What about Whale Miracles ?

Blue Whale in Red Sea   (Novinite.com image)

What about Whale Miracles?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:40-41)

Once a sneering skeptic scoffingly discussed the so-called “problem of miracles”, mockingly suggesting that “enlightened” thinkers doubt many Bible “stories”, such as what Christians believe about “the whale miracle”.

But what “whale miracle” was he treating as incredible?  Was he thinking of Jonah being swallowed at sea, yet living to tell the tale of the whale?  If so, is that the only whale miracle?  Some assumptions need clarification, because there’s more than one “whale miracle” to think about.

Jonah-near-whale.Biblewalk-Wordpress-image

The New Testament mentions the prophet Jonah thrice (Matthew 12:39-41 & 16:4; Luke 11:29-32).  The Lord Jesus Christ compared His own death, burial and resurrection to the to the miracle of Jonah in the whale (see especially Matthew 12:40, quoted above).

So what is miraculous about Jonah’s life adventures?

Some say it was God miraculously preserving Jonah’s life, inside the whale (“great fish” in Matthew 12:40), emphasizing how Jonah’s miraculous preservation was comparable to how Christ miraculously defeated death after His crucifixion.(1)

Others (this writer included), considering details of Jonah’s adventure (see especially Jonah 3:2-6, including use of the Hebrew word sheol), suggest that Jonah actually died inside the “great fish”, so the real miracle (that parallels Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection) was how God restored Jonah’s mortal life, miraculously, after Jonah died inside the whale.(2)

Furthermore, others stress that the large-scale revival of the violence-loving Ninevites, at the preaching of Jonah, was just as incredibly miraculous as Jonah’s escaping death in the Mediterranean Sea.(3) Jonah3.10-slideSurely the large-scale repentance of a wickedly violent people, promoted by a previously wicked dictator, involves thousands of heart-miracles, and that is so rare that such large-scale repentance is hard to imagine.(3)

Likewise, although God has sufficient power to preserve a human three days inside an ocean-going cetacean, doing that would be both miraculously rare and remarkable.(1) Even moreso, restoring a once-dead man to mortal life, after the ingested man died inside an oceanic cetacean, is a miracle that doubters quickly shy away from.(2)

Of course, God is quite capable of preserving a man alive, inside a whale – and God is likewise powerful enough to restore life to a man who died inside a whale.  (And, God can even regenerate sin-deadened hearts of repentant humans, who genuinely trust Him for mercy and forgiveness.)

But what other “whale miracles” are there to consider, perhaps miracles “hidden in plain view”?

In fact, the very existence and activities of all the world’s whales – as well as all other cetacean creatures (like porpoises and dolphins) –  constitute a mix of many miracles, beginning on Day 5 of Creation Week, and providentially continually unto the present day.(4)

Blue Whale in Red Sea   (Novinite.com image)

Consider, as examples, these basic facts of Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) biology,(4) which more or less fit the oceanic lives of other whales:  (a) sensitive underwater hearing, detecting whale “songs” miles away, as well as the amazing whale songs(5) themselves; (b) thick blubber, insulating vital organs from cold seawater; (c) live-birth in ocean-water; (d) recessed mammary nipples, for nursing babies with pressure-ejected milk (some whale mothers provide 150+ gallons of milk daily to their babies!); (e) breathing blow-hole, closing for submergence; (f) “floating” rib-cage, for lung collapse when deep-diving; (g) internally located testes, with counter-current cooling system to protect procreative potency; (h) flexible vertebral joints, for tail movement;  (i) tail fluke controlled by system of tendons and muscles; (j) front flippers for maneuvering in ocean water; (j) “enormous tongues [used to] press the water out of their mouths between the [baleen] whalebone lamellae, thus filtering the water and retaining the minute organisms [such as krill]”(6) — and many more amazing details could be listed, with all of these combined making whale life possible, for every whale in the world.(4)

For those with eyes to see it, every whale is a miracle of God, showing God’s power and bioengineering genius.(4)

After analyzing Blue Whale wonders (such as whale-song), creation scientist David Coppedge says: “The more details you learn about living things, the less excuse you have to chalk it up to evolution.”(7)

Surely Jonah would agree.

Jonah-washed-ashore-pic

References

(1) Morris, John D. Morris, “Did Jonah Really Get Swallowed by a Whale?” Acts & Facts, 22 (December 1993).

(2) J. Vernon McGee, Jonah: Dead or Alive? (Nashville, TN: Thru the Bible Radio Network, 1997), pages 13-17. See also Dr. Henry M. Morris’ editorial footnotes to JONAH 1:17, 2:2, 2:5, & 2:6, in The New Defender’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: World Publishing, 2006), pages 1319-1320.

(3) Paul Ferguson, “Nineveh’s ‘Impossible’ Repentance”, Bible & Spade, 27(2):32-35 (2014).

(4) “The gradual evolution of a whale [from land mammal to walking whale to oceanic cetacean] is an impossibility, in the same way that a Land Rover could not gradually turn into a submarine. The whale is designed for aquatic life.” Quoting David Shires, “The Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)— Did it evolve?” Journal of the Creation Science Movement20(6):4-5 (2019).  See also Randy J. Guliuzza, “Are Whales and Evolution Joined at the Hip?”, Acts & Facts, 45(3):12-14 (March 2016).

(5) Whales emit a mix of vocal noises, including wailing, low whistle-like moaning, groaning, screeching, buzzing, rasping, droning, etc.;  the classic audio recording is Roger S. Payne’s Songs of the Humpback Whale (1970, available via EMI Records Ltd, 2001 version).  Regarding whale-song, see Craig Welch, “Elusive Blue Whale Behavior Revealed by Their Songs”, National Geographic (February 15th, 2018); Kate M. Stafford, Christian Lydersen, Øystein Wiig, & Kit M. Kovacs, “Extreme Diversity in the Songs of Spitsbergen’s Bowhead Whales”, Biology Letters, 14:20180056 (April 2018); Roger S. Payne & Scott McVay, “Songs of Humpback Whales”, Science, 173(3997):585-597 (August 13th 1971).

(6) Quoting from John Murray & Johan Hjort. The Depths of the Ocean (London: Macmillan, 1912), page 778.

(7) David Coppedge, “Underwater Troubadors”, Creation Matters, 23(2):11 (2018).

