Animal Communication in Turtles

Animal Communication in Turtles
Arrau turtle swimming in a river

An interesting fact of science is that researchers investigate the natural world in terms of human actions. An excellent example of that is our understanding of animal communication. Recent studies have shown that turtles have a rather complex system of communication which researchers have missed because the communication is very low-pitched and quiet. The frequency of the turtle communication is below 20 hertz, putting it below human hearing limitations.

With new listening devices, researchers have found that baby turtles chirp to one another while they are still in their eggs. They discovered this communication in giant South American river turtles called arraus. The apparent purpose is to coordinate their hatching time. When all the baby turtles come out of their eggs at the same time, it dramatically improves their chances of making it to the river before being snatched by a predator. The researchers also found that mother turtles use sounds to respond to the calls of their young and shepherd them to the water.

You can add turtles to the growing list of animal communication with sounds above or below the frequencies that humans can hear. Examples of subsonic or ultrasonic communicators are whales, fish, bats, and numerous birds. God has designed life to have maximum survival potential. Being able to communicate is just one of the tools that animals have been given to enhance that objective.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Lead research author Camila Ferrara of the Wildlife Conservation Society speaking to the Washington Post as reported in The Week magazine, February 3, 2023, page 22.

Every Life Form Benefits Humans

Every Life Form Benefits Humans

Genesis 1:31 tells us, “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” The creation is a carefully designed system that allows beauty and function, benefiting humans in every way. Every life form benefits humans in some way, but we may not understand how until we study all living things. Our websites and materials often point out surprising facts about how animals and plants benefit us.

Today we have many medicines, vaccines, and remedies for ailments derived from the creatures God created. However, many cures for human afflictions remain to be secured from other life forms that share the planet with us. Medical researchers are concerned that many creatures which might be able to help us cure disease and afflictions are becoming extinct because of the mismanagement of God’s creation.

Research on animal population changes from 1970 to 2018 shows that the number of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and fish declined by 69% during those years. The research was an exhaustive study of 5,230 species in 31,821 populations. The most significant loss was in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the decline was 94%. Africa was second with a loss of 66%.

The research also studied the causes of the decline in living things and found that overexploitation and habitat degradation were the main issues resulting in 70% of the loss. Pollution contributed to less than 10% of the decline. Thus, human greed and selfishness are causing most of the problems.

An old story tells about a man at the judgment asking God why He allowed him to die in a flood. God replied, “I sent you my workers with a canoe, a row boat, a motor boat, and an airboat, but you kept saying you were waiting for me to save you.” God’s creation design provides that every life form benefits humans. He has given us everything we need, from food to medicinal agents, but we continue to allow greed and selfishness to waste God’s provisions.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: March, 2023 issue of Population Connection magazine

Dry Farming and God’s Design

Dry Farming and God's Design
Grapevines growing in a Chilean desert

Vital resources are becoming less available because of careless human use of the resources God has given us. The most critical of these resources is water. California produces a third of the vegetables that Americans eat, and 80% of California’s water usage is for agriculture. Thirty-two of the fifty-eight counties in California did not receive enough rain to meet the needs of the crops planted in 2022. To supply the needed water, farmers pumped it from underground aquifers faster than those aquifers were being replenished. As a result, farmers may have to return to an ancient practice called dry farming.

Farmers in areas around the Mediterranean have been using dry farming for centuries. Indigenous people like the Hopi in Arizona have used dry farming methods for thousands of years. People grow grapes in many places worldwide, but irrigating them can take a lot of water. With dry farming techniques, a grapevine can send roots down six meters into the ground to get the water it needs. Other crops such as tomatoes, squash, potatoes, and corn can be grown by dry farming methods.

Dry farming means not watering from the top but planting early and allowing more space between plants so their roots can reach out for water. For example, when tomatoes are planted early, their roots will go deeper into the soil, reaching water and minerals that can improve the taste. Saving water and improving flavor are two advantages of dry farming. Other benefits include less erosion and fewer weeds, meaning less need for herbicides. Also, dry farming requires less equipment than irrigation farming. Disadvantages include reduced size of the vegetables and lower yield.

