Truth, Understanding, Insight

Science: Light is Sweet

26th October 2010, hej


The scriptures show again and again at every level deep truths. Modern science is beginning to appreciate the real significance of a point that is written as a fact by Solomon! We now know just how much seeing the light of the sun makes a difference in our lives.

Solomon declared,

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: (Ecclesiastes 11:7).

This is not a throw away observation. It is a precise scientific statement- and though science can give details to it we can't better Solomon's way of putting it. Solomon is precisely and scientifically correct.

For some time it has been known that bright light in the sunlight spectrum is needed to treat seasonal depression (SAD). We know therefore that exposure to sun light has enormous benefits to people's mood, for some people it is more pronounced than for others. Truly sunlight is 'sweet' and 'good' in that it makes people feel good. In context Solomon shows he understands the link between dull light levels (darkness) and lack of exposure to sunlight and depression,

But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that comes is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:8).

Job gives a good description of depression,

When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness. My bowels boiled, and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me. I went mourning without the sun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation. (Job 30:26-28)

Solomon also shows he knows of a phenomena where aged people with failing sight are more likely to feel sad,

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shall say, I have no pleasure in them; While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2)

This has been found to also be precisely the case,

elderly people produce less melatonin overall, and therefore tend to have more disturbed sleep. But a team led by Kazuo Mishima, a sleep researcher at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry in Ichikawa, Japan, has shown that exposure to bright light in the middle of the day can increase night-time melatonin production and promote deep sleep for many old people. "In general, the more light old people have, the stronger their daily rhythms will be — and so their sleep patterns improve," says David Harper, a specialist in geriatric psychiatry at the McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. "It is unfortunate that the old often live in poorly lit homes and don't get out much."

The genes are periodically switched on and off by complex feedback loops that are influenced by our exposure to light, which the SCN (the body's 'master clock' — the suprachiasmatic nuclei) seem to sense through specialized neurons called melanopsin cells in the eye's retina. These are sensitive to blue light, but have nothing to do with vision.

A 2003 article proved there is an increase in sleeplessness and sadness is linked to ageing. They showed that increased exposure to sunlight of those in aged homes reduced the need for medication. There is a saying 'grumpy old men', but women of course may also be grumpy. Chances are they are grumpy because their sleep cycles are interrupted.

In a New Scientist interview, Russell Foster at Imperial College London pointed out one possible explanation for this: "In old age, the lens and cornea of the eye start to yellow, which means the eye filters out the blue light needed to set their circadian rhythm."

Research has shown that the body clock is best set by going out into the morning sun. If a person does not go out in the morning and then exposes themselves to later afternoon sun then their body is tricked into being awake and they may stay up late. It is advised for those who wish to reset their malfunctioning body clocks to expose themselves to sunlight in the morning and to wear sunglasses in the afternoon.

When bright light comes in through the eyes, it signals the brain to be alert. And it triggers the pineal gland to delay the release of melatonin, the body’s sleepiness hormone. Those who have trouble falling asleep at bedtime or waking up in the morning can benefit from bright-light exposure in the morning to put their sleep/wake cycle back on track. Similarly, those who wake up too early are often helped by bright-light exposure in the late afternoon.

(see also

A good explanation of recent research,

This is a big thing. Up until now, we thought our eyes were only for seeing. In fact, there are two completely separate systems in operation in our eyes. One, using rods and cones, allows us to see things, the second, using Berson's ganglia tells us what time it is.
In 2003, Lockley et al. confirmed these shorter wavelengths of light have a greater effect. The short 460-nm wavelengths of light suppress melatonin twice as much as the longer, 555-nm light – the wavelength best seen by the human eye.
We need light in the morning and then darkness in the evening to set our circadian clocks.
That wavelength of 480 nanometers to which the retinal ganglia are so sensitive is in the blue spectrum. In fact, it is pretty much the color of the sky on a bright sunny day. This knowledge has triggered some interesting attempts to reset circadian rhythms.

For all people (even shift workers and most blind people) the best light for setting good sleep patterns is the morning light. The Bible states this also as a fact,

The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. (2Samuel 23:3-4)

It is also noted not by research that when we sleep well, due to a sunlight set body-clock, we have much more energy. A lack of sleep affects the bodies chemical balance. Also in a study of rats they have found adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells, increased in four key brain regions normally active during wakefulness in non-REM sleep, and found if sleep is prevented this increase does not occur. The brain energy increase then powers restorative processes.

