Biological Clock Circadian Rhythm

Biological Clock Circadian Rhythm
Three scientists have just received Nobel Prize in medicine for proving scientifically something we knew all along. The scientists share the 1.1 million dollar prize for proving that we really do have a biological clock. The fact that you are alert at certain times and sleepy at others is not just in your head.

In 1984 they sequenced the “period gene” which others had discovered in fruit flies in 1971. The gene controls the circadian rhythm which regulates the daily sleep and wake patterns of all creatures, including humans. Following up on that work, in 1998 they found that the gene encodes a protein called PER. The PER levels build up at night and drop during the day. This discovery enables scientists to understand the molecular makeup of the biological clock.

Learning more about our biological clock leads to some useful understandings, including when is the best time to take certain medications. It also relates to shift work, jet-lag, and school classroom times. The understanding of circadian rhythms can be incorporated into practical medicine and the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that prepares us for sleep.

A group of sleep researchers a few years ago did some research on biological clocks. They sent a group of volunteers on a tent-camping trip to the Colorado Rockies. They found that people who work indoors where they are not exposed to outdoor light may need to have their biological clocks reset. When people are indoors during the day and exposed to electric lights at night, their clock can become out of sync. Exposure to strong artificial light at night can delay our master clock. That delays the production of melatonin at night, and then the melatonin level is still high in the morning when it’s time to get up.

The campers were only allowed to use campfires for light and no cellphones or flashlights. After spending a week away from artificial light and exposed to more daylight, the volunteers fell asleep earlier and woke up earlier. Their melatonin levels rose earlier in the evening and dropped earlier in the morning.

The recommendation of the researchers was to start your day with a morning walk and when you have to be inside open the shades to get exposure to some sunlight. You may find that you will sleep better and wake up more refreshed.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night’…God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:14, 17).
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Artificial Life Synthetic Biology

Artificial Life
I just ran across an Associated Press news article in my files. The headline reads, “Scientists Believe Artificial Life Will Be Possible in 3 to 10 Years.” The article is dated August 20, 2007.

The article deals with a new scientific discipline known as synthetic biology. The goal is to create life in the laboratory. Two of the pioneers in this field are Jack Szostak and Craig Venter. Szostak’s team has taken the bottom-up approach to building artificial life-forms. They seek to assemble the biomolecular building blocks step-by-step until they have a living cell. Venter’s team takes the top-down approach. They try to re-engineer existing life-forms by changing the DNA to create novel forms of life. Both teams have made progress over the last ten years, but neither has achieved the ultimate goal.

The AP article says there are three major hurdles to creating artificial life. First, you need a container or cell membrane. It serves as a protective wall to keep the materials required for life inside while keeping the bad molecules out. Living cells must have that. Secondly, you need a genetic system that controls all of the cell functions. This system has to allow the cell to mutate in response to the environment and, very importantly, to reproduce. The third essential is a system of metabolism. The cell must be able to take raw materials from the environment and convert them into energy to power the cell.

Those three hurdles are still challenging the scientists. In time, scientists may jump the hurdles and create fully synthetic artificial life. In doing so, what will they have proven? Will they have proven that life arises spontaneously from non-life? No. They will have proven that great intelligence under carefully controlled conditions can turn non-living matter into life-forms. They will have shown that life is not an accident, but the creation of an intelligent being. That is what the Bible has said for thousands of years.

Even when those scientists manage to create a living cell, they will not have created it from nothing. They will be using the materials (and intelligence) that God has given us. It reminds me of the old story about a scientist who challenged God saying that is was no big deal to create a man from the dust of the ground. God said, “Go ahead and do it.” The scientist grabbed up a handful of dust and God interrupted him saying, “Wait a minute! Make your own dust.”
–Roland Earnst © 2017

More Viewers than the Super Bowl

More Viewers than the Super Bowl
The “Great American Eclipse” of 2017 had more viewers than the Super Bowl. According to Nielson ratings, the 2017 Super Bowl had 111 million viewers on TV. About 215 million adults, or 88 percent of the United States adult population, watched the eclipse. That total includes those who watched it live, plus TV and internet viewers. Of course, many children watched it too.

