Saharan Silver Ants

Saharan Silver Ants
The survival of living things in extreme conditions is always fascinating. There are places on Earth, such as the Sahara Desert, where the temperature on the ground can soar to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Even in that extreme heat there are living things functioning very well in conditions that would be lethal to most forms of life.

Extreme survival is a way of life for the Saharan silver ants (Cataglyphis bombycina). The predators of these ants are desert lizards that retreat into their burrows in the heat of the day. Some of the ants keep watch to let the others know when the lizards are gone. Then the ant colony makes its food-search expedition. They come out into the full Sun and intense heat to scavenge animal carcasses. The picture shows them devouring an engorged camel tick.

The question is, “How do they survive the heat?” They have longer legs than most ants, and that keeps their bodies farther from the hot sand. They also travel across the sand at high speed (2.3 feet or 0.7 meters per second) using only four of their six legs to keep fewer feet on the ground. Also, their bodies produce heat-shock proteins that help their cells cope with the stress of the high temperature. Many animals produce heat-shock proteins, but not until they are exposed to extreme heat. The Saharan silver ants are programmed to produce those proteins before heat exposure to prepare them for what’s ahead.

Even with those adaptations, they are still exposed to the direct rays of the Sun. Scientists used electron microscopes to find the secret of the Saharan silver ant’s survival. The ants are covered with microscopic hairs that are not round or oval in cross-section like most hairs. They have a triangle shape to act as prisms. This shape reflects both the visible and infrared (heat) energy from the Sun away from their bodies. Because of these tiny prisms, the ants display a metallic shine. They look like metallic beads rolling quickly over the desert sand. No other desert creature has this form of reflection. Saharan silver ants are among the most heat-resistant creatures in the world.

Like many things in nature, engineers are looking into how we can imitate the prism method of these ants to protect humans from the dangers of extreme heat. Designing something that can reflect the heat this efficiently requires a deep understanding of optics and the nature of light and heat energy. The wisdom of the Creator shines brightly in the reflected light coming from the Saharan silver ants.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Can God Create a Rock He Can’t Move?

Can God create a rock He can't move?
Can God create a rock He can’t move? That is a recurring question we see just about every day in someone’s email. The idea is that if God can do anything, He should be able to create a rock so big He can’t move it. But that would mean there is something He cannot do. Many times the question is sent along with a quote of Matthew 19:26 where Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” There are multiple errors in both the question and in the questioners’ concept of God.

I want to make it clear that there are things that God cannot do. The Bible says, “It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). There are many things associated with evil that God cannot do because they would violate His very nature. That should be so obvious that no thinking person would want to debate it.

It is also important to understand that God cannot renege on His promises. The Bible is full of promises of God, beginning with Genesis 3:15. The New Testament treats those promises as iron clad–something that God cannot break. Take a few minutes to look at Acts 13:23, Romans 4:21, Galatians 4:4, Hebrews 10:23, and Hebrews 11:11. It is important to Christians that the promises of God apply to us today, and that promises concerning eternity can be trusted. (See Matthew 10:32, Matthew 25:46, and 2 Timothy 2:12.)

God cannot hear the prayers of sinful people who reject God and His teachings. The Old Testament tells us that in Isaiah 59:1-2, Proverbs 1:24,28 and 28:9. In the New Testament, we all know the promise in John 3:16 that “whoever believes in (Jesus)…will have everlasting life.” We also see in Mark 16:15-16 that the lack of belief leads to condemnation. John 8:24 and Romans 1:16 and 10:1 carry the same message.

So when Jesus said, “with God, all things are possible?” in Matthew 19:26, what was He talking about? To understand any passage in the Bible (or any other book), you need to look at who said it, to whom, why, and how the people it was spoken to would have understood it. In this case, Jesus is talking about how hard it is for a rich person to “enter the kingdom of God.” He said it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” The disciples asked how anyone could be saved. Jesus answered in verse 26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

From a human standpoint, giving up riches for something religious seems impossible. But God’s love is so great and His grace so sufficient that even a rich person can be saved. The statement certainly doesn’t apply to moving a physical rock, but rather a spiritual boulder.

