Chaplain Bob Webel & JJSJ at Webel backyard, birdwatching [photograph by Marcia Webel]
BIRDS ARE WONDERFUL: WRAP-UP
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights. 2 Praise ye Him, all his angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts. 3 Praise ye Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all ye stars of light. 4 Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded, and they were created. 6 He hath also established them forever and ever: He hath made a decree which shall not pass. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps; 8 fire, and hail; snow, and vapors; stormy wind fulfilling His word; 9 mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars; 10 beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl. . . . (Psalm 148:1-10)
In this alphabetic mini-series (“BIRDS ARE WONDERFUL…”) we have seen just a tiny introduction into the world of birds, which our great Creator-God designed and made on Day 5 of Creation Week. (Although some might argue that “flightless birds”, like ratites, were made on Day 6, since they don’t fly through the air — but that argument assumes that these birds could not fly before the global Genesis Flood, and we knew that the global climate was quite different then . . . Or, maybe God made some flightless birds just to demonstrate that birds can use wings to their advantage for purposes other than flight., such as for turning while running at high speeds on land.) No matter what birds you look at, it’s always true — that BIRDS ARE WONDERFUL!
“For God so loved the world [i.e., “thusly, God loved the world”, referring back to John 3:14-15], that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, alluding to Numbers 21:6-9)
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13, quoting Joel 2:32)
In the limerick below (titled “Born Again in Browningsville”), I remember how — as a boy 11½ years old — God called my forgiveness-needing soul to Himself, by exhorting me to believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as my personal Redeemer, upon me hearing the good news that Jesus died for my sins (Isaiah 53:6), and that He rose from the dead, proving that my sin-debt was fully paid off, plus that Christ, as victor over sin and death, is the Giver of eternal life — unto all who believe in Him as personal Saviour (Luke 10:20; Romans 3:23-25 & 5:8 & 6:23).
BORN AGAIN IN BROWNINGSVILLE
Christ died for me, and He is risen!
As a young boy, I faced decision:
The Gospel I believed;
So, Jesus I received —
Christ died for me, and He is risen!
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
And how good it is to have received Him (as Saviour) early in life:
“But as many as received Him [i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ], to them gave He authority [εξουσιαν, i.e., the rightful role] to become the sons of God [τεκνα θεου, i.e., God’s children], even to them who believe on His name.” (John 1:12).
Yes, as I once told one of Bob Webel’s grandsons, thanks to the Lord Jesus, I’m “one of God’s kids”.
Kraken is Trackin’ — It Feels Like It’s a Matter of Taste:
Chemotactile Cephalopods in Action: ‘Release the Kraken!’
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
[ Psalm 107:23-24 ]
Although some deem it insulting to be described as being “out of touch”, being out-of-touch can be a good thing—especially if the one touching is a hungry octopus!
That is what recent research, by a team of Harvard bioscientists, shows about octopus tentacles.(1) In fact, octopus suckers actually taste what they touch!
Scientists identified a novel family of sensors in the first layer of cells inside the suction cups that have adapted to react and detect molecules that don’t dissolve well in water. The research suggests these sensors, called chemotactile receptors, use these molecules to help the animal figure out what it’s touching and whether that object is prey. … “So, when the octopus touches a rock versus a crab, now its arm knows, ‘OK, I’m touching a crab [because] I know there’s not only touch but there’s also this sort of [chemical] taste.’ [said Nicholas Bellono, the project’s senior co-author]. In addition, scientists found diversity in what the receptors responded to and the signals they then transmitted to the cell and nervous systems. “We think that this is important because it could facilitate complexity in what the octopus senses and also how it can process a range of signals using its semi-autonomous arm nervous system to produce complex behaviors,” Bellono said.(1)
[ see Siliezar / ScienceDaily cite below ]
These bioscientists, despite being evolutionists, report details of how amazingly well-suited octopus tentacles are, for continuously tracking their habitat.(2),(3)
The tight organism-environment relationship does not happen by chance. Not only can engineering principles explain this relationship, there is evidence they are the only non-mystical principles capable of explaining it. Why? … Obviously, sensors play a key role in a design-based, organism-focused framework of adaptability like continuous environmental tracking [CET]—even if many researchers do not bother to look for them. The CET framework predicts that sensors are crucial for adaptable systems, and therefore exploration efforts should be made to identify them. Sensors are the triggers for the [animals’] internal systems that empower organisms to be active, problem-solving entities. Instead of being passive objects molded by the environment, living creatures actively detect changed conditions, solve challenges, and fill new [ecosystem] niches within their lifetime … And it all begins with sensors.(3)
[ see Guliuzza cite below ]
But why do the Harvard researchers insist on accrediting the imagined magic of “evolution” as the inventive cause of such well-suited cephalopod traits, that fit these tentacled creatures for successful life as denizens of the deep?(1),(2)
It’s all about (as Paul said in Romans 1:28) suppressing the evidence—willfully ignoring the clearly seen truth—that God has invented these marine monsters, with integrated systems of interactive software and complicated hardware that purposefully and successfully works all over the world’s oceans.
The amazing octopus continues to astonish scientists and the public. Every facet of this invertebrate has surprised researchers, from its extremely rapid ability to change color and disappear into the background, to its amazing intelligence. … Where did these eight-armed creatures come from? Evolutionists don’t know. … But when a rare octopus fossil is found, it’s always 100% octopus as predicted by creation scientists. Octopi have always been octopi. For the first time, biologists recently sequenced the octopus genome, meaning they determined the precise order of nucleotides that comprise the DNA molecule. They discovered the octopus has an enormous genome—the complete set of genes—comparable in size to the human genome. The zoologists thought this genome was simply duplicated, or copied within itself, to achieve such a large size. But with more investigation they found that duplication was not the case. Instead they discovered a large family of genes involved with octopus brain development. Up until this time, such elaborate brain circuits were erroneously thought to be possessed almost exclusively by vertebrates. These approximately 150 brain-development circuits are not found in other well-studied lab invertebrates such as the roundworm (C. elegans) or the fruit fly. They are unique to the created octopus.(4)
[ see Sherwin February AD2016 cite below ]
If you seek insights about how cephalopods—like octopi, squids, or cuttlefish—live and thrive, as God’s well-designed creatures, you need creation science reports from scientists unafraid to give our Creator-God credit, where credit is due.(5)
How much more does the construction of octopus skin with its superior, higher-resolution, full-color fabric—that even heals itself—illustrate the focus and intent of a sophisticated genius Maker?(6)
[ see Thomas cite below ]
Amazing! And the ability of these cephalopods to survive at such incredible depths—with their unimaginable pressures—cannot be adequately explained apart from God’s providential bioengineering. … This seemingly impossible ability of octopi to survive 21,000 feet below the ocean’s surface should prompt us to praise the Lord for these “wonders in the deep.”However, secular-thinking evolutionists try to dodge the obvious truth. They speak in vague terms of such creatures somehow “evolving” necessary “adaptations”—as if merely using those words was an excuse to ignore evidence of God’s Creatorship! (7)
[ see JJSJ cite below ]
Many zoologists consider cuttlefish to be the most intelligent invertebrate species, which is quite a problem from an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionists view intelligence evolving through social interactions and long life spans. But cuttlefish are cephalopods [like octopi and squids]. They don’t have a complex social structure and live only about a year—the lifespan of a butterfly. How did cuttlefish become so bright? In addition, these animals have a kind of visual “superpower,” in that they can “see” information in light waves we humans cannot. Sometimes electric fields, of which light is composed, can become preferentially aligned in a certain direction, a phenomenon called polarization. Cuttlefish have been designed to sense when the direction of polarized light changes. Other animals have polarized vision, but the cuttlefish’s appears to be the best: It’s in high definition.(8)
[ see Sherwin January AD2016 cite below ]
Thus, the octopus, using the intelligence that God gave to octopi (as oceanic animals created on Day 5 of Creation Week—see Genesis 1:21), analytically processes the acquired information, speedily, and consequently decides what actions should be taken (by the information-gathering octopus), in order to benefit from whatever is reachable, within the watery world of the octopus.(2)
Octopuses explore the seafloor with their flexible arms using a specialized “taste by touch” system to locally sense and respond to prey-derived chemicals and movement. How the peripherally distributed octopus nervous system mediates relatively autonomous arm behavior is unknown. Here, we report [experimental evidence to show] that octopus arms use a family of cephalopod-specific chemotactile receptors (CRs) to detect poorly soluble natural products, thereby defining a form of contact-dependent, aquatic chemosensation. CRs form discrete ion channel complexes that mediate the detection of diverse stimuli and transduction of specific ionic signals. Furthermore, distinct chemo- and mechanosensory cells exhibit specific receptor expression and electrical activities to support peripheral information coding and complex chemotactile behaviors. These findings demonstrate that the peripherally distributed octopus nervous system is a key site for signal processing and highlight how molecular and anatomical features synergistically evolve [sic — error theirs] to suit an animal’s environmental context.(2)
[ see Van Giesen / CELL cite below ]
Let’s rephrase this topic with less technical language, keeping in mind how these monsters of the deep are both magnificent and terrifying at the same time, depending upon how close their tentacles are to the observer.
Octopuses have captured the human imagination for centuries, inspiring sagas of sea monsters from Scandinavian kraken legends to TV’s “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and, most recently, Netflix’s less-threatening “My Octopus Teacher.” With their eight suction-cup covered tentacles, their very appearance is unique, and their ability to use those appendages to touch and taste while foraging further sets them apart. In fact, scientists have wondered for decades how those arms, or more specifically the suction cups on them, do their work, prompting a number of experiments into the biomechanics. But very few have studied what is happening on a molecular level. In a new report, Harvard researchers got a glimpse into how the nervous system in the octopus’ arms (which operate largely independently from its centralized brain) manage this feat.(1)
[ see Siliezar / ScienceDaily cite below ]
Octopi are highly intelligent, being well-informed about their interactive oceanic ecosystem. As octopi surveil coral reefs for prey, or seek to avoid becoming the prey of huge cetaceans, octopi are constantly gaining and processing information, for real-time decision-making.
