Science and God: The Giant Asian Hornet

            The 2009 book Why Evolution Is True by Dr. Jerry A. Coyne…an emeritus professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, is a well-written, interesting, and up-to-date expose in support of Darwinian macroevolution.

            But one of the colossal ironies of our modern times is that when I read this book by around page 80 and thereafter, his descriptions of the wonders of nature have put forth so much brilliant detail that I begin to sense that he is unwittingly making a cumulative case argument in favor of intelligent agency. 

            Yet as a Darwinian evolutionist, intelligent design in nature is the very thing he is trying to disprove.[1]

            So coordinated and integrated are the architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits of living organisms, so well “thought-out” are their instinctual programs for fitness that as our modern understanding of them increases, then the more implausible becomes the naturalistic explanations for their conceptual origin and design.

            In other words, the more we learn about the natural world through science, the less plausible becomes the gradualistic, trial-and-error, self-organizing, secular story for the creation of the universe and all of its natural phenomena.

            In this new Age of Information, increasing knowledge is narrowing the worldview choices down to intelligent agency as the only plausible explanation for the origin of the complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated systems of information we now see operative everywhere in the natural living and non-living world.

            One example of the paradoxical dilemma for scientific materialists of having to harmonize the marvels of the living world with purely naturalistic causations, absent designing agency, is found in Dr. Coyne’s book of the description of the havoc that is created when the giant Asian hornet (wasp) on its home turf attacks a colony of European honeybees imported by humans into Japan.[2]  

            The giant Asian hornet is the world’s largest hornet…about two inches long, having a three-inch wing-span that can fly 25 miles per hour and travel up to 60 miles a day…and is “a predatory wasp especially common in Japan.”

            When a lone hornet scout finds a honeybee colony, it marks the nest with a drop of pheromone scent which then guides a group of 20 to 30 attacking hornets which can decimate in a couple of hours honeybees numbering up to 30,000.

            The giant Asian hornet has large jaws that can bite the heads off the smaller honeybees at the rate of 40 per minute.

            But the native honeybees in Japan have an incredible defense tactic that defies naturalistic explanation.

            These native honeybees send-out an internal alarm within the nest when they first detect the hornet intruder.  They then quickly form a group of around 100 honeybees at the entrance into the nest, and when the lone scout first enters through the beehive opening to begin its investigation these 100 honeybees form a tight cluster around the now immobilized giant Asian hornet. 

            In coordinated unison the honeybees in this cluster all flap their wings, before the giant Asian hornet can mark the beehive with a scented pheromone.  This raises the temperature to around 115º F within this cluster, but also produces carbon dioxide (CO²) that further raises the temperature up to as high as 122º F[3]…which is not lethal to the honeybees but kills the giant Asian hornet scout.  

            But the recently imported European honeybee colonies lack this initial defense strategy to kill the roving scout, and are quickly and completely overwhelmed by a marauding band of attacking giant Asian hornets, guided by a drop of liquid pheromone scent placed at the opening of the beehive by the hornet scout as the result of a successful reconnaissance.

            The question then arises of how the native Asian honeybees could acquire this novel instinctual defense tactic of a brilliantly functional, coordinated approach of just the right high-temperature of 117-122º F and the accumulation of CO² gas that would kill its enemy. 

            Using the accidental trial-and-error approach of mindless and undirected materialistic mechanisms would have to produce catastrophic honeybee failures along the incremental, small-step transitional route of gradual progression at successive rises in temperature.

            For argument’s sake, if we start with an ambient temperature inside the honeybee’s nest at 100º F, and go upward at 2º F increments over the 16-20 minutes needed to kill the giant Asian hornet scout, this results in 8 failed trials…catastrophic defeats…until the temperature in the honeybee cluster can reach the successful goal of 115-117º F (100º, 102º, 104º, 106º, 108º, 110º, 112º, 114º, 115º F).

            This defense mechanism of the Asian honeybee is an all or nothing affair.

            At the developmental, trial-and-error test phase thousands or millions of years ago, the Asian honeybees upon reaching the mid-point of 108º F in their group clustering, would have to “know” through foresight to keep going until they reached the deadly temperature of 115º F. 

            Our modern Age of Information tells us that the only thing capable of the engineering concept of constrained optimization of a sequential series of decisional yes/no choices aimed specifically at reaching targeted end-point outcomes in the future, using foresight…is intelligent agency.

            This is not fact-based evidence that supports the loosely termed “behavior adaptation” used by Jerry B. Coyne to enlist the defense strategy of the native Asian honeybee into the doctrinal camp of Darwinian macroevolution.

             The more plausible analysis of this remarkable reality in nature is that the balanced predator/prey relationship between the giant Asian hornet and their native honeybee counterpart cannot be explained through an incrementally escalating “arms war” of competing features over time. 

            The materialistic approach to explain developmental progress can only produce an oscillating back-and-forth battleground failure for one side or the other until they both reach the balanced stand-off we observe today between these two native, insect Asian combatants.

            We therefore do not have to uncritically swallow the idea that the European honeybees imported into the foreign environment of Japan will over time (thousands of years?) through the accidental method of trial-and-error likewise discover this one successful defensive strategy on their own in isolation, all the while suffering heavy losses in route to finding the very specific information that 117º F combined with CO² will defeat this otherwise unstoppable predator.

