Table of Contents
Part II: Nature as Part of the Kingdom
God Within Nature
SOME YEARS AGO
I was sitting in Queen's Park in Toronto with a friend of mine,
watching the squirrels busily engaged in gathering nuts and searching
furiously for suitable burial grounds.
I said to him. "Did you know
that the Indians used to watch the squirrels and chipmunks and
gauged the probable severity of the winter to come by their activity?
If they were very busy, it presaged a hard winter, and vice versa."
Then I added, "It seems to me a remarkable thing that God
has given these little creatures a kind of built-in wisdom which
tells them what to do. We seem so poorly equipped by contrast."
I felt rather pleased with myself at having made the point so
But he turned to me with some skepticism
and remarked, "I suppose you know that they forget where
they hide half of them? It's a pity God didn't make them altogether
wise and give them better memories." This was a little disconcerting
-- because, of course, it was true. For a while I wondered why
God should have given them the instincts they had and not made
these instincts more reliable. Then I thought that He had perhaps
arranged that they should hide twice as many as they need so
that they can afford to forget where half of them are. But in
a more sober mood I had to admit honestly that this was not a
very satisfying conclusion: it was such a waste of energy, and
But one day, a
few months later, a friend of mine sent me a copy of Science
Digest, and in it I found the answer. (1) At the end of one article, to fill out the space
on the page, there was a little extract from Forestry Digest,
which was titled "Chipmunks Plant 17,000 Trees per Acre."
I read it without any particular attention until I came to the
statement that two research workers had found that chipmunks
and squirrels plant about 17,000 trees per acre as a result of
"forgetting" where they put them! What appears as a
failure on the part of these beautiful little
1. Science Digest, Jan., 1954, p.80.
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creatures turns out to
be an illustration of a far superior kind of wisdom because they
are, in effect, guaranteeing the future of succeeding generations
of their own kind, as well as contributing towards the well-being
of other creatures in the closely-knit kingdom of Nature. Thus,
the satisfying picture of God's superintending providence in
Nature was once more restored.
This little story,
a true one, very nicely provides an introduction for what we
should like to establish in this Paper. It may be helpful, therefore,
to state our thesis very briefly, and then to seek in the rest
of the Paper to elaborate it by reference to natural history,
to human history, and to Scripture. We live in a universe which
seems to be so completely regulated by law that philosophers
and scientists are always searching hopefully for some kind of
single equation which will sum everything up. This equation would
then be the key to all understanding, and would equip man with
Such a search seems to be justified
by the conviction that this is indeed a Universe and not
a Multiverse. The same law that operates in the innermost
recesses of the individual atom, also regulates the movements
of the furthermost star. It is all of a piece. The belief in
the universality of natural law is what, in the final analysis,
underlies the cosmological principle. This principle holds that
the earth is not stationed in any special position in the universe
and that therefore whatever may be observed or experienced of
the rest of the universe from the earth, would also be observed
or experienced in any other part of the universe. The laws of
Nature which we discern from our position on earth are similarly
assumed to be operating in exactly the same way everywhere else.
As we have said, this is a Universe.
At one period of history, men were
convinced that this fundamental principle of operation was a
mystical one. (2)
Later on they were equally sure that it was a spiritual one.
Then for many years there had been a tendency to assume it to
be mechanical, though it now begins to appear that it might rather
be a metaphysical one. (3)
In recent years evidence has been
accumulating which encourages the belief that the unifying principle
will turn out to be of a mathematical nature. Thus Einstein has
been able to equate energy
2. A useful treatment of the changing world
view of Nature and man's relationship to it will be found in
Stanley L. Jaki, The Relevance of Physics, University
Chicago Press, 1966, pp.3-137 -- dealing with the world as organism,
as mechanism, and as pattern of numbers.
3. By this I mean merely that substance has tended to become
less substantial, until it begins to look as though the real
world is a non-material one. Sir Richard Tute said, "The
modern scientist recognizes that physical reality is produced
by super-physical agencies, which must be so designated because
they can never be observed," (Scientific Monthly, Oct.
,1945, p.322). Hebrews 11:3 anticipated this.
and matter in a single
formula, the famous equation E = Mc2. Within a single mathematical relationship we discover
a correspondence between sound, light, and radio waves. Sir James
Jeans was quite convinced that God was the Great Mathematician,
and he argued that all forms of art (visual and aural) could
ultimately be expressed in mathematical terms. (4) More recently still, it appears that even smell,
or at least some smells, fall under the same rule. (5)
In this Paper we
shall very briefly examine the history of thought in this connection,
because a study of the history of man's attitude towards Nature
and his conception of his relationships with it provides an insight
into the value systems of each culture, according to its world
view. Some of these world views made it very easy for man to
believe he held a unique position in the universe, others allowed
him to retain his personal identity as an individual but rendered
him a rather helpless pawn at the mercy of powers infinitely
superior to himself. The present world view has tended more and
more towards the annihilation of persons as such, altogether.
These basic world views are examined in the second chapter and
it will be seen that they have a direct bearing upon our interpretation
of the meaning of the term the "Kingdom of God" and
hold important implications for Christian theology.
It requires but a moment's thought
to see that almost every basic descriptive term employed in modern
literature with reference to the universe as a whole, justifies
the view that it may properly be termed a kingdom. Thus we speak
of the "reign of law," of the "realm of Nature,"
of three kingdoms -- the animal, mineral, and vegetable -- of
the "state of Nature," and of the "economy of
Nature." There is every reason to believe that in some way
every element in it contributes to the well-being of every other
element. And the evidences of purpose and design are so clear
that a very large number of well-informed and careful investigators
have been forced to admit them, though often unwillingly. Such
a realm, governed by a single system of law, is very properly
called a kingdom; and since we believe that this realm was brought
into being and is sustained by God, so that He is quite truly
its Governor, it is a realm which may very logically be referred
to as a kingdom of God.
4. Jeans, Sir James, Science and Music,
Macmillan, New York, 1937. And quite recently an issue of
the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, (vol.15, no.2, Feb.,1959)
was devoted to a study of the relationship between Science and
Art (published by the Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science,
Inc., Chicago). And one is struck by the fact that though some
of the greatest artists were most completely convinced of the
rule of mathematical law in all art, these same men's spirits
were in no sense "bound" by their recognition of these
5. Hallman, H. E., "Odours and Molecular Vibrations",
Nature, July 17, 1954, p.134.
man is alien to it, standing apart and by himself, sharing virtually
nothing of its wisdom, and contributing little or nothing to
its well-being. Many look upon him, in fact, as its archdestroyer.
Man is evidently not part and parcel of it, but a rebel desiring
to take the kingdom by force. This is "the implacable offensive
of science," as it has been so aptly termed.
this bifurcation in a number of remarkable ways as we shall see.
It sheds a new light on the necessity of the new birth. Until
this takes place, man has no rightful place in the kingdom (John
3:5-7), nor indeed does he achieve any real insight or understanding
of it (John 3:3).