And now we learn that these tentacled cephalopods are touching their suckers to objects they contact, “tasting” the chemicals of those objects, and making almost instantaneous informed decisions about what to do next.
In other words, octopi make informed choices as they decide what to grab.
The team set out to uncover how the receptors are able to sense chemicals and detect signals in what they touch, like a tentacle around a snail, to help them make choices. Octopus arms are distinct and complex. About two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons are located in their arms.(1)
[ see Siliezar / ScienceDaily cite below ]
The octopus tentacle sucker cells were experimentally tested, using different experiments.
The team started by identifying which cells in the suckers actually do the detecting. After isolating and cloning the touch and chemical receptors, … [the research team] exposed those cells to molecules such as extracts from octopus prey and others items to which these receptors are known to react. Some test subjects were water-soluble, like salts, sugars, amino acids; others do not dissolve well and are not typically considered of interest by aquatic animals. Surprisingly, only the poorly soluble molecules activated the receptors. Researchers then went back to the octopuses in their lab to see whether they too responded to those molecules by putting those same extracts on the floors of their tanks. They found the only odorants the octopuses’ receptors responded to were a non-dissolving class of naturally occurring chemicals known as terpenoid molecules.(1)
[ see Siliezar / ScienceDaily cite below ]
So, it’s all a matter of taste, so to speak. How touching.
(2)Van Giesen, Lena, Peter B. Kilian, Corey A. H. Allard, & Nicholas W. Bellono. 2020. Molecular Basis of Chemotactile Sensation in Octopus. Cell. (22 October 2020) 2020 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.09.008 .
JOB CHAPTER 39: GOD’S WISDOM AND PROVIDENCE, EXHIBITED IN WILDLIFE PAIRS
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south? Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
The Book of Job has a literary structure that does not fit an “either-or” categorization of prose-versus-poetry, because Job’s book begins with a historical prose prologue (chapters 1 & 2), and concludes with a historical narrative epilogue (42:7-17)—yet the intervening text (3:1—42:6) primarily provides powerful and poignant discourses (both monologues and dialogues) that are presented in the parallelism-framed format of Hebrew poetry.
Job 39 is part of the lengthy serial-questions-based “nature sermon” (Job chapters 38—41) that God gave unto Job, with each creation exhibit (including all animal “creature features”) proving God’s infinite wisdom and providence, as the Creator of the heavens, earth, animal life (especially wildlife), and mankind—including Job himself.
Specifically, God’s nature sermon (Job 38-41) begins with God’s rhetorical questions about the heavens and Earth’s geophysical environment (38:1-38), follows with God’s questions about selected land-based beasts of the earth (38:39—39:30), and ends with two monstrous beasts of water-dominated habitats—Behemoth (chapter 40, inhabiting freshwater wetland habitats) and Leviathan (chapter 41, inhabiting “deep” saltwater habitats).
Thus, within the overall context (of Job 38-41), the flow (of Chapter 39’s wildlife lessons) actually begins at Job 38:39, which begins a theme-connected series of “creature feature” pairs, starting with the hunger of lions and ravens.
Job’s book is structured as Hebrew poetry, so parallelism is the key to exegeting Job 38-41. The first “creature feature” animal pair is the “lion” (38:39-40) and “raven” (38:41), whose hunger God satisfies. That pair is followed by four more land-based animal pairs (chapter 39), concluding with a wet-habitat monster pair, Behemoth (chapter 40) and Leviathan (chapter 41).
Thus, Chapter 39 continues this series of animal pairs with child-bearing “wild goat of the rock” and the child-bearing “hind” (39:1-4); followed by the free-ranging, untamed “wild ass” (39:5-8) and free-ranging, untamed “unicorn” (39:9-12); followed by the fearless, reckless “ostrich” (39:13-18) and fearless, reckless “horse” (introduced in verse 18, discussed in 39:19-25); followed by the wind-borne, soaring “hawk” (39:26) and wind-borne, soaring “eagle” (39:27-30).
[U]sing a “nature sermon” … God pointed to how He takes care of earthly creatures through His providential timing. Lion and raven babies hunger first, then they eat. Wild goats and deer have designed timeframes for gestation, then birth occurs. Hawks and eagles fly with purposeful timing, synching their flights to thermal air currents … Sequential timing is vital for the important things in this life, even the basics of being born, metabolizing food, and daily movements. Timing contextualizes all of the temporal adversities in human life, too. But eventually, all temporal afflictions end. God was testing Job’s moral character. We know this now because we have [Job’s] book and know the entire ordeal, including the happy ending. But if God had told Job about the test in advance, including how God was proving that Satan was an impudent liar, it would have ruined the legitimacy of Job’s own trial of faith.What Job learned through his agonizing ordeal was synched to sequenced timing—God’s timing—so that Job’s sufferings ultimately ended and counted for good … as Paul would later say, “all things work together for good.”
[ quoting JJSJ, citation given below in Endnote References ]
The main lesson for Job—which fits the overall context of his book—is that God is providentially caring, all-wise, and all-powerful, so He can and should be trusted with all of Job’s life.
Exegetical Observations and Lexical Analysis
As before (such as in 38:39, with God’s question about lions), God’s interrogation (of Job) begins with the interrogatory particle prefix (ha-), indicating a question. In these verses Job is asked about gestation and child-bearing, as illustrated in the life cycles of the ya‘elê-sâla‘ (KJV: “wild goats of the rock”) and ‘ayyâlôth (KJV: “hinds”). Both of these are wild mammals illustrate the need for successful reproduction. God’s inquiry begins with the rhetorical question “do you know [ha-yâda‘tâ – qal perfect 2nd person masculine singular of yâda‘] …?”—emphasizing God’s perfect and infinite knowledge of creation, in contrast to Job’s imperfect and finite knowledge.
These two animals exhibit the suffering (affliction, pain, discomfort, etc.) of preganancy and childbirth that leads to a good outcome, eventually.
There are two infinitive constructs in 39:1, the qal ledeth (“bring forth”, i.e., to procreatively generate or “beget”/“give birth”, from yâlad) and the pôlēl ḥôlēl (“do calve”, i.e., to procreatively struggle in pain/discomfort to give birth, from ḥûl, as in Isaiah 26:17 & 54:1). For both of these mammal mothers, the timing of their pregnancy and childbirths is providential: God knows “when” [‘ēt] the ibexes bring forth, as well as when cervid “hinds” (deer roe) calve. God’s question (in 39:1b) implies that Job does not observe or provide watch-care over these critical wildlife events, once again demonstrating Job’s limited knowledge of how God cares for the world and its creatures’ life cycles.
As 39:2 indicates, these birthing events are always observed (and providentially cared for) by God; unlike Job the mortal human, God can and does “number [qal imperfect form of sâphar] the months they fulfill [piel imperfect form of mâla’]” and He knows “the time [‘ēt] when they bring forth [qal infinitive construct form of yâlad, with 3rd person feminine plural suffix]”.
These animal childbirth processes involves struggle, as 39:3 indicates: these mammal mothers “bow themselves” [qal imperfect form of kâra‘], to “bring forth” [piel imperfect form of pâlaḥ] their begotten-ones (i.e., their newborn babies); thus they forcibly “cast out” [piel imperfect form of šâlaḥ] their sorrows.
Yet this progeny-generating struggle achieves a good outcome: “their young ones” (benêhem = “their children”) grow up in the open field (bar); they issue forth and don’t return unto their parents. Notice that the last two verbs in 39:4, yaşe’û (they “go forth”) and šâbû (they “return”) and both qal perfect forms (of yâşâ’and šûb, respectively), indicating a description of activity as completed. Although the multi-generational process continues, with each new generation of ibexes leaving their mothers after weaning, God is emphasizing (to Job) that He completes the child-rearing process so that the filial generation become independent of parental care and does not return to the earlier state of childish dependence. This shows that the Hebrew perfect verb is not identical to an English grammar’s “past” tense, because the completed action (of leaving maternal care for a new life of independence) is chronologically future as to future generations.
The rocky cliff-dweling ya‘alâh (introduced in 39:1a) is not a domesticated goat (‘ēz). The root verb for this noun is “ascend” (‘âlah), and that is what these high-elevation quadrupeds are famous for doing. The first-named animal is a type of wild mountain goat, most likely what today is called the Nubian ibex, which is similar to the Alpine ibex (a/k/a Steinbok). This animal, in singular feminine noun form (ya‘alâh), appears in Proverbs 5:19. The masculine plural noun form (ye‘ēlîm) appears also in 1st Samuel 24:2 (1st Samuel 24:3 in the Hebrew Bible), associated with rocks, and in Psalm 104:18, associated with high elevations.
The cervid doe (introduced in 39:1b), i.e., the mother deer (“hind” in KJV, the Hebrew feminine plural is ‘ayyâlôth), is the second-named baby-bearing (and birthing) mammal. This feminine noun appears elsewhere, such as in Genesis 49:21, 2nd Samuel 22:34, Habakkuk 3:19, etc.—with Psalm 29:9 specifically noting that it is the LORD Who shakes loose (i.e., causes calving) the cervid hind’s newborn, at birth, using a wordplay with the same verb [ḥûl] in Psalm 29:8. The male deer (“hart” in KJV) is ayyâl in Hebrew (as in Psalm 42:1(2), Isaiah 35:6, etc.
The next wild mammal pair begins with the “wild ass” (pere’, also called ‘ârôr in 39:5b), followed by the “unicorn” (re’ēm). The common theme for this pair is their unharnessed, free-ranging, vigorous independence (linking to the independence allusion in 39:4).
The “wild ass”, according to zoölogist George Cansdale, is most likely the steppe-dwelling Asian equid variety called the Onager, which is the same untamed “wild ass” mentioned in Jeremiah 2:24 (and metaphorically likened to Ishmael’s progeny in the prophecy of Genesis 16:12). The wild ass lives apart from mankind (39:7), so a lifetime of domesticated service, such as bearing burdens for a “driver”, or hearing the noises of city activities—is not the lifestyle of the wild ass. Yet mankind is not needed, for the wild ass to survive (and thrive) in the wildernesses or arid deserts and semi-arid steppes (39:8), because the onager ass is providentially equipped to search out needed food (“every green thing” = kâl-yârôq) from vegetation growing in “mountains” (hârîm = highlands, i.e., mountains or hills). In effect, to the wild ass, “his pasture” (mire‘ēhû) is what humans call a wild wasteland. Onagers are resilient, no thanks to humans—again showing God’s providence.
