How a Snake Can Help Us to Understand the Promise of John 3:16

John3.14-16-Numbers21.4-9

How a Snake Can Help Us to Understand the Promise of John 3:16

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And Moses made a serpent of copper, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of copper, he lived.   (Numbers 21:9)

Consider the unusual role that serpents have in God’s creation. The first serpent specifically mentioned in the Bible is the one that Satan used, as his mask, for talking with Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden.  Prior to the Garden of Eden event serpents could walk on legs, but afterwards – as part of the curse God imposed as consequences for that terrible event – serpents were limited to crawling on their bellies (Genesis 3).

Did serpents, and other animals, routinely talk to humans in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall? Does the fact that Balaam’s donkey was enabled to talk to Balaam, later in history (after the Jews exited Egypt under Moses’s leadership), an indication that animals were originally able to converse with humans, but now are not?  Scripture does not explicitly tell us the answer, one way or the other.  Meanwhile, serpents – what we call snakes cannot now walk on legs, and they are a continuing reminder of what happened in the Garden of Eden (and the seriousness of sin), thousands of years ago.

Apart from that unusual role that one serpent once had, in the Garden of Eden, we see that snakes are reptiles that God created, cold-blooded (“ectothermic”) predators, capable of great subtlety and viciousness.

Earth has many kinds of snakes today, from huge snakes, like pythons of the Amazon River rainforest, to small “harmless” Rough-Earth Snakes that live mostly underground (unless heavy rains flush them out of the topsoil).

The King Cobra (a/k/a “hamadryad” snakes) are the world’s longest venomous snake, meaning that this snake puts out a poisonous toxin (which is squired form openings in its fangs) when it bites a victim.  Humans easily die of cobra bites, unless a counteracting anti-venom remedy is immediately applied.  As the victim succumbs to the venom’s destructiveness the snake swallows the victims, if the victim is small enough for the cobra to swallow it. The venom is mostly a mix of painful neurotoxins that destroy the central nervous system, ruining vision, balance, alertness, and the brain’s control of the ability to breathe – quite a picture of how sin ruins, cripples, incapacitates, and can ultimately destroy the life of a human, if a sufficient remedy to the venomous snakebite is not timely applied.

For human sin, however, there is only one efficacious remedy, the substitutionary death of the Lord  Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross for our sins (i.e., receiving punishment as our substitute  —  see Romans 5:8) – if, as, and when a human accepts this wonderful fact he (or she) receives God’s saving grace, the antidote for sin’s consequences.

The Bible’s first prophecy of Jesus, as the sin-defeating Messiah, was given in Genesis 3:15, when God was addressing the serpent in Eden:

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he [i.e., Woman’s seed = Jesus] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

This was fulfilled by Christ when He was crucified, because the Lord Jesus’s substitutionary death on the cross actually defeated the power of both sin and death, as is explained by Paul in 1st Corinthians chapter 15.

Interestingly, the comparison that Jesus Himself used, when explaining eternal life to Nicodemus, referred back to an incident involving snakes: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world [literally “like this God loved the world”, i.e., like what occurred in the wilderness with the snakebites and the miraculous remedy that God provided, that involved a copper snake on a pole, combined with snake-bit Israelites believing God’s promise of a cure if they looked at the pole], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16) .  That strange event, which Jesus referred to, is reported in Numbers 21:4-9, which says:

And they [i.e., the Israelites] journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.  And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.  

And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.

And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

And Moses made a serpent of copper, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of copper, he lived.

In other words, if we think of Jesus Christ dying on the cross (crucified for our sins) as our substitute, as we believe God’s promise (in John 3:16) that we will be graciously cured of our sin’s consequences as a miraculous gift He generously gives us due to Christ being our Savior   –   we too receive God-given life, but not just receiving an extension of our earthly life (cured of earthly snakebites), but rather receiving the forever-permanent gift of eternal life (forgiven all our sins!).

So, when you think of the wonderful promise of John 3:16, remember that John 3:16 refers back to John 3:14-15, which then looks back to the snake incident reported in Numbers 21:4-9.  So how is the Lord Jesus Christ, when He was on the cross, comparable to the copper snake-on-a-pole that Moses erected (Numbers 21:4-9), as part of God’s solution to the snakebite crisis in the wilderness?   Christ accepted the curse and punishment of our sin, and was nailed to a pole-like cross, as He exchanged our sin for His own righteousness:

For He [God the Father] hath made Him [Christ Jesus] to be sin for us [human sinners], Who knew no sin [i.e., Christ Himself was personally sinless in His humanity]; that we [human sinners] might be made the righteousness of God in Him [i.e., in Christ]. (2nd Corinthians 5:21)

So snakes should remind us of God’s gracious redemption in Christ, to save us humans from the consequences of our sin, and we should be mindful that God’s first promised this redemption in Genesis 3:15, and it was later explained by the Savior Himself, in John 3:14-15 (which alludes to Numbers 21:4-9).

John3.14-16-Numbers21.4-9


 

ARCTIC ARTHROPODS ARE REALLY COOL

ARCTIC  ARTHROPODS   ARE  REALLY  COOL

How Insects and Spiders Escape Freezing to Death in Winter, Showing How Providential Bioengineering Equips Bugs for Phenological Success

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Carabid-GroundBeetle.MarkEising-photo

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.   (Genesis 8:22)

During torrid July days you might miss winter weather.(1) However, in higher latitudes (such as those in the cold north of Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, Siberia, Alaska, etc.), it’s winter weather that needs mitigation. Brrrrr!  

Winter-wonderland bugs (i.e., arctic insects and arachnids) need to be equipped with bioengineering adaptabilities, programmed to select coping responses to physiological-sensor-tracked climate condition changes, because they are cold-blooded, so failure to self-adjust to freezing weather means freezing to death!

So how can insects and arachnids withstand frigid forces of frost and freezing?(2)

With careful bioengineering (and environmental tracking software programming), God has providentially prepared multi-legged creepy critters to use different solutions to the same problem.

FrozenSpider.StanislavSnall-photo

Frozen Spider   [photo credit:  Stanislav Snall ]

Why is winter weather such a challenge, to “bugs” (cold-blooded insects and arachnids) whom God has directed to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth”?

Many climatic features of arctic regions limit the ways in which insects [and arachnids] can live. …  All [arctic] species experience severe cold in winter … [and] the presence of permafrost everywhere except in deep lakes and in the substrates of some running waters means that unfrozen habitats are not available to most species, and even individuals buried in substrates experience prolonged temperatures of about -20OC in the high Arctic [cite omitted].  Nevertheless, constant darkness in winter without solar heating or marked diel [i.e., 24-hour] cycles means that temperatures, though severe, are somewhat less variable than in temperate regions.   The winter is very long. Species sealed in ice will not be exposed to the air again for many months, and might require the ability to respire anaerobically as temperatures rise before the ice melts.

