Preserving Pearls

Grouping of fossil pearls as being held by the author. Fossilized inside the oyster. Photo Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2016

“May I hold it?” I asked, marveling at the two small objects in his hands.  The man placed them in my hands.  Gently, I rolled around the small, imperfectly shaped little ball.  It felt lighter than I had expected, almost as if it had been made of wax.  I was holding a fossil pearl and part of the oyster shell that went with it. The man traded me for another object –  this time several pearls were still inside the oyster, but the bump of the pearl was still clearly visible.

While I had certainly seen lots of fossil oysters and clams, scattered all over the ground at the dig site in Kansas, I had never really thought about fossil pearls.  One of the fossil pearls that I held was found near the region of Kansas where I have been digging in past years.  Walking along the surface of our dig sites, the ground is strewn with pieces of clams.  Often, a very large clam would be sitting on the surface.  On these large clam halves, one side is smooth, looking like more like a typical shell you would find on the beach, but the other side often has a very different texture.  This texture is actually made by a colony of small oysters that became fossilized with their host clam.

Let’s take a look at modern pearls forming in oysters before digging into the fossil pearls too deeply.  Oysters get their food by filtering tiny delicious tidbits (like algae) out of water.  Sometimes a small object gets stuck between the soft body parts inside and the shell, causing irritation.  Usually, it’s food or a parasite (not a grain of sand).  Our marvelous Creator designed the oyster with a special way of responding to this irritation.  After isolating the parasite, the oyster gently coats it with “nacre”, made of a special protein combined with calcium carbonate. Oysters continue to give that irritant one coat of nacre at a time, layer upon layer, slowly making it into the beautiful rounded object that we call a pearl.

Just like the minerals in clam and oyster shells get replaced and turned into rock during fossilization, the pearl can also become replaced, so that it is made of rock instead of the aragonite, or calcium carbonate, that we see in pearls today.  Sometimes the pearls can be completely replaced, but you can still see the rings made by the layering done by the oyster.   Other fossil pearls still have the same nacre that modern pearls do on the inside, and only some of the layers of the pearl are turned into rock.  Because they are replaced, most women (except the author) would probably not find a string of fossil pearls nearly as attractive as modern pearls.

Fossil bivalves (that fall under the same category as clams and oysters) can be found in some of the lowest and oldest rock layers of the world. They are found throughout the fossil record and in modern day.  Isn’t it interesting, that even in the oldest rock layers, these creatures were still basically the same as what we have today?  Yes, there are variations.  We see different sizes, shapes, and species, but they still had the same basic abilities and characteristics.  If the evolution and millions-of-years old earth models were true, why would these creatures suddenly appear, then stay basically unchanged through a supposed five hundred million years while everything else is theoretically evolving and getting better? Perhaps a better explanation is that God created oysters, clams, and other creatures with their unique features and ability to adapt, and they became preserved during different stages of the global flood.

Close up on grouping of pearls

Pearls, both fossil and modern offer a stunning illustration.  When someone or something irritating gets under your skin, you have some important choices to make.  It may be some kind of parasite of the heart – bitterness, hurt, selfishness or something else.  Like an oyster, our Creator has given you a very unique ability to control your thoughts and attitudes.  Instead of letting those “parasites” creep in and take over, you can choose to coat them with the love of Christ and truth from the Word of God. It may take time, but eventually, you will end up with a stunning treasure instead of a destructive disease.  Choose to be like the oyster today.

©Sara J. Bruegel, January 2017

Tip-Toe Tracks

The dark gray sky glowed with eerie shades of sickly green, rusty red, and deep purple.  Patches of smoky black lingered low in the sky, sometimes broken by torrential shafts of rain.  Deep rumbling noises and echoes of boiling water as it let off steam sounded constantly in the distance. Occasionally, those distant sounds were broken by sudden sharp noises of splintering wood, avalanching cliffs, explosions, and other noises.

Giant, brown waves swept back and forth across the land, carrying rocks of all sizes, shredded trees, and whatever else it picked up along the way.   A retreating wave revealing the wet sandy beach.  Moments later, the area shook, but not from an earthquake this time.  The sooty air rang clear with distressed wails and dire groans of a stampede of strange creatures as they tried to run across the wet sand, leaving deep footprints.

