Last night I was lounging in my TV chair when I became aware of an ant crawling across my left arm. Swat! Made quick work of her.* I’ve killed thousands of ants in my lifetime, not to mention pesky mosquitoes, spiders and other tiny critters. My record on flies is not very good; they’re usually too fast for me.
I went back to the TV program, but I couldn’t get that little ant out of my mind. It wasn’t a sentimental feeling, the way I might respond to the death of a cute puppy. It was based on the fact that I was a Biological Sciences major in college and had studied insect anatomy and physiology in my Invertebrate Zoology class. This is the image that came to my mind:
This little individual ant had a very complex body structure. She had organs that paralleled mine, including an elaborate digestive system and a fairly complex nervous system. She even had a heart that pumped blood and a brain that could sort out complex data quicker than a computer. Her legs were powered by striated muscle cells that were very similar to mine.
Her day began long before I was awake. Every movement from then on was designed to fulfill one goal: find food to support the colony and its queen. Her first interest in my arm was as a potential food source. If she were to bite me, it would have been a taste test. But, in fact, she was just using my body as a highway to some better possible food sources. Her six fast-moving legs tickled my arm, and she died for that offense.
As I thought about her and the similarities between us, my Biological-Sciences-tainted brain would not stop. It went microscopic, to the cells in every organ of our bodies, to the chromosomes in each individual cell, to the genes located on every chromosome and, finally, to the strands of twisted DNA that make up each particular gene, with thousands of code markers attached to them. In the ant, the DNA of each cell is identical, and that’s what makes her an ant.
The same is true in me. My DNA is unique to me, and every cell in my body carries the exact same DNA strands. (You can watch CSI on TV and learn about this from forensic science). If you were to analyze my DNA and compare it with the ant’s DNA, you would find they were about 60% the same. The other 40% is what makes me human, as well as bigger than her and (hopefully) smarter than her. But we have much more in common than we usually realize.
As all of this sank in, I couldn’t help but quote the Scripture, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)
My little ant friend revived long enough to echo in her unique ant voice, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
— Pastor George Van Alstine
*All worker ants are genetically female. Just being politically correct.