Look around the world of living things, and you will see a system that has been carefully designed. Not only the system, but the individual life-forms could not exist without careful engineering. Countless problems had to be anticipated and solved in the creation process, and one of those involves butterfly wings and rain.
One of my favorite memories of my wife Phyllis, before she passed away, was the last trip, which included a visit to a butterfly house. I went through the screened-in house in 20 minutes and waited outside for Phyllis to join me. After waiting for what seemed like a long time, I went back in to find her. She was sitting on a large rock, literally covered with butterflies. As they fluttered around, they kept landing on her. An attendant came up to me and asked me if my wife was diabetic. When I said she was, the attendant said, “That explains it. Her blood sugar must be high.” Later my wife described the sensation of delicate wings dancing all over her head and arms. She was afraid to move for fear of injuring those delicate wings.
That raised the question in my mind about butterfly wings and rain. How could something so delicate survive a heavy rainstorm? Recently, Cornell University posted an article addressing that question. Butterfly wings have tiny bumps that break up incoming drops of water into small droplets that don’t damage the wings. In addition to that, the wings have a water-resistant wax coating, so the droplets slide off, making the wings essentially dry, even in the rain.
Similar features to what we see in the design of butterfly wings also occur in other living things such as plant leaves and feathers. Those features must have been present from the very beginning of the existence of those life-forms. Otherwise, they would never have survived to produce offspring and pass on the genetic information.
Romans 1:20 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The design of butterfly wings and rain is one more example of how we can build our faith as we see God’s creative wisdom.
An amazing fact is that the creation is designed for continually spreading life throughout the Earth. That isn’t always a good thing for humans.
Several years ago, a friend of mine built a large pond on his farm. He planned to stock the pond with desirable fish, avoiding carp and sunfish, which he considered to be trash fish. He stocked it with largemouth bass, and some minnows used as food for the bass. Later, when I was visiting him, I decided to do a little fishing in his pond. The first fish I caught was a large carp, and a whole school of sunfish converged on a grasshopper or worm I used as bait.
My friend was horrified and promptly wanted to accuse an enemy of putting trash fish in his pond. I noticed a great blue heron wading through the shallows of the pond picking off minnows, and immediately I knew how the sunfish got there. Herons wade through areas where fish have built nests of eggs during their spawn. The eggs are sticky and adhere to the Heron’s legs. When the Heron goes to another pond, it carries the fish eggs along.
Recent research has discovered another way in which fish are designed to spread from place to place. A study in Hungary has shown that some fish eggs can pass through the digestive system of a duck, and a small percentage of the eggs have baby fish still alive inside.
The wisdom of this system in the natural world is apparent. A new body of water will usually be sterile. To get a functional ecological system going, the bottom of the food chain must be established quickly. Birds are facilitators in getting a fish population in operation, and now we know of at least two ways they do it.
The implications for humans are significant. Biologists trying to keep a species of carp out of the Great Lakes have a huge problem. The design of fish and birds makes it almost impossible to keep any fish population isolated. God has created many designs for spreading life throughout the Earth, even into sterile places.
It is interesting how difficult it seems to be for humans to practice social distancing to control disease. Scientific American published an article about social distancing in animals. Disease control is a basic need for all animals, but only humans create vaccines. So how do animals in the wild prevent the spread of disease?
Research on spiny lobsters shows that lobsters infected with a virus called Panulirus argus give off a smell in their urine that causes other lobsters to leave the area. Because of the economic value of lobster populations, much research has gone into understanding how this social distancing works.
A particular fungus spreads its spores by physical contact between ants. Other ants keep infected ants away from the colony and especially away from the queen and the nurse ants that take care of the brood to protect the ant population from the threat. Researchers have discovered social distancing in animals such as finches, guppies, mandrills, and mongooses. They all have procedures to isolate infected individuals and prevent the spread of disease.
Interestingly, God’s design for life includes social distancing in animals to stop viruses and fungi from spreading among their populations. Humans should not only be concerned about distancing from infected humans, but also from those animals that can spread diseases that affect humans. Trying to have animal pets that can carry diseases that threaten humans seems to be something we should all reconsider.
There is an interesting relationship between anemones and clownfish. If you have had the joy of snorkeling in undeveloped areas, you may have had the unpleasant experience of bumping into one of some 800 species of anemones. Their tentacles contain toxin-filled capsules called nematocysts that fire stingers at anything that touches them. I can tell you from personal experience that it is extremely painful.