Summer is short and cool … [so the] mean frost-free season is very short, only 9 days [in the high Arctic], so that cold-hardiness is required even during the warmest summer period. This short season starts slowly as habitats warm up.  Wet habitats and low-lying areas where snow has accumulated through drifting in winter warm up especially slowly.   Many potential resources of food are in short supply in arctic regions [cite omitted], which makes insect [and arachnid] development during the short summer season even more difficult.

Constraints on development imposed by limited resources for food, heat, [sunlight] and time are offset by the fact that the temperature of habitats, especially at the ground surface and in shallow waters where most insects [and arachnids] live, can be greatly increased by solar heat. Therefore, the extent of summer cloud cover is very important.  Cloud cover varies especially according to proximity to the sea, both on a local scale and according to the size of regional land masses, because the sea contributes moisture to the air when it is ice-free in summer.

Arctic regions are very dry, and often have been referred to as polar desert. Only a few centimetres of rain fall each year in the high Arctic … [so such] dryness may hinder insect development, and interacts with the effects of temperature.(3)

Five problem-solving strategies, for how bugs (i.e., various insects and arachnids, including spiders) to avoid being frozen to death, follow.

 Options # 1  &  # 2: 

MonarchButterfly-migration-map.XercesSociety

[ chart credit: Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation ]

Live Where It Never Freezes, or Migrate to Avoid Freezing

The easiest survive-the-cold strategy is to live, as jungle bugs do, where it never gets cold enough to freeze. Another avoidance strategy is seasonal migration, illustrated by Monarch Butterflies, which migrate southward for overwintering, then return when warmer spring weather returns.(4)

It should be noticed, however, that Monarch butterflies use a multi-generational approach to their complete migratory cycle —  one generation flies south (e.g., form Canada or America to Mexico), yet it takes more than one generation to complete the reverse migration back north, before the autumn winds are used for flying south again:

Butterflies look so delicate as they flitter from flower to flower. And yet, they are capable of migrating incredibly long distances. The monarch, for example, migrates between Canada and Mexico, covering distances of up to 4,800 kilometers, riding a combination of columns of rising air, called thermals, and air currents to travel around 80 to 160 kilometers per day. No single monarch makes this entire journey, though. The round trip is done by a succession of as many as five generations of butterflies.(5)

However, there is a resilient butterfly, whom God has painted with similar wing colors (yet a different pattern of those orange, black, and white colors), the Painted Lady.  This hardy-yet-dainty butterfly truly exhibits marathon stamina.

PaintedLadyButterfly-migration.MelindaFrydenlund[Image credit: Melinda Frydenlund]

Painted ladies are found throughout much of the world, except for South America and Australia. They’ve been seen as far north as Svalbard, Norway, and nearly as far south as Antarctica.   The butterflies are known to migrate, particularly between Europe and Africa, but their route has been largely unknown. Scientists had tracked the butterflies to northern Africa (the region known as the Maghreb), but there have been hints that they may fly across the Sahara. Two new studies back up this claim.(5)

PaintedLadyButterfly-PurpleConeflower.Wikipedia

[ PAINTED LADY (Vanessa cardui) on Purple Coneflower / Wikipedia image ]

Migrating from Norway, south to Africa? Now that is marathon migration!

Option # 3: 

Termites-underground-Pestkilled.com-photo

[ Subterranean Termites   [photo credit: Pestkilled.com ]

Hibernation-like Freeze Avoidance

Some non-migratory social insects, including ants and termites, survive winter by hunkering down (called “diapause”, similar to hibernation) in underground colonies located below the frost line. There they stay warm, feeding on food they stored earlier.(6)  Diapause is also useful for slowing down metabolic processes till the time of year when full-blown metabolism is optimized due to food availability in a given habitat.  (No need to be voraciously hungry when the local food supplies are slim pickin’s!)

In fact, building a winter cocoon for temperature insulation, is functionally equivalent to modifying a micro-habitat, to avoid outside freezing temperatures, as is done by some chironomid midges (a/k/a “lake flies”).(3) Winter cocoons shelter the indwelling larvae from injury from icy weather conditions.

Some alpine beetles are known to use diapause (a hibernation-like semi-dormant state of slowed-down metabolism), to slow down the “normal” energy-demanding activities of growth and development, during winter.  Ordinary oxidative metabolism is suppressed, being temporarily replaced by anaerobic metabolism processes, facilitating cryoprotectant (i.e., protection-against-cold) systems within the beetles, regulating their development to avoid vulnerability to continued super-cold conditions.(3)

Of course, there are two phenological scenarios for synching life-cycle developments with the 4 seasons: (1) bugs that live at least a full year before reproducing the next generation; and (2) bugs that live less than a full year before reproducing.(3) The former category require bioengineering design to enable them to survive all of their habitat’s seasons, but the latter category can be phenologically fitted to the 4 seasons by life stages, so that the life stages are synched to survive the weather of that stage’s time of year.  This option is illustrated by the Monarch Butterfly’s multi-generation migration.

Options # 4  &  # 5:  

Carabid-GroundBeetle.MarkEising-photoCarabid Ground Beetle  /  photo credit:  Mark Eising

Super-cooling “Antifreeze” and/or Freeze Tolerance

Another amazing option for many insects and spiders, for surviving freezing weather, is safeguarding hemolymph [i.e., bug “blood”] with “antifreeze” biochemicals. (Obviously, this requires bug sensors detecting temperatures.)

God designed and built some bugs with physiologies that lower the hemolymph’s freezing point, using thermal hysteresis proteins (i.e., “antifreeze” proteins), in conjunction with sugar polymers (such as xylomannan) and/or glycerol.(7),(8)

Insects survive low temperatures either by keeping their body fluids liquid below their ordinary freezing point (freeze avoidance), or by surviving the formation of ice in their tissues (freeze tolerance)….   For species inhabiting in temperate and colder climates, the ability to supercool is undoubtedly the most important component of the overwintering strategy. At temperatures below 0OC, most insect species remain unfrozen because they supercool.  Cold-hardiness can be measured by indices such as supercooling points (SCP), the temperature at which spontaneous freezing occurs [cite omitted].    Freeze-avoiding insects keep their body fluids liquid by removing ice nucleators that initiate ice formation, synthesizing antifreeze proteins to reduce the nucleation potential of seed crystals, and accumulating sugars and polyols, such as glycerol or trehalose, which also lower the crystallization temperature (defined as its super-cooling point) and stabilize membranes at low temperatures [cite omitted].(9)

Most bugs that survive freezing temperatures are actually using biochemical “antifreeze” to supercool their hemolymph, but some bugs actually tolerate some amount of freezing.(7),(8),(9),(10)

