Death Among the Daisies: a Challenge to YEC

TLDR: It is commonly held by Young Earth Creationists that there was no animal death prior to sin entering the world. However, I believe that this position cannot be maintained when examining the body plans of certain insects/spiders. And that Answers in Genesis attempt to explain this away by claiming that insects “are not even alive in the biblical sense”, is a tacit addition of this fact. Discuss.

For the purposes of opening up the conversation to YEC brothers and sisters, I’ll be assuming that Adam and Eve were real people and that the fall was a historic event.


Warning, here be triggers

I will concede that an argument could be made that insects did not prey on other animals, or have a death-dependent life cycle, before the fall by being selective in the examples that one uses. For example, perhaps God intended blow flies to feed on decomposing fruit rather than decomposing flesh or that all ant species were herbivorous.

However, when moving from general sets to specific examples, I believe that the evidence from sense observation indicates that insects and other arthropods like arachnids, etc. are specialised to predate other animals - either by divine intention, or evolution, or both.

I think the clearest examples of this include the venom fang position in centipedes, the larvae of Dytiscidae, a large family of diving beetle, and spiders; the binocular vision and raptorial jaws of damselfly and dragonfly larvae; and the body plan of the praying mantis. This list is not exhaustive!

However, the clearest example in my mind is a little-known group of arachnids known as the amblypygids.


Source

These creatures don’t actually hide out in your nightmares or the pits of hell, but rather under logs, bark, and caves across tropical and subtropical regions. Functionally, blind they move around and locate their prey through too long, modified legs that are covered with sensory hairs.


When examined more closely, the pedipalps (those spiny ‘arms’) of the amblypygid are covered in spins and folded into a raptorial design similar to the jaw of the dragonfly larvae or a praying manti’s front legs. When hunting these pedipalps extend rapidly, grasping prey and dragging it towards the creature, then hold the prey item for in place whilst it is eat… slowly… whilst still alive.

I believe that the is no way that anyone rational person can look at a creature like this and maintain that it was not ‘designed’ (by divine will, natural selection, or both) for the purposes of catching and killing other creatures.

More to the point, I think YEC organisations like AiG know this too, which is why they must deploy rescuing devices such as this footnote to handwave insect predation away:

It is not clear from Scripture whether insects receive the designation nephesh that people and most animals receive in Genesis. The Hebrew word nephesh basically means “a breathing creature,” but Leviticus 17:11 states that “the life [nephesh] is in the blood,” so it is possible that nephesh life must have blood. Scripture never uses “blood” in reference to invertebrates, and in an everyday sense, invertebrates don’t actually have blood. It might be implied from this that insects may have died before the Fall. However, this is unlikely as God only gave “every green herb for food” to all animals, including “everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life” (Genesis 1:29–30). So it would appear that nothing ate insects in the pre-Fall world.

Setting aside whether Nephesh even means ‘breathing creature’ and what the insects/spider ate before the fall. To go to such extraordinary scriptural backflips to claim that one of the largest groups of complex organisms in the world are not actually alive, to my mind indicates an attempt to plaster over a gaping hole in the AiG worldview.

But enough from me, if you made it this far, let me know what you think.

  • What other examples of creatures clearly intended to hunt and kill come to mind?

If you are a YEC I’d love to hear your thoughts on the example(s) presented above.

  • How do you reconcile the hunting adaptations of insects and arachnids with the belief that there was no death before the fall?
  • What do you make of AiG’s claim that insects (and presumably arachnids) are not alive?
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I think their machinations are ludicrous. They are lying for God, assuming that these are pleasing to God … perhaps even necessary. Far from glorifying God these actions portray Him as weak or deceitful. Such desperation to hold on to their dim, lazy theology.

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I was pretty deep in YEC once upon a time and would have said exactly that. I would have argued that God was pleased with my attempts to refute the greatest threat to Christianity as a we know it (evolutionary science - which was conflated to include an ancient universe). That in doing so I was glorifying God and defending the faith.

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Now I’m convinced that organisations like AiG are lying in God’s name.

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Fortunately we are all able to grow in understanding if we both persist and stay open to better ideas.

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Yes, indeed. Though I would hope that one day swathes of Christians don’t have to painfully deconstruct large chunks of their worldview just to believe that animals have always hunted each other. I won’t lie, I almost didn’t come out the other side of that process with my faith intact.

