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The Lie: Evolution


Dragons of Paradise

By Tom Hennigan

Glorious sunbeams glistened off a remote Adirondack Mountain pool. Mist rose from it like an early morning offering to the Omnipotent, all-loving Being who made this special place possible. I stood in awe of the beauty that surrounds me—from the rugged mountain peeks on all sides and the aromatic fragrance of the balsam fir to the delicate peatals of the inconspicuous gold thread flower. But a tiny creature held me spellbound as it landed here, hovered there, and darted everywhere. Have you ever meditated on such an unlikely insect as the dragonfly?

To understand this unique specimen, take a closer look! It hovers and glides, gently touching the sparkling water with the tip of its abdomen, sending minute ripples everywhere. The pattern of its flight may very well be evidence that this is a female because with each dip of her body it appears that she lays another egg.

In about one to three weeks the thousands of tiny eggs will hatch, and very small, brownish creatures emerge to live on the bottom of that pond for several months or up to four years. The larva will bo through eight to 15 moults before they are fully developed. The stages between each moult is called an instar, and by the last instar, all of the organs will have formed to sustain them as winged creatures. If you didn’t know what to look for, you would never guess that these inconspicuous froms are the babies of a beautiful dragonfly.

The nymph (baby) is wonderfully designed for its watery abode and is well camouflaged in browns and greens (often veiled with algae). Unlike its parents, the nymph has gills located inside the body which extract oxygen from the surrounding water. The water is drawn into the body through an opening in the back and is circulated over the gills until the oxygen is used. As an added design feature, the youngster can jet propel itself away from danger quickly. The water that it draws I into its body for oxygen is forcefully expelled back out, rocketing him forward several inches.

The nymph gorges on things like insects, worms, and even small fish. Its mouth is equipped with a unique lower lip. Hinged in two places and folded under the face, the trap is set. When an insect approaches, that lip turns into a deadly weapon and suddenly extends far past its face in just a few hundredths of a second to snag a victim, which is stuffed into the nymph's mouth. For their size (one-fourth inch to about three inches) dragonfly nymphs are ferocious underwater  predators. These infant creatures are important to mankind as well. Anglers know them as baSs bugs, and they make excellent fishing bait. Actually, their numbers can indicate the health of a water habitat so they are sampled and counted by scientists when water quality is being assessed.

Though a dragonfly nymph is uniquely designed for its murky environment, this obscure life form is like us in strangely wonderful ways. Living in darkness and being born once are not its destiny. At God's call, the nymph's former glutenous way of life must cease.  Darkness no longer holds sway, and the new life must take precedence. Amazingly, the animal leaves its former life and swims toward the light of day and the beauty of God's expansive creation. Headed for a life of freedom, the feeble insect locates a plant emerging through the water's surface, crawls up the stem, and simply waits. What happens next is nothing short of a miracle!

A brand new creature breaks forth from the old casing, and slowly the adult insect laboriously emerges. The blood of the creature is pumped through the body which expands along with its wings, transforming them into wondrous lacy appendages. As its strength and vitality are renewed, one could say that it has been born again!

The hovering dragonfly contrasts vividly with the former drab creature of darkness; now it is brilliantly colored in radiant hues. Before, it could only crawl along the bottom of a pond and jet forward a few inches if necessary; now the expanse of the sky is its home. It is free to do what the loving Creator ordained since the beginning-to adorn its surroundings as a blossom in flight. Although its beauty can be likened to the adornments of the plant world, this dynamic flyer is actually carnivorous and is responsible for keeping small insect pests in check. Pondering God's design in allowing any creature to be born again demonstrates His grace and power as the Creator, and only by beholding such omnipotence can we proclaim, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1 :3).

Gazing in awe at any of the 5,000 plus species of dragonflies (with their ability to cruise, hover, and dart in any direction) reveals the amazing function of their double set of wings. They beat alternately so that while one set is. raised, the other is lowered. A rate of 160 times per minute can thrust the creature forward 100 body lengths in a second, thrust it backwards three body lengths in a second, or allow hovering in place. Such precise flight control must be the envy of many aeronautical engineers; in addition this insect, intricately designed by the hand of God, is also gifted with the ability to drift sideways, fly upward, dive downward, and change direction in an instant. Dragonflies have been clocked flying 30 miles per hour with short bursts of up to 75 miles per hour. But with all the wisdom amassed by science, the likelihood of designing such a flying machine is slim. And even if man were to accomplish such a feat, all the credit would still go to the Creator because, "That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1 :9).

Within the millions of species in the insect world, dragonflies are actually a suborder of species called anisoptera, which is part of the order called odonata (hence the study of such creatures is called odonatology, buttressed by several dragonfly and damselfly societies around the world). There is another suborder called zygoptera, which includes damselflies. Dragonflies and damselflies differ in that damselflies can fold their wings over their bodies and dragonflies must hold them straight out to the sides of their thorax. The eyes of the dragonfly appear to almost meet at the top of its head, and its tail end is also slightly enlarged.

The adult dragonfly has been known to migrate 180 miles-a vast difference from its former, limited world. Although it may live only one to six months (and sometimes a year in the tropics), the mature dragonfly is ready to reproduce. No longer breathing oxygen . from the water, the breath of life comes from the air in the atmosphere. The dragonfly dare not return to its former way of life, for only death by drowning awaits such an irrational choice. But God's people often slip into their former ways and a mire of doom even though they often know" ... the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Fortunately, God spares many of His creatures from such choices and provides other means of protection. One blessing from the Creator is this creature's oddly shaped body, which is crowned with a disproportionately large head that contains up to 30,000 individual eyes, each one scanning a narrow field of view. This gift of powerful sight sends data to a tiny brain, which produces a multifaceted image allowing super sensitive motion detection up to 44 yards away. Coupled with a head that can rotate almost 360 degrees, the adult dragonfly can remain watchful and on guard in all directions. We are also called to be especially alert in the final chapters of earth's history because " ... the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers" (l Peter 4:7). This link to the all-seeing, all-knowing God will provide insights and a perspective that guide our own journey since "having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7).

When observing dragonflies as they walk, one might get the impression that they are not very coordinated. The legs are abnormally long and were not designed to do a lot of walking. However, during flight, those long legs have a valuable function as they hang down to form a basket. When an edible morsel (such as a mosquito) approaches, the dragonfly uses its legs as a netcatching the critter on the fly and devouring it as the captor soars.

Though modern helicopter functions are largely based on dragonfly design, scientists are still puzzled. What especially mystifies them is that the dragonfly (which many scientists believe is highly evolved) has basically been unchanged through the ages. Fossil evidence reveals that dragonflies of the past were colossal in size with nymphs over a foot long and with adults having wingspans of three feet! The oldest fossils show dragonflies as fully formed, highly complex creatures rather than in some intermediate stage of development or evolution.

As followers of Jesus, we know that these specimens of the past were birthed in a paradise called Eden. Their finitely complex design began in the mind on an infinitely creative Craftsman in a garden of immeasurable beautytotally unlike the scenery we find today. The dragonflies of this ancient garden are but shadows of a paradise lost, but they are also reminders of the paradise yet to come-a paradise where sin is removed once and for all, death and bloodshed are obliterated, God's original intent is restored in His re-creation, and the people of God are set truly free to soar into the arms of their Saviour and Creator! The promise they can claim in Hebrews 6: 19 is "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast ...” -a hope of things to come that will not flee as long as we meditate on God's handiwork (including the dragonfly) that provides eternal lessons here and now.

Creation Illustrated Vol. 7, No. 1