Mysterious Bird and Fish Deaths
Where are Fox Mulder and Dana Scully when you need them?
I can hear the X-Files music playing eerily in the background as the reports of strange and seemingly inexplicable deaths ripple through the mainstream media. For those of you who missed the seven seasons of this popular TV series, or any of the big screen spin-offs, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were a team of FBI agents assigned to investigate any crime that had occult, supernatural, or extraterrestrial implications associated with them. So, when I once again heard that birds are dropping out of the sky like…well… like birds, and being an avid science fiction fan, I immediately thought of the X-Files.
If the entire truth be known, I first thought of the science fiction writing, chain-smoking genius, Rod Serling, and his hit TV program the Twilight Zone. If I went with that example, it would really date me as a baby boomer, and some people would not have understood the reference. Being born too late in the 20th century, they would have missed out on the “golden age of television.” A time when we did not have to worry about the content of the programs on our TV sets. This was an era when television reflected good wholesome entertainment without much of the gratuitous sex and violence that permeates the airwaves (or should I say cable channels) today.
So what do the X-Files have to do with the mysterious death of birds? And, as if one species’ elimination is not enough, fish, not to be outdone by their avian counterparts, are also turning up dead. While these occurrences are not the norm, they are by no means isolated incidences. Some have coined a new term for spontaneous bird deaths. They have dubbed them aflockolypeses, and explanations for these unusual fatalities abound. While armchair theologians may point to these mass deaths as a “sign of the end-times,” these increases in morbidity among our feathered and aquatic friends have been reported with frequent regularity. And they are not limited to birds and fish as these examples taken from various reports generated in December 2010 indicate (Johnson, 2011).
- Woolwash Lagoon, just south of Rockhampton, Australia report 5,000 to 7,000 dead fish covering 11 different species. Hundreds of fish have died on the Goulburn River between Shepparton and Echuca in Victoria. Alleged culprit, flooding.
- Charleston, South Carolina, watch your step. The beaches along the Isles of Palms are littered with hundreds of dead starfish and jellyfish. Since the middle of December, dead sea creatures have been washing up on shore. Alleged culprit, cold weather.
- In North Carolina, pelicans are unsafe. During the month of December, more than 100 of these protected birds died under suspicious circumstances along the beaches of Topsail Island. Most of the birds were stabbed, shot, decapitated or de-winged. Alleged culprit(s), malicious (and apparently deranged) persons as yet unidentified.
- Faenza, Italy reported 8-thousand turtledoves fell from the sky last week into this town. What's more, the birds had mysterious blue stains on their beaks – paging Mulder and Scully. Early lab tests showed the blue stain was caused either by poisoning or by hypoxia, e.g. a condition caused by a lack of oxygen, a common cause of confusion and sickness in winged animals and humans alike. The alleged culprit, flying too high and being caught in a high altitude windstorm just before succumbing to anoxia and plummeting to their deaths.
- Off the coast of Viet Nam last December officials report more than 150-tons of Tilapia died on 41 separate river farms. Alleged culprit, poor farm management, i.e. low oxygen in the water and/or too many fish in each pen.
- Next stop, New Zealand where dead penguins had been washing up on northern beaches for several weeks. The country's Conservation Department said penguins, petrels and other seabirds were already dying in large numbers. Alleged culprit, starvation. Autopsies showed they all starved to death, e.g. the fish had moved, so now the birds can't find enough food to feed themselves and their young.
- Tucson, Arizona, where first birds, then fish...now bats are dropping like…well...like bats. 70 bats were found dead in the last week. Alleged culprit, bad timing. Officials surmise that unseasonably warm weather may have caused the bat deaths. These bats, according to wildlife experts, should have migrated to Mexico two months ago.
- Sarnia, Ontario, Canada reported a large fish kill in the St. Clair River just across the border from Detroit this week. Hundreds of shad had washed up on shore. Alleged culprits, dare we say it? Mean old global warming, because they supposedly died from temperature shock or the ever-popular, as yet unidentified, pathogenic bacteria.
- First birds and fish, then bats – and now it’s CRAB! United Kingdom reported beaches were covered with more than 40,000 Velvet Swimming Crab carcasses. Alleged culprit this time, global cooling, or as the same scientists who brought you global warming would say, “Extreme cold weather.”