The University of Michigan and NASA compiled the viewing statistics with a joint survey. Sixty-one million adults in the United States watched the eclipse on TV, computers, tablets, or phones. Unlike the Super Bowl the vast majority, about 154 million, watched it directly with the aid of viewing glasses or pinhole cameras. About 20 million traveled to locations where they could see the totality. I can testify that the roads in southern Illinois were crowded with travelers. After the eclipse, it took 3 hours to drive 40 miles. You can watch a speeded-up view of the eclipse on this video. Be sure to turn the sound up so that you can hear the reaction of the people around me during the eclipse.

In addition to a large viewership, the satisfaction rate was high. Seven out of ten said they were not disappointed. (Probably about half of the Super Bowl crowd was disappointed because their team lost.) If you listen to the video that I edited, you can tell that the crowd on the bluff overlooking the Ohio River was not disappointed.

We are pleased that there was this much interest in a science-related event. God’s creation can draw more viewers than the Super Bowl.

–Roland Earnst © 2017

Extraterrestrial Intelligence and God

Extraterrestrial Intelligence and God
Why do people want to believe in extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), space aliens, and UFOs? It has been my experience that proponents of these things are people who reject Christianity and belief in the God of the Bible. Now there is scientific data which supports what my experience has indicated about extraterrestrial intelligence and God.

The scientific journal Motivation and Emotion published a study by North Dakota State University researchers showing that the more people believe in extraterrestrials, the less they believe in God. The researchers wrote, “ETI beliefs serve an existential function: the promotion of perceived meaning in life. In this way, we view belief in ETI as serving a function similar to religion without relying on the traditional religious doctrines that some people have deliberately rejected.” In other words, people believe in extraterrestrial intelligent beings to take the place of belief in God.

The research seems to indicate that believing in ETI provides a way to develop a view that gives meaning to life. The researchers say that belief in ETI “could make humans feel like they are part of a larger and more meaningful cosmic drama.” Even some scientists such as Nobel prize winner Francis Crick have advanced the idea that extraterrestrials planted life on Earth. It just goes to show that when you don’t believe in God, you will believe in anything. Atheist Michael Shermer who is the publisher of Skeptic magazine says “any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God” (Scientific American, January 2002).

All of this confusion about extraterrestrial intelligence and God is the result of an unfortunate, mistaken concept of what God is. It also results from not looking at all of the evidence for the existence of God. It does explain, however, why many people desperately try to find a way to believe that aliens are our creators.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Religious Test for Judges?

Religious Test for Judges
A new question has come up about who is fit to serve as a judge in American courts. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been screening candidates for judicial positions and some members of the committee seem to be establishing a religious test for judges. The indication is that faithful Christians should not be allowed to serve on the bench.

One of the candidates is Amy Coney Barrett who is a practicing Roman Catholic. The committee challenged Barrett’s fitness to serve as a judge because, in the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Barrett has said that “faith informs her views.” However, she has also said that she is obligated to interpret and apply the Constitution and the laws, not her own beliefs. She was a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who was also a faithful Catholic. Senator Dick Durbin asked Barrett, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” What the senators seem to be forgetting is that the United States Constitution strictly prohibits a religious test for judges. That question should not even be asked of a judicial candidate.

This anti-Christian bias in judicial appointments reminds us that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to make a decision that will affect the religious freedom of Americans. The judges serving on the lower courts are usually the ones that are later appointed to the Supreme Court. It seems that atheism is the only faith that some of the senators would accept as valid for being a judge. David Harsanyi of the National Review said that in the view of some senators “the only acceptable religion for public officials is ‘orthodox liberalism.’”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Cormorants Find Fish in Muddy Waters

Cormorants Find Fish in Muddy Waters
Several years ago a flock of cormorants arrived on the St. Joseph River near our home. The river was close to flood stage. The water was so muddy that you couldn’t see the bottom even if the water had been only an inch deep. Those birds demonstrated that cormorants find fish in muddy waters.

The birds landed in a large tree on an island in the middle of the river. Very soon after they landed, one took off and dove into the river. A minute or so later it came to the surface with a fish in its beak. For the rest of the day, we saw these fishing birds dive and catch fish, sometimes staying under water for a very long time. I wondered how they could do that because sight in the water was non-existent.

In the October/November 2017, issue of National Wildlife (page 8), there is an article explaining how cormorants and other fish-eating birds manage when the water is so loaded with mud that they can’t see. Scientists at the University of Southern Denmark have studied the hearing of the great cormorant. They discovered that this seabird has a specialized sense of hearing tuned to a very narrow frequency range. The frequency is the same as the sound produced by herring and sculpin fish as they swim in the water. Those fish are the primary prey of the cormorant and sculpin live on the bottom of water bodies where it is dark, and the water is often dirty.