Three-toed dinosaur footprint in Glen Rose, TX. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2017

Another surge of water intruded the area before the animals could go very far, filling in their fresh footprints with new mud.  They waded through the fast-rising waters until the water rose to their hips and started to sweep them off their feet. Struggling against the strong current the creatures frantically tried to paddle with their strong legs and short arms. Occasionally, they could feel the mud below touching their toes, then just the tips of their clawed toes touched the bottom.  But, soon, these creatures were swept away by the waters and all the dry land was completely covered.

This is a picture of what it might have looked like when dinosaurs were trying to escape the rising waters of the world-wide flood, mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 6-9. Many paleontologists have trouble giving a good explanation for the different types of dinosaur footprint fossils because they believe that the earth is billions of years old and dinosaurs lived and died long before humans came on the scene, dismissing the idea of a global flood before it has even been seriously considered as a good model for explaining what we see. What I call “toe-print” fossils are good examples of a type of dinosaur footprint fossil better explained by models of the global flood than by the old earth models.

“Toe-print” fossils capture just the toes and claws of a two-legged dinosaur (like velociraptor or Iguanodon) touching wet sand.  We have two options: either these dinosaurs were skilled ballerinas who danced along beaches and swamps, or their weight was being held up by water and they were moving their legs (trying to swim). “Toe-print” fossils like this have been found in several different places around the world.  Some were discovered in China in 2013 and another site is in Australia.

Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackway in Queensland, Australia was first thought to be a stampede of small two-legged dinosaurs being hunted by a bigger dinosaur.  By using computers to compare these tracks with other fossils, researchers recently discovered that they were actually made by all vegetarian dinosaurs (none trying to eat each other) and were originally mis-identified as the wrong type of dinosaur because they are “toe-print fossils”, not full footprints.  Some of the marks left by dragging claws made them look like footprints belonging to another type of dinosaur.

A volunteer cleaning the fresh mud out of a dinosaur footprint fossil. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, 2015

Some paleontologists say that these dinosaurs got caught in a small river flooding, just like rivers sometimes flood today. However, ripple patterns, dents made by dragging debris, and other markers in the rock indicate fast rising water and drastic changes happening within seconds, more severe than what we see today. If you zoom out, the rock layer containing Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackway would require a “river” at least as wide as the Australian state of Queensland.  That’s wider than the state of Texas.  Putting that into perspective if you haven’t tried to drive across Texas, it would take over sixteen and a half hours of non-stop driving on a straight road at sixty miles per hour to go that distance.  That would be a very wide river. Taking that in the context of the other fossils and rocks we see around the world, it seems best explained by a global, catastrophic flood.

Thinking about the global flood, it sounds very catastrophic and violent.  Many creatures and people died in those flood waters.  People often ask why God would horrifically destroy the earth and people He created and loved.  But, perhaps there’s another question we should be asking: why has God been so very gracious and given people another chance over and over again?

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. ~Lamentations 3:21-23

©2017 Sara J. Bruegel

References:

Digging Deep Diamonds

“Look, it’s a piece of bone!” I knelt and picked it up, then another, and another of the pale fragments on the ground.  It was a pleasant, sunny autumn day, perfect for an afternoon of casual fossil hunting with my boyfriend.  As we followed the bone fragments, I almost stepped on a large, pale fossil just barely sticking out of the ground.  It really was quite an extraordinary find – the fossils were preserved surprisingly well, and there were several others that we found just behind the bone I had nearly stepped on.  Then there was something odd behind the bones . . .  it was hard to tell at first, but more digging revealed that it was a small, wooden box! I was baffled, until my boyfriend opened the little treasure box, revealing a diamond ring.  He offered our “rare find” to me, and I accepted it.  Getting to dig up my own diamond like this reminded me of where diamonds come from, and how incredible they are.

Every diamond actually does have to be “dug up”, but human mining abilities can only sift through diamonds that have already been brought close to the surface.  Diamonds start out at least ninety miles below Earth’s surface – much deeper than people can even hope to mine.  To put this into perspective, the deepest part of the ocean is almost seven miles deep and the area where diamonds form is about thirteen times deeper. Shallower than this, the temperatures and pressures are not enough for diamonds, and they break down into graphite, like black pencil lead. Much lower than the diamond zone, the temperatures and pressures are too much, and the diamond breaks down.  Diamonds were probably formed around the time God first created land, about six thousand years ago, sitting below the “basement rock” that was the main foundation for land before the global flood.

