Why we are here:

Our signature Bible passage, the prologue to John's Gospel, tells us that Jesus (the Logos) is God and Creator and that He came in the flesh (sarx) to redeem His fallen, sin-cursed creation—and especially those He chose to believe in Him.

Here in Bios & Logos we have some fun examining small corners of the creation to show how great a Creator Jesus is—and our need for Him as Redeemer. Soli Deo Gloria.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Moth Mullein Flash Mobs the Meadow! (but in a good way)

Over the past few years, a wildflower meadow at a nearby nature preserve has been overrun by a nasty invasive alien weed called Mugwort. Last year, the meadow was stripped of the offender by mechanical and chemical means, with the hope that native plants would be given a chance to return.

For one species, at least, the project has been an almost spectacular success. One of my favorite plants, the Moth Mullein, is back in force. In recent years only a few of these plants could be seen blooming throughout the 107-acre preserve. When I visited yesterday, literally dozens of mulleins were in full bloom throughout the meadow, including the usual solitary plants but also clumps of several stalks.

Something about the removal of the mugworts and the chemical treatment with a short-lived herbicide must have provided just the right conditions for the germination of buried Moth Mullein seeds, and nature took its course, producing a delicate sprinkling of yellow across the field of grasses. There is even one of the white-flowering variety, a  rarity, at least in this part of the county (a little further south, they seem to be the dominant form.)

Of course there is usually a flip side to every story. Truth be told, the Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria) is itself an alien, native to Africa, Asia and parts of Europe. But it’s ever so much more attractive, and less likely to take over completely, than the dreaded Mugwort that was removed to allow its resurgence.

  I am looking forward to the reappearance of Moth Mullein’s big cousin, the Common (or Great) Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), a truly impressive, very furry plant with a 5- to 10-foot flower stalk, of which I have seen few at the preserve in recent years. Of course, it too is an alien, which can aggressively take over a meadow—so maybe we should be careful what we ask for.

But let’s not forget the big picture that I’m always pushing here: any plant that you see, whether big or small, hairy or smooth, colorful or drab, native or alien, is an engineering and biochemical marvel. Just the story of the reproductive cycle or the development of a plant from a tiny seed could fill several books, containing many mystery plots that still baffle the science guys.

Flowering plant evolution has been mind-boggling to those guys for a century or more. Once in a while we see an article relating some promising theory, but it is usually filled with ifs, buts, maybes, as well as evolutionary assumptions, rather than solid data—and amounts to nothing. I’ll stick my scrawny little neck out and say, with God-given confidence, “They didn’t evolve!”

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, August 05, 2011

Eupatorium perfoliatum--what a great name!

Eupatorium perfoliatum—the name glides off the tongue like a fried egg from a non-stick frying pan. It’s the scientific name for a really slick plant. Common names: Boneset and Thoroughwort. And all its names have been awarded for good reasons. Both “perfoliatum” and “thoroughwort” are reminders that the two leaves in each pair are fused at their hind ends so it looks like the stem is perforating a single leaf. And “thorough” is an old version of “through,” so you can see the connection (“wort” is just an old term for plant or herb).

“Boneset”, rather than describing structure, derives from the plant’s use in folk or herbal medicine. A potion made from the leaves and stems was used to treat dengue or breakbone fever. It has also been used to treat everything from migraines and gout to intestinal worms and malaria. These days it might be better to stick to more modern treatments, since boneset contains some vicious toxic compounds that can cause liver damage, muscular tremors, weakness, constipation—and death (although all of the above may be true of some “modern” medicines as well).

The Genus Eupatorium contains 30 to 60 species (depending on who’s classifying), including (at least formerly) Joe-pye weeds and snakeroots. So the boneset stands in good company. Take a look here at my previous post about some classification confusion.

Human-made classifications not withstanding, the Eupatoriums are magnificent creations, as are all plants. Sometimes we underestimate their complexity because they have only five “organs,” – root, stem, leaf, flower and fruit—as compared to the dozens making up animal bodies. But when we look closer we find that plants are far more complex, especially in their biochemistry, than animals. That’s why the plants are called autotrophs—self-feeders. They make their own food from carbon dioxide, water and a few minerals, while we have to stuff our faces with pre-made food to keep us growing and going.

