One need not look solely to the cell to dispel notions of a naturalistic advent. In fact, many profound examples of purposeful design can be seen amongst the physical and behavioral characteristics of multicellular life.
Even here, before ever dipping a toe into the water, we are faced with a subtle question: What gave rise to multicellular life in the first place? As if a naturalistic origin for cells and their base materials were not enough, are we to accept that – in spite of all of the enormous hurdles faced – life not only appeared fully functional in those early days, but also that it was successful enough to expand beyond the constraints of its natural state and form aggregations of tissues, eventually leading to organs, systems, and macroscopic life in general? Given the hurdles that have been examined here, how much luck was needed for chaotic chance to pull this together? What degree of mutation could have forced such a path, driving the process with such precision that, against all odds, life flourished?
What’s more, as multicellular life appeared, what systems came first? Was it the respiratory system, the nervous system, or perhaps the digestive system? Like the systems within an individual cell, many multicellular systems are absolutely incapable of survival without additional systems to provide resources, protection, etc. Are we to simply trust that such improbable and unobservable events occurred with an efficiency that merited further experimentation by nature? One would do well to long bear those questions in mind.
Irreducible complexity is not found only on the microscopic level, but also in the macroscopic field, visible to the naked eye. Far too often we take the natural world for granted, accepting what surrounds us as is with little or no consideration of the vast structural and behavioral components necessary to make it so.
Consider the trapdoor spiders (family Ctenizidae). These arachnids burrow tunnels in the soil using specialized structures on their mandibles, lining the interior of the hole with a network of silken threads which stretch out onto the ground surface surrounding it. At the entrance, the spider creates a door, perfectly camouflaged to its environment, and attached with a sturdy hinge of silk. The burrow complete, the spider can safely stay out of sight of predators and await a passing meal, which the spider senses coming due to the silken threads radiating outward on the surface. In the end, what we see is a complex structure that is critical to the survival of the spider.
How did the trapdoor spider come to know how to construct such a marvelous residence? After all, spiders, like most invertebrates do not appear to “think” in the sense that we do, but rather act primarily on instinct. As such, young spiderlings are born knowing how to prepare these lairs, with no need to be taught by an adult. Like the flagellum or cilia, the behaviors – along with various physical elements – of the trapdoor spider speak to the irreducible complexity on display, whereby the removal of any element in the system would be detrimental to the spider’s survival.(1)
The diving bell spiders (Argyroneta aquatica) present a similar conundrum to naturalism. Although an air breather, diving bell spiders are capable of hunting underwater for extended periods of time. To do this, these spiders construct a domed cocoon beneath the surface of the water, and using a patch of water-resistant hairs on the legs and abdomen, the spider carries quantities of air into the dome, forming an efficient pocket in which it can reside. From this sheltered hideaway, safe from predators and out of view of prey, the spider sits, waiting to sense the movements of food items against the webbing below. How could such a sophisticated method of survival arise piecemeal over great periods of time? Without everything functionally in place, the spiders would have drowned in the water before ever producing a net to hold the air bubbles they bring to it. There too is a problem, as without the specialized hairs on the legs and abdomen, the spiders would be incapable of carrying the air to the net.(2) The whole situation requires that one question the randomness of the evolution paradigm yet again.
Another unbelievable example of design in nature comes in the form of the lowly palolo worm (Palola viridis). Living near the seafloor in the South Pacific, the worms crawl into cracks and crevices, catching passing prey items with their tails. Structurally, the worms are segmented, with each body compartment housing all of the organs necessary for life, the exception being the reproductive organs which develop only within the rear of the creature’s body.
The most intriguing aspect of these invertebrates is their breeding cycle, which occurs at very specific times through the year. As the season nears, the back half of each worm undergoes a miraculous transformation, strengthening muscles, enlarging organs, and even developing its own eyes! When the time is just right, the worm partially retreats from its hole and breaks apart, allowing the back half to swim towards the surface. The main body meanwhile retreats into the lair to regrow the lost section. As the free-swimming segments from untold numbers of worms reach the waves, they break open, spilling their eggs and sperm into the waters around them as the dead, empty husks sink back to the darkness below. The result of course is mass fertilization, producing vast quantities of free-swimming larva, each of which rapidly returns to the coral below to start the cycle over again.
Not only is this process incredible enough as is, but one should understand that timing is absolutely critical, requiring amazing numbers of worms to engage in this behavior simultaneously and without any explainable method of communication to ensure the necessary coordination. What’s more is that no environmental stimuli appear to play a role in the organization of this event. Mystery shrouds the whole process, yet ultimately we must ask how random biological function could sufficiently explain the advent of such coordination? Naturalistic answers are again not forthcoming.
The role of specialized behaviors such as these take on another shade of complexity when we examine their part in symbiotic relationships, in which separate life forms coexist so closely that one could scarcely exist without the other.
For example, look at the common honey bee and its relationship to the flowers it frequents. The bees, in their search for pollen and nectar, inadvertently fertilize a great many of the flowers by transmitting pollen from one plant to another. Many of these plants have no other means to accomplish fertilization on their own, and thus the bee becomes a critical stage in their lifecycle. Likewise, the bees visit these plants because of their need for nourishment, provided by the plants in the form of nectar and pollen. Without that nourishment, the bees would not be around long to pollinate the flowers necessary to its own survival. Interestingly, many bee varieties are extremely precise in their pollination, visiting particular breeds of flower at just the right time to ensure fertilization.