The design of plants that produce food for humans allows them to be grown with smaller amounts of water with winter rain or snow, more space, and careful timing of the planting. By looking at how God structured plant growth in arid areas, indigenous people learned long ago how to survive in the desert southwest. The changing climate may force us to study God’s design and change the way we grow our food to be good stewards of the resources God has given.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Cover story in Science News for March 11, 2023, pages 16 -20.

Cells and Cities Show Purpose and Design

Cells and Cities Show Purpose and Design

Whether we live in a city or in the country, we all recognize that cities are hubs of activity that keep life going and hopefully thriving. A living cell is like a miniature city, and we see life functions in the cell that correlate with activities that maintain life in the city. We can learn some things by comparing cells and cities. 

A city has a boundary called the city limits, and cells have a membrane marking their outer boundary. At the city center, we have a city hall and courthouse storing vital information and sending out directives to keep the city functioning. Cells have a nucleus that performs similar functions. The nucleus contains DNA that stores all the information for constructing and controlling the cell’s components and, ultimately, the entire body. 

Both cells and cities must have a way to transport materials within their boundaries. In cities, streets, roads, and highways perform this function. Cells have a transportation system called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to move proteins around and perform other functions. Both cells and cities need an energy source to function. Cities get their energy needs from fossil fuels, solar cells, and electrical generators. Mitochondria, “the powerhouse of the cell,” convert food calories into chemical and heat energy to maintain the cell’s life. 

Garbage trucks and sewers remove waste in the city. Cells have structures called lysosomes filled with digestive enzymes that eliminate toxic materials. Cities have factories that produce the products people need. Protein factories in the cell are called ribosomes, which manufacture new structures according to the genetic instructions in the DNA. 

While the U.S. Postal Service and companies such as UPS and FedEx transport materials between cities, the Golgi apparatus does that for the cells. For example, Golgi bodies in the pancreas package insulin for transport to other cells, allowing them to convert sugar into energy. Cells and cities need places to store essential commodities, and vacuoles perform that function in the cells. 

We live in a city that was not built by random chance. Our city has a history of design that allowed Niles, Michigan, to be founded and developed. Just as Niles was not merely a product of chance, so too the cell is not an accident. In this comparison, we have greatly oversimplified our explanation of the cell functions since cells are even more complex than cities. If cities require design and purpose by intelligent beings, living cells give strong evidence of purpose and design by a wise creator God.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Inspired by: “Cells function like miniature cities” by Sheryl Myers in the Herald Bulletin of Anderson, Indiana, February 25, 2023 

AI Chatbot Named Bard from Google

AI Chatbot Named Bard from Google

Two months ago, I asked a computer if God exists. Actually, it was Open AI’s chatbot named ChatGPT. This Artificial Intelligence program has received much attention in the form of praise and concern. The praise is because of the many ways AI might positively affect business, medicine, entertainment, work, and education. The concern is how AI can negatively affect those same areas. That is especially true of education because students can use it to write their term papers. Now Google has an AI chatbot named Bard.

Since I had tested ChatGPT with questions on God’s existence, I wanted to put Bard to the same test. I first asked, “How did the universe begin?” Bard gave me a 176-word response compared to 237 words from ChatGPT on that question. It was four short paragraphs that all began with “The Big Bang Theory.” The third paragraph also mentioned the “Steady State Theory and the Oscillating Universe Theory” as if they have some credibility, which they no longer have. However, the Big Bang Theory does not fully explain how the universe began. 

When I asked the AI chatbot named Bard to give me a 300-word essay proving the existence of God, it responded with these 354 words:

“There is no one definitive proof of the existence of God. However, there are a number of arguments that have been put forward that attempt to show that God is a reasonable explanation for the universe and the existence of life.

