The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tarantula hawk
Tom Smith

Just found one of these guys in the pool.  I've blogged about them before;  everybody needs their little obsessions.  These creatures sting spiders, paralyze them, carry off the still living bodies, lay an egg on them, which hatches into a larvae, which then eats the paralyzed spider alive, avoiding key body systems so as to make sure it stays alive until the last possible moment.  You really have to hope spiders have no awareness, or else that they are reincarnated Nazis or something.  As I have said before, Darwin apparently found the existence of God and parasitoid wasps incompatible.  An alternative that worries me sometimes is that God did create parasitoid wasps and thinks they're really cool. The one I found in the pool was about this size:

http://rightcoast.typepad.com/rightcoast/2009/08/tarantula-hawk-tom-smith-.html

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Tracked on Aug 12, 2009 5:35:51 PM

Comments

I was running in Los Peñasquitos Canyon in San Diego and saw a wasp sting a tarantualm. The wasp flew away, I guess because I was so close and had moved closer in order to see better. I feel lucky to have witnessed it.

Posted by: Benjamin Kimball | Aug 12, 2009 2:02:11 PM

"Cicada Hawks," we call the large, hornet-like parasitic wasps around here. They can be seen dragging off the 17-year locusts pretty much the same way.

Poor Darwin, unable to grasp that God's ways are not our ways, and likewise so bereft of understanding as not to know that the acts of the lower animals have no moral quality whatsoever. .

Posted by: Lou Gots | Aug 12, 2009 3:46:35 PM

"Poor Darwin, unable to grasp that God's ways are not our ways..."

If God's ways are not our ways, then in what way are God's ways at all relevant to human life?

Posted by: Elemenope | Aug 16, 2009 5:41:12 AM

God has a bigger picture. We can endure pain and death and our souls still evolve, grow and move on to bigger and better things.

Posted by: Jim C. | Aug 16, 2009 7:38:45 AM

Wow, so our SOULS evolve, but animals don't? +1 for the Christians!

Posted by: Freddy | Aug 16, 2009 8:04:21 AM

so bereft of understanding as not to know that the acts of the lower animals have no moral quality whatsoever

Or he had a firmer grasp on who the lower animals are.

Posted by: Mike Schilling | Aug 16, 2009 8:41:35 AM

Anything that kills spiders is A-OK in my book!

Who says the spider isn't enjoying it? For all we know, the poison might be giving them an incredible sense of bliss.

Posted by: buzz | Aug 16, 2009 8:55:52 AM

For a solid Christian answer to the "Problem of Evil" in the world, check this blog post from Greg Boyd:
http://www.gregboyd.org/popular/the-35w-bridge-collapse-and-the-book-of-job-blog-post-from-8-29-07/

Posted by: Douglas | Aug 16, 2009 9:07:11 AM

Suffering is largely dependent on higher intelligence. People high on PCP, crack, heroin, etc. can endure massive amounts of pain with very little suffering -- as an example of the context-dependence of suffering. BTW the Dalai Lama has a famous quote: "Pain is inevitable, suffering is not."

The emotional anguish that humans can feel after the death of a loved one, or failing at a goal, or discovering infidelity of a sexual partner, is something that is scaled down in less intelligent creatures. Yes, animals can suffer (jsut witness an mother elephant that loses one of her babies, or a dog tied in the backyard for weeks at a time), but their suffering is somewhat lessened by lacking a self-awareness and moralities that adds an extra dimension to suffering. Humans, I would suspect, are one of a very few creatures that can suffer from perceived injustice alone.

In creatures with brains as primitive as a spider's, much of sentience is purely instinct and reactions. Self-awareness and future projection are as foreign to it as they are to human skin cells, which die at a furious pace.

Human instinct to value the life of primitive creatures, like spiders, is cultural as a perhaps overdeveloped sense of empathy (which is critical for human civilization). On the other hand you have people who enjoy setting spiders on fire, demonstrating sadism, another trait which is largely extant in humans. Some may claim that a cat playing with a mouse, or a killer whale playing with a seal pup, are sadistic acts as well. However, I would compare them to the actions of bloodhounds, or retrievers, or bullmastiffs, which find a satisfaction in tracking/retrieving/guarding which is directly not "utilitarian" in a purely survival-reproductive sense. In "sadistic" animals, the intellectual engagement of prolonged hunting is the apparent goal of these actions, rather than enjoyment of the suffering of the prey. Sadistic people (psychopaths, for example) find their predatory actions unfulfilling if there is no suffering response from the target.

Posted by: Mason | Aug 16, 2009 5:35:40 PM

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot.

Each little snake that poisons,
Each little wasp that stings,
He made their brutish venom.
He made their horrid wings.

All things sick and cancerous,
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous,
The Lord God made them all.

Each nasty little hornet,
Each beastly little squid--
Who made the spikey urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did!

All things scabbed and ulcerous,
All pox both great and small,
Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
The Lord God made them all.

Amen.

Posted by: Oodoodanoo | Aug 16, 2009 10:18:48 PM

I love all the creatures in the world, but I really hate spiders.

Posted by: kamagra | Apr 27, 2010 4:18:52 PM