Monday, May 7, 2018

Are Mosquitoes God’s Mistake In Creation?

            Mosquitoes are more of a menace than a blessing. This is a common opinion of mosquitoes by any layperson. “It is the mosquito’s ability to transmit diseases that has earned it the reputation of deadliest animal on earth—a statistic popularized by Bill Gates. Malaria alone infects more than 200 million people a year. Nearly half a million die. Besides malaria, mosquitoes are responsible for spreading dengue and yellow fever, encephalitis, filariasis, West Nile, and increasingly, Zika virus”,1 says an article in Christianity Today.

            Not only mosquitoes, but the existence of viruses and other organisms that cause profound anguish upon human beings perplexes us and prompts us to ask questions such as this, “I am intrigued by the existence of viruses which seem to cause so much grief to mankind. I’m thinking of the devastation caused by, for example, SARS, Zika, and Ebola. Did God create them for good, but their function was distorted with the Fall? What about the creatures that carry them; for example, mosquitoes? Did God create them for a greater purpose than to torment humans?...”2

            Molecular biologist and Christian apologist, Anjeanette Roberts details the role of viruses in the Creation, the Redemption and the Fall, “Viruses play a critical role in creation by maintaining Earth’s biogeochemical cycles and contributing to Earth’s precipitation cycles. Life as we know it is possible in large part because of viruses.

            Viruses are also phenomenal tools for discovering many other things we know about cellular and molecular biology. And they are fantastic tools for delivering payloads and altering cellular and disease processes. I associate these characteristics of viruses and virus studies as viruses in redemption. Through God’s providence, viruses can help us steward creation well to mitigate disease and ease human suffering—all redemptive works (although not in the spiritual sense of redemption).

            Viruses may also be associated with the Fall in a couple of different ways. They may be defunct cellular machinery that results from biological organisms undergoing natural decay processes. Or viruses that cause disease and fatalities in humans and other organisms may be viruses that have resulted from mismanagement of creation and/or a combination of that and decay processes. I am not convinced that any virus is a direct result of the Fall, but their disease state may be exacerbated by events associated with the Fall—such as humanity’s mismanagement of creation or Adam and Eve’s denied access to the tree of life.”3

            If mosquitoes are a menace, why did God create mosquitoes? Did God err in creating mosquitoes?

            Biochemist and Christian Apologist, Fazale Rana explains the reason behind God’s creation of a mosquito:4

The misery caused by mosquitoes has lead to eradication efforts. If this work is successful and these pests are completely eliminated, what will happen? Recently, a writer for Nature posed that very question to scientists who study mosquito biology and their ecological role.1 Would the total eradication of mosquitoes have a deleterious impact on ecosystems? If not, then one would be justified in viewing these creatures as a true nuisance, incompatible with the work of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good Creator. But if they would be missed, then it means that mosquitoes are indeed part of God’s good creation.
As it turns out, mosquitoes do play an important role in a variety of ecosystems. For example, each year when the snow melts in the Arctic tundra, mosquitoes hatch from their eggs and make up a significant part of the biomass. Some scientists believe these insects serve as an important food source for migratory birds. Mosquitoes even impact the migratory routes of caribou. As caribou move through the Arctic, they take certain routes specifically to avoid mosquito swarms. These migratory routes then impact plant distribution, dictate the feeding behavior of wolves, etc.
In aquatic environments mosquito larvae serve as a food source for fish. In other habitats, spiders, salamanders, frogs, reptiles, and other insects consume mosquitoes. Mosquitoes themselves feed on decaying leaves, organic debris, and microbes. They serve as pollinators as well. Around 3,500 known species of mosquitoes occupy every continent and every conceivable habitat. Yet, only around 200 of these species will annoy humans and even fewer will bite.
So, it looks like mosquitoes do serve a function. As such, they can be understood as part of God’s good design.
But what would happen if these creatures were eradicated completely? It seems that mosquito experts are divided on whether or not their loss would have a dramatic effect on most ecosystems. According to some ecologists, the loss of mosquitoes would harm most ecosystems. Others believe that other organisms would step in and assume mosquitoes’ role as food sources, detrivores, and pollinators. Yet even if mosquitoes can be eliminated without consequence, it doesn’t exclude them from God’s good design. If they were never created, it appears that God still would have to make something like them.
The fact that other organisms could possibly assume the role of mosquitoes within ecosystems speaks of the natural order’s elegant design. It appears that robustness has been built into ecosystems; if a key species disappears other organisms can take its place and buffer the ecosystem from potential damage.
Most scientists agree that—compared to other organisms—mosquitoes are unusually efficient at sucking blood from one individual in the population and then transferring the blood to another individual. This makes mosquitoes adept at spreading pathogenic microbes. As a consequence, if mosquitoes were eliminated, the spread of certain diseases would halt—but there is a downside to such an outcome. While the population might become healthier, its numbers would swell and overpopulation would eventually become a concern. Overpopulation then leads to the loss of health because of limited resources and, thus, leads back to suffering.

            So we could reasonably conclude that mosquitoes are not God’s mistake in creation, instead, they are a part of God’s good plan. In fact, Christian scientists who were involved in studying mosquitoes glorified God, as did Surgeon-Major Ronald Ross, who “…was able to view, for the first time, “pigmented bodies” (i.e. oocysts) beneath the gastric lining of a "dappled-wing" mosquito (female Anopheles). He later penned the following, giving glory to God for this important discovery of the malaria parasites:

This day relenting God
Hath placed within my hand
A wondrous thing, and God
Be praised. At this command,
Seeking His secret deeds
With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
Oh million-murdering Death.
–Surgeon-Major Ronald Ross, August 1897”5

Endnotes:

1https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/april-web-only/creation-caught-in-crosshairs-in-fight-to-end-malaria.html

2http://reasons.org/explore/blogs/theorems-theology/read/theorems-theology/2017/12/14/viruses-mosquitoes-and-suffering-bad-or-good

3Ibid.

4http://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2010/09/02/why-would-god-create-mosquitoes

5https://answersingenesis.org/biology/disease/design-mosquito-and-its-dangers/


Websites last accessed on 7th May 2018. 

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