Why we are here:

Our signature Bible passage, the prologue to John's Gospel, tells us that Jesus (the Logos) is God and Creator and that He came in the flesh (sarx) to redeem His fallen, sin-cursed creation—and especially those He chose to believe in Him.

Here in Bios & Logos we have some fun examining small corners of the creation to show how great a Creator Jesus is—and our need for Him as Redeemer. Soli Deo Gloria.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fishing and Hunting at the Celery Farm

Two old pros enjoy the quiet of Lake Appert while waiting for the appearance of something special to photograph.

Bioman photographs a wide-angle scene looking out from the Butterfly Garden, while another photographer looks into the garden for a flower or insect closeup.

One of Bioman's favorite Canada Goose portraits.

(Click the images to enlarge.)

The Celery Farm Natural Area is a great place for fishing—but only if you’re a heron, egret or osprey. No hooks, lines or sinkers are allowed, no matter what humans buy them. But you will see plenty of hunting going on—for subjects to photograph. Besides birding, photography is probably the next most popular Celery Farm sport.

Especially if there is a special attraction, like last year’s Mute Swan family or a rare bird appearance, like that of the Eurasian Widgeon or LeConte’s Sparrow, photogs will gather like flies to fill multi-gigabyte memory cards with untold thousands of images and to compare notes on camera models, lenses and tripods. Occasionally there is an appearance of one of the rarest of species: a film photography purist carrying his classic N series Nikon.

Even without a star attraction, in a place like the Celery Farm there is always some new image to capture. Light changes constantly; plants go through their growing cycles; birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects appear out of nowhere to offer surprise photographic opportunities. Even if you have photographed a Canada Goose a million times (as I seem to have) there is always a slightly different pose, lighting situation or swimming or flight pattern to make for a one-of-a-kind image. (The one shown here is one of my favorites.)

The motivation for doing nature photography is unique to every photographer. For me, it boils down to revealing the Creator’s skill in designing the structure and function of His creatures to survive and beautify the landscape even in His fallen, cursed cosmos, perhaps in a way never seen in quite the same way before. Did He foresee the coming of photographic equipment and techniques that could do this? Of course! Omniscience, omnipotence and pre-ordination are awesome things to contemplate! Soli Deo Gloria.

For a look back at an earlier entry about Celery Farm photography, look here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

White Pines, Hemlocks and Memories

What a day! Today was Staff Alumni Day at the scout camp where I worked fifty years ago. The weather was ideal, so I decided to drive the 75 miles to the beautiful Catskill Mountains to see how the camp had changed—or not. And believe it or not, it has changed very little. They have maintained the rustic, unspoiled atmosphere that makes the place so special. Some buildings have been added, but most of the old ones are hanging in nicely.

The manmade elements brought back fond memories, but it was the natural beauty that blew me away. White pines, mature when I saw them fifty years ago, have grown huge and have stayed healthy. Hemlocks, seemingly unaffected by the Woolly Adelgid that has decimated hemlocks in our area, dominate the forest, along with lichen-covered Chestnut Oaks. Add a tumbling waterfall, towering cliffs and ethereal Wood Thrush call floating out of pure silence—but words fail! Just enjoy the pictures (Click on them to enjoy them more.)

And did I mention the clouds?! (Psalm 19:1)
Fifty years away—how stupid! I shall return.

By the way, the totem pole is a replacement for a somewhat more massive one that was carved using hand axes fifty years ago. The original gradually deteriorated, and efforts at restoration failed. A pair of the colorful new totems grace the front of the dining hall.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Insect Metamorphosis: words fail (but I’ll try)

It’s next to impossible to believe that this Tiger Swallowtail (Click photo to enlarge) looked like this as little as two weeks ago! Ugly greenish brown with a bulging thorax trying to look like a big, scary head, with two false eyes to frighten away just about anyone. Having true thoracic legs that are tiny and useless, the caterpillar uses stumpy abdominal “prolegs” to navigate on the leaves on which it feeds, using chewing mouthparts.

After feeding and undergoing several molts, the caterpillar pupates and becomes
even uglier. And considering what happens inside this chrysalis in a couple of weeks (or over winter), it is no wonder that caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis is so often used as an illustration of magical transformation or miracle.

Inside that look-dead chrysalis, seeming chaos reigns. Most body structures disintegrate and their cells dissolve into an amorphous soup. The only signs of organization appear as several groups of cells called imaginal disks. They “know” what they are to become and go about the business of growing, migrating, and taking shape as totally different body parts than those of the larva. From these microscopic blobs develop compound eyes, siphoning, soda straw mouthparts, antennae, legs, new digestive system, reproductive system—and most remarkably, those magnificent, multi-colored scale-covered wings!

