Dandelion

The original question was:
In your Evidence News December 16 December 2015 you claim that weeds are a consequence of the Fall and wouldn’t have existed in Eden, but isn’t the definition of a weed subjective? Aren’t weeds just plants growing where you don’t want them to?  So a given plant would be a weed in one place, but not in another?  If so then what would this have to do with the Fall?

To see the Evidence News item referred to in the question scroll down to the end of the answer.

Answer by John Mackay

As a long time gardener, the thing that strikes me about weeds is that they are easy to define. They are the plants you don’t have to buy from the nursery. You may have to pay for the weedkiller but the weeds are always free. You can eat some of them, e.g. dandelions or nettles, but you can’t in the end control them.  In any competition with the plants you want or need to grow, they win hands down.

So what exactly are weeds and how did we get them?

Their Biblical record is fairly simple. They were not created by God the day after Adam sinned, the actual plants existed prior to Adam’s fall, but in that world they and everything else were under man’s dominion.  When Adam sinned our dominion thinned.  Somehow the curse of God removed or altered one or more control factors in any or all of the plants, the ground or the environment, with the end result being many plants are no longer under our dominion.  (Read carefully Gen 3:17-19)

Our invention of concentrated single crop farming has only heightened the problem. It’s what makes sense of Jesus’ use of wheat and the tares (weeds) in his parable (Matt 13:24 ff).

From Adam to Jesus to the present we have had to earn (grow) our living ‘with the sweat of our brow,’ with much of our time and effort being wasted on weed control, which produces no significantly usable product (except perhaps shares in companies that produce weedkiller). After a while any gardener reaches one conclusion: I need a break from weeds!  It has to be better than this, which is the very point God intends, and finding rest in Him is the ultimate and only solution.

So what might mechanics may have happened to make something weedy?

Surprisingly, the folk who like to talk to their roses are not far from the fact that the roses and may other plants do talk to each other – well, send chemical signals to each other, and to any animals that are eating them. One example occurs when cattle or sheep eat grass too short, so it produces a chemical that not only makes the short grass unsweet so the animals are deterred.  This signal also blows in the breeze over nearby grass which pick up the message and also turn sour.  Grass eaters are then forced to walk the extra mile to get a sweet meal, and thus give the short grass a break and time to recover.  This is a good ecological process, because it maintains the grass, so that animals can return to it later.

However, it can become a weedy negative in a very easy and short de-generation if the control of this signalling breaks down. For example, any plants that lose the ability to turn off their ‘sour button’ will become inedible or useless in some other way.  This means they will be ignored by the browsers and grazers and can grow out of control and dominant.  Those weeds that dominate because they are poisonous, are probably an extreme version of this, caused by overproduction of chemicals that act as useful signals when in small amounts.  This is degenerative loss of the control genes, and is part of the overall degeneration of the environment that has happened since God cursed the ground.  These are only a small sample of what can happen to produce weediness.

So what exactly are weeds?

It’s true that some plants which don’t function as weeds in one environment, but will get out of control in another, giving an apparent subjectivity to defining weediness. So the best way of defining a weed, is not to refer to which type of plant is the problem.  Weeds are best defined as any plants which expose our lack of dominion over Planet Earth.

Now I must stop writing, and go and spray a batch of weeds that came on to my property on the back of a sheep. It outgrows the grass of the field, and is totally inedible to man and beast as far as I know, and costs me money each year.  Sheep owners can’t afford to leave it alone as it then burrs the wool, and you will still pay to get it out.  As Gods word says: the wages of sin!

The item referred to in the original question is:

Weeds Indicate Early Farming

Weeds indicate early farming, according to articles in ScienceDaily 22 July 2015 and PLoS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0131422. Israeli and American scientists have analysed plant remains found at a site named Ohalo II, which they described as “a 23,000-year-old hunter-gatherers’ sedentary camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel”. They found seeds of wild emmer (a type of wheat), barley, and oats, along with pea and grass species. The researchers also found a grinding stone with cereal starch granules on it, and a distinctive pattern of distribution of the cereal grains around it indicating the stone was being used to process cereals for food.

The researchers also identified 13 species of weeds. According to the research team: “Because weeds thrive in cultivated fields and disturbed soils, a significant presence of weeds in archaeobotanical assemblages retrieved from Neolithic sites and settlements of later age is widely considered an indicator of systematic cultivation”.

Because of the very ancient date given to this site, the scientists claim the collection of plant species “provides the earliest evidence of a human-disturbed environment—at least 11 millennia before the onset of agriculture”. They went on to suggest “their presence indicates the earliest, small-scale attempt to cultivate wild cereals seen in the archaeological record”.

Marcelo Sternberg of Tel-Aviv University commented: “While full-scale agriculture did not develop until much later, our study shows that trial cultivation began far earlier than previously believed, and gives us reason to rethink our ancestors’ capabilities. Those early ancestors were more clever and more skilled than we knew”.

Links: ScienceDaily, PLoS ONE

Editorial Comment: Our early ancestors were highly skilled and clever, but not because they were evolving upwards from primitive hunter-gatherers. The real history of agriculture, complete with weeds, is clearly set out in the Bible. In the beginning human beings were created to be gardeners, and lived in a garden with no weeds. After they rebelled against God they were expelled from the garden and became farmers, growing grains and tending animals. When God judged them He also cursed the ground, and some plants became weeds.

Agriculture continued past the flood via Noah, who was described as “a man of the soil”. After the rebellion at the Tower of Babel the population was split up, and small groups of people had to scratch out a living as best they could in new environments, drawing on whatever knowledge and experience they had in pre-Babel days. Some would have known how to grow crops, some would have had to experiment, building on partial knowledge, and some would have had no idea, and resorted to hunting and gathering as a means of survival.

This site in Israel is described as a “hunter-gatherers’ sedentary camp” because archaeologists found remains of huts with stone and flint tools, beads, bone and wooden objects, and remains of fish, molluscs, birds and small animals. However, these, along with evidence of food crops, indicate intelligent resourceful people making the most of the environment they found themselves in, and no doubt cursing the weeds like many other farmers and gardeners throughout history.

Yet even the weeds are a constant reminder we live in a world under judgement and are in need of a Saviour. Praise God that the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ has come, and those who put their trust in Him can look forward to eternal life a new weed-free world.

Evidence News vol. 15, no 25, 16 December 2015, Creation Research Australia

For more on the results of the Fall on the world around us lecture “From Nice to nasty: A Fallen Design” presented at the Good News Creation Event, January 2016 by John Mackay and Diane Eager. Video here

 

About The Contributor

John Mackay