“One of the most common arguments for the existence of God is the cosmological argument. This argument states that the universe must have had a cause, and that this cause must be something that is uncaused itself. This uncaused cause is what people call God.

“Another common argument for the existence of God is the teleological argument. This argument states that the universe appears to be designed for a purpose. The order and complexity of the universe, the existence of life, and the laws of nature all seem to point to a creator who had a specific goal in mind when creating the universe.

“The existence of evil in the world is often seen as a challenge to the existence of God. However, some people argue that evil is necessary for free will to exist. If there were no evil, then there would be no good, and no choice between the two.

“Ultimately, whether or not you believe in God is a personal decision. There is no scientific evidence that can prove or disprove the existence of God. However, the arguments that have been put forward by philosophers and theologians can provide a framework for thinking about the question.

“Here are some additional arguments for the existence of God:

  • The moral argument: This argument states that the existence of objective moral values is evidence of a God who created us with a moral compass.
  • The argument from religious experience: This argument states that the personal experiences of people who claim to have encountered God provide evidence of His existence.
  • The argument from miracles: This argument states that the occurrence of miracles, such as healings and resurrections, is evidence of God’s intervention in the world.

“These arguments are not without their flaws, but they do provide some food for thought for those who are open to the possibility of God’s existence.”

That is the summary of arguments for God’s existence that the AI chatbot named Bard gave me. It corresponds very closely to ChatGPT’s answer, except that Bard added the argument from miracles and the existence of evil versus free will.

Again, I asked the AI chatbot named Bard the direct question, “Does God Exist?” Here is the answer I received:

“The existence of God is a question that has been debated for centuries. There is no scientific evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God, so the answer ultimately comes down to faith.”

Bard went on to say that there is no right or wrong answer to that question, but each person must make their own decision. I suggest that there is scientific evidence in the design and fine-tuning of the universe and life, but many people choose to reject that evidence.

Like ChatGPT, Bard did not mention Genesis 1:1, so I asked, “What do we learn from Genesis 1:1?” I thought Bard’s answer to this question was the best of all:

“Genesis 1:1 teaches us that God is the creator of the universe. He created the heavens and the earth, and everything in them. He is the source of all life and all order.

“Genesis 1:1 also teaches us that God is a God of order. He created the universe in an orderly fashion, with each part having its own purpose. This order is a reflection of God’s own character, which is orderly and just.

“Finally, Genesis 1:1 teaches us that God is a God of love. He created the universe out of love, and he continues to love his creation. This love is evident in the beauty and order of the universe, and it is also evident in the way that God cares for his creation.

“Genesis 1:1 is a foundational verse for all of Christianity. It teaches us about God’s character, his creation, and his love for us.”

So, I have now questioned two of the latest versions of Artificial Intelligence about the existence of God. Whether it’s an AI chatbot named Bard or ChatGPT, all AIs are created and programmed by humans, so we can expect the answers to correspond to human responses. How would you answer the question, “Does God exist?” The difference is that AI does not have a life, but you do. So, how does your answer to that question affect your life?

— Roland Earnst © 2023

You can see my report on ChatGPT at THIS LINK.

Microbes in Hydrothermal Deposits

Microbes in Hydrothermal Deposits
Undersea Hydrothermal Vent

One of the fascinating things about research on microorganisms is the diversity of species and environments in which they live. Superheated material at temperatures of up to 400 degrees celsius is extruded from vents in the deep ocean. When it contacts the cold seawater, it produces porous rocks in the form called “chimneys.” This rock differs from rocks on Earth’s surface due to the pressure at those depths. Researchers from Portland State University and the University of Wisconsin found diverse microbes in hydrothermal deposits.

The researchers sampled 40 rock communities and found 3,635 species of microbes in hydrothermal deposits. The researchers were amazed at how diverse these bacterial communities are. The lead researcher Anna-Louise Reysenbach said, “At one volcano, there was so much new diversity that we hadn’t seen elsewhere.” Not only did they find new species, but they also discovered two new phyla and at least 500 new genera. In addition, the scientists found that New Zealand samples differed from those found in other places. 