- Now, we are back in New Zealand. Local newspapers near the Coromandel beaches on the North Island of New Zealand reported hundreds of dead snapper fish washing ashore this week. Alleged culprit is once again lethal weather resulting in starvation deaths. But, local residents contend many of the snapper looked fat and healthy. The Fisheries Ministry is currently investigating the situation.
- Swedish authorities are investigating the deaths of 100 crows in the town of Falkoping, a city near Skovde. No cause can be ascertained yet, however, tests have ruled out disease or poison leaving the probably cause of death as weather (why am I not surprised) or some other natural event.
The mass-death express continues to ramble on as thousands of dead fish washed ashore along the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland in the past two weeks. In Brazil, it’s 100-tons of sardines and small catfish that have died. So what gives? Are these kills related somehow? U.S. Wildlife Officials say large bird and fish kills are not uncommon things. In fact, there have been 90 mass deaths of birds and wildlife reported in the U.S. just in the last six months. Most succumb to disease or parasites. In Houston, Minnesota, a parasite infestation killed about 4,000 water birds between September and the end of November 2010.
In Baton Rouge, officials believe a roosting flock of blackbirds were spooked by a noise and struck nearby power lines. The cause of the bird deaths in Beebe, Arkansas is still being debated. One theory says that fireworks from local New Years Eve celebrations may have frightened the birds, causing them to become disoriented. I have dubbed this “The Death by Fireworks Disorientation Theory.” This proposed explanation for the death of 5,000 blackbirds on New Year's Eve in Beebe, AK was presented by Karen Rowe, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ornithologist (Weise, 2011).
A biologist from Cornell University offers another plausible explanation for the Beebe blackbird tragedy. He said the sleeping birds may have been sucked up into a thunderstorm by a strong updraft of wind. The birds could then have become disoriented, injured by hail or lightning, before falling to their deaths (Johnson, 2011).
What would Fox Mulder say about these unusual phenomena?
I would like to be able to say that one of the themes of the X-Files such as Fox Mulder’s claim, “the truth is out there,” had anything to do with genuine truth. Truth is not really a relative concept. While there may be differing categories of truth, only God is the Author of indisputable truth. Therefore, it could be said that God aloneis The Truth. God is manifested to us in the Person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Additionally, we are told that the living Word of God (also called the truth in the Gospel of John 1:14, 14:6) is made known to us in the Bible, God’s Word. God’s plan for mankind is more clearly revealed in the Gospel. Gospel means “good news.” It is good news that God loves us so much that He manifested Himself to a sick and dying world in the Person of His Messiah. Surely, the prophets foretold the magnificent truth of the incarnation, that God would become a man, that the Christ would be “God with us.” That is the actual translation of the Hebrew word Immanuel from the prophesy of the Messiah’s birth.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel, Is. 7:14.
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Is. 9:6.
This is the promise of God’s great love demonstrated to all mankind through the willing and obedient sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth. God’s truth is confirmed by the proof of prophecy fulfilled. This is made very clear by the first century missionary to the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul, who wrote:
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, I Cor. 15:3-4.
Those who place their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through His promised Messiah, do not do so blindly. Our faith is not blind faith at all. What God tells us about His Messiah is always, as Paul noted, “according to Scriptures.” Everything God has promised concerning His plan for our redemption is confirmed by the attestation of prophecy fulfilled. This evidence is so compelling that some liberal theologians were convinced that the book of Isaiah, and other pertinent descriptive prophecies, i.e. Psalm 22 (the Palm of the crucifixion), Zech. 9:9 (Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem), Micah 5:2 (the birthplace of the Messiah), Is. 53 (the rejection of the Messiah by His own people, the children of Israel), Ps. 16:10 (the Messiah’s resurrection from the dead), and literally dozens of other prophecies, were actually written after Jesus Christ lived and died! It was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls that completely falsified liberal theology’s bogus claim that these prophecies were written “after the fact.”
In Israel today, you can visit the Shrine of the Book. This is a museum dedicated to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The great scroll of Isaiah (1Qls-a), is just one of the 19 copies of the book of Isaiah discovered at Qumran. It was carbon-14 dated at least four times yielding calibrated date ranges between 335-324 BC and 202-107 BC. This makes it virtually impossible for the prophecies to have been written after Jesus was born (All About Archeology, 2011). Sadly, the liberal theologians and atheistic scientists have infiltrated most of the institutions of higher learning, convinced that Darwin’s “molecules-to-men” theory is true and, therefore, the Bible is wrong. Like much of the evidence used to support the Theory of Evolution, when their evidence is debunked it often remains in their science textbooks for decades thereafter (Taylor, 2006).