 

Critters Are Smart, Using Cues & Signals

Animals Use Environmental Cues, plus Animals Communicate with Signals

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Image result for balaam

25 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.  26 And the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.  27 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he [again] smote the donkey with a staff.  28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these 3 times?  29 And Balaam said unto the donkey, Because thou hast mocked me; I wish there was a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.  30 And the donkey said unto Balaam, Am not I thy donkey, upon whom thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day?  Was I ever known to do so unto thee? and he [i.e., Balaam] said, Nay.  31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he [i.e., Balaam] saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way, and His sword drawn in His hand; and he [i.e., Balaam] bowed down his head, and he [i.e., Balaam] fell flat on his face.  32 And the Angel of the LORD said unto him, Why hast thou smitten thy donkey these 3 times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before Me.  33 And the donkey saw Me, and she turned from Me these 3 times: unless she had turned from Me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.    (Numbers 22:25-33)

Making sense of biological senses is a losing battle for evolutionists, yet explaining creature communication is even worse. There is no chance that animal messaging can be explained by random accidents of bumping biochemicals.

Although their mouths are not “opened” (enabled for speech) like Balaam’s donkey, higher (i.e., nephesh-possessing) animals routinely send other forms of purposeful signals, to influence behaviors of other animals or humans.(1)

To appreciate this, however, we must distinguish between animals using environmental “cues” and truly communicative “signals”.(2)

Ecologically speaking, “cues” are environmental or creature features that, when detected, are useful in acquiring information relevant to future activities.(2),(3)

mosquito-CO2-cartoon

For example, when blood-thirsty mosquitos seek “fast food”, they often fly upwind if their chemoreceptors sense carbon dioxide (CO2), because continually exhaled CO2 reveals where warm-blooded mammals are.  (Carbon dioxide in the air is a “cue” to female mosquitos — indicating that mammal blood is nearby!)

But exhaled CO2 is not a “message” intentionally sent (by mammals) to mosquitos!

Rather, exhaled CO2 is a “cue” to mosquitos, indicating “mammal blood is available here”—but there is no mammalian intent to transmit that (disadvantageous-to-the-mammal) information unto the blood-thirsty parasitic pests.(2)

dogs-with-food-bowls

Contrast that to domesticated dogs barking, to alert humans: “I’m hungry! Feed me!”  That barking, ecologically speaking, is a messaging “signal”—a consciously prepared

message, sent to another intelligent creature (in this example, a human)—for the purpose of prompting a behavioral response (that helps the “speaking” animal).(2),(4)

This is true communication; there is a message sender, a transmitted message (understandable coded information), and a receiver—and the sender’s messaging purpose was to influence responsive action by the receiver.(4)

Yet, for there to be purpose, in message sending, senders must have motives, think, decide, and communicatively act. So message-senders must possess some type of personal (or person-like) internal “software” enabling motivation, thinking, decision-making,–as well as physiological “hardware” sufficient for preparing and transmitting “signaling” actions.(4),(5)

Of course, actions are not true “signals” (i.e., messages) unless they have purposes for influencing responses by signal-comprehending recipients.(2) If signals are incomprehensible to the intended receiver(s), those signals fails to be meaning-conveying messages.(2),(4)

Likewise, message recipients must be able to understand (i.e., decode, decipher) the message sent, sufficiently to facilitate timely and relevant adjustment of the receiver’s own behavior, in response to messages received.(4)

Without these ingredients—(a) sender preparing and sending messages; (b) using language (or comparable code of information) known to both sender and receiver; and (c)  receiver’s reception and response-relevant understanding of messages—no real “communication” occurs.

Yet when creature communication does occur—as it does worldwide, daily, in many contexts—it powerfully demonstrates God’s providential bioengineering design for meaningful and purposeful messaging.  Don’t expect an impersonal “big bang”, eons ago, to invent any of that!

Accordingly, environmental tracking makes sense, because God designed and equipped animals to acquire and adjust to contextual cues.(3)

Furthermore, God designed and equipped us humans—and higher animals—to intentionally communicate purposefully coded signals, to intended recipients, for prompting expected responses.(4),(5),(6),(7)

Get the message?

Image result for balaam

References

(1) Numbers 22. To illustrate dog-to-human communication, in the stranger-than-fiction adventures of Antis (the RAF aviator-dog who, during World War II, displayed lots of nephesh!), see James J. S. Johnson, “High-Altitude Flying Is for the Birds”, Acts & Facts, 45(3):20-21 (March 2016), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/high-altitude-flying-for-birds .

(2) Davies, Nicholas B., et al., An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology, 4th ed. (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), pages 394-423, especially page 395 (contrasting “cues” and “signals”).

(3) See Randy J. Guliuzza & Phil B. Gaskill, “Continuous Environmental Tracking: An Engineering Framework to Understand Adaptation and Diversification” Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Creationism, edited  by John H. Whitmore,  (Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship, 2018), pages 158-184.  See also Randy J. Guliuzza,  “Engineered Adaptability: Continuous Environmental Tracking Wrap-Up”, Acts& Facts, 48(8):17-19 (August 2019), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/continuous-environmental-tracking-wrap-up/ .  Specifically regarding how fish need informational cues within their underwater habitats, see James J. S. Johnson, “Even Fish Need to Know!”, Acts & Facts, 45(1):21 (January 2016), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/even-fish-need-know .

(4) As 1st Corinthians 14:8 reminds us, sounds only make sense if sender and receiver are agreed on the “code” for interpreting messages sent.  In human terms, it takes a common language (or code) for humans to send and receive meaningful messages. Thus, those not knowing the conventional code, or “language”, of signals sent, won’t recognize intended message meanings.  This is true, generally, of all coded information, including God’s biogenetic programming designed to produce biochemical results in protein construction at inanimate ribosome factories.  See James J. S. Johnson, “DNA and RNA: Providential Coding to ‘Revere’ God”, Acts & Facts40(3):8-9 (March 2011), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/dna-rna-providential-coding-revere .

(5) Genesis 1:20-24; 2:19; 9:10-16; Numbers 22:25-30. James J. S. Johnson, “Clever Creatures: ‘Wise from Receiving Wisdom”, Acts & Facts46(3):21 (March 2017), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/clever-creatures-wise-from-receiving .

(6) The principle of 1st Corinthians 14:8 even applies to the sounds of locomotive train air-horns, a/k/a train “whistles”  —  see JJSJ, “Steam Trumpets, for Those with Ears to Hear” (August 20th AD2019) posted at https://pinejay.com/2019/08/20/steam-trumpets-for-those-with-ears-to-hear/  .

