Why Don’t Birds Have Ears?

Why Dont Birds Have Ears?
Someone asked, “Why don’t birds have ears?” Actually, birds do have ears. What they don’t have is what biologists call “auricles” and zoologists call “pinnas.” Those are the things that stick out from the heads of people and most mammals and that we usually call “ears.”

The most critical ear parts are not outside but inside the head. Birds have those parts. Most birds have excellent hearing in spite of not having visible “ears.” The ear openings are not visible because they’re covered with feathers. The feathers are often designed to channel the sounds into the ear canal, just as our auricles are.

Parrots have such good hearing that before the invention of radar they were used to detect the engine hum of distant enemy airplanes. They would squawk a warning of danger. Migrating birds use sounds along with other clues to find their destination. Homing pigeons listen for sounds to help guide them to their familiar roost.

Another design factor to consider is wind resistance. What would happen if birds had ears that stuck out from their heads? It would slow them down in flight. Also, consider the noise you hear when facing into the wind on a blustery day. Without the pinnas, birds don’t pick up so much wind noise when they’re flying.

So now you know the answer if someone asks, “Why don’t birds have ears?” Don’t worry about not seeing ears poking out from a bird’s head. It’s just another indication of good design by the Master Designer of life.
–Roland Earnst ©2019

Creativity, Worship, and Thankfulness

Creativity, Worship, and Thankfulness
Three the things which separate humans from our animal friends are creativity, worship, and thankfulness. Humans, created in the image of God, display that image in our own creativity. We express creativity in various artistic and productive ways. One important area of human creativity is music. Birds sing, but all individuals of any species of bird sing the same song, and they have for as long as we have known that species. They are singing the song they were programmed to sing. The only exceptions are a few birds that imitate various sounds or imitate the songs of other birds. Imitation is not creativity. Humans sing and play, many different styles of music, and we are constantly creating new songs. We even combine worship with our creativity in music as we sing to honor God. Music moves us, excites us, and touches us deeply, making it a natural outlet for worship.

Thankfulness is another area that separates us from the animals. A couple of years ago, my wife and I were leaving a sandwich shop where we ate lunch. An elderly woman with a smile on her face came up to our car window holding a sandwich. I rolled down the window to see what she wanted, and she said, “Are you the ones who paid for my sandwich?” She said the employee in the store told her that a person ahead of her had paid, so she didn’t owe anything. I told her that I was glad for her, but we were not the ones who had done this generous act. As she went away, it was evident that the small kindness had made her day, but she was disappointed that she didn’t get to thank her benefactor.

There is something about humans that makes us want to express gratitude. Our pets are loyal to us because we feed them, and they get excited when they see us open the food container. But only humans are motivated to express true gratitude. We often show thankfulness toward each other, but our greatest debt of gratitude is to God. G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “the worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.” One evidence of God’s existence is that not only does He give us many good things, but He also has given us the desire and ability to say, “Thank you.”

Creativity, worship, and thankfulness are human traits. I am thankful for the creative ability God has given us. I am thankful for the ability to use that creativity in art, music, and worship. I am also thankful for the ability to express gratitude to God.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

God’s Elevator — The Vortex

God's Elevator — The Vortex
One of my favorite demonstrations as a physics teacher was to put a student on a frictionless stool and spin them around with their legs extended out in front of them. I would then tell them to pull in their legs. When they did that, their angular velocity increased dramatically—they spun faster. We see this when a spinning figure skater pulls in their arms and legs causing a dramatic increase in their rotational speed. This is an excellent demonstration of the conservation of energy and angular momentum. It is also a design feature that enables a wide variety of living things to fly without prohibitive losses of metabolic energy. We call it God’s elevator.

Instead of solids, what happens if the material that is spinning is a fluid – water or air for example. When water goes down the drain in your sink, it picks up speed as it gets near the center. In the very center, there won’t be any motion at all. In a hurricane, warm air is rising in the center, and as air rushes in to replace the rising air, it increases in speed. The center with no air rushing in is the eye of the hurricane, and the maximum velocity is in the wall near the eye.

A less dramatic example of the vortex is the convection cell on a hot summer day. The Sun heats the ground which then heats the air near the ground. The heated air rises, and as it does, the edges of the air are cooled by contact with the colder air around it. This creates a doughnut-shaped thermal vortex that rises to make an invisible, energy-saving elevator for any organism that can get into the doughnut. What this means is that an animal like a hawk does not have to beat its wings and spend enormous energy to soar to a high elevation. This is a huge saving in metabolic energy. An amazing number of living organisms use God’s elevator to get high into the sky and travel very long distances.

Charles Darwin, while sailing on the Beagle, noticed a mass of spiderlings 60 miles off the South American coast. These organisms are terrestrial creatures, but they were able to travel enormous distances by using vortices. Moths use vortices to make journeys from where they are to new areas.

Recent studies of birds have shown that the wings of a bird create a vortex system which is like a ladder. There is almost no lift produced by the bird’s wings on their upstroke, but the downstroke creates a vortex. That vortex combines with vortices on the wing tips making a ring. The combination of these ring vortices makes a zigzagging ladder-like system which lifts the bird. This allows the bird to use a smaller amount of energy than if it merely powered itself through the air. That is why the birds in your backyard fly in a zigzag pattern rather than a smooth path.

