Uncommon Sense

January 26, 2023

It’s a Miracle!

This question recently came up on Quora.com, the question and answer site: “If God didn’t exist, how do atheists explain that water freezes at exactly 0°C and boil at 100°C? Seems like a proof of intelligent design. It’s a miracle!”

There should be a Dunning-Kruger Award for questions like this, but alas, there is not.

Obviously this person doesn’t know the history or logic behind thermometer design, so maybe you would like to know this too.

The alcohol thermometer (the kind with the red liquid in them) was invented in 1709 and the mercury thermometer (the ones with mercury in them) in 1714 by the same man: Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736). In 1724 Fahrenheit introduced the scale he invented, which we have appropriately called the Fahrenheit Scale. This is the one commonly used in the U.S. and almost nowhere else. (The Euros often brag about how they do not use the Fahrenheit Scale, preferring to use a metric scale, but they use the Celsius Scale commonly and that is not part of the Metric System, So there!)

The scale at which pure water (at sea level air pressure) freezes at exactly 0°C and boils at exactly 100°C was invented by Anders Celsius of Sweden in 1742 and which we rightfully called the Celsius Scale. Well, not quite. Celsius actually set the boiling point at 0 and the freezing point at 100 because he was measuring “coolth” not warmth. It was his colleague, the botanist Carl Linnaeus (aka Carolus Linnaeus), who turned the numbers around. (If it was a miracle, the devil made him make it upside down first!)

Fun Facts Fahrenheit picked the rather strange numbers for the two temperatures used as references (32°F for freezing and 212°F for boiling temperatures of pure water) because he wanted the temperature of the human body to come out at 100°F. (He used a slurry of ice and a solution of ammonium chloride (aka Sal Ammoniac, which sounds like a character in West Side Story) for his zero point as he felt no lower temperature would be encountered. In other words that was the coldest mix he could create.) He thought this would make the lives of nurses taking body temperatures easier. Not only was his measurement of human body temperature off but we then fixated on an internal body temperature of 98.6°F as being “normal.” Many people still believe this erroneous fact. In reality “normal” body temperature can fall within a wide range, from 97°F to 99°F and varies daily! It’s usually lower in the morning and goes up during the day. It peaks in the late afternoon or evening, sometimes by as much as 1 or 2 degrees over the morning temperature.

The myth of the “normal” 98.6°F standard dates to the mid-1800s. German doctor Carl Wunderlich measured the armpit temperatures of about 25,000 people and came up with an average of 98.6°F. Newer research suggests that the number has since gone down. In a recent review, scientists looked at temperature records from three periods between 1860 and 2017. The average oral temperature slowly fell by about 1 degree to 97.5°F. My pet theory is based on what people would a nineteenth century doctor have to test, probably sick people, who would be expected to have elevated temperatures. So the average temperature didn’t drop, we just get a better selection of “normal” people to test.



  1. How interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Colleen M. Chesebro — January 26, 2023 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

  2. My normal average body temperature is about 97.4. If it went up to 98.6 that would actually be a low grade fever for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by grouchyfarmer — January 26, 2023 @ 10:42 pm | Reply

  3. That’s a head-desk moment right there!

    Some days I feel bad bad for relating creationism to stoopid. Some days they do it for me.

    While I’m fascinated with the history of thermometers, it’s kind if difficult for me to get past the stoopid. And these people want to be in charge…

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by shelldigger — January 27, 2023 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

  4. “But … this is 11”


    Comment by silverapplequeen — January 28, 2023 @ 6:42 am | Reply

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