T. rex, cats, and attack-defence structures
Published: 12 June 2021 (GMT+10)
Adrian C. contacted CMI with a question about the purpose of attack-defence structures, and about vegetarian diets. The following is an expanded version of a response sent to him by Gavin Cox:
I was watching a creationist video about T. rex. It stated that pre-Fall, all creatures were vegetarian. So T. rex would have been veggie. God created all kinds [of animals]. A number of those kinds, e.g. cats, are designed predators; claws, eye arrangement etc. So what would you say to that design for predation against pre-Fall non predation? Thanks
Thanks for your question, which has some profound implications for both theology and science. I hope the video was useful, but you didn’t say if it was one by CMI.
Yes, I agree that pre-Fall T. rex would have been vegetarian, but post-Fall also; fossil evidence (including fossilized dino-dung) demonstrates many dinosaur types like T. rex (therapods) were actually exclusively vegetarian, see: ‘Carnivorous’ dinosaurs had plant diet. And: More challenges to dino-to-bird dogma.
Kinds of animals
Yes, God created all ‘kinds’; we read that in Genesis 1 regarding plants (v. 11), aquatic and flying animals (v. 21), and land animals (vs. 24-25). There is a whole section on creation.com looking at the implications of God creating kinds, see here: Speciation and the Created Kinds.
You mention the cat ‘kind’, and yes, we would recognize that as a distinct kind since almost all the cats can interbreed, something thought impossible if they had been evolving on separate continents for millions of years, see: The family of cats—delineation of the feline basic type.
However, we would take issue with your next statement where you say, “A number of those kinds e.g., cats are designed predators…” If you are saying God created cats to be predators, I disagree, firstly for scriptural reasons (which I will outline below), then because of the scientific evidence (which agrees with the scriptural evidence), which I will discuss afterwards.
Genesis is real history
From Genesis, we can understand the real history of the world, from Creation, the Fall, and the Flood, some 1656 years later. From Genesis 1:29–30 we learn that God had given “every green plant for food” to both humans and all animals (therefore including pre-Fall cats, and T. rex). God’s proclamation of His completed creation was that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), so no death, predation, suffering, bloodshed of any kind—this applies to the nephesh creatures; see these articles explaining what that entails: Nephesh chayyāh, A matter of life … and non-life and ‘No death before the Fall’? The importance of the distinction of nephesh chayyah life.
Only after the Fall of Adam and Eve do we read of death entering the Creation. God had warned Adam and Eve about the consequences of disobedience—death! (Genesis 2:17). The fulfilment of their disobedience was their own deaths; that of Adam is recorded in Genesis 5:5, at 930 years. However, the first human death was before this, when Cain murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8).
We read in Genesis 3:14–19 of the Curse, which effected all creation and brought in death and suffering. We also read of “thorns and thistles” appearing in the created order (v. 18), which was the direct, fiat work of God in His creation, involved in the Curse and judgment upon sin. Therefore, such attack-defence structures did not exist before the Fall.
So the Fall involved a change in creation that resulted in death, pain, and suffering, to use the phrase of Tennyson, “nature red in tooth and claw.” By the time of the Flood, things had become a lot worse; we read: “ … the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Genesis 6:11–12).
Post-Fall predation and attack–defence structures
So, back to your question, where you point out that “claws, eye arrangement etc.” appear to be specifically designed for predation. You then ask “So what would you say to that design for predation against pre fall non predation?”
We have two changes in the created order to think about that account for predation, and the features like cats’ claws, teeth, speed, dependence on meat for their diet, etc. Firstly, the direct Divine response to sin (the Curse), meaning that the Fall’s consequences involved a supernatural change in creation; for instance, defence structures appeared in plants for the first time (thorns, thistles). Creation and the earth itself was directly cursed by God (Genesis 3:14) as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin and disobedience, and this would indicate everything created fell along with Adam and Eve. The perfect creation (Genesis 1:31) that was designed to function together harmoniously, was no longer in balance.
