Speaking of the existence of God, Paul writes “What may be known about God is plain… for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:19-20 tniv).

When we stand in awe at the incomprehensible vastness of the night sky, are amazed at the complexity of the simplest cell, or are fascinated by the ingenious designs of the denizens of the natural world, it is no coincidence that we are moved. We have been designed that way, in order that we can come to the appreciation that a Creator exists. Nature is the lens through which the invisible God becomes visible– at least His existence, His power, and His intelligence.

The Bombardier beetle is only small in size, and not particularly beautiful, but is a wonderful testimony to the amazing ingenuity and intelligence of its Creator.

Bombardier beetles are remarkable creatures, truly deserving our attention. They earned their common name from their ability to defend themselves against predators by firing a mixture of boiling-hot toxic chemicals from special glands at the tip of their abdomen.

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This defence mechanism works in the following manner. The beetle possesses glands which produce hydrogen peroxide and chemicals called hydroquinones which are then stored in a large reservoir housed within the beetle’s abdomen. When the insect feels threatened, muscles surrounding the reservoir contract, pushing the chemicals through a muscle-controlled valve into a heart-shaped reaction chamber lined with cells that secrete other chemicals called peroxidases and catalases. These chemicals are oxidative enzymes that quickly break down the hydrogen peroxide, and catalyze the oxidation of the hydroquinones into p-benzoquinones-compounds that are well known for their irritant properties. This chemical reaction results in a release of free oxygen, and causes a substantial release of heat. The beetle then is able to eject this caustic spray at 212°F in the face of its enemies.

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It is fascinating to see beetles of the genus Stenus using a similar mechanism in a different way. When threatened while foraging on water, they touch their abdominal glands to the surface of the water. The chemicals disrupt the surface tension, which rapidly propels the beetle up to several metres and has the added benefit of causing their pursuer, who, like the beetle, relies on the “film” created by the surface tension of the water to walk on the water, to sink below the surface.

The ejection mechanism is further refined in certain species of Bombardier beetle. Jeffrey Dean and his colleagues noted, “The defence spray of the bombardier beetle Stenaptinus insignis is ejected in quick pulses (at about 500 pulses per second) rather than a continuous stream… The ejection system of the beetle shows basic similarity to the pulse jet propulsion mechanism of the German V-1 “buzz” bomb of World War II… The abdominal tip acts as a revolvable turret that enables the beetles to aim the spray in all directions… We report here that the bombardier beetle spray is emitted not as a continuous stream but as a pulsed jet, in analogy with fluid delivery systems known from technology but not from animal glands” (1990, 248:1219).

It is certainly significant that the closest parallel that these scientists could find for the beetle’s defence mechanism was that of an intelligently designed and engineered system.

Years earlier, a Time magazine article featured these amazing creatures, and noted, “Its defence system is extraordinarily intricate, a cross between tear gas and a tommy gun… the fluid is pumped through twin rear nozzles, which can be rotated like a B-17’s gun turret, to hit a hungry ant or frog with bull’s-eye accuracy (see “Drafting…” 1985, p70).

In a similar study investigating the defence mechanism of the bombardier beetle, Thomas Eisner and Daniel Aneshansley commented on the beetle’s exceptional ability to aim the hot mixture as it is sprayed from its body. They noted, “… many carabids (ground beetles) have the capacity to aim their spray in different directions. None are perhaps better marksmen than the so-called bombardier beetle… Although it was known that the bombardier beetles can aim their spray revolving the abdominal tip, the degree of precision with which they target their ejections had escaped notice” (1999, 96:9705).

It is because of the complexity of this most ingenious mechanism that this beetle has excited those who are honestly able to appreciate what is involved in its design.

Evolutionists teach that these complex mechanisms of nature developed through a process of stepwise mutations that gradually refined the mechanism to the point that we now observe. Their theory however, demands one very important principle – that is, at every point in the evolutionary process the steps must, in themselves, convey a survival benefit on the organism, for them to be taken up by the whole population. There is no place for an organism to “store” a mutation until such time as a second or subsequent mutations render it useful.

