People struggle with many insects that give us diseases, impact our food supply, and even damage our clothing. Mosquitoes, locusts, grasshoppers, cockroaches, crickets, and the like have been a scourge prompting the use of pesticides. The pesticides, in turn, have brought cancer and attacks on our immune systems. Yet, we often overlook the fact that God has given us natural insect control by providing agents that eat insects, including birds, bats, fish, and even insects. One insect-eating insect that looks like it came from another planet is known to entomologists as “Mantis religiosa” but is commonly called the praying mantis.
The mantis has bulging eyes and a triangular-shaped head that swivels atop a long neck, giving it an odd extraterrestrial look. It is the only insect with three-dimensional vision. It holds its two front legs at an angle as if folded in prayer while actually poised to ambush prey. Those forelegs are armed with spikes so that when they capture an insect, it cannot escape.
Humans introduced the praying mantis from Europe into New York state in 1900 to control grasshopper infestations. Mantises are voracious eaters and can even be cannibalistic. Their population is partly controlled by eating each other when the food supply becomes reduced. Females sometimes eat the males and the egg capsules when there is a food shortage.
A mistake humans have made is using chemicals to control insect populations instead of using the natural controls God has given us. Spraying massive amounts of insect-killing chemicals kills everything, including insect-eating birds, fish, and insects like the praying mantis. We often hear people blaming God for the diseases and afflictions humans have caused.
The more we study the creation, the more we see natural insect control agents. They may require work and a more significant time investment than the easy process of spraying, but they cause far less collateral damage.
There are organizations that advocate natural control of pests as opposed to the use of chemicals. One effort to control garden pests involves the use of praying mantises. While the concept is good, there are complications. In the natural world with no human intervention, there is a balance between predator and prey. When humans upset that balance, the result is always catastrophic.
In Australia, for example, rabbits were introduced to control certain plants. The rabbits had no natural enemies, and in a very short time, the rabbit population was out of control. Now there is the problem of how to get rid of the rabbits. Here in Michigan, beavers have been brought back into the river where I live. Today they have no enemies, and the beaver population has grown to the point where it is almost impossible to keep decorative trees because the beavers eat them.
The December/January issue of National Wildlife magazine (page 10) brought a new issue to our attention. People have introduced large numbers of praying mantises to control the bugs that were eating their gardens. The problem is that they not only eat bugs, but they will also kill and eat hummingbirds. Some people who have deliberately added numbers of mantises to their property have discovered that they no longer have hummingbirds, and apparently the mantises are the cause.
The Wilson Journal of Ornithology reported a study in which there were 147 cases of praying mantises catching 24 different bird species. The praying mantises capture the hummingbirds at feeders or as the birds are getting nectar from a flower. When we see bad environmental situations in nature, it is almost always due to human mismanagement and not a fault in the design of the system.
–John N. Clayton
One of the better arguments that atheists make is the claim that “god” is something that humans have invented to explain what they didn’t understand. This is known as the God of the gaps approach to explaining things. When people didn’t understand what makes a volcano work, they invented a god or goddess to explain volcanoes. When people didn’t understand what produces weather, gods or goddesses were invented to explain everything from lightning to wind. The names of these gods and goddesses have endured, and they show up in the video games our kids play such as Thor, Zeus, Apollo, Minerva, etc. The atheist argument is that in time they will find scientific answers that disprove any notion that a divine being was responsible.
There are two major weaknesses in the God of the gaps charge that atheists are making. The first is that just because we can propose a possible natural way to explain things that does not mean the explanation is true. Years ago there was a discovery that a female praying mantis after being fertilized by the male turns around and eats him. Promoters of neo-Darwinism developed elaborate theories about how this behavior was a product of evolutionary processes. Some of the explanations sounded fairly plausible. Later it was discovered that this behavior happens in captivity, but not in the natural world. What is proposed is frequently not what happened.
The second weakness of the God of the gaps accusation is that it ignores the probabilities against the natural explanation. For example, there are 10^500 different possible solutions to the string theory equations. (That’s one followed by 500 zeros.) By carefully choosing which equation you use, a scientist can propose one step in the formation of tangible matter. Many more steps are required to get matter that is stable, and multiple steps have to be accomplished before you can get a single atom of hydrogen. When statistics are applied to this model, the probabilities are prohibitive.