Plastic-Eating Worms

Food for Plastic-Eating Worms
One of the confusing points about evolution for many Christians is not understanding that there is a difference between the fact of evolution and naturalistic theories of evolution. Evolutionary adaptations have given us plastic-eating worms.

Attempting to say that evolution eliminates God from the picture of creation is an incredibly ignorant statement, and yet we see it in both atheist and Christian papers. The word “evolution” means “unfolding change.” The fact that God engineered life in such a way that living things can change is one of the most incredible examples of design.

Darwin’s work in the Galapagos Islands showing that finches could change physically to meet the local food supply does not contradict the Bible in any way. When we visited Darwin Station in the Galapagos and talked with the workers, they were dumbfounded to hear that anyone thought there was a biblical problem with the work they were doing there.

The August 2017 issue of Scientific American (page 21), carried an article about the larvae of the greater wax moth that has mutated so that it can consume polyethylene plastic. Humans produce some 300 million metric tons of plastic every year, and this material is clogging landfills and showing up in lakes and streams. To find a way to biodegrade this material would be a huge ecological breakthrough, and it is possible because of the design of the genetics of the wax moth larvae. Beeswax is the main food of the larvae, but the mutation allows them to degrade polyethylene as well.

The scientists involved are studying the process to discover the enzyme that the plastic-eating worms use to break down the polyethylene. God apparently built a solution to the biggest waste problem we face today by the design of the genome of the wax worm.

Current Biology journal originally published news of this discovery on August 7, 2017.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Vulture

Tyrannosaurus Rex
We tend to view Tyrannosaurus rex as a 20-foot tall flesh eater who ran down its prey. Some have called this dinosaur “the most efficient carnivore who ever lived.” Science fiction movies like Jurassic Park have probably been the main source of this image, but the fact is that T. rex was nowhere near that fast.

Past studies of T. rex suggested that its huge mass–in the vicinity of nine tons–prevented it from running down much of anything. The muscle strength needed to accelerate that mass is simply not available to any form of life. Now simulations of acceleration and bone strength have verified that understanding. A speed of about 12 mph would have been the top limit for T. Rex and for only a short distance. That means a human could easily outrun a T. rex.

Tyrannosaurus rex was probably more of a scavenger than a hunter. There were other slow-moving dinosaurs such as Edmontosaurus, Triceratops, and Ankylosaurus that T. rex might have been able to catch. It is more likely that the T. rex population were the vultures of their day, not the lions of their day.

God created dinosaurs for a purpose, and every year we understand more about how they helped sustain the ecosystem that produced many of the resources we need. Every little boy seems to be fascinated with the media presentations of these creatures, but they really were not that glamorous.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Super Night-Vision in Frogs

Super Night-Vision in Frogs
Almut Kelber is a sensory biologist at Lund University in Sweden. For many years Dr. Kelber has been studying the super night-vision in frogs that allows them to hunt and move about in extremely low light levels.

In the August/September issue of National Wildlife (page 10) the group that Dr. Kelber leads reports that amphibians have unique rods or photoreceptor cells in their retinas that are not found in any other vertebrates. These receptors allow frogs not only to see in the dark but to see colors in extreme darkness. Humans can’t distinguish colors in low light, but frogs can see colors in light levels where human eyes would not see anything at all. Dr. Kelber did not expect to find that “these animals can see color in extreme darkness, down to the absolute threshold of the visual system.”

Over and over we see specific equipment built into living things that allows them to survive in their environment, defend themselves against predators, and find unique access to food. You can believe that this is a simple trial and error situation, where having the equipment promotes survival and not having the equipment is lethal. Or you can believe that an intelligence designed and engineered these structures to allow our planet to be a unique oasis of life.

Since we find this super night-vision in frogs everywhere in the world, it is difficult to believe this is a product of isolated chance. “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” Romans 1:18-22.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Majesty in Miniature

Majesty In Miniature

“Majesty in Miniature” is the title of an interesting article in the July 2017 issue of National Geographic (pages 99-118). The article is about the amazing hummingbirds.

Scientists have had a hard time getting data as they try to understand how hummingbirds do what they do. The birds fly at speeds up to 35 mph (56 kph) and they have a “reverse gear.” Their metabolic rate is the highest of any vertebrate on the planet. For every minute they are in flight, they drink more than 12 ounces (355 ml) of water. They consume more than their body weight of nectar every day. Their tongues lap up to 15 times a second. Proportionally their brain is one of the largest in the animal kingdom making up 4.2% of their body weight. It is only with the advent of high-speed cameras and advanced wind tunnels that some of the mysteries of the majesty in miniature have been answered.

Hummingbird brains have a large hippocampus which allows them to remember locations. Their brain has a large lentiformis mesencephali motion sensor which gives the bird stabilization when flying. It has a small arm wing which allows wrist motion to control a larger area of the wing leading to a more powerful upstroke. When a hummingbird hovers, it rotates its wings between the upstrokes and the downstrokes making a figure eight motion. This motion creates vortexes that allow both the downstroke and the upstroke to provide lift. Birds such as pigeons push down to propel forward, but there is no lift in the upstroke. The design of the hummingbird wing gives it the unique ability to get lift out of both strokes.

