Hummingbird Metabolism – Amazing Design

By Wayne Jackson

Over the years I have filed away hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles pertaining to biblical topics. Occasionally I will stumble across one of these that almost had escaped my memory. One such clipping appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association more than two decades ago. It is worthy of rehearsal even now.

The title of the article was: “One of Nature’s Most Distinctive Designs — Hummingbird Metabolism.” I cite the following two paragraphs:

“The hummingbird is the smallest bird on earth — some species weigh no more than a dime. It has the highest rate of metabolism (at rest 50 times faster than man’s) and thus must consume enormous amounts of nectar to avoid starvation. Not adapted for night feeding, it must stretch its food stores from dusk to dawn. To accomplish this, nature has equipped the hummingbird with a unique energy-saving design: the ability to hibernate overnight.

“During the night, the hummingbird’s metabolic rate is only one-fifteenth as rapid as in the daytime, and its body temperature drops to that of the surrounding air. The bird becomes torpid, scarcely able to move. When it does stir, it moves as though congealed. By daybreak, the hummingbird’s body spontaneously resumes its normal temperature and high metabolic rate, ready once again to dart off in search of food” (JAMA, July 2, 1982, Vol. 248, No. 1, p. 45 — emp. original).

There are several comments that we feel compelled to make regarding this amazing article about an even more amazing creature.

  1. The brief essay takes note of the fact that the hummingbird’s metabolic mechanism is of obvious “design.” Even atheists have conceded that anything that is characterized by “design,” must have a “designer” (see: Paul Rici, Fundamentals of Critical Thinking, Lexington, MA: Ginn Press, 1986, p. 190).

    Further, though, since “design” is commonly acknowledged as the result of purpose or planning, with a goal in view, there is, by the use of the term “design,” an implied “intelligence” that stands behind the process. Just who, then, is the intelligent “Designer” who carefully fashioned this intricately engineered process within the tiny hummingbird? Is it not incredible that such a “small creature” can create such a “huge problem” for the modern skeptic?
  2. If the Darwinian theory of evolution is true, namely that it took millions of years, through the fortuitous combination of time and chance (or mutations and natural selection), to produce this phenomenal metabolic survival contrivance, how did the fragile little bird endure while “nature” was figuring out the intricacies of the process?

    On the other hand, if the complicated metabolic design was not essential to the bird’s survival, why was its “evolution” effected in the first place?
  3. And what is this mysterious entity called “nature” — sometimes referred to as “Mother Nature”? Is “Mother Nature” somewhat like “Mother Goose,” or “Mother Hubbard” — merely a character of fairy-tale lore from a bygone era?

    How could blind, bland, bleak, brainless “nature” create such a fantastic mechanism; one that has a “time clock” (coming on and shutting off at each day’s beginning and end), and a complicated “thermostat” that raises and lowers body temperature, to say nothing of a thousand other mind-boggling features?

    If you can imagine all of this, accomplished by witless, haphazard circumstance, then you live in a rarified “zone” that is quite divorced from the world of real science.

Conclusion

In the book of Job, Jehovah challenges the patriarch of Uz (who imagined that he had the Universe fairly well analyzed, both as to its composition and how it ought to be operated) to explain the features and abilities of such creatures as the raven, the ostrich, the hawk, and the eagle (to restrict our illustrations the bird “kind”). Job could not explain these ingenious examples of design — apart from appealing to the all-wise Creator (Job 38:39-39:30).

Neither can modern man!

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.