How a hummingbird explains creation

Anna's Hummingbird.

Anna’s Hummingbird file photo.

On a Facebook site called Hummingbirds Anonymous a member recently posted a striking photo of an adult Anna’s Hummingbird. The photo captures the iridescent facial feathers and the cascade of the gorget, the bib of brightly colored feathers right below the beak.

Inspired by the photo, the person who posted it made the comment “All Things Bright and Beautiful! The Lord God Made Them All.”

What a setup.

Backwards and forwards

What so many people fail to appreciate is that hummingbirds are part of a continuum of bird species in this world. They have morphological relationships to other birds. That is, they share vital characteristics with other species. Pick up any bird identification guide and you’ll see that hummingbirds are placed between swifts and kingfishers, both of which are enormously capable fliers in their own way.

ChimneySwiftMichaelVeltriSwifts look much like hummingbirds. They are a lot less colorful. Some look like cigars with wings. Those wings bear much the same shape as hummingbirds, only swifts can’t fly backwards. They do fly forwards at immense speeds. Swifts are also known to fly all day long plucking insect food from the air. At night many of them converge over a cave or a chimney in swirling clouds, then swoop down to perch for the night with their tiny feet clutching the surface on which they sleep.

DSC_5945-1On the other bird bookend are kingfishers, which like hummingbirds can fly in one place by hovering. This ability lets them hang over the water while fishing. They often fly to a position over the water, hover for a few seconds eyeing their prey and plunge into the water.

Living large as tiny birds

Between these two kinds of birds lie the many species of colorful hummingbirds. In America these range in size from the diminutively proportioned Lucifer Hummingbird (3.5”) all the way up to the Magnificent Hummingbird (5”). There are nearly 20 species of hummingbirds found in the United States alone. Many more types and their close relatives live in the tropics.

If we ask some simple questions as to why there aren’t even more hummingbirds in the United States we find the answer is simple. Hummingbirds depend on a certain sort of environment to survive. This is a life and death proposition. Almost every winter here in Illinois we find a variety of hummingbird visiting our region from the southwest. A bird will get attached to a hummingbird feeder and never leave when the weather gets cold. They can survive fairly well because they go into a state of torpidity overnight when the temperature drops.

Sooner or later these wayward hummingbirds are either forced to leave or die somewhere in the cold. That’s because they are not naturally adapted to surviving in such cold conditions. Many species of hummingbirds prefer the desert where it’s hot all day and cool at night. That lets them feed aggressively and then sleep it off when it cools down overnight.

Defined existence

If there weren’t such needs hummingbirds could exist anywhere their whims might take then. And that’s how nature works. Sometimes birds and other creatures launch off from their ideal environments for new environs. If enough of them go together and they manage to breed, a new population might form and their range expands.

But that’s the exception rather than the rule. It’s hard enough sometimes for hummingbirds to even accomplish what they need to survive. Many species launch off in flight from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and travel several hundred miles to Texas across the Gulf of Mexico. If the winds stay favorable they make it. If they don’t an entire flock can grow exhausted and perish in the water.

Tiny losses add up to big effects

One might be tempted to ask a classically moral question about such an event. How could God allow such beautiful, tiny creatures to die in such an ignominious, useless way?

IMG_0130Well, we’ve seen that hummingbirds have special adaptations that allow them to survive. We’ve seen that they fill a continuum in the types of birds we find in the world. We understand that hummingbirds also depend on certain environmental conditions to survive. They need the right food, and frequently. All these factors determine how and where hummingbirds are able to live. They also determine whether they live to breed again, or die as a species.

Millions of types of living things have come and gone on the planet earth. 99% of all living things that ever existed on planet earth are now extinct. They died off. God mourned none of them apparently.

Learning from mistakes

But we’ve studied those creatures and learned a few things about why animals do and don’t survive. We’ve also found extremely compelling evidence that the creatures that came before us and disappeared from the earth were connected both morphologically IMG_0169and genetically to the living things we find around us today. Like hummingbirds, all living things are part of a continuum. We can only see a slice of that continuum in the present, yet even that slice is massively vast and diverse. We also now know that many of the creatures we call dinosaurs bore feathers like modern day birds. We can see the patterns and shapes of those feathers in fossils. In fact birds may be nothing more than dinosaurs still alive in the present.