Arthropods that live in sub-zero temperatures for at least part of the year survive by one of two physiological and biochemical responses.   At least for insects, one way is tolerance of ice crystal formation in their bodies (freeze tolerance), and the other is avoidance of ice crystal formation (freeze avoidance).   Ice crystal formation is avoided by super-cooling, which depresses the freezing point. … [facilitated by] accumulation of polyol compounds in the hemolymph (thus increasing the osmotic pressure), dehydration (also increasing osmotic pressure), synthesis of thermal-hysteresis protein, or evacuation or masking of ice-nucleation factors in the gut.(8)

Freeze-tolerant insects, such as arctic beetles, appear to employ physiologies that manipulate intracellular ice-nucleating agents (and apply protein-stabilizing cryoprotectant substances), to limit hemolymph ice crystal formation to extracellular compartments, preventing intracellular crystallization.(7),(10)

Some Bugs are “Fitted to Fill” Arctic Habitats that Seasonally Freeze

Now how would beetles accidently “evolve” these magnificent adaptabilities, phenologically indexed to Earth’s annual temperature and photoperiodicity rhythms?  With universal entropy fighting against their chances of survival, as well as every detail of their biochemistry, they need much more than “luck”!(11)

Hit-or-miss mutations, accidently “emerging” in insect (or spider) genomes, cannot biochemically code bio-informational “software” and physiological “hardware” of bug bodies, to so successfully fill super-cold habitats!

These bugs need life-saving temperature detectors to trigger built-in selective logic, that switches (on or off) physiological responses, that are focally targeted to avoid allowing the bugs to freeze to death!  Due to the cold logic of biochemistry, these super-cool critters can’t be lucky products of evolutionary “genes-in-magic”.

Rather, these super-cool bugs showcase God’s providential “programmed-to-fill” bioengineering!

 REFERENCES

(1)Contentment, as seasons and weather change, can be a challenge (Philippians 4:11). After the Flood, God promised that Earth would experience predictable seasonal weather cycles, including recurring cold weather (Genesis 8:22).

(2)Some say that winter frost or icy freezes kill off the bugs—yet the bugs always return in spring, so obviously they are surviving winter somehow!

(3)H. V. Danks, Olga Kukal, & R. A. Ring, “Insect Cold-Hardiness: Insights from the Arctic”, Arctic, 47(4):391-404 (December 1994), quotation from page 392.

(4)Moody Science Institute, “Animal Kingdom: Great Are Thy Works” (The Wonders of Creation DVD series, vol. 2, 1993).

(5) Sarah Zielinski, “Painted Lady Butterflies’ Migration May Take Them Across the Sahara”, Science News, October 12th, 2016 ( https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/painted-lady-butterflies%E2%80%99-migration-may-take-them-across-sahara ). See also Gerard Talavera & Roger Vila, “Discovery of Mass Migration and Breeding of the Painted Lady Butterfly Vanessa cardui in the Sub-sahara:  the Europe—Africa Migration Revisited”, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 20(2):274-285 (February 2017), posted at  https://doi.org/10.1111/bij.12873 (“The distribution range of V. cardui is much wider than that of the monarch. It is a virtually cosmopolitan species that can be found everywhere except most of South America and Australia. Thus, Vanessa cardui has one of the largest distributional ranges among terrestrial animals that undertake large-scale migratory movements [cite omitted]. Occasional records exist for extremely cold localities, as for example, near the Arctic polar circle in Svalbard, Norway [cited omitted] and close to the Antarctic … [cite omitted].”).

(6)Proverbs 30:25 (“ants … prepare their food in the summer”). See also Brian J. Cabrera & Shripat T. Kamble, “Effects of Decreasing Thermophotoperiod on the Eastern Subterranean Termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)”, Environmental Entomology, 30(2):166-171 (2001); https://doi.org/10.1603/0046-225X-30.2.166 (“[S]uccessfully overwintering R. flavipes [termite] colonies retreat to soil depths where freezing temperatures are not encountered.”)

(7)Lauritz Sømme, Invertebrates in Hot and Cold Arid Environments (Springer, 1995), 194-213. Regarding xylomannan’s role, in Alaska’s flat bark beetle, see Ned Rozell “Alaska Beetle Survive ‘Unearthly’ Temperatures”, Geophysical Institute, article # 2104 (University of Alaska Fairbanks, March 1, 2012).

(8)Jonathan Murphy, Tatiana Rossolimo, & Sina Ada, “Cold-hardiness in the Wolf Spider Pardosa groenlandica (Thorell) with Respect to Thermal Limits and Dehydration”, Journal of Arachnology, 36:213-215 (2008), omitting inline cites.

(9)Angela Ploomi, Irja Kivimägi, Eha Kruus, Ivar Sibul, Katrin Jõgar, Külli Hiiesaar, & Luule Metspalu, “Seasonal Cold Adaptation Dynamics of Some Carabid Beetle Species: Carabus granulatus, Pterostichus oblongopunctatus, and Platynus assimilis”, Forestry Studies [Metsanduslikud Uurimused], 57: 90-96 (2012), quotation from page 90.  [The lead co-author, Angela Ploomi, of Estonian University of Life Sciences (in Tartu), is reachable at angela.ploomi@emu.ee ]

(10)Karl Erik Zachariassen & Harold T. Hammel, Nucleating Agents in the Haemolymph of Insects Tolerant to Freezing, Nature, 262:285-287 (July 22, 1976).

(11)James J. S. Johnson, “Infinite Time Won’t Rescue Evolution”, Acts & Facts, 47(6):21 (June 2018), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/infinite-time-wont-rescue-evolution .                                                     

><> JJSJ     profjjsj@aol.com

[No Scandinavian or other Arctic-region insects or bugs were harmed during this study.]

 

How did Life Originate? Why am I Alive?

 

 How did Life Originate?  Why am I alive?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Psalm102.18-FamilyHistory-slide

Life, as we know it (human, or horse, or hadrosaur) can only come from preexisting life.  Life  —  whether human, animal, or anything else  —  is so complicated (just ask a few hemoglobin, nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and RNA molecules!),   it cannot “invent itself” by random accidents, especially within a physical universe that is governed by the inescapable, ubiquitous law of entropy (a/k/a the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics).

In other words, due to universal entropy, luck plus infinite time never arrive at any form of “life”  —  see “Infinite Time Won’t Rescue Evolution:  Biochemical Entropy Ink Won’t Stop Disintegrating!”,  posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/infinite-time-wont-rescue-evolution/ .

Psalm139.13-16-FamilyHistory-slide

Nothing or no one less than God Himself could invent life, much less all of the forms of life that we see on planet Earth.  Genesis5.1-2-FamilyHistory-slide

Thankfully, God has always existed, and He is the ultimate and infinite LIFE.  So it is not hard for Him to create finite creatures, like us, who have life.  Wow!  Yet, for that life to be secured for an ever-blessed eternity, a choice to believe in Jesus as Savior must be timely made.  That is the precious promise (and warning) God gave us in John 3:16.John1.10-12-FamilyHistory-slide

What a good destiny: created and saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, for now and forever!