For a while after creation, these valuable gems were likely still out of reach, well below Earth’s surface.  The volcanic activity during the global, catastrophic flood (and for a while after the flood) provided just the right way for diamonds to travel up to the surface.    Today, these precious stones are found in very special rock sections of either kimberlite or lamproite, formed into deep, narrow “pipes”.  These rocks are basically a type of volcanic rock with some interesting extra minerals that the magma (underground lava) picked up on its way to the surface.  Diamonds rode this stream of magma up through Earth’s surface.  As mentioned before, these gems will turn into pencil lead if they’re not in their special diamond zone.  To get diamonds up to the surface without breaking down, they need to move very quickly.  They needed to travel all ninety miles in just seven to twenty hours. Magma moving this fast would create an eruption much bigger than Mount St. Helens and unlike anything in our world today.  We know that something catastrophic must have brought diamonds close enough to dig.

Diamonds are incredible gem stones that point to creation and the catastrophic flood, showing remarkable evidence that the Earth is young (only about six thousand years old).  Their dramatic entrance is only part of the story.  Carbon-14 is a radioactive chemical that breaks down and would become undetectable after about fifty-thousand years.  Traditionally, diamonds are thought to be one to three billion years old, but Carbon-14 could not last that long.  These valued stones confirm what the Bible says about the history and age of the earth.

The journey of a diamond coming up to the surface is a beautiful thing to think about.  Valuable gems start out in the depths of the earth where it’s dark and extremely hot. Literally tons of pressure are pushing all around it.  They need to be picked up by a flow of magma, getting ready to explode toward the surface.  Those diamonds need to be carried fast enough so that they don’t break down.  To become jewelry, these gem stones must be cut and shaped, even after all they’ve traveled through, because that cutting and shaping will reveal the deep beauty under the surface.  All that these diamonds travel through keeps them pure, brilliant, sharp, and valuable.  One of the most beautiful things about a diamond is the way it reflects light.  May your life be like a diamond, made better through the pressures and changes over the years, kept in just the right place at just the right time (by your Maker), and cut away so that you may brilliantly reflect the Light of the World – Jesus.

©December 2016, Sara J. Bruegel

References:

A New Fossil Tail

Did you ever play the game, “Telephone”, passing a whispered phrase down the line of people?  By the time the person on the end blurts out whatever they heard, it’s usually not what the first person said.  The silly game of telephone can teach us memorable and fun lessons about the dangers of rumors. It’s amazing how quickly a rumor can circulate around a close-knit circle of people.  Rumors are also dangerous in the realm of science.  A scientific rumor is when people come to hasty conclusions about science, before they have all the data needed to make those conclusions, and then they go spread it around.

Have you seen the news lately?  Perhaps you’ve seen the numerous headlines proclaiming that a well-preserved dinosaur tail has been found in amber with feathers intact.  Many magazines and websites are jumping on this supposed momentous scientific discovery.  But, when it comes to exciting scientific discoveries, people are much too eager to spread the news and not eager enough to first learn all the details.  We must not make hasty judgements before all the facts are known and understood.

A group of Chinese scientists have been studying a very interesting piece of amber.  Amber preserves beautifully detailed plant and insect fossils.  But, instead of leaves in this amber, these scientists found feathers that look to be still intact, including what appears to be a tail section of some kind.  Looking at their original report, it appears that they did find feathers.  These feathers had hooks and barbules – a complex, beautiful system specific to feathers. There definitely are feathers, but what animal they belong to is more questionable.  There are several types of bird fossils found in this unit of rock layers.

Since this team just published their finds on December 8, 2016 (yesterday), it’s still too early to say much about this fossil, but let’s take a quick look at what they did discover and some of the potential problem areas in their conclusions. One of the main reasons these scientists think that it’s dinosaur is because the individual tail bones (vertebrae) are not stuck together like they usually are in the tip of a birds’ tail called the “pygostyle”.  However, keep in mind that we only have a middle part of the tail – both ends are gone. It’s questionable that they would even have enough of the tail to know definitively whether or not the bones at the end are stuck together like a bird’s pygostyle. The piece they have is only about one and a half inches long.

These scientists say the tail section they have belongs to a dinosaur.  However, to match it up with a dinosaur skeleton, including only bones, you would need to get a good look at the bones.  According to their original publication, they weren’t able to get a good look at the bones because of how the feathers and skin were covering them. It sounds like there were only a few parts that could be seen well enough to make much of a sound judgement.  We really need more good, solid data before much else can be said about this popular discovery.  We need more peer-review from other scientists in their specific fields. Don’t let your faith rely on the changing winds of human opinion and whatever is popular – rather, make sure you base your life, beliefs, and judgements on the firm foundation of the faithful Word of God.

