Cetaceans’ Submarine Songfests

CETACEANS’  SUBMARINE  SONGFESTS: 

Norwegians and Americans Scrutinize Saltwater Serenades

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Blue Whale in Red Sea   (Novinite.com image)

HUMPBACK WHALE (The Bermudian Magazine)

 And God created great whales [tannînim], and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind; and God saw that it was good.   (Genesis 1:21)

 What is “whale-song”?  Music-like whale talk!  Whales are cetaceans, a category of whales and whale-like marine mammals, e.g., porpoises and dolphins. Our English word “cetacean” derives from the Greek noun kêtos (κητος) which appears in Matthew 12:40 (as “whale”), so “whales” are mentioned in Scripture.

Consider Genesis 1:21, quoted above.  Consider also Job 7:12, Ezekiel 32:2, and Matthew 12:40, as well as the reference in Lamentations 4:3a (“Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones:”).

For a short YouTube on humpback “songs” (by Oceania iWhales), check out https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=whale+song&view=detail&mid=080AA0FA37A93E87AB44080AA0FA37A93E87AB44&FORM=VIRE (about 3 minutes long).

For a video (by NatGeoOceans) on researching Blue Whales, review this YouTube:  https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Blue+Whale+Sounds&&view=detail&mid=FA613CEC5B6570EB96A8FA613CEC5B6570EB96A8&&FORM=VRDGAR  (video is about 6 minutes, with information on how Blue Whales are observed and recorded).

How can you describe the variety of whale-song sounds?  Screeching, shrieking, grunting, wailing, moaning, groaning, rumbling, buzzing, rattling, sqeaking, squealing, clicking, whistling, whining, rumbling, sputtering, and some low-noted sounds that might be embarrassing if emitted by humans.

Bowhead-whale.NOAA-photo

BOWHEAD WHALE (NOAA Fisheries photo)

BOWHEAD WHALES

Three Norwegian biologists (Dr. Øystein Wiig, Dr. Kit M. Kovacs, and Dr. Christian Lydersen), with an American oceanographer (Dr. Kate M. Stafford), have been studying whale-song—specifically, the songs sung by Bowhead whales from the polar waters of Svalbard, an island territory of Norway.

Almost all mammals communicate using sound, but few species produce complex songs. Two baleen whales sing complex songs that change annually, though only the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) has received much research attention. This study focuses on the other baleen whale singer, the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus). Members of the Spitsbergen bowhead whale population produced 184 different song types over a 3-year period, based on duty-cycled recordings from a site in Fram Strait in the northeast Atlantic. Distinct song types were recorded over short periods, lasting at most some months. …

Complex ‘song’ in mammals is rare. While many mammalian taxa produce repetitive ‘calls’, sometimes called advertisement songs, few mammals produce vocal displays akin to bird song, which is defined by multiple frequencies and amplitude-modulated elements combined into phrases and organized in long bouts. Such songs have been documented in only a few mammalian species, including some bats (Chiroptera), gibbons (Hylobatidae), mice (Scotinomys spp.), rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis), and two great whales, humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) and bowhead (Balaena mysticetus) whales [BLUE WHALES sing simplistic loud-and-rhythmic “rap music”, so they are excluded from this listing of “complex song” vocalists!]. With the exception of gibbons, in which males and females duet, complex songs in mammals are thought to be produced only by males. Male mammals are thought to sing to defend territories, advertise their quality, attract mates or some combination of these functions.

The song in baleen whales has been studied extensively only in humpback whales, which sing similar songs within a season across a whole population. The structure of that song gradually evolves [sic – erroneous terminology in original] over the season in unison and transfer of song types has been documented to occur directionally from one population to another over a period of years. Humpback whale songs are composed of a hierarchy from units to sub-phrases to phrases to themes.

Less is known about the songs of bowhead whales compared with humpback whales, but bowhead whale songs generally consist of a single phrase that includes amplitude- and frequency-modulated elements repeated in bouts, with two different sounds often produced simultaneously.

A pilot study from the Fram Strait in 2008 – 2009 provided the first indication that tens of song types were produced by bowhead whales in this region within a single overwinter period. No year-round studies of song diversity exist for other bowhead whale populations although multiple song types in a single year have been documented for two other populations. …

The diversity and interannual variability in songs of bowhead whales in this 3-year study are rivalled only by a few species of songbirds.

Among other mammalian singers, mice and gibbons tend to produce highly stereotyped and repetitive songs with few elements. Variation in rock hyrax and bat songs is primarily through changes in the arrangement of units.

Humpback whales produce complex songs that are similar within a year. Although the repertoire of any one individual bowhead whale in this study cannot be determined, the catalogue of song types (184) is remarkably varied.

It is not known whether individual bowhead whales sing multiple song types in a season, but some are known to share the same song type in the same period in the Bering– Chukchi–Beaufort (BCB) population. Nor is it known if individual bowhead whales maintain the same song throughout their lifetime or if they switch within and/or between years.

One explanation for the very high song diversity in the Spitsbergen bowhead whale population could be that the animals occupying this area in modern times include immigrants from both the BCB and the eastern Canada–western Greenland bowhead populations.

Until recently, these populations have been assumed to be isolated from each other due to extensive, impenetrable sea ice cover in the High Arctic.

However, in the past few decades, extreme declines in sea ice extent and thickness may have facilitated contact between these populations. However, even if this region contains bowhead whales from multiple populations, this does not fully explain the high numbers of different song types recorded in this study or the lack of recurrence of song types from year to year.

It is plausible that the bowhead whales in the Fram Strait are simply a remnant of the original Spitsbergen [Svalbard] population that survived the extreme historical levels of exploitation. The influence of small population size on song diversity is conflicted; some studies suggest song diversity increases in smaller populations, although others have found that reduced or isolated populations exhibit a reduction in song diversity and produce simpler songs.

