Keeping Balance in Nature

Keeping Balance in Nature with BearsAmong the design features built into the creation is that of avoiding over-eating of plants by herbivores or over predation of herbivores by carnivores. Sometimes there are surprising ways of keeping balance in nature.

Did you know, for example, that bears help control the production of caterpillars? A January 29, 2019, posting by Yellowstone National Park staff reports that Yellowstone bears in August eat an astonishing 40,000 moths a day. The moths are migrating from grasslands over the mountains in Yellowstone, and they are actually above timberline. This allows the bears to climb up and get easy nutrition as they prepare for hibernation in the coming winter. From an ecological standpoint, it limits how many caterpillars are produced, preserving plants for many animals in nearby grasslands.

One of the things science continues to learn about is how many factors are involved in keeping the balance of any ecosystem. The design of all ecosystems is so complex that knowing how many checks and balances are required is almost impossible.

Frequently humans have upset the balance God built into the creation with catastrophic results. The problem of controlling insect swarms is as old as recorded human history. Who would have thought that bears above the timberline in Yellowstone National Park would make a massive contribution to the ecology of nearby grasslands? Keeping balance in Nature requires intelligent planning and design.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Natural Selection as Creative Agent

Natural Selection as Creative Agent - Polar BearsYesterday we pointed out that both evolutionary naturalists and many creationists believe that, given enough time, anything can happen. They assume that once the first life-form came into being (which cannot be explained by natural selection) that time and natural selection would create all the vastly different forms of life. There are many reasons why natural selection as creative agent will not work no matter how much time you give it. We presented three reasons yesterday. Here are three more:

1-Natural selection tends to produce over-specialization. One of the fundamental laws of biology and evolution is Dollo’s Law. The French biologist Louis Dollo proposed that law in 1890. It says that once evolutionary characteristics have evolved, they cannot revert to the form from which they came. We now know why that is true by our advances in genetics. What it tells us is that as natural selection lets an animal become more and more specialized, it can not revert back to what it was before. Polar bears that have evolved by natural selection to their present state cannot return back to the black bear genetics of their ancestors. That may mean that they will become extinct if global climate change continues. Natural selection as creative agent won’t work because it is pretty much a one-way process.

2-Natural selection deals only with survival. The development of beauty does not always involve survival. Some coloration in birds, for example, does not aid their survival but results in incredible beauty. Jesus talked about the lilies of the field and birds of the air as blessed with beauty and function. While this has significant meaning for us aesthetically, sometimes the beauty of plants and animals may actually threaten their physical survival. We have discussed this point many times in our “Dandy Designs” column and elsewhere.

3-Natural selection stands at odds with the concept of entropy. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that in any closed system, things tend to move from a condition of order to a state of disorder. One can argue that the Earth is not a closed system because the Sun is adding energy. When living things eat, they add energy in the form of the chemicals in the food they consume.

The fact is, however, that in all biological systems, there is a tendency for life to become disordered. We call it aging. My body continues to produce a higher and higher level of entropy (disorder) as the years go by. All biological systems do this. To suggest that biological systems become more and more specialized by natural processes violates the very basic laws of physics and chemistry. The cosmos itself is moving towards disorder. Unless intelligence can add organizing energy and reverse the natural tendency to age, everything is doomed from our bodies to our planet.

God built the cosmos with laws that function to allow life to exist. He created life itself and built into it certain characteristics that caused Paul to write: “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). Natural selection is one of the things God has made, and it allows nature to function. Natural selection as creative agent cannot explain the beautiful, complex world around us. It only applies to those changes which improve the chances for life to survive. Time is not a friend to aging or complexity. The older my car gets, the more likely it is to break down. That is true of my body and the natural world around me as well.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Time as Creative Agent

Time as Creative Agent - PlatypusOne of the major misunderstandings of many creationists and naturalists alike is the belief that, given enough time, anything can happen. Those who believe in naturalism deny that God had anything to do with creation. They promote the idea that evolution by natural selection can explain everything as long as there is adequate time for it to act. Time as creative agent does not work for many reasons.

We can all agree on what will happen if you have two animals in identical environments and one of them can run very fast and the other one cannot. When a predator comes to eat them, the one who cannot run fast is more likely to get eaten. This process cannot explain how a platypus could be produced from animals that have existed in Australia now or in the past. Atheists would maintain that given enough time such a change would have happened naturally, excluding God’s role in the production of every form of life on the planet. Time as creative agent cannot replace the role of God the creator.

Some creationists seem to agree. They assume that the only rebuttal to the atheist belief is to maintain that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. They argue that such a change couldn’t happen in that short of a time. The reality is that natural selection cannot explain the creation, no matter how much time has been available for life to evolve.