©December 2016, Sara J. Bruegel

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Quickly Cooling Crystals

Notice the bent and cracked rocks by the presidents' faces at Rushmore. Notice the little white streak on the right side of Washington's forehead

Notice the bent and cracked rocks by the presidents’ faces at Rushmore. Notice the little white streak on the right side of Washington’s forehead

The bright morning sun glistened off the different colored rock crystals, all squeezed together into a block of granite rock.  “Oh look!  There’s schist, and I think that’s pegmatite!”  I declared, delightedly leaning as close as I could to the jumble of shining rock on the other side of the railing.  Mount Rushmore was great, but this nerdy rock-lover was more interested in the surrounding rocks than the actual carving of the presidents’ faces.   The rocks were beautiful to look at, but how they got here today is an incredible story.

Some of the original rock here may have been made on creation week, when God first separated the waters, making land.  That original rock was heated and squeezed by pressures that likely came from Earth’s moving plates near the beginning of the flood, transforming it into the shimmering rock, called schist. This was one of the rock types I saw below the presidents at Mount Rushmore.  The other main type of rock I saw there was granite.  Granite formed when underground magma (basically the same as lava, just underground) squeezed up into the schist rock that was already there and cooled into the hard rock that the presidents’ faces are carved out of at Rushmore.

If you look closely at George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, you will notice white streaks across their foreheads.  Those streaks are made up of a special type of granite, called pegmatite.  What makes pegmatite different from regular granite?  Just the size of its crystal grains.  If you’ve ever seen a granite counter top, polished smooth, you can tell that it’s made up of a bunch of tiny colorful mineral crystals.  Pegmatite is the same, just made up of bigger mineral crystals.  Some granite counter tops will also have a streak of bigger crystals (pegmatite) going through the regular smaller crystals.

Small-grained granite

Small-grained granite

Traditionally, geologists who wanted to believe that Earth is millions of years old would have said that the bigger the crystals, the more time it took to form.  But, research has shown that large pegmatite crystals can form much quicker than expected because of water in the magma. Forming these pegmatite crystals is basically a cooling process, and water speeds up this process, helping it cool faster. In general, putting water on something hot (e.g., a pan or hard-boiled egg) will help it cool down faster because as the water evaporates, turning to steam, it will take away some of the heat-energy from the object.  The same basic idea applies to pegmatite. Water mixed into the magma helps it cool faster than normal by taking some of the heat-energy and forming the big crystals of pegmatite granite that we can see as white streaks on two of the presidents’ foreheads at Mount Rushmore.

Pegmatite is not the only thing that cooled faster than normal because of water.  There were giant blobs of magma, called “batholiths”, that cooled and hardened into granite like the rock the presidents are carved from at Rushmore. The presence of water would also help these giant underground heat chambers cool, but cracking from the fast cooling would also speed up their cooling.  Pretty much all granites around the world are cracked, showing evidence of rapid cooling. In the end, it’s not about how much time you have, but about the chemistry and physics of what is happening. What’s so important about getting cool rock? It all points back to the global flood.  Both at the time of original creation the flood and , water would have gotten trapped in magma, helping cool the magma into the granite rocks that we have today.  You don’t need millions of years to make granite – you only need the right conditions.

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, December 2016

Reference

  • Snelling, Andrew and Woodmorappe, John. Rapid Rocks: Granites … They Didn’t Need Millions of Years of Cooling. December 1, 1998. Originally published in Creation 21, no 1 (December 1998): 42-44. Answers in Genesis.  Last accessed 12-2-16 https://answersingenesis.org/geology/geologic-time-scale/rapid-rocks/
  • Marshark, Stephen.  Earth: Portrait of a Planet. , Third Edition. 2008. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Page 168-9.

Facing the Facts

The late summer evening glow of the setting sun made the trees and rocks of the South Dakota Black Hills reverberate with a final splash of brilliant color before darkness cloaked their splendor for the night.  My flip-flops seemed to echo loudly off the smooth pavement, trying to keep up with my excited pace.  Briefly, I stopped at the eye-catching view: a broad, smooth pathway lined with state flags from around the U.S. framing the giant heads of four presidents on the distant peak.  They still looked small from this far away.  Standing at the end of the pathway, I leaned on the stone railing as I watched the sky get darker and the faces on the hill side suddenly lit up, one by one.  Watching the evening lighting of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, I heard stories about the carving of this incredible monument.

