An Inordinate Fondness
When asked what the study of nature told him about God, the legendary biologist J. B. S. Haldane quipped, “The Creator must have an inordinate fondness for beetles. He made so many of them.”
For Haldane-an atheist-the existence of a large number of beetle species was prima facie evidence for evolution. If God exists, why would He produce over 450,000 seemingly unnecessary beetle species? An evolutionary perspective seems to make more sense, as this type of wanton biodiversity merely represents the outworking of undirected evolutionary processes.
When challenged along these lines, Christians often try to identify reasons why God created 450,000 beetle species. There is nothing wrong with this approach. In fact, it’s possible to offer plausible reasons why God made nearly one million insect species. For example, one study shows that insects are worth $57 billion to the U.S. economy each year.1
In accord with this approach Scripture teaches that God created with specific goals in mind. Psalm 104-a creation account that mirrors Genesis 1-communicates that God created in a purposeful, progressive fashion, with the Creator’s activity on each creation day setting the stage for His subsequent work.
The tendency, however, is to think of God exclusively as an Engineer who creates with only one specific purpose or function in mind. Is it possible that God is not just an Engineer, but also a divine Artist who creates at times solely for His enjoyment? Maybe the Creator really does like beetles. And that’s why He made 450,000 beetle species.
Scripture supports this idea. Psalm 104:25 states that God formed the leviathan (which in this passage seems to refer to whales) on Day Five to frolic in the vast, spacious seas. In other words, God created the great sea mammals for no other purpose than to play! If God made the leviathan for merriment, could it be true for other creatures throughout life’s history?
If not for the fossil record, people alive today would have no idea of the vast history of life on Earth. The fossil record gives an incomplete and often imperfect view of life’s distant past, much of which is lost forever. Still, this record provides enough of a window to reveal a menagerie of unusual and interesting animals. Why did the Creator make such a diverse array of creatures at differing points in Earth’s history? Could it be that one of the reasons God created so many remarkable animals-like the dinosaurs, creatures that fascinate children and paleontologists alike-was for His amusement?
Artistry and engineering are not mutually exclusive. Human engineers often design cars and buildings to be both functionally efficient and aesthetically pleasing. But sometimes humans create for no other reasons than for their pleasure and for others to enjoy their work. Could not the Creator do the same, for no other reason than an inordinate fondness?
- Michael Hopkin, “What’s the Point of Insects?” [email protected] (March 31, 2006), https://www.nature.com/news/2006/060327/pf/060327-19_pf.html, accessed April 5, 2006.