(7) James J. S. Johnson, “The Ghost Army”, Acts & Facts44(11):20 (November 2015), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/ghost-army .


 

 

When the Genesis Flood’s Tsunamis Hit Norway and Svalbard, Terrestrial Dinosaurs were Power-Washed Out to Sea


When  the  Genesis  Flood’s  Tsunamis  Hit  Norway  and  Svalbard,   Terrestrial  Dinosaurs  were  Power-Washed  Out  to  Sea

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

They that go down to the sea [yâm] in ships, who do business in great waters [mayîm rabbîm]; these see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep [metsûlâh].   (Psalm 107:23-24)

Snorre-Field-dinosaur-bone-in-OilDrillCore.NorwJGeol-AD2006.png

Recently I wrote about some unusual dinosaur-related paleontology finds in 2 territories belonging to Norway, specifically Spitsbergen (the main island of the far-north Svalbard archipelago) and the sedimentary seabed of “Snorre Field” (in the Norwegian North Sea), a deepsea oil-drilling location more than 50 miles to the west of Norway’s western coastline — with mention of how the best explanation for those finds (i.e., the Genesis Flood) reminded me of the gigantic Whopper Sand in the Gulf of Mexico, where an enormous Flood-blasted sand formation now yields literally billions of barrels of deepsea petroleum.   [See “Doomsday at the Beach for Nordic Dinosaurs!“, posted at  https://pinejay.com/2019/04/26/doomsday-at-the-beach-for-nordic-dinosaurs/   —  with picture/image credits shown here, cited there.]

Dinosaur tracks were found on Svalbard’s sedimentary rock beaches, and some Plateosaurus dinosaur bone was found (inside an oil-drill core!) about a mile-and-a-half deep, more than 70 miles offshore of Norway!

Only the forceful mega-tsunamis of the Genesis Flood could cause those results, says geologist/paleontologist Dr. Tim Clarey (who formerly worked for Chevron):

Only a massive, high-energy flow of water and muddy sand could transport a dinosaur over 70 miles offshore. And only repeated high-energy flows could bury it about 1.5 miles deep.  We are talking unimaginable energy needed here, greater than any tsunami witnessed in historic (post-Flood) times.  And similarly, the Whopper Sand in the Gulf of Mexico needs massive, high-energy sheet-flow off the (North American) continent.  Something again, beyond anything happening today (geologically speaking).  These features, and the dinosaur footprints on Svalbard, are difficult to comprehend without recognizing a catastrophe as big as the great (global) Flood described in Genesis.  There is just no other conceivable explanation (that fits the observable facts).”

[Quoting Dr. Timothy Clarey, summary provided in writing AD2019-04-25.]

WOW! It was a terrible day at the beach when the Svalbard ornithopod dinosaurs were tsunami-blasted into the sea.  Likewise, the doomed Plateosaurus, buried (~1.5 miles deep!) in sea sediments, off the shore of western Norway (70+ miles away from his “home”) had no clue about  what had just hit him.

Svalbard-beach-ornithopods.AD2016-ScienceNordic-pic

Today I wrote a limerick poem, as a post-script of that paleontology/geology study.

NORDIC-POLAR  DINOSAURS  GOT  WASHED  OUT  TO  SEA,  BY  THE  GENESIS  FLOOD   (UNLESS  THEY  ESCAPED  ON  NOAH’S  ARK)

Dinos, who roamed Norway’s shores,

Got buried, in North Sea floors;

Power-washed, by the great Flood,

Buried deep, in sand and mud  —

Left behind, and drowned, dinosaurs.

Other than the God-selected dinosaur pairs who were safety aboard Noah’s Ark, it was a catastrophic watery death for Earth’s terrestrial dinosaurs, including those then living in the Nordic-polar lands that we today call Norway and Svalbard.  Thankfully, there will never be another global flood  —  and we are wise to recall how it illustrates God’s holy judgment (as Peter reminds us, in 2nd Peter chapter 3)  — it was a one-of-a-kind cataclysm that violently destroyed beach-going (and other terrestrial) dinosaurs, in the polar North and elsewhere, all over on planet Earth.

Svalbard-paleontologists-working.AD2016-ScienceNordic

Svalbard-map-ornithopod-tracks.AD2016-ScienceNordicSnorre-Field-map-NorwegianNorthSea.NorwJGeol-AD2006.png


Not-so-irrelevant  trivia:   For 3 weeks  during the summer of AD2003,  Dr. James J. S. Johnson taught history and geography  on the high seas,  aboard the MARCO POLO  (a cruise ship  about the same size as Noah’s Ark).

Termite Towers & Filter-Feeders

Termite Towers & Filter-Feeders

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (2nd Timothy 3:7)

Termites-CathedralMounds-Australia.Wikipedia-photo

“Cathedral mounds” built by Australian termites (Wikipedia photo)

The failure of many evolutionists, to see what they are looking at (i.e., to see what is “hidden in plain view”) is comparable to an error British Celts made when Julius Caesar attacked Britain’s shores, at Kent in 54 BC.

The native Celts reported Caesar’s beach landing as an attack by combined armies of Rome, Libya, and Syria.(1) Unlike Romans, British Celts never recruited multi-ethnic mercenaries, so the Britons misinterpreted the invaders as a horde of allied (but separate) armies.(1) Likewise, evolutionists now misunderstand many facts “in plain view”, due to erroneous assumptions.

The evolutionary ecology concept of “ecosystem engineering” was recently introduced in an earlier study(2) to show how some evolutionists are improving their understanding of how proactive animals are, in altering ecosystems—yet those same evolutionists continue to miss the best lessons that these animals can teach us.(2)

Two such misunderstandings are considered below.

“BIGGER-IS-BETTER” AND ANTHROPOCENTRIC FALLACIES

When considering the “ecosystem engineering” concept’s utility, some ecologists try to limit the concept’s application to animal-produced habitat alterations that are impactfully “big”, as opposed to minimal. Thus, beaver dams and coral reefs are recognized as “big enough” to qualify as “ecosystem engineering” habitat modifications.(2)  But “little” habitat alterations, like bird-nests and prairie burrows, are often dismissed as de minimis—not worthy of comparable attention.(2)

However, when evaluating ecological activity, this is a “bigger-is-better” fallacy. Which is more “important”, ecologically speaking, a huge elephant—or a microscopic yet deadly virus?

Also, when evaluating whether animal activity is “big enough”, to be ecologically “important”, applying anthropocentric perspectives is unrealistic.

