Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why Did God Give Us Fingerprints?

Have you ever wondered why we have fingerprints, palm prints and toe prints? God must have had a reason. I am certain God designed every part of our bodies for a purpose, even if scientists can’t figure it out. As the Psalmist puts it:

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something” (Psalm 139: 13-15, The Message).

It used to be that scientists and doctors thought that tonsils and the appendix were useless body parts that could be surgically removed without consequence because they didn’t do anything. Well, it turns out they do serve a purpose: they’re part of the body’s immune system. God knew what He was doing, but it took researchers millennia to figure it out.

That brings us to fingerprints. Why do we have them?

Because they make a lasting impression? You leave fingerprints on everything you touch. This is how one person explains it:

“Since your fingers are covered in skin, they are also covered in skin pores. Skin pores produce oils and sweat, which are distributed on your fingers. When you touch something, those liquids are left on the surface, in the shape of your fingerprints. … It’s those compounds that can be detected by forensic technicians.”

Sometimes your prints are visible, especially if your fingers are dirty. Other times, the prints are latent (invisible to the naked eye). It depends on the condition of your hands (whether they’re dirty or sweaty) and the type of surface. You can also leave a molded print if you grab something squishy like putty, soap, or cheese.

Fingerprints never change, even as people age. One source points out that “superficial burns, cuts and scrapes do not affect fingerprints as the original pattern is maintained when the new skin grows.”

Can you lose your fingerprints? Well, it’s possible, but highly unlikely. Severe injury (like a burn), surgery, chronic skin diseases, and some cancer drugs can alter fingerprints. These all cause so much damage to the skin on the fingertips that the ridges are scarred or removed.

Because they’re full of feelings? You touch stuff and you pick up stuff with your hands; you feel with your fingers. The raised ridges enable you to determine the texture of the object. The folks at describe it like this:

“As you rub your fingers across a textured surface, your fingerprints specifically amplify vibrations in an optimized frequency range to stimulate the Pacinian corpuscles, which are nerve endings in the skin that detect textures. In turn, texture information allows [you] to identify objects by touch.”

The arrangement of the ridges in elliptical swirls “may ensure that some ridges are always brushing perpendicular to a surface, no matter the orientation of the fingertips.”

Because they’re a work of art? God included a lot of detail in our fingerprints, as if each one was a magnificent painting or sculpture. Give God glory for the Master’s touch and our sense of touch! When I was a kid, the game of Clue prominently featured the illustration of a magnifying glass over a fingerprint. That was part of the artwork on the box and the game cards. In fact, a fingerprint contains such exquisite detail that there’s probably a framed print of a print hanging in some museum someplace.

Because they prove original sin? Many scientists like to say humans “evolved” into having fingerprints. Really? How do they know fingerprints weren’t part of the original design? You can debate whether or not Adam and Eve had navels, but they probably had fingerprints. If you find the Garden of Eden, you can dust for prints. Since Adam and Eve were the only humans there and then they were kicked out – any prints you find are likely to be theirs. The fruit they ate would have their fingerprints all over it. Isn’t that the evidence for their removal from paradise?

Because they’re remnants from the Flood? A crazy scholar actually thinks that a person’s personality can be deduced from one’s fingerprint type, based on Bible references. He calls the article “Hands in Scripture.” Let’s look at his theory.

“All fingerprints in the human race are variations of the three basic types. This is explained by the three sons of Noah, who survived the Flood and from whom all the human race is descended.”

The guy quotes Genesis 9: 26-27 and points out that Noah’s sons were Shem, Japheth, and Ham. He then explains:

“The three basic fingerprint types of the human race are eyes, tents (including arches), and loops. These three types were associated with the sons of Noah. Shem had eyes. Japheth had tents. And Ham became the father of Canaan, who had loops.”

Actually, the guy is using his own terms. The actual fingerprint types are whorls (which form a circular or spiral pattern), arches (which slope upward and then down, like little hills), and loops (which begin on one side of the finger, curve around or upward, and exit the other side).

This theory is loopy, but we’ll continue:

“Shem received all the blessings of the firstborn. But Shem was blessed the most by the Lord. The symbol of blessing in the fingerprints is the eye. So Shem undoubtedly had eyes on his fingers.”

Shem had eyes on his fingers? Sounds like a scary monster to me. By “eye,” the author means “whorl.” He says the eye means “grace, a gift, talent, creativity” and points out that a person with just such a print would be a “king, royalty, nobility.”

