Otters do terrible things to baby seals, and it’s not God’s fault

"Hey bro, don't be messin' with my kelp forest."

Advisory: The following article discusses a fact of nature: the forced copulation of juvenile harbor seals by adult sea otters. It contains material and language that some readers may find upsetting.

Answers in Genesis likes sea otters. How could they not? Those cuddly little guys are cute enough to eat! (You know, if they weren’t endangered and all.) Here’s what AiG author Joe Francis has to say on the subject:

If you’ve ever watched an otter at play, you’ve probably heard someone squeal, “Adorable!” Fun-loving and playful on the surface, they serve a critical role in the Creator’s underwater gardens — they’re the guardians of His kelp forests.

That’s right, gang. Otters may be playful and “Adorable!” but they also have a serious side: They’re the guardians of God’s kelp forests (see photo). Francis’ article goes on like that. Otters are a great topic for proponents of young-earth creationism, because — for the most part — it allows them to discuss real scientific facts (like animal behavior and physiology) without endangering their worldview. Now, it’s true that in otters — like every species — we can see the marks of an evolutionary past. But YECs don’t feel the need to acknowledge that. They can look at the otter’s dense, waterproof fur, webbed feet and muscular tail and claim them as the handiwork of a creative God — not the results of natural selection.

Then again, this approach can get them into trouble. Because sea otters are not just fun-loving party animals, and they’re not even just fun-loving-party-animals-plus-kelp-forest-guardians. They’re also brutal cross-species rapists, who have been observed forcibly copulating with, and in the process killing, baby harbor seals. (See here for the full study, published in Aquatic Mammals in 2010. Be advised that the journal article contains some graphic images.)

Really, it makes sense. I mean, after a long shift guarding kelp forests for God (who can be a real task master, as I’m sure we all know), who wouldn’t want to blow off a little steam? I’ve never been in the military, but I have seen “Full Metal Jacket,” so I have a good feel for what it’s like.

The problem, for YECs, is that it puts God in a rather undesirable place. Because if God is directly responsible for the otter’s wonderfully adapted marine physiology, than he is also directly responsible for the animal’s tendency to rape baby seals until they die (and for up to a week afterward). Either he made them specifically to do that, or he made them so poorly that, in a sex-obsessed mania, they literally cannot tell the difference between a mature female otter and a juvenile member of a completely different species.

Now, I’m sure some of my YEC readers think they have a better option: “God’s not responsible. We just live in a fallen world.” This is an explanation beloved by YECs as a theological catch-all for everything from tsunamis to the existence of carnivorous beasts. You see, they believe that God’s curse in Genesis 3 not only increased women’s pain in childbirth and gave men the responsibility to work for a living, but also did a bunch of other stuff the Lord apparently didn’t think was worth mentioning, like turning lions and crocodiles into killing machines. (I kind of picture it like a horror movie version of “A Whole New World.”)

So why shouldn’t we believe this decidedly less-than-Adorable! otter behavior is just another consequence of the fall? Well, ask yourself honestly: Is that actually better? I mean, we’re talking about a deity fiddling with the sex drive of an animal Adam and Eve probably didn’t know existed (otters are not native to the Middle East) in order to inflict millennia of torment upon another species that our supposed ancestors would have known nothing about. Is God really any less of a monster for doing that if it was in response to human disobedience, rather than part of his original design?

No, as a Christian, I personally am quite content to believe that otter-on-seal rape/murder does not bear the direct fingerprints of God.

This discussion is not a new one, of course. The cannibalistic behavior of ichneumon wasp larvae was famously mentioned by Charles Darwin in an 1860 letter to Asa Gray as a reason for his growing doubt in the existence of a benevolent God.

“I cannot persuade myself,” he wrote, “that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”

And I must admit, I’m inclined to agree. I find it far more satisfying to view God as the sustainer and overseer of a vast creative process, rather than a tinkerer who has “designedly” weaved cruelty and brutality into the fabric of the animal kingdom.

In an evolutionary view of God, we can indeed see him as a great architect, perhaps at work even in seemingly random processes (as he can be at work in the random casting of lots), such that we do not need to believe humanity is an accident, or that the Lord was “surprised” when natural selection produced an intelligent, creative being.