From a distance, the carvings look small, even though they're 60 feet tall

From a distance, the carvings look small, even though each face is 60 feet tall

But, how can we really know that Mount Rushmore was created by people, and that it’s not just a cool, naturally made rock formation?  After all, there are some stunning “natural” rock formations, made without human involvement.  Just look at Arches National Park, or some of the odd rock formations I’ve written about, like balanced rocks or boulders that stack together to look like a fruit bowl or crab (find those articles here).  Those odd rock formations were not stacked or carved by people.  Why do we insist that Mount Rushmore must have been made by some very special efforts of people?  Isn’t that a bit closed-minded?  I wasn’t there before those faces appeared, so how can I know for sure what caused them? Let’s go over four simple reasons we can know these faces in the rocks were purposefully carved by intelligent people:

1) Written & retold stories

Visiting Mount Rushmore, books, pamphlets, signs, and park rangers will tell you the stories of exactly how and when these faces were carved into the rock.   They include very detailed information, like names and other facts about all the men who worked on it, dates when work was started and finished, copies of original plans, and explanations of how they did it. Also, those stories can be confirmed by writings of other people from that time.

2) Intricacy

Although made of the same granite as the rough rocks around it, the faces of these presidents are smooth and detailed.  They show unique facial features and personality, including eyes, hair, and even some clothing.

3) Re-designed several times

Because of the way granite breaks and cracks, the intelligent artists/engineers had to re-design their plan several times over the course of the project.  They were able to notice problems with their patterns and change their designs to suit the needs.

4) Incredible likeness

Faces of the four American presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, gazed confidently out of the hill side.  But, of course, these were not the real presidents – they were only sculptures of rock. Yet, looking at each of those stony faces, we remember the people they portray.  They were purposefully made to look like the faces of real people. Those faces were carved so that people could remember who they were and what they did.

All the natural world – all of creation- was specially designed by an intelligent Person.  Our Creator, the God of the Bible, gave us a detailed, written account of how and when He did it.  We see His fingerprints in the intricate details of design of atoms, animals, the universe, and us. God, in His wonderful fore-knowledge gave living things (animals, humans, plants) the ability to just slightly alter their “construction plans” if needed.  Living things have the special ability to adapt, within limits, to meet the challenges of their environments. Finally, God made humans to reflect His face, constantly reminding others of Who He is and what He has done.  My friend, YOU are His masterpiece – not to be selfishly shown off for how special you are, but to show off the talents of your Designer, constantly reminding people of the One who created you and made a plan to redeem you, too.

© Sara J. Bruegel, November 2016

Stepping Mile-High

Looking down from the steps of the Colorado State Capitol building

Looking down from the steps of the Colorado State Capitol building

“ . . . Eight, nine, ten” our group chanted as we climbed the grand stone steps, voices ringing loud and clear in the early evening air.   “ . . . Eleven, twelve, thirteen!” We stood all together and posed for a picture, there on the thirteenth step of the Colorado state capitol building in Denver, standing exactly one mile above average sea level.  Denver, Colorado is known as the “Mile High City”, but most of the city sits slightly lower than the exact 5,280 feet that make one mile.  The area right around the state capitol building is a small hill, making it a little higher than the rest of the city.  Looking at the front entrance of the elaborate building, the fifteenth step is clearly engraved with the words “One Mile Above Sea Level”, but there are also two brass markers on other steps that say they mark exactly one mile. One above the engraved letters, on the eighteenth step, and another below them both on the thirteenth step. Of course, I wondered, which one is right?

Three steps said they were exactly one mile above sea level, but only one could be right.  Looking closely at the markers, I noticed that the inscription on the lowest bronze marker included the year, “2003”.  But, the other bronze marker was difficult to read and the engraved step did not include dates or other details.  Upon further investigation, I discovered that when the Colorado state capitol building was first built in the 1890’s, the fifteenth step (the engraved one) was found to be the mile-high sweet spot.  Later, in 1969, it was re-surveyed by students of Colorado State University and the eighteenth step was marked as being one mile high.  Using modern technological advances to re-measure in 2003, the thirteenth step was marked as being exactly one mile – 5,280 feet – above sea level.

Looking at the three different mile high markers on the steps of the Colorado state Capitol building

Looking at the three different mile high markers on the steps of the Colorado state Capitol building

Satellites (like GPS) and numerous other tools from modern technology have enabled people to make more accurate measurements over the years. I had to wonder . . . how big of a difference does each step of the Colorado State Capitol building make? Looking at those steps that seemed far apart, but realizing exactly how high each step is compared to the one mile height helps put them into perspective. If you compared the height of one step to a mile, it would be the same as comparing:

  1. A single coffee bean compared to the length of a football field,
  2. The width of a single red blood cell to the height of a six-foot man, or
  3. The period at the end of this sentence to a twelve-foot high ceiling.