In some species, females appear to prefer a diverse song repertoire, suggesting that increased complexity of singing might confer reproductive advantages. A recent study of howler monkeys (Alouatta spp.) documented tradeoffs in male reproductive characteristics based on (temporary) social structure: in groups with fewer males, or smaller social groups, males invested more in vocal displays as a reproductive tactic.  …

Bowhead whales are the only High Arctic resident baleen whale. Thus, interspecific identification via song may not confer the same selective [sic – should say “reproductive success”] advantage for bowheads that it might for other cetacean species. This could reduce selection pressure [sic mystical-magic jargon in original] on song stereotypy, allowing for greater variation in song types as a result of a long-term cultural mutation in songs, or song novelty itself might confer an advantage.

Because bowhead whales sing underwater, in heavy ice during the polar night, a nuanced understanding of the variable syntax of this species will be difficult to obtain.

Nevertheless, the singing behaviour of Spitsbergen bowhead whales, in which tens of distinct song types are produced annually, makes them remarkable among mammals.

[Quoting from 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).]

But, before Bowhead Whale songs were scrutinized, it was the singing of Humpback Whales that was reported — surprisingly revealing a submarine world of sound communications that most folks would never have imagined.

Humpback-Whale.NWF

HUMPBACK WHALE (Nat’l Wildlife Federation photo)

HUMPBACK WHALES

One of the most unusual music recordings to sell into the “multi-platinum” sales level was an LP album produced in AD1970, called “Songs of the Humpback Whale”, recorded by bio-acoustician Dr. Roger Payne, who had (with Scott McVay) discovered humpback “whale-song” (i.e., complex sonic arrangements of sound, sent for communicative purposes) during the AD1967 breeding season.

Prior to AD1970 Dr. Payne had studied echolocation (i.e., “sonar”) in bats, as well as auditory localization in owls, so (biologically speaking) he had “ears to hear” how animals use vocalized sounds to send and receive information to others of their own kind. Some of Dr. Payne’s work was shared with his wife (married AD1960; divorced AD1985), Katharine Boynton Payne, who noticed the predictable patterns of humpback whale-song, such as “rhymes”.  Acoustical research included spectrograms of whale vocalizations, portraying sound peaks, valleys, and gaps—somewhat (according to her) like musical “melodies” and “rhythms”.

To this day, apparently, “Songs of the Humpback Whale” is the best-selling nature sound recording, commercially speaking. The sensation-causing album (“Songs of the Humpback Whale”) presented diverse whale vocalizations (i.e., “whale songs”) that surprised many, promptly selling more than 100,000 copies.

Some of Dr. Payne’s research on whale-song appeared early, published in SCIENCE magazine, as follows:

(1) Humpback whales ( Megaptera novaeangliae ) produce a series of beautiful and varied sounds for a period of 7 to 30 minutes and then repeat the same series with considerable precision. We call such a performance “singing” and each repeated series of sounds a “song.”

(2) All prolonged sound patterns (recorded so far) of this species are in song form, and each individual adheres to its own song type.

(3) There seem to be several song types around which whales construct their songs, but individual variations are pronounced (there is only a very rough species-specific song pattern).

(4) Songs are repeated without any obvious pause between them; thus song sessions may continue for several hours.

(5) The sequence of themes in successive songs by the same individual is the same. Although the number of phrases per theme varies, no theme is ever completely omitted in our sample.

(6) Loud sounds in the ocean, for example dynamite blasts, do not seem to affect the whale’s songs.

(7) The sex of the performer of any of the songs we have studied is unknown.

(8) The function of the songs is unknown.

[Quoting from Roger S. Payne & Scott McVay, “Songs of Humpback Whales”, SCIENCE, 173(3997):585-597 (August 13th 1971).]

humpback whales.ScienceAlert-photo

HUMPBACK WHALES (ScienceAlert photo)

Dr. Payne eventually suggested that both Blue Whales and “fin whales” (a category of baleen whales also called “finback whales” or “rorqual whales”, which include the Common Rorqual, a/k/a “herring whale” and “razorback whale”) could send communicative sounds, underwater, across an entire ocean, and this phenomenon has been since confirmed by research.

Payne later collaborated with IMAX to produce a unique movie, “Whales:  An Unforgettable Journey”.

Others, of course, have joined in the research, studying humpback whale-song in the Atlantic Ocean.

For example, Howard E. Winn and Lois King K. Winn, both at the University of Rhode Island, summarized some of their research as follows:

Songs of the humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae were recorded and analyzed from Grand Turks in the Bahamas to Venezuela. …  The [humpback whale] song is produced only in the winter tropical calving grounds, just before the whales arrive on the banks.  Redundancy is high in that syllables, motifs, phrases and the entire song are repeated. Low, intermediate, and high-frequency sounds are scattered throughout the song. One sound is associated with blowing. The song appears to be partially different each year and there are some differences within a year between banks which may indicate that dialects are present. It is suggested that songs from other populations are quite different. The apparent yearly changes do not occur at one point in time. Only single individuals produce the song and they are hypothesized to be young, sexually mature males.  …

It has been known for 25 years that the humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae produces a variety of sounds. However, it was not until 1971 that Payne and McVay (1971), using recordings of humpbacks from Bermuda, demonstrated that the sounds are produced in an ordered sequence. In 1970, Winnet al. verified their findings by showing that humpbacks in Mona Passage, Puerto Rico, also produce a highly patterned song which lasts from 6 to 35 min and is repeated after surfacing.

Variation in the song’s organization has been explained by a number of hypotheses. Winn (1974, 1975) hypothesized that various song types might rep resent geographic herd dialects. Recently, Payne and Payne (in press) studied additional songs from Bermuda and concluded that the song changes each year. The song’s social and behavioral context has also been studied.

Apparently the song is produced only by single, isolated individuals, primarily while they are in the tropics during the winter (Winn et al., 1970; and this paper). They calve and mate during this period, but generally do not feed (Tomilin, 1967).