The design of life is so flexible that you can find living things in locations where you would not expect life to survive. It is important to note that scientists are classifying the microbes in hydrothermal deposits using the same phyla, genera, and species categories they use for life on Earth’s surface. The bacteria are not so different from surface bacteria, but they can live in environments of extreme pressures and temperatures. 

We know that life forms exist in extremely cold and hot places on Earth. The design of life is exquisite, and these microorganisms support the higher life forms familiar to us. This study implies that life could exist elsewhere in the cosmos if God chose to put it there. However, there is a world of difference between finding a microbe on a distant planet or satellite and finding a sentient alien being as portrayed on the movie screen. The complexity of life and the amazing design of our own bodies shows God’s creative wisdom. I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). As we learn more about the diverse places where life can exist, we are amazed at how sophisticated life design is.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: National Science Foundation Research News for March 7, 2023, and the journal Microbiome

Cosmos Creation Model and the Webb Space Telescope

Cosmos Creation Model and the Webb Space Telescope

One of the beautiful things about science is its methodology. Even when a theory is widely accepted in the scientific community, it still can be proven wrong and end up being discarded. An example of that is suggested by what the latest pictures from the James Webb Telescope are doing to the cosmos creation model.

The classical cosmos creation model suggests that the big bang produced matter/energy, resulting in atoms and molecules. The gravitational attraction of those molecules began to produce clouds of stars and dust. Those clouds then coalesced into small galaxies that grew and merged. Larger galaxies formed over time and are still developing.

Astronomers looking into space see galaxies interacting and sometimes even merging. The Webb telescope looks back farther than ever before toward the beginning of the cosmos. Early galaxies should be small with relatively small masses compared to the enormous galaxies like our Milky Way. However, Dr. Joel Leja from Penn State University has revealed that the latest observations by the Webb telescope do not support the widely accepted cosmos creation model.

The Webb telescope has discovered six large, fully-formed galaxies with huge masses. These supermassive galaxies are near the starting point for the expansion of the cosmos, so researchers are struggling to understand how they can exist. Some suggest they are supermassive black holes, but scientists think that black holes of this size are relatively late productions of galactic evolution.

None of this has any bearing on the cosmological argument for the existence of God as the creator. This research does not answer the question of the origin of space, energy, and time. However, it does upend the classical model of the creation and expansion of the cosmos. God is the creator of the cosmos, and His methods are so complex that human attempts to produce a cosmos creation model will take many more years of study and exploration. Indeed, “The Heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “The galaxies that shouldn’t exist” in The Week for March 10, 2023 page 21.

Homogeneous View of the Cosmos

Homogeneous View of the Cosmos and the Giant Arc
The Giant Arc is the curved line of dots in the center

The standard model of cosmology maintains that matter in the universe should be more or less evenly distributed across space. This homogeneous view of the cosmos was based on what astronomers could observe using the instruments available when they developed the first cosmological theories. If the creation started with a singularity, the cosmos as a whole should be relatively even. Gravitational interactions would make some local lumps in the creation, but matter should be evenly distributed through the cosmos as a whole.

In 2021, researcher Alexia Lopez was analyzing the light from distant quasars when she detected a giant arc of galaxies in the constellation of Bootes. It spanned a massive 3.3 billion light years in diameter. That structure is one-fifteenth of the radius of the observable universe. Known as the “Giant Arc,” it violates the homogeneous view of the cosmos, which says that everything should be evenly distributed with no noticeable irregularities.

As the Webb telescope sends more observations to researchers, old theories of galactic formation and the origin of the cosmos may have to be discarded, and new ideas advanced. Nevertheless, the fundamental question of creation continues to lead back to the same conclusion: there was a beginning to time, space, and matter/energy.

