Water for Living and Living Water

Water for Living and Living Water

We all know that getting dehydrated is not good for our health. What we may not realize is how much water is designed to be part of our human makeup. Even the sound of water has a positive effect on our emotions and health. More important than that, our bodies depend on water. We need both water for living and living water.

Yesterday, we talked about our ability to cool our bodies through sweating. Eccrine glands work inside our cells to produce sweat, and humans have more of those glands than any other animal. When we lose significant amounts of water by sweating, a complex network of hormones and the electrical system that controls our kidneys work together to concentrate our urine.

The necessity of water for living means that we must constantly add water to our bodies, and to do this, we have great flexibility in our diets. In the United States, about 20% of the water we take into our bodies comes from the food we eat. In Japan, that number is around 50%. People get water by eating fruits and drinking milk, which is 87% water.

Humans are more locked into water than we may realize. We all travel by using water as the marker for where we stop. In our culture, it is often rest areas along the highway. In others, it may be desert springs or finding jungle plants that hold water. We spend large amounts of money on the construction of devices to bring water to us. Two thousand years ago, the Romans built a series of aqueducts to move water 16 kilometers to supply 50,000 people in the city of Caesarea. In today’s world, we build enormous pipelines to supply water to places where there are shortages.

When Jesus began to teach, He referred to His message as “living water” (John 4:10). In reality, the only thing more important than the water that sustains our physical lives is the living water that takes us to eternity. Revelation 22 pictures heaven with “..a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the lamb.”

Reference: Scientific American, July 2021, pages 40-44.

Donkeys Digging Wells in the Desert

Donkeys Digging Wells in the Desert

We don’t ordinarily think of donkeys as diggers, especially not as vital to the desert environment. A researcher from Aarhus University in Denmark has made a discovery that shows a special provision God made to use donkeys to provide water for other life forms. Erick Lundgren has documented donkeys digging wells in the desert. In 2014 Lundgren studied feral horses and donkeys and noticed them digging holes deep enough to reach groundwater.

From 2014 to 2018, Lundgren mapped groundwater in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and found that holes dug by donkeys provided 74% of available water for all forms of life in the area. The donkeys seemed to know where to find water, and 57 vertebrate species from migratory songbirds to mountain lions and even a bear came to the donkey wells to drink.

It is fascinating that this is not a local anomaly. Researchers have documented donkeys digging wells in Central Asia, so this action is built into the donkey’s genome. Attempting to make a case for accidental donkey well-digging fails when isolated populations have the same instinctive drive. They use it not only to survive themselves but to benefit an entire ecosystem.

Research into donkeys digging wells shows that the donkeys know where to dig because the digging is not random. The wells dug by donkeys decreased the distance between water sources to an average of 843 meters, making essential water available to more animals with less tension. We suggest this is a beautiful example of God’s design allowing animals to live in environments that would seem unlikely to support life.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, June 5, 2021, page 14.

Why Do We Need Mountains?

Why Do We Need Mountains?

A skeptic recently complained that mountains are a mistake. “They block travel, cause avalanches, create deserts, and are just a general nuisance. If God were the creator, He wouldn’t have made these huge obstacles to human well-being.” In response to this skeptic, we consider, “Why do we need mountains?” For one thing, mountains are a very practical solution to one of humanity’s greatest needs–water.

In a basic geography or meteorology class, we learn about orographic uplift and rain shadows. As air comes across a flat area, it picks up moisture. But to make rain, there must be more than just water. Condensation requires a cool enough temperature and nuclei on which the water vapor can condense. Mountains provide both the cooler temperatures and the condensation nuclei.

As air pushes up the side of a mountain, it cools, and stirred-up dust provides condensation nuclei. For that reason, it is frequently very rainy on the windward side of the mountain. On the other side, the air is dry because all of the moisture has been removed.

Mountains can also capture and store water as ice and snow. Scientific American (January 2021) published an article with data on how many people get their water from the mountains. There are 78 regional mountain chains or “water towers” that deliver water to almost two billion people and surrounding ecosystems. Without mountains, the amount of land that would be hospitable to humans would be much more limited.

In addition to mountains capturing and storing water, they have also created underground aquifers. Glaciers generated in mountain areas have carved out huge valleys, depositing sand and gravel in permeable layers that allow massive amounts of water to seep into the ground. Here in southern Michigan, continental glaciers produced aquifers that supply us with water. In a large area of the Midwest United States, an underground aquifer called the Teays River has supplied adequate water for agriculture.