All this brand new structure must be perfectly packaged and able to break out of the tough chrysalis at the proper time. The wings must form perfectly folded so they can “hang dry” wrinkle free in several hours after the adult emerges. The wings, after all, are passive, chitinous structures that will be operated in precise manner by muscles within the thorax.

So far we have reflected upon things cellular and morphological (structural). If we were to delve into the molecular, the amazement would multiply. Every cell, tissue and organ of our insect is made of and is controlled by thousands of different chemical compounds, many consisting of hundreds or thousands of atoms in precise configurations: enzymes, hormones, molecular motors, pumps, structural proteins, as well as the chitin (say Kite-in), which is a cellulose-like polysaccharide with nitrogen-containing side groups—but now we’re just bloviating!

The point is that insects—and all living organisms, whether considered “primitive” or “advanced,” are complex beyond imagination and so information-packed that, knowing what we know today, it is inconceivable that they have just “evolved” by chance mutations and natural selection, no matter how much time the processes are given. In fact, in regard to insects in particular, Sir Fred Hoyle, Nobel Prize-winning astronomer, came to the conclusion that insects are so weird that they could not possibly have evolved on Earth—they must have arrived as spores from space. Now THAT’S weird.
Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule, even proposed the theory of "directed panspermia" to explain the origin of ALL life on Earth. That's even weirder!

We have gone way too long. But I would refer you here for edification and warning. Enjoy the beauty of a fluttering butterfly, but don’t get to idolizing it, ya’ hear!

From flower to fruit--don't take it for granted!

Flowers are pretty (sometimes) and fruits are tasty (sometimes). So often that’s the beginning and ending of our thoughts about the matter. And usually we don’t get the connection between the two. But the flower’s job is to grow into a fruit, and the sequence of events involved in the process is no less than miraculous.

Pretty flowers are pretty because they are designed to attract pollinators—agents (usually insects) that carry sticky pollen grains
containing sperm cells from an anther (male organ) of one flower to a stigma (pollen receiving part of the female organ) of another flower. Not-so-pretty flowers are usually designed to produce a lot of dry pollen that blows about in the wind and by chance lands on a stigma.

That (cross-pollination) is only the beginning of the process however. What follows (hope you can follow it) is even more complex. After it lands on a stigma, a pollen grain germinates (sprouts) and grows down through the style (stalk) of the pistil (female organ). That sprouting pollen grain is literally a tiny male plant, containing two sperm nuclei. When its tip reaches the ovary, it finds an ovule (egg-containing structure) and grows through a microscopic pore (micropyle) and quickly fertilizes the egg nucleus. The second sperm joins with another nucleus in the ovule.

What does a fertilized egg do? It grows into an embryo. And that is what happens in the flower. The whole ovule grows into what we call a seed containing the tiny embryonic plant, a supply of food and a protective coat.

Meanwhile, the ovary starts to grow into various fleshy (and tasty) layers and a protective (and colorful) coat. And that is what we call a fruit. For us it is pretty and tasty, and the same goes for birds and other animals that use it for food and serve the plant by distributing its seeds.

I hope I didn’t bore you to death with that confusing botany lesson, but I wanted to remind us that nothing in life is simple, even though we may get that impression from a superficial glance or thought. Plants may seem simple because they only consist of five organs (root, stem, leaf, flower and fruit) and they don’t jump around. But internally and biochemically they are much more sophisticated than we are. (Can you make your own food from scratch? And I mean really from scratch, using carbon dioxide, water and a few minerals.)

To the evolutionary scientist, the origin of flowering plants is an enigma. To those of us who believe that the Bible is not just a “spiritual” book but that it contains scientific truth, it is no mystery, but a sure sign of the Creator’s magnificent engineering skill. Click here
for the truth.

By the way, the photographs are of the flowers and fruit of the Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). The flowers bloomed in May and the fruits are ripening in July, an indication of how long the whole process takes. (Click on the pictures to enjoy them more fully.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Suddenly, a shot rang out...

…and it wasn’t even on a dark and stormy night. And Snoopy wasn’t there to write about it, nor was I there to photograph it. It happened 203 years ago today on the banks of the Hudson in Weehawken, New Jersey.

The event was that infamous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, two important and loyal Americans who had some issues that escalated through a series of formal letters and ended in an “appointment.” We all know the results. Burr’s shot was accurate; Hamilton’s damaged a nearby tree. Much ink has been spilled over the order of the shots, hair triggers, the intentions of the duelers and such. The whole truth may never be known. Hamilton died within hours. Burr lived until September 14th, 1836, exactly 100 years before the birth of—Bioman.

