Friday, December 4, 2009

Sin, Evolution, and Parasites

"…And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."

What would He say today? Is everything we see around us the way it was created in the Garden of Eden? Did He create a plant that can only get the nitrogen it needs by eating insects? Did He give wasps, jellyfish, and nettles their sting? What about parasitic organisms did He make them?

Consider one of the beautiful creatures from the Garden of Eden – the serpent. This creation which was beautiful before the fall, was cursed of God (Genesis 3:14) and thereby changed drastically in esteem, behavior, and, quite likely, morphology as well.

I have come to think of this as an example of the effects that sin can have even in a very short amount of time. It has also caused me to postulate that the presence of sin in the world causes directional selection away from God’s ideal. In addition, once the original creation was altered and became unbalanced, natural selection would also have been free to work thus exacerbating the problem and quickly steering life on this earth away from God’s plan at an ever increasing rate. As evil forces in the world continued to focus their influence to mar Gods creation it would not be unreasonable to expect results significantly different from what God would have created.

It seems that every “free living” species in the world today has at least a couple (and often dozens or hundreds) of parasitic species that live on or in it… and many of those parasites are parasitized themselves such that there can be several levels of parasites parasitizing other parasites. Not only are they the most plentiful creatures on earth but they cause an incalculable amount of suffering and death. What’s more is that they have some of the most intricate life cycles imaginable. Many parasites require development in two, three or even four different hosts often requiring unlikely events to pass from one stage of development to the next before they reach maturity.

One notable parasite, the lancet liver fluke, begins development only when eaten by a snail. Later, the young parasites are left behind the snail in its trail of slime as a little ball of mucus filled with juvenile parasites. To continue development this ball of slime must be eaten by an ant at which point one or two of the juveniles migrate to the brain where they alter the ants’ behavior while the others continue development in the ant. The altered behavior of the ant causes it to climb to the top of a plant during the night and hold on tightly with its jaws instead of going back to its colony. This allows it to be accidentally eaten by a browsing animal where the parasites complete development and pass their eggs on to start a new generation.

Another example is Trichenella spiralis (the cause of trichinosis) which can only pass to the next host when the flesh of an infected animal is eaten after which point the parasites invade cells in the new host and, much like a virus, hijack host cells causing them to do nothing but aid in the proliferation of more parasites.

Although it could be argued that some parasites may have originally been beneficial symbiotic organisms, much like some of the bacteria in our digestive tract. Many parasites, including the ones mentioned above, must have evolved not only their pathogenicity, but also their life cycle after sin entered the world. These evolutionary steps are larger than those I would have previously condoned (such as a fox learning to eat squirrels in addition to strawberries). Yet, due to the direction of changes that have been made away from their state in the Garden of Eden towards a more misery-causing state, I think I may know the culprit of what seems to be a significant amount of change.

Note: I am not suggesting that I know the degree to which any form of evolution has occurred in the history of our earth nor whether or not some change (gradual or otherwise) would have happened in the absence of sin – the thoughts above are merely some ideas of how it “may have been”

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Inspired by Christy's post and the increased talk of personalities after many of the staff took the test here at camp I took the test last night and determined that I am in fact what I thought I was (an ISTJ). Kristin had evidently just been telling Bekah that I had a "strong personality"... which could be shown by my exceptionally high scores (see Christy's post for the scores of a more well rounded person). I am still not sure that I am quite as strong a "J" as this test indicates but the rest seem pretty reasonable.

The scores (out of 20)

Extrovert: 3
Introvert: 17
Sensate: 19
Intuitive: 6
Thinker: 20
Feeler: 5
Judging: 18
Percieving: 6

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Forbidden Nectar

Notice the fly that has been trapped

One of these damselflies was still struggling to get free. The other, although still alive, had given up hope

On our last day off I spent quite some time examining, taking pictures of, and lecturing my fellow day offers about a couple types of plants we found abundantly along our route. Both are carnivorous plants which "eat" insects to get the nitrogen they need in the acidic environments where they grow. The first being the pitcher plant which has urn-shaped leaves with downward pointing spikes on them and a sweet smelling juice in the bottom that digests whatever unlucky creature falls into it. The second (pictured above), is the sundew (in the same family as the Venus flytrap). These plants have sweet smelling and extremely sticky glands on the ends of hairs on the plant. When an insect touches one hair the other hairs begin to move towards the prey so that another, and then another contact is made by the plant thus holding its prey more and more firmly while preparing for it's meal.

