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A Supposedly Fatal Bee Sting

Stephen Cheng

A common creationist attack upon evolution is that organisms and ecosystems are way too complex to have just naturally occurred. They argue that an entity of some sort must be behind these occurrences. This creationist argument is known as Intelligent Design.

Now, why am I saying this? Because a friend gave me a pamphlet published by the GloryBee Ministries based in Oregon. It touts Intelligent Design. The pamphlet argued that the beehive and the honeybee itself were the products of a creator, presumably the God of the Bible. Essentially, it says that the bee and the beehive are just too sophisticated to have been formed through fortuitous accidents.

Evolution is not just made up of fortuitous accidents. Creatures and ecosystems change when the need for adaptation arises. Although a good portion of a population may get decimated, there will be surviving remnants that will adapt. For example, the cockroach is highly resistant to most pesticides. If you spray DDT on a group of cockroaches, there may be survivors who will be able to resist further exposure to that substance. Also, it was not within one generation that organisms evolved. It took numerous generations (and I mean numerous). Of course, the writer of the pamphlet argued that it did not matter if it took a few decades or a few million years for the honeybee to come into existence. According to the author, God created bees. He offers four arguments that are essentially in defense of Intelligent Design. They are: the beehive is highly sophisticated, the Queen Bee has no skills, body parts of the bee could not have evolved, and God must have programmed the bee. These arguments I will deal with one by one.

The beehive is highly sophisticated. Therefore an intelligent designer created the hive.

The problem with this claim is that sophistication is not evidence for a designer. There are ecosystems that are quite complicated but they are not created. They evolved from a rudimentary system to a complex one. Also, how would the creationist know for sure if there were only one designer at work? This is the one flaw that can undermine the ID movement.

The person who wrote the article tried to substantiate this argument by saying that the hexagonal shapes found in beehives are evidence for a creator. He says that the hexagons are perfectly formed and that the honey sits well in the hexagons. The curious thing is that a photo of those hexagons was not included. Instead, a sketch was printed in the pamphlet. Anyway, the reason why the hexagons are perfectly formed is so that the shapes can interlock with ease. Even more fatal to this argument is that these hexagons are made by beekeepers, hence the perfection.

He goes on saying that the beehive population is simply too well organized and coordinated. Quite conveniently, this guy uses, of all the eleven bee families, the honeybee while making his case. Granted, honeybees are organized into large- scale operations. The reason why is to simplify the tasks of gathering nectar and converting it into honey. However, other types of bees are not. Some bees are independent; some operate in the form of small units, and of course some establish large communities. There are even bees that go around raiding the nests of other bees. In effect, the bee social structure has evolved from the existence of free agents to the rise of large establishments.

Anybody who read The Art of War by Sun Tzu will know that large organizations, although quite complex, are similar to the establishment of smaller ones. All it requires is the proper division of labor as well as an efficient system of communication. The antenna of the bee serves the purpose of chemical communication. With antennas, bees can communicate with each other chemically. Bees also send signals by dancing. These means of communications are by no means perfect and are jury- rigged. Case in point, as a bee colony progresses more tasks need to be done; thus more signals need to be developed. As for the dividing of labor, when something needs to be done, an order or notice is sent and a number of bees will handle the immediate task.

In sum, the creationists are just making the problem worse. They claim that the natural world is too complex to have just occurred naturally so they assume that a sophisticated supernatural force or creator must have created it. Creationists and ID advocates need to specify about this so- called intelligent designer and state as to how this designer can be verified through the scientific method.

The Queen Bee has no skills

Actually, the Queen Bee does have skills. It can fight, it lays eggs, and it is the coordinator of the beehive. Queen Bees are known to fight each other over territory. This is nothing extraordinary. Many animals are known to be territorial. Also, the Queen Bee lays many eggs. These eggs hatch into daughter bees. These bees are the worker bees. These workers act as gatherers, lookouts, nurses, et cetera. The Queen Bee, while building up its work force, has to maintain the hive by herself. When workers are available, the Queen does nothing more or less than to lay eggs. As for controlling the hive, the Queen Bee issues directives chemically through its antennas. However, it should be noted that worker bees can run colonies by themselves.

The body parts could not possibly have evolved

It is out of the need to survive in harsh conditions that organisms would adapt and evolve. There are eleven bee families and thousands of bee species, what other explanation is there for all this diversity other than evolution? The finches observed by Darwin ought to sound familiar. When one looks at the fossil record, the fossils of bees found in the layer under that of the remains of flowering plants were in did not have the necessary body parts for gathering nectar. Anyway, this person reveals the stupidity of his arguments by asking why worker bees can do things that the drones and Queen Bees cannot. For example, the author asks why worker bees have so- called pollen baskets on their rear legs and Queen Bees and drones do not. Quite simply put, Queen Bees and drones do not gather pollen; therefore they do not need pollen baskets. Also, flawed body structures are common. The T-Rex has feeble arms, honeybees die without their stingers, and humans have appendixes.

God must have programmed the bee

Again, bees communicate by their antennas. The worker bee is highly versatile in the maintenance of the beehive. No doubt, drones and Queen Bees are specially bred. Drones hatch from unfertilized eggs and Queens are fed royal jelly while being nurtured in specialized cells (Dawkins, Richard. River Out of Eden. Pages 114-115)

This person also makes the typical argument that DNA is simply too complex. It should be noted that DNA is not irreducibly complex, but redundantly complex 1). Each and every organism receives its genetic code from its parent(s). Since so- called creation scientists have apparently heard every valid explanation about the formation of DNA from the genetics field, they should be able to answer a simple question: If God is infallible and if He did create DNA, why then are scientists able to crack the genetic code and point out the flaws? These flaws, by the way, can result in genetic diseases such as Down syndrome.

The pamphlet is essentially a tract written by a Christian apologist. He ends his case for creationism by exhorting people to convert to Christianity. Considering that he does a poor job of attacking evolution, why should one take the rest of Biblical apologetics seriously?

Endnotes:

(1) Pigliucci, Massimo, PhD. Intelligent Design, the Modern Argument. Rationally Speaking column #5, December 2000. Found at: http://fp.bio.utk.edu/skeptic/Rationally_Speaking.htm

Acknowledgements

I credit MSN Learning and Research and HEXAGONS in a packed World for the assistance these sites provided for the writing of this article. I wish to thank Michael Suttkus and Hayden Wood of the DebunkCreation forum for giving constructive criticism of this article. I would also like to thank Lenny Flank, the DebunkCreation coordinator and Webmaster of Creation Science Debunked, for his extensive knowledge in arguing with creationists. His common-sense approach towards refuting inane arguments is very entertaining and very effective. Finally, I thank Benjamin Weinberg for giving me the pamphlet.

Published:
  2002-09-15

Categories:
  Science

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