Animals that are not closely related can display very similar characteristics. Evolutionary scientists say that these similar traits demonstrate “convergent evolution.”
According to Darwinian evolution, all life forms can trace their heritage to a common ancestor. From that first life form, branches diverged to form a tree of life. At some point, those branches diverge again. When two life forms develop a similar characteristic that their last common ancestor did not have, that is convergent evolution. There are many examples, such as dolphins and bats. Both use echolocation for navigating or finding food, but they cannot be closely related.
Animals that can fly include insects, birds, and mammals such as bats. Nobody claims that these creatures are closely related. However, they all use aerodynamic principles and wings to defy gravity. We see similar mouthparts in animals that suck blood, such as mosquitos and fleas. Both are insects but not closely related. We can say the same for insects that suck nectar from flowers, such as bees and butterflies.
Many plants produce edible fruits to encourage animals to scatter their seeds. That includes tomatoes, apples, and raspberries – which are not related. We find similar types of eyes in very dissimilar animals. Birds, butterflies, and even some plants use structural coloration, even though they are unrelated and live in very different ecosystems.
According to evolutionary scientists, one of the most dramatic examples of convergent evolution is found in thousands of plants that use ants to disperse their seeds. The plants attach “food bodies” called elaiosomes to their seeds. The elaiosomes are rich in nutrients to attract ants. The ants carry the seeds to their colonies, where they eat the elaiosomes and discard the seeds. How did over 11,000 plant species develop this technique more than 100 times independently? Evolutionists call it convergent evolution. Could it perhaps be evidence for design in plants?
Evolutionary scientists often give pat answers to explain how various species evolved the same traits independently. However, they say that all of these and many more examples of similarities in unrelated animals show convergent evolution. In other words, evolution is intelligent and uses the same ideas in various species. Or we could say that an intelligent Creator has used the same creative ideas in multiple species. Which is the best explanation? Evidence for design in living things calls for a Designer of life.
This week, we have talked about the fascinating world of insects. My least favorite insects are mosquitoes. However, we have pointed out that mosquitoes perform valuable functions. Common flies are probably the second least favorite on my list, but even those flies have a purpose.
Of course, there must be some way to control insect populations, especially mosquitoes and flies. Humans create pesticides to manage them, but that doesn’t work very well. Insects evolve resistance to pesticides, and those pest-killing chemicals also kill helpful insects and cause harm to the birds and animals that eat them. Natural insect control by birds, bats, and even insects is safer and often more effective.
We can fear insects (entomophobia) or hate them, but we might as well love them because the fascinating world of insects is part of life on Earth. Thank God that we have insects to provide food for birds and other animals while pollinating the plants that provide food for us. Here is a final thought about “bugs.”
Insects can be beautiful. Today we want to consider a family of insects with about 180,000 described species. They include many of the most beautiful insects on Earth. They are in the Lepidoptera order, and we call them butterflies and moths.
Before they become butterflies and moths, these insects go through a larval stage as caterpillars.
When the caterpillar has eaten its fill of nutrients from its favorite plant, it goes into a pupal stage and through a complete metamorphosis to become a butterfly or a moth. It is one of the most amazing transformations in nature.
The English word “metamorphosis” is from a Greek word meaning “transformation.” So the caterpillar goes through a dramatic change in form and lifestyle. That word is used in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2 to describe the “transfiguration” of Jesus Christ on the mountain where He met with Moses and Elijah. Paul used the word in Romans 12:2, where he describes the “renewing of your mind” to live a beautiful life according to the will of God.
There is much more to say about beautiful insects, but we will conclude our review of these fascinating creatures tomorrow.
Many people fear insects, but those little critters are essential for life on Earth. Although they can be pests, insects perform valuable services, from pollinating the plants that supply our food to removing dead animal carcasses and waste. Yesterday, we looked at mosquitoes and ants. Today we consider the largest insect family – beetles.
We said that even though an estimated 20,000 ant species live almost everywhere on Earth, they are not the largest insect family. Beetle species make up more than one-third of the nearly one million scientifically identified species of insects worldwide. Here are some of the things we have written about beetles.
Someone said God must love beetles because He made so many of them. Although we might think that beetles such as stink bugs are ugly, many are known for their beauty. However, the most beautiful insects are the ones we will examine tomorrow.
The fear of insects is called entomophobia. It’s a phobia affecting nineteen million Americans, making it one of the top fears people have. The insects people most commonly fear are ants, beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and even moths and butterflies. If I selected the insects I dislike the most, they would probably be mosquitoes – at least the female ones. However, we must realize that insects of all varieties are essential for human life, and even mosquitoes serve a useful purpose.