If both sides of this equation are as important to the other’s survival as they appear, then are we to believe that random, chaotic evolution brought this system about? What’s more is that, to accept such a claim, you must recognize that evolution would have had to generate this form of symbiosis rapidly, perhaps as quickly as in a single generation, for the plants could not gradually produce a means of successful reproduction if it were not employing the services of the bees to ensure the continuation of their breed.
More interesting yet is the symbiosis between the yucca moth and the yucca plant. The plant is totally incapable of pollinating itself, relying instead on the little yucca moth. For its part, the moth deposits its eggs in the plant, where, upon hatching, they feed on its seeds. A great deal more is going on beyond the obvious. You see, the moth ensures that there are few enough larva in each plant in order to avoid them eating all of the seeds within, thereby destabilizing the delicate balance. Furthermore, the timing of the lifecycles in both species is critically linked, with the developed moths emerging alongside the development of the yucca’s flowers.
Behaviors and symbiosis aside, what are we to make of the many, many complex organ systems seen through nature that require far more sophistication from their advent than gradual evolution allows. Take for instance the echolocation capabilities of bats and dolphins. Through an intricate system of biological hardware, these animals produce sounds which, after reflecting on nearby objects and returning to the source, are interpreted by amazing mental software, allowing the bats and dolphins to “see” without the aid of their eyes, and with a precision that is far greater than many would expect. Without a full breadth of specialized anatomical structures and the instincts to utilize them – intuitively and efficiently interpreting the information they provide – then there would be no biological advantage to its presence.
Why would nature evolve structures it had no use for over millions of years if they served no purpose in the meantime? What’s more, how could a random process continue to develop and refine organs into such precision structures? This question becomes ever more pressing when examining yet another biological phenomenon: mimicry. It’s an astonishing phenomenon, mimicry! Through it, a tempting organism may be changed, as far as a predator is concerned, into something deadly or off putting, or may simply become part of the background foliage, not only appearing as something other than it truly is, but oftentimes behaving in accordance with it as well.
Consider the freshwater mussels of the genus Lampsilis. While young, these mussels are parasitic, attaching to the gills of fish, feeding on the rich blood there, only later dropping to the bottom and continuing life in typical mussel fashion. To ensure that these parasitic young reach the gills of their hosts, the sessile, bottom-dwelling adults have been designed to possess a brood pouch that is shaped like a small fish, complete with false eyes, fins, a even – in one breed – a false mouth that opens and closes! With the brood pouch full of young, the adult mussel wiggles the appendage, drawing the attention of predatory fish, and when the inevitable attack comes, the mussel releases the babies into the gills of the fish.
What’s more is that the mussel is essentially blind, lacking any means through which to “observe” the physical features, behaviors, or the predator-prey relationships of the fish that it mimics and those that predate upon them. Mimicry, if completely natural, must be a form of magic to account for such precision engineering.
Another incredible example of mimicry can be found in the Goniurellia tridens fruit fly and its kin, which, though mostly typical in their design, possess an amazing pair of wings that are more appropriate for an art exhibit than the back of an insect. In G. tridens, the wings appear to be emblazoned with ant- or spider-like designs, which the flies flash and flick in an effort to confuse predators. These, in fact, are so convincing that they have even give researchers pause before they understood what they were looking at.(3)
Interesting, a similar condition of mimicry can be found in the Macrocilix maia moth. Not content to scare or confuse would-be predators, the moth actually seeks to disgust them, its wings and body resembling a pair of red-eyed flies feeding on fresh bird droppings. Not only is the level of detail astounding – presenting even a faux-glare across the surface of each fly’s wings – but also the moth emits a foul odor to complete the presentation. Another moth, this one of the genus Hemeroplanes, goes even further, protecting itself as a caterpillar by convincing attackers that it is a dangerous snake. When bothered, the caterpillar throws itself backwards toward the predator. Immediately, the caterpillar inflates its end, expanding it into a snake-like form complete with eyes and details that replicate scales and even pigmentation! What’s more is that the caterpillar then “strikes” at the attacker, flicking harmlessly at them like a lethal serpent.
In each of these it is clear that what we observe – the characteristics on display that have been taken wholesale from other creatures for the benefit of the mimics – are not some artifact of our imaginations, not some form of pareidolia where our minds see the familiar amongst the random. No, each of these cases is clearly the condition of one creature explicitly replicating not only the morphological features of another, but their behaviors as well. To assert that such is the result of some natural and undirected process is, to me, madness. Not to be redundant, but it appears that mimicry is absolutely unexplainable through the blind, chaotic mutations that supposedly drive evolution, and again, naturalism is woefully unprepared for providing an adequate explanation for such phenomena.
Notes & References
- Hinton, John, “Spiders and the Creative Genius of God,” Creation Today, February 3, 2011, http://creationtoday.org/spiders, retrieved July 1st, 2015
- Miller, Dave Ph.D., “The Diving Bell Spider,” Apologetics Press, Inc., 2011, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=2&issue=1008&article=1705, retrieved July 1st, 2015
- Zacharias, Anna, “Fruit fly with Wings of Beauty,” The National, July 28th, 2012, retrieved July 8th, 2015
– This was an excerpt from “Remnants of Eden: Evolution, Deep-Time, & the Antediluvian World.” Get your copy here today. God bless! –
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