The song of [humpback patterns include] … “moans and cries”; to “yups or ups and snores”; to “whos or wos and yups”; to “ees and oos”; to “cries and groans”; and finally to varied “snores and cries”. Snores, cries and other sounds can be found in different themes from year to year; yet, invariably one finds a set pattern of changing themes, in a fixed order. Several times humpbacks have breached in the middle of their song and then restarted the song from the beginning or at some different part of the song.

[Quoting from H. E. Winn & L. K. Winn, “The song of the humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae in the West Indies”, MARINE BIOLOGY, 47(2):97-114 (January 1st 1978).]

Many years after their earliest research together, Dr. Roger Payne joined with his ex-wife (Katharine Payne) to describe their 19 years of studies of humpback whale-song, especially as observed in the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda:

163 songs of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) recorded near Bermuda during April and May of 13 years between 1957 and 1975 have been analysed as continuous sound spectrograms and compared. In each year’s sample, all whales were singing basically the same song. However, the song was changing conspicuously and progressively with time so that songs separated by a number of years were very different in content. All the songs showed basic structural similarities so that it is possible to define a song form which characterizes songs from many years.  …

An analysis, of the songs sung by groups of whales, shows that normal singing continues even when whales are close enough, presumably, to hear each other. Such analysis demonstrates inter– and intra– individual variability, none of which is as great as the variation between songs of consecutive years. We do not understand the significance of changing songs.

We know of no other non-human animal for which such dramatic non-reversing changes appear in the display pattern of an entire population as part of their normal behavior.

[Quoting from Katharine Payne & Roger Payne, “Large Scale Changes over 19 Years in Songs of Humpback Whales in Bermuda”, ETHOLOGY, 68(2):89-114 (April 26th 2010).]

Blue-whale-vs.-elephant-Britannica-pic

BLUE WHALES

Recently Dr. Ana Širović, a Croatian-born oceanographer at University of California—San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography (based in La Jolla), reported observations of the Blue Whale—and its habit of underwater singing.  Some of these observations were published by Craig Welch, in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, as follows:

By analyzing thousands of calls from more than 100 whales over 14 years, scientists are learning how these secretive beasts spend their time.

Blue-Whale.NaturalWorldSafaris-photo

BLUE WHALE (Natural World Safaris photo)

The biggest animal to ever live is also the loudest, and it likes to sing at sunset, babble into the night, talk quietly with those nearby, and shout to colleagues 60 miles away.

The blue whale, which can grow to 100 feet long and weigh more than a house, is a veritable chatterbox, especially males, vocalizing several different low-frequency sounds. And for years scientists had only the vaguest notion of when and why these giants of the sea make all those sounds. … In the first effort of its kind, Ana Širović, an oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, and her team scoured a collection of more than 4,500 recordings of blue whale sounds taken from underwater microphones at over a dozen locations over 14 years, from 2002 to 2016, in southern California. The researchers then sync[h]ed the recordings with the movements of 121 whales that had been tagged with suction-cup trackers. What they learned challenged many assumptions about these noisy beasts.

Singing Males

Blue whales of both sexes produce several types of single-note calls, but only males sing. Males are also far noisier, and make different sounds for different reasons, but scientists aren’t always sure what those reasons are. For example, scientists had long assumed that one type of short call was used at meal time. But, instead, males and females frequently produced these vocalizations during dives that didn’t involve foraging at all. “It’s like the two behaviors are entirely separate,” says Širović.

The calls also change with the seasons and with time of day. Some single-note calls seem to occur more often when whales are returning from deep dives. Those may help with pair-bonding, scientists say. Much like birds, which often break into sound as day fades, male blue whales also tend to sing at the end of the day. In some species, such as European robins and nightingales, singing is often adjusted as a means of conserving energy, and energy may be a factor with blue whales as well. But unlike birds, Širović says, “blue whale songs propagate over tens of kilometers or even 100 kilometers.” And when they’re singing, male blues dive deeper. “I think what they are doing by regulating depth is changing the distance over which they’re calling, Širović says. “Individual calls are probably to animals nearby. They may be trying to reach much farther with singing. That’s kind of cool.” She assumes the singing—especially since it’s limited to just males—may somehow be linked to searching for mates. But no one has ever witnessed blue whale reproduction, so she can’t say for certain.

Songs of the Species

Širović has found there are similarities across many species, especially whales in the same family, such as blues, brydes, and sei whales. Males are the predominant singers and there seem to be peak calling seasons. But there are differences, too. Unlike blues, with their deep melodic songs, fin whales don’t really change notes. Their songs, instead, are produced using a single note, but with a rhythmic beat.

And unlike some dolphin species, such as killer whale, it’s not clear whether blues have distinctive voices. So far it appears they do not. “We can’t always tell whether there are 10 calls from 10 whales or one whale calling 10 times,” Širović says. “So far, we can’t really tell Joe Blue Whale from Betty Blue Whale.”

Quoting Craig Welch, “Elusive Blue Whale Behavior Revealed by Their Songs”, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (February 15th, 2018), posted at https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/blue-whale-songs-behavior-decoded-spd/ .
Blue-Whale-breaching.ourmarinespecies.com-photo

BLUE WHALE breaching surface (oumarinespecies.com photo)

This Blue Whale vocalization research, by Dr. Širović, was summarized recently by creation scientist David Coppedge, as follows:

Blue whales—the largest animals in the ocean—are talented singers, too, but little has been known about the music of these secretive beasts.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC reported on a 14-year effort by Scripps Institute in California to decode the vocalizations of 100 blue whales.

Since the sound travels for miles, they could pick up the sounds remotely with underwater microphones, but they also sync[h]ed the sounds with individual whales by outfitting them with suction-cup trackers.

The results were surprising, changing assumptions about blue whale behavior . . .  Both sexes vocalize, but only the males ‘sing’, the researchers found.  They’re also the loudest.  The reasons for all the noise are not well known, but the males seem to begin their ‘deep melodic songs’ around sunset, serenading into the night, probably to attract mates.  …  The more details you learn about living things, the less excuse you have to chalk it up to evolution.

[Quoting from David Coppedge, “Underwater Troubadours”, CREATION MATTERS, 23(2):8-11 (March-April 2018).