Therefore, the exclusively vegetarian diets of all animals in the pre-Fall creation would have broken down over the next approximately 1600 years (before the Flood) as the cursed earth gave rise to cursed plants (i.e. less than optimal compared to their original created perfection). For instance, Genesis 3:19 states as part of the curse, that Adam would have to “sweat” to produce crops to live. And if plants no longer nourished animals as efficiently post-Fall, then some animals would soon turn to other easy sources of protein—other animals. So, many animals became carnivores after the Fall.
We see much variety, but …
As biblical creationists, we recognize creatures do change, but it’s not evolution (evolution of new kinds of creature requires gain of genetic information and gain of function by random processes). What we see in reality is the opposite, e.g. elephants losing their tusks, fish losing their eyes, and birds losing their flight; even antibiotic resistance in bacteria is not proof of evolution.
We recognize creation was perfect, so all the genetic variability was inherent in all creatures from the beginning, so that a healthy, sustainable creation could be maintained. However, after the Fall, new selective pressures came into play that drove the expression of that information in different directions, no longer in line with the “very good” purposes they were originally designed for. You mention cats, but remember the whole of creation fell, so there are innumerable attack–defense structures that arose in nature as a result of creatures competing for resources; if you like, a natural ‘arms race’ began.
This is not evolution, however, as the genetic information was already inherent in every kind of animal from the start. Of course, an interesting question that arises from all this is to identify pre-Fall purposes for the ‘designed’ attack–defense structures and creatures’ diets we observe in today’s world (e.g. the purpose of jellyfish stingers). We can only offer informed speculation but some intriguing observations today can help us think about this, e.g. pollen-eating spiders.
You mention “claws”, but I assume you are thinking of teeth also? When considering their purpose, we are almost certainly coloured in our thinking by evolutionary ideas, that assume a priori that sharp teeth and claws evolved especially for carnivory and attack purposes. Not necessarily so. CMI has collected plenty of examples of animals with sharp teeth and claws that are herbivores, and animals without these features that have turned to meat eating:
- Cannibal deer! Eating meat is a lifestyle choice—even for animals,
- Kea parrot (usually exclusively vegetarian that has turned to eating meat),
- vegetarian sharks,
- a vegan dog,
- a veggie lion,
- the sharp teeth of the fruit bat,
- the herbivorous red panda with its razor sharp teeth.
The point being: teeth are not always a reliable guide to an animal’s diet, and sharp teeth are just as good for eating plant material—you would prefer a sharp (to a blunt) machete for cutting your way through the jungle!
You also mention cats’ “eye arrangements.” Assuming you mean forward-facing eyes on their faces, like ours, it does not prove that cats were created as predators. Eyes facing the front is a design feature of many kinds of mammals, not just cats, which pre-Fall, were all vegetarian. Such an arrangement is essential for binocular vision and depth perception and enables fast locomotion in environments with lots of objects.
I recommend this article: Cats big and small that discusses their post-Fall diets, but also the fact that there are examples of cats that have chosen exclusively vegetarian diets.
Creation: fulfillment of God’s will, to His glory, and for His creatures’ benefit
God willed to create—He said “let there be” eight times in Genesis chapter one. He created out of his divine character, which is faultless, perfect and awesome in power. He pronounced His creation “very good” at the end of Creation Week (Genesis 1:31). His creatures would therefore testify to God’s sovereign perfect will and glorify Him through their existence (Psalm 148). So when it comes to cats, they were designed to run, climb, and jump, and therefore needed sharp claws to help with such activities (for instance climbing trees, digging, grooming). Clearly, they had these abilities pre-Fall, although they were not needed for survival, rather for His creatures’ fully functional existence, so that God would be glorified.
So, God’s perfect will and His glory, rather than survival of the fittest, was the established order of the pre-Fall world—fully sustained and maintained by God’s divine presence. This is something that we, who live in a post-Fall world, full of death and suffering can hardly comprehend.
However, eternal life without the effects of the Fall is something that those who are redeemed through Christ the Creator’s work of salvation can look forward to again in the everlasting, perfect, new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21–22). Isaiah foresaw this and prophesied:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6–9).
Here, creation will be restored to its pre-Fall state of perfection and bliss and will once again testify to God’s perfection and glory. There will be nothing that shall “hurt or destroy.” I am looking forward to that day!
Hope that helps,