[Under the evangelistic preaching of Dr. Gilbert Williams,  at a small Methodist church’s weekend revival meeting,   in rural Maryland during November AD1967,  as a boy,  I happily believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, confirming my believing acceptance of God’s amazingly generous gift of redemption and forgiveness, as John 3:16 promises]


 

Fake ‘Science’ Scenario: Monkeys, Typewriters, & Disappearing Ink!

Fake ‘Science’ Scenario:  Monkeys, Typewriters, & Disappearing Ink!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called   (1st Timothy 6:20)

Monkey-typing.BW

Imagine the Typing Monkeys Scenario—hordes of monkeys, randomly typing on typewriters, with unlimited supplies of time and paper! Can they “accidently” produce a work of Shakespeare, given unlimited time?

This imagined scenario (a/k/a “Infinite Monkey Theorem”) has been argued, by evolutionists, to imply that “given enough time” anything material, including physical lifeforms that “appear” to be intelligently designed (such as humans), can happen accidently.(1)

As creation science literature readers know, scientists have repeatedly debunked that “it-could-happen” analogy, exposing over-simplification flaws in evolutionist hypotheticals.(2)

However, some insist that even ridiculously small improbabilities are ultimately achievable, eventually. With infinite time, they say, any interrelated series of “lucky” coincidences can occur.

So, is infinite time the ultimate “rescuing device” for evolution’s improbabilities? Evolutionists say yes, worshipping unlimited time as a “hero” (a creator-substitute, actually) who carries the irrationally improbable into the realm of possible. But is literally “anything” is possible in our universe, given molecules-in-motion and infinite time? As applied to life’s origins (i.e., Earth’s humans and animals), the answer is absolutely NO, for many reasons.

One such reason is ENTROPY (a/k/a the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Entropy won’t go away, no matter how desperately evolutionary abiogenesis imaginations wish it to do so!(2)

The naturalistic creed of most evolutionists, however, requires them to account for complexity naturalistically. Somehow a scenario must be developed showing how a primeval chemical molecule could evolve into a replicating protein, then a complex protozoan, eventually a large beast, and finally a human being with an infinitely complex brain. …

[However], there is a universal scientific law that all natural processes tend to decrease complexity in the universe. This is the famous Second Law of Thermodynamics, or law of increasing entropy… decreased energy available, increased randomness and disorganization, garbled transmission of information, etc.(3)

Our universe is always governed by entropy—biochemical compounds needed for life (including DNA, RNA, amino acids, lipoproteins, glycoproteins, etc.) are no exceptions. Thermodynamically speaking, all of these basic biochemical building-blocks, needed to construct body parts for humans and animals, are inherently and inescapably unstable.

Thus, any accidental (i.e., random, lucky, un-designed) assembly of biochemicals, if it ever occurred in a so-called “primordial soup”, would be statistically more-likely-than-not to disintegrate with every passing moment. That means that any accidental bio-assemblies (even subparts of proteins, DNA, RNA, ATP, etc.) would be ephemeral at best, inclined to fall apart, all the time, with every passing split-second—insuring that infinite time is the destroyer of accidental biomolecules, not the “hero” that facilitates preserving (much less building) them from simple to complex.

As the triple-doctored A. E. Wilder-Smith once clarified at University of North Carolina, the Typing Monkeys Scenario is a false analogy.(4)

Forgetting, arguendo, that the monkeys will die of hunger, and ignoring the problem of sourcing unlimited paper, and omitting the inevitability of typewriter keys being ground to powder (long before anything that appears “intelligent” can be accidently typed)—the typewriters themselves, if comparable to our universe’s realities, must use “entropy ink“, a type of disappearing ink!

Specifically, whenever “evolutionary typewriter” keys strike paper, the ink (representing any inherently unstable organic compound) deposited must be continuously inclined to disintegrate. In other words, the ink used, at every split-second thereafter, is more-likely-than-not to disappear off the page!

Consequently, any “lucky” words or phrases will not survive for any meaningful timeframe!(4)

Eons of time guarantee that simian keypunchers can never type out Hamlet—the imagined luck is “not to be”, pardon the pun. Time plus entropy prevents spontaneous generation of life—end of fairytale!

In sum, before “survival of the fittest” could ever become plausible, there must be an accounting for an “arrival of the fittest”. And that requires opening and reading the pages of Genesis!

><> JJSJ profjjsj@aol.com

REFERENCES

(1)  Henry M. Morris III, “Willingly Ignorant”, Acts & Facts. 42(3):5-7 (March 2013), citing 2nd Peter 3:5.

(2)  See generally Duane Gish, “Origin of Life: Theories on the Origin of Biological Order”, Acts & Facts, vol. 5 (July 1976). See also, accord, Jeffrey Tomkins, “The Impossibility of Life’s Evolutionary Beginnings”, Acts & Facts, vol. 47(March 2018); Henry M. Morris, “Evolution, Thermodynamics, and Entropy”, Acts & Facts (May 1973 Impact article); Charles McCombs, “Evolution Hopes You Don’t Know Chemistry: The Problem of Control”, Acts & Facts. 33(August 2004); James J. S. Johnson, “DNA and RNA: Providential Coding to ‘Revere’ God”,  Acts & Facts. 40(3):8-9 (March 2011); Brian Thomas, “Critique of ‘Primordial Soup’ Vindicates Creation Research” (2010), www.icr.org/article/critique-primordial-soup-vindicates .

(3)  Henry M. Morris, “The Mystery of Complexity”, Acts & Facts. vol. 31 (January 2002).

(4)  During a Q&A discussion, at an apologetics event in Chapel Hill (during the early 1980s, when I was attending law school at the University of North Carolina, earning my first doctorate), Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith explained this enlightening argument. See also, accord, A. E. Wilder-Smith, “The Origin of Conceptual Thought in Living Systems”,  Acts & Facts, vol. 22 (February 1993).   


 

What Are those Animals Called ‘Unicorns’ in the Bible?

rhino-Indian-1horned-in-wild

Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? Or wilt thou leave thy labor to him?  Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?  (Job 39:9-12)

Rhino-1horned-Indian.WWF

What Are those Animals Called ‘Unicorns’ in the Bible?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Scoffers are known to poke fun at Scripture’s mention (in the King James Bible) of “unicorns”, accusing the Bible of being “unscientific”.(1),(2)  Such pseudo-science ridicule is readily refuted, however, even when it’s uncertain which beast is represented by the English word “unicorn”.

The scoffer’s ridicule of “unicorns” (in Scripture) relies upon this flawed syllogism:

ASSUMPTION A: If the Bible is perfectly true it would not treat mythical animals as if they really exist.

