What can we learn from whales?
Application: God's miraculous creation includes amazing ocean mammals.
In this L.I.F.E. Lesson, Dr. Bob visits San Diego, California and takes a boat out into the Pacific Ocean to get close to Grey Whales, and Dolphins. These amazing creatures defy evolution, and are evidence of the great sea animals God created on the 5th day of creation.
Whales are amazing creatures. Every year, gray whales like the ones we saw undertake one of the longest migrations of any mammal, traveling 12,000 miles round-trip from their feeding grounds in the Arctic to calve and breed in the Baja lagoons, and then back again.
Whales, dolphins, and porpoises belong to a group of animals called cetaceans. Despite living in the water, they are not fish; they are mammals, just like dogs, elephants, mice and kangaroos. There are certain features that scientists use to distinguish mammals from other animals. They must be:
give birth to live young
nurse their young with milk and
Whales swim with the aid of their muscular tail and forked tail fluke that moves up and down to propel them forward.
When a wolf wags its tail, it swishes its tail from side to side. And fish move their tails from side to side. A whale moves its tail vertically. If a whale evolved from a wolf (or other mammal) this small change in direction would involve dramatic changes in physiology. Simply changing the direction of tail movement would crush the pelvis of an animal that was evolving a modified tail movement, and would have significant impact on its reproductive organs. The whale moves its tail vertically because God designed it to.
There are several different kinds of whales:
First are the mysticetes, or baleen whales. This group contains the largest animals that have ever existed, like the gray whale, blue whale and the humpback whale. Weighing 173 tons and measuring almost 100 feet, the blue whale is the largest known animal to have ever existed. Instead of teeth, these whales have rows of long plates in their mouths covered in bristle-like structures. These are called baleen plates, and the whales use them to filter small animals, mostly krill, from the surrounding water.
Second, are the odontocetes, or toothed whales. This group contains dolphins, porpoises, orcas, sperm whales, narwhals, and belugas. The sperm whale is the largest, measuring up to 66 feet from snout to tail fluke and weighing more than 45 tons. Toothed whales are well-known for their ability to navigate with sound (echolocation), allowing them to locate food, potential threats, and other whales, even when visibility is low.
Many theories have been created to support the anti-God theory of evolution, and apply it to whales. One of the first animals encountered in the evolutionary series that anti-Biblical scientists point to is Pakicetus. This animal is often included in cartoon diagrams that claim to demonstrate whale evolution. Initially Pakicetus was presumed to be a semi-aquatic mammal based on having triangular teeth and a bony wall around its ears. In 2001, an almost complete skeleton of Pakicetus was discovered, and it was discovered that it was an entirely terrestrial animal. In spite of this fact, it is still listed as the first whale in most textbooks.
One frequently cited proof of evolution comes from the comparison of similar body structures of different living organisms. Known as homology, evolutionists argue that similarities among living things prove that living things share a common ancestor. For example, since the flipper of a whale and the foot of a dog have certain likenesses, they propose that they share the same great-great-great…grandparents (going back, supposedly, many millions of years).
However, such similarities should be expected among creatures that were created from the same materials to live in the same world. They breathe the same air, drink the same water, eat the same food, live on the same land, and use the same five senses to function in the world. Common features among living things make perfect sense if we all share a common Creator.
In an effort to support the failed idea of homology, evolutionary biologists like to point to vestigial structures such as the pelvis and hind limbs of whales and dolphins as compelling evidence for biological evolution. If you’ve taken a biology course or seen television specials on evolution, you’ve probably heard people discuss the whale pelvis and explain why it serves as evidence for common descent. But new work by researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) and the Natural History Museum (NHM) of Los Angeles County has provided a way for creationists to explain cetaceans’ small pelvis and hind limbs. Their work indicates that the whale pelvis isn’t vestigial. They demonstrate that it serves as an attachment point for muscles that both male and female cetaceans need to reproduce. According to Matthew Dean, one of the authors of the study, “Everyone’s always assumed that if you gave whales and dolphins a few more million years of evolution, the pelvic bones would disappear. But it appears that’s not the case.”
