"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:26, 27). Mankind has been fascinated with the form and function of the human body from the very beginning. For beauty and sheer simplicity of line, it is unmatched. As a machine, the human body is the pinnacle of God's work, formed on the sixth day of Creation, after which God declared, "It is very good."
Chemically, the body is unequaled for complexity. Each one of its 30 trillion cells is a mini chemical factory that performs about 10,000 chemical functions. And every cell has 1012 (1 trillion) bits of data—equal to every letter in 4 million books! Each one also replaces itself every seven years. Each one is independent, yet cooperates with mil lions of other cells.
Even though there are over 4 billion people alive today, each body is exorbitantly expensive (and about 50 billion humans have been born since Adam). If its organic chemicals were bought on the open market, a medium-sized human body would cost at least $6 million.
The body's billions of parts all work together as a team—its 206 bones provide the framework, and its 639 muscles enable it to move with incredible split-second timing. Its skill of balance is such that we can perform feats of acrobatics and yet have such strength that human weight-lifting feats abound. Even demonstrations of incredible strength by normal people under adversity are common in medical records. Mrs. Maxwell Rogers once lifted the end of a 3,600-pound car. The jack holding it up had collapsed, and the car had fallen on her son.
The strength of the developed human body is phenomenal. Paul Anderson, of Toccoa, Georgia, lifted three tons (6,- 270 pounds) of dead weight in a back lift. For years he was called the strongest man on earth. He was also the first man in history who could press a barbell of 400 pounds. The record for this feat is now held by Leonid Zhabotinsky, of the U.S.S.R., who pressed 482 pounds. Man is made in the image of God, and one of God's titles is strength (1 Sam. 15:29).
Our body is controlled and coordinated by over 16 billion neurons and 120 trillion "connection boxes" packed together into an unfathomably complex set of neuropassageways. The system is much like a modern nation, interconnected by billions of telephone wires. All of this in a brain and spinal column that weighs slightly over three pounds! In comparison, a bee has only about 900 nerve cells, an ant only 250. In the large-gauge fibers, nerve impulses flash along at more than 200 miles per hour. All told, the human brain and nervous system is the most complex arrangement of matter anywhere in the universe. The whole body system functions as a unified whole to enable a human to run, sing, remember, create, and achieve the myriads of other phenomenal tasks we usually take for granted.
We are incredibly complicated in other ways as well. The adjectives in an unabridged dictionary that refer to human dispositions number a staggering 17,958. All of these words describe ways in which individuals can potentially categorize themselves—brave, kindly, liberal, powerful—the list seems endless. When the possible behavioral tendencies, talents, abilities, tastes, interests, attitudes, and values—such as enjoying stamp collecting, travel, music, or even one's inner thoughts and feelings—are added to the list, an almost infinite number is produced. One scientist estimated that our brain, on the average, processes over 10,000 thoughts and concepts each day and some people process a much greater number.
Athletic feats amaze millions, but the human voice captures our hearts and minds even more. All cultures have their music, and singing praises to the glory of God is a prominent part of almost every worship service. Some of the most beautiful music in history was composed to glorify our Maker. Paul said to keep "singing and making melody ... to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). And the most beautiful voices in history have sung music to the Lord in the wide range of notes that the human voice can produce. The highest note on record sung by the normal voice is C#4; the lowest is Great Ek The normal human voice can be heard as far away as 200 yards, although practice has enabled it to carry as far as six miles.
Words are formed by the vocal cords producing a wide range of sounds, which, in turn, are modified by the tongue, teeth, lips, and movement of the cheeks. The English language contains well over a million words, although the average person knows only about 50,- 000. The voice system, although able to produce hundreds of billions of unique and different words, speaks an average of only 4,800 daily.
The body also conveys information much as words do. With the eyes, lips, and movements of the face muscles, over 4,000 different messages, all of which can be silently communicated by our face, have been cataloged. Fear, anger, happiness, and concern are just a few of these messages that we convey to each other many times every day.
The human ear, with its 24,000 "hair cells," which convert vibrations to electrical impulses, is capable of hearing sounds of astonishingly low-level acoustic energy. Under favorable conditions a normal person may actually perceive sound waves with the power of only 10'16 (1/10,000,000,000,000,000) of a watt. This is so little energy that if our ears were slightly more sensitive, we could actually hear the noise of the collision of molecules in the air.
