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

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

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.

Ice Algae – Designed Polar Grass

Ice Algae
Have you ever wondered how animals that live near Earth’s North and South Poles survive? What do they eat, and how can any kind of food chain exist? The answer to this is ice algae.

Unlike most plants, algae do not have flowers, roots, stems, leaves, or vascular tissue. However, ice algae, like most plants, provide the starting point for a food chain. In this case, it is a food chain in very cold places. Tiny krill, penguins, seals, polar bears, and blue whales all depend on ice algae to survive. In 2016 Dr. Thomas Brown of the Scottish Association for Marine Science studied polar bears and found that 86% of the polar bears’ nutrition came from a food chain that originated with ice algae.

Ice algae have chlorophyll so they can use whatever light is available for photosynthesis. There are a variety of types of algae that live in different conditions. Some live on the surface of the ocean, some on the floor of the ocean, and some in or on the ice itself. Ice algae produce fatty acids which supply nutritional value for animals that live in what would otherwise be a nutritional void. Because there is ice algae, animal life is abundant under, in, and around the ice at both poles.

God has provided interesting food chains all over the planet. As we study global warming and its effect on life in places like the polar seas, we see more of His handiwork and learn why we need to take care of it. The admonition of Genesis 2:15 to “take care of the garden to dress it and keep it” applies as much to us today as it did to Adam and Eve.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from National Wildlife, February/March 2019, pages 14-16.

 

Seeing With Whiskers

Seeing with Whiskers
Have you ever wondered how cats can navigate in a dark room? Dr. Hendrick Van der Loos is an expert on the role of whiskers in animals. His research team at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland has shown an amazing demonstration of what cats can do by seeing with whiskers.

They blindfold cats and put them in a room with toys and other obstacles scattered around. The cats could navigate the room as well as cats with full sight because of their whiskers. The ancient Egyptians believed that cats had mysterious powers because they observed cats hunting mice in complete darkness.

We now know that not only cats but also walruses, pigs, seals, moles, and even whip-poor-wills have whiskers designed to meet their specific needs. The secret in all of these animals is that they possess specialized touch-sensitive hairs called vibrissae which are embedded deeply in the skin and resting in tiny sacs of fluid which pivot like a straw in a bottle of soda-pop. Brushing a whisker generates an electric signal in the fluid which is surrounded by nerves. The nerves feed the signal to the brain. This system is so sensitive that animals can detect the change of air currents around an object. They are seeing with whiskers which serve essentially as a tactile third eye.

A blindfolded cat can catch and kill a mouse. High-speed photography shows that a cat on the prowl for a mouse holds its whiskers in a fan-shaped pattern. Just before pouncing, the cat shifts its whiskers forward around its mouth. When the cat makes contact with the mouse, the whiskers tell the cat which way the mouse is dodging. As the whiskers wrap around the mouse, the cat can detect ahead of time which direction the mouse is trying to go.

A walrus will cruise around the floor of the ocean with its rump up and its head down stirring up the sea floor, so sight is useless. The walrus roots through the clouded water sorting out anything that might be good to eat by seeing with whiskers. Since walruses feed at night, there is the added benefit of being able to eat 24 hours a day. Moles have whiskers around their feet and tails which can detect insects in total darkness underground. Whip-poor-wills, nighthawks, and nightjars have whiskers near their beaks and are active after dark.

Human whiskers are just hair, and they serve only decorative purposes. True whiskers were designed by God to provide special tools for animals to survive. They allow the normal processes of life to be carried on 24/7, and they speak eloquently of God’s wisdom and design in the world all around us.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Tully Monster

Tully Monster
During my senior year in high school amateur fossil collector Francis Tully discovered the fossil of an extraordinary animal in the Mazon Creek collecting area near Chicago. It was so odd that the state of Illinois made it the state’s official fossil. The scientific name of this extinct animal is Tullimonstrum gregarium, but it is colloquially known as the Tully monster.

The rocks around Chicago are part of an old reef, and a well-known part of the rock formation is the world’s largest gravel pit called “Thornton Reef.” I have taken students to that quarry several times when I was teaching earth science. It is an amazing fossil collecting area.

The Tully monster was tube-shaped with eyes on a stalk sticking off of the ten-inch long body. It had a mouth which was very long and terminated in what appeared to be a single pincer style of grabber similar to a lobster. Newer finds suggest that the animal had a notochord which was essentially a primitive backbone. The shape of the notochord is similar to that seen in lampreys. Researchers at Yale University say lampreys are analogs, but there is a great deal left to learn about the mysterious lifestyle of this ancient creature.

A very unusual set of circumstances is required to preserve an animal fossil such as Tully monster. Finds like that are rare events, but since the 1950s many more Tully monster fossils have been found, all in Illinois. We have much to learn about what animals lived and how they lived in the past. Future discoveries will alter our understanding of how God prepared the Earth for humans.

At the same time, there is much we can understand about what has led to the Earth we enjoy. That is because much of Earth’s history has been preserved in the rocks. A booklet available on our doesgodexist.org website is “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word.” We encourage you to read that free online booklet for more information on this topic.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Scientific American, May 2016, page 14, and Wikipedia.

Why Don’t Birds Have Ears?

Why Dont Birds Have Ears?
Someone asked, “Why don’t birds have ears?” Actually, birds do have ears. What they don’t have is what biologists call “auricles” and zoologists call “pinnas.” Those are the things that stick out from the heads of people and most mammals and that we usually call “ears.”