On this website, we have written about insects many times. Instead of having a fear of insects, we would do well to study and learn from them. The following links to some of the insect articles we have posted can help you see that our six-legged friends are fascinating. Let’s start with those dreaded mosquitoes.
Ants and mosquitoes live on every continent except Antarctica. Entomologists estimate there are 20,000 species of ants, but only 13,800 have so far been studied and classified. However, ants don’t hold the record for the largest number of insect species. That honor belongs to another insect family, which we will look at tomorrow.
Trillions of bacteria live in the intestines of every person. Perhaps more disturbing is the suggestion that there are ten times as many bacterial cells in the human body as there are human cells. Remember that bacterial cells are smaller than human cells, but still, that’s a lot. Nobody has actually counted them all, but scientists are certain that the bacterial cells outnumber our body cells. Even though that may sound shocking, the truth is we couldn’t live without them. The collection of microbes inside you is called the microbiome, and it makes food digestion possible and plays an essential role in our immune system.
Every time we eat food, we take in bacteria. Your gut biome acts as the first line of defense in a fully-functional immune response. People often refer to “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria.” That distinction may be misleading because the helpful or harmful ways of those microbes may depend on the circumstances.
Gut bacteria work in the breakdown of carbohydrates. Research indicates that obese people have less diversity in their gut bacteria than lean people have. On the other hand, when gut bacteria digest foods such as eggs and beef, they produce a compound that can boost heart-disease risk. Some germs can make you sick, while others keep you healthy. Sometimes the same bacterial cells in the human body can do either, depending on circumstances.
Helicobacter pylori bacteria are known for causing ulcers in the digestive tract. They are present in the microbiome of half the world’s population. Most people don’t have a problem with stomach ulcers, but it is painful and dangerous for the small number who do. However, researchers have found that the absence of Helicobacter bacteria in the gut may lead to diseases of the esophagus, such as reflux and cancers. Other research has shown that Helicobacter species may help the immune system, even though they may lead to inflammation and ulcers.
So the “good” and “bad” distinction between bacteria may be a false dichotomy. Whether they are beneficial or harmful depends. Bacteria considered “bad” might be neutral or even helpful in certain situations. A person’s health status, stress, diet, and genetics all influence how we react to various bacterial cells in the human body.
Another beneficial use of bacteria could come from research into using them as a medical delivery system to regulate autoimmune diseases. There is a clear answer for those who consider bacteria as all bad and question why God would create them. As science continues to explore the complexity of the system of life, we see God’s wisdom in all of creation.
In 1960 radio astronomer Frank Drake began research to find alien civilizations in deep space by aiming an 85-foot radio telescope at some sun-like stars. He found nothing, but it was the beginning of a program known as SETI – Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The program has continued for 63 years, with many radio telescopes listening for messages from space. Researchers have spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars with zero results. They have detected no deep-space radio signals containing any intelligence – only noise.
Radio signals continuously originate from stars, nebula, and other space objects, but it is all noise. How do the SETI scientists know it’s just noise and not intelligence? Intelligence has a pattern. They may not understand the language, but they can tell language from random noise. They can distinguish random, accidental, chance blips from something created by an intelligent being.
Thus, scientists have confidence that they know the difference between information transmitted by an intelligent being and random noise when listening for messages from space. How about when examining the DNA within living cells? Does the complex pattern of information that creates the blueprint within each living cell show intelligence behind it – or is it random noise? Does it resemble a computer program written by a super-intelligence, or does it display random, accidental chance? If we can tell the difference between intelligence and randomness in space, why can’t we tell the difference in our own bodies? Is the problem that some people want to find signs of intelligence in deep space but don’t want to see it within our cells?
Frank Drake admitted that in 1974 he transmitted an encoded message toward a star cluster 25,000 light-years away in the constellation Hercules. That means the message should reach its target in 25,000 years (minus 49 years). If any intelligent being gets the message and responds immediately, the return message will take 25,000 years. Unfortunately, Drake died in 2022, at age 92, without getting a message back.
Is it possible that there really is an intelligent Being out there listening and waiting to hear from us? Is it possible that Being is not limited by time and space? Is it possible that the Being has already communicated with us by coming to Earth and taking on human form? Is it possible that while spending time and money listening for messages from space, we are not listening to Him?
