Quick Thoughts: The Predator Prey Problem.


Over on the Cripplegate, I recently addressed several thorny theological questions.  One was the question of what’s known as “the predator prey problem” in Creation Science.  In a nutshell, the problem arises when one speculates how in the world animals that appear to be engineered for predation were not originally predators.

In other words, how were venomous snakes part of God’s “very good” creation when their fangs and venom glands appear specifically made for hunting other organisms.  What purpose would venom have had before the fall?  What purpose would fangs have had before the fall?

Due to the predator prey problem, some people have found an old earth/theistic evolution paradigm far easier to believe than a young earth/biblical creation paradigm.

Snake Attack

Admittedly, it’s a difficult problem.  It’s not difficult because there aren’t answers, but rather that the answers are inaccessible to everyone since the only way to answer the question would be to somehow see what creation was like before the fall.  The Bible doesn’t give people a whole lot of information about the world before the fall, so the question is shrouded in a colossal amount of rather annoying mystery.

In the comment thread, I interacted with a good brother who was wondering why venomous snakes before the fall was a problem.  I wrote a long enough answer that I wanted to save it for posterity…and also share it as a post unto itself.  For those who think about such things, here’s what I said to him:

I’m not trying to be a pain, but there is a problem that emerges when a person says that before the fall, venom glands were designed AS venom glands that produced venom.

The insinuation is that God designed the world (at least in certain specific ways) for how it would function after the fall, rather than making it “very good” and it subsequently being corrupted.

The alternative is that something like a venom gland produced something other than venom (i.e. something necessary to the diet or life functions of the pre-fall animal) that then was corrupted via the fall into something horrible that it was never designed to be.

An example would be that I’ve listen to the late Paul Tomasek (Professor of Molecular Biology at CSUN) talk about how there’s a specific virus (I cannot remember the name) that has infected multiple organisms but its phylogenetic analysis (historic tree of progression and mutation: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/… ) ended up leading researchers to an original strain that lived in a certain type of tree.

In the tree, the original “viral strain” isn’t a virus at all, but rather part of the internal mechanisms of the tree. When a specific component of those internal mechanisms was removed from the tree and underwent a very small amount of genome resequencing, all of a sudden it was a horribly dangerous virus (to people and a few other types of mammals).

The same sort of historic changes could be hypothesized for something like a fanged & venomous snake. The snake may have originally eaten some sort of fruit that had a hard shell (like some sort of coconut). The snake may have bitten that hard shell and injected some sort of substance into the shell that softened it enough for the snake to break the shell apart in order to access the chocolaty center (while we’re using our imaginations, the fruit has chocolate in it). After the fall, that hard-shelled fruit might have died off and the softening agent may have undergone a very precise mutation in order to become venom.

The outcome of the scenario looks identical AFTER the fall, but before the fall we don’t have the difficulty of God designing venomous snakes as part of a “very good” creation that contains engineered predators, even though they’re (technically) non-predatory (yet).

The coconut example is admittedly a weak example, but hopefully it gets the idea across.

It’s not nearly a comprehensive answer, but it’s just some food for thought.


For further reading on this issue, I’d direct you to Answers in Genesis, Creation Ministries International or the Institute for Creation Research.  They all have a large load of articles and technical explorations of this issue:

Answers in Genesis has articles like this and this and this and this and this.

Creation Ministries International has a whole section devoted to this issue.

The Institute for Creation Research has a specific article on the purpose of mosquitoes before the fall too.  Just in case anyone has every wondered about mosquitoes.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “VenomKnight” Unger


7 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts: The Predator Prey Problem.

  1. Hi, when it comes to rattlesnakes, Diamondbacks inject hemotoxin. It does what you describe, which is to break down organic matter. It basically pre-digests the food which is necessary for the snakes survival. If a human gets bit by a diamondback and gets no medical attention, they can end up with necrotic tissue and it can even lead to amputation because that is how much the toxin breaks down the flesh. This is simply how the snake needs to digest it’s food, because they don’t really have mandibles and molars to chew it up. For the far more rare Mohave rattlesnakes, their venom has both hemotoxins and neurotoxin which is very deadly to humans. The neurotoxins are meant to paralyze their prey for longer swallowing issues, while the hemotoxin, once again, aids in the digestion. Scorpions also use neurotoxin mainly for paralyzing their prey. That humans can die from certain particular neurotoxins is quite unfortunate, but not really a part of the design as neither the snake nor the scorpion hunt nor eat humans.

    Neither of these rattlesnakes btw, seek out humans, Indeed, they go to great lengths to avoid them. Their rattle is designed to warn off humans and other larger prey that they do not intend to harm or eat. It serves no other purpose other than to say “back off”. They only strike as a last resort. Even then the strikes are often a “dry strike” meaning that they bite, but do not inject venom as they need to reserve it for life and death issues.