Dr. James J. S. Johnson has taught courses in biology, ecology, geography, and related topics (since the mid-AD1990s) for Texas colleges. A student (and traveler) of oceans and seashores, he has lectured as the onboard naturalist (since the late AD1990s) aboard 9 cruise ships, including 4 visiting Alaska and the Inside Passage, with opportunities to see humpback whales, usually (but not always) from a safe distance.  Jim is also a certified specialist in Nordic History & Geography (CNHG) who frequently gives presentations to the Norwegian Society of Texas (and similar groups).  ><> JJSJ      profjjsj@aol.com

BlueWhale-RerdSea-Novinite.com-image

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 .


 

 

Remembering Mount St. Helens, After 39 Years

Remembering Mount St. Helens, After 39 Years  

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.  (Psalm 144:5)

MountSt.Helens-eruption-AD1980-05-18

Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption on May 18, AD1980   (public domain)

WHEN DID MOUNT ST. HELENS BLOW UP?  WHAT HAPPENED THERE, AND WHEN?

The first eruption of Mount St. Helens happened Sunday morning, May 18th of AD1980; that month I graduated (with an A.A.!) from Montgomery College in Germantown, Maryland.  The seismic force of eruption was measured at 5.1, on the Richter magnitude scale, which is actually deemed a mere seismic “disruption”, not a seismic “disaster”, much less a seismic “catastrophe”.  Of course for those people who died, or lost their homes, it was a “catastrophe”.   Thousands of mammals (like elk and bear) died, as well as millions of salmon in destroyed hatcheries.

Being a grandfather of 9, I’m old enough to recall the eruptions of Mount St. Helens, during May of AD1980, especially since I took a summer course under Dr. Henry Morris (founding president of California’s Institute for Creation Research, teaching for what was then Christian Heritage College) only a few weeks later.  Dr. Morris called the Mount St. Helens eruptions (and the mudflows and sedimentary “pancake” layering deposited as a result, as “God’s gift to creation science” (or “God’s gift to Flood geology”), because its demonstrated, on  a small scale – in hours and days (not millions of years) – how a sedimentary layered canyon, like the Grand Canyon, could be formed catastrophically, with a lot of water and a lot of power, over a little bit of time – as opposed to requiring little bits of power repeated over imagined millions of years.

Specifically, the “Little Grand Canyon” of the Toutle River is a 1/40th scale comparable to the famous Grand Canyon of Arizona.  In other words, catastrophic geological processes that occurred during the Genesis Flood, like volcanic eruptions and flooding (including high-powered mudflows), can easily explain the water-blasted formation of Arizona’s Grand Canyon.  The key to understanding much of earth’s history, the apostle Peter reminds us (in 2nd Peter chapter 3), is the Genesis Flood.

MountSt.Helens-forming-LittleGrandCanyon

HOW DID VOLCANIC ERUPTION(S) AT MOUNT ST. HELENS EXHIBIT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT GEOLOGISTS CALL “UNIFORMITARIANISM” AND “CATASTROPHISM”?

Uniformitarianism is the assumption, made by many scientists (especially those with no forensic science background), that the usual events and processes of today’s world, that we can observe in the present, matches the events and processes of the no-longer-observable past.  In other words, uniformitarianism assumes that the “present is the key to (understanding) the past”.  This is wrong.  Actually, Scripture teaches us that knowing the truth about the past (which we can learn from Genesis and the other books of the Bible) is the key to understanding our present situation.  Why? Because our present situation is the result of past events – most of which we cannot observe or learn about directly, especially unique events like Creation, the Fall, and the worldwide Flood, as well as the life of Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection.

For an example relevant to Mount St. Helens, consider Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Was it formed by slow and gradual natural processes over unobserved eons of “deep” time? Uniformitarian geoscientists propose “yes,” but Genesis records a globally catastrophic “no” in Genesis chapters 6-thru-9.

MountSt.Helens-aerosol-ash-clouds-in-Othello.HelenHysjulien

Mount St. Helens volcanic ash cloud looms over Othello, Washington   (Helen Hysjulien photo)

Consider this analysis by geologist Dr. Steve Austin, who repeatedly visited Mount St. Helens while it was active, and repeatedly researched its post-eruption conditions (and its amazingly powerful mudflows), after the eruptions during both AD1980 and AD1982.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State on May 18, 1980, is certain to be remembered as one of the most significant geologic events in the United States of the 20th century.

The explosion, on May 18, was initiated by an earthquake and rockslide involving one-half cubic mile of rock. As the summit and north slope slid off the volcano that morning, pressure was released inside the volcano – where super hot liquid water immediately flashed to steam. The northward-directed steam explosion released energy equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT, which toppled 150 square miles of forest in six minutes.

In Spirit lake, north of the volcano, an enormous water wave, initiated by one-eighth cubic mile of rockslide debris, stripped trees from slopes as high as 850 feet above the pre-eruption water level. The total energy output, on May 18, was equivalent to 400 million tons of TNT – approximately 20,000 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs.

On May 18 and also during later eruptions, critical energy thresholds were exceeded by potent geologic processes which were able to accomplish significant changes in short order. These processes challenge the traditional uniformitarian way of thinking about how the earth works, and serve as a miniature laboratory for catastrophism.

Institute for Creation Research scientists have spent three summers investigating the geologic changes which have occurred at the volcano. Four of the most significant discoveries are summarized in this short report.

RAPIDLY FORMED STRATIFICATION

Up to 400 feet thickness of strata have formed since 1980 at Mount St. Helens. These deposits accumulated from primary air blast, landslide, waves on the lake, pyroclastic flows, mudflows, air fall, and stream water. Perhaps the most surprising accumulations are the pyroclastic flow deposits amassed from ground-hugging, fluidized, turbulent slurries of fine volcanic debris, which moved at high velocities off the flank of the volcano as the eruption plume of debris over the volcano collapsed. These deposits include fine pumice ash laminae and beds from one millimeter thick to greater than one meter thick, each representing just a few seconds to several minutes of accumulation. A deposit accumulated in less than one day, on June 12, 1980, is 25 feet thick and contains many thin laminae and beds. Conventionally, sedimentary laminae and beds are assumed to represent longer seasonal variations, or annual changes, as the layers accumulated very slowly. Mount St. Helens teaches us that the stratified layers commonly characterizing geological formations can form very rapidly by flow processes. Such features have been formed quickly underwater in laboratory sedimentation tanks, and it should not surprise us to see that they have formed in a natural catastrophe.