For example, consider how deadwood-eating termites aggressively modify their neighborhoods, using saliva-soil mud, building air-conditioned mud “chimneys” above interconnected subsurface tunnels.

Mounds built by Australia’s Amitermes merionalis termites can be taller than 12’ tall, 8’ wide, and 3’ deep underground.(3)

For adult humans, of heights 6’ tall (more or less), this is impressive, but perhaps not shockingly so.  However, to better appraise these physical construction feats, consider that Amitermes “worker” termites are about a third-of-an-inch long.  The termites-to-mound height ratio is 432:1 (12’-tall mound, compared to 1/3-of-an-inch-long termite), comparable to humans constructing spit-mud mounds 2592’ high—almost double the Empire State Building’s height!

So, to a “worker” termite, its mound “chimney” is an enormous skyscraper!

Termite-mound-with-cheetah-Namibia.SeedingLabs

Cheetah atop Termit Mound in Namibia   (Seeding Labs photo)

Other examples could be given.

The world’s largest bay, the Chesapeake, is burdened with excess nitrogen and organic nutrients that people repeatedly release into its tributaries.

HookedMussels-on-Oysters.MdDeptNaturalResourcesOysters with Mussels   (Chesapeake Bay Program)

Oyster reefs, bolstered by attached mussels, filtering huge volumes of bay water, consume otherwise-unrestrained (nitrogen-compound-fueled) growth of picoplankton (comprising ~15% of bay phytoplankton biomass, during summer), preventing unchecked algal blooms that would block sunlight from submergent aquatic plants, leading to oxygen-depleted “dead zones”.(4)

Thankfully, the combined filtering of Eastern Oysters and Hooked Mussels provides estuarial water clean-up services, “hidden in plain sight”, ultimately benefiting dissolved oxygen needs of the interactive Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem.(4)

SO, WHO ENGINEERED ALL OF THESE “SMALL-YET-GREAT” ECOSYSTEM BENEFITS?

Please, don’t praise bivalve brainpower, for figuring all of this out!—oysters and mussels are neither bioengineering-savvy ecosystem designers, nor conservation scientists.

Likewise, don’t fête the Australian Amitermes termites, as if they were brilliant architects, construction engineers, or HVAC experts!—they’re just bioengineered bugs.

Rather, give due glory to creation’s Architect and Bioengineer, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:7), for He has built and maintains all of these “small-yet-great” super-interactive ecosystems (Revelation 4:11).

Happy-as-a-Clam.CranberryCollective

REFERENCES

(1)William R. Cooper, After the Flood (Chichester, England: New Wine Press, 1995), 58-59, citing Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae.  (Don’t expect to ever find a more insightful or godlier scholar of Anglo-Saxon history than Laird Bill Cooper!)

(2) “Ecosystem engineering” analysis improves upon earlier “keystone species” concepts, yet ultimately fails to identify the true cause and logic underlying animal successes in filling various habitats. James J. S. Johnson, “Ecosystem Engineering Explanations Miss the Mark”, Acts & Facts, 48(3):20-21 (March 2019), illustrating 2 Timothy 3:7.  Evolutionists’ failure to recognize God as the divine Architect-Bioengineer is illustrated by recent ecology literature on “ecosystem engineering”, e.g., Jones, C. G., J. H. Lawton, & M. Shachak, “Organisms as Ecosystem Engineers”, Oikos. 69:373-386 (1994); Wright, J. and C. G. Jones, “The Concept of Organisms as Ecosystem Engineers Ten Years On: Progress, Limitations, and Challenges”, BioScience. 56(3):203-209 (2006).  With all the Darwinist emphasis on antagonistic competition between species, the ecological realities of mutualistic neighborliness in biotic communities was downplayed and/or dismissed. See, accord, James J. S. Johnson, “Misreading Earth’s Groanings: Why Evolutionists and Intelligent Design Proponents Fail Ecology 101”, Acts & Facts. 39 (8):8-9 (August 2010); James J. S. Johnson, “Grand Canyon Neighbors: Pines, Truffles, and Squirrels”, Acts & Facts. 47(10):21 (October 2018); James J. S. Johnson, “Cactus, Bats, and Christmas Gift-Giving”, Acts & Facts. 46 (12):21 (December 2017).  See also, accord, Randy J. Guliuzza, “Engineered Adaptability: Fast Adaptation Confirms Design-Based Model”, Acts & Facts. 47(9):18-20 (September 2018); Randy J. Guliuzza, “Engineered Adaptability: Sensor Triggers Affirm Intelligently Designed Internalism”, Acts & Facts. 47(2):17-19 (February 2018).

(3) Gordon C. Grigg, “Some Consequences of the Shape and Orientation of ‘Magnetic’ Termite Mounds”, Australian Journal of Zoology, 21:231-237 (1973), noting how Amitermes meridionalis termite mounds sometimes 4 meters high.

(4) Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, “Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits”, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (2014). See also Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater Bivalves Flexing their Muscles as Water Filterers”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 28(7):1 (October 2018), cited in “Have You Thanked God for Mussels Lately?”, Bibleworld Adventures (Nov. 12, AD2019), posted at https://bibleworldadventures.com/2018/11/12/have-you-thanked-god-for-mussels-lately/ .  See also, for further discussion of estuariah ecosystem benefits contributed by oysters and mussels, Loren D. Coen, Robert D. Brumbaugh, David Bushek, Ray Grizzle, mark W. Luckenbach, Martin H. Posey, Sean P. Powers, & S. Gregory Tolley, “Ecosystem Services Related to Oyster Restoration”, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 341:303-307 (July 2007), saying: “Although further discussion and research leading to a more complete understanding is required, oysters and other molluscs (e.g., mussels) in estuarine ecosystems provide services far beyond the mere top-down control of phytoplankton blooms, such as (1) seston filtration, (2) benthic-pelagic coupling, (3) creation of refugia from predation, (4) creation of feeding habitat for juveniles and adults of mobile species, and for sessile stages of species that attach to molluscan shells, and (5) provision of nesting habitat.”  Obviously God is the ultimate multi-tasking Bioengineer!


Termites-underground-Pestkilled.com-photo

TERMITES UNDERGROUND!  Pestkilled.com photograph

HOT DESERTS: Lethal to Some, Yet Home to Others

HOT DESERTS:  LETHAL TO SOME, YET HOME TO OTHERS

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.  (ISAIAH 35:1)

Vinegaroon-WhipScorpion

VINEGAROON WHIP-SCORPION (photo credit: Things Biological blog)

In deserts the temps climb quite high,

With scarce rain, those lands get quite dry;

Such climes can be torrid,

For some that is horrid —

Yet yuccas can cope when it’s dry.