ASSUMPTION B: The Bible treats “unicorns”, which are mythical beasts, as if they really exist.

INFERRED CONCLUSION: Therefore the Bible can’t be perfectly true and credible.

With that sophism scoffers giddily dismiss the Bible’s perfection. Of course, the entire mockery rests upon a Straw-man Fallacy(3) because scoffers presuppose that the term “unicorn” is the core controversy—yet the real question is whether or not the underlying Hebrew noun (re’ēm) refers to a real-world animal.(4)

Assumption A contains the Uniformitarian Fallacy,(3) by assuming the Hebrew noun re’ēm must match some animal alive today. However, in light of the inescapable reality that some animal varieties are going extinct, there is no reason why re’ēm must refer to a beast existing today.

Assumption B contains the Bait-and-Switch Fallacy,(3) by assuming thhe mythological beast called a “unicorn”, that exists in fairy tales (and Hollywood cartoons), must equal the Hebrew noun re’ēm that is referred to 9 times within the Old Testament.

Yet reviewing the relevant Biblical contexts (see below) shows re’ēm was a horned beast, like a wild ox or maybe a rhino — neither of which you would try to domesticate!

Furthermore, skeptics sometimes add a corollary assumption to buttress their ridicule of Scripture’s “unicorns”—acting as if their challenge cannot be refuted unless and until Christians positively identify a real-world “unicorn” (i.e., what the Hebrew Bible calls re’ēm), presuming that any doubt about the re’ēm’s taxonomic identity invalidates the Bible’s trustworthiness.(4)

However, refuting the skeptic does not require that “unicorns” be identified with certainty; it is enough to show that plausible solutions exist, proving that “unicorns” need not refer to “mythical” beasts. In fact, more than one plausible candidate (for the “unicorn”) exists—or previously existed(2)—as shown below.

Could the “unicorn” be a rhinoceros, especially a one-horned variety?

Most modern readers don’t know that the word “unicorn” formerly referred to a one-horned Rhinoceros. Consider, however, this is the primary definition of “UNICORN” in the 1828 edition of Noah Webster’s Dictionary:

UNICORN, n. [L. unicornis; unus, one, and cornu, horn.] 1. An animal with one horn; the Monoceros.  This name is often applied to the rhinoceros.(5)

The one-horned rhinoceros remains a plausible candidate for the horned beast that Moses (and other Hebrews) called re’ēm, of which there are living varieties:  Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus).(6)

Could the “unicorn” be a wild horned bovine, like aurochs or bison?

The presumed ancestor of domesticated bovines (including cattle, water buffalo, yak, zebu) is the now-extinct aurochs.(2) One of its kind is the inherently wild bison (a/k/a “buffalo”).(7) These wild beasts both have two horns (see Psalm 22:21; Deuteronomy 33:17), are built to be powerful (Numbers 23:22), and are biologically comparable to domesticated bovines (Psalm 29:6; Isaiah 34:7).  Harnessing such dangerous bovines, to plow a farm field’s furrows, would be a reckless undertaking, for any foolish farmer who might try it (see Job 39:9-10).

So, what does this prove? First, the skeptic’s Uniformitarian Fallacy guts his criticism of Job 39:9 (and other Scriptures that refer to re’ēm).  Second, the skeptic’s insistence that the English term “unicorn”, as used in the AD1611 King James Bible, equate to a spiral-cone-horned horse, is a bait-and-switch-facilitated strawman challenge, because there are plausible candidate, among real-world animals, that could fit the identity of the Scriptural re’ēm.  Consequently, the scoffer’s caricature of Biblical “unicorns” is not a genuine impeachment of the Bible’s verity.

Aurochs-looking-like-Bison

REFERENCES

(1)The King James Bible uses the English word “unicorn” in 9 Scripture passages: Numbers 23:22 & 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-10; Psalms 22:21 (v.22 in BH) & 29:16; Isaiah 34:7.

(2)Dr. Henry Morris, concluded that the “unicorn” (of Job 39:9) was a wild ox-like bovine, the aurochs, that became extinct: “The unicorn is supposedly a mythological animal; actually the creature referred to here is the extinct aurochs, or wild ox, a fierce animal that once inhabited this region. Many of the animals mentioned [in Job chapter 39], as well as other parts of the Old Testament, are of very uncertain identity, and various translators have tied them to a considerable diversity of modern animals. The probable reason for this uncertainty is that many of the animals, like the ‘unicorn’, are now extinct, because they could not long survive the drastically changed environments following the great Flood.” [Footnote to Job 39:9 in The New Defender’s Study Bible, page 822.]  Zoölogist George Cansdale concluded that re’ēm was the now-extinct aurochs. [George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible Lands (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), page 82.]  The aurochs is depicted repeatedly on the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, now relocated to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

(3)Regarding logical fallacies, James J. S. Johnson, “Staying on Track Despite Deceptive Distractions”, Acts & Facts, 41(5):9-11 (May 2012) (re straw-man fallacy, posted at http://www.icr.org/article/staying-track-despite-deceptive-distractions/ );  “Bait and Switch: A Trick Used by Both Anglerfish and Evolutionists”,  Acts & Facts, 41(1):10-11 (January 2012) (re bait-and-switch fallacy), posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/bait-switch-trick-used-by-both-anglerfish  );  “Is the Present the ‘Key’ to the Past?” Acts & Facts, 43(6):19 (June 2014, posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/8165 ).

(4)A related inquiry is why Bible scholars, seeking to translate re’ēm into Greek, Latin, and English, used words like “unicorn” in their translations.  The Septuagint (“LXX”), a Greek translation of the Old Testament, translated re’ēm as monokerôs.  Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translated re’ēm as rinocerotis in Deuteronomy 33:17 and rinoceros in Job 39:9, and unicornes in Isaiah 34:7!  This indicates that at least some translators though that re’ēm was one-horned,  perhaps the one-horned rhinoceros.

(5)Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (San Francisco, CA: Foundation for American Christian Education; 1995 facsimile of Noah Webster’s 1st edition of 1828), unpaginated.

(6)See Eric Dinerstein, The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros (NY, NY: Columbia University Press, 2003).  Obviously the term “unicorn” is not a good fit for two-horned rhinos, such as the Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), and Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).  But the Hebrew noun re’ēm, unlike the English word “unicorn”, does not require the beast to be one-horned, as is indicated by Deuteronomy 33:17 (which refers to unicorn “horns”, possibly denoting a two-horned rhino).  Some evolutionist paleontologists have expressed interesting (albeit forensically flawed) opinions about the ancestral rhino that they believe led to the “unicorns”.  [See Deng Tao, Wang ShiQi, & Hou SuKuan, “A Bizaree Tandem-horned Elasmothere Rhino from the Late Miocene of Northwestern China and the Origin of the True Elasmothere”, Chinese Science Bulletin, 58(15):1811-1817 (May 2013).]