There are over 800 species of birds that find their food underwater. Since these cormorants find fish in muddy waters, the scientists on this project predict that other aquatic birds also use specialized hearing to catch fish. We see this as another design that God gave these creatures for survival.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Israel-Palestine Questions

Israel-Palestine Questions
We have had several Israel-Palestine questions which are out of our field of expertise. Douglas Jacoby has a website in which he answers many important questions. Here is what Dr. Jacoby said in a recent post.

The politics of the crisis are complex. In the biblical period, the Promised Land, or Canaan, became Israel. It was named after the covenant name of Jacob, whose 12 sons became the 12 Tribes (Gen 32:28). The term was also used of the idolatrous breakaway Northern Kingdom of Israel, from 931 BC till its fall in 722. The “10 Lost Tribes” were lost, not by being removed to a distant location (like the British Isles, the US, or Central Asia), but by intermarriage with Assyrians and other foreign groups. Thus the 10 Tribes were lost forever — genetically. The southern kingdom of Judah remained until 587 BC when it was destroyed by the Babylonians.
When the Romans defeated the Jews in the war in 132-135 AD (the Bar-Kokhba Revolt), they renamed the land Philistia–after the perennial enemies of the Israelites, the Philistines. In English this becomes Palestine.
When the modern State of Israel was created in 1948, many Palestinians (most of whom were Christian or Muslim, rather than Jewish) were evicted from their homes, their land expropriated by the new government. In my view, none of these developments fulfill prophecy. The Jews came back to their land in the 6th century BC, under the Persian king Cyrus (2 Chron 36:22-23). The majority of the architects of modern Israel were atheists and agnostics, and Orthodox rabbis oppose Zionism for its atheism and humanistic emphasis.”
Today the Palestinian territories, consisting of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are semi-autonomous –like a country within a country, separated from Israeli territory by walls, fences, checkpoints and lots of guns. In many (sad and unfortunate) ways, the Palestinians are stateless. Being pro-Israel typically means being anti-Palestinian–and vice versa. A friend of mine, a university professor and peace activist, declares, “If you’re pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, you aren’t pro-peace.” Think about it.

We appreciate Douglas Jacoby letting us share his post about Israel-Palestine questions. You can follow him at www.douglasjacoby.com
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Religious Freedom Threatened

Religious Freedom Threatened
We have recently posted about some believers who have had their religious freedom threatened merely because they want to live out their faith. Government agencies at various levels are attacking believers with fines, jail time, or bankruptcy because they will not participate in something which is against their Christian convictions. Wedding photographers, cake artists, and owners of flower shops and wedding venues have been charged with discrimination. Their only crime is not wanting to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies because they believe it violates God’s plan and design for marriage.

Now government punishment is being carried out against Christian farmers because they expressed their belief in the God’s design and sanctity of marriage. Steve and Bridget Tennes and their five children live on a farm 22 miles from East Lansing, Michigan. For the past seven years they have been selling their produce at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. The city has adopted a policy that bars those who believe in traditional marriage from selling produce in the market. Steve Tennes posted his Christian view of marriage on Facebook. When the administration of the East Lansing Farmer’s Market learned about that, they said the Tennes farm, known as Country Mill, would no longer be allowed to sell.

Country Mill was selling the only organic apples available in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, and those sales are a significant part of the income for the Tennes family. Steve Tennes filed a federal lawsuit against the city, and a federal district judge ordered that he should be allowed to return to the farmer’s market until the case is settled. Tennes does not want to see Americans’ religious freedom threatened. He said, “This isn’t just about our ability to sell at the farmer’s market. It’s really about every American’s right to make a living and not have to worry about being punished by the government.”

In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the cases we reported on earlier. That is the case of Jack Phillips, a Christian cake artist who will not participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony by designing a cake for it. The Justice Department is siding with Phillips in this case. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will decide. There are Christians who just want to live out their faith and not be forced to participate in something they believe is in violation of God’s commands. The Jack Phillips case could have repercussions for many others.

We can’t ignore the fact that religious freedom threatened just because it hasn’t directly threatened us. Believers should not be forced to do something that violates their faith. That sounds too much like the situation the early Christians faced in ancient Rome.
–Roland Earnst © 2017