The next animal is what the King James Version calls the “unicorn”—which was the usual English word used, back in A.D.1611, to denote a one-horned rhinoceros (today called Rhinoceros unicornis). In fact, as shown elsewhere, the usages of the Hebrew noun re’ēm suggest that this noun was not limited to the one-horned variety of rhinoceros, as is indicated by Deuteronomy 33:17 (which refers to the re’ēm having more than one horn). In fact, one-horned rhinoceros (Indian and Javan varieties) once ranged in northern India, in Indochina, and in Indonesia; whereas two-horned rhinos (White and Black varieties) once dwelt over most in Africa—including not far from the Nile River (and thus near the Mideast), as well as one variety (Sumatran variety) in Indochina and in Indonesia. Since Job lived in “the land of Uz” (1:1), which (according to Lamentations 4:21) was later associated with the Edomites, the historic ranges of the two-horned rhinoceros was geographically closer to where Job is assumed to have lived, which better matches the re’ēm of Deuteronomy 33:17.
Unsurprisingly, humans do not domesticate rhinos; the rhinoceros is neither service-harnessed (for ploughing agricultural fields) nor housed in a cattle-crib, as 39:9-10 indicates. Rhinoceros might is unquestioned, but that power will not be useful to human farmers (39:11). God uses rhetorical questions to guide Job’s thinking, with interrogative particles (ha-) prefixed to the “unicorn” questions in Verses 9, 10, 11, and 12.
Because Job himself was a master of agriculture, owning oxen and asses (as noted in Job 1:3), God’s alludes to grain crops being planted (39:10-11) and harvested (39:12)—but the rhinoceros is no help to crop-growing farmers who need beasts of burden like mules or oxen.
The next pair of animals are described (in 39:13-25) with some vocabulary that has puzzled (and often confused) many translators, to say the least. Identifying the second animal (of the pair) is easy: the horse (sûs), which is the only animal in this series that is bridled for mankind’s service. It is the first-named creature of the pair, the birds called renânîm (plural noun, based upon the root verb rânan = “to call/sing/shout/scream/cry loudly”), and its described traits, that baffle many exegetes. As shown below, the most likely identification of this wild flightless bird is the ostrich (or perhaps an ostrich “cousin”, such as now-extinct ratites like the moa or elephant bird).
The common theme in 39:13-25 is the fearless (even reckless) disposition of both the powerful ostrich and powerful war-horse. Job is experiencing what seems like an out-of-control world, so he can relate to what looks like crazy recklessness (e.g., 39:15-16 & 39:20-22) and crazy commotion (39:18 & 39:20-25) that attends the fast-lane lifestyles of ostrich and war-horse.
The ostrich wing (kenaph-renânîm in 39:13) is not designed for flying. However, that does not mean those wings (like the wings of other ratite birds) are useless, because flapping wings are useful to the ostrich: they are used for courtship displays, they conserve body heat (including coverage of upper leg skin) during cold nights, and they can radiate excess body heat during hot days. Moreover, the ostrich uses his or her wings like an aerodynamic “rudder”, for quick change-of-direction steering while running at high speeds. These unusual wings—and the ostrich’s unusual speed—are traits that God emphasizes to Job, as God explains how He balances creaturely limitations with providential traits, so that the overall outcome is a success story.
The ostrich is relatively careless about parenting, exposing ground-laid eggs to injury (39:14-15), yet the resilient toughness and speed of the ostrich compensates, as a counter-balancing advantage that suits this fearless bird for its rough habitats (39:16-18). Ostrich ranges were previously larger, including southwest Asia, in Israel and the Arab regions, and in Africa. The ostrich is the largest bird alive nowadays, it is not surprising that it is a confident, noisy bird—it has virtually no predators to be fearful of. As a noisy bird—its Hebrew name is related to the verb that is often translated “sing” (rânan), usually in contexts of rejoicing (e.g., Psalms 51:14 & 81:1; Isaiah 35:6 & 65:14; Jeremiah 31:7; etc.).
The feminine singular noun “wing” (kenaph, as construct form in 39:13) somehow matches three other feminine singular words in that same sentence: ’ebrâh (“wing”/“pinion” = power, i.e., powering the wings for flight), ḥasîdâh (“faithful” or “stork”), and nōşâh (plumage/feather). The connotation of kenaph is the wing’s action of overspreading, collecting, and fencing in the air, for airlift (see Daniel 9:27; see also the equivalent Aramaic verb kenaph in Daniel 3:2-3 & 3:27). Further complicating the sentence, the pivotal conjunction ’im (immediately preceding ’ebrâh in 39:13) serves as an interrogative or hypothetical particle, often implying a contrast or negative (see Jeremiah 33:25-26). How does that conjunction (’im) connect the feminine singular noun “wing” (kenaph, as a construct form in 39:13) with the three subsequent feminine singular nouns (and/or adjectives, i.e., ’ebrâh (“wing”/power, as in Psalm 55:6(7), Isaiah 40:31, Ezekiel 17:3), ḥasîdâh (“faithful”/“stork”, as in Jeremiah 8:7), and nōşâh (plumage/feather, as in Ezekiel 17:3 & 17:7)?
Although many translate ḥasîdâh (in 39:13) as a feminine adjective (meaning “loving-kind” or “faithful”), it could be the same-spelled feminine noun, meaning “stork”. Israel’s white stork (ḥasîdâh) is famous for its dependability, faithfully returning from its migration—as such a role-model of faithfulness that the prophet Jeremiah contrasted its faith return to the failure of God’s covenant people (i.e., Israel) to “return” to Him. Also, the wings of the stork are notable for their size and airlift (see Zechariah 5:9), greatly contrasting with flightless ostrich wings.
Another puzzle piece is the Hebrew etymology of nōşâh – is that derived from the verb nâşâh, meaning “to fly over”/“oversee” (as in ), or from the same-spelled nâşâh, meaning “to struggle”/“to overcome”/“to overpower”//“to contend”, etc., as in Exodus 2:13 & 21:22; Leviticus 24:10; 2nd Samuel 14:6; Jeremiah 4:7; Isaiah 37:26; Numbers 26:9, etc.).
Maybe the pivotal conjunction ’im introduces a contrast, i.e., that the flightless wings of the ostrich are designed in contrast to the flight-powering wings of the stork? Perhaps this sentence may be more literally translated: “[The] wing of ostriches is joy-waved, but [is it] wing-power [of] stork and/or plumage?” If so, the rhetorical question necessarily implies that the ostrich has wings that are unlike those of the stork, because God’s purpose for the ostrich’s terrestrial (running) mobility is very different from God’s purpose for the stork’s airborne (flying) mobility.
Like the boisterous ostrich, the horse (sûs)—especially the horse trained for warfare—is powerful, fearless, and thrive amidst commotion (39:19-25). When the surrounding circumstances are in danger and tumult (as was then the case, with Job’s personal life, during Job’s dialogue with God), both the ostrich and the war-horse, in effect, laugh with confidence (39:18 & 39:25).
Before God speaks to Job about the monstrous creatures of wet habitats—Behemoth (in chapter 40) and Leviathan (in chapter 41)—God refers to one more pair of land-based creatures, both of them raptor birds, the “hawk” (nēş) and the “eagle” (nâšer, which some would apply to certain vultures, but those “vultures” are misnamed and should be labeled “eagles”), in 39:26-30.
These predatory birds are large-bodied, and thus heavy, so launching from the earth, into the skies, requires efficiently overcoming gravity. Yet it is God Who has solved (in advance) the gravity problem, just as God solves all of the important problems in life (including Job’s problems).
Some who read Job 39:26—which alludes to a hawk stretching out its wings “toward the south”—assume that hawk migration is the question’s topic. But the poetic parallelism-based context suggests otherwise, because the hawk’s aerial behavior is compared to eagle flight. Both raptor birds require special aerodynamics to lift their heavy bodies up into the air successfully. In fact, God has designed such raptors to utilize weather-powered “elevators” for ascending upward into air currents. As Luke 12:55 indicates, hot air currents routinely come from south of Israel, so hawks can “catch a [thermal] ride” simply by stretching out their wings southward, catching the powerful air current, just as a boat’s sail catches wind-power to blow the boat across a sea. This harnessing of wind-power matches the Hebrew vocabulary used (in Job 39:26), as is shown by the same Hebrew verb [pâraś] used to describe hawk wing-spread (in 39:26) being used in Isaiah 33:23, to refer to boat-sails being spread out, to catch the wind’s power.
Likewise (in 39:27), the “eagle” (nâšer) “mounts up” (a hiphil imperfect form of gâbah) upon God’s command, and is thus enabled to frequent high places (as Obadiah 1:14 indicates) where it “makes high its nest” (yârîm qinnô).
Thus, the continuing focus of this series of “creature feature” pair questions is emphasized in 39:26, when God’s question confronts Job:
“Is it from your wisdom … [that these animals can do what they do, successfully] …?”
[ quoting the beginning portion of God’s question in Job 39:26 ]
All these animals are able to survive—and even thrive—amidst the rough-and-tough vicissitudes of life on a fallen planet, because God providentially applies His infinite wisdom (bînâh) to the multifarious life challenges facing all these wild creatures—including their need for food (38:39-41), their need for successful reproduction (39:1-4), their need for a home range (39:5-12), their need for mobility on land (39:25) or mobility in the skies (39:26-30). The implied lesson for Job, as he suffers, is that Job can trust God to do the same—and more—for Job (1st Peter 4:19).
Alerstan, Thomas. Bird Migration (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
Baughman, Ray E. Seeking Bible Treasures. Oak Park, IL: Emmaus Bible School, 1965.