    Most animals do not seek out humans for prey. That is even true for mountain lions, which are mainly nocturnal and work very hard to avoid humans. They will kill if threatened, and will eat if hungry enough, but will otherwise avoid human interaction at all costs. I don’t think that any of this is inconsistent with a pre-fall paradise. Every organism has a purpose. For as much as people dislike scorpions and rattlesnakes, if you kill them off you will see your other insect and rodent population go up sharply That can lead to very bad things. Our ecosystems have delicate checks and balances. In the end, we need scorpions and snakes. They may be icky but they don’t carry bubonic plague and other deadly diseases that the rodents and fleas that are consumed by snakes and scorpions do. What God intended for animals in order for them to survive, should not preclude that He wanted a perfect earth for us.

    • I have been bitten by non venomous snakes on any number of occasions. To those that suggest these events were the origins of my suspect or even diminished thinking process, I take umbrage. The fact is that I was always this way, no need to blame some poor snake. Speaking of snakes, the tiny and numerous hook-like serrated teeth commonly found in water snakes require one to actually push ones fingers further into the snake’s mouth just to get the flesh unhooked and remove the purchase that snake has gained on that particular body part. Not to mention, the slightest wound from such an encounter bleeds copiously; although I am not completely certain as to why. I have been around folks that have been envenomed by poisonous snakes. Treatment for envenomation can reach $40,000 just for the Polyspecific Crotalid Fab Antivenom portion of the treatment alone. So if the snake doesn’t kill you outright, the heart attack you’ll get when you get the hospital bill probably will. The problems associated with snake bite are worse than your descriptions of the medical outcomes. One especially odd result is the number of “floaters” one normally sees in ones eyes from time to time become numerous, to the point where one has to wear sunglasses in bright light just to see past the “floaters”. That and other related problems last for years.
      The Eastern or Canebrake or Timber Rattlesnake, binomial name Crotalus horridus, was named by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. It is one type of venomous snake, along with its cousins, that are common in North America.
      Genesis 2:19 says Adam named the animals? Major parts of your reasoning are missing here. I can’t follow just how from Adam to Linnaeus, Linnaeus ends up completing Adam’s work? Linnaeus descriptions should be canonized and become a part of a literal description of paradise? Where is that is scripture? Personally, I don’t hold Linnaeus or his apostles (although many were in fact martyred) in such high regard, although no doubt Linnaeus himself did. I don’t really see how a system of nomenclature not found in Biblical Canon, Apocrypha or even pseudepigrapha becomes a part of hermeneutics. How a system like that of Linnaeus, one that is completely unnatural, and one based purely human metrics becomes Canon is perplexing indeed. Linnaeus has a system that is known for arbitrarily, albeit systemically, creating descriptions of unique life forms, using only a typical human lifespan as a base metric to report a stable phenotype and a stable genotype. How Cladistics like these becomes any part of Biblical truth completely escapes me.
      As far as the purpose of venom goes, one is missing some major points. Although what you mention above is correct from my understanding, rattlesnakes aren’t limited to hemotoxins but have neurotoxicity too. Two syndromes of crotalid-induced neurotoxicity have been reported. Another important point is that snakes don’t bother killing their prey when it won’t kill them by eating their prey. It’s very efficient that way, no time is wasted killing something when it can be consumed alive without any problems. Rodents are dangerous to snakes and can be even be lethal to snakes, that is why snakes aren’t usually feed live rodents while in captivity. A rodent must be dispatched by a snake by some technique, whether it be by envenomation or constriction, prior to consumption.
      If one studies brain science there is a far easier way to describe a paradise that shifted, if one even really needs to do that.
      For the record, if creation science, such as it is, is meant to be the other side of the coin from an evolutionist view, I hope you will allow that to more than a few folks both evolutionists and creation scientist views are rejected equally. Why folks are wasting time with something like evolution, something that will fall under its own weight soon enough, is another mystery. If anything, in my opinion creation scientist do more to prop up what evolutionists believe than tear it down. It is somewhat of an oxymoron to try to use a purposefully temporary truth like evolution in opposition to a permanent truth like the truth of the supernatural mystery of God’s Creation. Darwin himself didn’t consider his own theory complete or to be without major flaws. How does the natural world get explained in supernatural terms and vice versa? To what point exactly? Revealed truth, by definition, is not temporary but eternal. Revealed truth doesn’t use the scientific method for its Devine revelations, and doesn’t need, and should not use any form of the scientific method to defend its truth.

  2. Pingback: Things I have read on the internet – 2 | clydeherrin

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