And yet, at the same time, evolution frees God. A survival mechanism is allowed to be — not some bizarre divine retribution — but simply, a survival mechanism. And the disturbing behavior of otters forcibly copulating with seals is allowed to be seen for what it is: the overly aggressive sexual misfiring of a polygynous and territorial animal. Ultimately, a product of nature — nothing more.

Tyler Francke

  • jpmhoops

    If you deny that the bad things in nature reveal the fingerprints of God, then why should the good things be attributed to Him either? Wouldn’t it make more sense to view them as products of nature and nothing more? Thanks for your thoughts.

    • An excellent and very fair question. I think the answer depends on one’s perspective on God and how one believe he is involved in the world. For example, I believe that God created mankind, but that he gave us free will. The Bible teaches that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” so I think it would be right to thank him and attribute to him the gift that human life is, and the goodness that I see in the people around me. On the other hand, I don’t think it would necessarily make sense for me to blame God when a person does something terrible to other people. This is an abuse of the gift of free will that God gave us, but the act itself is not something that has proceeded directly from above.

      In a similar way, I believe God is involved in and sovereign over creation, but through evolution, I believe he has allowed the process to take its course. I don’t think it’s inconsistent for me to be thankful for the beauty I see around me; indeed, it is when I feel closest to God that I notice this beauty all the more. However, unlike the creationists and ID folks, accepting evolution allows me to acknowledge that the aspects of nature that are not as “pretty” did not necessarily proceed directly from the mind of God. I believe many things have persisted in nature because they have survival value — not necessarily because that’s how God wanted it to be.

      • Truth

        I think that god just gets off on rape murder and torture and watches humans and animals as his own sick form of hbo because they don’t get any good channels in heaven

        • Annon Mous

          According to the story God raped Mary

      • Dan Knights

        But if God existed, why would he allow so much pain and suffering to go on in the world and stand-by doing absolutely nothing about it? A being who supposedly created everything in existence doesn’t then have the power to feed a starving child in Africa or prevent the many thousands of women from having to suffer the atrocity of forced genital mutilation? Even if any kind of God did exist, and unless they had a very convincing explanation of this, I would still refuse to show any semblance of deference to them unless it was forced out of me with some kind of torture similar to what the countless millions of people on our planet are forced to endure every single day. This God is no God of mine.

        And just as a side-note, referring to God as a ‘he’, implying that the creator of the universe actually belongs to a sex, and the male sex at that, is incredibly sexist and frankly just plain dumb.

        • You also have the power to feed starving children in Africa. There are many reputable charities that do exactly that. Why blame God for not doing something that you yourself have the power to do?

          As I said in the above comments, no, I don’t blame God for the actions (or non-actions) of free-will-endowed people.

          And, as a side-note, God is an immaterial being, in whose image both men and women are created, but the Bible uses the pronoun “he” where necessary, and that’s what I use as well. Criticizing me for doing so as though I am somehow responsible for the limitations of the English language is incredibly unfair and frankly just plain dumb.

  • GodlessOtters

    Wow God has a pretty sick sense of humour, hey guys.

  • SeriouslyTalkingHere

    God certainly Sucks for Not giving me a wife and family that he gave to so many others, especially since many of them were Losers to begin with. God is a real Idiot for that one.

  • playyourpart

    Just become an athiest already.

  • You see where man can be quite vile as Ted Kirkpatrick is the voice in heavy metal for the voiceless. As I am looking at this seeing how animals are also brutal to each other; survival of the fittest as I was taught in biology. I also found this article too which has a so called man of God committing marital rape. I had noticed YECs will blame all the bad things happening to good people on not attending church on a regular basis. I’ve seen this with a youth pastor who follows the teachings of Mark Barclay.

    This website also points out “Dr.” Kent Hovind’s false teachings. 1 John 3:10 and I am using a Catholic translation points out, “The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.” I had been accused of being a minion of Lucifer by a bisexual bible thumper because I had a photo of myself giving the finger on facebook.com. I will have to say the one who gets the Darwin Award is Creation Liberty Evangelism.

    I found one that also did what I also done refuted Jack T. Chick and his wingnuttery. The Textus Receptus has Catholic ties as this is contrary to what Jack T. Chick claims; as his tracts illustrate Open Theism. I found this after my weighing in on the King James Only Movement — Ty you should read this. The author of the blog referenced Revelation 21:8, as I am using a modern version (MEV) “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars shall have their portion in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. This is the second death.”