(7)Another candidate is the one-horned Arabian oryx antelope, but its less-intimidating traits (compared to rhinos, bison, and aurochs) seem less likely to fit the Bible’s re’ēm.


rhino-1horned-closeup

Fake Weather Forecasting, by False Prophets

GlobalWarming-cartoon

Fake Weather Forecasting, by False Prophets

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

A team of climate “experts” have warned us that the ocean is rising, due to “global warming”, and will keep rising to almost 4 feet higher, almost as high as a hockey stick!

The Maryland Commission on Climate Change has predicted that the ocean will rise as much as 3.7 feet [higher] by the end of the century [i.e., A.D. 2100], with land erosion and invasive plant species contributing to sea-level rise.  Further, a 2013 assessment led by the Conservation Fund and Audubon Maryland-DC found [but we are not told how they found] that in time, almost all of Blackwater [National Wildlife Refuge, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore] will become, as if foreshadowed by its name, part of the black-blue water of the sea [i.e., Chesapeake Bay].

[Quoting Danielle Prieur, “Blackwater’s Future May Not Be So Dark After Marsh is Complete”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 27(5):40 (July-August 2017), with emphasis added.]

BlackwaterNWR-marsh.Wikipedia-photo

BLACKWATER N.W.R. (Maryland’s Eastern Shore, next to Chesapeake Bay)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia / Ataraxy22)

So watch out! Be alarmed!  Be afraid!  Of course, there’s no need to fearfully “watch out” or “be alarmed” if the prognostications of these self-professed “climate prophets” are wrong.   [For a little humor on this topic, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eisr2eW4pXg .]

In short, fake science leads to fake weather forecasting, constituting a secular version of false prophets.  But how do we recognize a false prophet when we see (or hear, or read) one?

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.  (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

In days of old the nation Israel was visited, from time to time, by men who claimed to be “prophets” – some true and some false.  There were two quick ways to identify a self-proclaimed “prophet” as a fake: (1) if he opposed the true God by promoting idolatry (either directly, by endorsing an idolatrous substitute for the true God – or indirectly, by denigrating God’s Word in a way that effectively promotes an imaginary “God” to replace the real God Who reveals His messages via Scripture); (2) if his “prophetic” predictions proved to be wrong.

So the first test for identifying a “prophet”, as either genuine or fake, pertains to how that person treats the God of Scripture.  However, just using the Lord’s name is not enough  —-   many iniquity-workers (who called themselves “prophets”) will suffer a bad eternity despite their track-record for using the Lord’s name a lot!

Not everyone that saith unto Me, “Lord, Lord”, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.   (Matthew 7:21-23)

Once a golden calf statue was used, soon after the Exodus, to infringe God’s holy name in a blasphemous promotion of Baal-worship idolatry, showing how mere usage of Biblical vocabulary words cannot convert idolatry to true worship.

Recall how Aaron sacrificed truth and dishonored the Lord when he led the rebellious Israelites to worship a golden calf6 that supposedly “evolved” while Moses was absent.7 Notice that Aaron labeled the “spontaneously-generated” golden calf “the LORD” and not “Baal” in order to excuse the idol’s inclusion into Israel’s religious practices. Yet a golden calf statue, whether called “Baal” or “the LORD,” is still a golden calf statue. A gold-ring-snouted pig is still a pig.

[Quoting JJSJ, “To Tell the Truth”, Acts & Facts, 38(2):24 (February 2009), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/tell-truth-danger-accommodating-darwinism-through-/ .]

In other words, just because the words “God” and “Jesus” are used is no guarantee that a religious message is Biblically true  —   its theological essence may display a message’s falsity.  Like humans, a message’s “outward appearance” may be deceiving, so it’s the “heart” that really matters (see 1st Samuel 16:7; 1st John 4:1-3).

The Holy Bible presents God as eternally triune, being revealed in human history by and through the Lord Jesus Christ (compare the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1, which identifies the Creator by a regular plural noun Whose action is described by a singular verb —  with Matthew 28:18-20; 1st John 5:7; 1st John 2:22-23; 2nd Peter 2:1; 2nd John 1:7-9).

Thus, any religious (or secular) “messenger”, who denies basic Trinitarian truth, is promoting idolatry, i.e., advertising a false “god” — doing what Deuteronomy 18:20 calls “speak[ing] in the name of other gods”.  Accordingly, any so-called “prophet” who announces a supposedly “divine” message in the name of a Unitarian “God” (e.g., the “God” of Arians, Moslems, “Enlightenment” Unitarians, Watchtower Society Jehovah’s Witnesses, anti-Messianic Jews, etc.) is automatically self-exposed as a false prophet.  (Actually, an extension of this “trying-the-spirits” test is to compare a “prophetic” message to the inerrant content that God has revealed in His holy written  Word  —  see Isaiah 8:20.)

But Global Warming hysteria-hype is especially relevant to the second test, for exposing false prophets; the second test involves watching to see if a short-term prediction occurs as prophesied.  A short-term prophecy is one that must be fulfilled – or must fail – within a short amount of time. An example follows.

When I was a high school senior, I had a classmate who (notwithstanding the cessationist import of Ephesians 2:20 & 1st Corinthians 13:8-10) claimed to have the “gift of prophecy”! That classmate, through church connections, knew a married couple, the husband of which was serving (away from home) in the U.S. military service.  Having learned (through a source many did not know that he had access to) that the military man was supposed to return home soon (on a particular weekend), on leave, this faker “prophesied” about how the military man would soon return home, confirming the hopes and expectations of the soldier’s wife (who did not know how this faker had learned of the scheduled leave).  But, to the faker’s discredit, the military decision-makers changed the schedule(!), so the leave was rescinded and the military man did not return home to visit his wife.  This produced more than a cancellation of military leave; it embarrassingly cancelled the faker’s claim of having “prophet” status.

In other words, the demonstrated failure of the short-term prophecy proved that the prognosticator was phony, not a true prophet of God.  After that occurred, in accordance with Deuteronomy 18:22, no one feared the predictions of that faker.

GlobalWarming-ChurchofClimatology.AlGore-cartoon

But what about the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, as well as other Global Warming alarmists (who promote Al Gore’s convenient falsehoods), who predict that Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge – along with the Chesapeake Bay (and ocean surface in general) – may rise higher, by almost 4 feet?   (As if 4 feet higher would be a global calamity.)

GlobalWarming.HotAir-Gore

Can the failure of this secular “prophecy” be used to discredit these climate-crisis prognosticators? (Remember all the fear about losing “the ozone layer”?  Ozone hype-hypochondriacs are strangely silent nowadays.)