In order to make my meaning clear,
let me restate it this way: The whole universe is governed and
sustained by God. By the word "universe" I mean all
things animate and inanimate. This universe everywhere manifests
the impress of the wisdom and power of God and is thereby stamped
clearly as His kingdom. But this is only part of His domain;
the other part is comprised of those spiritual beings who willingly
own His sway. Opposed to this, is another kingdom whose governor
is Satan. When man reaches the age of accountability, he stands
poised between these two. As a child he is by God's grace accepted
as belonging to his kingdom, for "of such is the Kingdom
of God" (Luke 18:16). When he reaches maturity he does not
remain a member unless he makes a deliberate choice and is re-created
as such by the transforming experience of the new birth. Scripture
sees him as neither angel nor animal, though sharing a little
of both. And the Word of God has some striking things to say
about the exact nature of his relationships to the rest of Nature,
before and after the new birth.
This is my thesis. I believe many
passages of Scripture receive a new depth of meaning in the light
of this broader conception of the kingdom of God.
that Nature is part of the kingdom of God may seem a strange,
perhaps even a disturbing one. Yet not altogether. It is not
too difficult to conceive of animate Nature as belonging within
the kingdom of God. Quite apart from the many passages of Scripture
which reveal God's immediate concern for animals, Nature Study
in the ordinarily accepted sense supplies plenty of evidence
of the operation of a wise and benevolent Creator making provision
for the well-being of His creatures by furnishing them with those
instincts necessary for them to play their part appropriately
in the total economy of things. It is now being realized increasingly
that living things, both animals and plants, form a vast intricate
cooperative society, except on rare occasions and usually where
man has interferred.
until the middle of the last century, naturalists looked upon
Nature as God's handiwork. There was no accident or chance about
it: all was purposeful and designed, full of wisdom and beauty.
Those who approached Nature to study her did so with a sense
of awe and reverence, and their writings reflected their attitude
of mind. The contrast which they offer to much that has been
published in this field during the past fifty years is very marked.
In his paper "Darwin
and Classification," R. A. Crowson pointed out that whereas
the pre-Darwinian naturalists had been occupied in a kind of
thrilling exploration of the wonders of Nature, a fact so clearly
reflected in the enthusiasm of their reports, the post-Darwinians
became almost completely absorbed in the creation of systems
of classification. The emphasis had formerly been on form and
function as they are related to one another; but the main concern
is now with form only. And it is difficult to write inspiringly
about the similarities or otherwise of skeletal fragments and
fossil remains. One might speak enthusiastically of the way in
which form reflected function, the design of the living organism
being completely appropriate for its way of life. But tables
of figures showing the increase or decrease in length or size
of analogous bones of succeeding generations do not make the
stuff of literary inspiration. Crowson has put it: (6)
After such a mental sojourn
among the Zoologists of mid-Victorian London, many will find
it a saddening experience to turn to the volumes of the 1950's.
Gone are the beautiful pictures, the personalities, the entertaining
accounts of travel and observation, gone are the Colonels and
Instead, there rises before the
eye a vision of drab white-coated figures in laboratories, expressing
themselves in a dehumanized language of tortuous obscurity.
In the closing
paragraph of his paper, he wrote: (7)
A hundred years ago (another)
type of motive was socially recognized -- the pursuit of virtue
and piety; and in the pre-Darwinian and pre-Huxley age the justification
of natural history was seen in these terms.
The dedicated naturalists had something
of the aura of a priest or monk, as the revealer of the divine
mysteries of creation, and it would have seemed irreverent to
suggest that anything that was worth God's while to create was
not worth man's while to study.
absorbed with the appropriateness of living things in this area
of God's kingdom were the older naturalists, that they
6. Crowson, R. A., "Darwin and Classification,"
in A Century of Darwin, edited by S. A. Barnett, Heinemann,
London, 1958, p.121.
7. Ibid., p.129.
gained a remarkable understanding
of the principles of design in both plant and animal forms. Wood
Jones observed: (8)
It was by relying upon the principle
of correlation that Owen, Cuvier, Etienne, Geffroy, and other
naturalists achieved their greatest triumphs. With the knowledge
they possessed of comparative anatomy, it was possible for them
to postulate the general characteristics of an animal of which
they actually possessed no more than a tooth or two and an odd
There are some
classroom stories from the great universities of England of how
such men when presented as a challenge by students with a single
bone were able, somewhat like a Scotland-Yard detective, to reconstruct
the whole animal without any previous knowledge of it. There
is every reason to believe that many of these stories are well
founded. In his little book, Wood Jones illustrates some of these
very real triumphs of reconstruction, and contrasts them with
some of the fantastic blunders of later years made by men who
did not share their understanding of Nature. He refers, among
others, to the classic case in which a pig's tooth found in Nebraska
was erected into a Dawn Man and his wife and given the impressive
name of Hesperopithecus. It is evident that Wood Jones inherited
something of the spirit of the older naturalists, but because
of a change of the climate of opinion he tended to be largely
Modern naturalists for the most
part feel compelled to exclude any evidence of purpose or design.
Whenever some remarkable form of animal behaviour is brought
to light which could not possibly have been learned, but yet
which is essential to the animal's continuance, it becomes necessary
to account for it as the purely accidental by-product of the
forces of natural selection. But in many cases it is exceedingly
difficult to do this without being unreasonably naive. It is
only because the attitude of the older naturalists towards Nature
appears less and less frequently in the literature now being
made available to the general public that the average reader
is increasingly unaware of how thrilling the study of God's handiwork
can really be.
I do not think anyone can read
the work of J. Henri Fabre on insects, for example, or of Hugh
Miller on geology, without being carried along by the sheer beauty
of their language and the extraordinary freedom of association
of ideas so fruitfully expressed in the use of illuminating similes.
(9) They made their
words live. Everywhere is the evidence of a great enthusiasm
and a peculiar insight into Nature
8. Jones, F. Wood, Trends of Life,
London, Arnold, 1953, pp.87, 88.
9. For an example, see Hugh Miller, The Old Red Sandstone,
Ninno, Hay, Mitchell, Edinburgh, 1889, p.113.
which seems to stem partly
from their feeling that living things are much more than physics
they created a public thirst for such studies -- and a market,
which soon encouraged more imaginative but less informed literary
aspirants to mimic their work with an anecdotal kind of writing
that substituted anthropomorphic interpretations in place of
careful firsthand observations. This brought into disrepute all
efforts to re-create in vivid literary form the dramatic events
which constantly take place in the realm of Nature, except those
which seemed to support the Malthusian doctrine of the supposed
struggle and conflict of life.
The determination to match the
strict objectivity of the exact sciences led to the sterilization
of most Nature Studies until they became mere statistical catalogues
of measurements and population figures, a transformation which
better served the proclamation of the new gospel of evolution.
The spontaneity of Nature Study was replaced by a deliberate
effort to classify forms in such a way as to prove what it was
wanted to prove. In fact, very recently Sir Wilfrid LeGros Clark
stated, probably without much awareness of the implications of
his words, that "the general principles of classification
are intended to reflect evolutionary sequences."
(10) The emphasis
is ours but the word is his! Only a few independent spirits
carried on the older literary tradition, but they have received
little encouragement from the present "College of Cardinals"
of the new faith.
But consider for a moment such
a work as that of Fabre on the Hunting Wasps. (11) He easily carries the reader along in his opening
remarks, to the point where, as a very poorly paid professor,
he turned in his discouragement to a work on insects by a certain
Leon Dufour, whose writings opened to him a new world of constant
His first absorbing interest came
in the study of the behaviour of the Hunting Wasp (Cerceris
bupresticida), which provides its larva with an abundant
supply of "fresh meat" against the day of its emergence
from the "egg." He cannot find words to express his
amazement at the condition of the Buprestes beetle which is the
wasp's prey, after it has been subdued and placed in the larder
for the nourishment of the young that hatches out many days later.
