Fingerprints are often associated with identification because the police use them in criminal investigations. Nobody else has your fingerprints, so finger touch-pads are sometimes used instead of passwords to access computers or to allow entrance to secure sites. Fingerprints are used for those purposes, but have you ever wondered why we have fingerprints?
Long before anyone thought of those identification uses, fingerprints served a primary purpose in our sense of touch. The raised ridges are actually friction ridges that increase the sensitivity of our fingers to touch. Each fingertip has thousands of touch receptors, and with the aid of the friction ridges, we can feel a particle many times smaller than a human hair.
Run your fingertip lightly over a surface and notice how those fingerprint ridges detect even the smallest surface imperfection, right down to a speck of dust. Look closely, and you will see that those ridges are also present on the entire surface of the palm-side of your hand, and they are on your feet as well.
What about the case of identical twins? Do they have the same fingerprints? The answer is “No.” They are similar, but not the same. Your fingerprints are the product of genetics plus environment within the womb. Fingerprints form between six and thirteen weeks after conception. Factors that influence the formation of the prints may be blood pressure, nutrition, or the position of the hand in the womb. A finger pressing against the amniotic sac, another part of the body, or the body of a twin can cause the print to form with subtle differences. If only genetics determined the fingerprint pattern, the fingers on your left and right hands would be identical. They are not, and that’s why the police will take all ten of your fingerprints.
Your fingerprints formed as you developed in the womb long before you were born, and they will remain the same for your entire life. Fingerprints show that you are unique while at the same time helping you to explore and interact with the world around you. That’s why we have fingerprints. The psalmist David wrote, “…(God), you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:13, 14).
–Roland Earnst © 2018