God has provided a massive and effective water system for nearly all continents, primarily because of mountains. Why do we need mountains? We need them for the water that allows irrigation as well as drinking and other uses. Mountains are beautiful, they provide recreational activities for humans, and they literally water the world for human survival.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

How a Fish Drinks Water

How a Fish Drinks Water
Salmon in Freshwater

Have you ever wondered how a fish drinks water? Your first reaction is probably something like, “It opens its mouth.” Like most things in life, it isn’t that simple.

All living things necessarily have some saltwater content in their bodies to keep chemical balance allowing life to exist. The fluids inside an ocean-dwelling fish are only about a third as salty as the ocean itself. The water inside the fish’s body tends to leave by osmotic pressure, which is the tendency of fluids to move through membranes toward higher concentrations. To avoid this loss of water, the fish does simply open its mouth and drink seawater. But that brings large amounts of salt into the fish’s body. The salt concentration would be more than the fish’s kidneys could handle. To aid the kidneys, the gills of ocean fish are designed to expel salt, so the fish isn’t pickled by it.

In freshwater fish, the osmotic pressure is reversed, so the fluids inside the fish are saltier than the water outside. The skin of a freshwater fish is designed so that water seeps in through its skin and gills. Therefore, the fish doesn’t have to drink at all. When a salmon leaves the ocean and enters a freshwater stream, it merely stops drinking. Like freshwater fish, it depends on its skin to bring in its water needs.

Now that you know how a fish drinks water, the next question would be about other creatures that spend their time in the sea. Birds like albatrosses and petrels can spend more than a year at sea, and whales and seals live in the ocean 24/7/365. How can they avoid being poisoned by the salt? We’ll discuss that tomorrow.

God’s design of life includes fitting living things with specialized equipment to survive in every environment. Fish are remarkable creatures specially equipped for the waterworld in which they live.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from National Wildlife magazine June/July 1995, pages 30-34.

Water Cycle and Life

Water Cycle and Life

Many passages in the Bible seem to be of little significance, yet they are incredibly important. Here is one of them about the water cycle.

“All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.” Ecclesiastes 1:7.

It is believed that Solomon wrote those words in 977 BC. What did people understand about the hydrologic cycle, or water cycle, at that time? The answer, of course, is “very little.” Meteorologist Dr. Joseph Scott Greeson says about this passage, “Without using modern words – like ‘evaporation,’ ‘condensation,’ and ‘precipitation,’ this passage describes the results of those processes in these words… My twentieth-century scientific mind recognized that the writer of that passage must have had quite an understanding of the interaction between water on earth and water in the sky.”

There is a delicate balance of processes in the hydrologic cycle that allow us to have water even far from a lake or ocean. Many years ago, I had a friend who was involved in seeding clouds with silver iodide to stimulate them to produce rain. I knew that he was involved in this project and that he had many stories about how the seeding of clouds worked. I also knew he got out of that business, and I asked him why? His response was, “We were doing okay in getting rain started, but we were doing very poorly in knowing how to stop it.”

Global warming is bringing water to places that previously were deserts. We know that temperature controls how much water is lifted into the air by evaporation. A one-inch rainfall over a square mile of land involves the lifting of 72,483.84 tons of water. (Do the math. Water is 62.4 lbs per cubic foot. An inch is 1/12th of a foot, so the volume of water in a square mile of land would be 5280 feet/mile x 5280 x 1/12th or 2,323,200 cubic feet.) How many square miles of land receive an inch of rain in a typical spring storm? This is the start of the water cycle.

As the water flows into streams and rivers, it nourishes everything in its path, ultimately returning to the sea from which it evaporated. The system that powers the hydrologic cycle is massive, and all of life depends on it. God used the water cycle to impress upon Job that he “darkens counsel with words without knowledge” (Job 38:2). After talking about the creation, God takes the hydrologic cycle as the first evidence of His knowledge, design, and power. “Who provides a channel for the torrents of rain and a path for the storm to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass. Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew…” (See verses 22-30).

Be thankful for the rain that brings life to us and for the water cycle that God designed so that, if properly managed, we all have enough to drink and to grow our food.

— John N. Clayton ©

Greeson quote from Scientists Who Believe page 64, Moody Press ISBN 0-8024-7634-1.