He refers again and again to the
fact that the slightest handling of these beautiful beetles mars
their brilliance, whereas the wasp succeeds
10. Clark, Sir W. E. LeCros, "Bones of
Contention," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute,
London, vol.88, no.2, July-Dec., 1958, p.139.
11. Fabre, J. Henri, The Hunting Wasps, translated by
Alexander T. de Mattos, Dodd, Mead and Co., New York, 1920.
in capturing them, rendering
them instantly inert but not dead, dragging them often great
distances to the hole in the ground prepared to receive them.
The beetle has twice the weight of the wasp, which yet carries
her catch to its appointed place without in any way marring its
beauty. Fabre tells in exciting detail how he was finally able
to observe the technique by which the wasp renders the beetle
harmless. The operation is unbelievably swift, both in execution
and effect. Months later he found that beetles so treated by
a wasp were perfectly preserved in a state of vegetative animation,
without the slightest sign of putrefaction or even rigor mortis
in the joints.
He performed all
kinds of experiments at first in an effort to duplicate by laboratory
means the effect of the wasp's sting upon the beetle. Yet he
was unable to achieve the same result, while the wasp succeeded
without leaving the slightest evidence of her attack on the body
of her prey even under a magnifying glass. He found that ten
days after this had been performed by a wasp, the beetle still
showed itself to be alive by electric stimulation, but it was
completely powerless to effect movements of itself. The only
such movement that was ever observed was the passing of feces
until the stomach was emptied, and this was presumably Nature's
way of ensuring that the internal organs would not start the
process of decay.
As Fabre put it, the insect appears
to be "instantly smitten in the very origin and mainspring
of its movements," (12) thus rendering it completely harmless to the young
wasp, but perfectly fresh as a source of food. Fabre's detailed
description of how he made these discoveries one by one out in
the open fields and far from his laboratory, reads like a detective
story and is fully as exciting.
His initial failure to discover
a poison that would achieve the same end only increased his wonder.
All his efforts in this direction were at first without avail,
either leaving the beetle kicking and struggling for days or
killing it outright, causing the flesh to be tainted or to putrefy,
or desiccating it in almost no time at all. The young larvae
would have none of it.
And whereas in a laboratory situation
one might attack some vital organ with a hypodermic needle in
order to paralyze the whole creature by puncturing the skin in
the most convenient spot, the wasp has no such choice in the
matter, for the beetle is encased in a horny armour which covers
its whole body and which the wasp cannot penetrate. Only in one
place is there a weakness in this casing, and it is therefore
at this point that the sting must be injected. It so happens
12. Ibid., p.34.
the vital organs, the
thoracic ganglia, of this particular species of beetle are concentrated
at this point, and the sting of the wasp has just sufficient
length to reach them all. There are three ganglia which must
all be dealt with in a single thrust. Only in the Buprestes beetles
and the weevils does this circumstance appear, and only among
these species does the wasp hunt her prey; as Fabre put it, "Among
the immense number of beetles whereon the Cerceris might seem
able to prey, only two groups seem to fulfill the indispensable
This might seem
to be a rather long digression, but several things are established
by it, and it is only one illustration of many which might have
been used for this purpose. First, such highly complex forms
of behaviour cannot possibly have been learned, as Ralph Linton,
in contrasting such forms of behaviour with those of man, pointed
There seems to be no limit to
the complexity of the behavior patterns which can be transmitted
in the germ plasm. A wasp is hatched with instincts which enable
her to build a nest, hunt (insects) of a particular sort, sting
them in the exact spot which will paralyze them without killing
them, store them in the nest, lay an egg with them, and seal
up the nest. By the time the young wasp emerges the mother will
be dead, yet the new wasp will repeat the process detail for
the highly organized societies which are found among insects
seem to be analogous to those found among men. But they are,
in fact, poles apart, belonging -- to preserve our simile --
to two entirely different kingdoms. Ruth Benedict underscored
this distinction when she wrote: (15)
There are societies where Nature
perpetuates the slightest mode of behavior by biological mechanisms,
but these are societies not of men but of the social insects.
The queen ant, removed to a solitary nest, will reproduce each
trait of sex behavior, each detail of the nest. The social insects
represent Nature in a mood when she was taking no chances. The
pattern of the entire social structure she committed to the ant's
instinctive behavior. There is no greater chance that the social
classes of an ant society, or its patterns of agriculture, will
be lost by an ant's isolation from its group than that the ant
will fail to reproduce the shape of its antennae or the structure
of its abdomen.
For better or worse, man's solution
lies at the opposite pole. Not one item of his tribal social
organization, of his local religion, is carried in his germ cell.
In Europe, in other centuries, when children were occasionally
found who had been abandoned and had maintained themselves in
forests apart from other human beings, they were all so much
alike that Linnaeus classified them as a distinct species, Homo
ferus, and supposed that they were a kind of gnome that man seldom
ran across. He could not
13. Ibid., p.52.
14. Linton, Ralph, The Study of Man, Student's edition,
Appleton-Century, New York, 1936, p.70.
15. Benedict, Ruth, Patterns of Culture, Mentor, Neew
York, 1951, p.11.
conceive that these half-witted brutes
were born human, these creatures with no interest in what went
on about them, rocking themselves rhythmically back and forth
like some wild animal in a zoo, with organs of speech and hearing
that could hardly be trained to do service, who withstood freezing
weather in rags and plucked potatoes out of boiling water without
With man, wisdom
is cumulative and seldom, if ever, perfect; in Nature it is perfect
and as abiding as the living creatures who are guided by it.
It is built-in, by God. For them, the "kingdom of God is
Secondly, there is an extraordinary
system of interaction here, the ramifications of which we see
only at the surface. This is a fact which was not greatly stressed
in earlier works but is now receiving more and more attention
as the disturbing effects of man's plundering of Nature have
become alarmingly apparent. The wasp is dependent upon a beetle,
and not merely any beetle, but a beetle of one particular species.
If for any reason these beetles disappeared the wasps would also
disappear. Had we sufficient knowledge, we would probably find
that the beetle in turn is dependent upon some other form of
life, and that some other form of life is dependent upon the
continuance of the wasps. In any chain, the breaking of a single
link breaks the whole chain. Each creature plays its part in
the web of life -- in the economy of Nature. Not one of these
links can be superfluous or it would long since have ceased to
W. C. Allee gave several examples
to illustrate how tightly this web is drawn and how the severing
of the smallest strand may bring reverberations throughout the
whole chain. He pointed out that S. A. Forbes of the Illinois
Biological Survey showed that "when a black bass is hooked
and taken from the water the triumphant fisherman is breaking,
unsensed by him, myriads of meshes which have bound the fish
to all the different forms of lake life." (16) Such disturbances may not be fatal, although sometimes
they prove to be, but the available evidence supports the belief
that any disruption of any part of this system has repercussions
far and wide in other directions. Where man's work is concerned,
his finest achievements are generally those most sensitive to
the breakdown of a single element. A computer is more easily
damaged by such means than an abacus, and an airplane than a
wheelbarrow. By the same token, the sensitivity of Nature to
such interference suggests that it is a mechanism of an exceedingly
refined order, and its Architect must accordingly be a far superior
Thirdly, those who have studied
Nature in this frame of mind, as Fabre did, have not merely contributed
to our understanding of it but
16. Allee, W. C., The Social Life of Animals,
Beacon press, Boston, revised, 1958, p.23.
have tended to supply,
in addition to food for thought, something also for the soul.