BlackwaterNWR-coastwaters-marsh.Wikipedia

Blackwater N.W.R. marshy coasts

(photo credit: Wikipedia / Jcantroot)

In other words, will the Global Warming alarmists’ fake science be exposed and shamed, so that their fake weather-forecasting is likewise shamed, exposing this media-peddled brouhaha as just another “power-and-money-grab” fakery?

No. Because the predictions of the Global Warming bluffers are not short-term predictions that are verified or falsified within a short timeframe.

Rather, this flamboyant weather-forecasting is pegged to the far future  —  the next century (i.e., A.D. 2100), when all these “prophets” (and a lot of the rest of us) are already dead.   Fake science, used for fake weather-forecasting  —  what a scam!


ChickenLittle-GlobalWarming.pic

CONCRETE PROOF THAT OYSTERS ARE RESOURCEFUL HOMESTEADERS, FITTED TO FILL DIVERSE HABITATS

CONCRETE PROOF THAT OYSTERS ARE RESOURCEFUL HOMESTEADERS, FITTED TO FILL DIVERSE HABITATS

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.   (Genesis 1:21-22)

ChesapeakeBay-Oysters.Emaze

Chesapeake Bay oysters   (photo credit: Emaze.com)

 Chesapeake Bay oysters are ecologically resourceful, especially when it comes to homesteading underwater – and we should not be surprised.

But why? God prioritized animals, all over the world, to “be fruitful”, to “multiply”, and to “fill the earth”.

God chose to fill the earth with different kinds of life. All over the world, we see His providence demonstrated in ecological systems. Different creatures live in a variety of habitats, interacting with one another and a mix of geophysical factors—like rain, rocks, soil, wind, and sunlight.

[Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “God Fitted Habitats for Biodiversity”, ACTS & FACTS, 42(3):10-12 (March 2013).]

Because God loves variety, the earth itself has a diversity of habitats that can provide niches for animals to live in.

Accordingly, God “fitted” (i.e., designed and bioengineered) the internal programming of diverse animals to creatively adjust to miscellaneous habitats. In other words, diverse animals are “fitted to fill” different geophysical environments, which are themselves dominated by different types of plants, and the results are interactive and changing communities of lifeforms, adjusted to living in ecologically diverse “neighborhoods”.

ChesapeakeBay-Oyster-bed.ChesapeakeBayFndtn

Chesapeake Bay oyster-bed   (photo credit: Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

To illustrate, check out what is happening with Chesapeake Bay oysters, especially those which are “homesteading” on artificial “reef” platform-beds.

An unremarkable thing happened in a remarkable way during the recently ended oyster season in the Chesapeake Bay. Some Virginia watermen harvested bivalves from public oyster grounds in the Rappahannock River. There’s nothing unusual about that, of course, but these shellfish had settled as baby “spat” and grown to harvestable size on a thick bed of gravel-sized stones that had been put on the river bottom to provide an unconventional home for them.

Typically, shells of other oysters are the natural landing pads for recently hatched bivalve larvae, which need to attach to something hard as they begin sedentary lives of filtering algae from the water. But the Chesapeake is running short on [bivalve] shells; there aren’t enough to go around to sustain the traditional wild [oyster or clam] fishery — to say nothing of the growing aquaculture industry and an ambitious effort to restore the Bay’s depleted oyster [and clam] population.

Some watermen, particularly those in Maryland, remain leery of using anything other than oyster shells to provide habitat for bivalves.

But the shell squeeze is prompting some oyster growers and fishery managers to try alternative “substrate,” the hard [platform-like] material on which baby bivalves live and grow. Working with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, W. E. Kellum Seafood, one of the state’s oldest and largest oyster businesses, has in the last few years tested the suitability of crushed concrete from a demolished bridge and ground-down stones taken from a dam on the James River.

“This past season, the oysters we harvested were from 2-year-old granite we planted,” said Tommy Kellum, the company president. “That worked extremely well. We got a terrific spat set on it, and it grew well.”

In the right conditions, oysters will settle and grow on practically any hard surface, not just other oyster shells. Bivalves can be found clinging to wooden docks, concrete bridge piers and riprap, the big granite rocks lining the shore to prevent erosion.

[Quoting Timothy B. Wheeler, “Oysters Making Themselves at Home on Reefs with Alternative Substrate”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(4):12 (June 2017).]

Does that mean that artificial oysterbed planting is “better” than the “natural” habit these bivalves have, of attaching themselves to oyster shells produced by prior generations?

Happy-Oyster-Reefs-chart.NatureConservancy

Probably not, but (as Francis Schaeffer repeatedly reminded us) we live in a “fallen world”  — so we need to “make the best of what we have”, in order to be good stewards of God’s creation.  And that stewardship can apply to oyster-bed aquaculture resourcefulness.  (Just as careful ranchers can raise healthy cattle or sheep, careful aquaculture “farmers” can raise healthy bivalves.)

Some watermen, particularly those in Maryland, remain leery of using anything other than oyster shells to provide habitat for bivalves. Maryland watermen and their supporters have protested the use of crushed granite, fossil shell from Florida and clam shells from New Jersey in oyster restoration projects . . . [and their] protests landed on sympathetic ears at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which blocked the further use of such materials in the Tred Avon [River, a tributary of the Choptank River, which is the Chesapeake Bay’s largest tributary on the Delmarva Peninsula]. The watermen argued that the rocks interfere with crabbing and fishing. Based on their experience, they say, oysters will not settle and grow nearly as well on substitute materials as they will on shells. Some also noted that the Florida fossil shell used in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank was full of water-fouling silt. “I think you should use the natural stuff that the good Lord put there,” said Ron Fithian, a Kent County commissioner and former waterman who is a member of Maryland’s Oyster Advisory Commission. “Nothing works better, and they shouldn’t substitute anything, especially stone. …You don’t get the concentration of spat on stones you do on oyster shell.”

Scientists and other proponents of the rock and concrete alternatives acknowledge that oyster shells are optimal, but they insist there’s just not enough fresh shell to go around — thanks to the decades-long slump in the oyster industry, which rebounded a bit several years ago. To make up for the shortage of fresh shells from harvested oysters, many watermen are pressing for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to permit the [Maryland Department of Natural Resources] to dredge 5 million bushels of fossil shell from an inactive oyster reef near the mouth of the Patapsco River called Man O’War Shoal. The proposal is opposed, though, by conservationists, recreational fishermen and even some watermen, who fear dredging up the old shell will ruin the shoal’s value as habitat for striped bass and other species. . . . [Balancing an ecosystem is tricky, of course – it’s really hard to please everybody!] Watermen have also pushed for the state to resume the taxpayer-subsidized “shell repletion” program it ran from the early 1960s until 2006, planting shell on the bottom and “seeding” it with juvenile oysters transplanted from areas getting good natural spat set.

[Quoting Timothy B. Wheeler, “Oysters Making Themselves at Home on Reefs with Alternative Substrate”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(4):12 (June 2017), with emphases added.]