Blackfly larvae that live on the bottom of a stream position themselves so that water flowing over the bottom of the tube-shaped larva goes faster creating a low pressure rising along their bodies. The resulting vortex brings up food particles along the floor of the stream to the filters that extend out the top of the larva. The number of examples of living things that use vortices to feed or to conserve energy as they travel seems to be endless.

How do these animals know to use the vortex effect? The way they position themselves and how they use the vortices in their environment works to their advantage. God’s elevator is a great testimony to His wisdom of design in the creation. We can know there is a God through the things He has made and how they use things like vortices to survive (Romans 1:20).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from Discover, August 1993 page 81-87.

Wonderful New Book Available

Wonderful New Book
We have just come in contact with a wonderful new book written by Joan Haselwood titled Behold the Birds and subtitled Spiritual Insights from God’s Design. We have known Mrs. Haselwood for many years and are thrilled that she has taken our “Dandy Designs” material, added to it, expanded it and even written her own poems to support it. Teachers will find this book very useful for Bible classes, devotionals, and for their own edification and study. It is a great book to have on a bed stand or in the magazine rack in your bathroom.

The book explains the scientific information known about different birds. Mrs. Haselwood then gives a series of questions for discussion or thought and a poem either from herself or some other author. There are 12 birds covered in the book, all of which are common birds we all know–sparrows, warblers, hummingbirds, pigeons, eagles, chickens, etc.

From the back cover of the book:
“Behold the Birds by Joan M. Haselwood is a fresh and unique women’s study guide investigating birds of the Bible. Ladies’ Bible classes will love this book. Behold the Birds has everything needed for personal and group or class study—even providing applicable song suggestions for every lesson. The structure is easy to navigate for individuals and groups. God’s creatures will be viewed in a new light following this study.”

Behold the Birds is a 134-page, spiral-bound paperback. We will probably publish a review of this wonderful new book in a future issue of our printed journal, but it is so good we wanted to share it with you here. It was published by and is available from the Gospel Advocate.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Design Discovered in Insect Migration

Insects
Insects

It is easy for humans to minimize the design that is needed for life to exist on Earth. How do you feed massive numbers of birds, especially in the spring when winter has taken away most of their food sources, and their food needs are maximized as they lay eggs and feed baby birds? In the past scientists have shrugged their shoulders and imagined that there are food sources we don’t recognize that fill this gap until the summer season generates sufficient seeds and insects to sustain the growing populations. Similar problems exist for many other animals like bats that depend on insects for their nutritional needs.

In the April 2017 issue of Scientific American (page 84), there is an interesting report about previously unknown migrations of insects. We have known about monarch butterflies for some time, but this study by British researchers shows that migrations of insects are massive. Over southern Britain alone there are 3.3 trillion insects migrating. That is an average of 3200 tons of bugs moving through the skies over Britain every year. The study also reports that similar patterns have been observed in Texas, India, and China.

The complexity of this migration is astounding. Insects don’t live long enough for one bug to complete the migration. Researchers found that in some cases six generations were involved to complete a migration. The insects do not just get randomly blown about. They travel in a well-programmed pattern taking advantage of wind direction and speed. The elevation at which they fly to get the strongest support for their journey is carefully chosen. For a number of reasons, spring migrations are different from fall migrations.

We have much to learn from insects. Solomon made reference to ants as an example for us to learn from in Proverbs 6:6-11 and 30:24, 25. In our modern times, we see an amazing design that allows for the feeding of birds, bats, and other forms of life that need insects to survive. Constructing a chance model for all of this takes a huge amount of imagination. Recognizing God as the intelligence that gave this migration pattern to insects makes what we see just another example of knowing there is a God through the things he has made (Romans 1:20).
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Darwin Day and Darwin Weekend (Part 3)

A Variety of Bird Species
A Variety of Bird Species

We have been thinking about the upcoming Darwin Day on February 12, and Darwin Weekend February 10-12. We have considered the wonderful way in which life was designed to change and adapt–that is, to evolve. Let’s consider what this means to biblical faith.

When the Bible talks about different kinds of living things, it does not indicate a fixity of species. Consistently the Bible refers to large groupings of animals as “kinds.” Genesis 1:20-26, Genesis 6:20, Genesis 7:3 and 14, 1 Corinthians 15:39, and James 3:7 all share similar groupings. I am told that there are 126 different varieties of chickens in the world, but the Bible doesn’t describe each of them. In fact, all fowl seem to have a common origin. Fish are described as an independent kind, but new species have been cultivated by humans, and the number of fish in the waters of the world is huge. The Bible also agrees that living things can change. Jacob’s management of Laban’s flocks is a clear use of what Darwin later described. The fact that all races of humans in the world today can be genetically traced to a single female ancestor is an indication that even humans can change.

We don’t find unity between science and faith by compromising what the Bible says or by embracing bad science. Since the Bible and creation have the same Author/Creator, they cannot conflict. If there is a conflict, there is either bad science, bad theology, or both. We have had a lot of both. Tomorrow we will talk about what that means and give some examples.
–John N. Clayton © 2017