Editors Note: Updated to reflect a better understanding of venom.
If you believe the account of Genesis in which God created the world and everything in it in six literal days, then called it “very good” then certain things can be troublesome to you. One of those is venom. Before anyone panics, I have not abandoned the Creation account in Genesis. However, on the face of it, venom does not seem to have been part of “very good.” After all, what possibly could be good about pain, suffering, and death? Let’s look at the venom in more detail.
The first thing to understand about venom is that there are multiple kinds of venom found across a wide variety of creatures. Two of the more common types are neurotoxins and hemotoxins. Neurotoxins are probably the most common, being found in snakes, the blue ring octopus, scorpions, and other venomous creatures. A neurotoxin is a poisonous substance which damages the nervous system. This can cause paralysis, suffocation, and death in the worst cases. Hemotoxins attack the bloodstream and blood cells. This causes excruciating pain, possible loss of circulation to the extremities, and death. Vipers and Pit Vipers employ hemotoxins to kill their prey. For the purposes of this article, we will consider all the various types of venom in one category.
What purpose could venom have served in the pre-fall world? Certainly, it could not have been for pain and death. So why would a pre-fall animal have venom? There is a complex answer to this which ties into being unable to perform observational science on something in the past. Because we cannot go back to the Garden of Eden and look at fang blennies or rattlesnakes as they were originally created, we cannot prove that they were created with venom in the first place. This leads to a choice. Either we can choose to believe that venom had another use in the Garden of Eden, or that it was not present until after man’s fall. I’ll examine each in detail here.
The first option is that venom had a use in the Garden of Eden that did not involve inflicting pain. What that use was is unclear and, obviously, we cannot perform science experiments to determine it. Many types of venom today contain powerful painkillers and neuro-transmitter blocking compounds. While there was some pain in the pre-fall world most likely, there was no death so venom could not have had that use. I did some research and found that the vast majority of uses for venom are in the medicinal field, thus making them useless in a world without illness or death. However, perhaps the purpose of venom was enzymatic in the pre-fall world, helping break down food? This is an unknown but cannot be entirely dismissed.
However, just because venom did not have its current use in the Garden of Eden, does not negate the Creation account. God is all knowing, so He most certainly knew that man would rebel against Him. Therefore, He could have given venomous creatures their venom in the Garden of Eden before they had need of it. However, based on the book of Genesis and the principle of gene expression, there appears to be another possibility available. That possibility is that the genetic template for the venom was present in the DNA of venomous organisms, but was blocked from being expressed until after man’s fall.
In order to understand this theory, it is necessary to understand what gene expression is. In a general sense, it is the information from the genotype showing up as the phenotype. What do those words mean? A genotype is all the information that could possibly come out of the genetic code. A phenotype is what actually shows up from that information i.e. blue eyes, black hair etc. So genetic expression essentially translates into the information in the genes, as it shows up in the physical features. Just because information is present in the genetic code, does not mean it will necessarily show up in the physical features. This is why parents who both have brown hair, can have a child with blond hair. It is equally possible, therefore, that the information for venom may have been present in the genetic code of venomous organisms in the Garden of Eden. However, it would not have been expressed until after the fall of man. This is partially born out by what the book of Genesis says about the curse. Genesis 3:14 says “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:” Notice that the serpent was cursed above every other animal. That most certainly implies that every other animal was cursed as well. It could be here, in this curse, that the information for venom was unlocked from the DNA of organisms we know as poisonous today. While this cannot be backed up scientifically, it is a potentially valid option.
Was there venom present in the Garden of Eden? We cannot know for certain because science cannot be performed on history. Was the information for venom present in the Garden of Eden? Undoubtedly the answer to this is yes. Is venom a problem for a Creationist? Not much of one, if we take what the Bible says literally. In fact, evolutionists have a bigger issue with it. They must explain things like how a snake does not envenomate itself every time it closes its mouth, and how and why venom developed in the first place. Creationists can just point upward to the Almighty God, who designed everything to function in a manner which, though originally very good, would also work in a fallen world to come.