One of the ways people discover new materials and new applications is by learning from the natural world. Scientists have wondered how bugs that live in wet areas avoid water damage and bacterial infections. Researchers are using a fabrication process called nanoimprinting lithography to study the wings of Neotibicen pruinisus, the annual cicada found in the central region of the United States.
Cicada wings are made of a complex pillar-shaped nanostructure that repels water and prevents bacteria from establishing a foothold. New fabrication tools have enabled scientists to produce replicas of the wings and pillars. Entomologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have reported that this work will be beneficial in engineering applications across various subjects–everything from aircraft wings to medical equipment.
We look at what we feel are simple forms of life and fail to realize the complexity of their design. Earth is full of examples like the Cicada. Researchers are learning from the natural world. Everywhere we look, we find a wonder-working hand has gone before to allow life to exist all over the planet.
When God wanted to convince Job of His intelligence, power, and design (Job 38-41), He used astronomical and geologic creations and the design of an assortment of living things. Job responded by saying, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). We must continue learning from the natural world God created because there is still much we don’t know. That is not just true of the material world but also of the spiritual world as well.
The April 16, 2021, issue of The Week magazine (pages 48-49) carried an article about the research of Bruce Greyson, a professor emeritus in psychiatry at the University of Virginia. Dr. Greyson has been collecting hundreds of records of people who have had near-death experiences (NDEs). In 1975, psychiatrist Raymond Moody wrote a best-selling book titled Life After Life. Dr. Greyson has a new book similar to Moody’s simply titled After. It contains a series of case studies of people who have had NDEs.
The article discusses possible explanations of the near-death experiences people have had in terms of brain responses to stress. But the Greyson studies go beyond just trying to find a physical explanation for what people experience. One interesting fact is that people who have had NDEs are changed by the experience. Greyson says that a near-death experience “dramatically transforms people’s attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors.” People lose their fear of dying, they lose their fear of life, and they see a purpose in life they hadn’t seen before.
Greyson says, “I’ve spoken to people who were policemen or career military officers who couldn’t go back to their jobs, couldn’t stand the idea of violence. The idea of hurting someone becomes abhorrent to them. They end up going into helpful professions. They become teachers, or health care workers, or social workers.”
Dr. Greyson ends his article by saying that he grew up without any spiritual background, and he still is not sure of what “spiritual” means. He says that researching near-death experiences for 40 or 50 years convinced him that there is more to life than just our physical bodies. He says he now recognizes that there is a nonphysical part of us, but he is not sure what it is.
Our society has tried to portray humans as just animals. The research that honest seekers like Greyson are doing gives strong support to the fact that what defines us is our soul–that part of us created in the image of God.
We live on the edge of the St. Joseph River in Michigan. By the river and surrounded by woods, I have the joy of observing the wonder of birds in enormous varieties. As I watch geese, swans and ducks take off and land on the river, I am amazed at the way they put their feet out and water ski to a stop. I enjoy seeing them stand on one foot, seemingly asleep with half of their bodies ready to react to any danger.
When our resident bald eagle flies by 100 feet above the water, the ducks turn their heads to track the eagle. The eagle swoops down and picks up a small dead fish which I couldn’t see from 20 feet away. I watch three species of woodpeckers hammer away at the trees on the edge of the river with such force that bark flies in all directions. Still, the design of their skulls lets them do this for hours on end without brain damage.
I watch the finches and nuthatches pick off berries from the poison ivy and eat them in the dead of winter. They never have any problem with the oil that I am allergic to. I watch the hummingbirds come to my feeders and hover for a long time, eating the sugar solution and engaging in territorial combat. I hear the birds singing as they mark their territories, with each species having its own peculiar melody.
As a person trained in physics and chemistry, I am enthralled by the wonder of birds and their widely varied properties. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an ongoing study of the properties and abilities of birds. One area of research is the specialized equipment individual bird species have. The eagle’s eyes are incredible optical tools that give it the ability to see a small fish from 100 feet above the water.
