One of the amazing examples of design in the animal world is how alligators survive weather cold enough to cover their ponds with ice. Warm-blooded animals (endotherms), such as bears and groundhogs, hibernate in cold weather. Cold-blooded animals (ectotherms), such as alligators, become dormant using different metabolic processes. It is called alligator brumation.
The Swamp Park in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, has made videos of alligator brumation. The alligators put their snouts out of the water, and their metabolic rate slows as they become lethargic. One park employee said, “We literally have gatercicles.” In Beaumont, Texas, there are some 550 alligators, including one 92-year-old that is 13 feet long and weighs over 1000 pounds. When his pond begins to freeze, he lets the ice freeze around his nose.
The design of the alligators’ body and metabolic structure allows them to survive in a temperate climate. It may not be obvious to most of us that alligators have an essential role in swamp environments. In the swamps in the southeastern part of the United States, they maintain a balance that benefits many other forms of life. As scientists try to understand that balance and how human encroachment affects it, the brumation system is essential.
Every form of life and ecosystemhas a design that allows wise engineering. Cases like alligator brumation are amazing and speak of having been created with a particular need in mind. The more we know of the creation, the better we understand the mind and wisdom of God.
Look around, and you will see amazing things in the natural world that give the appearance of design. Atheist evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has said that biology is the study of things that give the appearance of having been designed. But, of course, he does not believe they were designed because he does not believe in a designer. Is he correct, or is there a better explanation for the appearance of design? Here are some links to past articles in which we have dealt with that topic:
Those are just a few of the past articles on design that show evidence for a Designer. We believe that God has given us two revelations of Himself. One is His creation, and the other is His written word. The authority of the Bible is another subject we have dealt with often. Tomorrow, we will share some links from past articles on that topic.
Some of the exciting things about the natural world are the cases where the design is so advanced that any evolutionary explanation is difficult to believe. An excellent example of that is the design of an elephant’s trunk.
Recent ultrasound studies of elephant trunks have shown they are incredibly complex examples of design. The elephant is the only living land animal to have a long boneless appendage. A septum stretching the length of the trunk separates the trunk’s two nostrils. The elephant can expand each nostril’s volume up to 64%. The flow rate of water through the trunk averages about 3.7 liters per second, which would be the same as 24 shower heads operating all at once.
An elephant’s trunk is not just a drinking straw. When the elephant uses the trunk for something other than water, such as food, the nostrils don’t expand, but the elephant uses its lungs to suck up the food. The nostrils can bring air in at more than 150 meters per second, 30 times as fast as in a human’s sneeze.
Research is continuing on the muscular design of an elephant’s trunk. The intricate muscular structure and lack of joints give the elephant a highly complex trunk movement. Engineers have built robotic devices based on the design of an elephant’s trunk,
One researcher commented, “You never know where bio-inspiration will lead.” Designs from Velcro to airplane wings have come about by studying what God has created in living things. Everywhere we look, we see that a wonder-working hand has gone before.
In his book The Blind Watchmaker biologist and militant atheist Richard Dawkins wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He then argues that we must ignore appearance and realize that those complicated things were not designed. Can we recognize what design looks like?
Francis Crick, also an atheist, was one of the scientists who solved the mystery of the DNA molecule’s structural design. In his book What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, he wrote that “biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
Even Charles Darwin admitted in a paragraph near the end of his bookOn the Origin of Species that many scientists rejected his theory, and he concluded that it was because they had closed minds. It seems that scientists in Darwin’s day and most people in our day see design in living things, and design calls for a Designer.
It is counter-intuitive to think that the rich tapestry of life is merely a chance accident with no design and no Designer. In our everyday experience, we know what design looks like. We never see anything complex and functional come into being without intelligent operatives designing it. That is true of buildings, automobiles, computers, books, and websites. Those and many other things around us show design, and they don’t happen without a designer. To believe that dead molecules came together on their own, came to life, and began to reproduce and breathe and think and write books and ask questions requires a great “leap of faith.”
Atheist Thomas Nagel, a professor of philosophy at New York University, wrote a book titled Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. In that book, he wrote, “It is prima facie implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.” On the other hand, in his book “The Last Word,” Nagel wrote, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers…I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God…”
For years, Antony Flew was a renowned philosopher described as “the best-known atheist in the English-speaking world.” He had a successful career of disputing God’s existence until he examined the design in living cells. His last book published in 2004 was titled There Is a God.
There is something within us that tells us we see design when we look at living things. We know what design looks like, and we have to go against our intuition to accept the idea that everything, including ourselves and our thinking, is an accident. As you look around at the many things that appear to be designed, ask yourself, “Do I know what design looks like?” And then ask, “Could there be a Designer?” How you answer that second question will make a world of difference in your life.
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.
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.
You can go online and get all the factual information you want on every part of the human body. Put in the word “skin,” and you will be amazed at how much information there is about human skin. One comic said, “Your skin holds everything together.” In truth, it does much more than that.
We tend to classify humans based on their skin color, but our skin color is related to the needs of the body. Black objects radiate heat more efficiently than white objects. Take two identical cans and paint one black and the other white. Heat them to the same temperature and then let them sit in an insulated environment. The black can will cool off faster than the white can. Dark skin color is due to a biological pigment called melanin. Melanin absorbs ultraviolet light and thus protects the body. People living in tropical areas where they are exposed to more heat and ultraviolet light have more melanin than people living in cooler regions. There is, therefore, a latitude effect on skin color.
The more you study the design of your skin, the more amazing it is. One square inch of human skin contains nearly 20 million cells and 625 sweat glands. That square inch of skin can also have as many as 65 hairs, 19 feet (5.8 meters) of blood vessels, and 19,000 sensory cells. To limit bleeding, blood vessels in your skin temporarily shrink instantly if the skin is cut or if pressure is applied. Your body sheds skin cells when they die and replaces them with new ones. Three-quarters of the dust floating around your house is made up of dead skin cells.
So, if you think your skin holds everything together, and that’s all, you would be wrong. Your skin, the largest organ in your body, does a wide range of things that help you to stay alive and comfortable. When David wrote, “I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14), he was not aware of many things about our bodies that we know today. As we look at ourselves with tools such as microscopes, we see design in the construction of our bodies that David could not have imagined.
There is a wonderful book published in 1989 and now out of print that gives many other examples of the incredible designs we see in our bodies. The title is The Compass in Your Nose and Other Astonishing Facts About Humans by Marc McCutcheon and published by Jeremy Tarcher, Inc.