When the actual evidence showed support for the Biblical teaching of special creation and offered evidence against Darwinian evolution, did these evolutionary scientists’s repent of their blasphemous notions? Neither did these liberal theologians change their thinking about the Word of God when the Dead Sea Scrolls proved them wrong.
Sadly, Fox and Scully were not seeking “the” Truth, the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. While Fox sought evidence that aliens could explain what had happened to his long lost (and allegedly alien-abducted) kid sister, Scully was the medical doctor turned FBI agent assigned as Mulder’s partner, ostensibly to offer the “scientific” or rational counterpoint to Mulder’s supernatural and/or extraterrestrial obsessions.
The writers of the X-Files played on the popularity of psychic phenomena and our culture’s (and I might add NASA’s) love affair with the possibility of alien life and all things paranormal. Unfortunately, the mysteries these FBI agents examined or sought explanations for had nothing to do with reality, spiritual or otherwise. Still, Scully would always be able to offer a reasonable explanation for what Mulder was seeing as probable evidence in support of the supernatural.
This reminds me of the so-called theologians, who were in actuality theologically liberal agnostics and/or atheists. They offered supposedly rational explanations for the supernatural events recorded in the Bible. Atheistic and naturalistic explanations abound where the biblical miracles are concerned. Either these modern-day Bible deniers claim these supernatural events never happened, or they simply give a natural explanation for these events, many of them bordering on the absurd. When I say absurd, I mean it. Take this common and highly amusing example as a case in point. Some liberal theologians and atheists contend that the manna God provided for the fleeing Israelites during their post-exodus wanderings was really a protein and nutrient-rich secretion of some, as yet, unknown insect (Walton, Matthews, & Chavalas, 2000, p. 92).
It has always amused me that these allegedly life-sustaining insects were also evidently Torah-observant bugs. I come to this conclusion, because these orthodox Jewish insects did not provide any secretions on the Sabbath, Ex. 16:26, in apparent obedience to the commandments of God, Ex. 20:8. If you think the Orthodox Jewish insect explanation is far-fetched, what of this explanation for the successful crossing of the Red Sea by the newly liberated Israelites fleeing the wrath of Pharaoh. In The Works of Josephus (Whiston, 1999), and echoed by no less a brilliant military strategist than Napoleon Bonaparte (Urban, 1928), we read this Jewish historian’s account of one possible naturalistic explanation to the miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea:
Moses might have carried the Israelites over at a low tide without any miracle, while yet the Egyptians, not knowing the tide so well as he, might drown during the return of the tide, is a strange story indeed! That Moses, who had never lived here, should know the quantity and time of the flux and reflux of the Red Sea better that the Egyptians themselves in their neighborhood! Yet does Artapanus, an ancient heathen historian informs us that this is what the more ignorant Memphites, who lived a great distance, pretended, though he confesses that the more learned Heliopolitans, who lived much nearer, owned (believed) the destructions of the Egyptians and the deliverance of the Israelites to have been miraculous; and DeCastro, a mathematician, who surveyed this Sea with great exactness, informs us that there is no great flux or reflux in this part of the Red Sea. (p. 110)
When you read the lame attempts to explain away the exodus of a large number of slaves, who managed, without weapons and under the leadership of a former Egyptian prince-turned-shepherd, to walk away from the most powerful nation in the world at that time – it simply strains credulity. In fact, all such attempts to explain God’s miraculous works using naturalistic explanations are equally ill conceived and, when studied in the light of day, are found to be likewise preposterous.
If we cannot look to Mulder and Scully for the truth, where can we look?