 

Yes, deserts are truly alive;

Harsh heat some critters survive;

Like cactus blooms brilliant,

And lizards resilient —

There sagebrush and rattlesnakes thrive.

(The above limerick I have titled “Hot Deserts: Lethal to Some, Yet Home to Others”.)

COMMENTARY:  As Isaiah 35:1 indicates, the glory of the Lord is displayed even in desert places (including arid wildernesses that most of us would consider wastelands), where even cactus flowers blossom with bright colors and beauty, attracting pollinators, as their succulent tissues store water for desert birds such as Gila woodpeckers.  God’s glory is displayed in the magnificent variety of creatures (including the exotic Vinegaroon scorpion!) and habitats He has decorated the earth with.

It is the adventure and privilege of mankind, created in God’s own image – and redeemed by the blood of God incarnate  — to learn of these treasures in God’s creation, and to appreciate God for showcasing His power and wisdom in such humbles creatures as such desert denizens, who daily brave the hot and arid extremes, living and in desert places.


Rattler-fangs-ready2bite.Pinterest

Striking Rattlesnake

HAVE YOU THANKED GOD FOR MUSSELS LATELY?

HAVE YOU  THANKED  GOD  FOR  MUSSELS  LATELY?

James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, MSGeog, CNHG

HookedMussels-on-Oysters.MdDeptNaturalResources

Hooked Mussels attached to Oysters, Chesapeake Bay oyster-reef
(Chris Judy / Maryland Dep’t of Natural Resources photo)

And it shall come to pass, that everything that lives, which moves, wherever the rivers shall go, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall go there, for they shall be healed; and everything shall live where the river goes.   (Ezekiel 47:9)

Healthy rivers are a good thing. But sometimes a “hero” is needed, to clean up unhealthy rivers, or to “keep clean” rivers that will otherwise go bad.

Tough “clean-up” jobs, as well as “keep-it-clean” maintenance jobs, are often accomplished by unsung heroes. For example, the tough job of cleaning up water quality (and the job of maintaining water quality) in coastal wetlands requires some helpful muscles, such as those of the Chesapeake Bay’s mussels!  So, shouldn’t such helpful bivalves be given due credit, for what they do?

Mussels, once mostly ignored, are now being touted for their ability to clean streams much like oysters do for the Bay. Oysters are in many ways the restoration darlings of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort. Touted for multiple benefits — as edible, water-filtering moneymakers — oysters attract both enthusiasm and funding to promote their recovery.

But the popularity of oysters often overshadows the water-cleansing role of other filter feeders such as mussels. A growing group of mussel advocates think it’s high time that the bivalves share the spotlight as clean-water workhorses that can carry the message farther upstream.

 Projects to propagate mussels and restore them to waterways where they once thrived are cropping up in parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania as researchers working on them in various states begin to join efforts. The goal is to return some of the diversity once found in these waterways — mussel by mussel — so they can filter, feed, clean and otherwise serve the local ecosystem.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1 (October 2018).]

So, what service do mussels provide, such as the mussels which dwell in Chesapeake Bay watershed streams and estuarial wetlands?

Research in Chesapeake Bay shows that the mussels that typically colonize a restored oyster reef can more than double the reef’s overall filtration capacity. Filtering plankton helps improve water quality because these tiny drifting organisms thrive on the excess nitrogen and other nutrients that humans release into the Bay and its tributaries through farming, wastewater outflow, and the burning of fossil fuels. …

Restoring oysters — and their ability to filter large volumes of water — is widely seen as a key way to improve the health of Chesapeake Bay. New research makes this calculus even more appealing, showing that the mussels that typically colonize the nooks and crannies of a restored oyster reef can more than double its overall filtration capacity.

The study — by researchers at the University of Maryland, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science — appears as the cover story in the most recent issue of Restoration Ecology [i.e., Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (May 2014), DOI: 10.1111/rec.12107 ]

“Many efforts to restore coastal habitat focus on planting just one species, such as oysters, mangroves, or seagrass,” says [University of Maryland]’s Keryn Gedan, the study’s lead author. “However, our research shows that the positive effects of diverse ecosystems can be much greater. In the case of oyster reefs, commonly associated species such as mussels may multiply the water quality benefits of restoration by filtering more and different portions of the plankton.”

“Estimates of the ecosystem services provided by a restoration project are used to justify, prioritize, and evaluate such projects,” adds [Virginia Institute of Marine Science] scientist Lisa Kellogg. “By quantifying the significant role that mussels can play in filtration within an oyster-reef habitat, our work shows that the ‘return on investment’ for oyster-reef restoration is potentially much higher than commonly thought.”

Filtering plankton helps improve water quality [and thus functions as an “ecosystem engineer”  —  JJSJ comment] because these tiny drifting organisms thrive on the excess nitrogen and other nutrients that humans release into the Bay and its tributaries through farming, wastewater outflow, and the burning of fossil fuels.

“Filtering plankton from the water is the first step towards removing nutrients,” says Kellogg. “Although some will be returned to the water column, a significant portion will be removed from the system.” Removing plankton also has more direct benefits. Left unchecked, plankton can form dense blooms that shade other aquatic plants such as seagrass, and can lead to low-oxygen “dead zones” when they die, sink, and decay.

The research team, which also included SERC’s Denise Breitburg, based their findings on a combination of laboratory experiments and computer modeling. In the lab, they added phytoplankton of different size classes to tanks containing eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) or hooked mussels (Ischadium recurvum), then measured the animals’ filtration rates at different temperatures. They then incorporated these measured rates into a simple model and used that to simulate overall filtration for three different restoration scenarios in Harris Creek, Maryland, one of the East Coast’s largest oyster-reef restoration sites.

Kellogg’s main contribution to the paper was data on the relative abundance of oysters, mussels, and other organisms inhabiting restored oyster reefs collected during her time as a post-doctoral researcher at Maryland’s Horn Point Lab. These data, which showed that the biomass of mussels on a restored reef can equal or exceed that of the oysters, were used as baselines for the model projections.

The results of that modeling were clear. “On average,” says Gedan, “adding filtration by hooked mussels into our model increased the filtration capacity of the reef by more than two-fold.”

Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton,” says Breitburg. Picoplankton are the smallest category of marine plankton, ranging from about 1.5 to 3 microns (a human red blood cell is about 5 microns across). Picoplankton are particularly abundant in Chesapeake Bay during summer, with an earlier study from the York River showing they can make up nearly 15% of phytoplankton “biomass” during the warmer months.

“Some have suggested that oyster reef restoration will be less effective than expected in controlling phytoplankton populations because of oysters’ inability to filter picoplankton,” says Kellogg. “Our discoveries with mussels lessen that concern.”

“The mussels’ ability to filter the picoplankton indicates that they fill a distinct ecological niche,” adds Gedan. “Accounting for both oyster and mussel filtration, large-scale restoration projects like those going on in Chesapeake Bay could significantly control phytoplankton, especially during the summer months, when animals filter the most.”

The bottom line, says Gedan, is that “estimates of the ecosystem services provided by just the oysters on an oyster reef may vastly underrepresent the reefs’ overall contribution. Because oyster reefs also contain many other filter-feeding species, they will likely benefit water quality much more than previous modeling efforts suggest.” Kellogg is now taking this line of research further, studying how another common oyster-reef inhabitant — an organism called a tunicate — might also contribute to gains in water quality. Tunicates, fleshy animals also known as sea squirts, filter plankton and other particles from the water similarly to oysters and mussels.

[Quoting Virginia Institute of Marine Science, “Study Puts Some Mussels into Chesapeake Bay Restoration”, 9-8-AD2014, at ScienceDaily.com posting https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140908121538.htm .]

Summarized in technical ecology lingo, the researchers abstract their findings on mussel filter-cleaning as follows:

Many coastal habitat restoration projects are focused on restoring the population of a single foundation species to recover an entire ecological community. Estimates of the ecosystem services provided by the restoration project are used to justify, prioritize, and evaluate such projects. However, estimates of ecosystem services provided by a single species may vastly under‐represent true provisioning, as we demonstrate here with an example of oyster reefs, often restored to improve estuarine water quality.

In the brackish Chesapeake Bay, the hooked mussel Ischadium recurvum can have greater abundance and biomass than the focal restoration species, the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica. We measured the temperature‐dependent phytoplankton clearance rates of both bivalves and their filtration efficiency on three size classes of phytoplankton to parameterize an annual model of oyster reef filtration, with and without hooked mussels, for monitored oyster reefs and restoration scenarios in the eastern Chesapeake Bay.

The inclusion of filtration by hooked mussels increased the filtration capacity of the habitat greater than 2fold. Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton (1.5–3 µm), indicating that they fill a distinct ecological niche by controlling phytoplankton in this size class, which makes up a significant proportion of the phytoplankton load in summer.

When mussel and oyster filtration are accounted for in this, albeit simplistic, model, restoration of oyster reefs in a tributary scale restoration is predicted to control 100% of phytoplankton during the summer months.

[Quoting Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (May 2014), DOI: 10.1111/rec.12107 ]

Wow! Good for the Eastern Oysters, for their work in filter-cleaning Chesapeake Bay estuarial picoplankton, yet compliments also to the Hooked Mussels for their respective contributions to the clean-up work!  (This illustrates good teamwork!)

But it’s not just the brackish waters of Chesapeake Bay wetlands that host mussels. (Thus, there are other waters that benefit from mussel cleaning.)  In fact, mussels often thrive in riverine freshwater habitats other than those which limnologists would classify as “coastal wetlands”.

TexasFreshwaterMussel-lifecycle.TPWD

Texas Freshwater Mussel life cycle   (Texas Parks & Wildlife Dep’t image)

In Texas, for example, freshwater mussels are both plentiful and diverse, living in both lotic (running) and lentic (standing) bodies of water.

Freshwater mussels may inhabit a variety of water-body types including large and small rivers and streams, lakes, ponds, canals, and reservoirs. More stable habitats may have larger and more diverse populations than do smaller and less stable waters.  Some species tolerate a wide variety of conditions [e.g., various bottom types, currents, water depths, water pH and other chemistry factors, water clarity, amount of sunlight, turbidity, aquatic vegetation, percentage of dissolved oxygen saturation, water temperature, biotic community make-up, etc.], but others may be more specific.  Certain mussels may require moderate to swiftly flowing waters, and typically fail to survive in lakes or impoundments.

Headwater spring pools and streams in Texas Hill Country typically harbor few if any mussels largely because the cool, clear waters lack sufficient phytoplankton and other foods needed to support mussel populations. A few species like pondhorns (Uniomerus spp.) occur in temporary ponds and periodically-dry portions of intermittent streams by burrowing into the substrate during dewatering.

[Quoting Robert G. Howells, Raymond W. Neck, & Harold D. Murray, FRESHWATER MUSSELS OF TEXAS (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Inland Fisheries Division, 1996), page 14.]

In Texas, for instance, freshwater mussels —  especially dozens of varieties of unionid mussels (freshwater-dwelling mollusk bivalves a/k/a “naiads”)  —  have flourished for centuries in the enormously biodiverse bayou-waters of Caddo Lake, Texas’ sole “natural lake” (which borders Louisiana).

However, freshwater mussels have also been studied in these major river systems of the Lone Star State:

Canadian River (only slim pickings in these Panhandle-traversing waters); Red River (serving as the Texas-Oklahoma border to Arkansas, swelling at the artificially expanded Lake Texoma, favoring mussel populations including unionids such as pondshell, pondhorn, and yellow sandshell, as well as some clams);

Sulphur River (a Red River tributary, once intensively fished for mussels);

Big Cypress Bayou (a tributary of Caddo Lake, once fished for mussel pearls);

Sabine River (flowing to Texas’ border with Louisiana, then into the Gulf of Mexico, once intensively fished for mussels);

Neches River, including its tributary Angelina River (flowing through Texas piney woodlands, with no recent major harvesting of mussels);

Trinity River, flowing into Trinity Bay (pollution has been a historic problem, killing off mussel populations, though some unionids are observed within Lake Lewisville, an artificially formed reservoir-tributary of the Trinity River drainage system);

San Jacinto River (flowing north of Houston, draining into Trinity Bay, hosting washboard and threeridge mussels – as evidence by mussels stranded in dewatered areas during droughts);

Brazos River (Texas’ longest river between the Red River and the Rio Grande, hosting unionids in its tributary Navasota River);

Colorado River (containing unionid mussels in several of its tributaries);

Lavaca River (no significant mussels observed);

Guadalupe River, with its primary tributary San Antonio River, plus other tributaries including Blanco River and San Marcos River (sporadically hosting washboards and other river mussels);

Nueces River (flowing into Nueces Bay, with muddier tributaries hosting some mussels); and the Rio Grande, including its tributary Pecos River (separating Texas from Mexico, and variously hosting some unionid mussels).