There are a large number of reasons why natural selection and time as creative agent do not explain what we see in the creation. Here are just three simple ones:

1-Natural selection only deals with what has already been created.
Any theoretical explanation of how a living thing has come into existence starts by assuming the existence of an ancestral form of life. Not only is it assumed that the life-form existed, but its properties are also assumed. To explain why the male platypus has a poisonous spur on its back leg, one has to assume that it evolved from an animal that had a spur which served some other purpose. One must also assume that the ancestor used venom in some way. To explain the “radar” unit in the platypus’s nose, one has to assume that there was some kind of appendage that housed the nerve cells. Then one must assume that nerve endings with a frequency equivalent to the electromagnetic signals of the platypus’ prey were present in some primitive form.

Those oversimplified proposals are just the start. The baby platypus has to lick the milk off the mother’s stomach because she has no nipples. One can say that the nipples never evolved from the ancient ancestor, but the skin has to be porous enough for the milk to come through. The mammary glands also have to be in the right place, and the system has to be selective enough that milk can get out, but toxins cannot get in. With a good imagination, you can propose ways each of these things could happen. However, they would all have to happen simultaneously or they would be of no use and could, in fact, be life-threatening for the animal.

2-Natural selection does not propose the formation of organs with unique chemical properties, nor does it explain the chemicals themselves.
We have discussed the bombardier beetle, where a lethal combination of chemicals produces a spray that protects the beetle from predation. This is one of many specialized organs in the natural world that demands an organ that has no other function than the one the beetle uses. For natural selection to work, a previous organism would have to exist with a different a chemical having a different purpose from which this animal could evolve.

3-Natural selection ignores catastrophic extinctions. The more we study the geological record of the Earth, the more we see that massive changes have happened in the past that put an end to biological processes. Asteroid collisions, massive volcanic eruptions, massive flooding, global cooling which resulted in the freezing of all bodies of water, and solar eruptions are all well documented. These changes have been so violent that they terminated most life-forms and their development. Natural selection demands a uniformitarian past for traits to continue unabated and ultimately be incorporated into the genome of a new species.

Those are just three fundamental reasons why time as creative agent would not work. Those are only three hurdles that evolution by natural selection would have to cross to create all of the living things on Earth. Tomorrow we will look at three more.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

World’s Deepest Diving Mammal

Worlds Deepest Diving MammalRecent studies of the Cuvier’s beaked whale, also known as the goose-beaked whale, have established that it is the world’s deepest diving mammal.

Cuvier’s beaked whales dive to feed on squid and fish near the ocean floor. Researchers monitored the whales diving as deep as 2993 meters (about 1.9 miles) and staying down for more than two hours. The mean depth of the deep dives was 1400 meters for more than an hour. For example, the pressure on the whale’s body at 1800 meters (almost 6,000 feet) is 2,600 pounds per square inch (17,926 kPa). Human divers can only stand about 173 pounds per square inch (1196 kPa), which is a depth of 400 feet (122 m).

On average, these whales hold their breath for over an hour, and yet when they return to the surface, they can be ready for a shallow dive again in as little as two minutes. They tend to alternate between shallow and deep dives with the average time between deep dives being about 100 minutes. The design of the whale’s body that allows survival in these extreme environmental conditions is a subject of scientific research.

There is also the question of why they go to such extremes when the same food is available closer to the surface. One interesting aspect of the behaviors of all animals is their role in maintaining balance in the ecosystem. Like all other environments, the deep ocean needs predators to keep a balance between deep ocean life-forms and their food supply. As science begins to explore the deepest parts of the ocean, we see that there is a whole ecology that keeps life in balance. Cuvier’s beaked whale, the world’s deepest diving mammal, is part of that designed system which indicates a Designer.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

More information on the research is available on PlosOne at this LINK.

Facts About Plant Design

Facts About Plant Design including WatermelonOne of our gardener friends sent us these interesting facts about plant design:

Seeds may be dropped into the ground upside down or sideways, yet the plants always come up to the surface.

One grain of corn will produce a stalk on which there may be two ears, with perhaps 742 grains on each ear.

A light crop of wheat will produce approximately 30 grains on each stalk. A good crop of wheat will produce approximately 60 grains on each stalk. There will always be an even number of grains.

Beans grow up a pole from left to right. Morning glories grow up a pole from right to left. If turned upside down, “twining” plants will uncoil and recircle their support. Guide a twiner in the “wrong” direction, and the plant will rewind itself. The higher the twiner grows, the more tightly it clasps its support.

Dandelions will grow above their surroundings whether the grass is two, ten, or twenty inches, for it must grow up into the sunlight.

An average watermelon will have ten stripes on it. Larger ones may have 12 to 16 stripes, but they always an even number.

Those are just a few facts about plant design. Every form of life in the vegetable and animal kingdom has a predetermined set of characteristics – a master plan perfect in every detail – God’s plan. God has a perfect plan for my life and yours, which supplies all our needs – His Word (2 Peter 1:3). By His grace, we receive strength to rise above all our circumstances (Romans 8:31).
— Bob Schweikard © 2019

Algae Solutions to Human Problems

Algae Solutions to Human ProblemsWhen you hear the word algae, negative thoughts may come to your mind. You may have problems with algae growths in your pond or birdbath. You have heard about toxic algal blooms that have hit seafood industries on the Pacific Coast. Many of us have viewed the red tide in Florida first hand. There are lawsuits in progress against companies that allowed chemical runoffs to trigger the destructive growth of algae in lakes and the ocean causing economic hardship for fishing trades and seafood producers. Unlike human-caused algae problems, there is a promise of algae solutions to human problems.