RAPID EROSION

Erosion during volcanic eruptions at Mount St. Helens was accomplished by scour from steam blast, landslide, water waves, hot pumice ash flows (pyroclastic flows), and mudflows. Since the eruptions, the erosion process has been dominated by sheet flooding and channelized flow of water, with occasional mudflows.

About 23 square miles of the North Fork of the Toutle River Valley was obstructed by two-thirds cubic mile of landslide and pyroclastic debris, which has been rapidly eroded since 1980. Jetting steam from buried water and ice under hot pumice reamed steam explosion pits with associated mass-wasting processes at the margins of pits, producing rills and gullies over 125 feet deep. Photographic documentation assembled by ICR scientists demonstrates that very pronounced rills and gullies had formed at the margins of seam explosion pits before May 23 – less than five days after the pumice was deposited. The rills and gullies resemble badlands topography, which geologists have usually assumed required many hundreds or even thousands of years to form.

Mudflows, from Mount St. Helens, were responsible for the most significant erosion.

A mudflow on March 19, 1982, eroded a canyon system up to 140 feet deep in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Toutle River Valley, establishing the new dendritic pattern of drainage. As ICR scientists surveyed this new terrain, they began to contemplate the processes which may have formed the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

The little “Grand Canyon of the Toutle River” is a one-fortieth scale model of the real Grand Canyon. [emphasis added]

The small creeks which flow through the headwaters of the Toutle River today might seem, by present appearances, to have carved these canyons very slowly over a long time period, except for the fact that the erosion was observed to have occurred rapidly! Geologists should learn that, since the long-time scale they have been trained to assign to landform development would lead to obvious error on Mount St. Helens, it also may be useless or misleading elsewhere.

UPRIGHT DEPOSITED LOGS

The landslide generated waves on Spirit Lake stripped the forests from the slopes adjacent to the lake and created an enormous log mat, made up of millions of prone floating trunks that occupy about two square miles of the lake surface. These logs float freely as the wind blows them, and the decreasing size of the log mat indicates that the trees are gradually sinking to the lake floor. Careful observation of the floating log mat indicates that many trees float in upright position, with a root ball submerging the root end of the trunk, while the opposite end floats out of the water. Hundreds of upright floated and deposited logs have been grounded in shallow water along the shore of the lake. These trees, if buried in sediment, would appear to have been a forest which grew in place over hundreds of years, which is the standard geological interpretation for the upright petrified “forests” at Yellowstone National Park.

In order to get more information on the upright deposited logs in Spirit Lake, members of the ICR research team worked with Dr. Harold Coffin, of Geoscience Research Institute, to survey the lake bottom, using sonar and scuba. Hundreds of upright, fully submerged logs were located by sidescan sonar, and scuba divers verified that they were, indeed, trunks of trees which the sonar detected.

Extrapolating from the area of lake floor surveyed to the entire lake bottom, we estimate more than 19,000 upright stumps existed on the floor of the lake in August 1985. The average height of an upright deposited stump is 20 feet. Sonar records and scuba investigations verified that many of the upright deposited trees have root masses radiating away from the bases of the trunks. Furthermore, the trees are randomly spaced, not clumped together, over the bottom of the lake, again having the appearance of being an in situ forest. Scuba investigation of the upright deposited trunks shows that some are already solidly buried by sedimentation, with more than three feet of sediment around their bases, while others have no sediment around their bases. This proved that the upright trees were deposited at different times, with their roots buried at different levels.

If found buried in the stratigraphic record, these trees might be interpreted as multiple forests which grew on different levels over periods of thousands of years. The Spirit Lake upright deposited stumps, therefore, have considerable implications for interpreting “petrified forests” in the stratigraphic record.

PEAT LAYER IN SPIRIT LAKE

The enormous log mat floating on Spirit Lake has lost its bark and branches by the abrasive action of wind and waves. Scuba investigations of the lake bottom showed that water-saturated sheets of tree bark are especially abundant on the bottom of the lake, where, in areas removed from volcanic sediment added from the lake shore, a layer of peat several inches thick has accumulated. The Spirit Lake peat resembles, both compositionally and texturally, certain coal beds of the eastern United States, which also are dominated by tree bark and appear to have accumulated beneath floating log mats.

Coal is supposed, conventionally, to have accumulated from organic material accumulated in swamps by growth in place of plants and burial. Because the accumulation of peat in swamps is a slow process, geologists have supposed that coal beds required about one thousand years to form each inch of coal.

The peat layer in Spirit lake, however, demonstrates that peat accumulate rapidly. Swamp peats, however, have only very rare bark sheet material because the intrusive action of tree roots disintegrates and homogenizes the peat. The Spirit Lake peat, in contrast, is texturally very similar to coal. All that is needed is burial and slight heating to transform the Spirit Lake peat into coal. Thus, at Spirit Lake, we may have seen the first stage in the formation of coal.

CONCLUSION

Mount St. Helens provides a rare opportunity to study transient geologic processes which produced, within a few months, changes which geologists might otherwise assume required many thousands [if not “millions”] of years.

The volcano, therefore, challenges our way of thinking about how the earth works, how it changes, and the time scale we are accustomed to attaching to its formations. These processes and their effects allow Mount St. Helens to serve as a miniature laboratory for catastrophism.

Mount St. Helens helps us to imagine what the Biblical Flood, of Noah’s day[s], may have been like.

[Quoting Steve Austin, “Mount St. Helens and Catastrophism”, ACTS & FACTS,  volume 15, issue 7 (July 1986), posted at  https://www.icr.org/article/mt-st-helens-catastrophism .]