Can you imagine trying to measure something so accurately?  It’s no wonder the official mile-high step measurement has changed over the years.  When it comes to the tiny, precise differences of measurements, we can clearly see that human ability and intelligence is limited.  All people (including scientists) are finite.  We cannot get everything perfect, much as we would like to.

But, God knows and perfectly controls details that are way smaller and more significant than we can ever begin to grasp.  He controls and perfectly orders details that keep atoms together, edits the DNA in our bodies, and shields us from more dangers than we could imagine. The Lord perfectly orchestrates the rising and setting of the sun, changing of the seasons, beating of your heart, and the forces that keep everything from disintegrating or worse.  Our mighty Creator, the God of the Bible, knows the number of hairs on your head and the number of hours you will spend on earth.  He knows every thought that has ever popped into your head.  He can arrange perfect timings for bumping in to a friend unexpectedly or convicting your heart to pray for someone right when they need it.  That same Person, the King of the universe, wants to draw you to a closer walk with Him every day, growing and loving Him more every day.  Be sure to seek Him with your whole heart and choose to humbly acknowledge that His ways are always right.

“But even the hairs of your head are all numbered”

~Matthew 10:30

© Sara J. Bruegel, November 2016

References:

Corruption and Creativity

Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel 2015

Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel 2015

Clomp, clomp, clomp.  My high-heeled boots hit the tile floor as I walked.  As if floating on air, my friend lightly ran across the open room towards me, full of excitement.  “Want to see the invitations?” She asked as she pulled out a beautiful floral card. “Wow! You made this?!” I exclaimed as I examined the intricate pattern of water color painted flowers and perfect calligraphy writing.  She nodded. I was amazed by her creativity and ability to design the card so perfectly with all the right proportions, shapes, and colors.  Seeing her creativity reminded me a little bit of God’s incredible creative power and ability in making the real flowers she was imitating on paper.  God made us in His image and imitating Him brings Him glory. Human creativity can be a beautiful way of imitating God.

A few months before admiring my friend’s art work, I can fondly remember enjoying fragrant blossoms similar to the ones painted by my friend.  Among those fragrant blossoms, there was a big, beautiful monarch butterfly.  But, as I got closer to the butterfly, my delight that it was holding still enough to take pictures of it turned into a tender sadness seeing that it was not only dead among the white flowers, but a spider was making a feast out of the poor butterfly (read more about the butterfly and spider in “Monarch of the Garden“).  Destruction is a sad flip-side to the creativity and beauty we see around us.  Flowers die, creatures eat each other, things break, and colors fade.  Though some were saved for keepsakes, most of the copies of the beautiful invitation my friend made would end up in the trash or crumpled.

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Spider eating a monarch butterfly

Although in science, the basic concept of things falling apart into disorder is entropy, there is something much deeper to this disorder.  What do you think of when you see the word “disorder”?  My desk is one thing that comes to my mind, and it usually gets that way due to my neglect, just letting papers pile up and things migrate there.  Disorder on my desk is a passive act – I’m not actively or deliberately cluttering, but merely not taking the time to put things away where they belong. The “disorder” or entropy throughout the natural world is sometimes passive, like the desk example or rooms that constantly need to be dusted, but it’s also an active corruption.

Corruption is the opposite of creation.  True creativity brings life and renewal, while corruption brings destruction and death. God originally created all things good and perfect, but when sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, it opened up His beautiful masterpieces to corruption.  Passively, things began to go downhill toward disorder.  Animals and people began to feel the effects of aging and death.  But there was also an active, growing corruption.  Animals that were originally all created as vegetarians ate each other and people became selfish, violent, and evil.  Corruption destroys, breaks down, and misuses things, bringing death.