That’s why God made plants first, then animals, contrary to faulty, illogical evolutionary theory. And He called them “very good,” which was almost an understatement. They are more than good; they are magnificent biochemical machines that produce thousands of complex chemicals, not only for their own survival but for us poor hapless heterotrophs, who are totally dependent on them, either directly or by way of the food chain, for our survival.

So thank a plant today, for its outward beauty and for its hidden secrets—and thank the great Creator God who made it.

By the way, if you look closely at our photograph (you can enlarge it by clicking on it) you may notice someone else who is thankful for the Boneset, at least as a temporary shady resting place.

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Some mimics leave a bad taste--when story tellers dishonor their Creator.

You know the story: a harmless species “evolves” to resemble a harmful species and therefore is less likely to be eaten. It’s called Batesian mimicry, named for an English naturalist who spent too much time in the Amazon.

The mimicking of the Monarch by the Viceroy has been used as the standard example for probably a hundred years. The story goes that the Monarch tastes bad because its caterpillars eat milkweed leaves containing nasty cardiac glycoside compounds. These toxins are carried over as the larvae pupate and then metamorphose into the adults. So monarch butterflies taste awful. Supposedly, Viceroys taste good because their caterpillars feed on willow leaves.

The standard story is that the Viceroy (the one with the black stripe across its wing) “evolved” (by random mutations and natural selection, of course) to resemble the Monarch and thus escapes predation because birds associate the orange and black coloration with bad taste.

Then, as happens with so many (especially evolutionary) just-so stories, someone did one too many experiments and falsified the tale. Abdomens (wings omitted to remove the color clues) of both Monarchs and Viceroys were offered to birds—and the birds gagged on both. Turned out that Viceroys taste as awful as Monarchs!

Oh, so it’s not Batesian mimicry after all—let’s call it Muellerian mimicry, in which two harmful species both “evolve” warning colors to discourage predators.

So tell all the stories you want to, and change them to fit some real evidence. The fact is that these two rather unrelated butterflies—with very different looking caterpillars, which feed on different plants—didn’t “evolve” in the first place, nor did any other butterflies or insects or any other life forms. Molecules-to-man Darwinian evolution is an out-dated 19th century just-so story that is being dismantled by real 21st century science almost on a daily basis.

Let’s enjoy God’s creatures for what they really are: evidence of His intricate handiwork—and convicters of those who refuse to see them as such but who choose to worship the creature instead of the Creator who made them (Romans 1:18-25).

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Feathers are not frayed scales -- period -- end of story!

It has almost become the ruling paradigm that reptiles (dinosaurs, that is) evolved into birds -- in fact that birds are really merely highly evolved dinosaurs, flitting about and singing sweet dinosaur songs.

There are about a zillion reasons why this is a fantasy; and one, illustrated by our photos, is the difference between scales (here shown on a representative reptile -- couldn't seem to find a dinosaur to photograph) and bird feathers (here illustrated by the flank of a cooperative Canada Goose and a somewhat less cooperative Chickadee). I invite you to click on the photos (especially the bird photos) to see at least the superficial details of what makes feathers so special.

The story goes that scales somehow evolved into feathers -- that somehow scales became frayed and became feathers. This story is ridiculous at every level. The vast difference in complexity between the two types of structure should prove the obvious. While scales are formed as mere skin folds (which the snake in the photograph will periodically shed as one piece), feathers originate from follicles whose complexity is difficult to imagine -- with the ability to generate feathers whose complexity is even more difficult to imagine.

And what about those "feathered" dinosaurs dug up in China? They have generated as much controversity among ardent evolutionists as they have between evolutionists and creationists -- and not a small number of out-and-out fraudulent claims.

Of course, the scales vs. feathers difference between reptiles and birds is but one of the multitudinous reasons that the two life forms are of different created kinds. Believing otherwise is a matter of pure darwinian faith and has little to do with real scientific evidence.