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How about this for starters?

Just look at those vegetarian velociraptors!

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That just shows how real the temptation can be and how complex the demands on your loyalties can be. I don’t suppose there is anything you can distill from the experience to make it easier for others in the same bind? In the end we all have to wrestle with ourselves I suppose.

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We can always count on you for amazing bug photos! :astonished:

It’s also my understanding that felines can’t thrive without eating meat. I assume organizations like AIG would simply refer to this as a post-flood adaptation (without evidence, of course).

But that’s interesting about trying to draw a “biblical” defining line between living and not living. It reminds me a bit of the debates over whether hominid fossils are fully human or fully ape (since those are the only two options for YEC), with different organizations coming to polar opposite conclusions about the exact same fossils.

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Would love to know the source of this image…

I agree. Although the problem with citing dinosaurs as an example is that it opens one up to the ‘were you there’ Christianised brand of Humean skepticism. How, JammyCakes do you know they ate meat? Have you seen a live velociraptor? Have you seen it feed or examined the contents of it’s gut? Have you tracked it’s diet or examined it’s digestive system? You know the drill…

Perhaps this is personal but living things prove more harder to dismiss.

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Just doing my job as resident bug evangelist, ma’am. 🫡

Yes, that is an interesting one. I have heard that often times the line is set simply by ‘eyeballing it’. Does it look more ‘ape’ than ‘man’? Certainly from what I can tell, there is no objective criteria that YEC orgs are using to separate them out. If so, perhaps that explains the disagreements.

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Interesting article:

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“Dinosaurs of Eden” by Ken Ham.

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Apparently by abandoning any requirement for critical reflection or consistency. From AiG:

Scorpions—Armed and Dangerous

Even the scorpion’s stinger may have been a post-Fall development (genetically but not physically present before the Fall) or used in non-violent ways during courtship. Genetic instructions for the changes necessary to transform scorpions into predators after the Fall could have been present at the moment of creation.

Venomous snakes are obligatory predators that come equipped with fangs and poison, detachable jaws, infrared vision, camouflage and in some case mimicry, none of which is of any assistance in subduing vegetables. AiG’s take:

Mamba Venom Derives from Gene Duplication

After Adam’s sin brought a divine curse upon all of creation, many defense and attack structures developed.

They do not make clear the distinction between developed and evolved.

Designed to Kill in a Fallen World

Other aspects of snake design don’t have any obvious use in the original creation. They seem clearly designed for this cursed world. So we can probably rule out mutations or changes in habitat.

The are many articles by all creationist organizations, emphatically extolling the wonders of various camouflage in nature, while ignoring that the sole purpose is to survive a treacherous world and kill or be killed. I cannot fathom how anyone can square glib belief in perfect predatory design with a pre-fall paradise unmarred by animal death. That just makes no sense.

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I think it could be from Ken Ham’s “Dinosaurs of Eden.” Google it and see what you think.
Edit: Oops. Didn’t see JammyCakes had answered. Sorry.

I just checked WordCat.org. Dinosaurs of Eden : a biblical journey through time is widely available in libraries around the U.S. and at these fine institutions world wide:
South Africa AFRIKAANSE PROTESTANTSE AKADEMIE
Australia EBOOK LIBR
Germany UNIVERSITAT-MARBURG
Netherlands OCLC UNIVERSITEIT
Korea NATIONAL LIBR OF KOREA

AIG gets the gold in mental gymnastics.

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I think they may have been runners-up in theological gymnastics. They’re pretty well rounded!

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You turned away before they fell flat on their faces? XD

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This is pretty compelling (note the three part diagram):
 

Conoideans’ venom harpoons come to mind, and their species-specific mixtures of neurotoxic peptides (~18,000 species and 100-200 peptides each). Most of them are relatively species-specific predators on worms, some conids eat other snails, and some eat fish. Highly specialized parasites like myxozoans, tapeworms, or Enteroxenos also don’t work too well with those claims either.

There are fossils that have stomach contents preserved, like Postosuchus alisonae (a Late Triassic 5-m long crocodile-relative [same superorder, but no closer]), which had most of an aetosaur, three bones from a Plinthogomphodon, and two flanges from a dicynodont inside the rib cage. Also, the skeleton was on top of a Dromicosuchus that had bite marks and a missing shoulder. My father helped dig it up when he was in grad school.

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