Cansdale, George S. All the Animals of the Bible Lands (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976).
Dinerstein, Eric. The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).
Eggleton, Michael. “On Eagle’s Wings: The American Bald Eagle”, Creation, 38(2):34-37 (2016).
Harrison, Colin, & Howard Loxton. The Bird: Master of Flight (Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s, 1993).
Morris, Henry M. The Remarkable Record of Job: The Ancient Wisdom, Scientific Accuracy, and Life-Changing Message of an Amazing Book (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2000).
Pratico, Gary D., & Miles V. Van Pelt. Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001).
Stokes, Donald, & Lillian Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, volume III(Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Company, 1989).
Webster, Noah, American Dictionary of the English Language (San Francisco, CA: 1995; facsimile edition of Noah Webster’s 1828 first edition).
Zuck, Roy B. Job, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1978).
 See James J. S. Johnson, “Genesis Is History, Not Poetry: Exposing Hidden Assumptions about What Hebrew Poetry Is and Is Not”, Acts & Facts, 40(6):8-9 (June 2011).
 It is not surprising that God used a “nature sermon” in the Book of Job, because the events of that book most likely occurred during the patriarchal period, not many centuries after the worldwide Flood, and likely during the Ice Age, when the world (and its post-Flood humanity) was dominated by the drama of nature “settling down”. See, accord, James J. S. Johnson, “Job’s Icy Vocabulary”, Acts & Facts, 43(12):19 (December 2014).
 It would be more thematically convenient if chapters 38 and 39 broke at Job 38:38 / 38:39—because the series of animal-based inquiries begins with the question of how lions get food (at 38:39-40), which is paired to the question of how ravens get food (38:41).
 While describing creature features pairs, the LORD also alludes briefly to grasshoppers (and arguably to storks), but these are not specifically described for Job to consider as specific exhibits of God’s caring providence.
 The “unicorn” (re’ēm) of Job 39:9-12 appears to be what is today called rhinoceros. For detailed analysis of this Hebrew noun, see James J. S. Johnson, “Skeptics’ Pointless Ridicule of the Bible’s ‘Unicorns’”, Acts & Facts, 47(2):21 (February 2018).
 Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “God’s Timing Makes Sense of Adversity”, Acts & Facts, 45(2):21 (February 2016). The book of Job begins by introducing the cosmic purpose for Job’s earthly trials—sufferings that Job, in temporal circumstances, will not understand the importance of until those trials are finished. Providential timing is thus an important theme in Job chapter 39.
 These paired animals, as well as the other wildlife pairs, illustratively fit the overall “Creator-cares-for-His-struggling-creation” theme of Job’s book; this theme is well summarized by 1st Peter 4:19.
 Qal imperfect form of root verb šâmar = to watch, keep, safeguard, preserve.
 George S. Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 87-89. Zoölogist Cansdale observe, on page 88: “The incident in I Samuel 24:2 ff. gives useful confirmation by describing David and his men as being ‘on the rocks of the wild goats’. This was at En Gedi, the oasis just above the west side of the Dead Sea. The name itself was significant—the Fountain [i.e., freshwater well/spring] of the Kid—and the ibex themselves are still there today, in a Wildlife Sanctuary made specially to protect them among the barren hills where they have always lived. In Job 39:1 the [Nubian] ibex is associated with [i.e., compared to] the hind (deer) in a way suggesting that they belong to the same class [or comparable category] of animals.”
 The “unicorn” (re’ēm) of Job 39:9-12 appears to be a rhinoceros, as noted hereinbelow. For detailed analysis of this Hebrew noun, see James J. S. Johnson, “Skeptics’ Pointless Ridicule of the Bible’s ‘Unicorns’”, Acts & Facts, 47(2):21 (February 2018).
 Cansdale, ibid., at pages 94-95, especially page 94. The “wilderness”/“desert” steppes of southwest Asia match the allusions to the wild ass’s wilderness habitat, as mentioned in Job 24:5 (“desert” = midbar) and in Jeremiah 2:24 (“wilderness” = midbar). Psalm 104:11 (“the wild asses quench their thirst”) also suggests that this wild equid customarily lives in arid places, so it habitually needs God to providentially give it sources of drinkable water. In Job 39:6 God tells Job that the wild ass is located in the arid “wilderness” (‘arâbâh) and the salty “barren land” (melēḥâh).
 The “unicorn” (re’ēm) of Job 39:9-12 appears to be a rhinoceros. For analysis of this Hebrew noun, see James J. S. Johnson, “Skeptics’ Pointless Ridicule of the Bible’s ‘Unicorns’”, Acts & Facts, 47(2):21 (February 2018). See especially Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (San Francisco, CA: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1995; facsimile of Noah Webster’s 1828 first edition), unpaginated.
 Eric Dinerstein, 2003. The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).
 Notice that (in Job 39:13) “wing” is in singular feminine construct, “ostriches” is in plural masculine absolute. Since the wings are symmetrical, the God-designed anatomy and utility of one wing applies to both wings.
 Regarding ratite traits, relevant to the ostrich, Cansdale, ibid., at pages 190-193, especially page 193. Regarding biological multitasking, see James J. S. Johnson, “Mechanical Multitasking on the Mayflower”, Acts & Facts, 46(11):21 (November 2017).
Regarding the ostrich, Cansdale (at page 191) observes: “Its habitat is open thornbush country and semi-desert with a fairly warm climate.” In the warm habitats where ostriches live, including semidesert flatlands and tropical grasslands, laying eggs in or by vegetation on the ground is an efficient way to warm them, as a substitute for incubation inside an arboreal nest.
 There may be a wordplay linking the joyful singing connotation (of the ostrich’s Hebrew name) with the action verb in Job 39:13, ‘âlas – the action of rejoicing (i.e., the verb “rejoice” in Job 20:18).
 Jeremiah 8:7. See also James J. S. Johnson, “A Lesson from the Stork”, Days of Praise (August 22, 2008).
 At the very least the analysis and literal translation of Job 39:13 justifies more careful study!
 God informs Job (in 39:19-25, especially in 39:20) that the war-horse is not intimidated by humans like Job, so the horse will not jump skittishly before him, like a grasshopper might. Some translate ’arbeh (in 39:20) as “locust” but locusts are actually a condition-adapted form of grasshopper, so the Hebrew noun ’arbeh properly applies to both of what we call “grasshopper” and “locust”. See James J. S. Johnson, “Locust Plague Now 20 Times Worse”, Creation Science Update (May 8, 2020), posted athttps://www.icr.org/article/locust-plague-now-20-times-worse .
 Isaiah 40:31; Obadiah 1:4; Proverbs 30:19. See also Colin Harrison, & Howard Loxton, The Bird: Master of Flight (Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s 1993), page 49.
 Thomas Alerstan, Bird Migration (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1933), pages 252-253. On the common practice of hawks and eagles riding thermal air currents, see Donald Stokes & Lillian Stokes, A Guide to Bird Behavior, volume III (Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Company, 1989), pages 98, 110, 139, & 156.
UNITED KINGDOM - CIRCA 1939: World War II. Rubber tank (decoy) in England. (Photo by Roger Viollet via Getty Images)
MOANING NOISES AND TRICKY GHOSTS
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter; I did mourn as a dove; mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
Therefore I will wail and howl, . . . I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.
America’s top-secret “Ghost Army”, during World War II, used cleverness and technology to fool German forces, by masking military vulnerabilities.(1) Yet the main fakery used was not camouflage. Rather, daring deception involved threat reversal mimicry.
During September 1944, the Ghost Army masqueraded as a large force of “Super Sixth” Sherman (M4) tanks, in order to intimidate a German Panzer division near the Moselle River.(1) It was a high-stakes bluff—employing rubber dummies (inflated to resemble M4 tanks), audio-recordings broadcast by loudspeakers, and bogus radio transmissions. And it worked!
Their mission was to put on a show, with the German Army as the audience. They were plugging a hole in General George Patton’s line by pretending to be the Sixth Armored Division, with all its tanks and might.
But the [“Ghost”] men of the Twenty-Third had no tanks—no real ones, anyway—and precious little might. In fact, they carried no weapon heavier than a .50-caliber machine gun. This cast of artists, designers, radio operators, and engineers was equipped instead with battalions of rubber dummies, a world-class collection of sound-effects records, and all the creativity the soldiers could muster.
They understood all too well that their own lives depended on the quality of the performance—if the Germans saw through their deception, they could attack and overrun the small, lightly armed unit. “There was nothing but our hopes and prayers that separated us form a panzer [tank] division,” Lieutenant Bob Conrad recalled. But thousands of lives were at stake as well.
If the Germans realized how thinly held the sector was, they could break through and attack Patton from the rear. In other words, it was just another day in the life…of what became known as the Ghost Army.(1)
[Quoting Beyer & Sayles, citation below]
Notice: the Ghost Army’s main ploy was not using camouflage concealment tactics. Rather, its purposeful play-acting was designed to be noticed—and to be misinterpreted as a viable threat.
This kind of shrewd trickery, if successful, appears to reverse the roles of attacker and target. The target fools the attacker into fearing the target–bluffing deters the attack. The boldness of the vulnerable target, in feigning readiness to attack the attacker, is a brilliant reversal of predator-prey roles, but only if the prey successfully fakes out the predator.
Such is part of the ordinary life for the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura).
Known also as“turtle-dove” and “rain dove”), it routinely feeds on the ground, and nests within shrubs, on buildings, in trees—the same kinds of places where opportunistic (and omnivorous) rats, like the Black Rat (Rattus rattus) and the Norwegian Rat (Rattus norvegicus), roam for food.(2) Consequently, mourning dove eggs and hatchlings are sometimes vulnerable to prowling predatory rats.(2)
But how can Mourning Doves intimidate the neighborhood’s rats?
God invented and installed the Mourning Dove’s acoustical mimicry, benefiting countless doves, generation after generation. Their doleful moanings (cooOOoo-woo-woo-woooo) sound sad to humans, like someone mourning.(3) But to rats, that moaning impersonates an owl hooting(3)—and owls eat rodents!(2)
When the Ghost Army used threat reversal mimicry, in 1944, it was truly clever—so we give credit where credit is due (Romans 13:7). However, when Mourning Doves make noises like rat-snatching owls—practicing threat reversal mimicry—God’s cleverness all-too-often goes unseen, unacknowledged, and unappreciated.