There has emerged an opposing movement on the other hand, called Design Theory, which takes to heart Paul’s observation in Romans 1. Proponents of this movement developed a principle called “Irreducible Complexity”. This principle attempts to show that there exist in nature a number of systems that could not have been built up piece by piece by a process of stepwise mutations, but would only work to convey a survival benefit if the whole were to develop at once. The existence of such systems they claim (and as creationists we would agree), speak of design in the natural world and hence by extension, the presence of a designer.

As Richard Lumsden says, “Systems that are of high complexity, that is functionally integrated multi-component systems, systems that are of high specificity where only one or very few of many possible arrangements of these components works, and systems which are of low probability, at least spontaneous occurrence… these are the hallmarks of purposefully designed engineered systems.” (Lumsden, 1995)

It is in this way that this little beetle testifies so eloquently to the fact of intelligent design. In order to work successfully a number of critical features must be present. The chemical components have to be produced by the glands, but they are of no value in creating the explosive mechanism without the presence of the oxidative enzymes. The subsequent release of gas and heat would be lethal to the beetle without an armoured combustion chamber and valvelike mechanism to stop any backflow that would set up a chain reaction in the storage chamber. Then there is the complex pulse mechanism and aiming apparatus. Finally, the beetle’s rear parts must be armoured also, in order that it does not injure itself in the process. The failure of any of these components to be present would lead either to a non-functioning mechanism, or to an uncontrolled explosion that would be lethal to the beetle.

It is against evolutionary principles for there to have been thousands of generations of beetles mixing useless chemicals offering no benefit at all to the beetle, until the development of the catalytic enzymes. If they then arrived at the magic formula, the explosive mixture developed would only allow them to frustrate the efforts of the hungry predators who wanted to eat them by blowing themselves to pieces. They still need to evolve the two combustion tubes, and a precision communications and timing network to control and adjust the critical direction and timing of the explosion. So, here we go again; for thousands of generations these carefree little beetles went around blowing themselves to pieces until finally they mastered their new found powers. Such a process does not make any sense at all, but to propose that the entire defence system evolved all at once is astronomically improbable, if not impossible. Yet, nature abounds with countless such examples of perfect coordination. Thus, we can only conclude that the surprising little bombardier beetle is a strong witness for special creation, for there is no other rational explanation for such a wonder.

Evolutionists have tried to meet these arguments. The TalkOrigins.org Web site (a staunch defender of evolution), for example, posted an article on bombardier beetles written by Mark Isaak. In the article, Isaak asked: “Do bombardier beetles look designed? Yes; they look like they were designed by evolution. Their features, behaviours, and distribution nicely fit the kinds of patterns that evolution creates. Nobody has yet found anything about any bombardier beetle which is incompatible with evolution. This does not mean, of course, that we know everything about the evolution of bombardier beetles; far from it. But the gaps in our knowledge should not be interpreted as meaningful in themselves (1997).”

He then went on to list a step-by step process in which he gave a hypothetical explanation of how this complex design could have arrived via the process of chance. Fifteen steps later, he felt as though he had accomplished his task. An unbiased analysis of his explanation, however, shows many of his steps to be flimsy at best.

Consider just two examples. Step 9 noted: “Muscles adapt which close off the reservoir, thus preventing the chemicals from leaking out when they’re not needed.” Prior to this step, the only mention of muscles is step 4, where Isaak observed: “Muscles are moved around slightly, allowing them to help expel the quinines from some of them.” Where did these muscles originate? Evolution should be able to explain the appearance of these unique muscles. Muscles are living cells that contract when stimulated by nerves; thus, it hardly is plausible to suggest that muscles simply “moved around slightly”. The nerves and blood vessels supplying the muscles would need to change also in order that the insect could exercise control over these muscles and their new function. Not only this, nerves need a control centre in the brain programmed with instructions on how to regulate and aim the firing apparatus. How did the muscular tissue “know” just how tightly it needed to contract to “prevent the chemicals from leaking out when they’re not needed”?