Lone Cone Mountain near Naturita, Colorado. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, April 2015

Lone Cone Mountain near Naturita, Colorado. Photo copyright Sara J. Bruegel, April 2015

Corruption is not the end of the story, though.  One thing in particular I’ve noticed and loved about my creative-minded friends, like the one who made the invitation, is that they know how to work with what they have (even broken, corrupted things) to make something beautiful or useful. God does the same thing – though His original creation has been corrupted and misused, He can re-create it into something beautiful.  We can see this by looking at mountains or fossils formed because of the judgmental global flood. We can also see this by looking at the way God equipped animals with what they need for survival and beauty in this harsh, broken world.  God does marvelous acts of re-creation in our ideas and people groups.  In our culture today, many people have corrupt ideas and uses for God’s creation of the family and marriage, but He can even help us re-create and renew our minds from lies and brokenness. The most mind-boggling acts of re-creation that God does is in the hearts of individual people.  Remember, no matter how far you’ve gone or how much brokenness and corruption you may have in your heart, nothing is too small or too big for God to re-create.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come ~ II Corinthians 5:17

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, October 2016

Feasting Fish

My excitement and nervousness rose as the powdery gray dust puffed up from where both my friend and I carefully chipped away at the flaky gray rock, revealing tiny areas of black, little by little. Those little areas of black were not rock, but part of the fossil we were excavating.  And they weren’t just any part of that fossil – these little black sections of bone belonged to the skull and gill areas of a large fish fossil. It had been almost a year since we had found this four-foot long fish fossil (read about the original find in Fishy Finds), and here in the final stages of excavation and preparation, uncovering the skull would be essential to properly identify what kind of fish we had.  From the skull, tail, and other features, it was determined that this fish fit best under the genus, Gillicus.

The Gillicus fish fossil from Kansas finished with the longest stages of excavation

The Gillicus fish fossil from Kansas finished with the longest stages of excavation Sara Bruegel (L) and David Mikkelson (R)

There is another very interesting Gillicus fish fossil from the same region of Kansas.  Not only was this fish preserved in rock, but it was also preserved inside a larger fish! This Gillicus was about six-and-a-half feet long, but in the belly of a different type of fish that was about thirteen feet long.  Together the two make up the famous “Fish-Within-A-Fish” fossil.  A display replica of the two can be seen at the Sternberg Museum in Hays, Kansas.  According to “Oceans of Kansas” paleontology research website, this “Fish-Within-A-Fish” is probably the most photographed fossil in the world.

Of course, when we see the “Fish-Within-A-Fish” fossil, we tend to think right away that the bigger fish must be eating the Gillicus.  Although it’s important to not jump to hasty conclusions about fossils, judging by the other fossils found in the area and other fossils preserved while eating, it seems reasonable to say that the Gillicus probably was being eaten.  The larger fish may have “bit off more than it could chew” and died due to the squirming of the smaller Gillicus inside of it.  Whether the larger fish died for this reason, or just due to the perils of the global flood, we can tell that they must have been buried very quickly together to be beautifully preserved, like we see them today, without getting picked to pieces by other creatures in the sea.  A normal ocean environment like we see today could never preserve fish like these – their burial is much better explained by mud flows from a catastrophic, global food.

Dragonfly Fossil.  Photo Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, February 2016

Dragonfly Fossil from the Solnhoffen. Photo Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, February 2016

Similar fossils have been found in Kansas and other places as well, like the Solnhoffen formation.  This rock formation in Germany features tons of different spectacularly preserved fossils, including extremely delicate jellyfish and dragonflies. One of these German fossils is a set of three creatures making a food chain – a pterosaur that just swallowed a small fish, but got dragged into the water and drown by a larger fish.   All three were preserved together, and the small fish inside the pterosaurs’ throat looks like it hasn’t been digested yet.  This set of violent fossils, like the Kansas “Fish-Within-A-Fish”, must have been buried extremely quickly to be preserved.

Although these creatures are eating one another and dying, they have been beautifully preserved.  Death and destruction were not part of God’s original “very good” creation, but a result of sin (evil) coming into the world through Adam and Eve.  Yes, there was pain, death, and destruction during the flood and we still have them today.  But, take a look at the message we can see through these fossils.  We see death and destruction in these fossils, but we also can see spectacular preservation in them.  Although sometimes God’s justice will require death and destruction, His mercy can do wonders preserving and making something beautiful out of it, and it was because of His great love that He created them (and us) in the first place.

© Sara J. Bruegel, October 2016

References:

Master of Web Design

A gentle fog lingered in the autumn morning air.  As I walked across the damp grass, I was excited to see the rain gauge after the stormy day before.   I stopped suddenly to gaze at the glistening barrier between me and the rain gauge.  Dew drops clung to the thin, lacy spirals of the large spider web strung across my path, right in front of my face.  I watched a little bug struggling near the center of the nearly invisible sticky trap.  Suddenly the host spider ran out to catch her prey, do her work quickly, and run back to a safe corner. The spider either saw me or decided it was getting much too light for her taste, because soon after her meal was taken care of, she began to quickly and carefully disassemble her web.  Spiders definitely aren’t my favorite type of creature to keep in the house, but there is something very alluring and beautiful about their webs.

