Sunday, September 02, 2007

Dragonflies: God's Magnificent Flying Machines!

The picture above is from Wikipedia and can be found at this link - where you can increase the resolution and really appreciate the fine photographic work of André Karwath who snapped this breathtaking shot with his Nikon D70.

Dragonflies are really spellbinding creatures. After lunch, Leo, Grace, and I walked the three blocks from our home to the Mississippi River levee where we were treated to an all-natural airshow. Whizzing to and fro above the concrete were swarms of dragonflies. We walked right in the midst of them, and even settled in on a bench to watch the aerial acrobatics.

These perfectly-balanced machines can hover, dive, and fly away in a burst of speed, stop on a dime, turn around, and skim the surface of the ground. We speculate that the reflected heat from the concrete attracted the dragonflies - who were likely hunting and eating smaller insects. Whatever the attraction, we sat spellbound as they showed off for us.

They displayed a stunning multiplicity of colors - from iridescent blues, greens, and oranges (sported by the smaller, streamlined models akin to fighter jets) to dark black (which marked the larger, chunkier, and more bomber-looking dragonflies). They all have the ingeniously designed double wings which power their flight and maintain aerodynamics. The wings are generally clear, more fragile-looking than gossamer - and yet obviously tough enough to provide thrust and lift to enable the dragonfly to make precision flight patterns.

They also have an angular fuselage body that is perfectly balanced and aerodynamically designed for flight - as well as providing the delicate control necessary for steering. Of course, the dragonfly is equipped with two huge eyes up front to guide it along its flight path.

As they fly in a swarm, they resemble miniature fighter jets zigging and zagging. Sometimes they behave more like helicopters - hovering, stalling, swooping, and veering off at a tilt before zooming away at a phenomenal speed like an emergency chopper headed to the hospital.

Of course, less enlightened superstitious people claim (with a straight face) that these creatures are not the product of painstaking design, but are actually the pinnacle of millions of years of felicitous accidents. This is really silly, especially considering that if the complicated biological subsystems don't work together in perfect harmony from the start, the animal would never survive in the first place, let alone ever fly. The complexities of thrust, lift, pitch, yaw, balance, the conversion of bio-fuels into efficient motive energy - all governed by a tiny command-center brain - simply must work right as a whole the first time - or the creature would never live to reproduce.

Not even a trillion-trillion years would be enough for even a single cell of a complex life-form to evolve from a dark pottage of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen - let alone a self-contained aerodynamically-precise autonomous decision-making heavier-than-air flying machine of such delicacy, beauty, and efficiency. And that's not even considering the inability of evolutionary theory to explain the origins of matter.

These little machines are simply impressively designed flight craft. They not only teach us scientific lessons about aerodynamic principles and intricately connected biological and molecular systems, they also serve as a source of grace and beauty for our pleasure, wonder, and enjoyment.

Dragonflies are living, breathing, flying proclamations of Psalm 104.

God - the Creator; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - is not only the supreme scientist, He is the archetypal aviator and artist.

3 comments:

Rosko said...

beautifully wonderful, Father. I really enjoyed this post. You think it ways I only wish I could. As you watched Dragonflies this evening, I was clapping mosquitoes that were invading my friend's house. With such a wonderful post, I feel now like I should repent of such horrid murder. Everything is a creature of God, and therefore worthy of awe (even those pesky mosquitoes).

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Rosko:

Mosquitoes are bloodsuckers. You certainly have the right to defend yourself! Dragonflies eat skeeters, and leave us alone. It's a mixed up fallen world. I'm compassionate to animals, but when they try to harm us, it's just a different matter. In the new creation when the mosquitoes are all vegetarians, it'll be different. But until then, swat away! ;-)

No need to torture animals or take joy in their demise, but thanks to the fall, mosquitoes seek to hurt you and cause you misery through their parasitic behavior (and I'm not talking about church bureaucrats, now). They're especially bad here in your old environment this year (er, the skeeters that is, not the 'crats).

Pastor Beisel said...

Fr. Hollywood, you have a way with words. You really should write a book. I mean that. Pick a topic that interests you and start writing.