God’s Creatorship is not a military secret, so let’s give Him due credit, for all of His cleverly made creatures—including Mourning Doves—whose needs He has caringly and cleverly provided for. God is good – and truly magnificent!
1.Rick Beyer & Elizabeth Sayles, The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery (NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015), quoting pages 10-11. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops (“Ghost Army”) activities are now declassified. Having a lifetime-termed Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (since A.D.1985), issued by the Federal Communications Commission, this author (who previously served at a Christian radio station in Texas) can appreciate — at least to some degree — the technical wizardry of the Ghost Army.
2.David J. Schmidly, The Mammals of Texas, rev. ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994), 438-441. Rat diets include bird eggs, including chicken eggs. Owl “pellets” routinely include rodent bones.
3.Mourning doves and owls sound alike. (Compare Isaiah 38:14 with Micah 1:8.)
Dr. James J. S. Johnson formerly taught ornithology, avian conservation, and ecology (etc.) for Dallas Christian College. ><> email@example.com
That Sneaky Modigliani’s Nose-horned Striking Lizard:
Extinct, or Hiding for 129 Years?
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. (Proverbs 25:2)
Did Modigliani’s nose-horned striking lizard—a camouflage-capable variety of Agamidae “dragon lizard”—go extinct, or was it just sneakily hiding in Indonesia, for 129 years?
A recent discovery of the sneaky reptile, laying dead near a volcanic caldera in part of North Sumatra (in Indonesia), proves that the nose-horned striking lizard has been hiding, sheltering in its place, unseen (by people) for more than a century—yet we now know that it never went extinct.(1),(2)
This biodiversity bonanza (for herpetologists, at least) was recently reported in Science News by Dyna Rochmyaningsih, and in Taprobanica (the Asian Journal of Biodiversity) by the research team of biologist Chairunas Adha Putra.
Nearly 130 years ago, Italian explorer Elio Modigliani arrived at a natural history museum in Genoa with a lizard he’d reportedly collected from the forests of Indonesia. Based on Modigliani’s specimen, the striking lizard — notable for a horn that protrudes from its nose — got its official taxonomic description and name, Harpesaurus modiglianii, in 1933. But no accounts of anyone finding another such lizard were ever recorded, until now.(1)
The breakthrough started with an accidental finding of a dead lizard, during the summer of 2018.
In June 2018, Chairunas Adha Putra, an independent wildlife biologist conducting a bird survey in a mountainous region surrounding Lake Toba in Indonesia’s North Sumatra, called herpetologist Thasun Amarasinghe. Near the lake, which fills the caldera of a supervolcano, Putra had found “a dead lizard with interesting morphological features, but he wasn’t sure what it was,” says Amarasinghe, who later asked the biologist to send the specimen to Jakarta. It took only a look at the lizard’s nose-horn for Amarasinghe to suspect that he was holding Modigliani’s lizard. “It is the only nose-horned lizard species found in North Sumatra,” he says.(1)
During explorations of the forests in northern Sumatra in June 2018, we collected one naturally dead specimen and observed one live specimen of the genus Harpesaurus. We could clearly attribute both specimens to the species H. modiglianii. The two specimens (one naturally dead and one live) we found are the second known records for the species and our following observations are the first data on the biology of this species. Here we re-describe the species based on its holotype which is compared with the newly discovered specimen which was naturally dead and discoloured. The discovery of the third specimen (the live specimen which was not collected), allowed us to provide further notes on the live colouration and the first data on its in-situ behaviour and natural history.(2)
If one nose-horned striking lizard was found dead on North Sumatra, perhaps there are others still living—it was worth an investigation, since the chameleon-like lizard had not been eye-witnessed for almost 130 years.
“But simply there was no report at all about this species” following Modigliani’s, says [Thasun] Amarasinghe, of the University of Indonesia in Depok. He asked [Chairunas Adha] Putra to get back to the caldera to see if there was a living population. After five days, Putra found what he was looking for one evening, “lying on a low branch, probably sleeping,” according to the biologist. He took pictures of the lizard and measured the size and shape of its body parts, such as the length of its nose-horn and head. He also observed its behavior before finally releasing it the same night.(1)
Indonesia’s Batak natives featured the lizard in their artwork and folktales, reminiscent of how both artwork and folklore recall “dragons” (dinosaurs) in Europe and other parts of the world.(3) So, “gone, but not forgotten” is now corrected to “never really gone in the first place”.
This is not the first time that something surprising like this has happened. As the Chesapeake Bay’s population of Atlantic Sturgeon recently illustrated—and as the infamous Snail darter fish dramatically illustrated before that: “unseen” does not necessarily mean extinct or extirpated.(4),(5)
Sometimes someone is hidden, intentionally, to evade detection from a known threat—such as, to use a Biblical example, when Jehosheba snatched up and hid the royal infant Joash, while wicked Queen Athaliah was murderously purging the palace of competitors, after she usurped reign over the kingdom of Judah.(6)
However, when it comes to explaining the concealment of lizards, from humans (and others), the real reason is usually much less sensational—these lizards are prudently use their chameleon-like camouflage powers to stay out of sight.(1) The Modigliani’s nose-horned lizard can appear bright green, highlighted with yellow, or it can shift into a dull orangish-brown when it feels threatened.(1)
Although this lizard’s self-defense strategy is not very dramatic, it works!(7)
In fact, it displays God’s caring providence. God deserves due credit for every one of His creatures that uses camouflage—because it was God Who both designed and built them, including the reclusive dragon-looking lizard who quietly lives a low-profile lifestyle in remote parts of Indonesia.(8)
Cooper, William R. 1995. After the Flood: The Early Post-Flood History of Europe Traced Back to Noah. Surrey, U.K.: New Wine Press, pages 130-161. The valuable and ongoing impact of this ground-breaking book is truly marvelous–how this book has magnificently honored and served the Lord Jesus Christ, and blessed the lives of many Christian scholars, will only be fully known in eternity.
Johnson, James J. S. 2015. Anadromous Fish ‘that Swam with Dinosaurs’ Neither Extinct nor Extirpated. Creation Research Society Quarterly. 51(3):207-208.
The Snail Darter-versus-Tellico Dam controversy—with $100,000,000 in government funding at stake—was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153 (1978). “The snail darter (Percina tanasi) is a tiny perch-like fish that was declared “endangered” in 1975, later to be down-listed to “threatened” status in 1984. Meanwhile, major litigation2 filed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 banned the already-ongoing $100 million project because its completion might interfere with the “critical habitat” of the snail darter. In other words, that case involved a peanut-sized fish stopping a Congress-funded project, only to later learn that a thriving population of snail darters were busily being fruitful and multiplying in streams not that far away from the project site.” [Quoting Johnson, James J. S. 2020. Should We Grouse about Not Seeing Grouse? Creation Science Update (July 7, 2020), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/should-we-grouse-about-not-seeing-grouse .] Regarding the need for balance in decision-making, as well as clarity in communication, when solving “endangered species” problems, see Morris, J. D. 1999. What Can be Done to Help Endangered Species?Acts & Facts. 28(5).
Norman-French Cuisine Invades England (Somewhat) in A.D. 1066
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Nevertheless He [i.e., the Creator-God] left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and He gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:17)
The year A.D. 1066 is best remembered by William the Conqueror’s successful invasion of Britain—an event that changed world history forever.(1),(2),(3)
As this author’s previous history research has reported, the fate of America’s George Washington actually hung in the balances during the Battle of Hastings (!), on the 14th of October, A.D.1066.(1),(3)
However, did that invasive immigration of Normans also change the dietary habits of Britain’s inhabitants?
Archaeologists from Cardiff University and the University of Sheffield have combined the latest scientific methods to offer new insights into life during the Norman Conquest of England. … But little has been known about how it affected everyday people’s lives. … There is evidence the Norman invasion led to more controlled and standardised mass agricultural practices. Pork became a more popular choice and dairy products were used less. But on the whole, a diet dominated by vegetables, cereals beef and mutton remained largely unchanged.(4)
In other words, according to recently reported archeological research, the conclusion is that the Norman conquest of England only changed popular cuisine habits “somewhat”, but “not so much”.(4),(5),(6)
Dr. Elizabeth Craig-Atkins of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology said: “Examining archaeological evidence of the diet and health of ordinary people who lived during this time gives us a detailed picture of their everyday experiences and lifestyles. Despite the huge political and economic changes that were happening [in 1066], our analysis suggests the Conquest may have only had a limited impact on most people’s diet and health. “There is certainly evidence that people experienced periods where food was scarce. But following this, an intensification in farming meant people generally had a more steady food supply and consistent diet. Aside from pork becoming a more popular food choice, eating habits and cooking methods remained unchanged to a large extent.”(4)
Before the Norman invasion, in A.D.1066, the island of Britain’s demographics displayed the mix of original Celtic peoples and later-arriving Saxons, plus a sprinkling of settlers from two centuries of intermittent immigrations by Norse Vikings.
