The Mystery Of The Three Clocks 


People are born with a remarkable alarm clock in their head. Most people find it difficult to measure the passage of time with a degree of accuracy while awake but when they are asleep it is a different matter.


A great deal of research has been done on the subject of sleep and for many years it was assumed that there was a sleep center located in the brain; a mechanism that puts us to sleep when we need rest. But years of the most painstaking research, has failed to uncover the slightest trace of such a mechanism.


Scientists, in search of finding a sleep center, instead found an arousal center, an awakening mechanism located in the hypothalamus, which is deep in the brain at the top of the brain stem. This leads to the rather startling conclusion that man’s normal state is to be asleep and he is only awake when the alarm clock in his head is ringing. To appreciate this function of the human brain it is helpful to understand just a bit about the fantastically complicated mechanism inside our head.


The human brain is essentially an electrical device. When a piece of electrical equipment is operating, a magnetic or electrical field surrounds it. You can’t see it, or feel it, or hear it, but it is there. A simple coil of wire connected to an amplifier can pick up and amplify the invisible field surrounding the motor.


Science has devised a way to detect and record the delicate impulses of the brain by cementing tiny electrodes to the scalp to record brain activity while asleep. The results of these experiments show that our alarm system is connected to our various senses. Sound from our ears can awaken us as well as light from our eyes and also our other senses. We can be awakened by hunger or pain.


We have become so accustomed to the almost miraculous things accomplished in the human body that nothing seems to surprise us anymore and we just expect great performance from such wonderful beings as we modestly admit we are. Any such attitude we may have had while doing these experiments was dispelled recently when discovering some other living alarm clocks.


Cameramen set up their cameras outside the town of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. As soon as the sun went down the whole countryside started to crawl with strange looking insects. Residents who had lived in the area for many years could not recall any other such visitation.


They all seemed to be climbing upward and soon the clumsy looking insects stopped. Each one seemed to heed some mysterious signal that they had gone far enough. With their grotesque claws they searched for a spot where a firm grip may be obtained, sometimes on the bark of the tree, sometimes on the outermost leaves. Here a mysterious and wonderful thing happened. While this is the most common phenomena in all of nature, it is surprising how few people have actually witnessed the spectacular and awe inspiring event—the drama of insect metamorphosis, the transformation of an earth bound nymph to a beautiful free-flying adult insect.


The soft, moist, pale body of the adult insect frees itself from the dead adolescent shroud. In spite of a beautiful creamy white coloring and large red eyes and jet-black markings on its shoulders, the adult cicada presents quite a bedraggled appearance. Inflation of the wings will change all of this. As they are pumped up, the wings change from useless wrinkled pads to beautiful transparent air-foils capable of flight. One cannot but marvel at the beautiful construction of these wings; a framework of veins for strength, a fragile membrane to provide ample lift for a heavy bodied insect.


Within a few hours the ghostly whiteness of the new adults is changed to a glossy, brownish black. Simultaneously, the soft outer shell hardens to form a strong protective exoskeleton. All of this has happened throughout the course of a single night starting with a nymph climbing a tree and now we have a mature insect outfitted with armor plate, camouflage and wings ready for the serious business of life.


The new day dawns and the hoards of insects struggling up the tree have disappeared, but by mid-morning a new sound breaks the contented buzz of the spring woods, the unique sound of the cicada. What is mystifying is how a little insect can make such a loud noise. Only the male makes the sound. The incessant noise and severed branches on the ground are always associated with the cicada. The male makes the noise but when it comes to the fallen branches, mama cicada is the culprit. The branches of the trees are literally covered with punctures made by her ovipositor or egg placer. The ovipositor is driven into the branch as though the wood was putty and eggs are pumped through the hollow center into the protective fibers of the wood. Removing the outer layer of the wood reveals the cicada eggs laid neatly in double rows. After the female deposits 200 to 600 eggs in this way her life work is complete and she dies.