Salt and Water Chemical Bonds and Life

Salt and Water Chemical Bonds and Life

We see a correlation between salt and water chemical bonds and life. One of the first things students learn in chemistry class is that elements bond to form compounds in two different ways. One is called “covalent,” and the other is called “ionic.”

In an ionic bond, two elements transfer an electron. An excellent example of ionic bonding is sodium chloride, common table salt. The sodium in salt has a loosely-held electron in its last orbital. Chlorine, on the other hand, needs an electron, because its last orbital is one electron short of the most stable configuration. When sodium and chlorine combine, the sodium gives up its last electron, and the chlorine absorbs it.

A classic example of a covalent bond is water. Hydrogen needs an electron to produce the most stable possible form of the hydrogen atom. Oxygen needs two electrons to give it the most stable arrangement. Oxygen can share two of its electrons with two hydrogen atoms. The result is that two hydrogen atoms are attached to the one oxygen atom, producing water.

Water and salt are very different kinds of compounds. Water is tough to break apart into its component atoms. Salt is very easy to break apart. Just dumping salt into water will tear the salt molecule apart into sodium and chlorine. The design of these atoms is amazing. The salt molecule is polar because only two atoms are involved. The water molecule is also polar because of the location of the two electrons that are shared with the hydrogen. An electron by itself is not stable. The spin of the electrons and their magnetic properties require pairing to be stable, and that pairing forms compounds such as water and salt.

In teaching high school chemistry, I would use boy-girl relationships to help kids understand chemical bonding. The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:18 that God said, “It is not good that man should be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” Verse 24 says, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” All of life reaches stability in a shared relationship. Just as water is more stable than salt, so too humans who are in a committed relationship of oneness and sharing are more stable than when isolated and alone. The same Designer of salt and water chemical bonds gave us each other for the best of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Design of Water and Miracle of Living Water

Design of Water and Miracle of Living Water

Have you ever been thirsty? I mean, REALLY thirsty!! Thirsty to the point of being willing to give anything for a drink of water? Water is precious. We are seeing the results of a lack of water in many places in the world today. There are entire cities where water is in such short supply that people have to go to extremes to get enough to stay alive. Because the design of water makes it essential for life, scientists looking for evidence of life on other planets start by searching for signs of water. The design of water makes it an excellent illustration of the miracle of living water.

We have discussed water’s chemistry before. The atomic structure of oxygen and hydrogen produces the polar nature of the water molecule, which gives water its incredible properties. The design of water is an amazing example of God’s engineering skills at all levels of complexity.

In ancient times having water was just as critical as it is today. Those of us who live in areas with abundant water have no idea how much the search for it dominated people’s lives in Jesus’ day. It is hard for us to fully appreciate the meaning of the teaching of Jesus in John 4 when He met the woman at the well and offered her the miracle of living water. The person who was assigned the task of keeping the family supplied with water had to be strong enough to walk long distances and carry heavy loads. This woman was going to carry something back to her family that was even more precious than the water she came to get.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whosoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” John 4:13-14.

To the secular world, that statement is ludicrous, and yet Jesus refers to “rivers of living water” many times. In John 7:38, for example, Jesus says, “Whosoever believes in me… out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” The next few verses explain, “He said this about the Spirit whom those who believed in Him were about to receive.” Because of our thirst, we understand the importance of water. For unbelievers, the miracle of living water is hard to comprehend, until they have a thirst for a better existence. In Acts 2:38, Peter told the people who WERE convinced that they needed a better existence that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The design of water not only gives us life, but it helps us to understand the importance of the miracle of living water that Jesus offers. When you water a seed, it grows and begins a new existence. When you obey His commands and become a Christian, you begin a new and eternal life. That life brings peace and love, even to the most downcast and sinful person. Living water from Jesus is truly a miracle.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Joy of Hard Water

Joy of Hard Water

Our visitor had just arrived in the United States from South America. He had never seen snow before arriving on a day in January. As he looked out into our back yard, he laughed heartily and said, “How happy is your hard water.” I had no idea what he was talking about because I think of hard water as something that leaves mineral deposits that are difficult to remove. I had not connected joy and hard water.

I joined him at the door and saw what he was looking at. The visitor was talking about the solid state of water in the form of snow. Our “hard water” made a snowman, something our visitor could not visualize from his personal experience. Nothing could stop him from joining my daughters to make his own snowman.

Water is, indeed, a remarkable material. The design of its molecular structure allows it to dissolve other substances. This same structure allows water to hold vast amounts of heat. It also allows water to exist as a solid. Liquids like alcohol have a molecular design that does not make them nearly as good as water in these critical ways.

