Josh Shoemaker and Gary Braness have edited a book by several scientific contributors that looks at the insect world and its amazing design, complexity and beauty. They graciously sent me an advanced copy for my review. I highly recommend their work. You can purchase it on Amazon or at Lampion Press. The following blog post is based on their work.
As humans we often get lost in our own world forgetting that, in terms of sheer numbers, we are a minority of the Animal Kingdom. Tiny creatures make up the vast portions of the food chain and ecosystem, and far from being simple, they are themselves micro robots filled with genetic information and complex biological systems. Let us take a crash course in the study of the ocean of micro machines we call the insect world.
Under the rules of the taxonomic chart, insects are categorized as arthropod hexapoda:
Arthropods are invertebrate creatures (do not have a spine) that have exoskeletons (their skeletons are on the outside as shells, with their muscles on the inside). Other characteristics of arthropods are bodies divided up into individual segments (think of ants) and have appendages (legs) that are jointed. Also, these creatures do not have arteries and veins like vertebrates do, but instead have a fluid called hemolymph that marinates all their organs and insides. Think of their exoskeletons filled with hemolymph like you would a water bottle filled with water. They do contain several heart-like pumps that make this fluid flow inside sinuses (type of valve) which provides fluid pressure to circulate the hemolymph throughout their exoskeletons.
Arthropods are a phylum of animals that include not only insects but lobsters, crabs, spiders and many other invertebrates. Insects themselves are sub-classified in the sub-phylum hexapoda. Insects, unlike other arthropods, have six legs and hexapoda is Greek for… you guessed it, six legs. See the animation below to appreciate the co-ordination of the insect’s legs during motion. Two legs on one side move in unison with the middle leg on the opposite side. And vice versa. This allows for balance and controlled movement.
Another feature of hexapoda is that it is segmented into 3 parts: the head, thorax and abdomen.
Unlike humans, insects have no arms, just legs, and all six of these legs are attached to the thorax. Insects also have eyes made up of several individual units (i.e. compound eyes) and breathe through openings in their thorax’ exoskeleton. Their abdomens hang freely under their thorax with no legs to support them. If human anatomy was re-arranged to that of the hexapoda we would look very peculiar:
For an entertaining science-fiction look at the true incompatibility of our species with those of the insect world, you may want to see the 1986 movie “The Fly.” In this Jeff Goldblum remake of the 1958 classic thriller, a scientist’s DNA is mixed with that of a common house fly during an experiment gone wrong. As a result, he slowly metamorphoses into a part man, part fly monstrosity. Which is interesting in the debate between materialist Neo Darwinian theory and that of the Intelligent Design theorum of life. Evolution should allow hybrid creatures to be more or less the standard. After all, endless morphing has been THE mechanism of “creation” since life began. Yet this film seems to pay homage to the notion of the strictness of each species’ boundaries. Even our art seems to intuitively tip its hat to a more biblical model of biology (Genesis 1:24). Again, I don’t see this as directly evidentiary, I simply find it a point of potential interest.
Now, as we said at the beginning, insects and the other tiny creatures of our world far outnumber us humans. Let us take an exact look at just how badly we are out weighed by our tiny neighbours. As you can see, there are about 66,000 species of vertebrates on our planet. Remember that this category encompasses us, elephants, birds, fishes, etc. All species with spines are on this list:
Now, if we look at the invertebrate world, we start to see stunning numbers:
There are 20 times as many invertebrates as there are vertebrates. And out of the 1,305,075 invertebrate creatures, insects make up one full million. That is 76% of all invertebrates and 73% of all the animals on planet earth! Perhaps equally stunning is that 300,000 of the insect species are beetle species. Making the beetle the most diversified and over represented member of the Animal Kingdom. Famed scientist J.B.S. Haldane once stated: “If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of creation, it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles.” Many materialists have grabbed this quote to critique the notion of an Intelligent Designer, saying that the gross over representation of such a low level creature is more the hallmark of an asymmetrical world with no man-centered design or higher purpose instead of one in which a God fauns over humans and places them at the helm of creation. However superficially impactful some might find this statement, it has no real evidential weight in an argument for God’s existence. Our complex ecosystem requires multiple layers of its food chain. Each member of the lower regions of the Animal Kingdom plays a significant role in upholding the system we need in order to support higher order creatures such as mammals. Not to mention the genetic complexity of even the world of beetles. In fact, all the same problems the Darwinian evolutionary model has with explaining the arrival and diversification of mammalian genetics apply to insects (and all RNA and DNA carrying creatures). For instance, although the Honeybee genome only has 260 million base pairs in its DNA compared to the 3 billion in humans, the bee has 10,000 coding genes to our 20,000. It may have 11 times less genetic information but its DNA is… shall we say, busy as a bee? In fact, see the incredible number of genes in other simple creatures:
Complexity of Insect Design
Although tiny, insects are incredibly complex. They are micro machines, capable of flight and chemical weaponry as well as feats of shape shifting that are stunning. Perhaps one of the more interesting examples of this is the Bombardier Beetle. So-named because it decomposes hydrogen peroxide into gas and water that it then ejects at a deadly 100 °C (212 °F). Separate chambers have to keep the chemicals apart, only mixing them at the right moment and triggering a high speed ejection response in the “explosion chamber” to keep the beetle from destroying itself by blowing up its own explosion chamber:
This type of precarious design defies the attempt at explaining even insect development as an awkward, blind, step by step process. The apparatus for this weaponized chemical blast has to appear with several working parts in place in order to have any function at all, let alone the carefully co-ordinated functions that keep this process from killing the beetle in the first place.
