Loren I. Petrich
All-Vegetarian Garden of Eden?
Organization: LLNL From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Loren I. Petrich)
Message-ID: <email@example.com> Newsgroups: talk.origins
I propose this as an addition to FAQ files on creationism.
Was the Garden of Eden All-Vegetarian?
Some creationists maintain that all animals were vegetarians
in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve committed that great sin.
This belief was actually a common pre-Darwinian belief; the 18th cy.
(?) English theologian John Wesley stated that "the spider was as
harmless as the fly, and did not wait for blood".
However, there is one great difficulty. It has to do with the
"design" of predatory animals. One of the great creationist arguments
is that seeming design implies a designer, and let us see what a
predatory animal would tell us about its designer(s) and said beings'
intentions. Predatory animals have numerous adaptations that make
catching and eating other animals easier. That would suggest that
their designer(s) _intended_ them to be good at this way of life, to
follow a standard creationist mode of argument. That would mean that
they were not intended to be vegetarians at all, but carnivores that
hunt their prey.
This goes directly against the hypothesis of universal
vegetarianism in the Garden of Eden, since the predators would be on
some very unnatural diets. It is worth noting that in the early
nineteenth century, a pious biologist named Hugh Miller took this
issue _very_ seriously when he considered the fossils of animals which
showed adaptations to being predatory; here was clear counterevidence
that he had to account for somehow, which present-day creationists
simply wave away.
I note in passing that design and evolution are not mutually
exclusive. Evolution can always take place as a result of the
activities of genetic engineers, though there is no positive evidence
for their existence. "Negative" evidence would be the supposed
incapability of unassisted natural selection to produce some feature
(eyes or wings or whatever is one's favorite).
Here is a partial catalog of adaptations for being a good
Teeth. Dogs and cats, among other members of the mammalian
order Carnivora, have long, sharp canine teeth in front for cutting
into flesh, and molars modified into carnassials in back for ripping
flesh. By comparison, hoofed mammals, like cows and horses, have
incisors with full-length edges in front for nipping off vegetation,
and molars in back for grinding it up. Monitor lizards and sharks have
lots of sharp triangular teeth with serrated edges like steak knives
(at least for sharks) for cutting into flesh. Poisonous snakes have
teeth modified into fangs, which they use to inject poison into their
Diet. Cats are very unwilling to eat vegetable material,
though at least one company sells a specially prepared vegetarian cat
food named Vegecat. Also, cats are dependent on taurine, which is
principally found in animal flesh, meaning that that is what they
would have to eat.
Lures. Several species of fish (angler fish) feature this way
of catching other fish: A dorsal-fin spine bends forward and has a
lump on its end. If another fish comes by, the angler fish opens its
mouth and eats that deceived fish. Thus, an angler fish is a fish that
Traps. Ant Lions make little pits for themselves and hide at
the bottom. An ant that falls in gets eaten. Carnivorous plants also
use traps of various sorts, such as forming leaves into pitcher shapes
and making leaves sticky. Some, like the Venus Flytrap, are more
active; when a fly walks on a leaf, the leaf closes on the fly. Spider
webs are also traps, laid by the spiders to catch wayward insects.
Camouflage. Possessed by predators and prey alike. Being
inconspicuous is valuable only if it is important not to be too easy
to see. This is good for prey animals because it helps them escape
their predators, and it is also good for predator animals because it
keeps them from alerting their prey too soon. Camouflage takes
numerous forms, such as countershading (light on the bottom and dark
on the top), being the same color as one's surroundings (I once saw a
Tomato Hornworm caterpillar that was the same color as the plant it
had been munching on), having the same shape as one's surroundings
(stick insects and scale insects that look like thorns, and even
insects that look like bird droppings), and even creating perceptual
confusion, which is thought to be the value for the stripes of zebras
and tigers, because they are perpendicular to the outlines of their
Poison. Poisonous snakes, as mentioned earlier, use poison to
help catch their prey. If a mouse that was bitten gets away, the snake
will follow its trail and catch up with it when it gets really sick.
Other animals use poison to catch their prey, such as jellyfish, some
spiders, scorpions, and even dinoflagellates (one-celled "algae" that
are known to cause fish kills). Solitary wasps will sting their prey,
usually other arthropods, with just enough poison to paralyze it so
that their offspring can have a fresh meal when they hatch from their
eggs. Poison is also used for defense, as in the case of social wasps
and bees that sting would-be raiders of their hives.
Strangulation. In the Amazon jungle, the strangler fig (a
plant) has a way of acquiring sunlight for its leaves at the expense
of other trees. A strangler fig grows around another tree, killing it,
and thus ensuring that it has no leaves above it.
Armor. Many prey animals have armor as a form of defense
against predators. Turtles and armadillos are armored land animals,
which is exceptional, due to the weight of good armor. In the sea,
shelled animals are very common; the shells are, of course, a form of
armor. Some sea snails, however, bore holes in shells to get at their
owners, and starfish will pry open shelled animals like clams and
oysters. Related to armor is spines, which porcupines have. They will
stick in the nose of a would-be porcupine-eater.
Behavior. Dogs and cats retain some behavioral relics of the
predatory habits observed in their wild relatives. Dogs chase cars,
and Border Collies herd sheep with hunting behaviors, with the final
lunge and bite on the neck omitted. Cats play with balls of string and
other such objects as if they were mice they are trying to catch. Cats
hunt by stalking their prey and then jumping, which they do even when
well supplied with cat food. The slow stalking is to keep themselves
from being too apparent to a prey animal, while the jumping is to
arrive at the prey's position without the poor animal having much
chance to run away.
Parasitism. This may be interpreted as a form of predatory
Plant eating. Can this be considered predatory behavior also?
All these are features of present-day animals (and some
plants); fossil evidence is necessarily limited by comparison, but it
is revealing. Among animals with teeth, there are numerous examples
for teeth suitable for a carnivorous lifestyle. Fossil shark teeth,
for example. Or the long canines of sabertoothed felines, which are
good for jabbing into a large animal's belly, but not for eating any
kind of plant material. Or the numerous sharp teeth of dinosaurs like
_Tyrannosaurus_, which suggest a predatory habit like that of the
monitor lizards and sharks.
Other pieces of fossil evidence for predatory behavior are
remains of animals inside of other animals, tooth marks on bones, a
fish fossilized with another fish in its mouth [it looks like it
choked [to death]], and countless sea shells.
The fossil evidence reveals a long history of predatory
behavior, at least as far back as the great proliferation of
multicelled animals in the Cambrian, and we can conclude that the
ancestors of present-day predatory animals were predatory for as long
as they had the adaptations to be predatory. So there goes the
all-vegetarian Garden of Eden.
/Loren Petrich, the Master Blaster