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DOPPLEGANGERS

According to Wikipedia.org, a doppelgänger is “a biologically unrelated look-alike, or a double, of a living person.” Some look-a-likes have been notable, such as King George V and Russia's Tsar Nicholas II, who were first cousins. For many years, and in many places, I have been looking for mine but have never found him.

I wondered: Shouldn’t chance alone produce my doppelgänger? there are billions of people in this world and although I have only seen a fraction of them, I have never met anyone who looks like me. Some men, bless them, may come close, but upon examination, they fail miserably.

Identical twins come the closest to looking like one another because they share the same genomes that result from the fertilization of a single egg by a single sperm. They are always of the same sex and have over 99.9% identical DNA. However, even in twins, each will have their own unique fingerprint.

About 1 in every 250 people has a chance of being an identical twin. They are said not to run in families, but in the small high school I attended, there were two sets of twins from the same family. The teachers had trouble telling them apart and wouldn’t let them sit side by side. It was an unusual high school because there were also three sets of non-identical twins that attended. It may have been the local water, which had a lot of sulfur in it.

I don’t think I will ever see another “me” because I was created, not made. Assembly lines are designed so that the output is the result of pre-defined sequences--cars and food products, for example, can be made to look alike. Our bodies are the result of pre-defined sequences as well, but they are not “man” made. God designed his people to have unique nerve systems, lymph systems, blood vessels, muscles, body organs, and so on. Only God can create a human.

You may think you see a doppelgänger. I have made that mistake. After leaving our son Kirk one furlough and returning to PNG, we stopped at a tourist attraction outside of Sydney, Australia, and there was Kirk--or so I thought. The boy was a doppelgänger of Kirk but perhaps looked that way to me because I had been thinking so much of him and missing him.


Children look something like their parents and forefathers, but never the same. The phenomena occur with other things as well. Think, for example of snowflakes. Cloud physicists, crystallographers, and meteorologists study snow crystals and tell us why there are no two snow crystals alike.


It is because all water molecules are not exactly alike. They should all have two hydrogen molecules with one oxygen atom. However, the molecular makeup of snow crystals varies from one to another and each snow crystal will be slightly different. That is quite amazing. Chance alone would suggest that many of them would look alike--snowflake doppelgängers!


It is the same with stars. In a constellation, stars are very far away, and many look the same. However, they vary in size, distance from Earth, and temperature. “Dimmer stars are smaller, farther away, or even cooler than brighter stars. Although there are more than 1022 known stars in the universe, each one is unique--no two stars have the same properties. Star doppelgängers aren’t found either!

We could also consider the doppelgänger possibilities of sand crystals, but that is even more complex and probably not helpful. Trees, flowers, birds, rivers, mountains, lakes, and so on seem to have siblings, but no two are exactly the same. How drab and dreary the world would be if all tokens of every species were the same. God in his creation has delighted in diversity.

I have studied linguistics for a good part of my life, and I am always amazed at the uniqueness of each language--and there are over 7,000 in the world. Not just sounds, but vocabulary and grammar, intertwined with culture. They are all different, part of God’s creation.

God confused the languages of the whole world and scattered the people (Genesis 11.9). Languages have dialects like marriages have children--lots of similarities and lots of differences. In my studies of Kewa, I mapped the distribution of dialects based on their sounds, vocabulary, grammar, and cultural differences. I could tell what part of the large Kewa area a person came from just by hearing certain words and sounds. And, within dialects, each person has a unique sounding voice and other phonetic distinctions that identify them. No Kewa doppelgängers!

It seems obvious to me that God specializes in uniqueness in His creation. Aren’t there any real doppelgängers? C.S. Lewis sums up my sentiments when he says, “There are no ordinary people,” as Christians, we are all meant to be distinct images of Christ.


Karl Franklin

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