We have considered a number of remarkable devices from the world of nature that point to the existence of an intelligent Creator: the tiny drainage tubes of the eye; the clot­ting of blood and the repair of broken bones; the interdependence of trees, birds and insects; the bril­liant space capsule of the coconut.

In each case, the theory of natural se­lection leaves us with severe problems. It is much more satisfying, and in harmony with what we can observe in the natural world to accept that a powerful Designer foresaw the needs of His creatures and provided for them. We shall take just one further example, but one typical of a whole group of similar cases, where the evolutionist is left without an explanation. Indeed, if evolution­ary theory is pressed to its logical conclusion, it is an example which means that what we see with our eyes could not actually have happened.

Think of the spider and his web. For most of the year this delicate, sticky net is invisible, carrying out its deadly task of trapping the unsuspecting insects on which the spider feeds. The drops of dew which light up the web in the sunlight may enchant us with the web’s gossamer beauty, but they leave the spider hungry, for once we can see the web, the fly can too!

How does the spider construct its transparent, elastic net, seemingly out of nothing? The answer is to be found at the end of its abdomen, which has the capacity to manufacture what is truly ’super’ glue.

Imagine a human climber scaling a difficult rock face. As he makes his way up, he carries a heavy coil of rope and bundles of pegs, which he drives into cracks in the rock as he ascends. He connects his rope to each peg, so that if he should accidentally slip, the rope will arrest his fall.

Compare the rock climber and the spider. The silk glands in the spider’s abdomen extrude a liquid which sets at once on exposure to air, and which is instantly strong enough to bear his weight. It adheres easily to any firm surface without pegs. It will stretch up to twenty per cent of its length without breaking, and has a tensile strength greater than steel of the same diameter. And at the end of a climb, for economy, the spider simply eats the silk, so recycling the material for another time.

The construction of the web follows a set procedure from which the spider never deviates. First, it pays out a single, slender strand of silk, which it flies, kite-like, in the wind until it snags on a nearby bush. It then sets out across the gap, eating the silk as it goes along, and paying out more line behind it, until it hangs down like a locket on a chain, between two anchorage points. It now drops to the ground on a third strand, forming a ‘Y’ shape, but pulling the lower leg forward a little before attaching it to a suitable projection, to ensure the final web is not vertical but slopes slightly forwards at the base.

Using the ‘Y’ shape as a framework, the spider now runs out extra threads like spokes from the hub of a wheel. It then starts from the centre of the web and walks round in a spiral, attaching a new line to the spokes of each crossover point, and ending up at the outer circumference.

At this point it begins to construct the sticky web proper. The initial spiral was only the scaffolding. It now has to be replaced with silk from a second gland, which not only extrudes a fibre, but coats it with tiny, sticky globules, close-spaced like pearls on a necklace. Feeling with its foot along the temporary web, the spider eats this up as it goes along, and replaces it with the adhesive silk instead.20_5 spider web

Having completed the network, the spider conceals itself, with a foot on the taut silk, ready to respond to the vibrations of any insect caught in the web.

As soon as it senses its prey, the spider rushes out, its body hanging below the sloping surface of the web to avoid being trapped itself, and bundles the victim in a fast rolled net of fibre. Once the insect is securely captured, the spider bites into its body, releasing a powerful poison. The end result is a conveni­ently pre-packaged spider’s dinner!

We must now ask ques­tions about the spider’s web, to see whether natural selec­tion can provide a satisfactory explanation for this amazing piece of animal architecture. First, we have the problem of the origin of the silk glands, and especially of the sticky silk. Where did the chemistry come from to produce out of raw materials in the spider’s blood this instantsetting, elastic, super-strong rope?

Generations of industrial research have given us nylon, terylene, and polyester, all remarkable fibres with valuable properties for clothing, carpets and cords, but each dependent on complex factories using catalysts to refine and distil petroleum products and extrude them at high temperature into serviceable yarns. What a contrast with the spider’s compact, lightweight ap­paratus that produces endless quantities of silk at body temperature without effort, and recycles the waste!

Do chemicals like this arise purely as a result of random mutations? And what about the sticky type of silk? The web would be useless unless the threads were sticky. Without this feature, insects would bounce off the web like gymnasts on a trampoline! How did the spider manage during all those years before the glue glands came on stream?

These questions are hard to answer without involv­ing a Designer. But the real problem comes when we ask how the spider knows how to make a web. At first, we might assume that it learns this skill from its mother, like fox cubs following the vixen as she hunts for rabbits.

Unfortunately, this explanation will not suffice, because the infant spider hatches from eggs laid the previous autumn, and the mother spider dies during the winter. There is no contact between the two generations.   The fact is, the spider makes the web by following a predetermined pattern that is encoded in the genetic mate­rial passed to the offspring via the egg. The two single cells, one from each parent, which fuse to create the fertilised egg, house, in addition to a full set of codes for construct­ing a baby spider, a detailed programme for guiding that spider through the series of actions needed to construct a web.

We are used to computer programmes that work repeatedly without error. The spider’s programme is just like that. It is encoded on the densely coiled helix of the chromosome. This helical coil is far too small to be seen with the naked eye, yet it functions with superb accuracy, and has been copied without error every year for each new generation of spiders, for thousands of years.

To illustrate the entirely ‘mechanical’ nature of the web-making programme, we could play a trick on the spider by waiting until it has completed the scaffolding web, and is busy replacing it with the sticky thread. If at this point, we snip away the scaffolding thread ahead of the spider, it will become utterly confused. Unable to follow the line of the scaffold thread with its foot, it becomes hopelessly lost. It has no capacity to perceive that the missing thread can still be found a segment or two further on. It abandons the web and starts another one.

The question is, who wrote the programme? It would be tempting to suggest that thousands of years ago a brainy spider learned how to make a little web, found that it caught a fly, and passed on the secret to the next generation, which then refined and improved the technique. After all, we expect human inventions such as motor cars to go on getting better and better with the passage of time.

However, this is only possible because human beings can communicate ideas to each other. Living craftsmen can teach their sons. University researchers publish their discoveries in scientific journals for others to read. Car manufacturers maintain records of test data for new employees to study and build upon.

But the spider has no way of transmitting such information. The mother dies without seeing her off­spring, and there is no written language to preserve a discovery. If a spider did learn a new technique, it would die out with the individual. And nothing we learn in life can be passed on to our offspring through our genes. It is a principle of biology that acquired characteristics cannot be inherited.

So who imprinted the web-making programme into the spider’s genes? Once more, we are forced to conclude that the only logical explanation is that a bril­liant Designer, having made “everything that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:25), gave the earliest spider the means to feed itself, and at the same time play a part in the beautiful balance of hunter and hunted that exists in the natural world.