Sense and Smell
Leviticus 3:5: “And Aaron's sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is upon the wood that is on the fire: it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.”
What determines the sort of smells that we like and dislike? Is it nature or nurture? Do we like the smells of the environment, in which we were brought up, or are our likes and dislikes inherited from previous generations?
Scientists at the University of Campinas in Brazil have done some interesting work on the subject. The olfactory sense is by far the most complex of our senses. Our eyes basically work with three kinds of sensors, arranged around the three primary colors. Taste involves 49 different receptors, but can be approximated by five primary tastes. However, the number of different olfactory sensors numbers into the thousands, with at least ten primary scents – though there could be more.
Brazilian scientists showed, as expected, that the construction of the olfactory sensors in the noses of laboratory mice was mostly determined by genetics. However, they placed genetically different mice in similar olfactory environments, and genetically similar mice in differently smelling environments, to see if environmental characteristics had any influence on these receptors. They did. The genetic factor was the most important, but there was a significant difference between receptors in genetically similar mice placed in different environments.
It is interesting that, in the Bible prayer is likened to an aroma ascending to the Lord. This is the reason for much of the symbolism of aromatic sacrifices, both from the smell of cooking, and from the scent produced by skilled perfumers. God desires an environment of sweet-smelling prayer for us, and this is clearly the best environment for us to be in.
Prayer: Father, may our lives be as a living sacrifice to You. May our prayers be a sweet savor in Your nostrils, as we praise Your Holy Name. Amen.
Notes: Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. (2017, April 25). Genetics, environment combine to give everyone a unique sense of smell: Genetically identical mice develop different smell receptors in response to their environments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2017 from < www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170425092312.htm >. Image: Laboratory Mouse, author: Rama, license: Creative Commons Share-alike 2.0 French.
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