Are Babies Aerodynamic (and other childlike questions)
“Are babies aerodynamic?”
Y’all. I’m dead serious. My friend’s precious four-year-old posited this gem to his grandmother, who forwarded it to his mom, who quoted it to me. I mean, what else are you going to do with such cuteness? We chuckled long and loud, and then tried to figure out what prompted the crazy question in the first place. Apparently, his engineer father has been reading to his boy from the book Newtonian Physics for Babies (yes, there is such a thing), so the kid legit understands what aerodynamic means. But why he wondered if babies might or might not have such a quality is beyond me.
Still, you gotta admire this boy’s curiosity and courage to speak up and ask. He had a thought in his brain that he didn’t have the information to complete. So he asked the nearest authority figure for help. Poor grandma. I can’t imagine what her real-time response was. I’m sooooo glad she decided to pick up the phone and text mom in the moments afterward. We’ll be telling and retelling this story for quite a while, I’m sure.
WHY DO YOU ASK?
If I’d been on the receiving end of such a question, I would probably ask the boy a few questions in return. Is there a particular baby he has in mind when he considers the aerodynamic properties of infants, or is he thinking of babies in general? Does he consider himself a baby, and so does the question relate to the way he sees himself? Is this a matter of idle curiosity or does he have some problem he’s trying to solve? What exactly does he plan to do with the response he gets?
The boy’s answers would probably shape my response to the original inquiry. For example, if he thinks of himself as a baby and wants to know if he can be a fast runner or not, my answer would probably be, “Yes, babies can be aerodynamic and fast, but as they get bigger with stronger muscles (and eat their vegetables), they get faster still.” If, on the other hand, there’s a younger baby in the house and the boy wants to test her flight skills from the second story window, then my answer would be completely different. “No, babies are not aerodynamic in any way and certainly can’t fly.”
Yup. Gotta be careful how we answer these things. Kids come up with interesting ways of learning about the world around them. When they have the gumption to come right out and ask, it’s worth our time to pay attention, no matter how silly the question sounds.
I’VE GOT QUESTIONS
Of course, then I have to consider what my questions about life, theology, and the ways of the world sound like to my Heavenly Father, and if they sound just as silly to him. From my limited perspective, I’m dead serious and intent on finding answers. That’s a childlike quality I actively foster, especially as I study Scriptures. The more questions, the better. Why did God choose THIS word instead of THAT one in his story? What tone of voice did he use when he first spoke the words? And why did he choose to make Balaam’s donkey talk to him instead of just booming a voice from heaven to make his point? (Numbers 22:28) Or was the point that even a donkey was less of an a** than Balaam at that moment in time?
These are the real questions, folks. I’ve got a ton of them. And I’m pretty sure God is ready to hear them all and answer them in his way and his time, even as he chuckles at me. I can see him calling a few angels over and quoting my words while they giggle together at my expense.
But just like my friend loves to hear her son’s silly questions, I believe God loves to hear ours, too. It means we’re learning, thinking, growing. And that we know Who to go to for our answers. He’d far rather us ask him than conduct our own versions of toddler experiments to see how air flows around chubby baby arms and legs, experiments that could bring harm and trouble for ourselves and others.
A couple of notes here from my own personal experience. First, God, like a good parent, may not give direct answers right off the bat. He might ask a few questions in return to help us unpack where we’re coming from. Jesus does this all the time in his earthly ministry, exposing those who try to trap him, but also going deeper with those coming to him in sincerity.
A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone.”(Luke 18:18-19)
Jesus could have given this rich young man the answer straight away, and eventually does get to the point. But he first directs the man’s attention to the fact that he’s talking to God. Whatever answer he gets will have the weight of the Great I AM behind it. Which is so essential since what Jesus ultimately asks of him will be incredibly personal and difficult. Jesus goes on to tell the man to sell everything he has and then come follow him. But the young ruler can’t bring himself to give up his great wealth and chooses to walk away. That, my friends, is exactly what idolatry looks like, which is the real issue Jesus needs to get to in this ruler’s heart, not just some list of commands.
