The Design of Food Chains

Recently I was visiting in a home in which a teen-ager had received a computer game based on ecology. The idea of the game was to design a planet in which different kinds of animals and plants could be placed. As you created your planet's' s ecosystem, you could add grasses, trees, bushes, and decomposers. You could also add animals that were meat eaters, animals that were plant eaters, insects, and insect eaters. The object of the game was to see how long your "earth" could exist. If you put all plant eaters on your planet, for example, your planet would very quickly die because all the plants would get eaten up and the animals would starve to death. If you put too many meat eaters on your planet, it would be short time before the plant eaters would all be gone and the meat eaters would starve to death and the plants would choke themselves out. It was very difficult to get a balance that would allow the planet to survive for more than a few thousand years.

The more science learns of the balance of food chains in all environment found in the world, the more the complexity of the situation stands out. Recent studies in Alaska and Isle Royale, MI, for example, have shown a huge correlation between the wolf population and the normal vegetative pattern. It turns out that moose in Alaska do enormous damage to the plants essential to sustain the environment --especially some of the evergreens that support the winter ecology during the winter months. When the wolves are killed off by disease or hunters, the moose population explodes and the vegetation is wiped out. The correlation between the wolf population and the abundance of plants has now been well documented.

The ability of the natural world to survive over a long period of time is clue to the incredibly complex and interwoven system of food chains that sustain it. Playing the computer game where you have to play God, even on a limited human scale, is a powerful testimony that our world has been designed by a master intelligence.

                            John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, January/February 1996