MountSt.Helens-ash-blanket.VintageNews

Volcanic ash blanket form Mount St. Helens eruption   (Vintage News photo)

For those with eyes to see, the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens illustrates how sudden and drastic geological change can occur, and why uniformitarian canyon-formation assumptions fail.

MountSt.Helens-ashblasted-wasteland.Pinterest

Mount St. Helens devastated the landscape, killing people, animals, trees  (Pinterest photo)

Many eyewitnesses observed, and cameras recorded, how a 1/40-scale-model version of Grand Canyon was violently formed within just a few days, during AD1980 (and later again in AD1982, just 2 years after Mount St. Helens’ AD1980 explosion), disproving the notion that such stratified-rock-layered canyons require “millions of years” to form their “evolution”-facilitated pancaked layers (of mud-hardened-into-sedimentary-rock).

MountSt.Helens-LittleGrandCanyon-SteveAustin

“Little Grand Canyon of the Toutle River” (photo by Dr. Steve Austin)
[see also Steve Austin, “Mount St. Helens and Catastrophism” (1986),
posted at   https://www.icr.org/article/mount-st-helens-catastrophism ]

So why are uniformitarians reluctant to appreciate catastrophic canyon formation? They continue to assume that “today’s present world is the key to understanding the past”, especially unique events that occurred in the ancient world. Today, both Mount St. Helens and Grand Canyon appear peaceful. But the relatively non-catastrophic natural processes operating today are not trustworthy guides for understanding past geological events such as Mount St. Helens’ eruption, or the Genesis Flood, or the Ice Age.  But there is more, much more, that uniformitarian thinking gets wrong.

Uniformitarians also assume (like atheists) that God is operationally absent  — or else they assume (like Deists) that God is relatively uninvolved, from what occurs in nature. They willfully ignore (to use the apostle Peter’s words) the many physical and historical evidences of His Creatorship (and of the global Flood), as they act as if God wasn’t (and isn’t) obviously active in, and with, His own creation.

MountSt.Helens.re-eruption-AD1982-05-19

Volcanic Steam Plume on May 19, AD1982 (Mount St. Helens re-eruption)

IS MOUNT ST. HELENS RELEVANT TO ESTIMATING THE AGE OF THE EARTH?

Mount St. Helens illustrates how quickly catastrophic geology can form sedimentary rock canyons, so it refutes the idea that sedimentary rock canyons must require millions of years to form. Yet there is more to the age debate!  If you really think it through, you’ll see that how old Earth is cannot be determined by looking at its present condition   — yet empirical scientists pop out opinions about Earth’s age like popcorn!

But the age of something, or of someone, cannot be known with certainty without a reliable eye-witness.   Here’s an example: How old are you, exactly? How do you know when you were born?  Obviously you were there, when you were born, but you were so young at the time, you don’t remember what day it was!  Because your birth is a unique event, and it is no longer observable, the uniformitarian assumption can’t be used to prove your birth-date.  However, a reliable eye-witness was there – your mother!   (Trust me, she was there  —  and she remembers the day you were born!) And your birth-date was promptly written down, by reliable record-keepers, before it could be forgotten.  Without a reliable eye-witness you can only guess when you were born.

Likewise, without the book of Genesis (which contains God’s eye-witness report of Earth’s creation, in error-free writing), we cannot know how old Earth is.  But if we close the Holy Bible, we only make wild guesses about how old Earth is (and how it got here).

MountSt.Helens-recovery-USDA-ForestService

Ecological recovery at Mount St. Helens   (U.S. Forest Service photo)

WERE ANY SCIENTISTS SURPRISED AT THE ECOSYSTEM’S POST-ERUPTION RECOVERY?

Evolutionists assumed that it would be generations before the volcanic ash-blanketed area around Mount St. Helens would “bounce back”, ecologically speaking. Yet within weeks, revitalization was evident:  avalanche lilies grew up through the deposited volcanic ash. During AD1992 our family vacationed near Mount St Helens, and we visited the area, noticing bright-covered flowers growing up through the devastated landscape.

MountSt.Helens-recovery-wildflowers.SeattleTimes

Wildflowers (lupines, Indian paintbrush, &c) at Mount St. Helens   (Seattle Times photo)

Less than 20 years later bushes and deciduous trees were growing there, providing food and cover for insects, birds, and mammals.  Now an entire canopy of trees have restored much of the area to productivity, with a mix of plants and animals thriving at the very site of total devastation less than 40 years ago.

So Mount St. Helens illustrates ecological resilience, a trait that God intentionally designed into ecosystems around the world, because God values biodiversity that “fills” Earth’s various habitats.  No surprise on that, really, because it was God Himself Who originally commanded (and equipped) diverse life-forms to “fill the earth”.  (And this divine decree was renewed after the Flood  —  see Genesis chapter 9.)

In short, Earth’s ecology is  a lot more resilient than design-resistant evolutionists think it is – Mount St. Helens proves it!

Stauer-Helenite-jewelry-advert

Stauer Helenite necklace, earrings & ring   (made from Mount St. Helens ash)

CAN MOUNT ST. HELENS’S ASHES HELP GODLY HUSBANDS AND THEIR GODLY WIVES?

Mount St. Helens can provide a witness for God, and a benefit for your marriage, if you and your spouse are witnessing Christians.  Part of our family’s vacation (in AD1992) included a visit there, and I still have some vessels filled with volcanic ash (including some that I obtained from friends or merchants who gathered ash during AD1980).

Better yet, some Mount St. Helens volcanic ash was used (somehow) to make brilliant green “Helenite” jewelry (some of which I bought for my wife).  Whenever someone comments on her Helenite necklace, she can tell them about the scientific importance of Mount St. Helens  —  and how it illustrates that a geologic catastrophe can quickly produce a miniature Grand Canyon, in just a few days, with no need for the gazillions of years that uniformitarian evolutionists assume is needed.