The most critical ear parts are not outside but inside the head. Birds have those parts. Most birds have excellent hearing in spite of not having visible “ears.” The ear openings are not visible because they’re covered with feathers. The feathers are often designed to channel the sounds into the ear canal, just as our auricles are.

Parrots have such good hearing that before the invention of radar they were used to detect the engine hum of distant enemy airplanes. They would squawk a warning of danger. Migrating birds use sounds along with other clues to find their destination. Homing pigeons listen for sounds to help guide them to their familiar roost.

Another design factor to consider is wind resistance. What would happen if birds had ears that stuck out from their heads? It would slow them down in flight. Also, consider the noise you hear when facing into the wind on a blustery day. Without the pinnas, birds don’t pick up so much wind noise when they’re flying.

So now you know the answer if someone asks, “Why don’t birds have ears?” Don’t worry about not seeing ears poking out from a bird’s head. It’s just another indication of good design by the Master Designer of life.
–Roland Earnst ©2019

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil

Sacred Heart Miracle Soil Church Yard
The Week magazine in their January 18, 2019, issue has a story about “sacred clay.” It is soil found in the churchyard of Sacred Heart Church in the Boho Highlands of rural Northern Ireland. For over 200 years people have used the Sacred Heart miracle soil as a remedy for a variety of ailments.

Scientists have been studying the soil and have found that it can halt the growth of the top six superbugs, including MRSA. The researchers discovered a previously unknown strain of streptomyces bacterium that is responsible for the soil’s seemingly miraculous ability. One of the problems of treating diseases like MRSA is that pathogens develop a resistance to common drugs, and science needs to find new antibiotics to control them. The Sacred Heart soil has a natural antibiotic.

The U.K. Times magazine reported on the Sacred Heart miracle soil. It quoted the key researcher Gerry Quinn in reference to folk cures. Quinn said, “Some of these cures might have been perfectly effective but the people just didn’t have any knowledge of the scientific principles or biochemistry behind them.” Science can help us to know the difference between bogus medical claims and treatments that really work.

The question of how this particular antibiotic got into the churchyard soil will stir debate. One of my friends who is a Catholic priest maintains that God has sent many cures through the Catholic Church, but people don’t want to believe in God’s activity on the Earth today. We would suggest that in all areas of nature there is balance, because God designed it that way. If scientists continue to look to nature they may find natural cures for most human maladies. They may even find them not only in church yards but in the yards of leading atheists.
–John N. Clayton ©2019

Pine Trees Stay Green in Winter

Pine Trees Stay Green in Winter
Have you ever wondered how pine trees stay green in winter? How can they keep their needles in the cold when leafy (deciduous) trees are barren? There is more than one reason for the winter beauty of the pines.

Water retention is one key to remaining green all year. The needles of pine trees have a waxy coating that acts as a water barrier. Their tubular shape also helps to reduce water loss, and a substance in the sap acts as antifreeze. The water that remains in the needles allows them to carry on photosynthesis, even in cold temperatures. The water and the antifreeze component are delicately balanced allowing pine trees to live in cold or hot climates.

But there is another trick pine trees use to stay green, and that is overlapping of the needles’ time on the tree. Different pine species have different time schedules. White pines (Pinus strobus) retain their needles for eighteen months. The needles of red pines (Pinus resinosa) and jack pines (Pinus banksiana) stay on duty for two-and-a-half years. Various pines are on different schedules. New needles come in the summer and needles that have finished their term of service drop off in the fall. We may not notice the transition unless we are watching closely because the pine trees stay green in winter.

Walk through a pine forest, and you will find the ground cushioned with a bed of old needles. Pine needles outlast their leafy counterparts, but like all living things they don’t live forever. We think the design of pine trees and their beauty in summer and winter is another demonstration of God’s wonderful creation.
–Roland Earnst ©2019

Shivering in the Cold

Shivering in the Cold
As I write this on January 21, my outdoor thermometer says that the temperature here in Michigan is -5 degrees Fahrenheit. I just graded a correspondence course from a young lady who lives in Tennessee. She asked, “How can the squirrels I see outside live when it is so cold here, and not even shiver?” It was 35 degrees Fahrenheit where she lives. Why don’t we see squirrels and other animals shivering in the cold?

Recently an atheist said that if God did exist, He wouldn’t make incredibly cold places like Alaska. In his mind, God is just too cruel to believe in. He would rather have the whole planet be like where he lives in central Florida.

There are so many problems with that view it would take much more space to discuss them all. The fact is that many animals are designed for the cold, right on down to making their bodies not feel it. The February/March 2019 issue of National Wildlife (page 8) has an interesting discussion about species of animals that have cold-sensing nerve cells that don’t feel temperatures below 68 degrees F. This allows an animal’s body temperature to drop for long periods so they can hibernate. They do not experience the cold that would keep them awake. Animals that don’t hibernate can survive and be active in temperatures as low as 35 degrees F without feeling the cold, and they can do so for up to nine months.

There are many benefits of animal hibernation both for them and for the ecosystems in which they live. God is sensitive to the problems produced by very cold conditions or even uncomfortable temperatures for humans. He has designed not only the conditions but also the physiological makeup of the living things that exist within those systems so they won’t be left shivering in the cold.
–John N. Clayton © 2019