Bird Brains, an Amazing Evidence of God’s Genius:
Sometimes the Logic of Bird Brains Puts Humans to Shame
by Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Bird Brains, an Amazing Evidence of God’s Genius: Sometimes the Logic of Bird Brains Puts Humans to Shame by Dr. James J. S. Johnson Bird brains, in scientific fact, are amazingly logical and capable of computing power well beyond the best super-computers invented by humans.¹ This is illustrated in the behavior of all birds, — but only mallards, dark-eyed juncos (what Audubon called “snowbirds”), and a blue jay will be noted here. What began as a simple sunflower “picnic” ended with a life lesson.
Years ago I scattered sunflower seeds in my backyard, hoping that local sparrows and wintering juncos would enjoy eating them (as I would enjoy watching from my patio).² The predictable occurred, a few sunflowers grew up, sunward, and eventually they provided a “plateful” of seeds for birds that like sunflower seeds to eat. So I scattered more sunflower seeds, in hopes of a bigger crop the next year. Juncos and sparrows scurried to eat these seeds.
But one day, to my disgust, a “bully” blue-jay invaded this happy picnic, attacking the littler birds, scaring them into hiding in nearby bushes (until the blue-jay finished gorging himself with sunflower seeds).³ What a disappointing interruption to the sunflower “picnic”!
The next day I was ready for the “bully”. When he attacked, and the little songbirds fled, I doused him with a geyser-like blast of water from my son’s “Super Soaker” — and the bully bird fled! The following day was a rerun: songbirds feast, blue-jay attacks, songbirds flee, blue-jay is sprayed by Super Soaker, it’s blue-jay’s turn to flee, then songbirds return to picnic.
But it was the next day that I will never forget.
The sunflower seed picnic began, as before, then the “bully” blue-jay flew in to attack. This time the sparrows and juncos looked toward me (on the patio, brandishing the Super Soaker) — and they continued to eat, trustingly, obviously confident that I would blast their attacker with water! So I quickly did, praying for accuracy. (How could I let them down?)
How quickly the little songbirds recognized the human version of “providential” care, and they acted with logical confidence as they trusted that protective care. Yet God’s providential care for us is infinitely better, qualitatively and quantitatively, than the pressurized watery “doses” of protective care that those birds trusted. Bird brains are quick to learn.
Other examples could be given. At a nearby pond, Drew (my son) and I habitually fed bread-crumbs to the ducks (mallards year-round, plus scaups and widgeons during winter). One day we were behind schedule, so we drove past the pond, to our home a few blocks beyond the pond (with other houses blocking the line of sight from our house to the pond). When we arrived at our mailbox, our front yard was occupied: squawking mallards congregated on the front lawn, reminding us that we failed to feed them as usual! Even ducks recognize the sources of their needed resources. Bird brains can remember and react quickly to real problems!
Worldwide, more amazing examples occur, in migration, bird family life activities, and in proven cases of avian learning. In short, bird brains, in a, innumerable multitude of contexts, display an entire “world” of intelligence (if not a veritable “galaxy”).
Contrastingly, human brains, although often capable of amazing intelligence, are all-too-often famous for corrupted reasoning. Tragically, corrupted reasoning in humans even displays in corruptions so extreme that the phrase “reprobate mind” snugly fits. But how can mankind, the creature with supposedly the highest level of intelligence, have such corrupted reason (and thus behave so stupidly4)? And why? It all starts with rejecting the basic truth that we are created by a holy Creator. When straining to avoid acknowledging our holy Creator, human brains display what the Bible calls a “reprobate mind”. Yet how does this happen, and why? When humans “choke” on the idea of acknowledging the providence of our Creator, they are “disapproving” the proof of God’s Creatorship. The consequence for this is severe: God gives such skeptics over to a “reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28). There is a logical connection between disapproving God’s Creatorship and being abandoned to a “reprobate mind”. That logical connection is rooted in a N.T. Greek verb, dokeô, because two words in Romans 1:28 derive from that verb:
And even as they did not like to retain [ouk edokimasan, literally “did not approve”] God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate [adokimon, literally “unapproving”] mind, to do those things which are not convenient.
The common root verb, dokeô, means “to approve”, i.e., to accept the proof of. In English we have the related words “prove”, “proof”, “probate”, “probative”, “approve”, “approbate”, etc., — to denote the two-step process of (1) considering the available evidence, and (2) accepting the truth of whatever the reliable evidence shows. These English words, like the Greek verb dokeô (and its related words), point to mankind’s mental ability to reasonably recognize and weigh evidence, using analytical logic, for arriving at sound evaluations. But this ability to reasonably evaluate can be damaged, and it is damaged whenever the proof of God’s Creatorship is irrationally disapproved. Thus, a “reprobate mind” is one that can’t discern what is right.
