A Very Tiny Frog

A Very Tiny Frog
Brazilian flea toad (brachycephalus pulex)

How small can a vertebrate get? The Brazilian flea toad (brachycephalus pulex) is the smallest known amphibian and the smallest known vertebrate. Despite its name, it isn’t a flea or a toad but a frog. This very tiny frog is small enough that two of them could sit side-by-side on your pinkie fingernail. From snout to rump, the males average about 7 millimeters and the females 8 millimeters. 

The Brazilian flea toad’s name can be misleading. These frogs were actually discovered and named in 2011, but it wasn’t until a decade later that they were studied in detail. While both toads and frogs are amphibians, there are some key differences. Toads have drier, bumpier skin and are typically found in dry environments, while frogs have smoother, more moist skin and tend to live near water.

Brazilian flea toads have a bright yellow-orange color, which is probably an aposematic signal to potential predators. Aposematism in animals is often a warning that their skin may contain toxins that make them unpleasant or dangerous to eat. A creature this small needs some way to protect itself.

Why would such a very tiny frog exist? They are endemic to a few forested hills in the southern coastal area of Brazil. Researchers have not studied them enough to understand the niche they fill in their environment, and studying such creatures as this very tiny frog is challenging. Luci Kirkpatrick of Bangor University in North Wales said that tiny creatures are “ecosystem engineers” that are “critical in making sure the food web functions properly.” 

God created an ecosystem with organisms that allow life to exist in a balanced environment on Earth. The very tiny frog known as the Brazilian flea toad can teach us a lot about the small world that sustains us.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

References: earth.com, mymodernmet.com, bbc.com, and onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Total Solar Eclipse and the Matthew 27 Account

Total Solar Eclipse and the Matthew 27 Account

We received comments from two men who related the recent total solar eclipse and the Matthew 27 account of darkness coming over the land when Jesus was crucified. One of the enquirers was a Christian who wondered about it, and the other was from an atheist who tried to use it in his attack on the Bible. Here is what we read in Matthew 27:45: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.”

This is an age-old skeptic attack, suggesting that later Christian writers manipulated the account to transform a natural phenomenon into a religious miracle. These critics also argue that the miracles of Jesus, as described in the Bible, are not historical events but rather fictional tales concocted by later Christian writers.

The first point we need to make is that the duration of a total solar eclipse and the Matthew 27 account have no common ground. The sixth hour to the ninth hour would indicate about three hours. The most extended duration of a total solar eclipse is three to four MINUTES. History records an eclipse near the traditional time of Jesus’ crucifixion, but the scriptures do not give us the date of the crucifixion.

The second point we must make is that the miracles Jesus performed are not just fiction written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Many Christians and opponents of Christianity recognized that Jesus performed miracles. You can try to explain them scientifically, but they are beyond any scientific explanation. A total solar eclipse and the Matthew 27 account are not compatible.

In an era rife with fake news, skepticism, atheism, and secularism, the role of evidence in substantiating the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testaments becomes paramount. While we don’t claim to possess all the answers, evidence supporting the Bible’s accuracy and the historical facts of Jesus’ life is readily accessible to those who seek it. Our video series, “Beyond Reasonable Doubt,” meticulously examines the evidence for biblical accuracy. You can view it free of charge on doesgodexist.tv, or purchase it with a study guide from powervine.store. We also offer a free correspondence course of the same name upon request.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

The Nature of Time Is a Mystery

The Nature of Time Is a Mystery

The nature of time is one of the great mysteries of life. Time is not three-dimensional; in other words, we can’t describe it as left-right, up-down, or back-front. Time is a created thing, and thanks to Einstein’s relativity theory, we know that it is not constant. At very high velocities, time changes.

In quantum mechanics, we discuss things that happened “before time began.” In Proverbs 8:22-23 Wisdom speaks about being with God before the world began, and 2 Peter 3:8 tells us that “with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.” Acts 1:7 tells us, “It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by His own authority.”

Many questions arise because people fail to understand the relationship between time and God. The way God answers prayers is radically affected by time. Humans tend to want our requests instantly gratified, but God frequently acts in a different time frame than we desire. God also does not answer prayers or produce actions that would violate our freedom of choice. We can pray for someone to do a certain thing, and God may make it possible, but He will not violate a person’s ability to choose. We are here for a purpose in the war between good and evil, and we can choose what we will do. God makes it possible but does not force us to accept His will.

Those who try to predict the time of Christ’s second coming fail to understand that all things are embedded in God’s independence from time. The question of the Earth’s age is also rooted in a poor understanding of the nature of time. Changes in stars and galaxies take very long periods of time, including how long it takes for the light from distant stars to reach the Earth.