Perhaps the greatest of all mysteries is expressed by the most important questions a man can ask. Why do we die and what happens to us after we die? People are very good at distracting themselves from the topic of death. Often we do not look upwards towards heaven at all, until we are flat on our own backs. At funerals and memorials, many people find themselves listening to the Word of God. Often the clergyperson is reading directly from the Bible. God’s Word has the answers to these all-important questions. The answers to, “What happens to us when we die and where will we spend eternity” are revealed in the Scriptures. Sadly, at these times of grief, for many, the answers seem to go in one ear and out the other. It is as if we are spiritually deaf, unable to hear the Word of God being read in our presence, incapable of benefiting from the answers being given concerning life and death. Perhaps this is the reason Jesus prefaced so many of His teachings with the phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
There is really no mystery, expected or otherwise, where death is concerned. The Word of God clearly tells us where death came from: the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, Rom. 6:23. In the beginning, it was Adam who disobeyed God. The result was that sin entered into God’s creation. Because of Adam’s willful disobedience, with sin came death. Adam and Eve experienced immediate spiritual death. They instantly became fearful and shame-based creatures who were now hiding from the presence of their Creator, Gen. 3:10. This apprehension and terror was previously unknown to Adam and Eve. Adam’s sin resulted in a curse being placed on all of God’s creation. The Apostle Paul wrote to the first century believers in Rome concerning this:
Therefore, just as through one man, sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense.
For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned… For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous…But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, Rom. 5:12-20.
We can always look to God’s infallible Word, Jesus Christ (the living Word of God), who is both our Creator and our Savior. What can be known concerning Him is found in the written Word of God, the Bible. God’s Word is the proper source of all axiomatic truth. The Messiah alone can reverse the curse of sin and death; He gives us forgiveness and life everlasting. He has told us why death exists, and this is the true reason that everyone (and all living things) will eventually die.
There will always be explanations, reasonable or otherwise, for phenomena that are reported with great fanfare and enthusiasm by the purveyors of the news bulletins, the media moguls of the 24-hour a day news cycle. Do not be fooled, without the divine intervention of God’s Holy Spirit you will never come face to face with God’s truth. God offers everyone adoption into His family. Spiritual adoption takes place when someone places their faith in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. The Messiah likened this experience to being born again, John 3:3. We are all born spiritually dead, Ps. 51:5, separated from God’s life and love. This new birth (resulting in a new life) is accomplished when we enter into the New Covenant. This is an unconditional contract wherein we come to know God personally and experience His forgiveness, Jer. 31:31-37. God’s salvation is offered as a free gift of His unmerited favor, e.g., His amazing grace. Our spiritual awakening begins when we sincerely seek the Lord:
Seek the LORD while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon, Isaiah 55:6.
This same invitation stands today; whosoever will may come and whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, shall be saved, Rom. 10:13. Salvation cannot be obtained by good deeds, good intentions, or as the result of any other human effort. It is a free gift of God, Eph. 2:8, that is why the Apostle Paul wrote, whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, shall be saved, Rom. 10:13. The Lord God is an equal opportunity Savior. God promised His people Israel, “Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand,” Isaiah 28:18. The reason that the Messiah is absolutely central in God’s plan for mankind is that He is the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of man. He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, John 1:29.
It would have been wonderful if those who created the X-Files, the writers, the producers, the actors, the technicians, etc., would have read the prophecies recorded in the Bible and come to place their faith in God’s Son, Ps. 2. The prophet Isaiah lived 750 years before Jesus of Nazareth was born, yet he told us that the Messiah would be wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His strips, we are healed, Is. 53:5. He even explained that the leaders of the nation of Israel (and therefore the majority of the Jewish people) would reject their own promised and long awaited Messiah, Is. 53:1-4. Today, the majority of Jewish people do not see Jesus as their promised Messiah, but many of the Gentiles have received Him gladly. This too was prophesied by Isaiah, “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, to open the eyes that are blind, to free the captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness, Is. 42:6-7. This same prophet revealed to us our central problem, and with that, he also presented God’s solution:
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear, Is. 59:1-2.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to our own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul,[b]and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities, Is. 53: 6, 10-11.
We continue to be interested in, excited by, amused or even perplexed and frightened by, the seemingly inexplicable. We often live in fear and seek explanations from those who are themselves also walking in darkness. We can continue to follow those who are spiritually blind, fulfilling the parable of Jesus in Luke, 6:46 when He said, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?” We can remain in darkness or we can come to the One who gives sight to the blind, the One who always tells us the truth, because He is the Truth.
God has the answers to the big questions, the solutions for the great problems of life. God has the remedy for what ails us. It is His lovingkindness that is everlasting and His love has been demonstrated to us in the redemption offered to us in Christ. The true remedy is offered to anyone who is willing to acknowledge their need and humbly ask God to come and cleanse them. Only then will our fear of the unknown be eliminated; only then, will God’s faith, hope, and love permanently replace our fear, guilt, and shame.
Submitted by Steven Rowitt, Th.M., Ph.D. (c)