Discover magazine carried a story titled “Fowls in Love” about two Canada geese nicknamed Arnold and Amelia. Many animals pair up to raise young or for protection. However, evolutionary survival of the fittest fails to explain animals sticking together when one of the pair becomes injured and unable to assist in survival. So do animals fall in love?
The Birdsey Cape Wildlife Center staff in Barnstable, Massachusetts, noticed the male goose limping. He had an open fracture that wouldn’t heal on its own. They caught Arnold and prepared to do surgery to repair his foot. The female goose observed the procedure through the clinic’s sliding glass door. When Arnold awoke from surgery, Amelia was allowed into the room, and she used her beak to preen his feathers. For the next 14 days, Amelia was at the center daily, sharing Arnold’s meals and spending time with him.
After Arnold was released, the staff observed the pair together for two weeks until they left with a passing flock of Canada geese. Do animals fall in love? The article writer concludes that the two geese were in love. The article ends with this statement by the veterinarian who did the surgery, “There has to be some internal motivating force that allows that animal to behave in a particular way, and we call it love – that internal driving force.”
This is a classic example of anthropomorphism, attaching human characteristics to an animal. The biblical concept of love is spelled out uniquely in the New Testament by the Greek word “agape,” meaning to consider the object of one’s attention to be of incredible worth. Jesus used agape in His teachings, and we find it in New Testament references to marriage. Human marriage is not just for survival.
We have numerous geese where we live on the St. Joseph river in Michigan. They are always in pairs, and getting near to one of them or their chicks invites an attack from the mate. Raccoons learn to avoid pairs but will go after an isolated goose or chick. Do animals fall in love, or is there a survival reason?
God has placed an instinctive drive in geese to maximize their chances of survival and success in raising young. The bond between Arnold and Amelia demonstrates how strong the instinctive drive is. It is not the biblical concept of love. When Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies and not resist evil (Matthew 5:38-45), He tells them to do something animals cannot do.
What does it take to enable an octopus to use all eight arms efficiently? Each arm may be in contact with a different substance, and they are soft and pliable, so they can bend and twist in response to whatever stimuli they receive. As a result, each octopus arm moves as if it has its own brain.
Researchers recently discovered that the arms gather data and move independently or with other arms without consulting the octopus’s brain. The octopus has a central brain connected to a nerve ring that connects to each arm. In addition to the arms’ connections to the brain, a nerve connects each arm to another, located two arms away. This arrangement allows each arm to communicate directly with others and with the central brain. The arm’s connections to other arms allow rapid communication to function quickly and efficiently.
Researchers are still studying how the octopus puts all this together to move eight arms in a well-coordinated way. Roger Hanlon, a researcher with the Marine Biological Laboratory, said, “We are in that intriguing ‘mild state of confusion’ that is simultaneously perplexing and exhilarating when unexpected discoveries are revealed.”
God’s design of every form of life is amazing and offers much for science to study and learn. Our understanding of how nerves function and how the brain interprets the signals it receives from the nerves is still in a primitive stage. However, we know that each octopus arm moves as if it has its own brain, making the octopus a very complex and intelligent animal. We see God’s wisdom and creative ability displayed in every form of life.
When I was in high school, a required health course involved a plastic model of the human body with the skin removed and all the organs visible. We named the model “Oscar” and tried to change the arrangement of the organs. We learned that correct internal organ placement is essential, and the heart is on the left.
Getting all the organs into Oscar was difficult because they were hard plastic, and not all organs are symmetrical. We learned that there were reasons for the human body’s design, and the heart is on the left, but we didn’t know why?
We learned there is a reason for the brain to be at the top of the body to avoid a stroke. The pressure in a column of liquid is greater at the bottom than at the top. For that reason, a blood vessel can rupture in our feet but still not be critical to our survival. If our brain were in the lower part of the body, a broken blood vessel would lead to a stroke.
So what determines where our organs are placed? A recent study led by Harvard Medical School researchers gave some answers to that question. In early embryonic development, a cluster of cells called the left-right organizer contains some hair-like structures called motile cilia. They sense the biomechanical forces that shape the body plan. The cilia beat rapidly, moving extracellular fluid in the correct direction to move organs to the proper place to function most efficiently. They are the reason why the heart is on the left side.
Incorrect left-right placement of the internal organs can result in various disorders, including heterotaxy syndrome and primary ciliary dyskinesia. These disorders can cause recurring respiratory infections and congenital heart disease.
In Psalms 139:10-14, David speaks of God’s right hand forming him in the womb. In verse 14, David says, “I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” The more we learn about how our bodies are designed and formed, the more we understand the truth of that statement.