The Importance of Helping Our Kids See God in Science

TitleI love talking with high school students.  They are at an age where so many possibilities exist in their lives, and they begin to take all of the information learned during their younger years and start to discuss it, think about it, own it.  They are not afraid to ask the hard questions because they have an honest desire to learn and understand.

This makes for interesting discussions.  If you have a high school student in your home, no doubt you know what I’m talking about.  The conversation often begins about 10:30 PM, right as I am getting ready for bed.  It usually starts with, “Hey, Mom.  What do you think about…?”

I have learned that this means I am going to be up for at least another hour talking about world views, the plot of a movie, or why people behave the way they do.  Even though it is late, I love it!  We all know how essential it is to discuss important issues with our children, and it is so much more effective when they bring up the questions.

This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about studying the sciences.  As students learn more about the created world, they begin to see its intricacies and how these show us the character of our amazing Creator.

Historically, many of the great scientists understood this well.  From Nicolaus Copernicus to Isaac Newton, their drive to study the world around them was significantly fueled by their desire to learn more about our God.  Copernicus was determined to pursue more research about our solar system because the accepted earth-centered system of his day bothered him.  He thought God would not have designed such an awkward system and believed the more elegant sun-centered system fit into a more orderly design.

And the field of marine biology is no different!  My experiences as a marine biologist have given me greater appreciation for some of the fascinating creatures which exist in our world and the environments in which they live.

Take, for example, horseshoe crabs.  These creatures have no claws and are not even technically crabs.  But they are fascinating creatures!  Scientists call them “living fossils” because horseshoe crab fossils have been found in layers of the earth representing supposedly millions of years in age.  Yet throughout all of these layers, they have not changed in appearance.  This fact is a significant stumbling block for evolutionary theory which suggests that creatures this “old” should have been affected by natural selection in order to evolve with their changing environments.

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Horseshoe crabs are considered to be quite low on the evolutionary tree; some research shows that their genetic makeup is very similar to the scorpion genome.  Yet they have an ability that even humans do not have.  Special cells in their blood (amoebocytes) are able to produce a clotting agent which will attach to dangerous bacteria (gram-negative bacteria), keeping the bacteria from infecting the horseshoe crab.  These dangerous bacteria naturally occur in the air we breathe and the water we drink.  We even have them in our intestines!  But if they enter our blood stream because of a major trauma or even when we receive a shot, they can cause fatal fevers.  Today, scientists use the specialized cells in horseshoe crab blood to aid in the identification of these dangerous bacteria.  If you have ever received an antibiotic or had surgery, you have benefited from the horseshoe crab’s “advanced” ability to detect harmful bacteria.

Not only do we see glimpses of the complexities of created organisms, the oceans of the world can also teach us about how the world itself was created.  Scientists agree that the earth is made of large masses of rock (called plates) which form a large puzzle around our spherical earth.  Some of these massive plates carry the world’s continents while others lie below the ocean floor.  It is also known that these plates move.  Some move closer together, creating mountains and volcanoes, while others shift away from one another, creating more ocean floor.  Many scientists believe that these movements are slow and uniform, moving only a few centimeters each year.  But in 2005, something amazing occurred.  Within a period of days, a thirty-five mile rift occurred in a desert of Ethiopia.

 

Image courtesy of NASA

This crack was up to 20 feet wide in some spots.  An effect of volcanic activity and plate movement beneath the rift, it resulted in the birth of what is now agreed to be a new ocean basin.  This means a new sea is forming in our world!  And it likely will not take “millions of years” to take shape.

Because scientists witnessed this amazing phenomenon, they now can say that seafloor ridges (locations where two of the earth’s plates meet) can tear open in just a few days instead of millions of years!  What an amazing testimony to the fact that it does not require necessarily millions of years for the oceans to form (and creatures to fill them!).

This is me going into the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Another amazing rift!

As we study more about ocean environments, we also learn how all of the habitats on earth are affected by each other.  One of the most amazing salt water environments is an estuary.  An estuary is an area where a fresh water river empties into an ocean or sea.  Ocean tides and river flow bring nutrients to the estuary, making it a highly productive area.  The creatures living there use the nutrients to produce so much food that the excess flows out to the ocean, providing food for other ocean environments.  Much of the ocean is dependent on the estuary “leftovers” and would not be able to sustain life without it.  Just like what Copernicus believed, the oceans of our world are so interconnected that there is a perceivable design in their arrangement.

Estuary

It should make sense, then, that incidents in one part of the world can have an impact on other areas.  As we have seen from the past oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this accident had far-reaching effects on many ocean environments, impacting the area's food supply, economics and even politics.

Why do we need to learn about our oceans and our world?  Because we live here.  We have been given the responsibility to subdue the earth and be good stewards of it.

From the complexities of the small horseshoe crab to the large-scale effects of a multi-faceted estuary, the marine environments and creatures of our world are amazing to study, help us to see order on earth, and point us and our students to the great Creator!

This should give you plenty to talk about with your students in the late hours of the evening!