October 22, 2020 | Jerry Bergman

Why Did God Make Mosquitoes?

Did the Creator Have a Purpose for Mosquitoes?
Things Have Changed Since the Beginning

 

by Jerry R. Bergman, PhD

A powerful argument often made by atheists is “Why did God create disease causing pathogens, such as mosquitoes, which cause malaria and other diseases that kill millions of people every year?” As Victoria Simpson writes “Mosquitoes are one of the smallest animals on Earth, yet they are the deadliest… creature in the whole world.”[1] In short, “mosquitoes killed about 830,000 people worldwide in 2018” and have killed as many as two million people in a single year.[2]

First of all, mosquitoes don’t kill any one. What actually happens is people die when bitten by mosquitoes that are infected with certain potentially deadly diseases. Mosquitoes, thereby, spread the illness to those they bite. Mosquitoes themselves become infected with some pathogen causing their infection by first biting an infected animal, then passing the pathogen over to a human victim.[3] For example, the malaria pathogen is spread by Anopheles mosquitoes and the Zika virus is transmitted through the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which they evidently contracted from infected monkeys. Zika virus is a problem mostly for pregnant women. It produces microcephaly and can also cause pre-term birth.

The virus likely serves an important role in the host animal, but when it jumps to another animal or human that it is not compatible with, it can cause sickness and death. Other major diseases that cause death aside from malaria that are transmitted by mosquitoes include Dengue fever, Yellow fever, West Nile Virus and Chikungunya disease. One reason these viruses cause disease is because, like all life, they are damaged by mutations and have degenerated. Thus, when they infect humans, the non-mutant variety may not be harmful, but the mutant form can cause disease.

Females Are the Biters of Humans

Anopheles mosquito gorged with human blood. (PD)

In all cases, viral disease is spread by females because they are the only mosquitoes that normally bite animals for their blood. Male mosquitoes feed on plant juices, such as nectar, to obtain the sugars, amino acids and many other micronutrients they require for energy.[4] Plants favored by male mosquitoes include water lilies, hyacinths, and water lettuce. Female mosquitoes require a protein in blood for the development of their eggs. After the female mosquito has a blood meal, the development of her eggs can be completed and she can deposit them, up to 200 at a time, on the appropriate medium.

Because the male food source is very different than females, their proboscis is also very different. It is a feeding tube that is significantly smaller compared to the female injection needle. Therefore, males cannot pierce through the skin of a host. The female proboscis is thinner and far stronger, designed to penetrate the epidermis of many animals. Furthermore, not every type of  mosquito carries disease. It is mainly freshwater mosquitoes that pose a potential health risk to humans, specifically the Anopheles and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

The Good Design of Mosquitoes

One of the leading experts of mosquitoes, the late Harvard Professor Andrew Spielman, wrote that the “beauty of the mosquito lies in … mysteries”.

Posed against an enormously dangerous environments [sic], this seemingly simple organism thrives. Everything about its design is economical and precise… it manages to meet great challenges, adapting to our use of pesticides, the loss of habitat, and even climate change.”[5]

An example of their good design is evident in their long, thin wings that “flap four times faster than similarly sized insects”. Indeed, they are a marvel of design.[6]

The mosquito’s success worldwide is obvious: a whopping 110 trillion of these tiny insects patrol “every inch of the globe save Antarctica, Iceland, and a handful of French Polynesian micro-islands.”[7] Good design is evident also in their chemosensory equipment. They are attracted to prey by the carbon dioxide (CO2) exhaled by mammals and other animals.[8] (Mosquito repellents work by masking the CO2.) Their chemosensors can detect humans hundreds of feet away. They can also use body heat to track down prey, and can effectively sense a mammal’s elevated thermal energy against a background of ambient temperature.[9]

The Problem Is Pathogenic Viruses

The disease problem is not so much with the mosquito but rather with its passenger, the virus. Viruses have many critical roles for humans and the ecosystem. It is only the rare rogue viruses that cause disease. You have in your body trillions of viruses, all silently faithfully doing their job with nary a complaint. Viruses are called gene machines because they technically are not living. In order to reproduce, a virus must invade a living cell and take over its machinery in order to make copies of itself.

The basic parts of a virus (Wiki Commons)

Viruses have a protein shell (or capsid) covered with markers used for identification. Inside of the virus is their genetic code that may be single- or double-stranded DNA (or RNA for retroviruses), and some proteins. All viruses are designed to take advantage of the basic cellular ribosomes, tRNAs, and translation factors used by all cells to synthesize their proteins. They are thus constructed to do what they were designed for.

