Quote

Sir David Attenborough on the Wonderful Creation of Parasitic Worms

David Attenborough's Life Stories

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Today’s Our Periodic Pasta:

“I don’t know [why we’re here]. People sometimes say to me, ‘Why don’t you admit that the humming bird, the butterfly, the Bird of Paradise are proof of the wonderful things produced by Creation?’ And I always say, well, when you say that, you’ve also got to think of a little boy sitting on a river bank, like here, in West Africa, that’s got a little worm, a living organism, in his eye and boring through the eyeball and is slowly turning him blind. The Creator God that you believe in, presumably, also made that little worm. Now I personally find that difficult to accommodate…”

Sir David Attenborough

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5 comments on “Sir David Attenborough on the Wonderful Creation of Parasitic Worms

  1. matt
    September 29, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    1) it obviously bothers him that a worm is boring into the boy, so he concludes there must be no God.
    2) why is the humanist bothered by a life form doing what it has evolved to do?

    there is the question of why “god” would allow such a thing. there is another question of why the humanist in a “godless” world is bothered by nature being nature.

  2. Louis
    September 29, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Hi Matt! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment. With all due respect, I think you’ve missed Attenborough’s point completely. He’s responding to a very specific assertion theists have made to him, namely that the wonders of the natural world are reflective of the divine. His point is that these theists have an obvious double-standard that’s laid bare by the life forms that they choose as examples (e.g., aesthetically-pleasing butterflies as opposed to parasites that wreak havoc on humans).

    I don’t see how from this specific quote you could derive the notion that Attenborough has chosen to be a nonbeliever because of the existence of parasitic worms. He doesn’t even allude to such thing. What he finds “difficult to accommodate” is that a parasitic worm speaks just as much to a wonderful creator as a hummingbird (which is the implication of this specific theistic argument).

    As to why a humanist would be “bothered by a life form doing what it has evolved to do,” I’m a little stumped. What is it about secular humanism that precludes such a sentiment? How does intellectual assent to naturalistic evolution preclude an atheist from not wanting to get infected by a parasitic worm? Help me understand your logic.

  3. matt
    October 6, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    i’m not sure about our interpretations here. from this paragraph i read Attenborough having difficulty accommodating the suffering from the worm with the existence of god… Attenborough intentionally brought up suffering as the difficulty. that’s the only difference in going from the hummingbird to the worm; is not the worm just as an amazing a creature biologically?

    • Louis
      October 6, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

      Matt–I’m sorry, but you’re putting words in Attenborough’s mouth. The quote is pretty clear: the theist can’t on the one hand assert that a living thing like a butterfly or hummingbird proclaims the glory of god while turning a blind eye (no pun intended) to other living things like parasitic worms that rob children of their eyesight. It’s a clear case of special pleading.

  4. Oliver
    January 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    1) it obviously bothers him that a worm is boring into the boy, so he concludes there must be no God.

    Classic Straw Man argument – that is not what he said Matt. He has not “concluded” there is no god from this fact, he was responding to a very specific claim (by theists) about the wonder of nature and how that must ‘prove’ the existence of god. He says at the very first that he doesn’t know why we’re here! All he is saying is that the wonder of nature would (should?) be a lot less unpleasant for many living creatures (humans included) if it actually had been designed by some kind of all loving god rather than just evolved in the way that he understands

    2) why is the humanist bothered by a life form doing what it has evolved to do?

    I can only assume from this statement that you have no actual idea what it is to be humanist, or you are simply deliberately misrepresenting it to try and make your point. To be humanist, by very definition, is to care about other humans – just without the fear of reward/punishment for doing so. So of course a humanist cares about organisms that inflict harm and suffering on other people. You can still be amazed at how some parasitic creatures or deadly bacteria/viruses evolved while at the same time trying to help stop them from wrecking death and misery on other human beings!

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