The object here is discovering the process God used to make everything we see. The complexity of the creation process was so great that it is very difficult to attribute it to some accidental incidents. The statement in Proverbs 8 gives us more understanding as Wisdom talks about being present before the creation. We see evidence of that in every discovery in astrophysics.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: BBC Report “The giant arcs that may dwarf everything in the cosmos

Earth’s Thermostat in the Rocks

Earths Thermostat in the Rocks

A new report shows that rain, carbon dioxide, and various kinds of rocks are major players in controlling Earth’s climate. The study, led by Penn State University, pooled data from 45 soil sites and many watersheds worldwide to see how the weathering of rocks combines with rain to stabilize climate. You might call it Earth’s thermostat in the rocks.

We know that volcanoes have emitted large amounts of carbon dioxide, potentially turning the planet into a greenhouse. However, rain dissolves the carbon dioxide out of the air, creating a weak acid that falls to the surface. The acid wears away the rocks in Earth’s crust, and carbon is part of the byproducts of this action. Streams and rivers carry the carbon to the ocean, where it is eventually locked away in sedimentary rocks.

Richard Yuretich, a program director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, says that the breakdown of rocks into soil “removes significant amounts of carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere, processes that are also related to temperature.” As the temperature rises, the rate of carbon sequestration increases, helping to control the greenhouse effect. This process creates what is essentially Earth’s thermostat to help maintain a relatively constant temperature.

This new research will significantly impact our understanding of climate change. It helps us understand how Earth’s design has allowed a constant temperature throughout the past’s varied activity of carbon emissions. How much effect it will have in the future as humans add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere remains to be seen. However, there have been past periods of significant volcanic activity, so the carbon dioxide levels have not been static.

Earth’s thermostat in the rocks is just one more example of how the planet’s design has made it possible for life to exist during climate changes. We know that the thermostat in our car or home was designed with intelligence. Likewise, the thermostat built into our planet is also not some accidental device but is essential for the existence of life on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: The National Science Foundation Research News Report, March 8, 2023, and the journal Science, 26 Jan 2023

Convergent Evolution or Design?

Convergent Evolution or Design?
Convergent Evolution or Design?

Animals that are not closely related can display very similar characteristics. Evolutionary scientists say that these similar traits demonstrate “convergent evolution.”

According to Darwinian evolution, all life forms can trace their heritage to a common ancestor. From that first life form, branches diverged to form a tree of life. At some point, those branches diverge again. When two life forms develop a similar characteristic that their last common ancestor did not have, that is convergent evolution. There are many examples, such as dolphins and bats. Both use echolocation for navigating or finding food, but they cannot be closely related.

Animals that can fly include insects, birds, and mammals such as bats. Nobody claims that these creatures are closely related. However, they all use aerodynamic principles and wings to defy gravity. We see similar mouthparts in animals that suck blood, such as mosquitos and fleas. Both are insects but not closely related. We can say the same for insects that suck nectar from flowers, such as bees and butterflies.

Many plants produce edible fruits to encourage animals to scatter their seeds. That includes tomatoes, apples, and raspberries – which are not related. We find similar types of eyes in very dissimilar animals. Birds, butterflies, and even some plants use structural coloration, even though they are unrelated and live in very different ecosystems.

According to evolutionary scientists, one of the most dramatic examples of convergent evolution is found in thousands of plants that use ants to disperse their seeds. The plants attach “food bodies” called elaiosomes to their seeds. The elaiosomes are rich in nutrients to attract ants. The ants carry the seeds to their colonies, where they eat the elaiosomes and discard the seeds. How did over 11,000 plant species develop this technique more than 100 times independently? Evolutionists call it convergent evolution. Could it perhaps be evidence for design in plants?

Evolutionary scientists often give pat answers to explain how various species evolved the same traits independently. However, they say that all of these and many more examples of similarities in unrelated animals show convergent evolution. In other words, evolution is intelligent and uses the same ideas in various species. Or we could say that an intelligent Creator has used the same creative ideas in multiple species. Which is the best explanation? Evidence for design in living things calls for a Designer of life.

— Roland Earnst © 2023