Saturday, September 26, 2015

#91 Spider Webs

I’m sure you must be familiar with spider webs. Every one of us has seen them and most of us have gotten tangled in one from time to time. Most of us would be just fine if we never had anything to do with a spider or its web again.

We try to avoid encountering them or even thinking about them, but a spider’s web is an engineering marvel that most of us could not begin to figure out how to create even if we had the resources. Scientists don’t even know how they do it.

Most spiders have three different “spinnerets” that are organs in their bodies to produce the three different types of silk that go into making a spider web. They have both sticky and non-sticky silk. Most of the silk threads in a spider web are the “sticky” type which catches insects for them to eat.

As you have probably heard, the silk of spider webs is stronger than steel for its size, but it is way more elastic.

Did you ever wonder why spiders don’t get all caught up in their own webs? They have special legs, claws, feet, and hairs that help them not get stuck. They also spin the type of silk that is “non-sticky”. When they run across their web, they stay mostly on the non-sticky silk threads.

Reading about spider webs is a fascinating education.

There are so many elements that come together to create a spider web that most rational people who study about the details have to conclude that it is a total miracle if it happened by mutation and natural selection through slow and gradual changes as predicted by the Theory of Evolution. However, it’s so much simpler and more elegant to imagine a super-intellect designing it all, as I do.

I want to go through the article in Wikipedia.Org [1] on Spider Webs and point out some questions that you should ask yourself if you have any doubt about God.

“When spiders moved from the water to the land in the Early Devonian period, they started making silk to protect their bodies and their eggs.” [1]

The writer says that spiders just “started making silk.” Now if you imagine what they are really doing, you'll see this is a miraculous performance. It’s not like they decided to put on a jacket or something. Spiders somehow developed a special organ in their bodies that they never had before. This brand new organ actually makes a long continuous strand of silk that is stronger than steel for its size. Somehow they realized that this string coming out of themselves would be good to wrap themselves or their eggs in for protection.

That’s a miracle or it’s a design.

“Spiders gradually started using silk for hunting purposes, first as guide lines and signal lines, then as ground or bush webs, and eventually as the aerial webs that are familiar today.” [1]

Each sentence is taking one or more gigantic leaps by assumption. The kind of silk that was produced to wrap themselves or their eggs must have been the “non-sticky” silk. Otherwise, they’d be in a total mess. So in order to use any silk for hunting purposes, they would need the “sticky” type of silk. This is not produced in the same bodily organ, or spinneret. They need a totally different type of spinneret to produce the “sticky” silk. So they have to grow a whole new organ.

Next, you might also ask yourself, “How did they learn to hunt with sticky silk?” Imagine that you grow an organ to produce sticky silk and it starts oozing from your abdomen. How do you figure out what to do with it? Since it is sticky, it will get all over you, sort of like duct tape gone wild. Remember it is stronger than steel at your level of size. Somehow you have to learn to turn it on and off. Then next, over many generations of getting all stuck to yourself, you evolve special hairy arms and hands with special cells so you can deal with the sticky silk.

Remember the concept of Natural Selection says that every slow and gradual step along the way was an advantage to survival so it was preserved. I’m having a hard time imagining myself wrapped in duct tape and thinking I could survive better that way.

Ok, let’s skip ahead. You’ve got this long strand of sticky silk emerging from your body that you have managed to get under control. How does it become useful for hunting? The author claims it must have been used “first as guidelines and signal lines”. I guess the spiders must have laid it out across the ground and realized that if food got stuck to it, then they could reel it in like on a fishing line. That seems like a possibility until you think of getting some double-sided duct tape and laying it out across the ground. You’re not going to catch anything but dirt. Even if you laid it up the side of a tree, you’re probably only going to catch tree bark.

Maybe they hung upside down from a tree branch and dangled the sticky silk strand in the air. They might accidentally catch a bug for dinner. Odds are not so good. They also might catch a bird and get carried away. I just don’t see this as an improvement on survival abilities. There are more bugs on the ground to eat than they could catch in the air.

“Spiders produce silk from their spinneret glands located at the tip of their abdomen. Each gland produces a thread for a special purpose – for example a trailed safety line, sticky silk for trapping prey or fine silk for wrapping it. Spiders use different gland types to produce different silks, and some spiders are capable of producing up to 8 different silks during their lifetime.

“Most spiders have three pairs of spinnerets, each having its own function – there are also spiders with just one pair and others with as many as four pairs.” [1]

So most spiders have several glands for producing each a different type of silk thread. Some spiders may have up to 8 different glands. Obviously, each type of gland is unique and so there had to be a lot of DNA changes in a spider’s sperm AND egg for those changes to first occur and then be perpetuated from one generation to the next. If only the female or male spider mutates, then a trait is not likely to get passed to the next generation.