The design of all of these features defies any chance explanation. Nearly everything the hummingbird does is unique to that species. We don’t see birds with some of these characteristics, and yet all of them are essential to the hummingbird’s survival. Indeed this bird is majesty in miniature, and a testimony to God’s wisdom and design. He has equipped all creatures to live in their particular, unique environment.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

World’s Largest Snake- TITANOBOA

World's Largest Snake
It was the world’s largest snake. Fortunately, it is extinct. The computer-generated picture shows what it might have been like if a human had ever confronted a Titanoboa (Titanoboa cerrejonensis).

One thing that many creationists and evolutionists forget is the fact that Earth’s climate in the past was much different from what it is today. To produce animals of massive size, Earth’s climate would have to be much warmer. The temperatures would have been so high that mammals could hardly survive. Cold-blooded (ectothermic) animals in tropical areas today tend to be larger than ectothermic animals found farther from the equator.

While giving lectures in Colombia, South America, we learned about the snake named Titanoboa. Fossils of more than two-dozen of these snakes were discovered in coal mines in northern Colombia. The name means “titanic boa,” and that seems fitting because it measured 48 feet (14.6 m) long and would have weighed 2500 pounds (1,135 kg). For a snake of that size to live, the climate must have averaged 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). It is difficult to comprehend how any mammal, especially humans, could survive in such temperatures.

Why would God have given this planet such an extreme climate? It was needed to support the world’s largest snake, other huge animals, and the massive vegetation they required. What was the purpose of those animals and plants? That environment made possible the coal, petroleum, and other resources that would later be needed by humans to support an advanced civilization. This is one more indication that the prehistory of the Earth had conditions uniquely designed by God to prepare the planet for human habitation.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Why Birds Stand on One Leg

Why birds stand on one leg
Have you ever asked why birds stand on one leg? We live on a river that has a massive number of ducks in it. When the ducks are resting on the edge of the river, they generally stand on one leg. When guests visit us, they want to know why. Ducks are not the only birds that stand and even sleep on one leg. Geese and Flamingos do the same thing.

The answer to why birds stand on one leg seems to be a simple matter of the application of basic physics. For an object to be stable, its center of gravity has to be directly above the point of support. In my basic physics classes, we have some demonstrations of that principle. A spinning bicycle wheel will do strange things if its pivot point is not under the center of gravity. A top that is not symmetrical will invert when spun with its round side in touch with the table. There are toys that appear to be suspended in space, but in reality, their center of gravity is located at one end which makes it look odd when it is on the edge of a table.

When you stand on two legs, your center of gravity is somewhere between the legs. That may sound stable, but in reality, it isn’t. When you stand, you waver as your body senses that any movement you make throws you off balance. There is a constant muscular effort that counteracts this movement. Just standing for a long time can be fatiguing because a lot of energy is expended to counteract this wavering.

Recent studies with flamingos show that when they stand on one leg, the center of gravity falls directly over the point that touches the ground. Standing on one leg, the bird’s body is quiescent. When the bird is on two legs, there is more muscle movement and the center of pressure on the foot touching the ground changes. If you look carefully at a duck standing on one leg, you will see that it stands a little lopsided, so the mass is completely above the point of support. In addition to energy conservation, standing on one leg allows birds to withstand cold temperatures by keeping one leg close to the body. So thermoregulation is also involved in this odd-looking design.

So if you have ever asked why birds stand on one leg, remember this. Anytime we see something in nature that we don’t understand; it is almost 100% sure that there is a design feature involved. What the animal is doing may look strange, but it has at least one significant function. Truly we can “Know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:18-20).
Data from Science News, June 24, 2017, page 15.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Dinosaur Mummy Found

Nodosaurus Dinosaur
Scientists have difficulty finding information about dinosaurs. Much of what we know about them has come from indirect information. I spent a great deal of time studying coprolite, which is petrified dinosaur droppings. By analyzing the solid wastes left by a dinosaur, we can tell what the animal ate. Sometimes we find plant materials–leaves, stems, seeds, etc. Sometimes it’s animal remains–teeth, bone fragments, and complete bones. It is extraordinarily rare to find a complete skeleton of a dinosaur, but now we have something even better.

Until recently we had never found an animal with skin in place and internal organs visible. In 2011 miners working in northern Alberta came across an amazing find that has given scientists their first complete mummy of a dinosaur. This dinosaur was a plant-eating nodosaurus, which means “knobbed lizard.” This animal is complete with its armor, spiky skin, and internal organs. Paleontologists have spent some 7,000 hours carefully extracting the creature. Caleb Brown, who is a researcher on the project, said, “We don’t just have a skeleton, we have a dinosaur as it would have been.”

Dinosaurs were the agents that prepared Earth for humans. Without that preparation, we would not be able to have our crops, our domesticated animals, and our advanced civilization. Dinos were key agents in preparing an ecosystem suitable for us. They lived in an environment very unlike what we have on Earth today. Having a find like this will greatly enhance our understanding of Earth’s history.