The tragic and even terrible reality is that being “given over” to a “reprobate mind” is a punishment for rejecting truth. It is not a punishment that follows death; it is a punishment in the here-and-now. This “mental leprosy” loses the ability to recognize true information, even to the point of self-destruction. The “reprobate mind” judgment involves losing the ability to analyze what is true and good, so truth is exchanged for a lie, good is exchanged for evil.
So, do the humans who reverence pond-scum, as our supposed “common ancestor”, have a right to belittle bird brains? Not at all!
When you think of God, take a lesson from the birds: recognize Who really cares for you, know Whom to trust, and be quick to take actions that demonstrate truly logical thinking. Sometimes bird brains simply put us humans to shame.5
¹ Werner Gitt & Karl-Heinz Vanheiden, If Animals Could Talk (Master Books, 2006); Bill Mehlert, “Birdbrains?”, Creation Ex Nihilo, 21(4):51 (September 1999); Jobe Martin, Evolution of A Creationist (BDM, 1996); Bill Cooper, ed., Paley’s Watchmaker (New Wine Press, 1997), page 42; James J. S. Johnson, “Providential Planting: The Pinyon Jay”, Creation Ex Nihilo, 19(3):24-25 (June 1997).
² Not all birders are worship-the-earth evolutionists. Mrs. Thelma Bumgardner, a public schoolteacher, taught me in 2nd grade that Biblical creation was true and evolution was a lie, as she gave me my first bird-book, which I still have. That initiation to creationist ornithology was revived, after years of evolutionist indoctrination, by a young-earth-creationist youth pastor, Bob Webel. This article thus shows another lesson: respecting God’s Creatorship is a proper use of reason, and it can be taught.
³ David Shaw, “The Good, the Bad, and the Jays”, Birds & Blooms (August/September 2009), page 35 (“Blue Jay … This species has a well-deserved reputation as a bully. They are notorious for chasing other birds from feeders and then gobbling as much as they can hold before moving off and allowing the other species to return”).
4 Steve Farrar, How to Ruin your Life by 40 (Moody, 2006), esp. at page 137.
5 James J. S. Johnson, “A Lesson from the Stork”, Days of Praise (8-22-2008). email@example.com
(Dr. James J. S. Johnson offered this article as a guest author. Jim is now both a follower and a contributing author this blog. Thanks, for letting us use this great information and inspiration.)
More by Dr. James J. S. Johnson:
Lovely, lovely lessons here! Thank you Dr. Johnson!
By the way, my first thought after they finally flew away was, “I’ll have to ask Lee if this is normal, or what?”
I am no expert, but thanks for the thought.There are several birds that do that. Chimney Swifts are known to fly like that before landing for the night.
I love sunflowers and bluejays. Those two pictures alone are worth coming over here for. But I have a question. I was on my way to my dentist today (which is why I’m running behind on the next chapter of Quiver), and since it’s almost an hour’s drive through back country, I see a lot of wildlife, birds, etc. But I noticed something this morning I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.
A whole covey of birds — they looked like regular blackbirds to me, but I could be wrong — were sitting/feeding in a small field along the highway. Suddenly they all flew up en masse and swept across the road. Then they doubled back still in the same format and few back across the road, but once across, they began to sort of swirl in flight until they had formed a sort of cylinder in the air. It’s hard to describe. They kept the same distance between them and were in flight as a group, all moving in the same direction, but it was actually the cylinder of birds that was moving in a specific direction, because the individual birds were whirling with each other to keep the cylinder shape.
Does my description make sense? This whole cylinder of birds moved as a whole unit. It almost makes me think of that scripture in Ezekiel when the prophet saw what he described as a “wheel within a wheel.” I’ve never seen birds fly like that, and I wondered if you know whether it’s a common thing, and I’ve just been unobservant — or is it truly an unusual phenomenon?
Check out these YouTubes. Not sure what you saw, but these are Starlings.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eakKfY5aHmY -Really Good music too.
Thanks for these. As soon as I get my chapter posted, I’ll check them out. They may have been Starlings. We do seem to have a lot of them around here, but since I was driving, and I wasn’t close, the only thing I could say for sure is that they were mostly black in color and definitely bigger than sparrows.