The devil has many temptations that may seem quite attractive... but if we hold on to one "cherished sin" there are other sticky tendrils that begin to move toward us - other temptations that take advantage of our vulnerability and quickly entangle us in a much worse trap that we could have imagined would result from that "cherished sin".

Unlike the flies in our story, however, we do have a way to escape...

"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation". (Hebrews 9:28)

The Son of God, Creator of the universe, came to this earth and died to give me the choice to escape the sticky snares of the devil.

Will you allow him to free you from sin as well?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Breaks From Camp

The view from Big Slide towards the Great Range

The view from Ampersand

...More adventures to follow as the summer wears on!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day Without a Camera

This May I have been taking two classes, a Botany class and an Entomology class, both of which require a lot of field work. I am often let go at noon with the requirement that, besides a lunch break, I need to spend the rest of the afternoon roaming the fields, woods, streams and bogs in search of specimens to bring back, preserve, and identify. Usually when I have gone out I've brought my camera with me since I never know what I might see... but so far haven't taken too many pictures. Today I figured I could do without its bulk and left it behind which turned out to be a mistake. I got within five feet of a baby woodchuck and even closer to a baby rabbit. I caught two snapping turtles one of which could have made the average dinner plate disappear underneath it and easily weighed 15 pounds. I also caught a snake and saw two really neat tree frogs.

Next time I think I'll bring the camera because I seemed to get more interesting insects when I had it (even if I didn't see as much other cool stuff - my grade doesn't depend on what pictures I take).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Weekend Jaunt

Caving buddies

Better light reveals the filth in our lives

We were able to make the trip home in about a third of the time it took to get down to SAU... you can see in the picture below, which I took on our way back up, there were no traffic jams on the highway to slow us down.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jokes From the Last Day of Class

Q: What do you call a tooth in a glass of water?

A: A 1 molar solution

Q: What is the common name for CH2O? Hint: it is not formaldehyde.

A: Seawater (C-water)

Q: What would one call a test tube with a college degree?

A: A graduated cylinder

Q: How would you name the following compound?

A: Orthodox

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009


The other day I was giving someone a ride to work and, although I thought I had an idea as to the general area where we were headed, I was confirming my directions with him as we went. At one point, on a farm road going into the orchards, there was a “V” in front of us where our road split into two roads each branching slightly off the original trajectory.

Approaching the “V” at a decent speed I casually asked to confirm that we wanted to go left. To this inquiry my companion quickly replied with a twinge of alarm in his thick Russian accent, “No! Straight!”. With his “No” registering in my brain first, I began breaking and turning onto the other branch at which point he again emphasized with even more alarm “Straight! Straight!”

Thinking about the miscommunication as I proceeded to school, I realized that both of us had said some rather foolish things that seemed quite clear to ourselves. In asking if we should turn left, I had no intentions of steering my car into the fence that was directly to our left and I am quite confident that he wasn’t asking me to drive straight into the boulder marking the middle of the “V” for which we were aimed. Yet in my mind the idea of taking the left branch (as opposed to the right branch) made perfect sense. Likewise with him, as the road we wanted was nearly straight in front of us.

If we can misunderstand each other concerning something that is directly in front of both parties involved, and there are only two real options, how are we supposed to communicate concerning more complicated things?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Travelling Mercies

My plan had been to check my transmission fluid at the first stop for gas but with smoke coming from behind my car and no response at all from my transmission (silly automatic thing that never should have been invented) I had reason to check sooner.

When I coasted into a providentially placed rest area and opened my hood there were smoking puddles of ATF (automatic transmission fluid) on the engine and everything under the hood was drenched. I began contemplating whether it would be wiser to replace the transmission or go shopping for a southern (salt free) vehicle and praying that neither would be necessary.

I quickly located the problem: I’d had a leak fixed last fall and the mechanic who did the work had not done a good job. A hose carrying transmission fluid to the radiator had enough slack that it could wear against the fan. When it wore through, it sprayed its contents all across the inside of the engine compartment and left the transmission without enough fluid to perform.

The wear was in such a place that, within minutes I was able to cut off the damaged part of the hose and clamp it back again with the only side effect being that it was adjusted properly away from the fan (hopefully).

