The face of evil?

Charles Darwin argued:

I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.

-Charles Darwin

There you have it. Parasitic wasps are evidence of a spiteful, uncaring God.

And what does the face of such evil look like? Well…




[what’s this?]


20 thoughts on “The face of evil?”

  1. Stephen P. Jenkins

    Alex, is one of my favorite websites, and thanks for your many informative and beautiful posts. But I must disagree with your response statement “There you have it, parasitic wasps are evidence of a spiteful and uncaring God.” Darwin was wrestling with the theological problem termed ‘theodicy’, and he couldn’t see how parasitism was anything other than cruel and evil. But Darwin’s statement tells us more about the mind of Darwin than the mind of God (whom Darwin professed to not know). I’m no Darwin, but I am a scientist and I can persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God could have designedly created parasitic wasps for purposes beyond my comprehension. For me, though, the bigger question is what to do with the empty tomb (Luke 24: 1-3). The hypothesis that best fits the available evidence is that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Stephen. Don’t mistake my facetious tone for a serious theological statement! I’ve never found arguments based on observations of nature either for God or against God compelling, for the reason that omnipotent beings are untestable as they are are literally capable of anything.

      1. Stephen P. Jenkins


        I appreciate your comment and your sense of humor. Your post merely pricked one of my interest areas.

        And I agree – I do not believe in God because of the marvel of the human eye or because of some sort of ‘irreducible complexity’ of cellular systems, etc. Neither do I disbelieve in God because we are in a horrid, uncaring, cruel world filled with nasty, even mind-controlling parasites. Actually, what I’ve often found is that people favor and then cite as their reasoning evidence that supports convictions they have already come to by other means and for other, non-logical reasons.

        Sorry, this is getting off-topic.

    2. I really shouldn’t get into this, but:

      On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

      Logical conclusion: he rose from the dead

      I really hope Stephen’s field of science isn’t crime scene investigation

      1. Stephen P. Jenkins

        no, I’m not a crime scene investigator :-), but I do use the scientific method. What I’m getting at is that there are multiple possible explanations (or hypotheses) for the empty tomb. In being scientific, one should consider (test) all plausible hypotheses, all reasonable mechanisms to explain the phenomenon. All the naturalistic explanations I’ve heard fail the test. A profound mystery.

        1. I’m not opposed to various explanations including those of a divine nature but the bible in particular does not stack up. The circumstances involved in evolution to the point we have now are incredible and I see how some believe in a creator and I have not ruled that out myself. Addressing the point earlier, I think there are much more plausible explanations than resurection. Taking the text from Luke as evidence to draw a conclusion from. Joseph took Jesus’ body by himself and placed it in the tomb. Tombs in similar fashion still exist today. Their doors are about 4′ tall and 2′ wide. It is not stated but we assume Joseph placed the stone in front of the entrance, and then no witnesses were at the tomb for at least 24 hours, the next day being the saboth. So if one man placed the stone it makes sense that one or more men could remove it and exhume the body while no one was around. Possible motives include faking a resurection in order to secure their religious beliefs which would later be very prevalent throughout the world. Possible suspects would be anyone fervently devoted to Christianity at the time. Then again maybe the Romans took the body. I suppose they could have their reasons too. Explaining the glowing people who talked to the women the next day I’m not sure. Alex does do some wonderful backlighting in his photos. Maybe he can help. Also, sorry Alex to have this discussion on your ant blog. Finally, I’m not a crime scene investigator either. My focus is in horticulture, agriculture, and polymer chemistry.

  2. I care not for the theological arguments, but must comment on that face: It looks like something drawn by cartoonist Robert Crumb.

  3. The grand champion pessimistic comment on nature comes from the Italian writer Leopardi:

    What is certain and no laughing matter is that existence is an evil for all the parts which make up the universe … Not only individual men, but the whole human race was and always will be necessarily unhappy. Not only the human race but the whole animal world. Not only animals but all other beings in their way. Not only individuals, but species, genera, realms, spheres, systems, worlds.

    Go into a garden of plants, grass, flowers. No matter how lovely it seems. Even in the mildest season of the year. You will not be able to look anywhere and not find suffering. That whole family of vegetation is in a state of souffrance, each in its own way. Here a rose is attacked by the sun, which has given it life; it withers, languishes, wilts. There a lily is sucked cruelly by a bee, in its most sensitive, most life-giving parts. Sweet honey is not produced by industrious, patient, good, virtuous bees without unspeakable torment for those most delicate fibers, without the pitiless massacre of flowerets. That tree is infested by an ant colony, that other one by caterpillars, flies, snails, mosquitoes … The spectacle of such abundance of life when you first go into this garden lifts your spirits, and that is why you think it is a joyful place. But in truth this life is wretched and unhappy, every garden is like a vast hospital (a place much more deplorable than a cemetery), and if these beings feel, or rather, were to feel, surely not being would be better for them than being.

    1. Stephen P. Jenkins

      Thanks, Jim – I’d never read that quote before. Where does it come from?

      As an avid ‘backyard biologist,’ I can echo Leopardi’s lament. I have seen what he’s seen and more through my entomologist eyes.

      But if Leopardi is right, why carry on? Why fight? Why be right? Why rage, and why write about it?

      Isn’t Leopardi begging for something better?

      1. The quote comes from Leopardi’s enormous journal/diary/commonplace book the Zibaldone, which was written around 1820 and has been recently translated into English. I know Leopardi better as a poet than an essayist—he’s an outstanding poet—but I’ve just begun to steam through the 2400 (!) pages of the Zibaldone so I haven’t really figured out where he’s coming from. I actually lifted the paragraphs from a review, not the book itself.

        Leopardi reminds me of a guy I knew at school who argued that the Devil only allowed good because a certain amount of good was necessary to achieve the most wretched possible universe. That’s kind of a cheap shot, but Stuart Kaufmann’s idea about “order for nothing” isn’t terrifically far away from it since Kaufmann in effect argues that natural order is actually an irreducible minimum. You can’t make the world any more fouled up in one respect without making it slightly less fouled up in some other. I believe the technical explanation involves something called Ramsey sets.

  4. This discussion reminds me of a paragraph from Terry Pratchett, who is an extremely funny writer of satire, set in strange worlds of science fantasy. All should look into him, if you are not familiar. This item is decidedly not funny, but appropriate here. It is from the book Unseen Academicals:
    “I have told this to few people, gentlemen, and I suspect never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I’m sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature’s wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that’s when I first learned about evil. It is built in to the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.”

  5. I am surprised that so many have lost their understanding of what evils is. In nature when one animal kills and eats another so that it can grow, proposer, and survive this is not an issue of moral wrong doing. Rather this is profoundly beautiful. God’s purpose for the animals is that they may reveal his rightful glory. To suffer or die so that an animal like a bear may continue to amaze and astound is an incredible purpose and the effort that goes into providing for it is not wasted but has served its beautiful role in God’s design. In the garden, all things dying or thriving have been collected into one spot (even ants) so that we may watch and be amazed at the beauty taking place there. With men, because we have been given intelligence and a soul, we are called to much more than just eating or surviving we are given detailed instructions about what we must do to fulfill our purpose and give the creator the glory only he deserves. In short, we are designed to reflect what the creator values most and expresses so profoundly……Love.

  6. Tommy McElrath

    Wow – Someone felt like opening quite the can of worms. 🙂

    That being said I wrote a large chapter of my senior thesis (I went to a private liberal arts Christian college) about the idea of natural theology and I used this very quote. I think the points I made would have been much better communicated with this picture. She’s such a cute little evil face! [Devolves into cute-talk about wasp larva]

Leave a Reply