(Hey, there’s an idea for you ladies!   –  tell your husband to google “jewelry” and “Helenite”, because you want to wear some Helenite jewelry, to help you give a Biblical witness to those who ask for a reason for your faith!)

Stauer-Helenite-4carat-ring-advert


 

 

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


 

NOT DEER OR BOVINE, SO IT MUST BE AN ‘ANTELOPE’

  NOT DEER OR BOVINE, SO IT MUST BE AN ‘ANTELOPE’

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg [dîshōn], and the wild ox, and the chamois.   (Deuteronomy 14:5)

Addax-Morocco.Haytem93-photo

ADDAX male [photo credit: Haytem93]

Most likely the “Pygarg” [dîshōn] is what today is called an ADDAX.  An ADDAX is a desert-dwelling member of the ANTELOPE family.  [See George Cansdale, ALL THE ANIMALS OF THE BIBLE LANDS (Zondervan, 1976), page 85, saying “Among several quaint animal names found only in the AV [i.e., KJV] is the Pygarg, from Heb. dishon; this is merely a transliteration of the [LXX] Gr. Word meaning ‘white-rumped’, by which [Greeks] had long ago described an antelope. … [The reference in Deuteronomy 14:5] between two animals that are probably desert species, coupled with a long-standing tradition, suggests that this is the Addax, Addax nasomaculatus, a desert antelope classified between the oryx and hartebeests”.]antelope-family.jjsj-PPTslide

But, what is an antelope?

Antelope, and antelope-like animals, live in many different parts of the world—except not in Australia or Antarctica. For examples, pronghorns live mostly in America’s Western prairie states. The oryx live in Israel and many of the Arabian deserts.  The Dorcas gazelle lives in the top half of Africa.  Impalas live in eastern and southern Africa.

Serengeti-migraton-wildebeest-zebra.ZambesiSafari-photo

Wildebeests and Zebras migrate through Serengeti  /  Zambesi Safari photo

The blue wildebeest (also called “gnu”) are famous for their huge migratory herds, that often mix with zebras, that seasonally travel through Tanzania’s Serengeti.  Tibetan antelope, of course, live in Tibet, as well as in neighboring parts of Asia.  The Indian antelope (also called “blackbuck”) lives in India, Pakistan, and Nepal.

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Great Migration (Serengeti & Masai Mara)  image credit: Pinterest

These plant-eating mammals (animals that give mother’s milk to their babies) are different from other four-legged mammals – such as deer, cattle, horses, camels, sheep, goats, pigs, cats, and dogs.

In many ways antelope (and antelope-like animals, like the pronghorns of America’s prairies) are like deer. But unlike deer, which have antlers (that grow and shed each year, then regrow the next year, and are later shed, etc.), antelopes have horns (like cattle, bison, sheep, and goats), which continue to slowly grow out from their heads, anchored to bony roots.

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Antelopes often live in flat grasslands (such as the grassy prairies of America’s West), where their plant-food is plentiful. However, in grasslands there are usually very few trees, so antelopes cannot hide in forests from other animals (such as mountain lions or wolves), so it is good that God made them to have great speed for running across flat land.  And that is what antelopes (and pronghorns, which are antelope-like animals) often do–with great speed!–when they run away from predators at high speeds—sometimes as fast as 55 miles/hour for a mile, or 42 miles/hour for 2 miles, or 35 miles/hour for 3 miles.Gazelle-foraging.jjsj-PPTslide

Dorcas is the Greek word for a gazelle, which is a member of the antelope family. Because gazelles are graceful and beautiful animals it is unsurprising that girl babies have been named Dorcas, including one who is mentioned in Scripture, in Acts chapter 9.Dorcas-philology.jjsj-PPTslide

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In North America the primary antelope-like mammal is the PRONGHORN. To learn about this beautiful, graceful, and extremely speedy animals, see “Geography Matters, Illustrated by Pronghorns, Mountain Goats, and Old Testament Warfare”, posted at https://bibleworldadventures.com/2016/08/17/geography-matters-illustrated-by-pronghorns-mountain-goats-and-old-testament-warfare/ .

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When we see beauty, grace, strength, and speed — displayed in antelope (and antelope-like pronghorns) — we are reminded, by these living exhibits of God’s making, that God Himself is amazingly beautiful, graceful, strong, and quick, beyond our comprehension.


 

What Are those Animals Called ‘Unicorns’ in the Bible?

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Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? Or wilt thou leave thy labor to him?  Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?  (Job 39:9-12)

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What Are those Animals Called ‘Unicorns’ in the Bible?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Scoffers are known to poke fun at Scripture’s mention (in the King James Bible) of “unicorns”, accusing the Bible of being “unscientific”.(1),(2)  Such pseudo-science ridicule is readily refuted, however, even when it’s uncertain which beast is represented by the English word “unicorn”.

The scoffer’s ridicule of “unicorns” (in Scripture) relies upon this flawed syllogism:

ASSUMPTION A: If the Bible is perfectly true it would not treat mythical animals as if they really exist.

ASSUMPTION B: The Bible treats “unicorns”, which are mythical beasts, as if they really exist.

INFERRED CONCLUSION: Therefore the Bible can’t be perfectly true and credible.

With that sophism scoffers giddily dismiss the Bible’s perfection. Of course, the entire mockery rests upon a Straw-man Fallacy(3) because scoffers presuppose that the term “unicorn” is the core controversy—yet the real question is whether or not the underlying Hebrew noun (re’ēm) refers to a real-world animal.(4)

Assumption A contains the Uniformitarian Fallacy,(3) by assuming the Hebrew noun re’ēm must match some animal alive today. However, in light of the inescapable reality that some animal varieties are going extinct, there is no reason why re’ēm must refer to a beast existing today.

Assumption B contains the Bait-and-Switch Fallacy,(3) by assuming thhe mythological beast called a “unicorn”, that exists in fairy tales (and Hollywood cartoons), must equal the Hebrew noun re’ēm that is referred to 9 times within the Old Testament.