Someone asked Marshall Keeble, a great old black preacher, the question, “Can God create a rock He can’t move?” His response was “Yep, and He can create a bulldozer big enough to do the job.” God uses unlikely tools to accomplish impossible challenges. Using an old physics teacher to answer questions like this one is improbable, to say the least. But the fact that you read this discussion this far indicates that no matter how unlikely it might be from a human standpoint, sometimes it works.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Redesigned Website for DOES GOD EXIST?

John Clayton on the Redesigned Website
We now have a redesigned website for the videos, audios, and printed materials that we publish. Our materials are designed to help people know that God exists and that the Bible is His word. We invite you to visit www.doesgodexist.tv.

On that redesigned website you can watch the entire DOES GOD EXIST? video series. We recently added four more programs for a total of 36! You can also listen to the 26 sessions in the DOES GOD EXIST? audio series. For no cost, you can watch and listen to John Clayton presenting evidence for God. You can also watch the videos with Spanish subtitles or see another video series with Mandarin Chinese translation.

If you want to purchase DVDs or CDs of the programs, you will find a link to our store on that site also. There is also a link to a page where you can donate to our work (tax-deductible in the USA). The link is secure, and we don’t give or sell your information to anyone.

DoesGodExist.tv also has links to our other websites. We have one website devoted to the subject of why an almighty, loving God would allow pain and suffering. We have another which allows children to watch any of our children’s videos or read any of our children’s books free of charge. There is another one which features many “Dandy Designs” in the world around us which testify to a Designer. (By the way, that site is scheduled for an upgrade next.)

On the redesigned website you will also find a link to our Facebook page. We post daily evidences of God’s design on Facebook, and the page has more than 20,000 followers around the world. As you probably know, we publish a quarterly printed DOES GOD EXIST? Journal. Current and back issues of that magazine are also available to read online using a link on DoesGodExist.tv.

We hope you will visit our redesigned website.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Transactive Memory and the Bible

Transactive Memory and Couples
Many times a new concept appears in the scientific literature, and when we look at it, we see that it is something that the Bible has already described. A recent example of this is a concept given by social psychologist Daniel Wegner called transactive memory.

Transactive memory is defined as “a shared system for encoding, storing, and retrieving information.” Wegner explains this concept in this way: “People in close relationships know many things about each other’s memories. One partner may not know where to find candles around the house, for instance, but may still be able to find them in a blackout by asking the other partner where the candles are. Each partner can enjoy the benefits of the pair’s memory by assuming responsibility for remembering just those items that fall clearly to him or to her and then by attending to the categories of knowledge encoded by the partner so that items within those categories can be retrieved from the partner when they are needed. Such knowledge of one another’s memory areas takes time and practice to develop, but the result is that close couples have an implicit structure to carrying out the pair’s memory tasks.”

Psychologists are using this concept to help people dealing with the death of a spouse. As a person who has gone through that experience, I can testify that when your wife of 49 years dies, a part of you seems to die too. Panic attacks after the death of a spouse are common, and that is when you suddenly are faced with having lost a large part of your memory.

Bible readers will recognize this “new” concept. In the Old Testament, a variety of transactive memory devices were commanded and put in place by God. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 12, 20; Exodus 13:14; and Joshua 4:6 are all cases where devices such as writing history on door posts were given to help remember the past and teach children the value of a culture. The various feasts of Israel in Exodus 23:15-16 were transactive memory devices.

In the New Testament, the congregation was developed as a transactive device. Acts 2:41-47 shows transactive memory helping the first century Church. James 5:14-16 described congregational conduct in various circumstances in life. The Bible itself is a transactive device as it is described in 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

One of the problems with megachurches is that much of the transactive memory value of the local congregation is lost. It is hard to pray for or to encourage someone you don’t know. Death is of little meaning if you don’t know the person. The congregational conduct discussed in Hebrews 10:22 is difficult in a huge congregation.

