Bad Design or Abuse of the Body?

Bad Design or Abuse?
We recently received a letter from a lady whose husband had just died from Parkinson’s disease. The letter berated God for bad design in humans that allows diseases like Parkinson’s to exist. Is the cause really bad design or abuse of the body?

I have followed the research on Parkinson’s for quite a few years because my closest friend in the high school where I taught for 41 years died of Parkinson’s, and so did my brother just a few months ago. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a suggestion if you have lost a loved-one to Parkinson’s or similar diseases. I suggest that most of those diseases are caused in one way or another by human error, greed, or abuse, and not because of God’s bad design.

A new study suggests that Parkinson’s has a direct relationship to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Researchers studied the health records of 325,870 veterans age of 31 to 65. After 12 years, 1,462 had been diagnosed with an incurable neurological disorder, and 65% of these had been treated for a TBI. Researchers concluded that 71% had an increased risk of Parkinson’s and those who had received severe head injuries had an 83% higher risk. The study says that injured brain cells trigger a build-up of fibrils of a protein called alpha-synuclein which is a hallmark of Parkinson’s.

We know that cigarettes have a strong causal relationship to cancer. Now it appears that some other major health maladies are not due to bad design in our bodies, but rather what has happened to us. It might be accidental head injuries in sports or due to our carelessness in what we do with our bodies. Psalms 139:14 states a truism, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” So is Parkinson’s a function of bad design or abuse of the body? It is obvious that failing to take adequate care of our bodies can lead to all kinds of problems.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: The Week, May 11, 2018, page 19.

Dinosaur Mania in Media

Dinosaur Mania
We seem to have an obsession with dinosaurs, and popular science magazines can’t seem to get enough dinosaur articles. Dinosaur mania struck in May 2018 with Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American, and National Geographic all featuring dinosaurs as their main articles.

Smithsonian told about new discoveries in China. Scientific American gave a speculative review of how new discoveries affect the classification of dinosaurs. National Geographic provided us with pictures of new fossils of the birds and bird-like dinosaurs. Their article makes the argument that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs after the asteroid collision that ended the dinosaur age. All of these articles are presented with wonderful pictures and charts.

Many people in both the scientific community and in the religious community seem to believe that there is a conflict between what these articles present and what the Bible says. Children receive indoctrination in dinosaurs from “Dinosaur Train” and other shows on children’s TV and websites plus revisions and repeats of “Jurassic Park.” It is important in all of this dinosaur mania that children should not be taught that the Bible is anti-science.

There is much about the history of the Earth that the Bible doesn’t address. There is an economy of language in the Bible, and it doesn’t give us information about how God prepared the resources He knew we would need. The Bible simply says He did it, not how He did it. Passages like Proverbs 8:22 ff and Romans 1:18 ff tell us that wisdom and design were involved, but they give no specifics about when it happened, how long it took, or what the processes were.

No Hebrew word used in the Bible could be applied to dinosaurs. The words used in the creation week referred to animals that Moses knew. We don’t see references to bacteria, viruses, platypuses, penguins, or organisms that use chemosynthesis instead of photosynthesis to produce their food. The Bible does consistently use four classifications of animals. First Corinthians 15:39 is the clearest statement of this: “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes and another of birds.” In Genesis 1:21-27 the same classifications are used: cattle (behemah), winged fowl (kanaph oph), and great sea creatures (tannin). (For a detailed treatment of these Hebrew words, please see “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word” on our doesgodexist.org website.)

We may be accused of being too literal in our understanding of these words, but we are looking for the agreements between the evidence and what the bible writers express. So were the dinosaurs birds or were they reptiles (part of the “flesh of fish” grouping)? Science has not answered that question yet. The National Geographic article pushes the argument hard that the birds are simply dinosaurs that survived the asteroid collision, but there are many scientists who disagree. Dinosaur mania has taught us much, but there is still much to learn.

Either way, the biblical account is not in error. It simply does not address what seems to have been an effective tool God used to help prepare the Earth for humans. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is short, brief, and leaves many questions for us to answer ourselves. The methods God used are not important to the overall message of the Bible. If God created everything, and if science is knowledge of what actually happened, they must agree. If they don’t agree, we either have a poor understanding of the scientific evidence or a poor understanding of what the Bible intends to convey. None of us are immune to those two problems, and that certainly includes your author. Let us keep learning and searching for positive answers and stop trying to generate conflict that is destructive to everyone.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Defining Death

Defining Death
The challenge of defining death continues to make front page news in the media.

