Cheetahs: Killing Machines? Science or Philosophy?

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in Think & Believe Newsletter | 0 comments

(The following quote by evolutionist, Richard Dawkins, was sent to us for comments by Elisabeth Rohloff.  She was taking AOI’s intern program via correspondence.  Dr. Korow, a veterinarian who completed our intern program, shares his thoughts.  Editor)

Dawkin’s Challenge:“Cheetahs. . . appear to be well designed to kill antelopes.  The teeth, claws, eyes, nose, leg muscles, backbone and brain of a cheetah are all precisely what we should expect if God’s purpose in designing cheetahs was to maximize deaths among antelopes.  Conversely, if we reverse-engineer an antelope we find equally impressive evidence of design for precisely the opposite end: the survival of antelopes and starvation among cheetahs.  It is as though cheetahs had been designed by one deity and antelopes by a rival deity.  Alternatively, if there is only one Creator who made the tiger and the lamb, the cheetah and the gazelle, what is He playing at?  Is He a sadist who enjoys spectator blood sports?”

Korow’s Response:  There are really two issues involved with this discussion.  First, is this a scientific issue or a philosophical one?  Second, what is Dawkins assuming about the creationist view of the origin of predation?

I believe this type of argument distorts God’s character.  It assumes an intentional, first-choice design by God for the predator-prey relationship of the cheetah and antelope.  A cheetah’s predatory design is not specific for an antelope only, but any creature compatible with its diet.  The skillful survival adaptations of the antelope aren’t just because of cheetahs.  This is truly a philosophical endeavor – further spinning the issue by bringing the supernatural into the equation.  Because of the nonscientific origin of the question, only a nonscientific, speculative, answer is possible.

Since we have no specimen of the originally designed cheetahs or antelope prior to the Fall, there is no way to compare them with living animals.  Thus Dawkin’s argument falls outside the realm of true science.  However, if we accept the Biblical account, there was a real Creation and a real Fall in which the whole of creation groans (Rom. 8:22); we know something drastic happened in the past to God’s original creation.  This cannot be measured by science.

The Bible tells us (Is. 11:6-9, 65:25) that relationships in the future new heavens and new earth will be quite different from today’s.  This might be similar to the original environment prior to Adam’s sin.  The wolf and the lamb will feed together; the lion will eat straw like an ox.  We understand that today a lion could not break down the cellulose in plant matter, because it lacks the enzyme cellulase.  However ruminants, like cows, do just fine with their 4 stomachs plus proper enzymes.  One thought would be that lions/cheetahs were herbivores originally, and that claws/canine teeth either weren’t present or simply were not used at that time.  Lions/cheetahs may have lost the ability to produce cellulase.  Secondly, there are many creatures today with claws (e.g., the sloth, perching-psittacine birds, pandas, etc.) that are not used in a predator-prey relationship.  The fruit bats have quite large canines, yet are not carnivorous.  They use the teeth to peel fruit!  Claws can also be used for digging, stripping rinds off fruit, defense against aggression, even scratching an itch.

I believe that the superb design of the cheetah and antelope speaks of the Creator’s foreknowledge and wisdom, rather than evolution or a pluralism of gods.  God was not caught by surprise by Adam’s rebellion and Fall resulting in death and struggle.  He had a plan for this even before the creation of the world.  Ephesians 1:4 says “he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. . . “  Also, in Revelation 13:8, we observe that the Lamb, Jesus Christ, was “Slain from the foundation of the world.”  This demonstrates God’s awesome wisdom and sovereignty, knowing the end from the beginning and planning accordingly.

Bottom Line:  This is not a scientific argument, but a purely philosophical one.  Dawkin’s criticism of the creation model takes a uniformitarian view in which predators were made as predators and prey as prey.  He completely ignores the effects of Adam’s sin.  We at AOI believe that God created all things good, but this changed drastically as a result of the Fall.  We also rejoice in the hope that one day, the effects of the Fall will be removed, the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and death will be swallowed up in victory.

By Dr. Dan Korow

Originally published in the Nov/Dec 1999 issue of Think and Believe.

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