The Marvels of the Human Body

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The Marvels of the Human Body

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Read just a little about the life of an average baby girl in the Western world: "Her first words will be uttered about 12 months after birth, and by the age of six she will have mastered the essentials of language. So important will this skill prove that up to ten years of her life will be spent talking" (Anthony Smith, The Human Body, 1998, pp. 7-8). Although the animal world has many means of crude communication, we are the only species possessing advanced language skills.

"What a piece of work is man," wrote William Shakespeare, "How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty!" Yet in spite of all our noble achievements, what happens within our bodies even when we are relaxing "is a secret from us" (Smith, p. 8). Even when "sitting down to read a book, our body is vigilant and busy. Nerve endings in the skin send signals to the brain to ensure that we are sitting comfortably in the chair, and we absent-mindedly tug at the cushions until the message says our position is satisfactory" (ibid.).

Scientists are beginning to discover that the human body has no superfluous organs. "Biologists have often been puzzled by seemingly meaningless parts of the body, only to find later they do serve an important function. Take the thymus for example. Until quite recently it was dismissed as a useless survival of an earlier age of development, but it is now known to be the control centre of the body's defence system against germs. Tonsils and adenoids were often removed from children, because they were thought to serve no function. Now we realize they help to protect the nose and throat against infection" (John Allan, The Human Difference, 1989, p. 45).

Consider the human hand. No other species can even begin to equal humanity's manual skills. "The human hand is capable of both brute strength and incredible finesse. It carries out hard labour yet is sensitive to nuances of texture and form, so much so that it can serve as a substitute eye to the blind...The human hand is unique in having two distinct grips...Not only can several items such as coins be held firmly in the palm with several fingers but also, simultaneously, the opposable thumb can be used to hold and turn a car key" (Smith, The Human Body, p. 132).

Yet almost all picture books about the human body readily attribute its marvels to the chance mutations of evolution. Very few seem to say with King David, "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). GN