The first weekend in May a story came out of a young man named Trenton McKinley in Mobile, Alabama who was crushed in an accident and showed no brain waves. Doctors told his parents he would not survive and suggested that they allow the doctors to harvest organs from their son to extend the lives of five other children. The day before the surgery to harvest the organs, Trenton regained consciousness and was able to talk with his parents. He is expected to recover.

At the same time in Liverpool, England, a 23-month-old boy named Alfie Evans died from a degenerative brain disease. The British courts would not allow the boy’s parents to take him to Italy for a treatment that the court thought would do no good. Several years ago an infant in London named Charlie Gard had a similar diagnosis, and the courts prevented the parents from taking their baby to the United States for treatment. Even Pope Francis got involved in the case of Alfie Evans, but to no avail. In England at least, defining death revolves around brain waves. The case of Trenton McKinley is going to bring new debate about the two cases in England where the courts overruled the parents.

Defining death has become a complicated issue. From a biblical standpoint, death is when the soul is separated from the body, and it is irreversible. The McKinley family is claiming that Trenton’s recovery is a miracle, but there are possible medical explanations for what happened. It is ironic that abortions are performed with no concern for the rights of the child, the parents, or someone else who might want to raise the child.

The Week published a survey of this question with references in the May 11, 2018, issue, page 14. It will be interesting to see if these cases bring any serious change in how the medical establishment deals with death, especially the death of a child.
–John N. Clayton

War Against Churches and Morals

War Against Churches and Morals
The Bible takes some strong stands on moral issues. That has led to a war against churches by those who reject biblical morals.

No one seems to be too upset with the Bible’s statements that murder is wrong until a church suggests that putting a baby to death simply because it has not been born yet is a form of murder. The Bible warns us about unhealthy lifestyle choices and tells us that our bodies are “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:15-20). There are things God warns us not to do with our bodies including sexual activity outside of God’s plan for marriage. These things are the teachings of the New Testament. They are not forced on anyone, but they are taught as a moral framework that has generally worked in America since the founding of this country. Now churches are threatened with the governmental abolition of these practices and teachings. The government is banning speech which supports biblical morals with threats against the churches.

The website ChurchClarity.org publishes a database of churches which it believes have policies which “place restrictions on individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and/or Queer.” The Fort Des Moines Church of Christ was censored by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission because the church did not allow members of the opposite sex to use their restrooms and showers. The Community Church in Laurel, Maryland purchased a property for $470,000. Because the city planner did not want a church there, the city changed the zoning code and told the church that they would be fined $250 a day if they used their building. This reminds us of an ongoing problem in Chicago where the city didn’t want any churches to build within the city limits. Their excuse was that it would take the property off the tax rolls, even though the buildings were in a slum and were falling apart.

ADF is an organization with a group of lawyers who fight these persecutions. They have managed to have some anti-church laws overturned, but this war against churches is just getting started. Congregations need to be aware of how to defend themselves against attacks from atheists and skeptics. There are resources available to assist those facing government persecution available through The Alliance Defending Freedom, 15100 N 90th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85260, Phone 800-835-5233, ADFLegal.org
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Job’s Dinosaur

Job's Dinosaur
There is an interesting Bible reference to a fearsome creature in Job 40:15-24. Some creationists consider this to be Job’s dinosaur showing that dinosaurs and humans interacted at the time of Job. This is part of an attempt to suggest that dinosaurs and early humans were contemporaries to disprove the scientific evidence that dinosaurs became extinct long before humans existed on Earth.

The question is, “What kind of creature Job is describing?” Did an animal that existed in the past fit this description? The Hebrew word used for this creature is “behemoth” which literally means a large creature. Many animals that lived in the past and some living today could be called large creatures. We must look at the properties of this animal as described in the passage. We know that it was an herbivore (“feeds on grass like an ox”). Also, we know that “his tail sways like a cedar.” The description also tells us that he was virtually impossible to control.