The knowledge behind this is expressed in David's psalm,

Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge....Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race. (Psalm 19:2-5)

The wonder of the energy from a sun-filled life is implied in Malachi's words

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. (Malachi 4:2)

To live is “to see the sun”. The Bible claims, that the pattern of sunlight and life is designed.

The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Thou have set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter. (Psalm 74:16-17)
The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The sun arises, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. Man goes forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. (Psalm 104:21-24)

This ought not be a surprise as it is well known that if the sun were closer or further away life would be impossible. And now science has established for sure there is a link between sunlight and setting our body clock so we sleep well.


But there is more, living 'under the sun', going outdoors and labouring is shown to make us happy. A survey in 2009 of 100,826 working adults published in the Wall Street Journal showed,

Another surprise from the survey: Farmers and other outdoor workers, from farmhands to forestry workers, scored No. 1 among all groups in "emotional health," as measured mainly by the amount of smiling, laughter, enjoyment and happiness they report experiencing the previous day—despite the fact that farmers ranked near the bottom in access to basic needs.
Steve Swenka, a Tiffin, Iowa, farmer, had just finished mowing two fields of hay when I reached him by phone last week to discuss the poll. The results didn't surprise him. ...
"And when the day is over and you see the loads of hay stacked, there's something fulfilling about hard manual labor like that," Wall Street Journal

But is seems Solomon knew that too.

Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this is also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:9-12).

There is nothing new under the sun – for sure people have always sat up at night and deprived themselves of sleep over material goods.

There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begets a son, and there is nothing in his hand. As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit has he that has laboured for the wind? All his days also he eats in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness. Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he takes under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answers him in the joy of his heart. (Ecc 5:13-20)

There is a contrast between the night dwelling person of wealth who eats inside, compared to the person who labours in the sun.

Then I commended mirth, because a man has no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun. When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night sees sleep with his eyes:) (Ecclesiastes 8:15-16)

That people cannot sleep is often a trigger or a sign of incipient depression. It seems if we are godly we and labour in the day we have a better chance of sleeping as we can enjoy what God has given, and don't covet more.

Sunburn and Skin Cancer

Scientific truth shows there is the balance we are just now understanding. The sun is a great blessing but if we have no cover all day and are exposed to sunlight we will be 'burnt'

The sun shall not smite (beat, wound, kill) thee by day, nor the moon by night. (Psalm 121:6)
They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that has mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. (Isaiah 49:10)

The balance is seen in this psalm, where God is likened both to our necessary sunlight and our protection from an excess of it.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in thee. (Psa 84:11-12)

It is as if the physical world was set up to make us feel good and happy, yet also we must fear its power. The phenomena is just another item that those who ignore the Creator cannot explain.

But to those who love the God of the Bible, there is a great lesson. We can know we are totally reliant on being re-set to be happy by steady moderate daily exposure to sunlight, and light is another name for the word of God.

The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. (Isaiah 60:19-20)

Locusts and light

If humans respond in a specific way to sunlight, locusts respond in another precise way. Nahum throws away a comment in analogy about locusts,

Your crowned are as the locusts, and your captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun arises they flee away, and their place is not known where they are. (Nahum 3:17).

Nahum is precisely and scientifically correct as locusts navigate by the sun. On a day without sun and enough blue sky they have no way to navigate.

Their eye is designed to detect the polarization pattern of the blue sky as confirmed.. Dorsal rim areas favour “polarization vision include precise alignment of microvilli in two orthogonal blocks in each ommatidium, enhanced cross-sectional area and reduced length of rhabdoms, and homochromacy of dorsal rim photoreceptors (UV receptors in bees and ants, blue receptors in crickets and locusts;).

Behavioral experiments in honeybees, desert ants, crickets, flies, and locusts showed that the dorsal rim area is essential for polarotactic orientation and, in bees and ants, for compass orientation. Polarization-sensitive interneurons (POL-neurons), found in several areas of the insect brain, are involved in signaling the orientation of the animal relative to the sky polarization pattern.”

Thus Nahum is saying that the leaders of Nineveh have no compass, and if they do finally have a compass they fly away.

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