The photograph was taken three years ago at the 200th anniversary reenactment of the duel, featuring a Burr playing the part of Colonel Burr and a Hamilton playing Alex’s role. Exact replicas of the original pistols were used. It was very well done, in a dignified fashion, with thousands in the audience.

The sad thing is that the original event happened. The two men were once close associates, even friends. But, as so often happens, things went bad. Bad old human pride took over and the results were deadly, to Hamilton’s body and to Burr’s reputation.

Of course, there was nothing new in principle in the Burr/Hamilton affair, only in the particular circumstances. People have been killing people ever since Genesis 3, with swords, spears, knives, rocks, and more recently with guns and explosives. But probably the most deadly weapon has been the tongue (Go back and read James 3:5-11). (Click here)

So today’s post got us away from flowers and bugs and into the ugliness of fallen human nature, just because it happens to be an important anniversary—and as a reminder that we all need the Savior.

More photos of the duel reenactment can be seen

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Wasp Look-alike

Of course it’s a wasp—or is it? But look at those eyes, covering the head almost completely, and those short, stubby antennae, sure signs of the Order Diptera—the flies.

This Syrphid fly may look like a dangerous stinger, but it’s really a harmless lapper—and a clever deceiver. At least it fooled me until I got a closer look. (You can take a closer look by clicking on the picture.)

The living world is full of deceivers, tricksters, hiders and imitators, not only in the insect realm but across the board in both animal and plant kingdoms. Why take up these unseemly habits? To keep from being eaten and to fulfill life’s basic needs—nutrition and reproduction.

So why would this harmless fly, busy lapping nectar and pollen from a Common Mullein flower, want to look like a Yellow Jacket wasp? The answer is obvious. The Yellow Jacket, a disrupter of many a picnic, has a potent sting and will use it without much provocation. A gentle sweep of the hand to discourage it from buzzing too close may bring a vicious and painful response from one or more of the black and yellow-striped picnic invaders.

The fly’s motto: look dangerous and maybe, just maybe, I’ll live to lap nectar for one more day. It’s a ploy similar to that used by all those orange and black critters, like the milkweed beetle of an earlier blog post (scroll down if you are a new visitor to this blog), who take pains to look poisonous, whether they are or not.

If you think the Syrphid fly and the Milkweed Beetle are tricky, wait ‘til we reveal one of the non-altruistic adaptations of our magnificent Milkweed. It’s not a nice thing. Stay tuned.

Deception, trickery, hiding, imitating for selfish reasons—how awful! But all we have to do is to put down the insect and flower field guides and pick up a mirror—and instantly we will see why we need the Savior! “We have met the enemy, and he is us,” quipped Pogo. But Ephesians 2:1-10 says it better—and provides conviction, comfort and strength—if we are “in Christ”.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sing loud and carry a big stick!

House wrens are basically huge, continuously operating voice boxes encased in half-ounce packages of feathers. They sing loudly and constantly, bubbling their happy tunes, while engaging in their daily chores. I was fortunate enough to catch them doing what they do a couple of times a year—preparing their nest box for a new brood.

Some people get annoyed with house wrens because they just won’t shut up. This pair never shut up the whole time I watched them. They changed their happy song to a scolding rattling squawk when I sneaked closer for photographic purposes, so I backed off and they were happy again, continuing and sharing their musical and nest material collecting duties. By the size of some of the sticks they were wiggling through the nest box hole, they were in the initial stages of the project, building a platform to which smaller materials and finally feathers were to be added.

What an industrious and happy pair. We could learn a lot from them. Proverbs 6:6 reads, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise.” We could rewrite that to read, “Go to the house wrens, thou sluggard; work hard and be happy.”

The house wren is probably the most scientifically studied bird in the world. One man, S. Charles Kendeigh, studied the physiology and behavior of a population of wrens in Ohio for eighteen years. I suppose we could learn a lot from him as well.

We could even learn a somewhat negative lesson from Troglodytes aedon: shut up when you have nothing more to say! The Apostle James had something to say about that in the third chapter of his very convicting book. It’s worth a careful look (James 3:5-12).

While I’m at it, I’ll add my usual anti-evolution rant. No, house wrens are not dinosaurs, nor are they descended from dinosaurs. The number of developments necessary to change a reptile into a bird makes the idea ridiculous, unless you have a hopelessly blinding materialist, evolutionary mindset. No, reptiles are reptiles; birds are birds; both are fantastically complex and wonderful works of Creation.

And now, lest the Apostle convict me again--as he has done so many times in the past--I'll shut up.