You might be surprised to learn that the most amazing electric machine is also the oldest.
A basic phone is no longer good enough for us. It has to have 4K video and GPS, at least. And we’ll ditch this year’s miracle phone like yesterday’s half-eaten sandwich at the next chance to upgrade. From the coffee maker in our kitchen to the smartphone in our pocket, we love our electric machines. And the upgrades just keep getting better.
But one machine—the most amazing electric machine of all—hasn’t been upgraded since humans first harnessed electric power. And it’s still better than the latest gadgets. When God created Adam from the dust of the ground, He created him as an electric machine that surpasses any technology we could ever invent.
Scientists constantly marvel at new discoveries about the intricacies of our body’s nervous system, and they’re even finding that its similarities to man-made machines allow us to create electric body parts that interact with the brain.
We all know about the brain’s ability to keep our body under control and process what’s going on around us. Modern machines sometimes mimic this ability, but unlike machines, our nervous system constantly rewires itself to adapt to changing circumstances. (Actually, our nervous system is so indescribably complex that the simple word wiring isn’t even close.) Fernanda Zanetti is a radical example of this “rewiring.” She was born with no arms and uses her feet like hands. She even types with her toes.
Most of us would make a complete mess of any document—and probably the keyboard, too—if we tried toe typing. That’s because our brain doesn’t devote the same number of neurons to control our feet that it does for our hands. But through constant use, Fernanda’s brain has shifted its circuitry to use the feet as well as it would have used the nonexistent hands.
In the same way, your brain works with you as you devote extra effort to typing fast, playing a musical instrument, performing gymnastics, reading, and so on. Your brain changes, actually creating new electrical pathways as you practice new skills.
Your body parts are designed to react to electrical impulses. Your muscles, for example, contract in response to electrical impulses from the brain. They’re not passive, either. When you type, for example, your finger muscles amplify those signals with their own internal power and contract to press the appropriate keys. At the same time, sensory nerves in your fingertips send electrical signals back to the brain, informing it about the keys’ texture and temperature, how much pressure has been applied, and so on. They communicate back and forth, by the Creator’s design.
Even if you cut off your arm, the electrical wiring and control circuits remain at the point of separation. That’s why an amputee might still feel an itch in his missing hand. That may sound annoying, but prosthetics experts are learning how to adapt these electrical circuits to control prosthetic limbs.
At first, brain-controlled prosthetics were very clunky and could perform only the most routine tasks like opening and closing a hand. But recent advances have made it possible for the patient to feel pressure with prosthetic fingers and perform delicate operations like drinking from a fragile paper cup.
Over time the brain learns to interpret signals coming from a hunk of titanium, plastic, and rubber as if they were coming from a natural, fleshy arm. Soon, researchers expect to be able to transmit sensations of subtle textures through those same electrical pathways.
No matter how good we get at making new gadgets, they’ll never be anything like our body.
No matter how good we get at making new gadgets, they’ll never be anything like our body; it’s much more than just a machine. But thankfully, it’s similar enough to our gadgets that we can meld metal and plastic to the body to help people.
The more we discover about this intricate electric “machine,” the more we wonder at God’s ingenuity and unimaginable skill. He’s much more than a machinist. He gives us life and vision and emotion and thought, all working together to glorify Him. And as we unravel just a portion of our body’s mysteries, we even get to work with God’s design to help others suffering from the physical effects of the Fall.