Yet reviewing the relevant Biblical contexts (see below) shows re’ēm was a horned beast, like a wild ox or maybe a rhino — neither of which you would try to domesticate!

Furthermore, skeptics sometimes add a corollary assumption to buttress their ridicule of Scripture’s “unicorns”—acting as if their challenge cannot be refuted unless and until Christians positively identify a real-world “unicorn” (i.e., what the Hebrew Bible calls re’ēm), presuming that any doubt about the re’ēm’s taxonomic identity invalidates the Bible’s trustworthiness.(4)

However, refuting the skeptic does not require that “unicorns” be identified with certainty; it is enough to show that plausible solutions exist, proving that “unicorns” need not refer to “mythical” beasts. In fact, more than one plausible candidate (for the “unicorn”) exists—or previously existed(2)—as shown below.

Could the “unicorn” be a rhinoceros, especially a one-horned variety?

Most modern readers don’t know that the word “unicorn” formerly referred to a one-horned Rhinoceros. Consider, however, this is the primary definition of “UNICORN” in the 1828 edition of Noah Webster’s Dictionary:

UNICORN, n. [L. unicornis; unus, one, and cornu, horn.] 1. An animal with one horn; the Monoceros.  This name is often applied to the rhinoceros.(5)

The one-horned rhinoceros remains a plausible candidate for the horned beast that Moses (and other Hebrews) called re’ēm, of which there are living varieties:  Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus).(6)

Could the “unicorn” be a wild horned bovine, like aurochs or bison?

The presumed ancestor of domesticated bovines (including cattle, water buffalo, yak, zebu) is the now-extinct aurochs.(2) One of its kind is the inherently wild bison (a/k/a “buffalo”).(7) These wild beasts both have two horns (see Psalm 22:21; Deuteronomy 33:17), are built to be powerful (Numbers 23:22), and are biologically comparable to domesticated bovines (Psalm 29:6; Isaiah 34:7).  Harnessing such dangerous bovines, to plow a farm field’s furrows, would be a reckless undertaking, for any foolish farmer who might try it (see Job 39:9-10).

So, what does this prove? First, the skeptic’s Uniformitarian Fallacy guts his criticism of Job 39:9 (and other Scriptures that refer to re’ēm).  Second, the skeptic’s insistence that the English term “unicorn”, as used in the AD1611 King James Bible, equate to a spiral-cone-horned horse, is a bait-and-switch-facilitated strawman challenge, because there are plausible candidate, among real-world animals, that could fit the identity of the Scriptural re’ēm.  Consequently, the scoffer’s caricature of Biblical “unicorns” is not a genuine impeachment of the Bible’s verity.

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REFERENCES

(1)The King James Bible uses the English word “unicorn” in 9 Scripture passages: Numbers 23:22 & 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-10; Psalms 22:21 (v.22 in BH) & 29:16; Isaiah 34:7.

(2)Dr. Henry Morris, concluded that the “unicorn” (of Job 39:9) was a wild ox-like bovine, the aurochs, that became extinct: “The unicorn is supposedly a mythological animal; actually the creature referred to here is the extinct aurochs, or wild ox, a fierce animal that once inhabited this region. Many of the animals mentioned [in Job chapter 39], as well as other parts of the Old Testament, are of very uncertain identity, and various translators have tied them to a considerable diversity of modern animals. The probable reason for this uncertainty is that many of the animals, like the ‘unicorn’, are now extinct, because they could not long survive the drastically changed environments following the great Flood.” [Footnote to Job 39:9 in The New Defender’s Study Bible, page 822.]  Zoölogist George Cansdale concluded that re’ēm was the now-extinct aurochs. [George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible Lands (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), page 82.]  The aurochs is depicted repeatedly on the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, now relocated to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

(3)Regarding logical fallacies, James J. S. Johnson, “Staying on Track Despite Deceptive Distractions”, Acts & Facts, 41(5):9-11 (May 2012) (re straw-man fallacy, posted at http://www.icr.org/article/staying-track-despite-deceptive-distractions/ );  “Bait and Switch: A Trick Used by Both Anglerfish and Evolutionists”,  Acts & Facts, 41(1):10-11 (January 2012) (re bait-and-switch fallacy), posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/bait-switch-trick-used-by-both-anglerfish  );  “Is the Present the ‘Key’ to the Past?” Acts & Facts, 43(6):19 (June 2014, posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/8165 ).

(4)A related inquiry is why Bible scholars, seeking to translate re’ēm into Greek, Latin, and English, used words like “unicorn” in their translations.  The Septuagint (“LXX”), a Greek translation of the Old Testament, translated re’ēm as monokerôs.  Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translated re’ēm as rinocerotis in Deuteronomy 33:17 and rinoceros in Job 39:9, and unicornes in Isaiah 34:7!  This indicates that at least some translators though that re’ēm was one-horned,  perhaps the one-horned rhinoceros.

(5)Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (San Francisco, CA: Foundation for American Christian Education; 1995 facsimile of Noah Webster’s 1st edition of 1828), unpaginated.

(6)See Eric Dinerstein, The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros (NY, NY: Columbia University Press, 2003).  Obviously the term “unicorn” is not a good fit for two-horned rhinos, such as the Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), and Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).  But the Hebrew noun re’ēm, unlike the English word “unicorn”, does not require the beast to be one-horned, as is indicated by Deuteronomy 33:17 (which refers to unicorn “horns”, possibly denoting a two-horned rhino).  Some evolutionist paleontologists have expressed interesting (albeit forensically flawed) opinions about the ancestral rhino that they believe led to the “unicorns”.  [See Deng Tao, Wang ShiQi, & Hou SuKuan, “A Bizaree Tandem-horned Elasmothere Rhino from the Late Miocene of Northwestern China and the Origin of the True Elasmothere”, Chinese Science Bulletin, 58(15):1811-1817 (May 2013).]

(7)Another candidate is the one-horned Arabian oryx antelope, but its less-intimidating traits (compared to rhinos, bison, and aurochs) seem less likely to fit the Bible’s re’ēm.


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