It is impossible to read such a study as his, or even to discuss
it with an unbelieving fellow research worker, without at once
involving the question of ultimate cause. One does not ask merely,
How is this? but, Who is behind it? We turn to the reports of
modern laboratory research, much as we turn to a black and white
screen after enjoying the full magnificence of technicolor. This
is not really progress in understanding, if the human spirit
has as much importance as the human mind. We may know more, but
we understand less. Fabre concluded: (17)
The Cerceris that prey upon
beetles conform in their selection to what could be taught only
by the most learned physiologist and the finest anatomist. One
would vainly strive to see no more in this than casual coincidences;
it is not in chance that we shall find the key to such harmonies
But it is not
merely in the regularities, the habitual patterns of behaviour,
that we perceive the order and design and wisdom of this kingdom
of Nature. The things which animals have been known to do in
special circumstances are quite fantastic. For example, Jim Kjelgnard
tells of a fox which he found in a trap on one occasion -- a
pitiful, shivering thing whose right front foot had been crushed
and broken by the steel jaws that held it: (18)
We carried the creature home
and bandaged the foot. Then we put the fox in a wire cage. Immediately
it ripped the bandages off, dug a small hole with its good foot,
placed the wounded one in the hole and padded dirt around it.
For days it lay there refusing to move.
When it finally did stir, although
it was thin to the point of starvation and the claws on its broken
foot had grown grotesquely long, the foot was healed completely.
That fox had put its broken foot into a self-made cast and kept
it there until the bones had mended.
Johan Turi in
a paper on Reindeer Lapps tells how unless the hunter sets his
traps in the right way, the captive bears caught by them will
escape by urinating on the thongs that bind them until they are
weakened enough that they are able to break them. (19)
Animals which have been deliberately
subjected to a diet that is deficient in certain vitamins are
able to compensate for this deficiency if they are subsequently
permitted to do so by being presented with a choice of foods
among which are some particularly rich in the missing vitamin.
For example, Samuel Brody has pointed out that rats "show
17. Fabre, J. H., ref.11, p.60.
18. Kjelgaard, Jim, "Fantastic Dr. Nature," Coronet,
Feb., 1945, p.75.
19. Turi, Johan, "The Study of the Reindeer Lapps,"
A Reader in General Anthropology, edited by C. S. Coon,
Henry Holt, New York, 1948, p.158.
excellent dietary wisdom in selecting
the needed nutrients if given opportunity to do so by the cafeteria-feeding
style, and if not confused by conditioned habits or by synthetic flavours
or odours." (20) In
fact, it has been possible to use this power of discrimination to make
a quick check of the particular vitamin content of various kinds of food
by offering such foods to rats denied these vitamins.
Moreover, this has been found to
be true in a general way of other animals including rabbits,
birds, and some insects. In a slightly lesser degree it has proved
to be the case with cattle, pigs, and chickens. But in the latter
it is found that domestication has confused their discriminatory
powers, particularly with respect to processed feeds. Brody's
report shows that cattle can select from a haystack the most
nutritious foods with extraordinary precision, even when the
two types of food, enriched and not enriched, are to all appearances
the same. According to William Albrecht, out in the pasture they
will even crop the ground to the boundary seed-drill row, marking
the division between two different grasses, if one has more nutritional
value than the other. (21)
Extraordinary things take place
in Nature in connection with food supplies. It has been found,
for example, that common aphids are wingless where the food supply
is plentiful, but when a shortage begins to develop, the young
of the following generation are born with wings. The new generation
can migrate from the colony which is facing starvation and establish
a new one where food supplies are more plentiful. H. J. Reinhard
has pointed out that one of the most effective ways of keeping
wings from developing in some species of aphids is to isolate
the individuals so that they do not have to compete for food.
Conversely one may obtain the winged forms by crowding them.
In dealing with such responses
of animals to environmental pressures, it is customary to imply
that the cause of the change is a purely mechanical one, the
mechanism being of a chemical order. Having so explained such
mechanism responses, the wonder of it tends to be lost. But a
serious mistake is made when we confuse description with explanation.
To say that crowding produces wings is not an explanation, but
a description. It is only an "explanation," in the
rather childish sense that the slipperiness of ice is why ice
is difficult to stand upon or to use another analogy, when a
child asks why a light goes on, we answer, Because I switched
it on. But this is not an explanation of why the
20. Brody, Samuel, "Science and Dietary
Wisdom," Scientific Monthly, Sept.,1945, p.215.
21. Albrecht: William, "Discrimination in Food Selection
by Animals," ScientificMonthly, May, 1945, p.347f.
22. Reinhard, H. J., "The Influence of Parentage, Nutrition,
Temperature and Crowding in Aphis goosypii," Texas Agriculture
Experimental Station Bulletin, vol.353, 1927, p.5-9.
goes on; it is only
a description of how the light goes on. To explain why
the light goes on, one would have to go back to the theory of
electron flow and how it came about that the switch, the wires,
the power, and the lamp came into existence as a live circuit
with the capability of responding as it does. In other words,
an intelligent designer stands behind the response of the switch,
and so long as we leave him out, we cannot answer the question
This is an important
point because the general reader is apt to assume mistakenly
that because the naturalist can describe how something
happens, he also understands why. When we ask, Why do
aphids develop wings when they are exhausting the available food
supply? it is not enough to say that some conditioned reflex
initiates a chemical reaction for the production of wings. This
may be how it happens but it is not why it happens. The
why takes us back to a First Cause, and this First Cause
is clearly purposeful. And for the Christian it is a sufficient
answer to say that this is God's doing.
Many people, today, find it somewhat
difficult to imagine that God is behind Nature, because they
have been taught to believe that Nature is cruel, red in tooth
and claw, as Tennyson has it. An increasing body of evidence,
however, has more recently begun to show that this picture of
Nature is mistaken. It is perfectly true that in the chains of
life animals prey upon animals. To a certain extent the law of
life is death. However, there are certain modifying factors in
this law, the first of which is that one of the worst features
of death is fear engendered by anticipation of it, and the other
is the suffering which seems to accompany it so frequently in
human experience. If we never anticipated it and if it did not
entail physical suffering, and if we assume for a moment that
the factor of bereavement is absent, then it holds no terrors.
There is very good reason to believe that this is exactly the
situation in Nature -- no anticipation, virtually no suffering,
and no bereavement in the human sense. In Nature it is not the
evil that it appears to be for humans.