I finally learned to stay away from the anemones and just look at them. I saw that some fish died when they touched the tentacles. Interestingly, other fish, shrimp, and crabs lived among the tentacles and seemed unaffected by their stings. The very colorful clownfish lives right in the middle of the tentacles and appears to be immune to the anemone’s poison. Spider crabs and shrimp live at the base of the anemones. Crabs carry around baby anemones using them as defensive weapons. Even a baby anemone could deliver a nasty sting to my finger.
The clownfish seem to have the greatest skill for avoiding the anemone stings. When the clownfish is threatened, it will dive into the anemone tentacles for protection. The anemones eat algae remains that float in the water, and also small fish, sea urchins, shrimp, and some crabs. The clownfish benefit the anemones by removing parasites from them while the anemones provide the clownfish protection from predators.
So how do the clownfish avoid being stung by the anemones? They secrete a very thick mucus that does not trigger a response from the nematocysts. The clownfish can be all over the anemones and not get stung. Scientists are studying the mucus of the clownfish because it has potential uses for humans. The mucus is an anticoagulant and disrupts the gill function in sharks, making it an excellent shark repellent. Some researchers believe that the clownfish gets the mucus from the anemones, but other research studies show that the clownfish has a gene that produces the mucus. Research continues in the study of anemones and clownfish.
Science has a lot of data without a clear answer to how anemones and clownfish live in such a well-orchestrated symbiotic relationship. It would appear that the design of this symbiosis, like many others, is a product of God’s design and is not naturally acquired.
Many times we see animal behavior that seems impossible to explain. We see an interesting example of that in wading shorebirds called phalaropes. These birds can get food that is too deep in the water for them to reach.
Instead of the typical methods used by shorebirds to capture their food, phalaropes take a different approach. They spin around and around in one place at the breakneck speed of one complete rotation a second. They kick seven to eight times on each spin and move their heads to where they can quickly snap up food. Researchers have found that these birds can detect prey, thrust and seize with their bills, transport and swallow the prey, and do it all in half-a-second.
Own Olbricht sent us this summary of what your body does in a day. We thought it was worth considering the fantastic abilities of the bodies God has given us.
*Every day your heart pumps approximately 2,000 gallons of blood through its chambers. *On average, your lungs take in 17,000 breaths a day with a typical lung capacity of roughly six quarts of air. *Your brain processes over 50,000 thoughts a day – 35-48 thoughts per minute. *Your stomach lining has cells which produce an alkaline substance every few milliseconds to neutralize stomach acid. The stomach would dissolve itself without its lining. *Your eyes blink 28,000 times a day, with each blink lasting 1/10th of a second. *Your body’s energy system expels enough heat to light twenty-five 100-watt light bulbs every day. *Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and you shed a million skin cells every day. *Your hair grows a millimeter a day. The average adult’s full head of hair consists of 100,000 strands. *Your liver filters 1.53 quarts of blood every minute, and every day it produces a quart of bile to help digest food. *Glands in your mouth produce more than a quart of saliva every day. *Every minute your kidneys filter 2.2 pints of blood or 3168 pints per day. They expel 2.5 pints of urine every day. *The average person will eat over 50 tons of food in a lifetime.
What your body does in a day is an excellent testimony to God’s wisdom, intelligence, power, and design.
We mentioned yesterday that plants use scents to attract friendly and helpful insects and animals. They also use fragrances to protect against unfriendly visitors. Seemingly passive plants have secret weapons against insect invasions. We call it chemical warfare in the plant world.
A good example is the lima bean. Spider mites attack lima bean plants, but other predatory mites eat spider mites. When spider mites attack a lima bean plant, it floods the area with a chemical signal that attracts the predatory mites. This chemical odor also causes other lima bean plants to emit the same chemical. When the spider mites are gone, the plants stop secreting the chemical.
Some plants, such as tobacco and corn, protect themselves from destructive caterpillars by sending off a signal to attract wasps. Research has shown that plants customize the signal to attract a particular species of wasp. The wasps can tell the difference between the chemical signal of plants attacked by tobacco budworms and corn earworms, and different chemicals attract a different wasp species. So far, cotton, corn, and beets have been shown to have different emissions as they call for protection.
We previously mentioned wasps that kill and eat the caterpillars of certain butterflies. In that instance, ants have a symbiotic relationship with the caterpillars to protect them from the wasps in exchange for food. The U. S. Department of Agriculture is looking to find ways to cause one insect to combat another. This research is necessary because it can help us find ways to protect crops.
Chemical warfare in the plant world shows that God has equipped plants to protect themselves against different insect scourges. Because of that, we can survive on a planet where insectshopelessly outnumber us. The design that the Creator put into living systems is truly amazing.