Looking at the eye, we find that the amount of radiation (light energy) necessary to stimulate the human optic nerve is so small that if the mechanical energy required to lift a single pea one inch were converted into light energy, it would provide enough stimulus to activate the optic nerve!
To work this marvelous machine, we need energy and building materials. Our three and one-half pounds of daily food intake is chewed by 32 teeth (one of our most precious possessions) and mixed by saliva, a mild digestant secreted from glands located in the mouth area. After food has gone down the esophagus, digestion continues in the stomach, an amazing organ that must dissolve food and yet not dissolve itself. The acid in it would eat the varnish off a kitchen table in seconds. If this precarious balance is lost, ulcers (in which the stomach digests itself) result. The food then moves into the small intestine, a 20-foot tube that transfers vitamins and minerals from the food into the bloodstream, then through the five-foot-long large intestine, which absorbs water and other liquids. These, then, are the components of the 35- to 40-foot alimentary canal.
For eating and in between, the aver age person swallows about 2,000 times every 24 hours. Our heart beats over 100,000 times daily to move blood 168 million miles around our body. We take about 23,800 breaths per day to bring about 438 cubic feet of air to our lungs. The airways to the lungs are lined with glands that secrete a sticky mucous film. The mucus acts like flypaper, catching germs and dust so they can be swept away by cilia, thousands of microscopic hairs that move back and forth 12 times a second. They move faster when they sweep toward the throat than when they move toward the lungs, pushing the thousands of bacteria and dirt particles in the system toward the throat where they are harmless.
The air passes through the trachea into the lungs, whose purpose is to exchange gases—taking into the body life-giving oxygen and removing carbon dioxide and other waste products of body metabolism. This process is done by over 750 million microscopic air sacs called alveoli. If spread flat, they would cover over 600 square feet, a surface area some 25 times greater than that of the skin.
The body has a remarkable and complex system to keep its temperature at about 98.6° F. Humans, though, have been known to survive at abnormally low temperatures for long periods of time. Dorothy May Stephens experienced an internal temperature drop to 64-4° F.— more than 34 degrees below normal. She was found unconscious one winter morning in 1951. Mrs. Stephens survived only because of the adaptability of the body and the heroic efforts of the hospital. The record, however, is held by 2-year-old Vickie Davis, who in 1956 was found unconscious with an internal temperature of 60.8° F. and survived!
These extremes illustrate only the ability of the body to survive—it has an incredibly efficient system that almost always keeps the temperature within extremely narrow parameters and normally experiences less than a degree of variation. Controlled by the hypothalamus, part of the brain, the body is cooled by secretions of liquids from the body's approximately 2 million sweat glands. Sweating is a remarkably efficient and an essential means of fine-tuning the body's temperature. The evaporation of sweat causes cooling, a process that goes on constantly. The body works by oxidation (burning, liter ally), and burning food requires oxygen, as do all fires. For this reason we breathe. As in all fires, heat is given off. Perspiration in the form of vapor, called insensible perspiration, is used to cool the body and control the hair-breadth temperature adjustments. The result is about a quart of fluids secreted daily. When we are cold, the problem is mostly that too much heat is being lost. We often reduce the heat loss by putting on something warm to keep the body's heat in. The body generates enough heat so we can normally stay quite warm, even if the air around us is — 50° F. Only if the loss is faster than the gain do we feel cold.
To convey information about temperature and other body conditions to the brain, the skin alone has about 4 million structures that are sensitive to pain. In addition, it has about 500,000 sensitive to touch and 200,000 to temperature. These "report stations" keep the brain attuned to conditions all over the body. It is an elaborate "spy" network without parallel in the manmade world.
Some people say that all of this "just happened" through mistakes in reproduction (mutations), and the very few beneficial ones were accumulated by "natural selection" and chance. Yet, the more we learn about the body, the more we realize that there is much more yet to be discovered. One could spend a lifetime studying a single organ or organ system (and many people do). Thus we have cardiologists, hematologists, urologists, proctologists, gynecologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, et cetera. We are indeed, as Psalm 139:14 states, "fearfully and wonderfully made," and God's creation is worthy of praise.