Missing links

Painting by Christopher Cudworth of Chicago skyline with peregrine falcon.

Painting by Christopher Cudworth of Chicago skyline with peregrine falcon.

So the reason God allows beautiful things like hummingbirds to die in the ocean in the process of creation is that they represent the ultimately missing links in the common purpose of the Creator. That is, to continue the creative process against all other forces, God allows living things to come and go. Even our notions of “good” and “evil” fall well within this continuum. We impose these values on the processes of nature to help us understand them, but those values do not by nature define the acts and results of natural causes. They merely reflect them and our judgment of them. 

As human beings we find ourselves immersed in this continuum. Even the Bible recognizes this fact, branding human beings as little more than “leaves of grass.” We are dust to dust. Part of a continuum. 

Message of hope

Yet the message of hope in the Bible is that we can find meaning in life by identifying with the purpose of the creator. Our contributions to human society and this world help define what we call the Kingdom of God. Amongst humans––and as defined by the emotional states of hate and love we conceive as sentient creatures––there is a moral code. 

That’s what God expects us to understand. A hummingbird is an expression of the creative force running through all things. Whatever we must do, and however we can conceive its complexity and seemingly miraculous features is our duty to understand its the best way we can. That is part of our best hope. 

Grace appreciated

In fact we may not fully appreciate the creative power of God if we do not also recognize the science that so clearly outlines an apparently chaotic universe governed by physical laws. In that model we can better comprehend the free will and grace of existence that comes with it. We are related to these living things all around us in creative and moral foundation. The methods by which these living things come to exist are wondrous. Science reveals these miracles in manifold ways.

Those who blame science for undermining God fail to grasp an important point. Through evidence in all of scripture, God seems to care far less about how we got where we are in life than what we do with this life we’ve been given. We might start by showing a little more respect for creation, lest it show that much respect toward us. Because that’s how it all works.

Coming to grips with life in the aggregate

By Christopher Cudworth

A closeup of an aggregate substance.

A closeup of an aggregate substance.

People of faith are accustomed to thinking of their God as their Rock, the solid foundation of their being. 

However so much of the world exists in aggregate that to appreciate its complexity requires a bit more thought to appreciate. 

Bending down to examine some concrete or asphalt along a public street, one finds our highways are not in fact solid in construction. Millions upon millions of smaller rocks are fused together to form the path on which we trod, ride, run or drive. We mash these pieces together to create a greater whole. Then we use oil and other binding material in hopes that our roads will last a long while. 

But of course they deteriorate eventually. Come apart. Get potholes. Everything made by the human race seems destined to such a fate.

Yet so, it turns out, is everything made by God. The earth and all of the universe is in a constant change of decomposition, change and reformation. Even the mighty mountains and largest rocks in the world eventually turn into sand. 

Some people believe that is the only direction in which change can move, toward destruction. Their worldview sees a perfect beginning and from there, the inevitable charge toward the end of all things and all time. They cannot imagine and choose not to believe that life could have come forward out of chaos. They demand the inference of a creator, a designer, a being that produced all beings. 

There is no lack of evidence. That could be true. But there is no proof. So we must explain it some other way, in practical terms, so that we can be good stewards of all that we survey here on earth. And that is where an appreciation for the aggregate must enter the picture. 

Our role in the aggregate

As one of the so-called higher life forms on earth, human beings play an important role in interpreting the past and determining the future of the planet.

At the most foundational level in terms of human behavior, people of faith consider our souls to be an intact part of their being. Yet it is quite hard to argue that our bodies, the temple for the spirit, are and were not assembled through an aggregation of cellular activity. We depend on DNA and an incredibly fine-tuned yet chaotic universe to contribute the materials from which we are made. It all gets organized through chemical reactions and what we call fertile conditions for life. We evolved from those conditions. They do not randomly happen to support our needs. 