One of the strongest evidences
of the truth of this has resulted from the labours of Walt Disney's
co-workers in their endeavour to photograph Nature, without upsetting
it in the process. Extensive photographs have been taken of lions
hunting their prey, in which the apparent fright of a herd is
much more probably a kind of expression of animal energy, the
sheer delight of violent muscular activity, the absence of real
fear being evident from two facts: the first being that the herd
stops its flight instantly and resumes nonchalant feeding the
moment flight is no longer necessary, and the second being that
the animals nearest to the creature captured by the predator
concern whatever in
its fate. It is generally agreed that loss of appetite is a genuine
evidence of fear. That such animals should halt their flight
and return at once to grazing suggests the total absence of fear
in the ordinary sense. And that those who escaped should show
no interest in the fate of the one which did not, even though
the lion may be eating it in their presence, seems to demonstrate
the complete absence of anticipation of death.
are some remarkable cases in which the predator has had the tables
turned against himself, simply because the situation was not
a natural one. The Fort William Daily Times Journal reported
in 1953 that in making a film of animal life in the Province
of Tashkent the Russians put a panther and a young deer in the
same cage expecting to be able to photograph the actual killing
of the deer. But to their surprise, far from showing fear, the
deer became playful towards the panther and chased it round and
round the cage until it dropped dead. A veterinary surgeon made
a postmortem examination of the panther and found that it had
had a heart attack from fright. (23)
In the case of the hunting wasps,
Fabre reported that in the hopes of witnessing the actual attack
of the wasp against the beetle, he placed both insects in a bottle.
However, this was not a normal situation and both insects showed
nothing but a desire to escape. In the process of clambering
up and down the sides of the bottle, the beetle several times,
quite by accident, seized one of the wasp's legs: the wasp was
frantic with fear, as Fabre puts it, and absolutely powerless
to attack the beetle. (24) It appears, therefore, that the fearlessness of the
wasp in tackling a creature twice his own weight in the appropriate
and natural situation is an anthropomorphic fiction. The wasp
is not brave at all nor even ferocious, any more than the panther.
They are simply obeying instincts, and in the wrong situation
these instincts give them no superiority whatever. It appears
that neither the beetle nor the deer are by nature fearful of
the creature that is able to bring their death.
In both these instances the animal's
behaviour patterns had been disturbed by man. Anyone who has
seen the murderous doings of a fox which has gained entry into
a hen house will be easily convinced that they are natural enemies
in Nature and in fact that the enmity is of a particularly vicious
kind. The same may be said to appear in the case of a flock of
sheep which has been attacked by a wolf. However, it has been
found that if foxes come upon wild geese or wolves upon wild
sheep or goats, they will kill only what they need for food.
Two explanations of
23. News item: "Fear of Fear Can be Fatal,"
Fort William Daily Times Journal, Dec. 26, 1953.
24. Fabre, J. H., ref.11. p.38.
this difference in behaviour
have been offered. One is that the smell of man infuriates these
two predators, and that domesticated animals retain some of this
scent. The other is that the instinctive, evasive behaviour of
animals has broken down in domesticated ones, and in the whole
interacting system of fox-fowl or wolf-sheep, a disruption in
pattern of behaviour has occurred which disturbs the normality
of the predator as well and removes from him those built-in restraints
which would prevent needless killing. If man had domesticated
the wolf also (as he has done with a variety of wolf, namely,
the sheep dog) this harmony of Nature would have been retained.
The breakdown of the wisdom of Nature here is due to the incompleteness
of man's government.
We tend to think
that there are habitual enemies in this kingdom of Nature, probably
because such hostilities seem to be involved wherever fighting
occurs between species. But there is some evidence now that such
fighting, where it does not lead to the devouring of one creature
by another, is a form of social behaviour which is beneficial
to those engaged in it, if not actually enjoyable. James Fisher
has believed this to be so, for example, with birds in particular.
He has gone so far as to say that the term "aggressive behaviour"
should be replaced by the term "display," and that
so-called fighting is a form of social stimulation. (25)
Sometimes when one watches birds
teasing a cat, or dogs chasing squirrels, one gets the feeling
that although the squirrel might get hurt or the bird might be
eaten, everyone is having lots of fun. Even a mouse that has
been maimed by a cat will often make little or no effort to run
away when it is momentarily freed. Perhaps we should not, after
all, be so surprised when we hear of a lioness and a shepherd
dog sharing the same cage (26) or a cat raising three skunks, or a Muscovy duck
adopting six puppies, (27) or even a cat raising a mouse along with her kittens.
We have been careful to state that
the physical suffering associated with death also seems to be
virtually absent in Nature in spite of appearances to the contrary.
Some years ago a book was published by J. Crowther Hirst entitled,
"Is Nature Cruel?" (29) in which he reported
25. Fisher, James, "Evolution and Bird
Sociality," in Evolution as a Process, edited by
Julian Huxley, et al, Allen and Unwin, London, 1954, p.70.
26. News item: Fort William Daily Times Journal, May 23,
1958, reported at the Zoo, in Staubing, Germany.
27. News item: both instances reported by Associated Press,
from Elgin, Illinois, June 14, 1955.
28. News item: The Toronto Telegram, Oct.17, 1951. The
cat was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Peyton Harriman of Pasadena.
29. Hirst, J. Crowther, Is Nature Cruel?, James Clark
& Co., London, fully reviewed in The Spectator, June
3, 1899, pp.782, 783.
having written to big
game hunters and missionary doctors, secured the record of some
sixty-six men who had been seized by bears, lions, tigers, leopards,
and panthers. Sixty-four of them felt no pain or fear whatever.
It appears that animals in some way are able to paralyze the
victims, or that the nervous system of these victims is suspended
in the moment of attack. Many others have reported that animals
will not lose their appetite even after suffering the most extraordinary
It is very difficult
to watch the frantic struggles of an impaled moth without feeling
that it must be suffering frightfully. However, it has been shown
that such insects can have the stomach region severed entirely
and the creature will continue to eat ravenously. The ingested
food will pass out behind without doing it any good and therefore
without satisfying its hunger, so that it will continue to eat
until exhausted. No loss of appetite is evident, a fact which
suggests that no physical pain is being experienced. One must
suppose that the struggling is not a response to pain but rather
to unaccustomed restriction of freedom of movement. Other animals
express the apparent pain reaction vocally, uttering heart rending
cries. But even here it is not altogether certain that such cries
signify the actual feeling of pain. Some few years ago, Sir Joseph
Fayrer was invited to go grouse shooting in the Highlands. With
the keeper were two Gordon setters, dogs that worked well. The
keeper was a strict man and apparently something went wrong,
for when Sir Joseph was a little distance off, he heard one of
the dogs howling and saw the whip going in the air. He told how
he went up to the keeper and said, (31) "Why do you beat the dog?" The keeper turned
to him and said, "I never touched the dog. I was beating
the heather by his side; it answers the purpose just as well."
One might wonder why, if pain is virtually absent in the animal
kingdom (except, of course, where it warns the animal of an injury),
it should seem to be expressing itself as such so convincingly.
Perhaps the answer is that by this means God intended to impress
upon man a sense of responsibility for the avoidance of cruelty
to these lowly creatures without necessarily causing them to
suffer while teaching man this lesson.
Alan Devoe wrote of animals which
he watched die what might called a natural death. He says that
there is no evidence of uncertainty or fear when the time comes.
30. Wood, Theodore, "On the Apparent
Cruelty of Nature," Transactions of the Victoria
Institute, London, vol.25, 1891, p.253-278. A most excellent
31. Fayrer, Sir Joseph, in a discussion reported in Transactions
of the Victoria Institute, London, vol.25, 1891, p.274.