Spider web with mist on it. Notice the spider in the middle - it is wrapping up a bug it caught

Spider web with mist on it. Notice the spider in the middle – it is wrapping up a bug it caught

A spider uses very special glands and incredibly tiny, intricate structures to create its silk and spin that silk into just the right kind of thread for the job.  There are several different types of silk thread a spider can make and use for the right purpose.  There are special types of silk for making an egg sac or wrapping up their freshly caught meal.  When a spider weaves its web, it first creates a y-shape to anchor the web, and builds other support strands that look a lot like the spokes of a bicycle wheel.  The silk for these supporting spokes is not sticky.  After those supporting strands are made, the spider will make a quick “auxiliary spiral” made of non-sticky thread to keep it together and act as a pattern for the sticky spiral.  This sticky spiral silk is made with a special glue that will help catch the bugs that the spider will eat.  The spider waits on a sensitive area of the web and pounces out, tiptoeing carefully on the non-sticky threads, and wraps its meal in a different type of silk.

A spider’s silk, though incredibly thin and flexible, is stronger than any man-made fiber.  Not only are the silks perfectly designed to be sticky, strong, flexible, and easily taken down, but the web is also incredibly engineered.  When under pressure, the whole web will gently bend.  But if the pressure becomes too much, the part of the web under the most pressure will actually stiffen and crystallize, actually causing just that section to break. The rest of the web stays intact and can easily be repaired.  In fact, a web with a few strands broken is actually specially designed to be even stronger than the original web! Not only were spider webs specially made to be able to break and be easily fixed, but the structure of an ordinary orb web looks very similar to a flower when they are both put under an ultraviolet light.  This tricks some bugs into thinking they’re headed to a nice flower when they are actually about to be trapped in a spider web.

Thinking about all of these amazing features of just a spider’s web (not even the spider itself) that scientists still cannot make on their own should turn our eyes towards the Master Web Designer, God, Who created the way spiders form webs.  Some people try to say that the spider and other creatures are just a product of random-chance accidents over millions of years, but the ability to make a web with all the right types of silk spun the right way and with the right chemicals, then woven in an ideal structure would require way too many different things to be “just right” all at once.  Fossil spider webs that look just like the orb webs we see today have been found preserved in Amber in the same layers as dinosaur bones (buried in the Jurassic rock group).  This was a big surprise to people who held to the view that spiders evolved slowly over long periods of time.  The spider web shows intricate patterns of being perfectly designed from the beginning, just a few thousand years ago.  Next time you see a spider web, before you brush it away, take a minute to marvel at its design and praise our Creator.

Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, October 2016

References:

  • Sarfati, Jonathan. Spider silk: both strong and smart. Creation Magazine 34(3):56. July 2012. Creation Ministries International. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://creation.com/spider-silk-strong-smart
  • Sarfati, Jonathan. God’s webspinners give chemists free lessons. Creation Magazine 23(2):20–21. March 2001. Creation Ministries International. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://creation.com/god-s-webspinners-give-chemists-free-lessons-creation-magazine-spider-silk
  • Sherwin,Frank. 2006. Spiral Wonder of the Spider Web. Acts & Facts. 35 (5). Institute for Creation Research. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://www.icr.org/article/spiral-wonder-spider-web
  • Thomas, Brian. 2012. The Masterful Design of Spider Webs. Acts & Facts. 41 (4): 16. Institute for Creation Research. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://www.icr.org/article/masterful-design-spider-webs
  • Thomas, Brian. 2012. Scientists Decode Key to Spider Web Strength. Evidence for Creation:::God’s Design Is an Engineering Wonder. Published March 19, 2012. Institute for Creation Reseach. Last accessed 10-14-16
    http://www.icr.org/article/scientists-decode-key-spider-web-strength
  • Thomas, Brian. 2009. Amber-Trapped Spider Web Too Old for Evolution. Evidence for Creation. Posted November 20, 2009. Institute for Creation Research. Last accessed 10-14-16.
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  • Wilson, Gordon. The Ultimate Web Designer. Design in Nature. March 13, 2016. Answers Magazine. Answers in Genesis. Last accessed 10-14-16
    https://answersingenesis.org/creepy-crawlies/ultimate-web-designer/