This is not the first time scientists have discovered the usefulness of supposed "vestigial structures." As Dean also noted, “Our research really changes the way we think about evolution of whale pelvic bones in particular, but more generally about structures we call ‘vestigial.’ As a parallel, we are now learning that our appendix is actually quite important in several immune processes, not a functionally useless structure.”
Genesis specifically states that God created whales on Day 5. It is interesting that the original Hebrew word translated as “whales” in Genesis is tannin. This word has no known parallel in modern Hebrew and is difficult to translate. However, it has often been translated elsewhere in the King James Version as “dragon,” “great sea creatures” in the English Standard Version, and “reptile” in the Septuagint text. Tannin is used again in Exodus 7:9-12 to refer to the creature Aaron’s staff became: a serpent. Clearly these animals had a number of unique characteristics that included animals we would recognize as whales, as well as others we might call dinosaurs.
Jesus says in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” In Matthew 12:40 the key Greek word is ketos, which in Latin becomes cetos. This is the basis for the current term Cetaceans, a class of animals that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
These creatures have a continued presence through the New Testament. In the Book of Revelation, John “heard every creature in heaven and on earth,” including those “in the sea,” singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13).
Perhaps the most famous whale in all scripture is the one that swallowed the Prophet Jonah when he refused to go to Nineveh. How is this possible? The Book of Jonah doesn’t specifically mention a whale. It says, “The Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). The Hebrew text of Jonah 2:1 actually reads dag gadol, or "great fish" rather than a technical term for "whale." In this case the term fish refers to the environment the animal lived in, not specifically it's kind. It could have been a whale, it could have been a massive fish in the English sense. Since Hebrew possessed no special word for "whale," it is clear only that a large ocean creature was prepared by God to perform this special task.
The story of Jonah is very complicated, but the fact that Christ points to it as a model for His death and resurrection should put to rest any suggestions that the story is simply myth. There is much to learn about Jonah from this story. As “the sea grew more and more tempestuous,” the crew of the ship Jonah sailed on asked, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” (Jonah 1:11). Jonah responded, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea” (Jonah 1:12). This hardly seems like a coward.
But instead, the men tried to get to shore by rowing harder. They even called out “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you” (Jonah 1:14). After this, they threw Jonah overboard.
Jonah did not try to avoid Nineveh because he was afraid to go there. Jonah’s reason for running was that he did not like the Assyrians. Assyria was an idolatrous, proud, and ruthless nation bent on world conquest and had been a threat to Israel for a long time. At the end of his story, Jonah states his reason for resistance: “That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2). In other words, Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. He felt they deserved God’s judgment. Jonah didn’t want to see God’s mercy extended to his enemies, and he knew in his heart that God’s intention was to show mercy. He knew that soon Nineveh, the capital of Assyria would destroy Israel.
Nineveh had long been an enemy of Judah and Israel and in 722 B.C., the Assyrians defeated the northern kingdom of Israel, destroying its capital, Samaria. In 701 B.C., the Assyrians nearly conquered Jerusalem, the capital of Judah.
There have been historic accounts of people being swallowed by whales and surviving the experience. One man, Marshall Jenkins, was swallowed alive by a sperm whale in 1771 and survived. Another incident concerns James Bartley. In 1891, Bartley was swallowed by a sperm whale that his whaling crew had harpooned. The whale slipped away, was found and killed a day or so later. Bartley was found alive, but unconscious, in the stomach of the whale. He was revived and in a few weeks regained his health.
But there is no necessity for Jonah to have survived the experience. The fact that Christ used Jonah's experience in the belly of the "great fish" as a parallel to His time in the tomb, leaves the possibility that Jonah did in fact die, and was miraculously restored to allow him to fulfill the mission God had given him.
Whales occupy a special place in God's creation, and they are beautiful to observe in the ocean. All of God's creation demonstrates God's power and testify of Him.
"Now the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights" Jonah 1:17
“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40
"And God said, 'Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.' So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.''" Genesis 1:20-22
Does common design point to evolution or to a Creator?