Predation and Disease

In my previous post, I argued how the scientific evidence for common ancestry and the theological implications of theistic evolution have made me a believer in a guided evolutionary process.  When I made that post, I thought that I would quickly receive a question that went something along the lines of, “How can you believe that God created carnivores and the predator/prey relationship, but draw the line at the creation of the mosquito?”  Nobody has yet asked me this question, but I thought I would go ahead and answer it anyway.

My first argument would be that there is a great deal less suffering and pain associated with predation than there is with disease.  Once the lions have a hold of the zebra, the zebra has a couple of minutes to live and then he is gone.  With that much adrenaline going through his system, the zebra probably doesn’t even feel any pain.  Contrast this with the pain and suffering that is necessarily involved in any death by disease.  Not only is the suffering great, the amount of time taken is much longer.  Disease clearly wins any comparison in terms of pain and suffering over predation by a large margin.

My second argument would be that for all its savagery, there is something beautiful in the predator prey relationship.  Atheist Douglas Adams wrote a book called So Long and Thanks for All the Fish that has a race of sentient and technologically advanced dolphins.  When asked what they miss most about their life on earth the dolphins reply, “the shark”.  As anyone who has watched footage of a cheetah chasing a gazelle can attest, such chases are an amazing display of speed and grace.  A gazelle in flight from a cheetah performs feats of athleticism which would make the most amazing human move on the football field pale in comparison.  This is again in stark contrast to disease which in which I have yet to find any beauty of any kind whatsoever.  I do know a nurse in pediatric oncology who says that children fighting cancer are brave and beautiful, but she would be shocked and horrified at the suggestion that this in any way justified the disease from the divine perspective.  In this case, it is clearly the children that are beautiful and not disease.

The only way to argue for the existence of a benevolent God given the horrors of disease is to say that disease is an unavoidable consequence of the workings of the machinery of life that God created and left, in some sense, unattended.  Bacteria and viruses evolve in a system where God has decided, for some purpose which we will examine later on, that his goodness and his love cannot be obvious.    The purpose has to be extremely beneficial and the benevolent alternatives have to be non-existent, but it is possible to justify disease in this way.  The direct creation of the mosquito, however, implies a divine participation in disease and death which is much more difficult to justify.  This is why I can easily believe that God created carnivores and yet still find it extremely difficult to believe that God directly created the mosquito.

About Robert V

Former atheist currently living in Toronto.
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