We could not have evolved without oxygen. Life developed in concert with that element and all of life depends on it, with bold exception. Plants reverse the process, taking in carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen vital for all life other life forms. It was a small aggregate that began it all, yet it was an aggregation all the same. One still fills the need of another. 


All aggregations are symbiotic. That is, they depend on each other for survival. The stones that form the foundation for the cement do not hold together without some substrate, Portland cement for example, to bind them together. So it is with all forms of life and all things on earth. The aggregate is the true foundation of all things, which depend on relationships however dead or alive, for survival. 

Even the Bible, the Word of God, is more powerful and strong as an aggregate work of literature than it would be if all its books and words were forced to stand on their own. One cannot comprehend the meaning of Jesus Christ without the aggregate history and acts of his prophetic predecessors. The fact that Christ arrived to bring a new law is only comprehensible if you know the original laws he deigned to improve upon. His arrival was the aggregate of all the prophets and leaders who came before, from Adam and Eve to Abraham to David. All of history is an aggregation of events. We can yank out its parts but to properly understand them we must put them back in place to see how they fit, and where. 

The mark of man is sometimes used to dictate what we should believe about the aggregate.

The mark of man is sometimes used to dictate what we should believe about the aggregate.

The meaning of aggregation

What does it all mean, this aggregation? It means that forcing our imprint upon the cement can only fix a moment in time. It does not define the cement down the street, or anywhere around the world. It can help us understand the influence of man upon a moment, but it does not deliver any ultimatums. Even the 10 Commandments for all their reach and grasp in human values are not absolute. We still need to consider their meaning, measure their purpose and implement them in our lives. 

We know the difference between Thou Shalt Not Kill yet when wars come around, we find justice in the killing. 

We struggle knowing that the bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil, yet when used for charity or grace, money can be the greatest expression of love that there is. 

And when we hear people say that the world was created in seven days, it is tempting to think that those seven days were similar to the length of the days we now know. Yet the bible also uses the terms “day” and “ages” to loosely describe the aggregate sense that a day as we conceive it can also be an expression of awareness, not just a literal 24. When we describe ourselves as having embarked on a “new day” we certainly do not hope for a mere 24 hours of revelation or enlightenment. We hope our new day lasts forever. And ever. And ever. 

All of time and being and evolution are an aggregate expression of all that went before. And all that will be. What pain the Lord himself must feel when we do not attempt to understand these things as the whole of creation and limit ourselves to a surface take on what lies before us. 

Even the scales that form the pattern on a butterflies wings function as an aggregate, evolved through time to deliver a broad range of benefits from camouflage to sexual expression to protection from the elements. An aggregate creature.

Even the scales that form the pattern on a butterflies wings function as an aggregate, evolved through time to deliver a broad range of benefits from camouflage to sexual expression to protection from the elements. An aggregate creature.

The aggregate shared

We have evolved as individuals, yet composed of many aggregate organs and body parts whose development was forged in earlier iterations, our ancestors. We share our DNA with all living things on earth. Some more than others, but that is to be expected. They are simply different aggregates, evolved to perform different functions in the great aggregation that is nature. Many have also been lost to time. 99% of all forms of living things that once existed are now extinct. We still see that happening today. We see evidence of the past in the aggregate fossils found on the surface and deep within the layers of the earth. Sedimentary rock forms so much of the earth’s crust, formed by ancient seas and the massive depositions of life that turned into little more than mere patterns in the rock. But what a story they tell. 

To put a fine and human line on all this aggregation, and its role for people of faith, there is even a direct relationship between the words aggregation and congregation. The body of Christ, as expressed through the church, is most certainly an aggregate. We are all fused together as part of that body. It holds together so long as the cement of our being, that is love, is kept intact. 

Minus that binding element, the aggregate dissolves. Fraught by infighting, jealousy and fractional power-mongering, even the aggregate body of Christ will dissolve in time. 

Whether you are on the side of the aggregate or trying to force some wedge into the body of Christ with literal force and fearful desires for wealth or power is something everyone has to determine for themselves. The evidence of these divides is all around us. Whose side are you on, upholding the aggregate or splitting the perceived rock of your salvation for your own benefit? 

The Genesis Fix.

The Genesis Fix. A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age.