It is clear that God used natural processes to prepare the planet for us, and the dinosaurs played an important part in that process. Scientists will continue to study this dinosaur, and in the process, we will learn more about God’s wisdom in design.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: The Week. June 2, 2017, page 23,and National Geographic.

Underwater Bees

Seagrass and Green Sea Turtle
Seagrass and Green Sea Turtle
Those of us who live many miles from the ocean may not think about what goes on under the water. Similar to the land, there is an enormous diversity of plants in the sea. Just like land plants, ocean plants have flowers and pollinate and reproduce. Seagrass grows on the floor of the ocean and provides habitat for sea turtles, manatees, and many other marine animals. There are some 60 species of seagrass, and those grasses bloom and release pollen. Like land plants, seagrasses need something like the bees that help pollinate land plants. So are there underwater bees?

Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico have reported that hundreds of crustaceans and other small insect-like animals visit plants and bring pollen with them. These invertebrates are the “underwater bees.” Along with ocean currents, they allow ocean vegetation to flourish.

As scientists study ways in which carbon can be locked up to avoid high concentrations in our atmosphere, they find that the ocean is a major factor in avoiding runaway greenhouse heating of the earth. Life in the oceans is essential to life on land.

Here is another design feature of this planet which is critical to the long-term existence of life on Earth. In the 1950s, scientists thought that there were maybe five or six factors which would be critical to the existence of life. The famous Drake Equation of how many planets could have life on them only considered five factors in its original format. Now we know there are a huge number of things that have to be “right” to allow life to exist.

Every time we find a new variable, the odds against life occurring by chance on planet Earth become greater. God’s wisdom and design can be seen everywhere around us. Truly, “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
Reference: National Wildlife, June/July 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Watch Out for Zuul!

Zuul the Dinosaur
Zuul the Dinosaur

Has Zuul the monster been discovered? People misinterpret coincidences so quickly that it’s sometimes frightening. Victoria Arbour, who works for the Royal Ontario Museum, published her study of the most complete skeleton of an ankylosaurus dinosaur found in North America in the May 7 issue of the Royal Society Open Science Journal. The dinosaur looks very much like a monster named Zuul portrayed in the 1984 movie Ghostbusters.

The dinosaur had large horns on its head and smaller spikes on its face. It had a long, spiked tail with a massive knob of bone on the end. The full scientific name of Arbour’s find is Zuul crurivastator which means “Zuul, Destroyer of Shins.” Scientists gave it the name Zuul because of the similarities to the Movie monster. The “Destroyer of Shins” is because of its tail.

What is interesting is that we have already received a phone call in which the person calling said that we were in error saying that dinosaurs don’t live today. The reason was that Zuul had just been found in northern Montana and the filmmakers must have seen this animal. (The fact that the fossil was originally discovered in 2014 didn’t seem to make any difference to the caller.)

We would suggest that the similarity is a coincidence. If the people who made the movie Ghostbusters claim they based the creature on something they saw, we would like to ask where they saw it. They haven’t made that claim, and we are pretty sure they won’t. Demand evidence for all claims and make it especially strong when the claim is extraordinary.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

More on “Lucy”

Lucy Fossil Skeleton
Lucy Fossil Skeleton
In 1974 paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson introduced the world to a claimed ancestor of humans which was classified as Australopithecus afarensis or the “southern ape from afar.” The story is that because the song “Lucy in the Star With Diamonds” was playing on the radio at the time of the discovery, the specimen was nicknamed “Lucy.” Lucy is being displayed in museums throughout the world and has had extensive exposure in the United States. The claim is that she is a link giving proof of the evolution of humans from apes. Johanson has a model of human evolution suggesting that apes became erect first, and then their brains developed to make them human. It appears that Lucy’s sacrum and hip might have been arranged in a somewhat vertical position to facilitate erect walking, and Johanson feels that is support for his theory.

The truth is that most of what we know about Lucy and about characteristics that separate humans from apes strongly supports the idea that Lucy was a monkey, and does not support the claims of those who promote naturalism as an explanation of human origins. Here are some of the problems:

1-The brain size of Lucy was about 422 cc. A human’ brain is closer to 1470 cc or more. Chimps’ brains are around 520 cc.

2-Lucy’s mandible (lower jaw) is V-shaped like a monkey’s, not C-shaped like a human’s.

3-Lucy has short, curved toe and finger bones like monkeys. Humans’ are generally straight.

4-Lucy’s humerus (upper arm bone) and femur (upper leg bone) are the same size. A human generally has a 2:1 ratio in size with these bones.

5-Recent studies have shown that Lucy had an exceptionally powerful upper body. This is typical of apes that spend long amounts of time climbing in trees.

6-Lucy’s rib cage was conical (like an ape) while human rib cages are barrel-shaped.

7-Lucy may, in fact, have been a male. The pelvis is heart-shaped and ridge-less which is typical of males.

In the world of anthropology there are lots of new finds being made, but when atheists and skeptics lift a discovery out of context and try to use it as a club against those who believe humans are a special creation of God, the facts get ignored or slanted to whatever model is being promoted.
–John N. Clayton © 2017