However, when Duke William’s force came from Rouen, they brought with them their Norman-French language, plus some Norman-French dietary preferences. French cuisine often features poultry, plus the Viking heritage of Normandy always included fish, such as cod, salmon, and herring.(2),(5),(6)
Eventually, bones reveal who was eating what.(4),(5),(6),(7)
Researchers used a technique called stable isotope analysis on bones to compare 36 humans found in various locations around Oxford, including Oxford Castle, who had lived between the 10th and 13th centuries. Signals from food we consume are archived as chemical tracers in our bones, allowing scientists to investigate the quality and variety of a person’s diet long after they have died. … Levels of protein and carbohydrate consumption were similar in the group and evidence of bone conditions related to poor diet—such as rickets and scurvy—were rare.(4)
The study of diet enables exploration of the impact of political change on everyday life through its illumination of the provisioning, marketing, selection and preparation of foodstuffs. … Previous analyses of diet in England during the 11th-century Norman Conquest have focused on changes in food culture brought about by French cultural influences. These include increased consumption of domesticated pigs and wild species, as well as changes in cooking practices, such as a greater frequency of roasting and new methods of slow cooking…. These changes can be set against developments in food culture, which characterise the early centuries of the late medieval period, such as the increasing consumption of fish….(5)
Unlike swine raised far from coastlines or navigable rivers, swine raised by Vikings—and by Norman French—were often fed fish scraps.(7)
Isotope analysis was also used on 60 animals found at the same sites, to ascertain how they were raised. Studies of pig bones found their diets became more consistent and richer in animal protein after the Conquest, suggesting pig farming was intensified under Norman rule. They were likely living in the town and being fed scraps instead of natural vegetable fodder.(4)
These dietary differences complicate research for archeologists who rely upon Carbon-14 dating methods. Traditional radiocarbon dating usually assumes a terrestrial food-based diet—ingesting photosynthesis-fixed 14C via eating grains, root vegetables, fruits, and nuts, plus various meats and dairy products derived from grain-fed or grass-fed herbivores.(7),(8)
However, fish-dominated diets—supplemented by pork from swine raised on fish scraps—accumulate less Carbon-14 in human bones, so dietary adjustments are needed when estimating date-of-death timeframes for the bones of those who habitually ate fish and other foods traceable to a marine food-chain.(7),(8)
Meanwhile, whatever good food is eaten—whether it’s from a terrestrial food-chain (like chicken), or from the sea (like fish)—should be eaten with thanksgiving, because good food is its own proof of God’s caring providence.(9)
For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5)
“But what if there had been no George Washington to ‘father’ America? … If the battle [of Hastings] had gone the other way and William the Conqueror had died, then he would not have been alive to have [fathered] a son named Henry (England’s Henry I), who was born two years after the Battle of Hastings. Since George Washington is a [F21] direct descendant of Henry I, Washington wouldn’t have been born roughly 700 years later…” Johnson, J. J. S. 2012. Christmas, Vikings, and the Providence of God. Acts & Facts. 41(12):8-10, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/christmas-vikings-providence-god .
Haywood, J. 1995. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Viking World. London, UK: Penguin Books, pages 14-15, 80-81, 137. Normandy’s William the Conqueror was an F5 descendant of the famous Norwegian-born Viking Hrolf (the Ganger) Ragnvaldsson, who established Rouen, Normandy.
Andrusko, S. M., et al. 1983. Genealogical Research at the Library of Congress. Library Trends. 32(1):51-65, especially page 53. See also Ashley, M. 1998. The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens: The Complete Biographical Encyclopedia of Kings and Queens of Britain. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 439, 497-504, 521, esp. 499. ICR’s adjunct faculty, British historian Dr. William R. Cooper, provided helpful scholarship with this biogenetic data analysis.
Some of the biochemical findings were unexpected. It seems that the Anglo-Norman clergy, who mandated cultist dietary restrictions for the common folk, did not practice what they themselves preached. “It might be expected, for example, that Christ Church’s monastic community observed religious proscriptions against meat [1 Timothy 4:1-5], and so consumed more fish (and poultry) than individuals interred in the other cemeteries. However, this appears not to have been the case, as Christ Church has the lowest mean δ15N and δ13C values compared to the other sites. The three individuals from Oxford Castle may have had a higher social status, and therefore a diet richer in meat and fish, but in this case, as the mean δ15N value is highest, but the δ13C value is lowest, marine dietary input must have been negligible in this small sample of individuals.” (Quoting Craig-Atkins, E. B. Jarvis, L. Cramp, et al., cited in the previous footnote). On Europe’s dietary restrictions during the Dark Ages, see Kurlanksy, M. 1997. Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. New York, NY: Walker & Company, pages 24 & 35.
Jarman, C. L., M. Biddle, T. Higham, et al. 2018. The Viking Great Army in England: New Dates from the Repton Charnel. Antiquity. 92(361):183-199. See also Arneborg, J., J. Heinemeier, N. Lynnerup, et al. 1999. Change of Diet of the Greenland Vikings Determined from Stable Carbon Isotope Analysis and 14C Dating of their Bones. Radiocarbon. 41(2):157-168. Arneborg and her team recognize how diet must be accounted for when using Carbon-14 dating methods: “If the bone collagen is of terrestrial origin, the measured (conventional) 14C age is converted into a true calendar age by using the global tree-ring calibration curve. However, this simple procedure is not applicable when the bone collagen is derived in part from marine carbon which, due to the marine reservoir effect, appears several hundred 14C years older than the corresponding terrestrial carbon. This seriously constrains the dating of bones of people who have had access to food protein from the sea.”
APPALACHIAN TRAIL, N.H.
(Lakes of the Clouds hikers hut)
U.S. Supreme Court Okays Tunneling Pipeline under the Appalachian Trail
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
(attorney admitted to bars of Texas & Colorado)
APPALACHIAN TRAIL, N.H. (Presidential Range)
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:6)
Earlier this month (June 15, 2020), the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a federal appellate court ruling that previously prohibited the new Atlantic Coast Pipeline from being laid under part of the Appalachian Trail.(1)
Environmentalist groups, as well as hiking enthusiasts, had protested how the proposed “Atlantic Coast Pipeline” would be constructed to run underneath part of the historic Appalachian Trail.(2) The pipeline construction company, however, prevailed in court.
Dominion Energy, which has partnered with Duke Energy, to build the 600-mile pipeline from West Virginia to northeastern North Carolina, welcome the high court’s ruling as an ‘affirmation’. Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby noted that 50 other pipelines ‘have safely crossed under the Trail without disturbing its public use.’ The pipeline will be installed hundreds of feet below the trail’s surface, he said, and emerge more than a half-mile away on either side.(2)
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (“Appalachian Trail”), which is older than the USA, is perhaps the most famous and best-loved of America’s hiking trails. Hiking trails, as this author has recently reported, provide wonderful opportunities for appreciating God’s creation.(3)
But what relevance to Biblical Christians is there to an environmental lawsuit about flowing petroleum products under a famous mountain hiking trail?
The proposed subterranean pipeline involves some $8 billion in projected costs, to convey natural gas across part of the commonwealth of Virginia.(2) All of the physical land (in controversy) belongs the U.S. government—specifically, the land in question is allocated (by Congress) to the George Washington National Forest in central Virginia. The U.S. Forest System is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.(4)
As such, the legal presumption is that such federal land can be used for commercial purposes, if doing so is a responsible “wise use” of the land, providing public benefit and avoiding reckless waste of resources.(1),(4)
U.S. Forest Service-managed lands routinely lease to private businesses, for timber and other commercial uses, so long as the U.S. government benefits from the contracted uses. So, there is no big surprise when part of a national forest is contractually leased to a private business (for ranching, timber, or petroleum operations), so long as the government contracting system benefits the USA.(4)
However, the complicating legal factor, in this equation, is that a segment of the multi-state Appalachian Trail cuts through the George Washington National Forest. That historic trial is itself declared—by congressional action—as a natural resource to be administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.(2)
Federal “park” lands are not the same as federal “forest” lands. Federal lands assigned to the U.S. Park Service are not routinely leased, for subterranean activities, to private businesses for commercial development.(1),(4)
Unsurprisingly, the multi-purpose “wise use” standards used in federal forests (by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) are not the usual “preservationist” property use norms applied by National Park Service (of the U.S. Department of the Interior), so there is a jurisdictional overlap that complicates how the federal government can manage the physical trail-within-forest land involved.(1),(4)
Further complicating this multi-agency “turf” dispute is the combination of federal statutes (i.e., laws passed by Congress) that conditionally permit and/or prohibit what uses can be made of “lands” managed by the Forest Service, versus those administered by the Park Service.(1)
Meanwhile an $8 billion project pivoted on this terminology question: is the Appalachian Trail a long piece of federal “land” assigned to the Park Service?(2)
In short, the majority vote in the U.S. Supreme Court decision said No, thereby determining that the pipeline could pass underneath the Appalachian Trail, because the scenic hiking trail was not itself a physical piece of “land”.
We are tasked with determining whether the Leasing Act [of 1920] enables the Forest Service to grant a subterranean pipeline right-of-way some 600 feet under the Appalachian Trail. To do this, we first focus on the distinction between the lands that the Trail traverses and the Trail itself, because the lands (not the Trail) are the object of the relevant statutes.(1)
Rather, the trail was deemed a passage-way through (and over) land, what the law calls an “easement” (or “right-of-way”)—similar to how rural streets are access-ways that separate neighbors, but the physical land itself (under the traveled road) is considered to be owned by the property-tax-paying landowners who border the roadway. (This was the law, in 1968, when the Forest Service granted a trail-administering “right-of-way” easement unto the Park Service.)
Pursuant to the Trails Act, the Forest Service entered into “right-of-way” agreements with the National Park Service “for [the] approximately 780 miles of Appalachian Trail route within national forests,” including the George Washington National Forest. … A right-of-way is a type of easement. In 1968, as now, principles of property law defined a right-of-way easement as granting a nonowner a limited privilege to “use the lands of another.” … Specifically, a right-of-way grants the limited “right to pass … through the estate of another.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1489 (4th ed. 1968). Courts at the time of the Trails Act’s enactment acknowledged that easements grant only nonpossessory rights of use limited to the purposes specified in the easement agreement. … Stated more plainly, easements are not land, they merely burden land that continues to be owned by another.(1)
Here is how the judicial majority summarily explained their decision:
In sum, read in light of basic property law principles, the plain language of the Trails Act and the agreement between the two agencies did not divest the Forest Service of jurisdiction over the lands that the Trail crosses. It gave the Department of the Interior (and by delegation the National Park Service) an easement for the specified and limited purpose of establishing and administering a Trail, but the land itself remained under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service. To restate this conclusion in the parlance of the Leasing Act, the lands that the Trail crosses are still “Federal lands” … and the Forest Service may grant a pipeline right-of-way through them—just as it granted a right-of-way for the Trail. Sometimes a complicated regulatory scheme may cause us to miss the forest for the trees, but at bottom, these cases boil down to a simple proposition: A trail is a trail, and land is land.(1)
Now, there is an aspect of this analysis that should catch the attention of Biblical Christians—this ruling reminds us that forested land (“real property”) may be itself physical matter, yet the right or opportunity to travel through that forested land is not itself physical material.