It doesn’t seem possible that a delicate insect like this, less than an inch in length, could dig deeply into the wood with such ease but it has a secret weapon that makes it possible. The tapered ends of the ovipositor are equipped with saw teeth and, with alternating motions, it literally saws its way into the woody fibers. The consuming zeal with which she goes about her task suggests that this is her ultimate purpose in life.


Within a few weeks the noisy honeymoon is over, life functions have been faithfully completed and one by one the adult cicadas fall to the ground as their flame of life flickers and goes out. As suddenly as they appeared, they depart. The future of the species is all wrapped up in those tiny eggs hidden in the branches of the trees. After six or seven weeks there is a stirring of activity when the newly hatched nymph shakes off the egg shell, drops to the ground and buries into the earth there to remain for seventeen long years.


Over two hundred years of scientific research has revealed that the cicada is the Methuselah of the insect world, living longer than any other insect. The cicada nymph lives alone in an underground passage several feet below the surface of the earth. As the seventeenth year of its existence draws to a close the cicada nymph tunnels up and stops just one quarter of an inch from the surface, there to wait a mysterious inner prompting. As soon as the sun goes down on the appointed day, millions of cicada alarm clocks go off all over the eastern states of the United States. Responding to the signal the cicadas push their way from their dark prison. Exactly seventeen years ago parents of these cicadas were enacting this same role at this very spot.


The time keeping ability of the cicada makes man’s mental alarm clock pretty rusty. We felt we might be on the trail of a significant truth so the investigation was carried one step further. In the field of chemistry some chemical reactions take place instantaneously. Others take time to react. With an accurate knowledge of the conditions involved it is possible to predict not only what will happen when certain chemicals are mixed, but exactly when it will happen.


How can we explain the marvel of these clocks? How do you explain the alarm clock in the human brain? Some believe man is a highly developed creature with a highly developed intelligence but how about the cicada. He is probably smart too. How about the chemicals; are they smart? Obviously that cannot be the answer. As we go from the chemicals through the cicada to man, we are ascending a scale of intelligence. As we ascend the scale of creature intelligence we also descend another scale, that of accuracy and dependability.


Man’s mental clock is much less reliable than the cicadas and even the cicada can’t match the chemicals. The chemicals are completely dependable because they are completely subject to God’s law. Did you ever stop to think what this world would be like if the chemicals were not dependable? I’d hate to walk into a chemistry laboratory and try to perform an experiment if chemical behavior was no more predictable than human behavior. You could not take a drink of water or draw a breath of air without any safety or certainty. We are fortunate indeed that chemicals obey the law of God but how about man? The submission of the chemicals to the law of God is a blind involuntary thing. Man on the other hand has a mind, a will and a God given power of choice. He can submit his will to the will of God or he can choose to defy God and go his own way and defy His laws. But how smart is it for a man to disobey the God who created him? Is it a mark of intelligence? Some seem to feel it is.


In a criminal society composed of those who defy human law, disobedience of the law is sometimes considered a mark of distinction and obedience a sign of weakness. Today there is a segment of intellectual society that seems to feel that obedience to God’s moral and spiritual law is a sign of weakness and that simple faith and humble submission to His will is somehow intellectually degrading. Yet down through the centuries there comes the quiet voice of One who said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” 

John 6:38.


In this age when some have almost deified the human intellect there are those who say I will trust nothing but myself, I will follow my own reasoning regardless of where it leads me and again that quiet voice says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” 

Proverbs 14:12.


Today, man is frantically searching for a solution to his problem, but isn’t the first step a recognition of what the problem really is? Isn’t the problem in the things that we have been considering? Unlike the chemicals, man has a will of his own. He can choose to obey God’s law or defy it. Take two liquids, one water and the other deadly poison. I have the power of choice; I can drink the water or the poison, but right here my power of choice stops. I cannot choose the result. Laws that are immutable and absolute fix the result.


We have another choice, you and I. We can choose to believe God and obey Him or we can go our own way in unbelief, but here again we cannot choose the result, which is fixed by the eternal law of God that says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” 

John 3:36.


A Moody Institute of Science Presentation, Moody Publishers,

Irwin A. Moon