Let’s move on to Noah’s next son:

“Japheth was destined to dwell in the tents of Shem. This is a Hebrew metaphor. The descendants of Shem would pitch their tents around the Tabernacle of the Lord. In Israel, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Dwelling in the tents of Shem is a metaphor for the Spiritual heritage of the Jews that would be passed to the Gentiles. From Israel, the Savior of the world was born, and Christianity followed … Japheth undoubtedly had the fingerprint type that resembled tents of Shem on his fingers.”

What does the tent print mean? The author says it means “intense, intellectual tie to the past, home life.” Get it? Intense as in “in tents.” Oh, so funny. People with the tent are “entrepreneurs, intellectuals.”

He included the arch fingerprint type with the tent. So let’s look at his meaning for arch. He says it refers to “traditional values; tied to the past, home life.” People with the arch print are “tradesmen, craftsmen, farmers.”

Noah apparently didn’t like his third son, Ham. Back to the article:

“In the curse Noah called Ham by the name of his most degenerate son, Canaan. … Canaan, however, was cursed, and he would be a servant of Shem (verse 26) and Japheth (verse 27). Canaan is the Hebrew [word] which means the submissive one and comes from a root that means to bend or subjugate. Canaan undoubtedly had the fingerprint type called loops on his fingers.”

There are two types of loops. Radial loops slope toward the thumb, while ulnar loops slope toward the little finger. The author says a person with the ulnar loop is a “follower,” whereas a person with a radial loop is a “leader.” A person with any such loop, according this guy, is a “slave, servant, maid.”

So, basically, if you have a loop, this guy thinks you’re a loser. I wonder what type of print he has. He doesn’t say. Well, enough of this. Let’s move on to something else.

Because they’re cheap entertainment? You can stare at one of your fingers and pretend the fingerprint is a little maze. You can use a pencil point or a pen point to try to find your way out from the middle. Consider it God’s gift to you when you’re stuck listening to a boring sermon (when the Living Word isn’t coming to life).

Because they show who we truly are? Fingerprints are often used as identification. We immediately think of a crime scene. As the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department in Tacoma, Washington, reminds us:

“Forensic Investigation Sections, being particularly adapted in the field of Criminal Investigation, through the use of fingerprint have become, in the mind of the citizen, synonymous with locating and identifying criminal offenders. This is accomplished by comparing the latent or crime scene prints with the inked impressions of known offenders. Many criminals are brought to justice each year through this process.”

God knew that people would get into trouble, and fingerprints are just one tool He gave to police and the court system to solve crimes. Even insects and decay can be viewed as gifts from God when it comes to investigating a crime scene and determining what happened and when.

Most translations of the Bible don’t use the word “fingerprints,” but there’s one that does so we have to include it:

“For there are a lot of rebels out there, full of loose, confusing, and deceiving talk. Those who were brought up religious and ought to know better are the worst. They've got to be shut up. They’re disrupting entire families with their teaching, and all for the sake of a fast buck. One of their own prophets said it best: The Cretans are liars from the womb, barking dogs, lazy bellies. He certainly spoke the truth. Get on them right away. Stop that diseased talk of Jewish make-believe and made-up rules so they can recover a robust faith. Everything is clean to the clean-minded; nothing is clean to dirty-minded unbelievers. They leave their dirty fingerprints on every thought and act. They say they know God, but their actions speak louder than their words. They’re real creeps, disobedient good-for-nothings” (Titus 1:10, The Message).

Are you leaving a trail of “dirty fingerprints” wherever you go?

Because they serve as a “serial number”? When you buy a product, it has a unique serial number. No two items have the same number, unless they’re counterfeit. This is also true of human beings. I don’t think there are any counterfeit humans. There are no fake, imitation people. Their personas may be fake or maybe their eyelashes, nails, hair, knees or hips – but not the whole person.

As one commentator noted, “Fingerprints are the unique mark that God gave each of us; no two are the same.” And another commentator remarked, “Innately found in the DNA structure of each and every individual, fingerprints are actually formed in the early embryonic stage with the infinite knowledge and might of the Creator.”

Why are all fingerprints different? There are 6 billion people on the planet, and who knows how many billions of people have lived before us. Somewhere along the line, there would have to be duplicate prints, right? Not necessarily. Imagine you had a bucket of beans – green beans, yellow beans. Well, no, not those type of beans. What kind of beans did that character in “Jack and the beanstalk” have? I think they were Jehovah Jumping Beans. Yeah, it’s an old Bible story. Or maybe not. Did Jack and the Giant have fingerprints? Anyhow, let’s say you have a bucket of dry beans, and each bean has a number on it. You knock over your bucket – you spill the beans! They fall on the floor. You pick them up, put them back into the bucket and you dump it again. What are the chances they’ll fall in the same pattern? No matter how many times you drop the beans, they’re going to fall in random order and the pattern will never be the same. This is also true of fingerprints. They are also formed at random, as DNA divides and different mutations develop. I hate to spill the beans, but it’s true.