Consider the following facts:

Algae is probably our best tool for reducing greenhouse gases. Algae take carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. More than half of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere comes from converting carbon dioxide to oxygen and algae is the primary agent for doing that. There is good evidence that excessive algae growth in the past caused global cooling.

Phytoplankton algae grow world-wide and make up the base of aquatic food-chains, eventually leading to most of the seafood we eat.

Giant kelp, which are algae, provide food and protected ecosystems for ocean creatures.

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, such as spirulina contain proteins, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. People in many countries have been harvesting spirulina for nutrition since the 1940s. Japanese cooks use algae in soups and sushi wrappers. The additives agar and carrageenan from algae are used in ice cream and jellies.

Symbiotic relationships exist between algae and coral, helping to prevent storm damage to coral reefs that house sea life and protect shoreline structures. Algae solutions to human problems are many.

Research continues into how we can use algae to produce fuel. New foods made of algae are being developed. Most recently sea grapes, which are algae, have been used as green caviar because their texture and appearance looks like caviar and they are very nutritious.

God has provided for us in so many ways that it has taken our entire human history to discover them. For many years people did not eat tomatoes because they were considered to be poisonous. That seems silly to us today when whole industries are built around the tomato. In the future, perhaps we can say the same of algae. These rootless, leafless plants have incredible potential to provide algae solutions to human problems both here on Earth and as we travel into outer space.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Science Digest, July 2019

Cryptobenthic Fish and Coral Reefs

Cryptobenthic Fish and Coral ReefsThose of us who have spent many happy hours snorkeling in coral reefs tend to look at the big fish that we see in the reef. Groupers, sharks, rays, and parrotfish attract our attention. We can easily miss what makes the reef ecosystem work so that the larger fish can live there. Scientists are learning about cryptobenthic fish in the coral reefs.

Hanging around the reefs are tiny fish that are less than five centimeters long and easily escape our attention. They are known as cryptobenthic fish, and they exist in various species, some of which are known as blennies and gobies. Large numbers of them live in the rocks and crevices, and many of them are nocturnal.

Science News (June 22, 2019) reported on a recent study by scientists from Simon Fraser University in Canada. The study shows that these small fish provide a base to the food chain and allow the larger fish to survive. They don’t venture far from the corals that are attached to the floor of the reef. The cryptobenthic species include 17 families of fish that scientists have identified so far. Researchers in the past have overlooked most of them. Deron Burkepile, an ecologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says: “Their role is extremely important. We have definitely overlooked these little cryptobenthic species.”

As we look for the design features that God has built into every ecosystem on Earth, we find complexity and sophistication, allowing the system to function. New studies of the tiny cryptobenthic fish in coral reefs will tell us a great deal about the complexity of the reefs and what makes them work.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Seeds Are Alive

Seeds Are AliveWhen you walk into the forest and look up at the trees, it’s easy to realize that all of those structures towering over your head are alive. What you may not think about is that their seeds under your feet are alive also.

Many trees produce seeds to grow new trees. There are maple seeds with their familiar “helicopter” method of blowing in the wind. There are cottonwood seeds that look like “summer snow.” Those seeds and others are carried far away by the wind.

Oak trees produce seeds we call acorns. They’re too heavy for the wind to scatter them, so that’s the job of squirrels. Squirrels gather acorns and store them to eat later. When later comes, the squirrels have often forgotten where they stored their treasure. Instead of being eaten, the acorns grow into new trees to produce more acorns. Both the trees and the squirrels benefit from that arrangement.

The seed of a coconut tree is the coconut. The wind can’t blow coconuts around, and squirrels can’t carry them. They often grow near water, such as a stream or an ocean. A coconut falling into the sea can float to an island thousands of miles away, where it can take root and grow. Cherry trees produce their fruit with a seed we often call a pit. Birds eat the cherries and drop the seeds over a wide area.

The key to a seed beginning to grow is the breaking of the shell surrounding it. Many things can cause that to happen, such as moisture, temperature, fire, mechanical abrasion, or a combination of methods. Some seeds have to travel through the digestive system of birds or animals for them to begin to grow into a new plant.

Most seeds wait a year before they start to grow. Cherry seeds can wait for hundreds of years. Scientists discovered a lotus seed (Nelumbo nucifer) in a bog in China. They cracked the shell and started it growing. When they carbon-dated the shell, they found that the seed had been waiting for 2,000 years to sprout into a lotus plant.

Seeds are alive, waiting in dormancy to grow into what God created them to be. The amazing quality of life shows design by intelligence, not chance.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

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