“Webs allow a spider to catch prey without having to expend energy by running it down. Thus it is an efficient method of gathering food. However, constructing the web is in itself an energetically costly process because of the large amount of protein required, in the form of silk. In addition, after a time the silk will lose its stickiness and thus become inefficient at capturing prey. It is common for spiders to eat their own web daily to recoup some of the energy used in spinning. The silk proteins are thus recycled.” [1]

I am skeptical that this statement can be arguing in favor of evolution. How much energy does a spider actually expend to run down an insect as opposed to creating a huge spider web? Which strategy is more likely to lead to survival of the fittest? Seems to me that a spider that runs down some food gets to eat it right away as contrasted to the one that builds a huge nest and waits and hopes. Which one will survive better to reproduce, the spider on the ground chasing prey or the one that is taking many generations to learn how to make a spider web and use it?

“The tensile strength of spider silk is greater than the same weight of steel and has much greater elasticity. Its microstructure is under investigation for potential applications in industry, including bullet-proof vests and artificial tendons.” [1]

This is incredible information. A spider can produce from a gland on its body a thread stronger than steel (relatively), which has much greater elasticity. It has taken human beings with intelligence thousands and thousands of years to produce steel, yet evolutionists believe that spiders accidentally stumbled on the way to produce it from developing an organ in their own bodies from scratch, step-by-step, gradually over many generations. Really?

Here’s another issue. Scientists know that a spider web is a mixture of sticky and non-sticky silk which allows the spider to walk over his/her own spider web and not get stuck to it. Just how in the process of figuring out how to build a spider web did the spider learn to make a pattern of non-sticky silk to walk on and avoid the sticky silk. Do you think it was trial and error? Going back to the duct tape analogy, the spider would get stuck in his own web many, many times before learning how to engineer the non-sticky silk that he/she could walk on. The strands would have to be in a certain pattern and distance between them so the spider could get anywhere in the web that an insect might get stuck. The spider legs must be able to reach across the gap.

“During the process of making an orb web, the spider will use its own body for measurements.” [1]

I find this an amazing statement, that a spider takes measurements like an intelligent construction worker planning his next move.

Next we need to spend a little time with the phenomenal way a spider actually goes about spinning a web and ask ourselves lots of questions of how can this rationally be explained without a master designer.

“Many webs span gaps between objects which the spider could not cross by crawling. This is done by first producing a fine adhesive thread to drift on a faint breeze across a gap. When it sticks to a surface at the far end, the spider feels the change in the vibration. The spider reels in and tightens the first strand, then carefully walks along it and strengthens it with a second thread. This process is repeated until the thread is strong enough to support the rest of the web.” [1]

Think about this for a little while. It’s talking about a spider up in the air letting a silk drift in the breeze. (Remember to think about duct tape.) However, the Wikipedia author previously said that webs were created on the ground first. So spiders were merrily making spider webs on the ground until they realized they needed to make them in the air and then they somehow figured out that they should go up high and dangle a sticky silk to blow in the wind. If it dangles around for a while and doesn’t stick on anything, then they should let out some more silk.

Once it sticks to something, they carefully reel it in and try to make it tight. Then they travel down the sticky silk (remember duct tape) without getting stuck in it and without breaking it and falling. They drag some other sticky silk behind them without getting stuck in that and attach it to the end point. Now they have two strands across the gap. But still they repeat this process again to make the sure it can support the whole future web. How they know when they have enough strands, that is a mystery. With each additional strand of sticky silk (remember think double-sided duct tape) they manage to go back and forth across without getting stuck. How many generations did it take them to learn how not to get stuck.

“After strengthening the first thread, the spider continues to make a Y-shaped netting. The first three radials of the web are now constructed. More radials are added, making sure that the distance between each radial and the next is small enough to cross. This means that the number of radials in a web directly depends on the size of the spider plus the size of the web. It is common for a web to be about 20 times the size of the spider building it.” [1]

“The spider easily grips the thin threads with special serrated claws, a smooth hook and a series of barbed hairs on the end of its legs. As it walks along the initial structural threads, it lays more frame threads between various anchor points. Then it starts laying out radius threads from the center of the web to the frames. The spider does not coat the frame and radius threads with sticky material, since it needs to walk across them to get around the web.

“After building all the radius threads, the spider lays more nonstick silk to form an auxiliary spiral, extending from the center of the web to the outer edge of the web. The spider then spirals in on the web, laying out sticky thread and using the auxiliary spiral as a reference. The spider eats up the auxiliary spiral as it lays out the sticky spiral, resulting in a web with non-sticky radius threads, for getting around, and a sticky spiral for catching bugs.” [2]

About all I can say to this is WOW. I am daily watching a construction crew put a new wing on the building where I work. Each day is awesome as the scaffolding goes up in a precise and coordinated way, step-by-step. It takes a lot of brains to figure out an engineering feat like the lowly spider is accomplishing.

Lastly there is the spider’s ability to sense by touching a silk thread that it has caught something. Its brain can tell the difference between the wind blowing or a leaf and true prey stuck in the spider web by touching a silk strand with its claw.

“The spider might also leave the web, to retreat to a separate nest, while monitoring the web via a connected signal line.” [2]

There is no way that all these different types of spiders learned to create different types of webs using several different materials from different organs in their own bodies in a slow and gradual process.

There must be God.

[1] Wikepedia.Org article, Spider Webs,

[2] HowStuffWorks.Com, A Typical Spider Web,

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