The AP reported on May 5 about a discovery at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Scientists found human footprints inside the footprints of a giant ground sloth. The giant ground sloth was an herbivore that could stand seven or eight feet tall, had tight muscles and front legs tipped with wolverine-like claws. It had a huge tail used mostly for balance when it stood on its hind legs to get at vegetation. It appears that some humans were hunting the sloth and tracking it closely.

There is no denying that ancient humans interacted with these huge creatures. In the Natural History Museum in Chicago, there are displays of the fossils of these creatures, and the picture shows a recreated giant ground sloth at Kartchner Caverns near Benson, Arizona. The finding of human tracks intersecting the tracks of the sloths leaves no doubt about the fact that they were contemporaries. You can’t prove that Job’s dinosaur was actually a ground sloth, but the description fits very well. It is certainly more likely than the claim that the animal was a T-rex or a brontosaurus.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Life Expectancy Factors

Life Expectancy Factors
Genesis 5:27 tells us that Methuselah lived for 969 years. While he is the champion of longevity, Genesis records all of the men of that time living hundreds of “years.” We put “years” in quotes because there has been a lot of speculation as to how a human can live that long–or whether any human would want to. There are many life expectancy factors to consider.

We have suggested that at the very early period in human history the definition of a year may have been very different from what it is today. Interestingly, other cultures such as Chinese, Egyptian, and Aztec recorded humans living hundreds or even thousands of years. We know that in some cases they based their year on the Moon or climatic factors, not the Sun. Those of us who have been blessed with very long lives know that the quality of life decreases logarithmically with age. As an octogenarian, I can tell you that living 969 years is something I would not want to experience.

Another question connected to this issue is whether the damage we do to ourselves with diet and recreational drugs accounts for some of this age issue. In The Week for May 4, 2018 (page 21) there are two interesting news reports. One is a study on Vox.com which reports that being a night owl produces a 10% greater risk of death than early risers The study also shows that chronic health issues such as diabetes, neurological disorders, and respiratory disease are more likely in night owls because they live in a perpetual state of jet lag.

In the same issue of The Week carried a report from Cambridge University showing that even moderate drinking of alcohol cuts years off a person’s life. Two or three drinks a day can cut up to two years off a person’s life. A study of 600,000 people reported on CNN.com lists eight major health hazards that come from moderate drinking.

How much can all of this do to shorten life expectancy? Probably not 900 years, but research is showing the effect of human indulgences in unwise lifestyles are greater life expectancy factors than anyone knew. When you add genetic issues to the equation, the idea of nomadic people who avoided the germ spreading environment of primitive cities is not as far-fetched as it appeared 25 years ago.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

For another possible explanation of Methuselah’s long life check out our previous post.

Becoming New Creatures

Becoming New Creatures
The National Geographic Channel has been airing a very interesting new series of programs titled “One Strange Rock.” The series hosted by actor/comedian Will Smith tells about the many “strange” and “lucky” features of planet Earth that make it possible for us to live here. In the most recent episode, eight astronauts explain why they think that humans should colonize space. They and some other prominent individuals have recently suggested that colonizing other planets or living in space may be the only hope for the human race to survive. In the process we might find ourselves becoming new creatures.

This episode brings out the many ways that space life will affect our bodies. Based on present experience with the International Space Station we know that bones and muscles weaken when they do not have to overcome the effects of gravity. Body fluids shift upwards causing other physical changes. There are changes to a person’s eyesight which can be permanent. Outside of Earth’s atmospheric protection, astronauts face greater amounts of cosmic radiation that can trigger “light flashes” in their eyes. Long exposure to the higher levels of radiation may lead to cancer or brain damage. At the same time, bacteria grow faster and can become more deadly in a zero-gravity environment. The environment of space, even with the best protective gear science can devise, may at best be toxic and at worst fatal to humans.

Even with those considerations, the astronauts are saying that we must colonize space. Part of their reasoning is that humans have evolved to handle the challenges of life on this planet, and we will perhaps evolve becoming new creatures to handle the new hazards of space. They say it will just be a matter of adapting to a new environment. Will Smith said in this episode, “Even if we survive the journey and make the place feel like home, we still might not save our species. Just by being there we might turn into something else.”

