Originally Published in Pulpit Helps, May 2006.
Until the last couple of centuries, man has been an earth-bound plodder-watching birds soar above him and wishing he could emulate them. The ancient Greek legend of Icarus recalls our long earth-bound frustration. Icarus supposedly flew so high, using wings created by his father, Daedalus, of feathers fastened with wax, that the heat of the sun melted the wax, and he fell to his death.
Actually, it takes a lot more than a few borrowed feathers to fly, so we've turned to mechanical aids-from hot-air balloons to space-traveling rockets. And we've done pretty well, too-for aliens invading a hostile environment. But wouldn't it be nice if we could fly as naturally as birds do? How do they? God prepared them especially for flight. For example:
God gave birds very special bones-bones that are hollow to save weight-very different from the heavy, marrow-filled bones of other animals and man. Weight, remember, is very important, because every ounce must be accounted for, with each flap of their wings. Now, hollow bones sound like weak bones, but these aren't. They have special internal bracing to keep them strong. Strength without weight-quite a modification, don't you think?
Feathers are the supreme creation that makes flight possible. They are made of the same basic stuff that horns and hooves (and fingernails) are made of. It's tough and it's durable. And like their bones, birds' feathers are hollow (thus very light), yet also strong (more about feathers next month).
Birds generally have 10 large "flight feathers" at the outer end of each wing. Corresponding in man to the hand, these flight feathers provide most of the lift that birds get from flapping their wings. Every bird starts flying by flapping, but some (like the eagles) stay aloft by soaring-that is, using their wings to ride the air currents. If you could observe an eagle close-up while it is soaring, you might notice little shifts in the flying feathers and tail feathers, moment by moment. The bird is fine-tuning its wings to respond to every change in the wind, much as a pilot trims his airplane for flight, but much better! The albatross, which lives in the far southern ocean areas, has perfected the art of soaring to the point where it seems to come down while on patrol only to eat. It apparently is capable of sleeping on the wing, and stays aloft for weeks at a time-except when it stops for dinner!
Other birds must flap constantly to stay in the air-and some of them can stay aloft a very long time. Consider the hummingbird: a mere fingerling of a bird, weighing only ounces, and flapping its wings so fast they seem just a blur to us. Yet some hummingbirds fly non-stop for more than 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico during yearly migrations. Talk about fuel efficiency! Hummingbirds get nearly all of their energy from sipping flower nectar. If a man could do what hummingbirds do, he would have to eat something like 285 pounds of hamburger every day, to generate about 155,000 calories.
We're looking at a mighty wonder every time we see one of these colorful little creatures. How can we account for such marvels of creation, other than as God's handiwork? Teachers of the theory of evolution would have us believe these things developed by tiny incremental changes over an immense period of time-but this is foolishness.
Think of the poor changeling creature trying to fly with half-developed wings; or hopping about uncertainly on front legs that are becoming wings. And how on earth could reinforced hollow bones "just happen"? Ridiculous! Others assert that evolutionary "accidents" brought about huge beneficial changes, which just happened to fit each species for its niche.
The only reasonable answer is the Bible's: "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind" (Gen. l:21). In other words, they were birds from the very first, designed by the Master. "And God saw that it (all of His creation) was good." It gives us a fresh appreciation of nature, knowing it's all by God's design, doesn't it?
The Old Scot (Ted Kyle) lives in Newberg, Oregon, with his wife, Marga.
How Birds Fly, John K. Terres, Hawthorn Books, NY, 1968.
The Air Around Us, John Sparks, Danbury Press (Div. of Grolier Enterprises), l975.
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