32. Devoe, Alan, "Wise Animals I Have Known," Reader's
Digest, July, 1954, p.122.
do wild things meet life in all its aspects wholeheartedly; they
greet death the same way. "Sleep now, and rest," says
Nature at the end. I remember when my old dog Dominie died. He
lay down in a favourite corner, gave a long sigh, and was gone.
I remember an old woodchuck that died in my pasture. As I watched
him he stretched out on a sun-warmed stone, breathed his last
and surrendered himself to what Nature was saying to him. To
do that could not have seemed strange to him -- he had been doing
it all his life. In animals shines the trust that casts out fear.
It has been
noted that those creatures which are preyed upon will fight to
defend their young only against those animals which they stand
a fair chance of putting to flight. When faced with an enemy
that they cannot possibly hope to defeat, they will move to one
side and allow their young to be destroyed without apparent concern.
In a paper dealing with the parental devotion of birds, Alexander
Skutch gave a number of examples illustrating this kind of instinctive
It appears to be generally true
that wild creatures are instinctively aware of the strength and
prowess of their hereditary natural enemies, and avoid risking
their lives in defense of home or offspring against such enemies
as are likely to overcome them.
This principle might be briefly
designated the Law of Prudence. It applies not only to birds
and mammals, but to cold-blooded animals as well.
It is as though
they said to themselves, "If we fight, we shall be killed
and so will the young. Why throw away all our lives? We can raise
more young ones." Such is the wisdom of Nature in preserving
its own species.
Not a few big game hunters have
remarked upon the fact that when first entering areas of wild
life not previously invaded by man, they have observed a remarkable
peace and quietness, and found a consistent fearlessness of man
among animals. So overwhelming has this sense of peace been that
they found it difficult to speak aloud and carried on whatever
conversation was necessary in a whisper as though in the presence
of God. One writer, Robert C. Ruark, described his own experiences
in this matter, and remarked that one famous hunter whom he knew,
Harry Selby, a man whose life had been spent among animals out
of doors, continually stood amazed at the confidence and trust
displayed by the very animals he was supposed to be hunting.
Ruark said of himself on one occasion: (34)
We didn't want to shoot, we
didn't even want to talk aloud. Here you could see tangible peace;
here you could see the hand of God as He
33. Skutch, Alexander F., "The Parental
Devotion of Birds," Scientific Monthly, April, 1946,
34. Ruark, Robert C., "The First Time I Met God," Coronet,
possibly intended things to be. We left
the place largely as we found it. We felt unworthy of the clean,
soft, blue sky, of the animals and birds and trees.
To many men
the idea has not seemed too strange that even flowers and plants
have souls, (35)
and in the destruction of vast stretches of vegetation by forest
fires it has seemed to them that Nature suffered anguish. Yet
curiously enough there is evidence that even such forest fires
as are started purely by natural agencies are part of Nature's
own way of cleansing herself, and that they are actually beneficial.
For one thing, certain balances of plant forms may be restored
by such a means, and when forests reach over-maturity they may,
as one writer put it, become from the animal's point of view
"biological deserts." An interesting report on this
aspect of such natural fires -- not man induced ones, be it noted
-- appeared quite recently under the title, "Forest Fires
a Boon to Antlered Game," written by a Canadian Press
staff writer. (36)
Nature is neither a field of battle,
nor even a world of indifference where species go their way seeing
only to their own preservation. Nature is a cooperative society
in which what have been termed "obligate relationships"
are everywhere to be found. The examples of cooperation are sometimes
closely akin to the less selfish behaviour of human beings, and
cannot, therefore, merely be explained away as purely for self
advantage. It is a common sight to see a flock of birds about
to migrate rise from the ground at a given signal and wheel several
times in the air before heading for their destination. It has
been noticed that this wheeling behaviour may be repeated later
35. The soul life of plants: an interesting
bibliography listing some15 serious works dealing with this subject
will be found in a paper by Walter Lowrie, "A Meditation
on Scientific Authority," (Theology Today, Oct.,1945,
pp.309-311). See also G. T. Fechner, Soul Life of Plants,
(1848). R. H. France, one of the most eminent of German botanists
published a smaller book sometime after 1901 entitled The
Soul of the Plant, in which he said: "I have a presentiment
that the study of nature and psychology will in some future time
make the most beautiful discoveries in a place where no one had
expected it -- in the field of plant life." The same author
later produced 8 immense volumes in German entitled "Das
Leben de Pftanzen," a work which was completed in 1913
and which according to the author was largely inspired by Fechner's
earlier work. Sir Jagdis Chunder Bose, Professor Emeritus of
Presidency College and Director of Bose Research Institute in
Calcutta, wrote the following important works, all bearing on
this subject: Responsiveness in the Living and Non-Living,
1902; Plant Response, 1906; and Researches in the Irritability
of Plants, 1912. Later in 1921 he published a four volume
work entitled "Life Movements in Plants."
On Plant Consciousness, see Stanley Cobb,
"Awareness, Attention Physiology of the Brain Stem,"
in Experiments in Psychopathology, edited by Hock &
Zubim, Greene & Stratton New York, 1957, p.202. Even Darwin
seems to have recognized this possibility, as quoted by John
E. Howard, "Creation and Providence, with Special Reference
to the Evolutionist Theory" Transactions of the Victoria
Institute, vol.12, 1878, p.217.
36. Boyd, Bill, "Forest Fires Boon to Antlered Game,"
Port Arthur News Chronicle, May 22, 1958, p.12.
the migratory flight
and not merely at the commencement of it. It is now believed
that the stronger birds in the lead are providing an opportunity
for weaker members of the flock who are lagging to catch up.
This is achieved by the slower birds taking a smaller circle
of flight than the swifter birds. Thus no altitude is lost and
none of the birds is required to change its pace, since the smaller
circle flown by the weaker birds requires them to cover less
distance but gives them the same length of time to do it. A flock
that has been stretched out too much can by this means re-assemble
in closer formation. And this is not apparently undertaken because
of some present danger. (37)
A remarkable cause
of cooperation in Nature which, in this instance is to the advantage
of both participants, is that of the crocodile and the zic-zac.
This small bird with a long sharp beak shares the crocodile's
habitat. Crocodiles are troubled by small grubs which get into
their gums. When this becomes bothersome, the crocodile remains
motionless on the shore and makes a peculiar little noise which
attracts the zic-zac. This bird flies down and lands just in
front of it. The crocodile opens its mouth widely and allows
the bird to hop in and then closes it, gently. The bird goes
to work inside its temporary prison and makes a delightful feast
of the offending grubs -- to the relief of his host. As soon
as his work is finished, the zic-zac taps with his beak on the
roof of the crocodile's mouth. The crocodile, resisting the temptation
to make a meal of the bird, opens his mouth and sets the bird
free. Such a form of cooperative behaviour could, of course,
have been learned, but it is still very remarkable.
A form of unlearned cooperative
behaviour or interdependence, which is considered a classic example
because it is truly "obligate," is that of the Yucca
moth and the Yucca plant. John Klotz described this relationship:
The Yucca flowers hang down,
and the pistil or female part of the flower is lower than the
stamen or male part. However, it is impossible for the pollen
to fall from the anthers or pollen sacs to the stigma, the part
of the pistil which receives the pollen, because the stigma is
cup-shaped, and the section receptive to the pollen is on the
inner surface of the cup.