If you've been drinking the darwinian Koolaid, it's time to switch from that unhealthful sugar water and start taking big gulps from God's inerrant communication to man -- starting from Genesis 1. Good reading!

Of course, listening to this 15-minute clip might be of value as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCiVaiv0HN0 

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, July 12, 2010

No such thing as a good-for-nothing

Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese Knotweed) is one unpopular plant. It grows so fast that we, as kids, used to sit and think that we could actually see it growing before our eyes. It's an alien and it's invasive, so when it grows and spreads into huge stands (of huge plants), it crowds out smaller native species. And it's nearly impossible to eradicate, once it gets a foothold. So there is nothing much to like -- we might legitimately call it a "good-for-nothing."

The photos above show the leaves of P. cuspidatum and its unique, not too unattractive fruit. But what on Earth is that bottle of a popular dietary supplement doing here? What is the connection between Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant and anti-aging compound usually assocated with red wine, and a nasty invasive weed?

The truth is that the knotweed plants have the talent for producing and concentrating resveratrol, primarily in their roots, at a concentration hundreds of times greater than any grape can possibly do. Hence, P. cuspidatum has become the primary commercial source of the supplement. It is certainly easy to grow year-round. Grape vines are seasonal and require lots of tender loving care. So the choice is an easy one.

Conclusion: there is really no such thing as a "good-for-nothing" plant. God has given us all things richly to enjoy." We just have to go looking for the good that exists even in the nastiest and most unpopular among us.

Of course, use, enjoy and misuse are all operative words here. Sinful man can always find ways to misuse even the most useful gifts of God. Maybe even grapes. Enough said--don't get me started on that subject.

Now I'll go pop a couple of Resveratrol capsules--maybe I can save my telomeres yet. (Certainly a subject for another blog post.)

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, July 09, 2010

Of Amberwings and F-22 Fighters

I sat by water's edge for an hour or more, trying, mostly in vain, to photograph Eastern Amberwing dragonflies in flight. They are tiny; they are fast, so even the camera's auto-focus usually failed to catch them accurately. And even shooting six frames per second produced only an occasional moderately clear image. Our one lucky shot, however, caught a surprising feature--the retractable landing gear! With the front pair of legs tucked under the chin and the other two pairs pressed tightly against the "fuselage," this odonate exhibits all the precision engineering of an F-22 Raptor!

Of course, when the Amberwing extends its legs and lands, photography becomes less tricky; and even more of the design features--the radar dome-like head, with 360 degree-vision compound eyes--and especially those crystal-clear amber wings, with their precise pattern of supporting veins!

Billions of dollars were spent engineering and building the F-22 fighter. Only 187 have or will be built. God designed and built the Eastern Amberwing with a snap of His mighty finger--and millions of copies are made, using engineering and manufacturing programs that man can never come close to duplicating.

We should be amazed at His incredible skill and wisdom and at our relative lack thereof.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, July 08, 2010

No Gestalt -- No Rorschach

I suppose you expect me to tell you to stare at the above and find people, animals or psychological insights. Or perhaps that a switch will flip and you will see an old hag instead of a pretty young lass -- or that you should concentrate intently and eventually you will see Jesus.

None of the above -- although I think I see a fez-wearing, left-facing, large-nosed fellow at the bottom -- and a dog, barking at something below, on the left -- and how about the beret-sporting gent in white, blowing smoke from his nose -- or maybe the whole thing resesembles a map of the Eastern Hemisphere after a thousand years of global warming.

Think anything you want -- it's a free country -- and the fantastically designed, God-given but sin-cursed human mind has almost limitless powers of imagination -- and ability to be tricked.

But our photograph is actually of a perfectly natural outdoor scene -- as evidenced by the mosquito flying off to the northwest -- the severely insect-chewed leaves of the Swamp White Oak. The chewed-up-ness is evidence that Quercus bicolor is a native species, gnawed by native insects. If it were an alien tree, its leaves would probably be in better shape, even in July. It's just another example of one species adapting to another, this time in a food chain relationship.