When Jesus prayed for unity, He gave us something that can sustain us in every stage of life and in every crisis. We defeat that blessing when we make entertainment the focus of our worship and when we don’t build relationships that allow transactive memory to function. Transactive memory may be new to the world of social psychology, but it is as old as the Bible itself.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Lesson from the Unicorn

Lesson from the Unicorn
Do you believe that there was an animal in biblical days that looked like a horse with a huge horn? In ancient times people believed that such animals existed and that they had extraordinary powers. People in ancient times found horn-shaped fossils that were sometimes several feet long and believed that they were the remains of unicorns. Of course, they were wrong, but we can learn a lesson from the unicorn.

Science proved that unicorns did not exist, and the horns came from animals like the narwhal or ancient snails. So why are unicorns mentioned in the Bible? Is this evidence that much of the biblical record is simply a repeat of local legends and stories?

We can learn more than one lesson from the unicorn and the biblical record. The first lesson is that we must be very careful about translations. The King James translation of the Bible mentions unicorns in Numbers 23:22; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-12; Isaiah 34:7; and Psalms 22:21, 29:6, and 92:10. At the time of the King James translation, there were many myths and stories about unicorns, and scientific facts were not available to assist Bible translators.

In the past, we have mentioned errors and language issues in the King James translation. Genesis 6 is an example, where the Hebrew word nephilim was translated “giant,” leaving major misunderstandings of what the text means. This part of the Genesis account was not translated directly from the Hebrew. It was translated from the Latin Vulgate translation. The Catholic translators of the Vulgate translated nephilim into the Latin gigantus. The King James translators didn’t know what to do with gigantus, so they just left it as “giant.” Nephilim actually means “fallen ones” and referred to humans who rejected God and His will. In the same way “unicorn” came from the Hebrew reem which means a “roaring animal” or a “wild ox.”

The primary message here is not to rely on a translation that is from many centuries in the past. Word meanings change and what a word means now can be radically different than what it meant in the past. Think about how the word “gay” has changed in its meaning in the past 50 years.

Another major lesson from the unicorn is to take the Bible literally. That means to look at who wrote the passage, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people it was written to would have understood it. In the biblical use of the word reem, the context makes it clear that it is describing a violent wild animal. None of the cases would refer to a magic horse-like animal.

When we say the Bible is inspired, we mean that it is accurate in all that it teaches, and we can understand it. Sometimes we have to do word studies to answer the challenges of skeptics and critics, and that is another lesson from the unicorn.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Homeopathic Nonsense

Homeopathic Nonsense
There are many negative spin offs of the “evolution creation controversy” and the view that science and region are opponents. One of the most destructive is the skepticism of natural medical remedies by opponents of religion, and the blind acceptance of them by believers.

Science and faith are friends, and science by definition is knowledge (see Webster’s Dictionary) and involves an organized way to arrive at facts. There are natural things that scientific research has shown to be useful in treating ailments and pain. Aspirin is a natural material that has many medical benefits, and some plants such as aloe help relieve sunburn. The list of tested natural materials that help us medically is very long.

Jesus pointed out that natural things can serve us in profitable ways. In Matthew 16:2-3 he told about the use of natural things to predict the weather. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul pointed out a use of the wine of that day for stomach problems. However, homeopathic nonsense originated in 1796 based on a false theory that “like cures like.” In other words, if you take something that causes an illness and dilute it with water or alcohol until there is nothing left of it, that dilute solution will cure the ailment.