The security guard at the rest area alerted one of the hostesses to my plight and she offered to go get me some ATF if I sent her with some money. I had one quart with me and with two quarts from her the level of ATF came above the bottom of the dipstick. I thanked the security guard and hostess profusely and proceeded to see if I still had a transmission. The transmission worked without any signs of damage and got me a few tentative miles to a car wash where $3 of soap and water on the inside of the engine compartment seemed a wise investment against flames blocking my visibility farther down the highway. I then purchased three more quarts, two of which brought the level above the “add 1 pt.” line. I was finally able to proceed on my way praising the amazing God I serve who saves a college student the cost of a new transmission.

Snapshots of Winter

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Birth of a Condenser

These are pictures I took a while ago and have only now had a chance to upload, perhaps later I can take, and upload some pictures of bead and marble making.

The first step in making a condenser is to make a test tube; this is done by heating the center of a tube and, with a slight amount of pulling to keep uniform wall thickness, allow the tube to close off and then pull it apart to make two test tubes.

Each of these needs to be heated again and have gentle air pressure from within to round off their bottoms

Next, we put a smaller tube up inside and support it with what the instructor says is a poor substitute for asbestos.

After sealing the smaller tube to the bottom of our "test tube" we blow a hole out the end of it and join another small tube on, a second bubble is blown in the wall of what is now becoming the condenser to join a water inlet on. These steps are then repeated on the other end to complete the condenser. Pictured below is the fourth and final bubble blown in preparation for fusing on the water outlet.

The final product could be used in reflux or distillation reactions where water would flow through the horizontal tubes thus cooling, but not mixing with, whatever is in the center tube... however this particular one will never achieve this lofty goal. It has already been discarded in the scrap barrel since I would be lucky to get a B- for it and I'd already made one that was much better.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Notes on Snow and Snowplowing

This post was inspired by Katie's post involving snow plowing

There are people who think they can drive in the snow but can't.

There are people who can't drive in the snow but do.

There are people who can't drive in the snow and leave their car all winter in "No Overnight Parking" or other inconvenient places.

There are people who will race to make their turn behind a dump truck that is backing up.

There are people who save themselves some shoveling by not pulling their car all the way into its parking space and thus giving their neighbors much more snow to shovel from behind their cars before getting out (not to mention the visions conjured up by the plow driver of what their car might look like on top of a snowbank).

When clearing parking spaces there are considerate people who, once you have finished in one AREA will move their cars there so you can clean the spots they had previously occupied.

There are other people who will wait in the middle of the road for 15 minutes until you get to a particular spot at which point they will park there even if the spot next to it or across from it is not yet clean (thus giving less space with which to work on them).

There are still others who, when you are clearing parking spots in one area, will come and (after you have stopped, slowed your engine, and opened your window) ask you to clear their parking spot a quarter mile away - and the high speed mode doesn't work on the skidsteer we usually use for the job.

There are people who find great pleasure in driving through windrows so that you have to re plow in that area.

Some people go running down the middle of the road on blind corners when is still dark in the morning - and our salt spreader truck needs to be driven fast or it puts too much salt down.

When moving snow there are little kids who will return to a particular pile of snow over and over again after you get down from the backhoe and explain to them that it is too dangerous for them to play there while you are working and that there are a dozen other piles nearby that are just as big.

There are people on the sidewalks with headphones on so loud they can't hear a screaming skidsteer engine when you come up behind them and thus continue their leisurely stroll down the center of the sidewalk.

There are people who park their cars on the outside of tight turns (that need to be made with a long truck).

People may make us laugh or irritate us (it depends as much on how many mornings in a row we've gotten up at half past two as it does on what exactly they do) but since we use heavy trucks, and machinery they are rarely dangerous. Curbs, on the other hand are a serious occupational hazard. It seems as though all the plow drivers have hit curbs and in only one story (involving a very heavy tractor that we don't normally use) is the curb the one that breaks. My most intimate experience with one of these friendly pieces of concrete was no worse than a bad punch to the stomach when I ran into it with the bucket of our skidsteer (the laws on conservation of momentum doing their job quite well). Other stories typically involve bloody noses and there is potential for much worse.

All the same I enjoy my time in the plow truck, salt spreader, backhoe, and skidsteer immensely - I hope to get pictures of them to share... sometime.