An entitlement to hike along (i.e., upon) a particular trail is an “easement” (a/k/a “right-of-way”), a non-physical right to travel under certain conditions (such as traveling without causing waste, during certain timeframes, etc.). But the opportunity to hike on a mountain trail is not itself a physical thing, like a rock or tree or hard-packed soil.
Appreciating biogenetic family history (wearing Texas Czech Genealogical Society shirt, while eating crawdads in Mississippi)
Likewise, our human lives—as living creatures specially created in God’s image—are more than just our physical bodies. Yes, part of us is physical—God made us from dust of the earth. Yet God added to that physical stuff non-physical personal lives—which can be described by words like soul, spirit, personality, etc.—which is the part of us finite creatures that somehow shows a hint of our infinite God.(5)
So, when you take your next nature hike—take time to observe the wide and wild variety of physical animals (like bees, bunnies, and butterflies—or June-bugs, jaybirds, and jaguarundis)—interacting with physical plant-life (like trees, bushes, grasses, flowers)—within the geophysical environment (including rocks, soils, sunlight, rain, freshwater streams). Appreciate God’s caring handiwork!(3)
Ohio forest hiking, AD2005 (wearing Glattfelder family history shirt)
But don’t stop there! Appreciate also your own human activity of walking, hiking, strolling.
A simple nature walk in your neighborhood—or hiking a mountain trail—is an opportunity to be grateful for that moment that God has given you.(3),(4),(5)
That very opportunity is taken (or neglected) within a physical context of time and space, yet the opportunity itself is not physical. The opportunities that God gives to us are intangible blessings—they are like easements—we can use them or lose them, but they are not physical stuff that we can store inside a garage.
Part of storing up treasures in Heaven involves recognizing and using our God-given opportunities to honor the Lord Jesus Christ here on Earth.(6),(7)
Even taking a walk, where you are now, can become an opportunity to see God’s glory in the so-called little things—details of His magnificent creation. It’s not necessary to go hike the Appalachian Trail to see God’s artistry in what He has made.(7)
APPALACHIAN TRAIL, N.H. (Lakes of the Clouds hikers hut)
U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, 2020 WL 3146692, ___ S.Ct. ___ (June 15, 2020), reversing 911 F.3d 150 (4th Cir. 2018). Justice Thomas used this comparison: “If analyzed as a right-of-way between two private landowners, determining whether any land had been transferred would be simple. If a rancher granted a neighbor an easement across his land for a horse trail, no one would think that the rancher had conveyed ownership over that land. Nor would anyone think that the rancher had ceded his own right to use his land in other ways, including by running a water line underneath the trail that connects to his house. … Likewise, when a company obtains a right-of-way to lay a segment of pipeline through a private owner’s land, no one would think that the company had obtained ownership over the land through which the pipeline passes. Although the Federal Government owns all lands involved here, the same general principles apply.”
Johnson, J. J. S. 1995. Introduction to Environmental Studies, An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Applied Ecology, Conservation Policy, and Environmental Ethics. Dallas: NWQD Press, LeTourneau University. Regarding the roles of the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service, see especially pages 57-76. Regarding hiking the Appalachian Trail, see pages 1-9 of Appendix F.
Nothing to See Here: Healthcare Fraudfeasors are Like Missing Links
(The Evidence of Nothing, Again: Medicare, Medicaid, and Missing Links)
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of ‘science’ falsely so-called, which some professing have erred concerning the faith. (1st Timothy 6:20-21a)
The Texas Attorney General issued a press release recently (May 14, 2020), that may trigger déjà vu memories for ICR readers, reminding us all that the (supposed) “evidence” for evolution is absent.
Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that [Austin’s] Hon. Catherine Mauzy of the 126th Judicial District Court of Travis County has ruled Dr. Richard Malouf of ASDC Holdings, LLC responsible for 1,842 unlawful acts under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act. Dr. Malouf operated orthodontics clinics for many years in the Dallas area and billed tens of millions of dollars to Texas Medicaid. The Court found that Malouf fraudulently billed Medicaid for services that were actually provided by a different doctor, including over 100 billings he filed [for supposed service performed in America] while vacationing out of the country. … As a result of the court’s order, Dr. Malouf is liable to Texas for approximately $12 million, plus attorney and court fees.(1)
How is this ruling like an echo, of a prior report in Acts & Facts, more than a dozen years ago?
In 2008, in an article titled “The Evidence of Nothing”, this jurist reported on a similar situation, that was tried in (and appealed from) federal district court, but this controversy involved Medicare fraud—as opposed to the recent case, involving Medicaid fraud.(2)
This Medicare fraud case involved years of federal court proceedings, with one of the appeals being decided last year [i.e., 2007].Part of the convicting evidence was nothing–literally nothing, when there should have been something. In the related cases of Okoro and Akpan … Victor Okoro, M.D., in concert with others, was accused of fraudulent Medicare billing practices, which conflicted with his “medical missionary” trips and a bogus charity called the Sisters of Grace.(2)
In the appellate proceeding’s affirmance of the fraud findings, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals commented on Dr. Okoro’s Medicare fraud:
Although some of the patients |in Texas| received physical therapy treatments and some were examined by Okoro, each patient signed blank sign-in sheets and blank patient forms. In addition, Okoro signed most of the forms himself, yet many of the patients testified that he had never examined them….Okoro signed patient documents that stated that he had treated those patients on specific dates and at specific times on which Okoro could not possibly have rendered services. For example, many of the dates on which Okoro alleged that he provided services were dates when he was in Nigeria.(3)
To prove that Dr. Okoro was absent from Texas, at times when he was billing the Medicare program for “services” never performed, his air travel records (including international air travel records) documented him departing and returning to Texas via airports.(2),(3)
Thus, the federal prosecutor used these records to show Okoro’s ingress to and egress from Texas, over the relevant timeframe of the Medicare billings.(2),(3)
Yet just as important, from a circumstantial evidence standpoint, was the government’s proof of “nothing” on other legally important dates. The federal government’s trial proof included official government records with absences of entries on the dates in question, showing that Dr. Okoro was not recorded as having re-entered the United States in time for him to have performed the medical services for which he billed Medicare.(2)
Some might object that this is an “argument from silence”, and it is.(4)
Yet the forensic force of this “silent” witness can support a sentence of felony jail time. But how can examples of “nothing” become admissible evidence at trial?
Federal Evidence Rule 803(10) provides this forensic proof option:
“Absence of Public Record or Entry.To prove the absence of a record, report, statement, or data compilation, in any form, or the nonoccurrence or nonexistence of a matter of which a record, report, statement, or data compilation, in any form, was regularly made and preserved by a public office or agency, evidence in the form of a certification in accordance with rule 902, if necessary, or testimony, that diligent search failed to disclose the record, report, statement, or data compilation, or entry.” |emphasis added|(4)
Evidence Rule 803(7) is similar, but it applies to admitting as trial evidence the fact that regularly recorded “business records” have a relevant “absence” of an entry, as well as where and when a documentary “nothing” is forensically important.(2)
So, how are these healthcare fraud cases, of “the evidence of nothing”—that prove “something”—relevant to creation science controversies, such as the notion that simians procreated humans via the mystical magic of “natural selection”, an animistic “process” that functions as materialism’s “creator”?
Consider the relevance of the Federal Evidence Rules that govern the adjudicatory admissibility of “nothing, when there should be something” to the evolutionists’ problem of “missing links.”
When examining the quixotic quest for missing links, it is like déjà vu–literally nothing, when there should have been something.
To use the logic of Rule 803(10), a diligent search for these so-called transitional form fossils over a period of 150 years has failed to disclose them. What kind of empirical evidence is that, regarding the origin of earth’s life forms? The years of diligent search indicate a glaring absence of molecules-to-man evolutionary phylogeny in the fossil record. In other words, the empirical data of earth’s fossils, if analyzed forensically, show that evolutionary phylogeny notions are just empty imaginings, refuted by the evidence of nothing.(2)
Geologist-paleontologist Dr. John Morris once summarized the importance of what the global fossil record contains, and (moreso) what it does not contain.
Evolutionists often speak of missing links. They say that the bridge between man and the apes is the “missing link,” the hypothetical ape-like ancestor of both. But there are supposed missing links all over the evolutionary tree. For instance, dogs and bears are thought to be evolutionary cousins, related to each other through a missing link. The same could be said for every other stop on the tree. All of the animal types are thought to have arisen by the transformation of some other animal type, and at each branching node is a missing link, and between the node and the modern form are many more. If you still don’t know what a missing link is, don’t worry. No one knows what a missing link is, because they are missing! We’ve never seen one.(5)
In other words, if the evolutionists were correct about their simian-to-human evolution theory, they should have found “missing links” by now—but they have not—and it’s been more than 160 years of hunting at taxpayer expense!(2),(5)
This argument from silence is an absence in the evidentiary record–a “nothing, where there should be something” if evolutionary theory were true. But evolutionary theory is not true, so the real world’s fossil record has been providing irrefutable evidence, by the absence of missing links, for a long, long time now.(2)
Now consider the outcome, in this part of the Travis County 126th District Court’s recent ruling, in the Malouf case.
The Court finds and IT IS ORDERED that Defendant Malouf is liable for 1,842 “unlawful acts”, as defined by the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act, …
[and] that the State of Texas have judgment against Defendant Malouf for the following civil remedies and penalties: $538,228.45, representing the amount of any payment provided under the Medicaid program as a result of unlawful acts, …
[plus] $9,210.000.00, representing the statutory minimum civil penalty for each unlawful act committed, … representing two times the amount of the payment received as a result of unlawful acts, …
[plus] the State has the right to recover [attorney] fees, expenses and costs reasonably incurred in obtaining the remedies outlined in this order.(6)
And to think that such a serious outcome was proven, in part, by “the evidence of nothing”—while Dr. Malouf was vacationing abroad.