One homeopathic “cure” is Boiron’s Oscillococcinum. The manufacturer claims that it cures cold and flu symptoms. Some drug stores sell it on the shelf with Tylenol. It has been marketed for years based on the false claim that Oscillococcinum is a bacteria that causes influenza. There is no bacteria by that name and colds and flu are caused by viruses and not by bacteria. The inventor claimed that he found the bacteria in patients with Spanish flu in 1917 and also in the liver of the Muscovy duck. The duck liver is diluted to one part duck liver with 10 to the 400th power parts of water. (That would be one followed by 400 zeroes, or virtually pure water.) Other ingredients (sucrose and lactose) are added to make it into pills. In other words, it is a sugar pill placebo.

Just because a product is “natural” doesn’t mean it gives any health benefits. Although many natural products do contribute to our health, many other natural products are toxic to the human body. God expects us to use evidence and common sense in applying what He has given us to treat our ailments, and we can start by avoiding homeopathic nonsense.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Cancer Curse and God

Cancer Curse and God
One of the most common catastrophic illnesses facing humans is cancer. If you live long enough, it is almost sure that you will experience cancer in yourself or a loved one. Atheists contend that there can’t be a God or He wouldn’t allow the cancer curse to become so common and cause so much suffering.

A study recently released by Johns Hopkins University found that 29% of cancer-causing mutations result from environmental factors such as Sun exposure or cigarette smoking and inherited genetic mutations cause 5%. The remaining 66%, according to the study, are completely random and are due to bad luck. The authors of the study say they wanted to offer comfort to people with cancer who were living a healthy lifestyle, by showing that it was not their fault they got cancer.

This type of study has many problems. First, it involved 32 cancer types and 69 countries. The sampling of the study would have been extremely difficult because cancer incidence in areas with large amounts of asbestos in the soil and bedrock would be different from areas with no asbestos. The effect of exposure to toxins in the environment would vary widely. The ages of the subjects are also important because part of the cancer problem is that more people are living long enough to get cancer. That was not the case even 100 years ago.

When God created the first humans, there was no cancer problem. The point is that God did not create cancer. Passages like Deuteronomy 28 tell us that rejecting God would result in God not withholding “curses” on humans. Verses 1-14 describe God’s protection from these things, but verses 15-68 describe the curses in detail. The Hebrew word for curse in these verses is arar which means to be completely without God’s help or blessing.

When humans reject God, we are left on our own to deal with the consequences. Galatians 6:7-8 talks about reaping what we sow. That principle applies to people or nations as well as individuals. James 1:13-17 describes God as a loving God who never gives us temptations of any kind, but rather brings good things. It also tells us that God does not vary or mislead in the way He deals with us.

We have contaminated our world with chemicals that we disposed of in irresponsible ways. We have contaminated our bodies with chemicals from recreational drugs, alcohol, and even prescription drugs. The result has been a cancer curse and many of the curses God warned of in Deuteronomy. We need to turn back to Him.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Space Dimensions and Lunar Motion

Space Dimensions and Lunar Motion
We have had several questions and comments precipitated by the eclipse on August 21. Most of them centered around the fact that the Moon’s motion across the Sun was so slow. In reality, the lunar motion is very fast. The speed is a function of the Earth’s rotation as well as the Moon’s revolution around the Earth. However, when compared to space dimensions, lunar motion can seem slow.

The Moon moves with an orbital speed of 2,288 miles (3,683 km) per hour, taking about 28 days to complete its journey around the Earth. Although that sounds fast, it is quite slow in relation to the size of the cosmos. Other moons going around other planets travel at higher speeds. Io, one of the moons of Jupiter, whizzes completely around the planet in less than two days. While our Moon travels at the speed of a rifle bullet, it is 80 times slower than the speed of meteors. Saturn travels ten times faster than the Moon.

The reason we are not aware of the speeds involved is because of the incredible size of the creation. We see meteors moving fast because they are close to us. Meteors are pieces of space junk whizzing through our atmosphere so quickly that they burn up from friction with the air. The moon is over 239,000 miles (384,633 km) away, so its motion appears to be much slower.

When we look out into the night sky, we are looking far into the past. By the time we see the light from stars like Albireo, that light has traveled 430 light-years. That star is actually two stars spinning around each other. Even though they are orbiting each other and astronomers have been watching them since the seventeenth century, we have not seen them change position.