Plants have a unique problem that animals don’t have. That problem is a lack of mobility. Since plants are unable to move, they manufacture chemical toxins to kill bacteria, alkaloids to ward off herbivores, and sweetness or color to draw in pollinators and animals that will disperse their seeds. They use plant chemistry for survival.
Crocus and gardenia flowers produce a chemical compound known as crocin. It gives the color to the gardenia’s red-orange fruit. Crocin is also the chemical that gives the stigmas of saffron flowers, commonly called “threads,” their bright hue. Researchers at the University of Buffalo have sequenced the genome of the gardenia and examined how it makes crocin. By duplicating those processes, they have produced crocin in the lab and made it available for use in medical and nutritional applications. Crocin has antioxidant properties and may help in the suppression of cancer cells. The plants use crocin to attract pollinators, and we use it for medical purposes.
Research shows that plants get the power to produce a whole arsenal of genetic tools to help them survive by a process called tandem gene duplication. Dr. Victor Albert, a co-author of a study published on BMC Biology, says that plants can duplicate some parts of their genetic toolkit and tinker with the functions.
Many of the processes and tools we have came from studying the design built into the living things around us. That is why the writer of Romans 1:20 says, “..the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…” The chemistry seen in the botanical world is an excellent demonstration of the wisdom of their design.
There is much more to God’s amazing design in the plant world. Tomorrow, we will bring you more on plant chemistry for survival.
The dominant theory for the origin of the planets in our solar system assumes that they all evolved from a single mass or nebula. Several factors support that idea. Those factors include the fact that the planets lie roughly in one plane, that they all revolve around the Sun in the same direction, and that there is mathematical predictability to their location. Most of the irregularities that might indicate against a common source, such as variations in planetary tilt, have reasonable explanations. However, new planetary atmosphere variations are difficult to explain.
Recent studies of the atmospheres of the terrestrial planets have shown wide variations. Our atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen, but nitrogen on Venus is 4%, and on Mars, it is 2.7%. Both Mars and Venus have atmospheres that are 95% carbon dioxide, while Earth is 0.1%, and Mercury has none. Earth and Mercury have oxygen in their atmospheres, 21% and 42% respectively, but Venus and Mars have less than 1%. Astronomers theorize that they can explain these planetary atmosphere variations. They suggest that the atmospheres are not original to the planets, but were produced by processes that took place after the formation of the planets. The best guess now is that impacts and outgassing formed the atmospheres. This is not a trivial matter because life is not possible without the proper combination of atmospheric gases.
The Genesis account describes the production of Earth’s structure in a sequence. Genesis 1:6-9 indicates separate creations of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere. The new data support the idea that once Earth was created, continued activity prepared it for life. Once again, we find the scientific evidence in support of the Bible’s description.
On this website, we often talk about design in living things. Everyone sees design in the world around us. It’s impossible not to see design. Even the leading atheist biologist Richard Dawkins said that biology is the study of things that appear to be designed for a purpose. However, he believes they only appear to be designed because he knows that design requires a designer. The trick is to pretend that it is not design but merely a pattern produced by natural selection acting on random chance mutations.
Our study of design is not the ancient god-of-the-gaps concept where we say, “I don’t know how this happened, so there must be a god who did it.” Instead, we consider the evidence for the possibility of these “designs” happening by pure chance. Is chance or intelligence a better explanation for what we see in living things? Can the features we observe be explained more effectively by natural selection acting on random mutations; or by intelligent design? Which alternative has greater explanatory power and is, therefore, more plausible? Can you say with confidence that living things were not designed for a purpose?
Every day, we see machines and devices created by human intelligence. We marvel at the complexity of such things as computers, automobiles, or vehicles for space travel. The intricate design of living things, including humans, is far greater than any of those human-designed devices. Do we ever question whether the human inventions came together by accident? But some would say, “Those things are not alive, and therefore they can’t design themselves. Living things can change on their own through natural selection.”
That brings up the question of where did the first living thing come from? It came from non-living matter. How did that lifeless material assemble itself into something as complex as a living cell that could take in nourishment and reproduce? Where did the information in the DNA come from? Random text can’t assemble itself into intelligent language, and the DNA contains a language so complex that it took modern computers to decipher it. What intelligence wrote the code within the DNA of each plant and animal, giving them the ability to change and adapt to stay alive?
We see random patterns in clouds, or sand, or waves blown by the wind. We see patterns of sunlight on the forest floor as it shines through the tree leaves. Those things are random. Though they may be beautiful, they are not examples of design. When we see the biological systems working within a living animal or plant or study biomes and ecosystems working in harmony to make life possible, we observe more than a chance pattern. We are beholding something that was designed for a purpose by an intelligent Designer.
Bringing it closer to home—that means an intelligent Designer designed YOU for a purpose.