Oyster-restoration-recycling-shells.PBS

Scattering oyster shells, for reuse by oyster larvae (photo credit: PBS)

Ironically, the concrete and gravel “reef” platform-beds are working out quite well, which proves the resourcefulness of the juvenile oysters that attach there.

“Just about anything that is hard would work,” . . . said [said Andrew Button, head of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s shellfish conservation and replenishment department]. “Everything, from shredded tires to ‘recycled bathroom fixtures’, has been tried, with some success, by someone at some point.” Watermen and others have expressed concern that concrete from roads and other demolished structures might be contaminated with oil and other hazardous substances, which could be picked up by oysters and other marine life.

But in one recent study, Morgan State University researchers found no cause for concern. The Maryland State Highway Administration, looking for alternatives to landfilling old pavement, contracted with Morgan a few years ago to evaluate the feasibility and safety of using it in building oyster reefs. Morgan scientists placed chunks of recycled concrete aggregate in tanks of Bay water at the university’s Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory in Calvert County. They compared oyster spat survival on both concrete and shells and found no difference. They also tested for chemicals that might leach into the water — and subjected it to even more rigorous analysis with a mass spectrometer. “There was less [pollution] in it than the EPA required of drinking water — orders of magnitude less,” said Kelton Clark, director of the Patuxent lab.

The researchers also set up demonstration reefs using the recycled highway concrete in two locations with different water salinity — one in the Patuxent River near the laboratory and the other in Fishing Bay on the Eastern Shore — to see if oysters on rubble would be any more vulnerable to predators.

Again, no difference. There was one test that the highway debris flunked, when compared to shells: the hand-tonging test. Clark said researchers invited a hand-tonger to try harvesting the oysters growing on the concrete. The fist-sized chunks of rubble proved too heavy to lift using the tongs.

But for building oyster habitat in sanctuaries not open to harvest, Clark said, it’s just as good as the scarce shell. “It may not be acceptable to you or me, but the Chesapeake Bay doesn’t care what we like,” Clark said. “There’s no scientific reason not to use this material.”

In another study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the University of Maryland teamed up to see how alternative substrate performs in the Bay. In 2011, the Corps built seven reefs out of granite in the Cook Point sanctuary in the Choptank River, where the bottom consisted of sand, an area of flat shell and some large mounds of shells. The granite reefs placed nearby ranged in height from 1–3 feet off the bottom; some were covered with a layer of shells, while others were not. The artificial reefs were planted with oyster spat produced by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science hatchery at Horn Point. After three years, UM researchers analyzed the growth, survival and reproduction of the oyster populations in the area, and also checked for other organisms living on or around the reefs. They found more oysters on reefs made of both granite and shell than on those built of granite only, but both types had relatively healthy densities, averaging 91 oysters per square meter and 49 oysters per square meter, respectively. The granite-only reefs did have thicker populations of organisms such as anemones, which researchers suggested could be competing with oysters for space on the rocks.

Most of the artificial reefs built in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank River as part of those sanctuary restoration projects are too new yet to evaluate their performance as hosts for oysters, but preliminary analysis of reefs finished three years ago in Harris Creek shows that those with a stone base have nearly three times the density of oysters, on average, as those with a base made up of clam shells. All were planted with spat on shell produced by the UM hatchery.

Scientists say the shape and size of the materials used can matter in determining how well oyster spat settle and survive on artificial reefs. The granite stones used to build reefs in Harris Creek, for instance, have more than three times as much surface area as do the reefs made of clam shells. That’s important, according to Jay Lazar, field operations coordinator for NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay office, because it gives oyster spat more places to latch onto as they settle to the bottom. The spaces between rocks also offer more protection from predators.

[Quoting Timothy B. Wheeler, “Oysters Making Themselves at Home on Reefs with Alternative Substrate”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 27(4):13 (June 2017).]

This successful conservation aquaculture practice did not “work out” by random accidents. Rather, a lot of careful thinking was necessarily involved, especially God’s creative thoughts (and deeds) that provided both humans and oysters with multi-generational life and abilities needed to live their respective life cycles – even down to the super-small level of biochemical details that include interactive nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA, various RNAs, and the teleological functioning of gazillions of highly specialized protein molecules.

Who devised all of that to work?

The necessary details – of both human life and oyster life – required God to think through a lot of specifications, which themselves represent bioengineering programming to achieve God’s intended purposes (for humans and oysters).

Man-made items are constructed following directions called plans and specifications. Specifications are a unique kind of writing designed to convey intent. They are written instructions that set advance constraints on precisely what, how, and when particular materials will be used. Plans show geometric details of where materials are placed (though there is overlap between the two). Together, they must be detailed and selective enough to accurately and unambiguously communicate intended fabrication information to obtain all the product’s features.

Writing specifications and drawing plans can be difficult work. Designers are forced to initially build the project in their minds. They must visualize numerous details, and then clearly represent everything in that mental picture in words and drawings–a daunting task at any time, but especially for situations where no prototype even exists.

It is important to highlight two points about specifications. First, they are as close of a representation of the designer’s thoughts as possible–but they are not the thoughts themselves. Thoughts exist independently of the paper or programs which convey them. Second, when plans or specifications exist for something, they are–without exception–a sign of conscious design. Why? They reveal an intentional state that is characteristically restrictive. It selects in advance particular attributes for an intended purpose–which is the exact opposite of blind natural processes that yield random, ill-defined, piecemeal conglomerations of whatever is available.

So the secret to great architecture [or to building great human beings, or to building great Chesapeake Bay oysters!] is not in the drawings, but in the mind of the architect [i.e., the mind who creates the ideas about what should be built].

When evolutionary biologists determine the structure or sequence of DNA, they believe they uncover the secret of life.2 Disregarding the fact that information is immaterial, they fixate on the material of DNA. But they are incorrect. Functioning just like specifications, DNA is manipulated by specialized proteins that enable it to transfer, transcribe, store, and recall information for building a living thing–but it is not the information.

The real secret of life is the [purposeful] information.

[Quoting Randy J. Guliuzza, “Natural Selection is Not ‘Nature’s Design Process’”, ACTS & FACTS, 39(6):10-11 (June 2010).]

In other words, by promoting both conservation and aquaculture, human experts are showing resourcefulness, by facilitating juvenile oysters to display their own resourcefulness! And both kinds of resourcefulness interactively display God’s own resourceful imagination – because it was God Who gave resourceful thinking to humans, and it was God Who preprogrammed and bioengineered resourceful instincts into homesteading oysters.

Oyster-restoration-substrate.JoeReiger-workshop

(PowerPoint slide credit: Joe Reiger’s Oyster Restoration Workshop)

So, what is the bottom line on this? God fitted oysters to fill many underwater habitats, not just oysterbed reefs composed of preëxisting oyster shells.

><> JJSJ   profjjsj@aol.com