Space dimensions are beyond our comprehension, and the size of the cosmos affects what we see and how we see it. Understanding that should give a whole new significance to the words of the song How Great Thou Art. It should also expand our understanding of, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalms 19:1).

Data from Astronomy magazine, July 2017, page 10.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Butterfly Point of View

A Butterfly Point of View
Perhaps it would be good to see the world from a butterfly point of view. One of the wonders of the insect world is the emergence of a butterfly from a cocoon. The transformation that takes place is truly amazing as the caterpillar’ body is dissolved and reorganized into a butterfly. I remember as a kid cutting open a cocoon to see the developing butterfly and finding a gooey mass of green slime instead.

The wonder of butterflies can inspire our imagination. Someone named Margy wrote the following on February 27, 1990. Somehow this short poem found its way to me. It is a butterfly point of view of metamorphosis if a butterfly could think like a human. It’s also a reminder of how God can reshape us into something new.

In the fall, I enjoy the fresh air and falling leaves for the last time,
for soon I prepare a cocoon for myself.
A cocoon that will keep me safe and warm against the harsh winter!
I withdraw into the cocoon when it’s time, withdrawing into the darkness, away from the cold stings of the world.
I sleep and sleep, losing all energy, lying dormant.
It’s cloudy and dark. I feel the emptiness, loneliness.
I wait and wait!
And, when it’s time, God’s gentle voice tells me, “Wake up, you’re free!”
Slowly, I eat away at the cocoon, feeling the warmth of the sunshine on my face.
I step out, realizing God has blessed me with wings!
I’m anxious, but I make my first attempts to fly.
The wind helps lift me up into the gentle breeze.
I flap my wings. I’m flying! I’m free!
Once again I feel confident, confident to face the world.

 

–John N. Clayton © 2017

Apes and Humans

Apes and Humans
Is there an evolutionary connection between apes and humans? Many years ago in a youth rally, a young lady asked me, “If we didn’t come from apes, how come my brother looks so much like an ape?”

It is true that we share many physical characteristics with the apes. Apes and humans both have stereoscopic vision, necessary for depth perception. We both have opposable thumbs, necessary to hold a tool or a club. Apes and humans have noses immediately above our mouth to detect and analyze flavor. Naturalists who want to explain everything on a chance basis suggest that apes and humans share a common ancestor.

Those naturalists frequently ignore the fact that there are many things humans do not share with apes. These are not physical characteristics, but they are what separate us from all other forms of animal life. They include our capacity for worship and our ability to create music and art. Only humans have the ability to think and reason in abstract terms. Apes do not share our capacity for guilt and sympathy, including our ability to have an “agape” kind of love that isn’t survival based.

We would think that with our genome being so similar to the apes some of these characteristics should show up to some degree in the apes. In spite of attempts to show such connections, it is increasingly obvious that such attempts are complex exercises in anthropomorphism.

The question then is, “Why do we see such an enormous collection of fossils of primates which is expanded daily by paleoanthropologists?” In The September 2, 2017, issue of Science News Bruce Bower reviewed some of the evidence and current theories about ape evolution.

The bottom line is that there are connections between specimens like oreopithecus, modern day gibbons and recent finds like Nyanzapithecus alesi. The capacity of life-forms to change is a fact that no one can deny. The various races of human beings indicate that humans have changed enormously since the beginning. The Bible tells us about our human spiritual nature, and that nature has not changed throughout our history. Our physical makeup has changed a great deal during that time, and apes have changed even more.

We see humans as a special creation of God–created in His image with characteristics that are not a product of physical changes. As scientists find more fossils of apes, they will study the changes that have taken place leading to the wide variety of monkeys and apes in the world today. They will create more theories about the physical evolution of apes. In spite of that, the special place of humans in relationship to God will remain unchanged. How we should treat other humans with love and compassion will also not change.
–John N. Clayton © 2017