There is a problem of an even greater magnitude. As Eisner and Aneshansley lamented: “Although we know that the males of this species also aim their discharges, they appear to do so with an apparatus that differs somewhat from that of the female. Thus, for instance, for ejecting forward over the back males make use of a single broad reflective shield, instead of the pair of devices used by the female” (1999, 96:9707).

Evolutionists, therefore, also must explain how the two genders evolved different muscles and mechanisms. It is not enough for evolutionists simply to suggest that the muscles “moved around” and then “adapted”. Such an argument is merely smoke and mirrors, glossing a very complex change with deceptively simple language.

Additionally, step 13 in Mr Isaak’s list noted that “the walls of that part of the output passage become firmer, allowing them to better withstand the heat and pressure generated by the reaction.” The evolutionist’s answer is that we simply can “firm up the walls”, and everything will be fine. But how did those walls become firmer? Where did that “firmer” material come from? Also, how did all the constituents (ie, nerves, blood vessels, etc) that are necessary for the construction and success of this reaction chamber evolve the ability to withstand added pressure and heat? Isaak did not bother to explain how bombardier beetles are able to repeatedly produce boiling liquids within their bodies without injuring themselves. How many other animals exist that are able to house liquids that reach 100° C (212° F)? Also, how is this creature able to spray this irritating liquid at attackers, even though it often sprays itself in the process—yet without any damage to its own body? Eisner and Aneshansley recognized this conundrum when they wrote, “And of course, there is the vexing problem of how the beetle, which inevitably drenches itself when discharging, withstands the heat and irritancy of its own spray” (1999, 96:9708).

Even the very fact that this amazing beetle is able to generate the precise amounts of each chemical and enzyme needed to perform this chemical reaction points to an intelligent design.

It is ironic that evolutionists continue to deny that any design is evident in the bombardier beetle, yet scientists have been awarded huge government grants to study that design! One does not get a poem without a poet, a law without a lawgiver, or a painting without a painter. And one does not get design without a designer!

Scientists at the University of Leeds in Great Britain have been granted research funds to study the jet-based defence mechanism of the bombardier beetle, in the hope that it will help them learn how to re-ignite a gas-turbine aircraft engine in midflight. Imagine sitting on an airplane and hearing the following chilling words: “Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. We have lost one of our engines, and are having trouble re-igniting it.” Not exactly what you want to hear as you look out the little oval window at the ground 10,000 metres below. Thanks to this tiny beetle, passengers may never have to worry about hearing such an announcement.

Jane Reck observed: “Building on work by Professor Tom Eisner at Cornell University, the new project will set out to improve understanding of the beetle’s unique pulse combustion and nozzle ejection mechanism. It also aims to identify how combustion engineers could exploit this understanding to practical effect. For example, knowledge gained could aid the development of a device that helps relight aircraft engines at high altitude by squirting plasma into the engine’s combustion chamber more accurately.”

Jane Reck noted that the new research project – hoping to capitalize on many of the designs found within the bombardier beetle – would involve computer-based numerical and mathematical modelling. She commented: “Initially it will focus on understanding the beetle’s heart-shaped miniature combustion chamber.” Andy McIntosh, team leader for the project, went on to observe: “The bombardier beetle’s defence mechanism represents a very effective natural form of combustion. Copying such natural mechanisms is a part of the growing field of biomimetics where scientists learn much from intricate design features already in nature. Understanding this beetle better could lead to significant advances in combustion research (as quoted in Reck, 2003).”

So, we find ourselves trying to model technology after these amazing creatures, and yet evolutionists still scream there is no intelligent design and that, in fact, those special chambers and the ability to produce such chemicals are simply cosmological accidents.

Sir Fred Hoyle said: “The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein… I am at a loss to understand biologists’ widespread compulsion to deny what seems to me to be obvious.”

As the apostle Paul said, “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies” (Rom 1:25 nlt). We, however, need to trust our emotions of wonder and amazement at the intricacies of the natural world for what they are: God-given revelations of His existence, and foundational reasons for our faith.