How long did it take to produce the land masses we live on, and by what method did God make them? Those who want instant gratification have God miraculously zapping the entire geologic column instantly. That is not what the evidence from geology tells us. The record in the rocks of our planet tells of God’s careful preparation of the natural resources He knew we would need. God could zap oil into existence in an underground storage formation, but the evidence is that He has taken a long time with many different agencies to produce the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and gas, as well as the minerals we depend on.

The nature of time is a mystery to us, and we create conflict when we force our concept of time on a God who created time and is not limited by it.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Nudibranchs in a Dazzling Array of Colors and Shapes

Nudibranchs in a Dazzling Array of Colors and Shapes - Chromodoris leoparda
Chromodoris leoparda nudibranch
Nudibranchs in a Dazzling Array of Colors and Shapes - Glaucus atlanticus
Glaucus atlanticus nudibranch

The diversity of life on planet Earth is astounding. One of the life forms that most of us are not aware of is the order nudibranchia. Nudibranchs are marine gastropod mollusks that shed their shells after the larval stage. The name “nudibranch” means “naked gills.” They are found worldwide in around 3,000 species, and they can be as small as a thumbtack or as long as 20 inches. Oceans contain nudibranchs in a dazzling array of colors and shapes.

What makes the nudibranchs important is that they help keep in balance some dangerous lifeforms that humans have a hard time handling. Nudibranchs will eat sponges, corals, anemones, jellyfish, and just about any stinging life forms that live in the ocean. There have been times when a species of jellyfish or stinging coral have threatened human use of an area of the ocean, but the nudibranchs have brought these creatures under control.

From the Arctic to the tropics, we find various species of nudibranchs in a dazzling array of colors and shapes, keeping balance in the ocean. However, you might assume they are just sea slugs of no value unless you know what they are. Climate change can alter the ocean’s ecological balance, but nudibranchs help control overpopulations of destructive agents in reefs and estuaries.

Most of the marine world has not yet been explored, and we have much to learn. Humans have done more to explore space than the floor of the ocean. As better technology allows us to travel into deep ocean trenches, underwater volcanoes, and isolated reefs, we will gain more understanding of what God has designed to allow life to exist in all parts of planet Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: Smithsonian Magazine for April-May 2024, pages 40 -48.

Nudibranch expert Gary Cobb maintains a Facebook group called Nudibranch Central, where you can see more examples of these dazzling creatures.

Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena AARO Report

Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena AARO Report - Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick
Sean Kirkpatrick speaking to Senate Armed Services Committee

One of the most repeated false media reports is the claim that aliens in spacecraft regularly visit Earth and want to affect human history. In our day of conspiracy theories, there are stories that the United States government has been hiding alien contact. Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick was the director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). Congress charged that agency in 2022 with bringing scientific evidence and clarity to the UFO and UAP (Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena) mystery.

Dr. Kirkpatrick explained what the AARO found in the April 2024 issue of Scientific American. Here is a brief summary of his report:

#1) There is no record of any president, Department of Defense official, intelligence community leader, or congressional committee knowing about any such conspiracy.
#2) The claims started when “UFOlogist” Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, persuaded some senators to call on the Department of Homeland Security to set up an agency to investigate claims.
#3) The people advancing the idea of a government coverup conspiracy are part of a small group, and many of them worked for Bigelow Aerospace.
#4) Dr. Kirkpatrick said of the claims, “Some are misrepresentations; some derive from pure, unsupported beliefs. In many ways, the narrative is a textbook example of circular reporting…”

You can read the report released by Kirkpatrick’s group of qualified scientists, “Report on the Historical Record of U.S. Government Involvement with Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP),” online HERE.

All attempts to tie alien claims to the Bible or alien explanations of history are not supported by evidence or real scientific investigation. We see claims that biblical figures, including Jesus, were aliens and that miracles described in the Bible were the actions of aliens. There is no evidence to support those claims.

The evidence is massive that Jesus lived as the Bible says and that His spiritual promises are real. Our salvation comes from the work of Jesus, and we must study and apply His teachings to our lives. You can see some of that evidence in our videos, including the Beyond Reasonable Doubt series and our correspondence course by the same name. Send us your name and address for the correspondence course, and we will mail you lesson #1 at no cost. You can watch the video series for free on our website, doesgodexist.tv.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Observations from a Government UFO Hunter” in Scientific American magazine for April 2024 (pages 67-68)

Then It Would Be Alive!

Then It Would Be Alive!

