When observing the complex beauty of the natural world and the diversity of plants and animals and how each species’ characteristics seem perfectly tailored for a particular lifestyle, it is not difficult to jump into the conclusion that everything was designed.
I was staring at a small clover garden, admiring the structured leaf formation and how it uniformly blanketed the patch of ground when I realized that underneath the miniature canopy of clover crowns must be a thriving community of insects and other tiny creatures. And beneath the ground dozens of earthworms must be burrowing and ingesting dead matter and minute soil particles, aerating the earth and secreting humus and minerals needed by the clover plant to grow. At this point it makes sense to imagine that this nice little ecosystem must have been orchestrated by an intelligent and loving being.
However, also living underground are thousands of ants, and ants feed on earthworms. Anybody who has seen a live earthworm being attacked by red ants knows that it is a slow and very painful death, the worm writhing and rolling and curling in a feeble attempt to escape the tormenting mandibles that tear all over its soft flesh, each bite leaving behind a burning toxin. It must be one of the most excruciating deaths an animal can experience (although perhaps not as agonizingly slow as that of a caterpillar whose body is being leisurely devoured from the inside by a growing wasp larva). Even if one believes that earthworms have souls that will be eternally rewarded in Earthworm Heaven for all their sufferings under the earth, it is absurd to conceive of an intelligent designer.
A lot of people especially those living comfortably in civilized societies are not aware of this life and death struggle among the lower animals. Most have not even considered that the burgers they’re munching came from a once-living cow whose throat was slit with a very sharp industrial blade, causing it to stumble and thrash around as its air sacs get filled with its own blood, flooding its lungs and simulating a slow drowning effect that would last several minutes until the cow finally expires. Or that the drumstick they’re nibbling came from a chicken who endured its entire short life in cramped captivity, injected with chemicals to speed up growth for early slaughter.
When you’re on top of the food chain (and blissfully oblivious to the great inconvenience you are causing those below), it is easy to be overwhelmed by a feeling of gratefulness, and there even seems to be an almost instinctive need to seek an object of gratitude. But imagine if we happened to be the cow or the chicken, or the earthworm for that matter. I wonder if gratefulness would come as naturally.
If there was an intelligent designer, animals wouldn’t have to feed on one another. Every creature would be responsible for its own photosynthesis and capable of absorbing moisture and minerals from the air. Predation and parasitism would be totally unnecessary. All animals would also be able to fly, swim, run and burrow, freely frolicking across the bounds of the earth, fully enjoying the planet’s blessings.
And maybe this is why a lot of people believe (or would like to believe) that we have a soul. Perhaps unconsciously we think of the spirit as the perfect form of existence, totally free and having no need for transport, shelter, clothing, air, water, or food. And no need for food means no need for other animals to die just so we can live. The earth would be a true paradise where no creature has to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. If there was an intelligent designer, existence wouldn’t be as cruel, and the struggle for life wouldn’t be as bloodthirsty.