are not small and are highly complex involving many organs. Intricate design differences in the brain primarily direct them. Studies of animal sleep are in an early stage, but the complexity of the system is undeniable. The Bible tells us that we can “know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:18-20). It is a very difficult challenge to understand just how complicated God’s design is. Even in our sleep, we demonstrate God’s plans and engineering.
— John N. Clayton © 2019