Darwin's Wasp

Collector: Arlo

Artist: Jon Mordin

Placement: Forearm

The beauty and "design" of nature is often pointed to as evidence of God's creation. This view was held not only by theologians of the 19th century, but also by naturalists and philosophers. Darwin, well aware of the stark reality of nature was uncomfortable with this proposition. As an example, Darwin pointed to the Ichneumonidae, a family of wasps, sometimes called scorpion wasps, that use their long ovipositors (stingers) to bore into the larvae of caterpillars or other wasps and lay their eggs. When the ichneumon wasps hatch they eat their way out of the living larva. Darwin had a hard time reconciling this grotesque and brutal story from nature with the notion of a loving and benevolent designer. In a letter written to American naturalist, Asa Gray, Darwin wrote:

"I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars..."

Learn more about the Ichneumonidae.