Woodpecker heads show engineering with their shock-absorbing design to prevent brain damage from the constant hammering they use to get bugs. People researching flight techniques study the wing design of hummingbirds which allows them to hover. The design of the bird’s gut prevents the poison ivy oil from lingering long enough to cause a reaction.
All birds have design features that allow them to survive. Their digestive and waste removal systems avoid the use of a bladder. The vascular system with a unique heart design allows the Swainson’s thrush to travel 3000 miles in a single flight with its heart beating 840 times a minute. Darwin showed us that the design of the bird genetics is flexible enough to allow their beaks to vary depending on what diet is available in their environment.
Humans throughout history have depended on birds as a food source. Where would we be in America without chickens and turkeys? God sustained the ancient Israelites with quails, a provision that continues today in that part of the world. In some areas, songbirds are a source of meat even though they are small. For those of us who look for evidence of God’s design in the natural world, birds are an incredible example of how much has to be done to produce an animal that can do what birds do.
The wonder of birds is not reasonably explained by accidental change. We all need to be concerned about the fact that between human exploitation, the removal of resources and habitat by humans, natural climate change, and pollution, the population of birds on our planet is getting smaller and smaller. Since 1970, three billion birds have vanished from the United States. God told us to take care of the world in which He has placed us. Caring for all of God’s creatures, including birds, is everyone’s responsibility.
Someone said that when people don’t believe in something, they will believe anything. As our culture has turned away from God, it has forsaken Christ’s teachings and turned to irrational ideas. New studies show an increase in paranormal beliefs.
There are many contributing causes for the increase in paranormal beliefs, but a part of it is biblical ignorance and rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus urged people to seek and to think. When Thomas had doubts, Jesus showed him the evidence. Biblical miracles always had a purpose in conveying truth. Through the prophets, God warned Israel not to trust magicians, soothsayers, witches, and sorcerers. The law gave lethal consequences for those who persisted in promoting the paranormal.
Chaos in all aspects of American life today results from people believing what they are told without demanding evidence and factual information. It has affected the pandemic, the election, and the racial struggles that are going on throughout this country. Let us urge people not to believe anything just because someone says it is true. We must demand evidence and think!
When I started teaching high school chemistry in 1959, scientists described the starting point for matter as the atom. They knew that atoms are composed of electrons orbiting a nucleus that contains protons and neutrons. Building an atom did not seem so complicated. Nobody thought to ask if the components of the atom were made up of still smaller particles. The theory was that protons, neutrons, and electrons are the starting point for all of chemistry.
Research in the 1950s raised some troubling questions. Particle accelerators smashing particles together at high energies revealed a wide variety of previously unknown subatomic constituents making building an atom more complex.
Since that time, scientists have organized three groups that give a coherent picture of the particles and forces God used in building an atom. One is the quark group. It contains six particles which, when combined, produce a variety of larger particles, including protons and neutrons. There are also six lightweight particles called leptons, which include electrons. The third group comprises force-carrying particles which hold quarks together and account for electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces. The four members of this group are photons, gluons, W bosons, and Z bosons.
This understanding is called “The Standard Model.” Why do we care about all of this? On a practical level, it has led to the whole field of nuclear science. The application of nuclear science can be destructive, as seen in the atomic bomb. It can also offer great uses as an energy source, and it provides a wide range of medical uses. On an apologetic level, this understanding shows the wisdom and design built into every corner of our existence. All of these particles can decay into other things. We still do not understand how gravity fits into this model, but the power and wisdom required to produce the building blocks of matter speak volumes of their Creator.
We now know that ultimately all quarks, leptons, and force particles will dissolve into the energy from which they came. Second Peter 3:10-12 describes this process in vivid detail. Numerous passages like Proverbs 8:22-23 hint at the history of God’s power, energy, wisdom, and design in the creation of the physical cosmos. Building an atom is an incredibly complicated thing to do, and the very existence of matter speaks to the magnificence of God.
