Friday, August 14, 2009

Metamorphosis Miracle

Recently another example of a “teachable moment” for young people presented itself. Our young grandchildren had visited their uncle and aunt for a few days. They were being delivered to our home for the next leg of the journey to their parents on the following day. A few miles from our home, our son called to explain why they would be a little late. They had stopped to search for milkweed caterpillars. Our grandchildren have become fascinated with the metamorphosis of monarch butterflies. This was just a continuation of the fun. Check our last post on this topic:

When they arrived, we were given one of the several milkweed leaves they had collected which bore one tiny white sphere they suspected might be a monarch butterfly egg. A check of the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies revealed that such eggs would be 1.2 X 0.9 mm, pale green, ribbed, and pitted…shaped like a lemon with flat base. Seeing these characteristics was far under the capability of our eyesight, but not our magnifier. We had struck paydirt. Our granddaughter insisted on giving us one of the leaves. I accepted it without much assurance that anything would happen.

In the next few days the leaf became brittle and crisp. I checked it periodically, but without much confidence. Four days later, however, an incredibly tiny larva emerged. As I write, our pet “cattie” has increased its size ten-fold in only two days and seems on track to fulfill all the potential of second stage metamorphosis. In my decades of monarch propagating, I’d never had the patience to track down stage one.

Who could fail to see the value of such an incident as an example of a child’s “teachable moment"? Rare is the child who could not be made to understand and become excited by this mind-boggling sequence of events. Children are able to contemplate the beauty, design, functionality, and fulfillment of egg to larva to pupa to adult, not to mention thousands of other processes in nature both in the biological world and in the physical realm.

Young people are able to understand cause and effect at an early age. They grasp principles of design and the actions of a designer. They can understand that order is not accidental. This knowledge prepares them for the teaching onslaught of naturalistic evolution which permeates our culture. It also helps them grasp the absurdity of molecules-to-man evolution as an undirected process producing the complex designs and functions of living things on this earth.

Parents, Christian educators, and preachers should be warned that this type of apologetic is not easily achieved. Time and effort are required, just as it takes time and effort to pursue and present any rational theological instruction. Properly interpreted science reinforces theological studies for children as well as adults. Likewise, good theology supports good science. We must not neglect either one.

Sequel to this story: This special monarch entered our home as a tiny egg on a leaf August 8, hatched into a tiny caterpillar August 12, became a chrysalis on August 29, and finally, hatched into a beautiful butterfly and flew off on September 8. Bon voyage!