Creatures in the ocean dive deep every day. From turtles to whales, thousands of creatures take the long path from the waters surface to the bottom or close to bottom of the ocean every day, sometimes multiple times a day. If a human being were to make this trip, assuming they could hold their breath that long, they would not survive. Yet these creatures do it daily. This article will discuss recent research that attempts to explain how they do it, and attempt to explain the implications for the origins debate.
One of the great hazards of deep sea diving for those not not designed for it as whales and turtles are, is something known as decompression sickness. Known more commonly as the bends, decompression sickness is a product of the pressure changes that occur at depth. As an object descends deeper into the water, it is placed under ever increasing pressure. In the case of a human being or any other creature that breathes air, this causes atmospheric gases to dissolve in the bloodstream. When the creature or human rises to the surface, too quickly, these gases are suddenly not under as much pressure. This causes them to come out of the bloodstream which causes intense pain, particularly in the joints. In severe cases, it can be fatal, particularly when it occurs in the brain. If not treated properly and quickly, it can persist for extensive periods of time.
Marine creatures are not afflicted with the bends. Research coming out Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the United States is beginning to explain why. When a whale or turtle dives, their chests compress their lungs. This causes the areas in the lungs where gas exchange occurs, called alveoli, to collapse, making it harder to exchange gases, specifically nitrogen which is the primary causative agent of the bends. This causes nitrogen to build up in the bloodstream. A slow ascent would remove most of this nitrogen. Most marine creatures do not take the slow route to the surface. This should expose them to the painful experience of the bends. However, the design of these creatures lungs prevents that. Diving marine mammals, which were the focus of this study, have a sort of tiered lung system. One area will retain air, the other will not and thus be collapsed. What this does is prevent nitrogen re-absorption, while still permitting the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Essentially, because nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide have different solubility in the bloodstream, oxygen, which is more easily dissolved, continues to enter the bloodstream. Nitrogen, which is less soluble, remains trapped in the lungs, along with the carbon dioxide coming out of the bloodstream. This works because blood flow remains equal to both the collapsed and filled regions. If the blood flow were to change to the filled areas only, nitrogen would continue to be absorbed and the creatures would experience the bends. While not immune to the bends, animals with this system appear to largely miss out on the pain the bends causes.
This study compared its results in whales and porpoises with a terrestrial mammal, the common farm pig. The pigs lungs were found not to have the tiered lung system that makes deep sea diving possible for whales and porpoises. This makes it appear that whales, porpoises, and likely sea turtles, were designed to dive deep into the ocean.
The appearance of design leads to a problem for the evolutionary theory. Evolution denies design, as design implies a designer. Instead, it relies on a blind, random process without any foresight. However, this seems to fly in the face of the evidence provided by the fact that sea creatures do not get the bends. Consider what would have to happen for this to have evolved unguided. First a whale must have evolved, a massive feat in itself. Then multiple whales must have somehow evolved this tiered lung system, a system not found in land animals. The fact that the system is unique to deep diving creatures and is not found on land means it could not have been adapted from a previous use, but must have evolved after whales took to the water. Yet this seems very much like evolution knew that whales would need to dive to great depths in pursuit of food. If it did so, then it is no longer a random process and is now something akin to design. But a design requires a designer, which lets a “Divine foot in the door” as Richard Lewontin warned evolutionists against. This creates a problem because evolution must either accept that evolution is not blind, and thus requires a designer, or must ignore the evidence of said design. Most choose the latter alternative, which, though intellectually dishonest, keeps that pesky Divine foot out of the door.
Creationists have no problem with the whale lung being specially designed to handle depth. We accept that there is a designer, and we know Who He is, since He revealed Himself to us in His Word, the Bible. Since we accept a Designer, we have no problems accepting evidence of His design in creation.