Dugongs: ‘sirens’ of the sea
Sightings of dugongs by early seafarers possibly gave rise to the mythology of mermaids and sirens. Given that a dugong has a wrinkly face and bristly nose, those sailors must have been at sea for a very long time!
But, while dugongs may not be as lovely as the imaginary beautiful creatures their sightings inspired, they nevertheless possess a wondrous beauty in their own right.
These mammals have incredibly expressive faces, and, unlike dolphins, eat only vegetation, using their strong lips to pull leaves from green marine plants. They can grow to a length of 2.2 to 3.4 m (7 to 11 ft), and usually weigh from 230 to 360 kg (500 to 800 pounds).
Dugongs are often referred to as sea cows because they ‘graze’ on the green algae and sea grass that forms ‘meadows’ in sheltered coastal waters. As they feed, dugongs uproot whole plants, leaving a tell-tale feeding trail.1 They live in generally shallow waters from the Red Sea and eastern Africa to the Philippines, New Guinea and northern Australia (including the Great Barrier Reef).
Dugongs are truly gentle creatures. This has made it very easy to exploit them and they have been heavily hunted for their meat, hide and oil—to the point where dugongs now need the protection of the law to prevent the species disappearing (like its close relative, the larger Steller’s sea cow, which hungry seal hunters wiped out within a few decades of its discovery in the Bering Sea in 1741).
In fact, in north-eastern Australia—where dugongs still live in reasonable numbers—indigenous elders recently called for tighter controls on native hunting rights of dugongs (and turtles) to prevent this protected species from being hunted to extinction.2
Aside from hunting, dugongs are threatened by oil spills, entanglement in fishing gear, shark and turtle nets, dynamite fishing, disruption to feeding by boats, and pollution caused by coastal development.5
Dugongs, Steller’s sea cows and freshwater manatees are members of the order Sirenia.6 They are the only large aquatic grass-eaters other than turtles.
Facing the issue
‘If you must make a choice between heresy and schism [a split],’ said the bishop, ‘always choose heresy.’
The speaker was commenting on the controversy over his denomination’s ‘first homosexual bishop’.1
Sadly, the bishop’s advice is actually standard practice in many churches: ‘Don’t discuss the hard issues—we don’t want to cause a schism.’ And one of the hardest and most divisive issues for the church to deal with today is the age of the earth. There are many churches who rightly speak out boldly against homosexual behaviour, but whose leaders actively discourage openly dealing with the age question, saying dismissively, ‘It’s not an issue.’
During my first 12 years as a Christian (from age 25), I accepted the notion of billions of years. But I now recognize that the idea of the universe being older than around 6,000 years is false teaching that challenges the very foundations of our faith. The church is becoming increasingly irrelevant within, and compromising with, a culture ever more accepting of homosexual behaviour, abortion, witchcraft, adultery and seemingly every other evil under the sun. Many don’t yet see the connection between this and the age-of-the-earth issue.
What is the connection? When theologians insert millions of years into the six days of creation, they are (either unwittingly or deliberately) accepting the evolutionary interpretation of the fossil record (putting death before Adam). This undermines biblical authority, with the result that many people, believing the Bible’s history to be inaccurate, now disbelieve many other parts of the Bible. If theologians can reinterpret the Bible’s history, why not reinterpret the Bible’s morality?
And, sadly, if people outside the church are told they can’t trust what the Bible says about history, how can they trust what it says about God (cf. Jesus in John 3:12)?
This is why Creation magazine teaches that you can trust what the Bible says about history. And as testimony after testimony shows, once people have been shown that the Bible is correct in earthly matters, they’re often ready to trust what it says about heavenly matters—leading to repentance and salvation. In this issue’s article ‘An awesome mind’ we interview a Ph.D. scientist whose life is an actual example.
As usual, this [June 2004] issue has plenty of material you can use to point to the truth of the Bible while undermining old-earth and evolutionary ‘science’. If only more people outside the church could hear of this! That largely depends on those inside telling them. But many Christians themselves don’t believe the Genesis account of creation, the Flood, etc. Why? Because they’ve never been taught or challenged to do so.
If only someone had challenged me in my early Christian walk, I would not have had to wait for an Creation Ministries International seminar to hear about this topic. As it was, I was totally ineffectual in helping others know the love of Christ. I could not answer basic questions like ‘If your God is a God of love, then why do bad things happen?’ And evolutionary compromise defrauded me of many highly effective witnessing tools, e.g. ‘The problem of evil’ (see p. 21).
Those who want to ignore this issue need to read how the famous anthropologist, Louis Leakey, abandoned the faith he once professed (p. 24). Son of a missionary to Africa, he was once an earnest youth preaching on street corners for Christ. He then became an acclaimed worldwide influence against biblical Christianity, as patriarch of the famous Leakey ‘human evolution’ dynasty. There are countless young people today being similarly trained in ways of thinking about history that oppose God’s Word. Many are from churches who blithely continue to say, ‘It’s not an issue’.
You’ll notice throughout this magazine a particularly strong ‘refuting compromise’ theme—a call to Bible-believing Christians to speak out. But this might not be easy. As you’ll see in our feature interview with a retired judge and famous Australian whistle-blower on corruption (p. 10), taking a bold stand for truth requires courage and steadfastness.
It’s particularly tough when the bogeyman is raised that ‘discussing this issue threatens our unity’. Unity is worth striving for. Jesus prayed ‘that all of them may be one’ (John 17:21). But the reason for the unity is ‘to let the world know that you sent me [Jesus] and have loved them as you have loved me’ (v. 23). In other words, to demonstrate the truth of God’s Word to unbelievers. By contrast, the bishop’s stance (better to choose heresy rather than split the church) was for unity at the expense of truth. That can never be an option for a follower of Christ.
- Duin, J., Heresy better idea than schism? The Washington Times, <washingtontimes.com/national/20040131-120323-2290r.htm>, 11 March 2004.