I think that the real answer to human survival IS for us to turn into something else. Human survival depends on people turning away from their sinful passions and hatred. It involves becoming what God created us to be and living out the teaching and example of Jesus. Going to another planet and taking along our sinful nature with all of its baggage will not save us. The real hope for the survival of the human race does not involve leaving the planet God created for us. It does not require leaving Earth with all of its “strange” and “lucky” features that make life possible. It is not necessary for us to go to a much more hostile environment and evolve into new creatures. The answer to our survival is becoming new creatures here and now as described in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Advanced Civilization Support

Advanced Civilization Support
We have often mentioned before the evidence that our planet was designed to support life. More than that, it was designed to support advanced life. It was even designed to support advanced civilization.

You can see evidence for advanced civilization support in the minerals of Earth’s crust—minerals that are essential for machinery and electronics that enable technology. One thing which perhaps you have not considered is how the size of our planet also supports advanced civilization. Among the achievements of science is space flight. The ability to use rockets to leave Earth’s surface makes it possible for us to place satellites in orbit. Those satellites include:

*Communication satellites which make possible nationwide and international television, news, sports, telephone, and video conversations.
*Global positioning satellites giving us GPS which we use for many purposes including airplane, ship, and personal navigation plus farming and safety uses.
*Weather satellites giving us advance warning of storms and helping to keep us safe.
*Observational satellites that allow us to study and learn more about our planet.
*Telescopic satellites which enable us to study our solar system and the universe.

We often fail to realize how important those satellites are for our advanced civilization. Also, the ability to use rockets to leave Earth’s surface allows us to send out space probes to explore our solar system and universe.

What does the design of our planet have to do with our ability to leave the surface? The answer relates to gravity. Astronomers have been looking for habitable planets orbiting other stars. They believe that they have found many of those exoplanets. However, the planets that are more likely to be located in habitable zones (where liquid water can exist) are much larger than Earth. A much-larger rocky planet would have much more mass and therefore much more gravity. Launching a rocket into space from such a planet would be much more difficult, if not impossible. Even airplane flight and the flight of birds could be affected by increased gravity.

A planet with a diameter 70 percent greater than Earth’s diameter would have ten times the mass. The advantage of having much more gravity would be that a planet like that could hold a thicker atmosphere which could give more protection from harmful cosmic rays and incoming asteroids. The disadvantage of a thicker atmosphere would be that it might also block useful solar rays. However, getting a rocket off the ground and into space could be prohibitive. It would require a much larger rocket which would require more fuel. That would require an even larger rocket to carry the extra fuel. The weight of the larger rocket and fuel would require an even larger rocket requiring even more fuel. This quickly spirals out of control.

So what is the conclusion? We live on a planet that is large enough to hold an atmosphere that protects us but small enough that we can to break the bond of gravity to go into space. A smaller planet would not have the atmosphere we need. A larger planet would not allow us to explore beyond our planet or even to send up satellites that help to make advanced civilization possible. As Goldilocks might say, “God made it just right.”
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Buzz Aldrin and UFOs

Buzz Aldrin and UFOs
An article in the British tabloid Daily Star on April 8, 2018, claimed that new tests on Buzz Aldrin confirm that he contacted an alien on his trip to the Moon in 1969. The story supposedly came from an Ohio scientific group called “The Institute of BioAcoustic Biology and Sound Health.” That group claims to have a “top secret” test to determine what the subject actually experienced or saw. They gave no explanation of the test or why it overrules what the subject says.

The reason we even mention this is because atheist journals and even in major newspapers like USA Today have cited it. NASA has pointed out that four panels separated from the Apollo 11 spacecraft in flight, and they would have followed the same general trajectory as the spacecraft. Buzz Aldrin said in a Reddit chat session, “I feel absolutely convinced that we were looking at the sun reflected off of one of these panels.” He has denied having any contact with aliens. The BioAcoustic group claims that audio tests have shown hidden truths in Aldrin’s speech.

We have repeatedly pointed out that the question of whether there is life on other planets, is not a biblical or apologetic issue. The Bible doesn’t say that this is the only place where God has chosen to create life. However, it has become increasingly obvious that if there is alien intelligent life in space, it is too far away to be of any consequence to us. In spite of that, the media continues to push the idea that life in space somehow contradicts the Bible and supports atheism.

There is an adage that when a person doesn’t believe in something they will believe anything. That seems to apply here. Our focus needs to be on solving Earth’s problems, not attempts to divert attention to poorly supported scientific claims of alien intervention.
–John N. Clayton © 2018