What do you think of the Bible? That is a critical issue we all must face. For many people, the Bible is a collection of fairy tales. Those who hold this view say that snakes talking, the globe being flooded, heaven and hell, and a shepherd boy with a sling killing a giant are on the same level as Mother Goose. They may be stories appropriate for children but not for well-educated adults.
For other people, the Bible is a great literary work comparable to the writings of Shakespeare or Edgar Alan Poe. Perhaps they might believe that in a few cases, it has moral lessons embedded in the stories. Many religious leaders view the Bible as CONTAINING the word of God but containing a lot of material that is not God’s will for modern-day people.
The Bible itself claims to be God-breathed, sometimes referred to as plenary inspiration. Passages like 2 Timothy 3:16 and John 1:1 claim that the Bible’s message provides all humans with everything they need for completeness and that the Bible is God’s Word for us today. The implications of this understanding for LGBTQ practices, abortion, and marriage are huge.
What do you think of the Bible? Here are some things that can help resolve whatever conflicts we may have with the Bible:
Examine the words in the original language. Anyone can use a concordance to check out the Greek or Hebrew words to see what they meant. The word translated “giant” in Genesis 6:4, for example, refers to “fallen ones” and refers to moral issues and not super-sized humans. It was not a “whale” that swallowed Jonah. Luke 16:19-31 is a parable and the name Lazarus means “without help.”
Look for historical evidence when considering the integrity of a passage. You can use archaeology, historical documents, and fossil evidence to evaluate the correctness of a statement. Many biblical accounts that skeptics challenged were later found to be supported by the evidence.
Be sure to separate the physical from the spiritual. Humans frequently reduce God to our level. God is not an “old man in the sky.” God created humans in His spiritual image, not His physical image. God is not physical, sexual, or racial. He is not limited in space, nor does He have any needs that revolve around food, time, drink, or politics.
Distinguish miracles from things that are unusual but possible. There are miracles in the Bible which are matters of faith and must either be accepted or rejected. Don’t expect anyone to prove that Lazarus or the widow of Nain’s son rose from the dead. Likewise, nobody can prove that Jesus walked on water or fed 5000 people in a desert place. If the Bible claims that a miracle happened, you can’t conduct an experiment to see if the claim is true. Miracles can’t be repeated or tested.
Do not allow tradition or denominational creeds to replace the Bible. The Bible does not give us the age of the Earth, and there is nothing in the Bible about dinosaurs. A person can die spiritually, and hell is eternal punishment, not eternal punishing.
We have addressed all of these issues repeatedly, and our websites, videos, and printed materials are available. What do you think of the Bible? It is “God-breathed,” but humans must apply common sense and serious study to resolve the challenges of skeptics. We have recently learned the importance of the biblical concept of quarantine, but the Bible speaks of many other practical areas of life. Give some serious thought to what you think about the Bible. Believing and applying it to decisions in your life can bring meaning to how you live and how you die.
There are many things that God has provided that we take for granted, and yet without them, we would not be able to live on planet Earth. One example is the common bee. The Earthjustice organization has been involved in trying to stop the killing of bees, and they gave some interesting statistics.
Bees fly an average of 55,000 miles (88,000 km) to produce one pound of honey. They can see colors that humans can’t see, and they communicate by dancing. Very importantly, it’s hard to realize that one-third of our food crops are dependent on bees. It takes 60,000 bees to pollinate one acre of an orchard, and without bees, we would have no almonds, apples, apricots, squash, and many other fruits and vegetables. An average hive contains about 30,000 bees.
One problem is that every year farmers apply over 5.6 billion pounds of pesticides to our country’s crops, and that is a factor in the decline of the bee population. The current alarm over the drop in the bee population is an excellent time to remember that God provided bees, not just for honey. They also sustain the food crops we need. That is why we must stop the killing of bees.
