Aug 12 2015

God Loves Bats

SC bats 2It is very tempting to pay attention to nature only when you can see it. After all, this blog is even called “Seeing Creation.” Even the writers of the Bible mainly refer to what they could see. But if we are to believe that God had a part in our world, then we can’t ignore parts of our world that we don’t know so well. We need to think what is right for God, not what is right for us. In the Bible, there is no mention of things like bacteria, other micro-organisms … or bats. We can understand the lack of mention of micro-organisms – no one knew about them when the Bible was written. However, bats were (and are) important parts of the ecosystems of the Middle East. There is a mention of bats in Leviticus (11:19), but Biblical scholars are not all in agreement that the Bible here actually refers to bats.

Bats are creatures of the night. They are highly adapted to feeding on insects, and there are a great deal of insects that come out at night. As God’s creatures, they are truly remarkable animals. But because they are sort of “invisible”, we often forget about them and neglect this amazing part of God’s creation. There is no question that bats are hard to see (if they come out late at night, as some do, you might not see them at all), are rarely heard by humans (mostly their calls are above our hearing), and there is little common photography of them, as compared to, say, birds or other mammals. Speaking of mammals, bat species account for almost a fourth of all mammal species.

SC bats 3The idea of bats as evil or bad does not come from the Bible or God. It largely comes from old superstitions from the past. Night used to be a terror-filled time. For most of civilized time, night light was not available except for fires. Candles, then oil-filled lanterns started to illuminate the dark, but still, their light was limited. Today, all you have to do is fly over a city at night and you will find out how bright our nights have become.

A few remarkable things about bats:

  • Bats can “see” in the dark through echolocation that can discern things as small as the human hair. Imagine having a fish finder that could show you things underwater in that detail!
  • Bats can locate a small flying insect in total darkness, track it while moving in three dimensions while the prey is also moving in three dimensions, then catch and eat it. If you consider these two things alone, you can see that there is no bat that is going to swoop down and get tangled in your hair!
  • If a bat gets trapped in a house, it will typically fly to high points in a room and rest there. Then when it takes off, it will drop to gain flight speed and will head toward the middle of the room because that is where there is space. This can be frightening to someone standing in the middle of the room, and they might think the bat is after them, but the bat has no interest in them. Usually opening a window will let them out, but you can also catch them gently in a towel or a bucket (come up from below because they will be dropping as they start to fly). Never hurt a bat with a tennis racket! Their lives are as important as any other simply because God cares for them. Never handle a bat with bare hands, especially if the bat seems lethargic or sick (they could have rabies – bats are like all mammals, they get rabies, but they are less of a problem than raccoons or skunks).
  • Because they are small and fly, bats have a very high metabolism. They eat a lot! They will typically eat 1/3-1/2 their body weight in insects every day.
  • Bats are more closely related to primates, and humans, than to rats and mice (bats are not rodents). Bats have long lives for animals their size (some species live over 30 years), and most bats only have one baby per mother.

I think the lesson here is that God’s world does not depend on us always seeing it or fully understanding it for it to be remarkable and amazing when we do learn more. It is enough to know that God knows what He is doing.

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– Rob