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What a Tangled Web We Weave...

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

A church leader recently communicated his concern about teaching young people that dinosaurs coexisted with humans. He indicated that such a view is not supported by “scientific evidence, not taught at most Christian colleges, and certainly not the only legitimate interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2.” He felt that by teaching students material that was in conflict with their textbooks that we were, in essence, “adding stumbling blocks” to their faith. His words had a familiar ring to them, as I recounted a conversation I had with a young biology major who attended a “Christian” university. Months earlier this young man had informed me that senior biology majors were encouraged to take a class—the primary emphasis being to reinforce the idea that modern science is “ironclad” and students just needed to figure out a way to harmonize their biblical beliefs to fit the science. The bottom line message they were being taught was that “science cannot be wrong—adjust your understanding of the Bible.”

The mainstream media has done an exceptional job of teaching society that modern science is factual, and we must view all scientific discoveries through evolutionary lenses. The concept of “millions of years” has become so ingrained in our culture that most Americans never think to question whether these dates are legitimate or even logical. Consider the latest “surprise” scientists uncovered that coexisted with dinosaurs—a spider web encased in ancient amber. Erik Stokstad reported:

In a chunk of 110-million-year-old amber from Spain, they found a fly and a mite ensnared in strands of gluey spider silk, possibly from an orb web. Meanwhile, in the 14 June online issue of Biology Letters, David Penney of the University of Manchester, U.K., and Vicente Ortuño of the Universidad de Alcalá, Madrid, describe the oldest true orb-weaving spider: an araneoid found in 115-million-year-old Spanish amber from a different site. The 2-millimeter-long spider, which they name Mesozygiella dunlopi, is remarkably similar to a living spider—showing that the basic, and successful, body plan appeared long ago (2006, 312:1730, emp. added).

Commenting on the amazing spider web found encased in amber, National Geographic observed: “The oldest known fragment of spider web has been found entombed in a piece of 110-million-year-old Spanish amber, scientists announced today. The fossil was found complete with several entangled insects and other small creatures” (Petit, 2006). He continues by noting: “Its discovery seems to cement arguments that spiders living in the age of dinosaurs already wove complex aerial webs like those snagging bees and butterflies today.”

How did the scientists know the ancient age for this amber? The only reference for how this ancient age was detected was that it was found “in an aerial, cylindrical stalactitic mass of amber from the San Just site in Spain, which is Early Cretaceous in age (~ 110 million years ago)” (Peñalver, et al., 2006, 312:1761). So, let’s get this straight—because this area was deemed “Early Cretaceous,” then anything found in it must be at least 100 million years old—or so they say. What interpretation would one walk away with if this ancient age had not already been pre-assigned to this piece of amber?

Has anyone stopped to question why this piece of amber or the newly discovered spider could not be just 2,000 years old? It was said to look “remarkably similar to a living spider”—so what reasons exist to exclude this possibility? If we rule out this option only because it was allegedly found in the “Cretaceous Period,” then maybe we should rethink our assumptions about this period or our dating methods. Could it be that all the animals existed together in a time not-so-long ago, and that is why this spider looks similar to those today? Have scientists objectively evaluated these new discoveries without any bias for an ancient evolutionary age? Consider what David Grimaldi, one of the researchers in this discovery (an invertebrate biology specialist at the American Museum of Natural History) admitted: “When you look at the piece, the striking thing is that the geometry of the web and the prey type and size in it are like what one would see today” (as quoted in Petit, 2006). Maybe the reason it looks like “one we would see today” is because it is! Maybe it did not live that long ago and it is not the product of macroevolution.

Consider what this latest discovery does for those resigned to upholding the evolutionary theory. They now have to explain not only spiders during the time of dinosaurs but also flying insects. Evolutionists themselves cannot agree as to how (or why or when) winged-flight evolved. This is in addition to explaining the spider’s ability to weave a silk web. Three years ago, Fritz Vollrath observed:

Mention silk to a polymer chemist and they will get dreamy eyes. It is a natural fiber to match the best man-made ones, but its production is as eco-friendly as it gets, occurring at ambient temperature and near-ambient pressure, with water as the solvent. How is it done? We don’t know. Why is it so tough? We don’t know. Actually, what is silk, exactly? We don’t know (2003, 426:121).

Exactly why did those first spiders climb to high points, weave guide-wires, and construct webs? Peñalver and his colleagues suggest that “spider webs may have imposed substantial selection pressures for Cretaceous insects,” and thus they speculate that this amber record “confirms that araneoid web capture is indeed old enough to have affected the early evolution of diverse groups of flying insects” (2006, 312:1761). But some might be asking (and rightly so), “How did they “evolve” the ability to spin a web? And exactly what do we know about this unique ability?” Edward Atkins addressed this point in an article titled “Silk’s Secrets:”

Silk proteins—known as silk fibroins—are stored in the glands of insects and spiders as an aqueous solution. During the spinning process, by which fibers are produced from this silk ‘dope’, the concentration of silk in the solution is gradually increased, and finally elongational stress is applied to produce a partly crystalline, insoluble fibrous thread in which the bulk of the polymer chains in the crystalline regions are oriented parallel to the fiber axis.

It is known that silk fibroin consists of both hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions—it is a block-like polymeric system. But what scientists are still not sure about is how this complex silk protein can be maintained in a concentrated silk dope without fear of irreversible precipitation or crystallization, potentially blocking the whole spinning device. It is understood that the water is acting as a plasticizing agent, keeping the protein malleable, but the nature of the silk itself in this environment remains largely unknown. Nor is it known how the protein changes in structure, texture or morphology with increasing concentration, finally emerging, after the final stages of elongational stress, as an insoluble fiber (2003, 424:1010, emp. added).

Consider the irony. Scientists are doing all they can to create a substance with the strength and durability of spider webs, and yet they consider this amazing feat to be a product of chance. Evolutionists are increasingly finding themselves walking a tight-rope, or rather a spider thread. They find fossils that continue to push back the date of when they think creatures arrived on the scene—yet they still haven’t answered the question of how they arrived in the first place.

Before we artificially reinterpret Scripture to make it fit modern scientific ideas, maybe our efforts would be better spent in critically evaluating the physical evidence. Maybe we should spend more time teaching the fact that God’s Word is ironclad, and that “science” fluctuates daily. Who is really responsible for the stumbling block?


Atkins, Edward (2003), “Silk’s Secrets,” Nature, 424:1010, August 28.

Peñalver, Enrique, David A. Grimaldi, and Xavier Declò (2006), “Early Cretaceous Spider Web With Its Prey,” Science, 312:1761, June 23.

Petit, Charles (2006), “Oldest Known Spiderweb Found in Ancient Amber,” National Geographic, [On-line], URL:

Stokstad, Erik (2006), “Spider Genes and Fossils Spin Tales of the Original Worldwide Web,” Science, 312:1730, June 23.

Vollrath, Fritz (2003), “Web Masters,” Nature, 426:121, November 13.

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