Man Learns from God’s Creations
WHEN the atomic submarine Nautilus slid smoothly through Arctic waters on its historic trip under the polar icecap, it was guided by sound, not by sight. Sonar kept its crew informed of obstacles in the way, permitting the submarine to move about “blind” without danger of collision. By measuring the time required for echoes from sounds sent out to return to the boat, the sonar was able to keep the submarine informed on the distance of obstacles. Echo-ranging is an amazing discovery, but the idea did not originate in man’s electronic laboratories.
Long before man thought of using sound to locate underwater objects some of God’s creations were effectively using it for that purpose. The porpoise, for example, is an expert at detecting objects by echo-ranging. Scientific experiments have revealed that a blindfolded porpoise can swim unerringly around pipes and bars that are being moved through the water. When a glass partition is placed in the water, separating a porpoise from its food, it is able to detect the presence of the glass by sonar. Slap the water with your hand and a porpoise that is sixty to eighty feet away can swim to the spot without missing it by more than a few inches. Its sound-sensing ability is so sensitive and accurate that it outdoes any sonar device man has made. Scientists are trying to learn how the porpoise does it.
Bats also are under study as they have an echo-ranging ability that makes man’s best machines seem crude. Regarding this the magazine Scientific American said: “In these days of technological triumphs it is well to remind ourselves from time to time that living mechanisms are often incomparably more efficient than their artificial imitations. There is no better illustration of this rule than the sonar system of bats. Ounce for ounce and watt for watt, it is billions of times more efficient and more sensitive than the radars and sonars contrived by man.” One species baffles man by doing what man cannot do—detect from the air by sonar fish swimming in the water.
A bat can fly in a dark room that is strung with wires or rods without striking them. By echo-ranging it can locate and catch with uncanny accuracy a tiny insect that is flying around in the dark. Despite the presence of loud background noise it can pick out its echo signals, although those signals may be 2,000 times fainter than the background noise. This ability astounds scientists. They have no idea how the bat does it and would like very much to learn its secret. The Scientific American said: Bats “have achieved their signal-to-noise discrimination with an auditory system that weighs only a fraction of a gram, while we rely on computing machines which seem grossly cumbersome by comparison.” Note too what was observed by National Geographic magazine: “Big ears detect the returning echoes, and a brain weighing a few hundredths of an ounce computes the data and controls the hunter’s speed and direction. . . . He can hear an echo from a target as tiny as a mosquito, recognize it in a split second, and swoop to the attack—a feat of nature that man, with all his electronic skill, must still hold in awe.”
In an effort to design efficient hulls for submarines, man has turned to the porpoise and the whale. He wants to learn how a porpoise can swim through the water at great speed with almost no energy-sapping turbulence. Scientists are inclined to think that the secret lies in the two-layered construction of the porpoise’s skin. They are testing out their theory by experimenting with a rubber covering for the hulls of submarines. By applying what they learn from studying the porpoise, they hope to have the same success they have had in changing submarine-hull design to be like that of a whale. The first nuclear submarine to have this new design is the American submarine Skipjack. The result has been greater maneuverability and speed.
In the field of aeronautics, birds have aided men in solving many problems concerning heavier-than-air flight. “Aeronauts naturally look to birds,” says The Encyclopedia Americana, “for suggestions in artificial flight. They have paid particular attention to the poise and flight of the herring-gull in arriving at the principles of aerial navigation.” It took man a long time to learn from birds the secret of flight; yet birds do not know the laws of aerodynamics or of aeronautics. The One who gave their wings a highly perfected mechanical design for flight gave them instinctive knowledge of flying and of aerial navigation.
These are only a few of many examples that could be mentioned of how man learns from studying God’s creations. In the bodies of living creatures man finds wise designing that permits various life forms to make efficient use of physical laws. Because man learns from studying these creatures, they are, in a sense, telling him that they are the creations of an infinitely wise Creator. “Ask, please, the domestic animals, and they will instruct you; also the winged creatures of the heavens, and they will tell you. Or show your concern to the earth, and it will instruct you; and the fishes of the sea will declare it to you. Who among all these does not well know that the hand of Jehovah itself has done this?”—Job 12:7-9.
Creatures of high intelligence are not instructed by those of low intelligence, but rather the lesser is instructed by the greater. The fact that man can apply to his inventions the knowledge he gains from studying dumb creatures indicates that he is learning from the handiwork of a superior Intelligence. His inventive works can carry the label “Made by man,” but the things in nature that instruct him can rightly bear the label “Made by God.”