The Spring 2021 issue of God and Nature published an article by Angie Cornwell about the “God Positioning System.” During World War I, a homing pigeon saved the lives of almost 200 American men by carrying a message 25 miles despite being bombarded with gunfire. People have used homing pigeons for thousands of years to carry messages in all kinds of terrain, all kinds of weather, and in unfamiliar territory. Studies of how homing pigeons do this have concluded that they use at least five different systems. If one method doesn’t work, they use a different one. One technique is visual, using familiar landmarks. A second involves the use of environmental odors. A third system consists of using Earth’s magnetic field. A fourth system uses infrasonic (low frequency) signals, and a fifth system uses information stored in the pigeon’s brain.
Humans have a difficult time learning how to navigate in unfamiliar environments. For most of my life, I have relied on maps, but they are hard to use. You have to know where you are on the map, and folds in the map can cause misinformation. The invention of the global positioning system (GPS) has eliminated the weaknesses of maps. When in our human arrogance, we think we have a better way than the GPS has advised, causing us to get lost, the GPS will jump back in and guide us back to where we wanted to go.
Christians have a special GPS which Angie Cornwell has called the God positioning system. There are many similarities to the global position system. The God positioning system finds us wherever we are in life and directs us to where we need to go. When our arrogance causes us to choose a destructive path, we can turn back to the God positioning system to find our way.
God, in His mercy, has given us the ultimate navigational system to find our way back to Him. He has given us His Word to follow and His Holy Spirit to guide us. The global positioning system uses three satellites to triangulate our position. God the Father, Jesus Christ, His Son, and the Holy Spirit can pinpoint our spiritual condition and navigate us toward our eternal home. We never have to be desperately lost or alone. We don’t have to struggle to figure out where we are and how to get where we need to be.
Science hasn’t completely figured out all of the things that allow homing pigeons to navigate, and our human wisdom does not allow us to comprehend how the God positioning system works. The good news is that we don’t have to understand either one to take advantage of all they do for us.
Skeptics often claim that the Old Testament accounts of God providing for Israel are a bunch of silly fairy tales. One target is the way God sustained the Israelites in their journey from Egypt to the promised land. Two weeks ago, we posted about God supplying manna. Another area of interest is the wind bringing quails in massive numbers into the camp of the people (Exodus 16:12-13 and Numbers 11:31-32).
The Middle East Eye website carries an article titled “Quail Season Brings Rare Treat for Meat-Starved Gazans.” It tells of a regular migration of quails from Europe to the Middle East. If the wind is blowing against the migration, the birds become exhausted and land on the Gaza shore, where people capture them in nets to provide a source of badly needed protein. The point is that there is a natural way in which quails can provide food for a nation of people even today.
God provides for His people in two ways. One is by miraculous acts that are not natural and which require a direct act of God. These are rare, but they do happen. Jesus did things that have no natural explanation, and their purpose was to verify that Jesus was the Son of God. One of my favorite gospel songs is a song by the Booth Brothers titled “Ask the Blind Man, He Saw it all.” That kind of event does not have natural explanations.
However, far more common are situations like this one where we see God using natural forces to provide for the needs of His people. This action is no less significant because the timing met a specific need for the Israelites. God could have provided quails for food by any method He chose, but seeing the wind bringing quails to Gaza today offers strong support for God acting through natural processes in the biblical account.
One of the things affecting the abortion debate is that most people on both sides of the issue don’t know much about the procedure. A group called Created Equal has initiated an interesting new approach. They show a video of an abortion on a giant screen in public.
Created Equal sets up a JumboTron TV in an area where there are protests against those advocating a pro-life position. Many abortionists seem to feel that a fetus is a meaningless blob, and seeing an actual abortion makes that belief impossible. Created Equal said that when they used the JumboTron TV video at the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., “at least one pro-abortion protester changed her mind.”
Created Equal has also used the JumboTron to show a video of an abortion on a giant screen on college campuses. Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League said, “Admittedly the images are shocking as they can be, but absolutely necessary for all pro-lifers (and the pro-aborts standing around) to see.”
In their promotion letter, Created Equal says, “No one with a heart…no one with a shred of human decency can witness this gory display and walk away unaffected.” You can find out more about this approach on their website at THIS LINK.