The female of the Yucca moth begins
work soon after sundown. She collects a quantity of pollen from
the anthers of the Yucca plant and holds it in her specially
constructed mouth parts. She then usually flies to another Yucca
flower, pierces the ovary with her ovipositer, and after laying
one or two eggs creeps down the style (the stalk of the pistil)
and stuffs a ball of pollen into the stigma. The plant produces
a large number of seeds. Some of these are eaten by the larvae
of the moth, and some mature to perpetuate the species.
37. Allee W. C. ref.16, pp.145 f.
38. Klotz, John, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution, Concordia,
St. Louis, 1955, p.531.
It is difficult
to imagine what could cause a moth to collect pollen and stuff
it into a stigma . . . but . . . this is an obligate relationship,
for in the absence of the moth, the Yucca plant produces no seed,
while without the Yucca plant the moth cannot complete its life
In such examples
as we have considered among insects and birds, there is normally
no struggle to survive and no over-crowding. Only occasionally
and with a few notable species like locusts does over-crowding
occur, and even here it is not yet quite clear whether the term
over-crowding is strictly true. As a matter of fact, the phenomenon
of over-crowding appears very seldom among animals, though it
is sometimes found among plants -- especially in inter-tidal
waters. Yet here again, the term is not altogether appropriate,
for according to current theory, over-crowding should cause changes
in trends, evolution-wise, whereas this is not apparently so
in such areas. The struggle for living space is supposed to accentuate
any slight advantages which a mutant variety of a local species
might achieve by accident, so that one might expect a slow but
steady change of plant form in inter-tidal waters. However, such
genetic drift does not actually take place. The Malthusian doctrine
of the struggle to survive and the consequent survival of the
fittest, is an armchair philosophy, not a fact of Nature. Charles
Elton said: (39)
A first impression might be
that every niche has long ago been filled with plants and with
animals dependent on plants, that the habitats are full to bursting-point
with life. . . . The concept fits plant life fairly well, but
is not true of animals. It is obvious to any naturalist that
the total quantity of animal life in any place is an extremely
small proportion of the total quantity of plant life. This general
observation has been amply confirmed by all recent studies of
the biomass of animal species or animal communities.
For example, the bird life on an
acre of rich farmland with trees and hedges and grass and crops
may only be a few kilograms in weight. The animal life is widespread,
it has, so to speak, staked out its numerous claims, but seldom
succeeded in exploiting them to the full.
From this situation we may conclude
that, on the whole, animal numbers seldom grow to the ultimate
limit set by food supplies, and not often to the limits of available
In a delightful
little book with the equally delightful title "Wood Folk
Comedies," William J. Long has sought, from firsthand observation,
to show that Malthus was certainly wrong with respect to animal
life. Speaking of the struggle to survive as being a kind of
"tragic" conception of Nature, he wrote: (40)
39. Elton, Charles, "Animal Numbers and
Adaptation," in a symposium entitled, Evolution,
edited by Sir Gavin de Beer, Oxford University Press, 1938, p.130.
40. Long, William J., Wood-Folk Comedies, Harper Brothers,
New York, 1920, p.11.
is a romantic invention of our story writers; the struggle for
existence is a bookish theory passed from lip to lip without
a moment's observation to justify it. I would call it mythical
were it not that myths commonly have some hint of truth or gleam
of beauty in them; but this struggle notion is the crude, unlovely
superstition of one who used neither his eyes or imagination.
To quote Darwin as an authority is to deceive yourself; for he
borrowed the notion of natural struggle from the economist Malthus,
who invented it not as a theory of Nature (of which he knew nothing),
but to explain from his easy-chair the vice and misery of massed
humanity. . . .
A moment's reflection here may
suggest two things: first that from lowly protozoans which always
unite in colonies to the mighty elephant that finds comfort and
safety in a herd of his fellows, cooperation of kind with kind
is the universal law of Nature; second, that the evolutionary
processes, to which the violent name of struggle is thoughtlessly
applied, are all so leisurely that centuries must pass before
the change is noticeable, and so effortless that subject creatures
are not even aware that they are being changed.
John E. Pfeiffer,
in his book The Emergence of Man, spoke of the fact that
animal behaviour was studied at first among captive creatures,
penned up in small cages in an entirely unnatural environment.
Here, for instance, apes and monkeys "engaged in bloody
fights, often to the death, killed their infants, and indulged
in a variety of bizarre sexual activities." But then he
pointed out how, later on, when men went out into the fields
to study these same creatures, they found an entirely different
picture: so different, in fact, that it created consternation:
Early work created a certain
amount of confusion as primates failed to behave as expected.
Anthropologists and zoologists entered wildernesses expecting
mayhem, and found peace. As a matter of fact, fighting was so
rare that in the beginning each observer made a special point
of reexamining his own results. Perhaps the species he was studying
represented an exception to the rule of violence, or the animals
were members of unusually amicable troops.
Later the observers compared notes
and realized that they had not been dealing with exceptions but
with a common state of affairs. Their findings have since been
confirmed by continuing field studies involving some hundred
investigators in a dozen countries, including Japan, India, Kenya,
Uganda, and Borneo.
in a review of a book by Lee R. Dice entitled Natural Communities,
expressed the hope that naturalists would increasingly take a
more realistic view of Nature and abandon the view of Nature
which sees it as in a continuous state of warfare. He pointed
out that the concept of Nature as red in tooth and claw has had
a profound influence on world history and that the nature of
this influence has
41. Pfeiffer, lohn E., The Emergence of
Man, Harper & Row, New York, 1969, pp 247, 248.
been such as to at least
raise doubts about its validity. He then remarked that even more
odd "is the apparent continuing failure (on the part of
naturalists) to admit that the very existence of a science of
natural communities belies it, for if Nature was indeed as the
poet described it, its condition would be chaotic and in a perpetual
state of disequilibrium." He said that if there were nothing
else to thank Dr. Dice for, we may at least be grateful for the
support his book gives "to the view that Nature is essentially
a state of beautiful and delicate balance to which each and every
member makes its due, but only due, contribution." (42) Recently the English journal
The New Scientist had a little item that is apropos. In
the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, where wild life is protected
against unnatural predators such as human hunters, one experienced
naturalist and writer on animal behaviour, George B. Schaller,
(43) observed how
a gazelle which had apparently slipped from a steep embankment
into the river and was unable to get out of the water, was rescued
and carried to high ground by a lioness. That's cooperation!
I suppose a cynic might conceivably argue that the lion was merely
laying in store for the future, but I think not.
The delicacy of
this balance of contribution is well illustrated by a statement
by Walter J. Beasley who, in speaking of microscopic plants of
very simple type associated with coral reefs, said: (44)
The business of these plants
is to supply oxygen to the corals. The plants need the carbonic
acid gas which is given out by the coral animals. On the other
hand, the animals (i.e., the corals themselves) need the oxygen
which is produced by the plants. These coral animals live within
the corals themselves. . . .
Give the corals a free hand and
the water would become in time so alkaline as to destroy them.
Give the animals a free hand and they in the end would be killed
by the acidity they themselves produced, and so the two working
against one another ensure the maintenance of the conditions
vital to both.
All life is like that, a thousand
interacting and balanced forces, like the flying buttresses of
a towering Gothic cathedral; destroy one and the whole graceful
fabric will come down in irreparable ruin.
added this interesting comment:
The animals that form this group
are very sensitive to light, each particular kind having apparently
a definite sensitivity that suits it best. During the absence
of light at night there is nothing to control their
42. Good, Ronald, in a review of a book by
Lee R Dice, "Natural Communities," Nature, July
11, 1953, p.46.
