This is about an especially creepy post from Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia. It’s titled Parasitoid Wasps Shed Light on the Origin of Venom.
According to Wikipedia, the term Parasitoid wasp:
… refers to a large evolutionary grade of hymenopteran superfamilies, mainly in the Apocrita. The parasitic or parasitoid Apocrita are divided into some dozens of families. They are parasitoids of various animals, mainly other arthropods. Many of them are considered beneficial to humans because they control populations of agricultural pests. A few are unwelcome because they attack other beneficial insects.
Adult female wasps of most species oviposit into their hosts’ bodies or eggs. The females of some species also inject secretory products that paralyze the host or protect the egg from the immune system of the host. … The larva feeds on the host’s tissues until ready to pupate; by then the host is generally either dead or moribund. … Depending on its species, the parasitoid then may eat its way out of the host or remain in the more or less empty skin. In either case it then generally spins a cocoon and pupates.
Charming critters. One wonders what creationists could possibly have to say about them. The author of AIG’s article is Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, a creationist gynecologist. This is AIG’s bio page for her. She retired from gynecology in 1995 to devote her time to homeschooling her three children — and of course she writes for AIG. Here are some excerpts from her post, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Parasitoid wasps’ venoms transform their victims into zombies inside and out. Providing food for one’s younglings is perhaps a mother’s most basic job, even for a mother wasp. Parasitoid wasps do this in a rather gruesome way. They lay their eggs in or on another arthropod, like a caterpillar, cockroach, or spider. When the eggs hatch, their parasitic larvae slowly consume the victim’s body, deriving nourishment and protection until they are ready to go forth into the world as adult wasps.
Okay, but where’s the creationism? She says:
Many parasitoid wasps optimize the reception for their larvae by injecting venom that disables the host insect’s immune system or changes its behavior.
Evolutionary biologists have long thought that venoms evolved primarily through the mutation and repurposing of duplicated genes. This model developed after the discovery that many components of snake venom are encoded by genes that appear to be altered copies of genes that produce nontoxic physiologically active compounds used elsewhere in the animal’s body. This discovery was no surprise from a biblical creationist’s perspective.
Huh? Why weren’t creationists surprised? She tells us:
When God created all kinds of animals and plants in a perfect world about 6,000 years ago, he created them to reproduce after their kinds and provided them with the genetic diversity and potential to vary. After Adam’s sin brought death’s curse upon all of creation, many defensive and offensive traits developed. In the case of snake venom, the discovery that analogs of physiologically important substances could be expressed in toxic roles demonstrated that new genetic information was not needed in order for these animals to develop venomous adaptations after Adam’s Fall and its Curse upon the world.
Dr. Mitchell devotes several paragraphs to discussing venom, which we’ll skip. She finally gets around to some heavy-duty creationism:
Charles Darwin was troubled by the specter of parasitoid wasps setting up their young to cannibalize living caterpillars. In an 1860 letter to his friend Asa Gray, Darwin wrote, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [a family of parasitoid wasps] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.”
Indeed. But Dr. Mitchell isn’t troubled at all. She explains:
We too might be tempted to question God’s goodness if we thought he created parasitoid wasps from the beginning to cannibalize unsuspecting caterpillars — at least if we are squeamish or personify the insects surrounding us. But God has left us a historical record that tells the truth about the origin of suffering and death. He isn’t to blame at all. He created all things perfect in the beginning, a world devoid of animal and human death and its attendant suffering.
If it isn’t God’s fault, than whose fault is it? She continues:
Here’s a bulletin, right from the pages of God’s Word. We did it. Humans, that is. In our modern world it has become popular among some groups to blame all sorts of problems on the humans “infesting” earth. But the fact is that the earth was created by God, from the beginning, to be happily occupied by humans, beginning with Adam and Eve, who were charged with its care, not its corruption. Alas, Adam and Eve thought they had a better idea and rebelled against the loving rule of the Creator God. … The results were catastrophic. Nature became “red in tooth and claw.” Because of humanity’s fall into sin, both animals and humans suffer and die.
Ah, that explains everything! This is from her final paragraph:
Yet even in the sin-cursed world that surrounds us, we can see the marvels of God’s design. That includes the delicate balance that has equipped these parasitoid wasps with the genetic information and adaptive mechanisms to specifically target, envenom, utilize, and destroy many of the varmints consuming our valuable food supplies.
We’re trying to think of some clever way to end this post on a happy note, but we can’t. Maybe you can find some humor in this mess, dear reader. If so, it would certainly be welcome.
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