Thousands of different kinds of viruses exist and the vast majority, like bacteria, are not harmful but helpful, even necessary. Viruses are the workhorses of molecular biology. Genetically-modified viruses are used by scientists to carry foreign DNA into many different cell kinds including human cells. This approach provides the basis for the now rapidly growing experimental gene therapies and the ubiquitous genetically modified plants.

Evolution of Mosquitoes

Trying to account for their evolution is so baffling that a plausible scenario has eluded Darwinists. Because they lived alongside T. rex, as glamorized in the film Jurassic Park,[10] Darwinists presume that they must have had tens of millions of years’ head start in their evolutionary journey.[11] And yet the many examples of mosquitoes trapped in amber, as far as can be determined, are fully modern.[12] Actually, the most common aquatic insects found in amber are mosquitoes.[13] The oldest mosquito in amber was dated by Darwinists as significantly older than 100 million years old.[14] One of the few widely accepted theories of virus evolution is the assertion that “hematophagy [blood-eating] of mosquitoes may have arisen from phytophagy [plant-eating].”[15] Other than that, evolutionists have a difficult time conjuring up other hypotheses.

Mosquito in amber found at the Baltic Sea (Wiki Commons)

Summary

Mosquitoes are not pathogens. They are merely a common vector of certain kinds of viruses. The viruses they pass on to their victims are a problem for two primary reasons: namely, they are mutated, and secondly, they made a jump into an incompatible host. They are clearly well-designed and are one amazing part of the huge variety within the insect world that serve as-of-yet-unknown roles within global ecosystems.

See also my earlier article, “Science Says Mosquitoes Cannot Fly But Recently Found Out How They Do,” CEH 17 July 2017.

Other CEH articles on mosquitoes:

  • Mosquitoes have some of the fastest wings in nature (4 May 2017)
  • Fossil mosquito said to be 46 million years old found with intact heme from blood (15 Oct 2013)
  • Mosquitoes developed a taste for human blood recently (1 December 2014).

Update: “Mosquitoes’ taste for blood traced to four types of neurons” (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, via Medical Xpress, 12 October 2020). Also, “Taste test: how mosquitoes tell nectar from human blood” (Nature News, 13 Oct 2020).

 

Modern mosquito (Wiki Commons). Note how similar it is to the example trapped in amber claimed to be 70 million years old.

References

[1] Simpson, Victoria. 2020. “How Many People Are Killed By Mosquitoes Every Year?” World Atlas, June 21, https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/how-many-people-are-killed-by-mosquitos-every-year.html.

[2] Simpson, 2020.

[3] Simpson, 2020.

[4] Carter, Clay J.; et al. 2006. A novel role for proline in plant floral nectars. Naturwissenschaften. 93(2):72-79, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00114-005-0062-1.

[5] Spielman, Andrew. 2001. Mosquito: A Natural History of Our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe. New York, NY: Hyperion, p. 223

[6] Miller, Laura A. 2017. The Aerodynamics Buzz from Mosquitoes. Nature 544:40-41.

[7] Winegard, Timothy. 2019. The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator. New York, NY: Dutton, p. 3.

[8] Arledge, Scott. 2020. Why Mosquitoes Attack: Mystery Solved. Acts and Facts 49(10):17-19, September 30.

[9] Arledge, 2020, p. 18.

[10] DeSalle, Rob and David Lindley. 1997. The Science of Jurassic Park and the Lost World. New York, NY: BasicBooks.

[11] Winegard, 2019, p. 34.

[12] Grimaldi, David. 1996. Amber. New York, NY: Henry Abrams, p 115; Poinar, George and Roberta Poinar. 1994. The Quest for Life in Amber. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, p. 154.

[13] Poinar, George and Roberta Poinar. 1999. The Amber Forest. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 87, 91, 167, 147.

[14] Borkent, Art and David A. Grimadi. 2004. The Earliest Fossil Mosquito (Diptera: Culicidae), in Mid-Cretaceous Burmese Amber. Annals of the Entomological Society of  America 97(5):882-888, September 1.

[15] Peach, D.A.H.; et al. 2019. Multimodal floral cues guide mosquitoes to tansy inflorescences. Scientific Reports. 9(1):3908.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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