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Picture of design item On February 2, 2012 Punxsutawney Phil was roused from hibernation to predict six more weeks of winter. Everyone laughs about this great American fairy tale, but few recognize that what Phil does in hibernation is an incredible process that has to be very carefully designed.

In June of 2011 I suffered an attack of pancreatitis and was confined to complete bed rest for 15 days. I was then not allowed to have significant activity for a month because of the risks associated with being in bed for 15 days. I had a sister-in-law who was confined to bed rest during a difficult pregnancy for a matter of months, and that stay was incredibly difficult.

One of the problems associated with long term bed rest in humans is the likelihood of blood clots. The entire circulatory system in humans is in serious trouble when bed rest is extended for a period of months. In a period of six months heart failure is a real risk. Oxidative and energetic stress is a major issue in long term bed rest. Blood vessels fail in this long time and vessel dysfunction is a major problem. Punxsutawney Phil hibernates for six months with none of these ill effects.

In humans there is a 90% reduction in muscle mass in six months of bed rest while Punxsutawney Phil has no measurable muscle loss. Disuse osteoporosis is a major problem in long term bed rest in humans making the breaking of bones an issue. There is no osteoporosis at all in Punxsutawney Phil. The metabolism of carbohydrate, protein, and fat breaks down in humans in extended bed rest, and in Punxsutawney Phil primary fat breakdown providing energy for survival occurs, but no other loss has been measured. After 15 days of being in bed I had bed sores, and people who have had bed rest for months report that bed sores are a major issue. No bed sores have been detected in bears, groundhogs, or any other hibernating animals.

Trying to explain how all of these adaptations can occur on a chance basis is difficult by any standard, but if you claim that there are close biological relationships between hibernating animals and those that do not hibernate, these adaptations become increasingly difficult to attribute to mindless chance. God’s design for hibernation is not only practical in terms of the survival of the animals and the efficient use of resources, but it also speaks to us of the wisdom of God. Source: Science News, February 25, 2012, page 26.

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