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29 February 2012

Why did God create wasps?

Why did God create wasps?

Would an all-loving God create these horrid creatures? Theologian and church leader Andrew Wilson takes a godly look at these pests…

This is a fascinating question. Why exactly did God create these small yellow and black creatures who have been making a nuisance of themselves for centuries and spoiling everybody’s fun? I guess ultimately this question is about the goodness of God, creation and suffering. 

Why would an all-good God create an animal which looks very much as if it’s been designed to cause pain to other creatures? Doesn’t that cast doubt on His goodness? What’s the deal here? To be honest, this question could be asked of pretty much every creature. The sting of a wasp, like that of a nettle, and the charge of an electric eel, is a survival mechanism: a weapon the creature has to defend itself, prolong its life and hence also its chances of reproduction. 

The rhino has horns, the acacia tree has spikes, skunks have scent, and the bombardier beetle has a 200 degree Fahrenheit blast from its rear end (which, while we’re on the subject, is the one I’d choose). All of these features, and many less obvious ones, are designed to help the creature survive (and that’s without starting on the carnivores). It just so happens that we find wasps more irritating than most, because skunks and rhinos don’t usually maraud around our gardens and sit on the jam scones. Biblically, the struggle for survival, with all the defence – and attack – mechanisms it requires in animals, is part of the groaning of creation, the pining of a world that has been subjected to futility, desperate that it might one day be liberated into the freedom of the people of God (Romans 8:18-25). 

Human beings were commissioned to spread God’s image and kingly rule throughout the earth, subduing it and causing it to flourish as we went. But we rebelled instead, and creation is suffering the consequences (Genesis 1:27- 28; 2:5-15; 3:17-19). Through our resurrected king Jesus, however, we have a certain hope of a resurrected world where there are no wasp stings, no tornadoes or earthquakes, no pain or death, and where wolves and lambs hang out together (Isaiah 65:17-25).
In that sense, wasps are a daily reminder that the world is not what it is going to be.
But I’m not sure that’s why God created them. I think God created wasps for three reasons. One, they look cool. Yellow and black look good together: just witness the way everyone wants yellowjacket wasps on their logos. 

Two, they keep humans humble. Without the wasp, we’d be all smug about being at the top of the food chain; wasps keep us in our place. And three, they make the Schmidt Sting Pain index possible – perhaps the most brilliant and eccentric scientific index there is (possibly apart from the Scoville Scale, for measuring the hotness of chillies). The yellowjacket wasp, for example, is given a pain index of 2.0 out of 4, with the following official description: “Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.” Brilliant.

So that’s why I think God created wasps.

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