[For specific biogeography details, see Howells, Neck, & Murray, FRESHWATER MUSSELS OF TEXAS, pages 29-32.]

The water-filtering benefits of wetland mussels are worthy of appreciation; however, not every impact of mussels is advantageous, as is illustrated by the invasive (and pervasive) nuisance known as the non-unionid Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha).  The miniscule Zebra Mussel is not covered as a topic, here, except to notice that it has caused a lot of disturbing and non-miniscule impacts in many freshwater lakes of America and Europe, from one water-body to another, due to over-land transport as attachments to the hulls of recreational boats.  [Regarding Zebra Mussel nuisance impacts, see Winfried Lampert & Ulrich Sommer, LIMNOECOLOGY: THE ECOLOGY OF LAKES AND STREAMS, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2010), pages 123 & 224-225.]

Freshwater mussels come in all shapes and sizes, with nicknames that indicate their unique forms or textures, such as snuffbox, spectacle-case, pimple-back and pistol-grip. Most live in rivers or streams, some others in lakes and ponds, but all rely on a current of water to provide phytoplankton and bacteria that they filter-feed from the water. Some species can live to be more than 100 years old. They also have a complex life cycle that makes them difficult — but not impossible — to reproduce in hatcheries. Most need a fish to act as a host as they start their life: The larvae find shelter and grow in fish gills until they can navigate the waters on their own. Some mussels create lures to draw in their preferred host, and some clamp onto the fish with trap-like mouths. If the fish species preferred by a certain mussel disappears, the mussel does, too.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

In order to analyze the benefits of coastal wetland mussels, such as those which are quietly filter-cleaning wetland waters within the Chesapeake Bay drainage watershed, someone needs to carefully study them.

But, since most of these mollusks are not commercially exploited, who will pay for the scientific research on these humble bivalves?

Other parts of the country, such as the Tennessee River system and Delaware Bay, have seen the fruit that comes from investing in mussel propagation and research. Meanwhile, mussels have often fallen below the radar of Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. That may be because freshwater mussels, unlike oysters or some saltwater mussels, don’t end up on human plates.

Research and restoration funding is harder to come by, even though three-quarters of freshwater mussel species are considered to be at some level of impairment. The money often comes in an off-and-on fashion from mitigation payments for environmental disasters and permit renewals, and partners in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort community have not focused their resources on mussels. … Many of the mussel advocates who gathered along the James River in July first interacted with the mollusks outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed — in the Clinch River, which rises in the southwest corner of Virginia and flows into Tennessee. The Clinch River is home to most of Virginia’s 81 mussel species, more than a third of which are endangered. The diversity of mussels found there has made the river a hotspot for research nationally. …

The Harrison Lake facility [i.e., the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery, located along the James River south of Richmond, Virginia – an activity of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior], built in the 1930s to support recreational fisheries, now has the capacity to grow tens of millions of mussels. Over the last decade, the facility transitioned from a focus on migratory fish species such as American shad to also growing tiny glochidia, the name for larval-stage mussels, into young mollusks.

When Dominion’s Bremo Power Station renewed its water discharge permit, the hatchery got more than a half-million dollars from the deal after a threatened mussel was found to be impacted by its discharge. When DuPont had to pay $42 million to settle a case over mercury contamination of the South River, the hatchery got $4 million. The coal ash spill in the Dan River in 2014 brought in additional funds to help replenish mussel species that might have been lost.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

HarrisonLake-hatchery-sign.USFWSThe Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery employs a staff of five – and their aquaculture efforts are producing results.

The hatchery team used to release tiny mussels into portions of the James watershed and hope for the best. Now, the staff has the technology to grow them “almost indefinitely” at the facility to a large enough size that they have much better survival rates in the wild. The center propagates the mussels by collecting female mussels that already have larvae in their gills, which the staff either extracts with a needle (to mimic a fish rubbing against it) or allows the mussel to release. Placed into tanks with their host fish, the larvae will attach to the fish before dropping off two to four weeks later to continue feeding and growing in a series of tanks. The lab is also working on in vitro fertilization for mussel species whose host fish is not known.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

In order to track progress, regarding the future growth and activities of mussels released to “the wild”, the hatchery uses a monitoring system that is analogous to bird-banding  —  the hatchery laser-etches identifying code markings onto the shell of a mussel, before release.  Also, some rare mussels receive special tagging.

At the hatchery, in a squat building paid for by the Bremo mitigation funds, biological science technician Bryce Maynard demonstrated methods used to tag and track the progress of mussels grown here before being launched into wild waters. He flipped the switch on a laser engraver that can carve numbers into several rows of mussels at a time, leaving a burnt-hair smell in the air and marking thousands of mussels a day for future tracking. Among the hatchery mussels are rare species such as the James spinymussel, which was once abundant in the James River upstream of Richmond but disappeared from most of its range by the late 1980s. The hatchery-raised spinymussels are marked with tags sealed in place with dental cement. The tags can be located later with a beeping detector but are costlier than other tracking methods.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

So what is the main benefit expected from these costly investment? Besides overall enhancing of the coastal wetland ecosystems, water filtering is expected, since that is what mussels are famous for.

Every mussel that finds its way into the watershed and survives could help filter about 10 liters of water per day, said Danielle Kreeger, senior science director at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, where she’s become an advocate for the potential of what she calls the #mightymussel.  “Pound for pound, freshwater mussels are not slouches,” she said  …  “To me, every mussel is precious, and we need to protect them.”  Kreeger, in the coming months, will be completing a review of studies on the ability of such bivalves to enhance water quality, which she hopes will shore up the amount of data available about mussels’ benefits.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

To be clear, the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery is not limited to hatching mussels for the Chesapeake Bay’s tributary waters.

In fact, the USF&W operation there is, as one would expect, focused largely on piscatorial aquaculture, i.e., hatching fish, especially American Shad, as well as some alewife, blueback herring, hickory shad, and striped bass. [See “Harrison Lake national Fish Hatchery”, https://www.fws.gov/harrisonlake/ summary by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.]

But for now, the take-away lesson is an appreciation for mussels: they are a lot more important than most of us think they are.