            This complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated information is intelligently designed upfront into the DNA and the gene regulatory networks of the native Asian honeybees, but is clearly absent in the European honeybees, evidenced when they are imported across the continent to Japan.

            This highlights the original intent found in this molecular biochemical information that must reside within the living cells of the honeybee…being “unnaturally” overridden through the independent intervention of the agency of unknowing human beekeepers in Japan and Europe.

            How exactly would a naturalistic Mother Nature provide the intentional foresight and directional determination to persist through the enumerable lethal failures of a hypothetical trial-and-error process…to reach a successful outcome for the honeybees defending themselves? 

            This information-based defensive strategy by the native Asian honeybee colonies is successfully functional and universally operative in Japan. 

            We do not currently see an experimental progressive transition part-way in development within the imported European honeybee colonies pointing towards the future perfected use of this defense tactic commonly utilized by their Asian cousins.

            Word has not spread through the natural “gossip” of inter-breeding and genetic drift from the successful Asian honeybees to the unsuccessful newcomer European honeybees imported into Japan (if this is even possible).  This vital genetic information for survival would then be actualized through the mechanisms of molecular biochemistry within the cell.

            But behavioral adaptability, inter-breeding, and genetic drift do not take us back the necessary one-step to explain the introduction of this information-based, novel defense strategy of the Asian honeybee…in the first place.

            At this point someone will logically impose the Darwinian mindset that given millions of years for development, would not a series of trial-and-error failures and successes eventually lead to the perfected defense strategy of the Asian honeybee?

            The skeletal explanatory framework upon which to connect the various factual data-points used in the standard methodology for all scientific research…is in scientific jargon called a theoretical hypothesis. 

            This hypothetical framework says from a philosophically naturalistic viewpoint that the only acceptable route for the Asian honeybee to achieve function over time is through the small steps of gradualistic development.

            The obvious problem that should shout-out to us here in this example is that given millions of years, the Asian honeybees in route towards a functional defense strategy this brilliantly original and well-conceived, would be annihilated in the naturalistic process of gradually incremental progressive steps before ever reaching successful function.

            Time plus chance does not lead to function when the systems of information are as complex as the defense strategy of the Asian honeybee.

            The fundamental problem in looking at the myriad of diverse instinctual lifestyle habits prolific in the natural living world is that from a materialist worldview it presumes on philosophical grounds that these end-point maturities can be arrived at through the gradualistic process of small incremental steps.

            The skeletal explanatory framework connecting the factual data points is what is wrong here…when the philosophical worldview of scientific materialism is utilized.

            The causal explanation of gradual, incremental, small-step, transitional progressive development does not fill-in this gap of how the Asian honeybee colony obtained this critical survival strategy…because we do not see gradualism universally in action as the mechanism of progressive development in the natural living world.

            There is a reason why there is zero evidence of incremental progressive development in an “arms-race” between the Asian honeybees and the giant Asian hornet…in the past or today.

            The reason is that it simply did not happen that way.

            There is a reason why there is zero evidence of transitional intermediates between mammals, amphibians, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects…in the fossil record.

            The reason is that the ever-increasing complexity of life from single-cell bacteria 3.8-billion years ago to human beings today, did not come about by the process of incremental progressive development.

            It simply did not happen that way.

            This is one of the key points of this book.

            There is no factual evidence for behavioral adaptation for how the Asian honeybees and the giant Asian hornet reached the equilibrium of their advance lifestyle-habits, because this is entirely theoretical based upon the philosophical worldview of naturalistic materialism.

            But there is clear empirical evidence for the functional coherence of the end-point performances of these two insect combatants, because we observe this in action today.

            The facts are not on the side of theoretical behavioral adaptation, but the facts are on the side of creatures universally exhibiting full functionality at their end-points of development.

            The fundamental question for modern science is where does the genetic information in living cells come from that produces the incredibly varied, instinctual predator/prey relationships that actualize though architectural body-plans of mind-boggling specificity and function…that produce a “fit” within biodiversity and ecosystems…in the first place.

            Science is legitimately allowed to use “just so” stories…like Rudyard Kipling’s fanciful story of how the tiger acquired its stripes…to theoretically connect-the-dots between data-points in their initial working hypotheses, until further investigation fills-in more facts.

            This is simply a part of the scientific method that encompasses the human psyche…the methodology of constructing a skeletal explanatory framework upon which to hang the varied pieces of data.

            These “just so” stories theorized by professional scientists are sometimes given an uncritical pass in their simple-to-complex explanations characteristic of scientific materialism.

            Just because Dr. Jerry Coyne explains the defense tactic of the native Asian honeybee colonies against the attack of the giant Asian hornet as behavioral adaptation…as Christians we do not have to buy into this based on the authority of a scientist’s word alone.

            We have the intellectual license to think this through and to arrive at a different conclusion…regarding the skeletal explanatory framework that is being used.

            The fields of the history of science and the philosophy of science have shown that no person is ideology-free…that no person conducting science is free of bias and prejudice.  Every person enters into a science research program having preconceived ideas and some form of a directional agenda.


[1] Jerry A. Coyne, Faith Versus Fact: Why Science And Religion Are Incompatible (New York: Penguin Books, 2015).

[2] Jerry A. Coyne, Why Evolution Is True (New York: Penguin Books, 2009), 111-113.

[3] Wikipedia.org, Asian giant hornet, updated May 20, 2021.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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