The most important use of water is in living things. Without water, digestion would be impossible. The control of temperature and distribution of nutrients in living things depends on the presence of water. Planet Earth controls and moderates temperatures by its use of water. Even the Earth’s ability to store massive amounts of water in polar and glacial ice depends on water’s molecular design.

My response to our visitor was that our hard water was a joy all right, but that water itself was the real joy. It’s a material designed to serve the needs of all living things and is the basis of life itself.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

God’s Environmental Solutions

God's Environmental SolutionsWith a growing human population, environmental toxins, the warming of our planet, and the shortages of potable water, we recognize that Earth is under stress. News reports tell of people dying because of ecological problems. It is essential to understand that all of this pain, death, and turmoil are unnecessary. When God created planet Earth, He built into it many self-correcting tools for survival. If you name a major problem that threatens the long term existence of humans, I believe there is a built-in device that can correct the problem. God designed the Earth to withstand even the abuse that selfishness, ignorance, and greed have brought upon it. Here are a few examples of God’s environmental solutions:

Carbon dioxide and global warming. Several greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, but the main one is carbon dioxide. Not only do animals exhale carbon dioxide, but fires produce it, so human-caused fires are a contributor. God beautifully designed planet Earth with tools to contain carbon dioxide. Plants take it out of the air and release oxygen as a product of photosynthesis. This system is highly efficient as a single tree can take care of the carbon produced by one human. Plants in the ocean do the same thing. Human deforestation of both the land and the sea thwarts the system God put in place to sustain life on Earth. God’s environmental solutions are there if we will use them.

Water. Oceans cover roughly 3/4ths of Earth’s surface, but water shortages plague a significant percentage of the world’s population. The obvious problem is that because of minerals in the water, ocean water cannot be consumed directly by humans or most animals or plants. But the 50-quadrillion tons of minerals in the oceans, including 4.5 billion tons of uranium, have 14,000 industrial uses. God’s environmental solutions not only provide enough water for every living thing on the planet but also a wealth of minerals to sustain an advanced society.

Toxins. In the past five years, science has discovered that a Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata) can survive on arsenic. Arsenic is a significant pollutant poisoning millions of people in the world, causing skin lesions, cancer, and other illnesses. Finding a plant that removes arsenic from the environment is a significant breakthrough. Over the past several years, we have mentioned other plants that provide environmental cleansing. Scientists have found bacteria that eat plastics and others that consume crude oil. These are more of God’s environmental solutions to tackle the plastic trash and oil spills in the ocean.

We need to allocate research funding to learn more about God’s environmental solutions to counter ecological problems. God has given us resources to repair the damage we have done to the environment. Maybe the problems we see around us will bring us to accept what God has provided and have the heart to think beyond our own selfish interests.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Scientific American, September 2019, page 18.

How Much Does Rain Weigh?

How Much Does Rain Weigh?A friend of mine likes to play with numbers. Calculations which speak of the wonder of the creation are of particular interest. My friend pointed out something that I had never really thought about. As I write this, it is raining, and we are supposed to get an inch (2.54 cm) of rain. How much does rain weigh?

For the sake of simplicity, let us assume we want to know the weight of an inch of rain on a square mile (2.58999 square km) of farmland. There are 5280 feet in a mile, so if an inch of rain, which is 1/12th of a foot, fell on a square mile of farmland the volume of water would be 5280 x 5280 divided by 12. That would be 2,323,200 cubic feet (65,785.698 cubic m). The density of water is 62.4 pounds per cubic foot (1000 kg per cubic m). The question is, how much does rain weigh? To calculate the weight of the water, multiply the cubic units by the weight for each cubic unit. That would come out to be 144,967,680 pounds or 72,483.84 tons (or 65,756,233.54 kg). That is for just one inch of rain. A foot of rain would weigh 12 times that much!

Rain is critical for our existence. We tend to take it for granted since we see it regularly in our day-to-day life. Perhaps we should pause and consider the wisdom build into a system that picks up many tons of water, lifts it high into the sky, and then pours it onto the land. Job said about God: “He does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. He gives rain to the earth and sends water to the fields (Job 5:9-10).

The psalmist seems to have comprehended some of this design of God when he wrote: “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise unto our God who covered the heaven with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow upon the mountains. He gives to the beast his food …” (Psalms 147:7-9).
— John N. Clayton © 2019