Over the years I have heard quite a few variants of the “look at the trees” argument for the existence of a god. Normally, a theist will point to something wonderful in the natural world such as trees, flowers or charismatic animals and insist that these are signs that their god must have created the world and must be benevolent, because otherwise how could such things exists?
Beside pointing out the structural flaws in this argument, I have heard atheists flip this argument on its head by noting that attributing the more wondrous aspects of life in this universe to a god is hardly necessary and really only cheapens them. Is the real world not good and amazing enough without us having to trivialize it with man-made mythology?
While I favor this approach I tend to find it brings the issue much closer to home, if one counters the apologetic by pointing out the many nasty things in this world such as deadly diseases, horrifying birth defects and malicious parasites. Knowing of these things makes it quite hard to imagine that this world was created or is being watched over by a being with benevolent intent.
Today’s case in point was brought to my attention by a friend who recently traveled to Australia. In addition to the numerous species of highly venomous snakes, spiders and jellyfish, not to mention the notorious crocodiles and sharks, Australia is home to the Australian Paralysis Tick, a tiny blood sucking parasite that injects paralysis inducing neurotoxins into its host.
While many of the native marsupials such as Kangaroos, Koalas and Bandicoots develop immunities to the tick’s neurotoxins, tick encounters can lead to anemia in native animals in cases of large quantities of blood are drawn. In humans the ticks can spread infectious diseases, cause severe allergic reactions and in some cases induce paralysis. It is domestic animals and live stock that are most severely harmed by the ticks. Some 100,000 are domestic animals are affected by the tick’s venom each year with around 10,000 of these needing a rather costly treatment from a veterinary surgeon.
Paralysis Ticks are incredibly small, only 3.8 mm long, 2.6 mm at their adult stage, and incredibly difficult to detect until they become engorged with the blood of their host after a few days of attachment. This is especially true for animals that have especially thick coats. Signs of paralysis are not usually detectable until three or four days after the tick attaches to the host. Once the paralysis starts it attacks the animal’s skeletal muscles, restricting movement, and the respiratory muscles making it difficult for the creature to breath or cough, while increasing the risk of choking and pneumonia. Paralysis also occurs in the laryngeal muscles causing a change in the animals bark or meow (or whatever other sound the creature in question happens to make). As the paralysis progresses the animal begins having problems with drooling and throwing up as well as the onset of congestive heart failure. Left untreated the outcome is usually fatal.
The ticks themselves have a habit of hanging out in tall grasses and other places where pets often like to play. They have no-slip grips on their feet making them great climbers and are difficult to kill by simply smashing them. In fact they often seem near indestructible. I have experienced many nights of camping and days of hiking and know, first hand what horrible pests ticks can be in general. Adding the fact that these cause a deadly bouts of paralysis in our pets makes them about as intolerable a species as one could imagine.
So while this world may be a wonderful place in many ways, it is still crawling with horrific disease causing obligate parasites. This for me is just one more reason to expect that a god does not exists, either that or that one exists who is deeply cruel and mean spirited. Either way this is one more reason to dismiss the possibility of an all-powerful, benevolent deity that takes an interest in our well being.