Answer by Diane Eager

Genesis states that all animals were created to eat plants, (Genesis 1:30) but after Noah’s flood God gave man permission to eat meat, (Genesis 9:2-4) and by the days of Job we discover that many creatures had become scavengers and carnivores. (e.g. Job 4:11, 9:26) So how could creatures designed to be vegetarians end up as such efficient hunters?

One group of snakes provides a vital clue as to how such a thing happened. Pit vipers are some of the deadliest snakes on earth. Their name comes from the “pit organs” in their heads – heat sensing organs that enable them to detect the presence of warm-blooded animals. It has been commonly argued that such features must have evolved to enable the snakes find small mammals and birds to eat. However, recent research has shown the snakes use the ability to detect heat sources with the pits so they can maintain their body temperature. Cold blooded animals like snakes control their body temperature by finding warm and cool places. When they need to warm up they absorb heat from the environment by basking in the sun or on a hot rock, but when it gets too hot they need to find cool places.

A research team at Indiana State University found that 12 species of pit vipers could use their pit organs to detect ambient temperature and seek refuge from overheating when the environment was too hot. (See Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 207, pp ii-ii & 4231-4238) A report on the research in ScienceSHOTS 15 Nov 2004 commented: “Knowing when to slither underground to beat the heat is a key survival skill for these cold-blooded creatures, and the researchers say that thermoregulation, not hunting, may be why the pits evolved.”

In the original good created world, snakes and other cold blood animals would still have needed to regulate their body temperatures, so the pit organs were useful features to have. They would have also enabled the snakes to detect the presence of other animals. If they were seeking shelter for cooling down, it would have been useful to know that a hole or sheltered spot was already occupied, and the snake needed to look elsewhere. Since they were created as vegetarians, detecting warm blooded creatures did not mean they had to eat them.

As the world’s climate degenerated after Noah’s Flood with the first coming of winter and summer, cold and heat, (Genesis 8:22) all animals had to find food by using whatever resources they already possessed. When desert environments developed where the nights were cold, and warm blooded creatures only came out at night to avoid the heat of the day, a pit viper’s talents would come into their own. They could already detect warm creatures, so now when they became hungry in a vegetable-poor environment they could now detect, attack and eat small warm blooded creatures. A good example of Natural Selection, but no evolution is involved at all.

The same principle applies to other creatures that appear to be designed for predatory behaviour. Features such as good eyesight, quick reflexes and speed, are useful survival features in general, and can help find mates, food (of any kind) and nesting places. Here is a good example of where an evolutionary story explains nothing, but the actual observations fit the Biblical History better. Claiming pit organs evolved for hunting prey does not explain how the snake got them. The presence of warm blooded animals as a potential food source is not going to add the genes needed for the snake to make to pit organs and their connections to the brain. When actual research has been carried out on the structure and function of the pit organs the results fit the Biblical history of the world – pit organs are a complex, fully formed features that have a non-predatory function, consistent with a created world of vegetarians.

To give you a general principle for all such questions learn a sad but practical lesson from the terrorist attacks, when linoleum knives originally designed for a harmless good function were used, by man’s choice, to kill airline personnel. The technology already existed. It was the usage that changed, driven by a moral problem called sin. You will find this principle useful with all such challenging questions about how the original good world could have produced such a kill or be killed world, once sin entered the world (Genesis 3) and the flood ravaged the earth (Genesis 6-9) and the environment degenerated after the Flood (Genesis 8 – present).

(ScienceSHOTS is part of the science news service by AAAS, who publish the journal Science)

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