Origin of life research has occupied scientists for years. The media often exaggerates claims that science is getting close to creating life. “Creating RNA life in a lab” is a headline in a recent issue of The Week magazine. The story is about the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, developing a molecule of ribonucleic acid (RNA) “that could generate accurate copies of another type of RNA.” The article went on to say, “This brings the researchers one step closer to their ultimate goal of creating an RNA molecule that can make accurate copies of itself.” The study’s co-author Gerald Joyce said, “Then it would be alive.”

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a polymeric molecule essential for most biological functions. It has a structure similar to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which carries the genetic information in every living cell. The scientists have created the macromolecule RNA in the laboratory by combining smaller molecules. To say that if an RNA molecule could reproduce itself, “then it would be alive” is an exaggeration.

As an analogy, let’s suppose I want to make a new car, which I would call a Claytonmobile. I get an engine out of a Ford, a transmission out of a Honda, a chassis out of a Chevy, and an interior out of a Royals Royce. I put these together and announce to the world that I have created a car. In reality, what did I do? I took things already created and assembled them, but I didn’t create anything. Some of you old timers may remember the Tucker automobile, which was very much like what I just described.

This same process is happening in the scientific community attempting to create life. The goal of the group at La Jolla is to form an RNA molecule that can make copies of itself. The researchers say, “Then it would be alive.” That means they are changing the definition of life that most of us learned in biology classes from high school through graduate school. That definition says life is that which can move, breathe, respond to outside stimuli, and reproduce. When researchers can get RNA to reproduce, they will have satisfied one of the parameters, but they certainly will not have created life.

The more we know of the creation, the more we understand the wisdom and power of the Creator. In Proverbs 8:17-23, Wisdom, personified as a woman, says that those who seek her will find her and that her fruit is better than gold or silver. In verse 22, she says, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning before the earth was.” The complexity of RNA and DNA and of life itself is a great apologetic for the existence of God. We need to listen to the words of Wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: The Week for March 29, 2024, page 21, reporting on a Washington Post story.

Paddlefish Have a Third Eye

Paddlefish Have a Third Eye

North American waters are home to a most interesting fish known as the spoonbill or paddlefish (Polydon spathula). These fish have an enormous bill, which is actually an antenna studded with thousands of sensory cells to detect electrical signals produced by the plankton on which they feed. The 12—to 15-inch long bill gets so much attention that people overlook another oddity: these paddlefish have a third eye.

Paddlefish have an opening between the bones of the skull called a foramen. It is located at the base of the bill between the eyes and covered by a thin skin and cartilage layer. The foramen allows light to pass through onto a nerve that goes directly to the paddlefish’s brain. It serves as a third eye, allowing the paddlefish to experience changes in light direction and seasonal changes. The third eye cannot form detailed images, but it influences biological changes in body temperature and hormone production in the fish.

As biologists study various life forms, they find common threads that run through all living things. Researchers have found barely visible vestiges of similar structures in frogs, lizards, and some sharks. Since paddlefish have a third eye, they must have a use for it, but the last detailed study of it was in 1896.

There are many things that science does not yet know about living things, but diverse features allow animals to live in Earth’s wide-ranging environments. Evolutionists assume that all life originated from a single cell in the distant past through an unguided chance process. The paddlefish bill with its sensory cells and third eye is difficult to explain by that process. God used the best plan in creating life, and part of that is the capacity to change as the environment changes. Romans 1:20 tells us that “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.”

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Third Eye of a Spoonbill” in In-Fisherman magazine for May 2024, pages 8-9.

AI Can Be Used or Misused

AI Can Be Used or Misused

Artificial Intelligence is the latest marvel of science flooding every part of human life – for good or evil. On November 39, 2022, a company known as OpenAI launched an artificial intelligence application, a chatbot called ChatGPT, making it available to anyone wanting to use it. Since ChatGPT can write papers, students started using it to meet course requirements. Religious groups have trained chatbots to use religious texts. More than 200,000 people worldwide have used QuranGPT. Other chatbots such as Bible.AI, Gita GPT, Buddhabot, and Apostle Paul AI have appeared. Chatbots have been trained to give answers, imitating Martin Luther, Confucius, and even the Delphic oracle. Like everything else, AI can be used or misused.

Alarmists have suggested hypothetical scenarios in which AI could take over the planet. The adage “garbage in leads to garbage out” applies to AI. However, innovators can do many very positive things with this new technology. One example is the ability to read ancient documents that have previously been unreadable.

Pyroclastic flows from Mount Vesuvius buried a library in the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum in AD 79. Those volcanic flows generated temperatures of 900 degrees and buried the scrolls under 60 feet of debris, baking them into charcoal. The process preserved the scrolls, but scholars could not unroll and read them because they would crumble. Using high-energy scans, scientists created a 3-D image of the scrolls and used AI to analyze the ink patterns and determine the words on the scrolls.