I am always yapping about imperfect things being evidence of God's curse on the ground (Genesis 3:17-18), but perhaps our chewed up leaves aren't such an example. After all, plants were the food of animals and humans before the entrance of sin. So you insects, eat your fill without guilt.

Soli Gloria Deo

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Three Tummyaches

Duckweed, goose feather or the bug on the feather--which should cause the darwinist the biggest case of indigestion? Answer: all three should be equally as nausiating to the devotee of random mutation and mindless natural selection as mechanisms by which these organisms have originated.

Botanists may call the duckweed a simplified version of a flowering plant, with only one leaf and some dangling roots. But any flowering plant, with its photosynthetic mechanisms, deserves the Darwin Abominable Mystery Award.

Feathers are not frayed reptile scales! While scales are mere epidermal folds, feathers originate from incredibly complex follicles--even more intricate than human hair follicles.

And as for the bug--Nobel Prize Astronomer Fred Hoyle once said than insects are so incredibly complex and weird that they couldn't have originated on Planet Earth--they must have arrived as spores from space.

Don't be duped by the popular literature, or even by "serious" scientific literature, that insists on clinging to increasingly stale, out-dated theories. In fact, doing a little digging into some time-proven literature, such as Genesis 1 and 2, might be profitable for learning about the true origins of life--and everything. But don't forget to go on to Genesis 3, because if you don't understand what happened there, you don't really understand anything about today's beautiful but sin-cursed world.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Right Flower/Bee Match

Yesterday, we saw a carpenter bee straddling a milkweed blossom and draining nectar from deep within the flower. No problem for the bee or flower, except for the fact that the energy-rich nectar was produced by the plant precisely for the purpose of attracting pollinators. The bee, however, is taking the nectar without necessarily picking up any of the golden pollen bodies (pollinia) because its feet are avoiding the slots in which they are lying in wait.

Today we see the insect for which the milkweed blossom is intricately designed--the honeybee. The bee perched on the leaf edge has visited several flowers and is literally weighed down with glistening pollinia. She will eventually continue her nectar gathering and will most likely deposit at least some of the pollen on the stigmas of the visited flowers, thus assuring the fertilization of the ovules deep within. In a few weeks, a pod containing hundreds of seeds will develop--and the reproductive cycle will have been completed.

Evolutionists would call the adaptations of bee and flower "co-evolution". But even devout darwinists are beginning to doubt that random mutations and natural selection are capable of producing such intricate mechanisms, let alone producing flowering plants and insects in the first place.

There are untold thousands of plant/insect relationships throughout the biosphere, many even trickier than those shown here. Information theory and probability theory argue powerfully against their existence without the designing power of mind--the mind of the Creator of all things, the God of the Bible, whose Son not only created all things but sustains all of His creation and redeems His elect people from their sin. He is Lord of All. (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-17)

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, July 05, 2010

Getting Down to Bees-ness

Since I have been particularly sporadic in my posts this year, I thought that something a little more spontaneous might correct the situation. Let's try some periodic photos with short blurbs, rather than the longer essays you are used to seeing.

No matter what the subjects of the photos may be--and they will certainly be small examples of God's creative handiwork, as our theme has always been--we should keep two passages of scripture in mind as we stare at the color, form and detail of each photographic subject: Colossians 1:16-17; and Romans 1:18-20. In essence, they say, (1) Jesus made them and holds them together; and (2) We had better recognize Who made them or we are in big trouble. "Under the wrath of God" is a terrible place to be.

So let's get down to business--or bees-ness--with the above photo of a carpenter bee extracting nectar from a milkweed blossom. Both bee and blossom exhibit intelligent design beyond our wildest imagination. Any thought that either could have "evolved" by random mutations and natural selection is an insult to the God Who created them.

Of course, there is a touch of Romans 8:19-22 seen in the photo as well. The carpenter bee is cheating on the flower by stealing nectar without necessarily carrying out the pollination duties for which the flower was designed. Tune in tomorrow to see a better flower-to-pollinator match.

Have you bothered to look up those passages? If not, why not pause to do it now, so you can make some sense of this little blurb. You can look them up in the Searchable Bible link on the right side.

Soli Deo Gloria