No wonder evolutionists bristle–as the “science deniers” they are–when they are reminded that the so-called “missing links” are still missing.
[Photograph of author, below, in Bosque County Museum (Clifton, Texas), lecturing on Biblical creation-based providential history, while debunking evolutionary mythology]
Ken Paxton (Attorney General of Texas). “Court Awards Millions for Texans in Medicaid Fraud Lawsuit”, press release posted at www.TexasAttorneyGeneral.gov (May 14, 2020) – accessed May 14, 2020.
Trial in federal district court began in September 2002. One appellate ruling was published as United States v. Akpan, 407 F.3d 360 (5th Cir. 2005), and a later appellate ruling appears at United States v. Okoro, 213 Fed. Appx. 348, 2007 WL 98804 (5th Cir. 2007) (non-precedent). Quotations are from United States v. Akpan, 407 F.3d at 364-365.
Federal Evidence Rule 803(10). The Federal Rules of Evidence have been cloned, with only small modifications, by the 50 states. According to Rule 102, the Federal Rules of Evidence are supposed to be applied “to the end that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined.” This article focuses mainly on Evidence Rules 803(7) and 803(10), which respectively govern the admissibility as evidence of an absence of information that could have been (but was not) entered into a regular business record or an official government record.
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he hath, and buys that field.’ (Matthew 13:44)
Buried treasure, in Montana, could mean buried dinosaur fossils!
In a controversial ruling earlier this month (May 20, 2020), the Montana Supreme Court has finally settled the issue—earlier litigated in federal courts—of who owns a buried dinosaur fossil, when a landowner sells the real estate (i.e., the land called the “real property”) that physically contains the fossilized dinosaur—yet does so with a reservation of “mineral” rights.(1),(2)
However, before describing the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling, consider the context of the controversy.
What are “mineral rights”? Americans are accustomed to the idea of reserving mineral rights, such as when a landowner sells land while retaining the legal right to drill for (and own) any buried oil and gas, and/or retains the right to mine (and own) any gold, silver, copper, coal, or uranium.
But what about subsurface fossilized dinosaurs? Are they, legally speaking, “minerals” that are “retained” when a landowner sells the surface estate (i.e., the topsoil, trees, house and out-buildings)—while “reserving” (i.e., withholding) ownership of the subsurface “mineral” rights?
In other words, are subsurface dinosaur fossils included within the legal (property law) category of “mineral rights”?
Generally speaking, legal categories for property law topics are defined by state law, not federal law. Accordingly, the more specific question—for a fossilized dinosaur dug up in Montana—is whether dinosaur fossils are “minerals” as a matter of Montana property law. That means Montana law may differ, in answering that legal question, from how Texas or Oklahoma or Colorado would answer that question.
This very problem was adjudicated, a couple years ago, in a case called Murray v BEJ Minerals LLC, involving a famous dig-site for dinosaur fossils, the Hell Creek formation of Montana.
In 2006, an amateur paleontologist uncovered the well-preserved fossils of the “Dueling Dinosaurs” on a Montana ranch (“the Ranch”) in an area known as Hell Creek. Lige and Mary Ann Murray (“the Murrays”), the plaintiffs in this action, own the surface estate of the ranch where the fossils were found. In 2005, prior to the discovery of the fossils, Jerry and Robert Severson (“the Seversons”), the defendants and previous owners of the ranch, sold their surface estate and one-third of the mineral estate to the Murrays. In the conveyance, the Seversons expressly reserved the remaining two-thirds of the mineral estate, giving them ownership, as tenants in common with the Murrays, of all right, title, and interest in any “minerals” found in, on, and under the conveyed land.(1)
The outcome of the lawsuit turned on whether dinosaur fossils, as a matter of Montana property law, were included in the term “mineral rights”. Needless to say, a lot of money was at stake.
These fossils are now quite valuable. After a dispute arose regarding the true owner of the Dueling Dinosaurs and several other valuable dinosaurfossils found on the Ranch (including a nearly intact Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, one of only twelve ever found) (collectively, “the Montana Fossils”), the Murrays filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the Montana Fossils belonged to them as owners of the surface estate.1 In turn, the Seversons asserted a counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment that the Montana Fossils belong to the mineral estate. The answer turns on whether the Montana Fossils are deemed “minerals” within the meaning of the mineral deed under Montana law. If the Montana Fossils are minerals, the Seversons, as majority owners of the mineral estate, will own two-thirds of the Montana Fossils. If the Montana Fossils are not minerals, they will belong to the Murrays in their entirety.(2)
The above-quoted court decision, in November 2018, was decided by a federal appeals court (the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals), stating that Montana was being applied to answer the critical property law question (of whether buried dinosaurs were “minerals” under state law).
These fossils are now quite valuable. After a dispute arose regarding the true owner of the Dueling Dinosaurs and several other valuable dinosaurfossils found on the Ranch (including a nearly intact Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, one of only twelve ever found) (collectively, “the Montana Fossils”), the Murrays filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the Montana Fossils belonged to them as owners of the surface estate.1 In turn, the Seversons asserted a counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment that the Montana Fossils belong to the mineral estate. The answer turns on whether the Montana Fossils are deemed “minerals” within the meaning of the mineral deed under Montana law. If the Montana Fossils are minerals, the Seversons, as majority owners of the mineral estate, will own two-thirds of the Montana Fossils. If the Montana Fossils are not minerals, they will belong to the Murrays in their entirety.(1)
Of course, as one might expect for the Ninth Circuit (which has favored evolutionary theory in the past), the appellate decision included reliance upon evolutionary assumptions.
Once upon a time, in a place now known as Montana, dinosaurs roamed the land. On a fateful day, some 66 million years ago [sic—error in the original], two such creatures, a 22-foot-long theropod [Tyrannosaurus rex] and a 28-foot-long ceratopsian [a Triceratops-like dinosaur], engaged in mortal combat. While history has not recorded the circumstances surrounding this encounter, the remnants of these Cretaceous species, interlocked in combat, became entombed under a pile of sandstone. That was then … this is now.(1)
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in their ruling, decided that Montana law would recognize the dinosaurs fossils, when buried in the ground, as “minerals”—like gold, silver, coal, or petroleum.
[A]lthough many dinosaurfossils have little or no value, the Murrays concede that the Montana Fossils are rare and exceptional. Therefore, … the Montana Fossils are “minerals” pursuant to the terms of the Deed, and belong to the owners of the mineral estate.(1)
Is this legal controversy one that paleontologists, and other people interested in finding dinosaur fossils, would care about? Yes, this is a very practical question for those who want to dig for dinosaur bones.
Excavating a dig-site when fossilized dinosaur bones are found—in Montana or anywhere else—can be a laborious and expensive exploration. Suppose a paleontologist crew negotiate a deal with a landowner, to dig on his property for dinosaur bones, and get written permission—some kind of signed contract—for rights to the dinosaur fossils if, as, and when they are recovered from under the topsoil.
Suppose further that dinosaur fossils are dug up. The dinosaur-dig crew may think they have a legal right to keep the fossils—if the landowner signed an agreement saying as much.
But what if after that, to the fossil-finders’ surprise, someone shows up and claims the dinosaur fossils, saying: “Thank you very much for carefully excavating my dinosaur bones—I’ll take them now—because when I sold this land, to its present owner, I retained the subsurface “mineral rights” so I am the legal owner of what you dug up!”
So, based upon the Ninth Circuit’s 2018 ruling, it would seem that the owner of the subsurface mineral estate owns any valuable dinosaur fossils—if any are ever excavated.
But that was then … this is now.
The Montana Supreme Court has ruled to the contrary, in the same case—overruling the Ninth Circuit decision—via what is called a “certified question” disposition.
On May 20, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an order pursuant to M. R. App. P. 15, certifying to this Court a question of first impression under Montana law:
Whether, under Montana law, dinosaur fossils constitute “minerals” for the purpose of a mineral reservation?
We entered an order on June 4, 2019, accepting the certified question as written. We observe the importance of the state law question, the public policy ramifications, and the need for clarity in the law governing similar and subsequent property interest disputes in Montana. ¶2 We conclude that the answer to the question is no. … Given the overwhelming authority showing “fossils” and “minerals” are separately accounted for under Montana law, we conclude that the terms are mutually exclusive as used in the mineral deed between the Murrays and BEJ. The Murrays, as owners of the surface estate, maintain ownership of any interests not reserved by BEJ in the general mineral deed.(2)
The explanation consumes 46 pages, but the bottom line is that subsurface dinosaur fossils are not deemed “minerals” under Montana state law, because Montana laws generally treat fossils as a category qualitatively different from what are customarily understood as “minerals”.
The technical meaning of a legal term is important—especially if you are digging up dinosaurs on someone else’s land. Meanwhile, now the Ninth Circuit will know how, in the future, to properly apply Montana law to dinosaur fossils.
It would also behoove the Ninth Circuit to discard its uniformitarian-based (“deep time”) evolutionary mythology assumptions about when (and why) dinosaurs lived, died, and became fossilized in what is now Montana.(3)
If those judges are seriously interested in the truth about dinosaurs, in Montana and elsewhere, they need to acquire two science-rich books authored by Dr. Tim Clarey: Dinosaurs, Marvels of God’s Design and Carved in Stone, Geological Evidence of the Worldwide Flood.(4)
Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC, 908 F.3d 437 (9th 2018), ruling that buried dinosaur fossils are “minerals”.
Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC, 2020 WL 2553091 (Montana S. Ct. 2020), ruling that buried dinosaur fossils are not “minerals”.
Long before tainting the analysis of property law jurisprudence, Scripture-rejecting uniformitarianism was predicted by the apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 3:1-6. See also John D. Morris, The Failed History of Uniformitarianism. Acts & Facts. 40(12):15, posted at https://www.icr.org/article/failed-history-uniformitarianism .
Both of these books, authored by paleontologist-geologist Dr. Tim Clarey, are available for purchase from ICR’s e-store and from Amazon.