AI will allow scholars to study documents and other materials that were previously unreadable. This process can potentially be applied to biblical scrolls to verify the integrity of the Bible manuscripts. AI and its related tools like ChatGPT can expand our knowledge of the past and solve insoluble problems. AI offers medical advances at all levels to improve human life. Like everything else, AI can be used or misused, but the notion that it can take over all technology and eliminate the human race is science fiction and not something we should fear.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “What We’re Learning From AI” in Scientific American for April 2024

Lessons from America’s Total Solar Eclipse of 2024

Lessons from America’s Total Solar Eclipse of 2024

Watching yesterday’s news reports of the total solar eclipse, I was impressed by how many people called it a “spiritual” experience. People said that it made them realize how small we are. Many indicated that it brings people together to remind us that we need each other. Some spoke about it being a testimony to the existence of God. Lessons from America’s total solar eclipse of 2024 teach us about God’s power and the brevity of life.

In 1815, American novelist James Fenimore Cooper wrote, “…never have I beheld any spectacle which so plainly manifested the majesty of the Creator, or so forcibly taught the lesson of humility to man as a total eclipse of the Sun.” Modern eclipse chaser Kate Russo said about the total solar eclipse,” You don’t need to know anything about it to feel that overwhelming sense of awe.” She is a clinical psychologist who has studied how eclipses affect people and wrote a book titled “Being in the Shadow: Stories of the First-time Total Eclipse Experience.” 

Multiple news commentators remarked about the amazing coincidence that the Sun is 400 times the size of the Moon but 400 times as far away. That “conincidence” allows the Moon to exactly block out the Sun, allowing us to see see its corona. That fact is one of many “coincidences” that enable us to study and learn about God’s orderly creation. 

Many people experienced awe as they watched the eclipse. Dacher Keltner of the University of California, Berkeley, is described as a “pioneer in the science of awe.” He defines awe as “the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world.” Lessons from America’s total solar eclipse of 2024 fill us with awe. 

My wife and I took my brother, his son, and grandson to southern Illinois to view the total eclipse of 2017. We agreed to return to the same area in seven years to observe the 2024 total eclipse. We were unable to do that because my brother and his son passed away. My wife and I could not make the trip due to health issues and had to enjoy a partial eclipse from our home. It will be two decades before a total solar eclipse crosses the United States again. There is no question that lessons from America’s total solar eclipse of 2024 teach us about God’s creative power and the brevity of life. 

— Roland Earnst © 2024

References: Involarium.org and nationalgeographic.com

Weather Can Surprise Us But Eclipses Do Not

Weather Can Surprise Us, But Eclipses Do Not

Today is the day of the 2024 total solar eclipse in North America. People have traveled to locations where they can view it, and great crowds will gather in many locations. For many, it will be a thrill to watch. For others, it will be a disappointment because of the weather. Despite improvements in weather radar and computer data, weather can surprise us, but eclipses do not.

In 1970, a total eclipse was predicted to cross Perry, Florida. Although the town had only about 8,000 residents, the Perry Chamber of Commerce wanted to promote its location for eclipse watching. They ran print ads saying that Perry was “in the center of the eclipse,” and the long-term weather data indicated there would be a 70% chance of clear skies with a temperature of 72 degrees on eclipse day. That advertising convinced more than 25,000 people to come to Perry to view the eclipse.

Among the people who flocked to Perry were scientists from around the world who came with cameras and equipment. While tourists came to enjoy the eclipse, scientists came to study the Sun and its corona, which is only visible during a total eclipse. Swiss astronomer Max Waldmeier, director of the Zurich Observatory, brought a research team. The eclipse happened as predicted. However, the sky was densely overcast. Waldmeier and his team were bitterly disappointed as they packed their equipment to return home.

If we learn one thing from this, it is that weather can surprise us, but eclipses do not. What can we learn from eclipses? By studying total eclipses, scientists confirmed Einstein’s theory that gravity bends light waves. This led to the creation of accurate Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Also, total eclipses allow scientists to study the Sun’s corona and observe solar flares. For average people, eclipses show us that God’s creation is predictable and observable.

Everywhere we look, creation displays evidence of a wise Creator. The total eclipse also reminds us that we depend on the Sun. We can survive for a few minutes while it is hidden, but we depend on it for life daily. Likewise, we depend on God to supply the very things we need to survive each day. How often do we recognize that fact and show our gratitude for those blessings?

— Roland Earnst © 2024

Reference: space.com