Even identical twins don’t have the same fingerprints. They have the same DNA, but fetuses get their fingerprints between the 13th and 19th week of growth in the womb, when the twins are already distinct little people.

Because they serve as a signature? The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department presents the following conjecture: “The apostle Paul used his own fingerprints to sign his letters.” Let’s take a look at the evidence, as a sheriff’s investigator would do:

“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17, NIV).

I guess you could interpret the “mark” to be a fingerprint, although Paul refers to writing. You can’t write with fingerprints.

It is true, however, that a fingerprint was used in ancient times to sign legal documents. Both the Chinese and Assyrians used fingerprints in that way. That same Sheriff’s department article explains:

“While the western world was still in the period known as the Dark Ages, the Chinese were using fingerprints in their daily business and legal enterprises. The Chinese Law Book of Yung-Hwui, written during the Tang period, about 650 AD, made mention of fingerprinting, commenting on an older method of preparing legal documents. His notation reads as follows: ‘To divorce a wife the husband must give a document setting forth which of the seven reasons was assigned for the action. ... All letters should be written in the husband’s own handwriting, but in case he is unable to write, he must sign with his fingerprints.’”

The ancient Israelites, though, didn’t think of that; instead of fingers, they thought feet:

“In the olden times in Israel, this is how they handled official business regarding matters of property and inheritance: a man would take off his shoe and give it to the other person. This was the same as an official seal or personal signature in Israel” (Ruth 4:7, The Message).

I think a fingerprint is a lot better than a shoe. Imagine the shoe collection you could amass, but you couldn’t wear any of them as you’d only have one of each kind!

Meanwhile, the kings of ancient Babylon would decree something and then press their entire right hand into the slab of clay containing the law before the clay was fired. This would mean that the law was authentic and official because it contained the king’s “signature.”

Because they’re like tires for your fingers? If your fingers were totally smooth and you picked up a wet object, it would probably slip and you’d drop it. Put some ridges on the fingers and you’d be able to handle stuff better. Those ridges provide a place for the liquid to go. They work like the treads on tires. The rainwater goes in the grooves (instead of between the tire and the road) and that provides traction and your car doesn’t slip all over the place. In the same way, the ridges channel water away from the fingertips, leaving a drier surface. Also, when you touch something, the skin behaves more like rubber than a normal solid (because the skin stretches and “deforms” around the object), further emphasizing the analogy to tires, which are made out of rubber.

Because they’re like pliers for your fingers? Some researchers think the fingerprints are “corrugations that zipper into each other just below the surface.” They speculate that the ridges increase friction and allow a better grip on objects. As one “wise guy” quipped, we “were evolutionarily developed to do this – people slip, they die, their genes don’t get passed on.” Others point out that primates and tree-climbing koalas also have fingerprints, so I don’t think evolution had anything to do with it. By the way, some South American monkeys have ridged pads on their tree-gripping tails. So some scientists conclude fingerprints must enable us to hang onto stuff better. Perhaps. We also have ridges on our toes. Do they help us grasp things? Well, maybe for a few people – but most of us have a really hard time picking up things with our feet. Oh, toe prints are leftover from our monkey days when we were climbing trees and needed to clasp onto the bark. Are you willing to climb a tree barefoot to test that theory? This is all based on the idea that fingerprints increase friction between our fingers and the object. Next, we’ll look at the opposite idea.

Because they soften the blow? The researchers at maintain that fingerprints do not improve grip friction. Instead, the ridges reduce the area of skin in contact with objects and this reduces friction. Thus, the ridges provide a little extra cushioning for fingers when they come in contact with hard or harsh surfaces. This prevents blisters.

Here’s the explanation in fancy terms: The ridges “protect against shearing, or sideways stress, which would otherwise separate the two layers of skin and allow fluid to accumulate in the space, and form a blister.”

We rarely get blisters on our fingertips or the soles of our feet, and this may be why.

Because of a combination of these reasons? Our Creator gave us fingerprints because He knew we needed them, even if we can’t figure out why exactly and we take them for granted. And that’s just a small piece of our bodies. Every part is endowed by the Creator with a purpose.

As the apostle Paul reminds us:

“Our bodies don't have just one part. They have many parts. … God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important are valuable. He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others. If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy” (1 Corinthians 12: 14, 24-26, CEV).

1 comment:

  1. Job 37:7 He SEALS up the HAND of every man, that all men whom he made may know it.