In the same way, God might ask you and me a few questions before answering us. For example, when I come to him (as I often do) and ask him how a certain situation will work out, his usual response is, “Why do you feel like you need to know?” Hmmm…good question. Usually, it’s because I want to have Plans A, B, and C in place to minimize my potential pain. Sometimes, it’s because I’ve got unhealed hurts and my trust in his goodness feels a bit shaky. All of the time, it’s because I want to be in control and knowledge is power. After I decide on an answer, he may show me my next steps or give me a sense of where to look for his next move. More often than not, he simply asks me to trust him, keep my eyes on him, and not worry about it.
What about when I ask him why such-and-such had to happen the way it did? Again, his answer depends on a few questions he asks me. Am I bitter because of some loss in my life? Or am I wanting to offer consolation to a hurting friend? In the first case, God might remind me of his sovereignty and my relative inability to understand the far larger picture he sees, an issue of trust again. In the second case, God might direct me to some passage of Scripture to consider, to see how he handled a similar situation or unpack some comforting truth. Actually, he might do that in both cases. He loves to answer our questions with his Word.
KEEP ‘EM COMING
Speaking of which, God never tires of hearing our questions, even the child-like silly ones, especially when they have to do with getting to know him and his Word better. That’s the second thing I’ve noticed from my years of peppering him with query after query. You and I might tire of a toddler’s endless demands for more information, but God never does. Every time I come to something in the Scriptures I don’t understand, I ask him. Invariably, he leads me along the biblical thread I’m tugging on, winding his way through the pages of my Bible until I see how the point I began with relates to other points already familiar to me. He reminds me of similar passages, leads me to resources written by very smart people, or shows me an example of what’s up in my 3D daily life. I learn ridiculous amounts about him, the Bible, myself, and the world I live in through this exchange as one question leads to another which leads to another.
Can I encourage you to be curious and ask God a whole lot of questions about your life and His Word? Sometimes I see folks get caught by difficult things in the Scriptures and just let their questions lie as flat as the pages in their Bibles. Instead of taking their inquiry to God and finding out what amazing thing lies underneath the verse that trips them up, they dismiss themselves as childish or unable to understand. After all, it’s probably a silly question anyway.
But taking these questions to God, silly or not, might just open an important conversation with him that reveals incredible things about the way he works and how he sees us. His answers might inspire us to keep growing in him, or save us from some disastrous consequences. And if he and the angels get a little chuckle along the way, then why not make God smile when he thinks of you? Such childlike curiosity pleases our Heavenly Father, and he will never turn us away or dismiss us. Instead, he’ll probably amaze us and give us a lot more than we even asked for.
So…let’s get back to our original question. Are babies aerodynamic?
The Bible appears to be silent on the issue, and God hasn’t said anything specific to me about it. So I Googled it, just to see what the inter-webs has to say. Shockingly enough, I actually found some great information from scientifically-trained author and illustrator Zach Weinersmith (née Weiner). Mr. Weinersmith creates the popular web comic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC), known for its science-themed humor. He once gave a (tongue-in-cheek) talk on this very issue, and I quote from the article I found:
He [Weinersmith] notes, babies are “largely hairless,” an attribute that would reduce friction, or drag, when flying through the air. Plus, when you blow air on babies’ faces, meanwhile, he notes they close their mouths, preventing air from entering their bodies and creating an eddy current. (Weinersmith’s science background is in physics.) “It doesn’t make sense that the baby should have this reflex unless it is designed to fly through the air, via a catapult,” says Weinersmith.**
And there you have it.
**Let me be perfectly clear that Weinersmith’s comments are satirical in nature, and meant to critique wackadoodle evolutionary theories. No one, including me and Weinersmith, would ever actually consider catapulting babies….ever. Oh, and the article comes from Mother Jones Magazine in 2014, which is a publication I can’t recommend because of foul language, but was certainly informative in this particular instance.