43. Schaller, George S., "The Serengeti Lion: A Study of
Predator-Prey Relations," New Scientist, Jan. 25,
44. Beasley, Walter J., Creation's Amazing Architect, Marshall,
Morgan and Scott, London, 1955, p.67.
position in the water and they spread
out through the various layers. As dawn breaks, and light begins
to penetrate the surface waters, these move upward and for a
short period the surface is thick with them. As the light increases
with the appearance of the sun, the plankton begins to descend.
Some kinds go deeper than others: each kind ceases its downward
movement when it reaches the zone of light most suited to it.
These "pastures of the sea"
are arranged in an orderly fashion, so that not only are some
of the multitudinous microscopic plants and animals placed together
to contribute the life-giving gases necessary for each, but the
various types of plankton so react to the light that automatically
they are made to rise and fall in the waters, to provide food
at those positions best suited to the higher orders of life that
may frequent each particular region.
mechanism at the very bottom of the scale of life indicates that
in this kingdom of God nothing is left to chance, everything
acts according to natural law, and this law is clearly purposeful.
We may go even one step further than this and say that the very
atoms themselves obey with exactitude the laws appointed for
them, so that biochemistry is possible for just the same reason
that Nature Study is possible. In fact, in his Presidential Address
to the Chemical Association in 1948, Sir C. N. Hinshelwood remarked,
"It may not be wholly unreasonable to fancy that to almost
every element there falls some unique and perhaps indispensable
role in the economy of Nature."
But we need not stop even here.
Frances J. Mott, in a book entitled Biosynthesis has attempted
to demonstrate this essential oneness of the universe and of
all its phenomena. (45)
Mott believes that from the outermost galaxies to the depths
of the human mind, Nature is governed by what he calls the "universal
design," or "the grand configuration." He sees
in all Nature a rhythmic interaction between a nucleus and a
periphery, between the innermost and the outermost, between the
life of a single cell and the solar system.
This is obviously no easy concept
to develop, and Mott admits frankly that his personal acquaintance
with the greater part of the data is necessarily superficial,
but he cites a most impressive volume of material by original
investigators to support his thesis.
If any further evidence were required
of the wisdom which stands behind and regulates this inconceivably
vast and complex universe, it may be found upon those occasions
where natural law appears to have been set aside. We are not
thinking of miracles. It may, therefore, come as a surprise to
find that the laws of physics and chemistry which operate with
such precision that science is permitted to learn how to control
these forces even to the splitting of an atom, are indeed
45. Mott, Francis T., Biosynthesis,
David McKay Co., Philadelphia, 1943.
reversed upon certain
occasions. And these reversals are always found to be essential
for the continuance of life. Three fundamental laws are involved.
The first of these
is well known: that the solid form of water (i. e., ice) is lighter
or less dense than the liquid form. It is a law that as liquids
cool their density increases, and water obeys this law until
a temperature just before it becomes solid at which point it
begins to expand, thus becoming lighter than in its previous
state. It therefore floats upon the water and tends to prevent
the water underneath from dropping below a certain temperature
at which living creatures in it would be destroyed. The colder
it gets outside, the thicker is the shield of ice. Were it not
for this reversal of the natural law, all the water on the earth's
surface would, as a consequence of those factors which caused
the great ice age, probably have been turned into ice, all rivers
would have ceased to flow, and clouds would not have formed to
disperse the rain over the land. In fact, the world would have
become very largely a dead world. Sir Ambrose Fleming has described
this phenomenon as follows: (46)
If we consider what happens
when a pond or lake freezes on a cold night, we find that as
the cold wind blows over the surface the top layers of water
first contract, and sink down, and the process is repeated until
all the water has been reduced to 40 degrees F., approximately.
Then, on further cooling, owing
to the expansion which takes place, the water freezes merely
on the surface and a thin sheet of ice is formed, though the
general body of the water does not fall in temperature below
40·F., and hence the aquatic animals, fish, etc., are
not frozen in the ice and killed.
If it were not for this peculiar
behavior of water, in having a temperature of maximum density
above its freezing point, all lakes and ponds would in a long
winter become solid ice from the bottom upwards, and all aquatic
life would be destroyed. Hence this behavior of water has an
object or purpose, or is teleological, and has an end in view.
It can hardly have arisen by accident.
No other liquid
behaves in this manner, though some solids are known which expand
upon cooling. Since it requires less time to freeze water than
it does to thaw it out again, during a protracted ice age of
any intensity it seems likely that all but a very superficial
layer of water would remain continuously frozen.
The second law which is broken
is the law of gravity. Were it not for this law being superseded
by the law of the diffusion of gases, the atmosphere would sort
itself out so that the heavier gases would be at
46. Fleming, Sir Ambrose, Evolution or
Creation, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, undated, p.89.
the bottom and the lighter
gases at the top. The consequence of this for the earth would
be a layer of carbon dioxide of sufficient depth that all life
would soon cease. However, gravity is defied and this heavier
gas diffuses through the other gases of the atmosphere so that
free oxygen remains available at the earth's surface whereby
all creatures that breathe are able to obtain energy and sustain
The third law which
is broken is a little more difficult to state. When temperatures
are exceedingly low, chemical reactions slow down and at certain
temperatures combustion becomes impossible. As the temperature
rises, combustion takes place as oxides form and the higher the
temperature the greater number of such combinations possible.
But when the temperature reaches exceedingly high levels, the
law is reversed and the formation of oxides becomes impossible
so that combustion ceases. In the simplest possible terms, were
it not for this reversal of the law, our sun would go out, as
Hugh MacMillan put it (47)
The extraordinary law of heat
suspending its ordinary effects, preserves to us the light and
heat of the sun, caused by the combustion of dissociated elements,
which, at a lower temperature, would combine and extinguish the
sun by its own ashes.
has argued that this fact constitutes a reversal of the law of
entropy. Because at extremely high temperatures compounds do
not form, all the existing elements must be simple. As the total
energy is reduced by the dissipation of heat from the sun, it
becomes possible for compounds to form and therefore for more
complex structures to arise. We thus have a case where a reduction
in energy leads to increasing complexity, a phenomenon which
Blum has considered to be a reversal of the law of entropy. (48) This, at least, can be
said with safety -- something takes place at such temperatures
which contravenes the laws holding universally at lower temperatures,
and thus the sun's light and heat is preserved for the benefit
All three of these reversals of
natural law are clearly essential for the continuation of living
things, and this provision seems surely to indicate that life
is not an accident but part of a grand design.
Such, then, is the nature of the
world we live in. Guided and governed as it is by a firm but
wise hand, this beautiful and
47. MacMillan, Hugh, Two Worlds Are Ours,
Macmillan, London, 1880, p.xvii.
48. Blum, Harold, Time's Arrow and Evolution, Princeton
University, New Jersey, 1951. It is not possible to give a single
quotation but the argument is developed in approximately the
first forty pages.
system of balanced forces is in every sense a very real part
of the kingdom of God, and worthy of our deepest concern and
reverent exploration. It is not part of the kingdom of Heaven,
but it is part of the kingdom of God.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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