Harrison-hatchery-fish-hosts-with-mussel-larvae.USFWS

Harrison Lake Nat’l Fish Hatchery: fish hosts carrying mussel larvae    (B. Davis / USF&WS photo)

But why are they, as Dr. Kreeger says, “precious”? Because God created them  —  it was God Who gave Chesapeake Bay mussels, as well as Texas riverine mussels, their intrinsic value.  As God’s creatures they display His workmanship – God’s creative bioengineering is exhibited (“plainly seen”) in all animals, including humble mussels.

Accordingly, as some of the many (albeit small and usually unseen) creatures whom God chose to create (and to “fill” diverse wetland habitats), mussels deserve due credit, for doing what God has programmed them to do, including filter-cleaning wetland waters.

So, good for the mussels, good for the water supply, and that’s all good for us —  and therefore we should give glory unto God, because God is due credit for making estuarial and river-dwelling mussels what they are.                               ><> JJSJ  profjjsj@aol.com



Dr. James J. S. Johnson freely admits that his appreciation for mussels did not begin with learning about how they contribute to filter-cleaning estuarial waters, but rather from his eating lots of tasty blue mussels when visiting New England.

Dr. Konrad Gessner, 16th-Century Creation Scientist

Dr. Konrad Gessner, 16th-Century Creation Scientist

James J. S. Johnson

For the invisible things of Him [i.e., God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and deity, so that they are without excuse.   (Romans 1:20)

Konrad-Gessner.painting-publicdomain

Dr. Konrad Gessner (also spelled “Conrad Gesner”), who lived from AD1516 to AD1565, was a true Reformation-grounded biologist and ecologist, as well as an accomplished intellectual in other fields. Gessner was born and originally educated in Zürich, Switzerland, the Protestant city pastored first by Ulrich Zwingli, then next by Heinrich Bullinger (a personal friend of Gessner). During AD1532-1536 he studied at various universities in Strasbourg, Bourges, and Basel.

In AD1537 he taught as professor of Greek in Lausanne, yet soon afterwards began science studies leading to a Medical Doctor’s degree in AD1541 (in Basel). Returning to Zürich, he taught science there for most of the rest of his life. Dr. Gessner authored scholarly works on various subjects, such as:

  • botanical studies (including subalpine flowers) in AD1541, with more in AD1542;
  • a bibliographic encyclopedia of world literature in AD1545, with supplements in AD1548-1549;
  • zoological studies (mammals, birds, fishes, etc.) in AD1551-1558;
  • comparative language studies (on 22 translations of The Lord’s Prayer) in AD1555;
  • doxological mountain hiking, mixed with montane ecology, in AD1555.

Dr. Gessner’s research on snakes and insects was published posthumously. In AD1541, Gessner resolved to climb at least one mountain each year, a habit he thereafter maintained.

Mountain-hiking to Dr. Gessner, as a true biblical creationist, was a joy and an opportunity to appreciate God’s creative glory in nature.

Of special importance to creation geologists, such as William Hoesch (who is quoted below), Dr. Gessner also wrote on fossils (see article quoted below), refusing to accept the faddish contra-biblical fossil theory of his generation:

The history of thinking about fossils is a study in worldviews. Conrad Gesner of Zurich (1516-1565) is considered by some the greatest naturalist of his century. His book, On Fossil Objects, in many ways reflects his Protestant upbringing. The fact that he lost his father in armed combat between Catholics and Protestants in 1531 reminds us that this was a time when it was costly to believe. Gesner’s close friend growing up was none other than Heinrich Bullinger, one of the most influential Christian figures of his century. Gesner’s interest in science led him to universities at a time when Renaissance humanism was the dominant worldview. In his work on fossils, his Protestant upbringing shines through in some interesting ways.

First, Gesner placed great emphasis on firsthand observation which can be seen in his detailed woodcut illustrations of fossils. In this, he broke with the Renaissance tradition of science, placing the opinions of the “Ancients” (Aristotle, etc.) above that of observation. Gesner reversed this. At the time, it was not at all obvious that marine-looking fossils found in stone far from the sea were the remains of once living organisms. Neoplatonism held that the funny fossil shapes were controlled by mysterious astral influences, and Aristotelianism attributed marine-looking fossils to the transport of “seeds” of ocean-dwelling organisms that got carried inland and grew in place after lodging in the cracks. Gesner made no effort to challenge these teachings, but in comparing side-by-side quality woodcut illustrations of living marine organisms with marine-looking fossils, he helped to move thinking toward an organic interpretation of fossils. Firsthand observation is an essential step in “taking dominion over nature” that is mandated in Scripture, and Gesner seemed to manifest this.

Second, Gesner took a peculiar delight in the study of nature. When he considered the minerals and gems which were at that time considered in the category of “fossils,” he was transfixed by the thought that these were earthly reminders of the jeweled City of Jerusalem. An accomplished physician, he delighted in hiking the Swiss Alps where he sought to catalog botanicals for their potential medicinal use. It was considered odd at this time to “enjoy” nature, but Gesner is hailed by some today as the father of recreational hiking! Despite nature’s fallen condition, he was able to “see” the invisible things of God and His attributes (Romans 1:20). The level of delight Gesner took in nature cannot be credited to his Neoplatonic or Aristotelian training. It is as if he saw all of nature as a divine revelation.

The considered wisdom of “the Ancients,” that fossils grew in place, was ultimately an article of pagan philosophy. Gesner, and others who followed, helped to change the thinking process. Early church fathers like Tertullian actually had it right; they understood an organic origin for fossils. For them, to get the remains of marine creatures high on the hills required an unusual agency—it obviously took a global Flood! Although long forgotten, and requiring thinking big about earth history, this teaching of a global Flood would return in the seventeenth century and play a key role in returning science to a solid foundation. 

[Quoting William Hoesch, “Fossil Political Correctness in the Sixteenth Century,” Acts & Facts / Back to Genesis (January 2007).]

Gessner-Rhino.drawing

Don’t expect a lot of pop-culture applause for Dr. Gessner, though —  because he glorified God in his Protestant Reformation-informed scholarship.  Thus, unlike many secular scientists who accomplished much less, Gessner’s work is mostly ignored.  However, God has not ignored Dr. Gessner’s reverent and careful creation research and scholarship  —  because God gives credit where credit is due (Romans 13:7), regardless of whether the truth is popular!  Meanwhile, God’s glory as the Creator is “clearly seen” everywhere.

<> JJSJ    profjjsj@aol.com