An Insect Conquers The World(view)
this Insect Walks into a Saloon…
For the first time in 88 years, a new order of insect crawls somewhere on earth. It is not quite a cricket, a stick insect, or a preying mantis, but somewhere in-between. Or it might be more accurate to say somewhere outside. “This is the first time since 1914 that a newly described extant insect taxon has proved unplaceable within a recognized order,” the team of German and Danish researchers wrote.
When I read this early one morning at work during the time of the day when I’m no longer sleeping but not quite working, it smacked my head sideways. My God. How did this happen? Where did it come from? Did this insect, officially classified as Mantophasmatodea appear mysteriously at a family reunion to receive welcome-home noogies on the back of his head from a bewildered third cousin? No. I believe it was more like the old west. A gun slinging Mantophas pushed the swinging doors open of a saloon and stood there staring, forcing the dusty cowboys to look upon his unfamiliar visage, and to figure out who the hell let him into town.
Mantophas caught me completely off guard. He and his kind always do. I take for granted that while we of course do not know everything about the natural world, we have most of it pretty much figured out. We’ve got DNA mapped, we know about photosynthesis, comets, solar systems, gravity, aging, flatulence, reproduction--it’s all fairly old hat. But when we are surprised by something completely new, it blows another small hole through our heads. Is God still creating new creatures, setting them down on earth in a remote jungle to await, perhaps hundreds of years later, discovery by a random explorer? Is it a little joke he likes to play, hiding new gifts for us? “How long will it take them to find you?” Poof! A new creature is dropped into the jungle. Or were all creatures created in 6 days and we just have not yet found them all?
We form our belief systems based on what we believe is the world. Fire burns skin if you get too close. A high-elevation mountain stream is too cold for wading. Ice cream is a divine treat to be enjoyed lavishly whenever possible. We have our ways. But when Mantophas steps through the swinging doors, it all changes. The regular rules need not apply—chuck them into the fire, float them down the mountain stream. Start over. The center cannot hold.
Or maybe it can. Certain cowboys don’t lift an eye from their poker cards when Mantophas and company crash into the saloon. Or maybe they lift an eye, look back to their pair of twos, and keep on playing. It’s like this guy at work, let’s call him Brit. Brit and I have had many discussions, sometimes more like arguments. I have lost them all. He is a conservative, traditional Christian. He is one of the most difficult people at work to get along with even though we, in a real general sense, have a lot of the same beliefs in common. But, since I have known him, Brit has not altered his worldview, belief system, way of looking at the world, or whatever you wish to call it, in the slightest. When I suggest an alternate way of looking at something, he takes it into his hand. He holds his current belief set in his other hand. He looks at the new thing, looks back at the old, maybe feels the weight of it for a second, but, without fail, ends up chucking the new into the garbage can. Occasionally he will have to consult his father. When a new idea is suggested that Brit cannot immediately reject, but suspects he should, he calls his dad and the rejection is confirmed. Into the garbage can it goes. And Mantophas is left crumpled in a worthless heap under a coke can and a misprinted document.
And that’s why this bug thing has me shaken. It isn’t just that “based on their stomach contents the insects appear to be carnivores” (they found legs of other insects inside the stomach). And it is not the fact that at first the specimens were dead and preserved, but “researchers later discovered a living population of the insects in the southwest African nation of Namibia.” It is that my Etch-a-Sketch has been shaken blank, and the drawing must start from scratch. I’ll let Mantophas in to the saloon, buy him a drink, and listen to his story. But the way that I look at the world cannot be the same. The rules have changed. The paradigm is stretched. The center must be re-drawn. The poker game will continue, but let us first share a drink and a story.
A poem taken verbatim from the article:
The new insects have jaws
with three small
teeth and long antennae,
the scientist reported. The examples
found had external sex
organs indicating they were adults.
They lacked wings.