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Issue Features
Discovery Magazine 11/1/1999


The Panda's Thumb

About twenty years ago, a well-known evolutionist by the name of Dr. Stephen Gould wrote an article about the panda’s "thumb." This was something in nature, he felt, which showed that God couldn’t have designed the world and its inhabitants.

Pandas have five toes or digits on each foot. But the front paws have a sixth digit made from an enlarged wrist bone. Scientists call this the panda’s "thumb." That "thumb" worked, Dr. Gould admitted, but it was clumsy. In his opinion, it would win no prizes in a design competition. It was one of those "odd arrangements and funny solutions" we might expect from evolution, but not from God. We would expect something "clumsy" from natural processes working over millions of years, but not from an intelligent Being like God.

Funny, isn’t it, how we humans think we have everything figured out, and then we learn that we don’t. While Dr. Gould was writing about what he believed was the terribly poor design of the panda’s "thumb," and how it wouldn’t win any awards for good design, other scientists were performing important research on that very thumb. And what did their research show? The panda’s thumb now has been found to exhibit intricate design that is very important to the panda’s existence.

A book published by the world-famous San Diego Zoo said this: "In fact, the giant panda is one of the few large animals that can grab things as tightly as a human can." And a scientist named Dr. George Schaller said that the panda could use its "thumb" and first digit like a surgeon could use a pair of forceps. During a delicate operation, a doctor uses forceps to carefully and precisely grab hold of things.

Does it sound like the panda’s "thumb" is clumsy? Does the panda’s ability to grasp something tightly and with great precision seem to you an "odd arrangement" or "funny solution"? Hardly! The panda’s thumb is designed perfectly for holding on to bamboo shoots and stripping off the leaves. It works extremely well, and it has to, because pandas in the wild depend on bamboo to survive.

Who designed the panda’s "thumb"? Do you ever get a poem without a poet? Do you get a painting without a painter? Do you get a law without a lawgiver? Do you get design without a Designer? No. Everywhere we look in nature, it is possible to see God’s handiwork (Psalm 19:1; Psalm 139:14). Why, then, do people like Dr. Gouldnot see it? Do you think they can’t find God for the same reason a thief can’t find the policeman? Something to think about, isn’t it?



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