Another fascinating design in the insect world is that of the firefly. In order to produce a cold light (so as not to heat and kill itself) the firefly uses a combination of oxygen, calcium, adenosine triphosphate, luciferin and luciferase to achieve bioluminescence. Interestingly, we have discovered that these flies use the rhythm of flashing lights to communicate to each other as well as to predators.
Like the Bombardier Beetle’s weaponized gas blast, the fire fly’s carefully mixed chemistry feat is difficult to explain without invoking design. Furthermore, the use of luciferin in the production of “cold light” is a system that exists in about 40 different species. From jelly fish to glow worms and deep see fishes. Probability statistics make the appearance of a similar mechanism in several unrelated species that are very far apart on the taxonomic chain essentially impossible. Most often, evolutionists do not like having to explain how a system is used over and over again in non-related species. It gives the appearance of a Designer that re-utilizes technology in different species as opposed to a blind, chance mechanism that accidentally occurred in a unique circumstance in a single species.
Similarly, when similar complex behaviour is seen in unrelated species that arose and live continents apart, the notion of Top-down design is kindled. Tree lobsters in Australia, stick insects in Vietnam, cockroaches, praying mantises and termites all have a careful egg laying ritual in soils. This complicated practice of egg protection is unusual and its appearance in geographically and genetically distant species again resembles the application of design by a common Designer more so than the product of chance. Remember that the Neo Darwinian mechanism relies on chance errors that warp DNA and produce “one off” changes that sometimes Nature selects. This scenario would make it unlikely that high level genetic apparatuses and/or behaviours would be repeated in species that are not descending from the same gene pool.
Perhaps most difficult for evolutionists to explain is insect metamorphosis. Many insects develop from their larval stage to adulthood in much the same way we do. As small versions of their adult selves that just keep growing. However, some insects, such as butterflies and moths have to completely transform themselves to reach full adulthood. See the diagram below juxtaposing the moth with a “true” insect’s life chart (a “true bug” according to entomologists, is one that does not have radical metamorphosis).
Moths essentially start life as worm-like creatures. After their “youth” the moth must enter a metamorphic cocoon (i.e.: pupa) in order to emerge as a radically different creature with flight capacity. Not only are the genetic and chemical reactions involved in this feat astonishingly complex, but they defy the idea of a step-by-step Darwinian pathway. Evolution can only work in small, individual steps. First, there must be variation. Which is simply the existence of different versions of the same genes or body plan. So, according to evolutionists, if a species is going to evolve a new trait that exists nowhere in its species, it has to undergo a chance mutation (i.e.: error) that changes a small bit of its DNA accidentally. If that change gives it any sort of survival advantage, it is said that nature has “selected” that gene mutation. This is the portion of evolution called selection and denotes the ability of the variations to cause species to survive better. Finally, and most importantly, the new genes have to be able to be passed on to the next generation. Or else all would be lost. This is heritability, the act of parents being able to pass down selected variations to their children. There appears to be a serious challenge to the notion of the evolutionary process being able to account for metamorphosis of creatures like amphibians and the moth.
Dead Ends and Zero Gene Transfer
If the moths evolved the pupa to adult stage one step at a time, the first generation to enter the pupa (cocoon) stage would have died off and never passed on its genes, stuck in the dead end of a cocoon prison. Without following through all the way to full adult moth emerging from its cocoon, the pupal moths would have all died, never passing on the evolved gene sequence. The pupal stage is incredibly complex, involving multiple chemical and genetic alterations which would have required large numbers of successive generations of larval moths to slowly forge through successive gene mutations. But without ever leaving the pupal stage, none of them would have passed any genes on. The lone larva that happened to start getting gene mutations pushing it slowly into something like a pupal stage would have forayed into this dead end without emerging… which would mean zero offspring for this pioneer. Our special pioneer moth would be dead and rotting in its cocoon death trap. which means no successive moths inheriting the “start of the pupa” gene. And no one would even be able to start the journey towards the full and complete pupal-to-adult orchestrated symphony of volumes of new and perfectly functioning genes and chemistry. Unless a moth larva has the full and complete pupal-to-adult moth metamorphosis genetic and chemical apparatus, no single pioneer would have emerged from its cocoon to pass on a single gene of this sort. The journey would have never begun let alone finished.
Another awe-inspiring facet of our insect world is its ability to inspire technological advancement for humans. Compound eyes are a staple of the insect realm. They are the result of the “eye” of this creature being actually a collection of several smaller eye units. All of which communicate with the central nervous system of the insect, giving it nearly 360 degree vision. Now we have mimicked its design in order to create cameras capable of capturing larger panoramic images.
Moths have compound eyes that are sub-divided up in hexagonal patterns.
This allows its eyes to not directly reflect light, making it less visible at night and evade predators.
We have used this arrangement for the creation of non-reflective cameras as well as digital x-ray film plates that give much higher definition images than we previously were capable of. The presence of this incredible technology in the form of the tiny micro machines we call insects seems to beg for the invoking of a design in nature that cannot be explained by a mindless and blind evolutionary mechanism.
Beauty in the Insect World
In closing, it may be worth making the case of design by invoking not only the technology-packed and information-rich nature of the insect realm, but its beauty. Yes, I said insects can be beautiful. I have always found the presence of beauty to be a powerful case for the existence of a Mind that conceives of and appreciates aesthetics. The artistry in nature is evidence of higher order thinking being involved, just as much as is the complexity we find in nature. Both speak of Intelligence.
Thank you for reading our work and we hope you have been inspired by it to delve deeper and purchase “God and the World of Insects,” edited by Josh Shoemaker and Gary Braness. See it on Amazon or at Lampion Press.