United Church of God, ia
Portland and Hood River Oregon

Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Cooperation or Competition: Symbiosis vs. Evolution

According to the theory of evolution, all animal life on earth has evolved from a common ancestor. This process has supposedly occurred over an immense time and followed a step-by-step sequence from primitive to advanced forms of life. This would mean plant life first appeared and developed, followed much later by the appearance of animal life.

This idea is contradicted by the fossil record, which shows complex plant and animal life first appearing together in the geologic column during the Cambrian era.

Another obstacle to this theory is the interdependent relationships between living things, called symbiosis, in which completely different forms of life depend on each other to exist.

Darwin's theory of biological change was based on competition, or survival of the fittest, among the individuals making up a species. He admitted: "If it could be proved that any part of the structure of anyone species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection" (Darwin, p. 164).

Symbiotic relationships pose such a challenge to Darwin's theory, since they have animals and plants of different species cooperating for the benefit of both. For example, the dodo bird ate the seeds and leaves of a plant called calvaria major. The bird benefited from having the plant as a food source, but the plant benefited from the bird's gizzard scratching its seeds as they passed through its digestive system. When the bird became extinct, the plant nearly disappeared as well, because only if its seeds are scratched can they germinate and then grow into a mature plant.

This type of relationship is found in plants and animals. Evolutionists call it coadaptation, but they have yet to come up with a plausible explanation of how this relationship could have evolved in stages.

How can plants that need certain animals to survive have existed before those animals appeared in the first place? And how do animals that need other animals to survive arrive without the other creature already being there?

Symbiosis among lower forms of life

An example of beneficial symbiosis (called mutualism) is between algae and the fungus of lichens. While fungi provide vital protection and moisture to algae, the algae nourish the fungi with photosynthetic nutrients that keep them alive, As a biology textbook puts it: "Neither population could exist without the other, and hence the size of each is determined by that of the other" (Mary Clark, Contemporary Biology, 1973, p.519)

So which came first, the alga or the fungus? Since neither could exist without the other, according to evolution for both to survive they had to evolve independently of each other, yet appear at exactly the same time and with precisely the right functions.

How could two completely different species evolve separately from distinct ancestors, yet depend on each other to exist? Frankly, the idea that this relationship evolved stretches the imagination beyond the breaking point.

Symbiosis among animals and plants

Another remarkable form of symbiosis is the relationship between bees and plants.

While collecting the precious nectar that provides their hives with food, bees pollinate dozens of species of flowers and agricultural crops. Without this vital pollination, orchards could produce little if any fruit, and fruit trees would not survive for long. How can these plants exist without first being pollinated by bees? On the other hand, how could bees exist without first being provided with the necessary nectar as food? Clearly, both life forms depend on each other for their existence.

In addition, little bee has to carry out pollination in a precisely specific way for the process to work. If the bee visited other species of flowers at random; pollination could not occur, since the pollen of one species of flower does not  fertilize another species. Somehow the bee knows to visit only one plant species at a time and at the right season.

Everything in this symbiotic relationship has to be timed exactly right for it to work-and we can be thankful it does. We can enjoy delicious fruits thanks largely to the untiring work of these tiny creatures that unknowingly carry out exactly the right type of pollination that enables many fruits to develop.

One of the most amazing examples of symbiosis is the relationship between the yucca plant and the yucca moth. Each is dependent on the other for its survival.

The yucca plant is physically incapable of pollinating itself to grow more seeds and perpetuate. The yucca moth (Pronuba) pollinates the yucca plant while laying its eggs inside the plant.

This is a three-step process. First the moth lands on the stamens (the male part of a flower, which produces pollen) of one of the yucca's flowers. It then makes a sticky ball of pollen that it carries underneath its neck by a special appendage unique to this moth species.

Second, the moth flies to another yucca flower, lands on the pistil (the female part, which grows the fruit and seed) and inserts one of its eggs inside the base of the pistil, the flower's ovary.

Third, the moth climbs the pistil and carefully places pollen from its ball inside the stigma's tube at its top, thus pollinating this part of the flower. The moth repeats the first and second steps of the process for one flower until each ovule has one moth egg in it and each stigma has had pollen put into it.

After hatching, the moth larvae feed on the seeds of the yucca. Remarkably, the moth carefully calibrates the number of its larvae growing inside each flower so the larvae will not consume all the seeds of the yucca-because if they ate all the seeds the yucca plants would stop reproducing, thus eventually dooming the yucca moths as well!

By pollinating the plant, the moth develops food (yucca seeds) for its larvae while ensuring the plant can continue its own kind as well.

But that's not all. The life cycle of the yucca moth is timed so the adult moths emerge in early summer-exactly when the yucca plants are in flower.

How could such a process as the yucca moth-plant symbiotic relationship have developed by gradual steps in an evolutionary process that proceeds by blind chance? What conceivable sequence of minor changes over thousands or millions of years could have possibly produced a perfect, mutually beneficial arrangement between plant and animal species?

Darwinism offers no answers. It is obvious that this remarkable relationship appeared abruptly or it never could have developed at all.

Symbiosis among animals

All animal life is equipped with some sort of survival instinct. Each knows what kind of food it needs and a means to avoid or defend itself against any predators. Yet, because of symbiotic relationships, some creatures allow other species, which normally would serve as a meal, to carry out cleaning and hygiene tasks without threat or harm. Scientists call this phenomenon "cleaning symbiosis."

It is common for large fish such as sharks, after consuming smaller fish, to have food remains and parasites imbeded  around their teeth. Eventually these particles can produce disease or a dangerous build-up of matter that can hinder eating. But certain types of small fish exist that are designed to function as biological toothbrushes and can safely clean the teeth of the larger predators.

The cleaning fish fearlessly swim inside the open mouth of the larger fish and carefully eat the debris and parasites from the teeth. How can a predator fish restrain his instincts of getting a free meal by just closing his mouth and chewing, or avoid lashing out because of the irritating cleaning process? These actions go directly against the self-preservation instincts of both animals, yet they methodically carry out this sanitizing procedure. Some species even set up the equivalent of cleaning stations where the larger fish patiently wait for their turn while others ahead of them have their mouths cleaned.

A feathered crocodile cleaner

Such cleaning symbiosis is also found among a species of bird and a reptile. In Egypt the Egyptian plover hops right into the open mouth of the Nile crocodile to remove parasites. After the job is done, whether the crocodile is hungry or not the bird always leaves unscathed.

How could such diverse animals, which normally have a predator-victim relationship, become partners in a cleanup operation? If these procedures evolved, as evolutionists contend must have happened, how many birds would have been eaten alive before the crocodile decided it was in his interest to let one clean its mouth, then proceed to let it escape? In contrast, how many birds would have continued picking crocodile teeth when they saw some of their feathery cousins eaten alive by crocodiles? They certainly are instinctively aware that better and safer ways of getting a meal are available to them.

Such sophisticated relationships among diverse creatures show an underlying intelligent design and forethought at work. Symbiotic relationships are clearly both a great challenge to Darwinism arid a great proof of a great Designer and Creator.

Thousands of years ago, while contemplating the wonders of nature around him, David exclaimed something that is as true today as it was then "O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all" (Psalm.104:24).

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