Bible Was Right #529: Springs of the Sea
Long before scientists discovered the springs of the sea, God told Job about them.
Only 40 years ago, J. B. Corliss found the first hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the sea near the Galapagos Islands. Nature recounts the anniversary of that surprise, and the concurrent discovery of complete ecosystems around the hot springs, thriving in total darkness.
Four decades have passed since vibrant clusters of giant, metre-long tubeworms, discovered at hot springs on the ocean floor by Corliss et al., were reported in Science. Until then, the ocean floor was considered to be more like a desert than an oasis.
Corliss and colleagues didn’t discover underwater hot springs by accident; rather, they were trying to discover whether the hypothesis that such sites existed was correct. Theories on the movements of tectonic plates had set the course for this discovery with the idea that the mountain ranges that girdle the globe on the ocean floor, called spreading centres, are volcanic sites at the boundaries of tectonic plates. A key clue to the existence of underwater hot springs was the unexpectedly low conductive heat flux in the ocean’s crust. Convective heat flow through hot springs could solve the riddle of this missing heat. Warm-water anomalies documented above a spreading centre called Galapagos Ridge guided Corliss et al. to the site at which they discovered underwater hot springs (also called hydrothermal vents).
Finding these hot springs was in itself an incredible breakthrough. But what really turned deep-sea science upside down were the unexpected oases of life bathed by those warm waters. During the discovery dive in the submersible vehicle Alvin, geologist Jack Corliss called up to the crew on the surface ship from his position 2.5 kilometres below to ask, “Isn’t the deep ocean supposed to be like a desert?” “Yes,” was the reply. “Well, there’s all these animals down here”, he responded….
The discovery has led to multi-disciplinary investigations, involving geologists, ecologists and biochemists. Some evolutionists speculate that life originated in hydrothermal vents. The article by Cindy Lee Van Dover notes some surprising aspects of these vents:
Soon after the initial discoveries at the Galapagos site, a different type of hot spring called a black smoker — which emits metal-rich hydrothermal fluids — was found at another ocean-floor site. Hot-spring ecosystems (Fig. 1) have now been found on sea-floor spreading centres throughout the world. They exist as 1,000 or more submarine oases, strung like minute pearls along the spreading centres. Although numerous, they are a rare habitat in terms of their total area — together, they might all fit on the island of Manhattan, with room to spare. They are ephemeral habitats, too, lasting for years to decades, or possibly centuries, depending on the geological setting. This raises the question of how the invertebrate populations are maintained, and the nature of the biogeographic barriers between populations at hot springs. The life cycles of nearly all invertebrates living in underwater hot springs includes a larval stage that disperses in the water column. Larval ecology, population connectivity, and oceanographic barriers and transport routes are key topics of current research.
This implies that the springs open up before life finds them; the life does not ‘evolve’ there. It also implies that organisms, with their larval stages, have amazing abilities to travel long distances in complete darkness, and to sense the heat, in order to colonize newly-formed vents.
Another surprise was the diversity of life found at vents: worms, crabs, shrimp, spiders, fish, snails and even octopuses. Their adaptations to these locations at the border of extreme heat and frigid cold surprise biologists. How can life even exist down there?
Surprising species and astonishing biological adaptations continue to come to light. Pompeii worms (Alvinella pompejana) live at temperatures as high as 42 °C. These are among the most extreme temperatures endured by any multicellular animal on Earth. The worms challenge us to understand how the proteins in the animals’ bodies are protected from melting. Microorganisms termed Archaea can grow at 121 °C, which is the hottest life known on Earth. ‘Blind’ shrimp (Rimicaris exoculata) sport highly derived ‘eyes’ that are inferred to detect gradients of dim light emitted by the 350 °C fluids of black smokers, which might help the shrimp to avoid being ‘cooked’ by the heat. Yeti crabs (Kiwa tyleri) have hairy claws and legs that might aid them in farming bacteria for nourishment. Scaly-foot snails (Chrysomallon squamiferum) creep on ‘feet’ protected by metal scales of a type not found in other living or fossil molluscs, and offer an inspiration for the design of material for armour.
Thousands of years ago, possibly before Abraham, the righteous man Job was quizzed on science by the Lord God, creator of the heavens and the earth—including oceans. In the 77-question oral exam, designed to show Job how much he lacked in wisdom and knowledge compared to his Maker, God asked him:
16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.
19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
and where is the place of darkness,
20 that you may take it to its territory
and that you may discern the paths to its home? (Job 38:16-20)
Four millennia would pass before men could witness what God told Job about (cf. 9 Dec 2005). They shouldn’t have been surprised. In fact, they could have used this passage as an inspiration to build submarines sooner in order to investigate. In the 19th century, Matthew Fontaine Maury used Psalm 8:8, which mentions “the paths of the seas,” to investigate currents in the oceans. Thus he founded the science of oceanography, saving ocean-going vessels tremendous time and energy navigating around the world by taking advantage of these natural pathways hinted at by the Bible.
The passage in Job 38-41 does not imply that humans would never investigate the phenomena known only to God at the time Job lived. In fact, many of them have been discovered and used since then. The passage was intended to show the manifest wisdom and knowledge of God to Job, so that he could have confidence that the Lord knew what he was doing by allowing Job to suffer. God spoke to Job in language he could understand, not in scientific jargon. Job knew about “springs” but would not have understood “hydrothermal vents.” Maybe Job puzzled about the thought: “Why does the sea, a watery place, need springs?” God knew that these “recesses of the deep” help regulate the temperature of the earth from plate tectonics. The “missing heat” was a clue that led Corliss to go look. Proverbs 25:2 grants encouragement to man to investigate nature: “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”
The passage in Job could also be taken as an incentive to investigate all the phenomena in the passage – from lightning to the stars to the flight of the eagle – so that we could appreciate creation all the more. The response should be not that we are somehow catching up to God in knowledge, but rather that we begin to fathom even more deeply what He designed. We may have “entered into the springs of the sea” by means of submersible vehicles, but we haven’t “walked in the recesses of the deep” which would mean instant death to our frail bodies designed for land. God, being omnipresent, is not so restricted.
Think about the fact that God talked about things thousands of years ago that science is just finding out in our lifetimes! Amazing. We still need to contemplate the wisdom and power of the Almighty. In the book of revelation, right before God’s judgment falls on the rebellious world, a mighty angel calls out to the Earth to stand in awe of God:
And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:7)
Implicit in this message is the point that failure to fear God and give him glory for His creation is the reason for the terrible judgment at Armageddon that follows.
Project: Read Job 38-41 looking for other phenomena that could be investigated by science. Is there anything else that scientists do not yet know about that might lead to great discoveries with practical applications? Consider Job 38:35 in the context of electronic communications, sending email through electromagnetic waves across space: “Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?” See a great example of this in Illustra Media’s short video, Merry Christmas from the Moon.