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In it he discussed the most pressing problem of natural theology: Buckland considered the depredation of "carnivorous races" as the primary challenge to an idealized world where the lion might dwell with the lamb. He resolved the issue to his satisfaction by arguing that carnivores actually increase "the aggregate of animal enjoyment" and "diminish that of pain.
God knew what he was doing when he made lions. Buckland concluded in hardly concealed rapture: The appointment of death by the agency of carnivora as the ordinary termination of animal existence, appears therefore in its main results to be a dispensation of benevolence; it deducts much from the aggregate amount of the pain of universal death; it abridges, and almost annihilates, throughout the brute creation, the misery of disease, and accidental injuries, and lingering decay; and impose such salutary restraint upon excessive increase of numbers, that the supply of food maintains perpetually a due ratio to the demand.
The result is, that the surface of the land and depths of the waters are ever crowded with myriads of animated beings, the pleasures of whose life are coextensive with its duration; and which throughout the little day of existence that is allotted to them, fulfill with joy the functions for which they were created.
Yet this argument could not abolish the problem of evil entirely, for nature includes many phenomena far more horrible in our eyes than simple predation. In no other way can I explain why Alien, an uninspired, grade-C, formula horror film, should have won such a following.
That single scene of Mr. Alien popping forth as a baby parasite from the body of a human host, was both sickening and stunning. Our nineteenth-century forebears maintained similar feelings. The classic case, treated at length by all great naturalists, invoked the so-called ichneumon fly.
Buckland had sidestepped the major issue. The "ichneumon fly," which provoked such concern among natural theologians, was actually a composite creature representing the habits of an enormous tribe.
In addition, many non-ichneumonoid wasps of similar habits were often cited for the same grisly details.
The ichneumon, like most wasps, generally live freely as adults but pass their larva life as parasites feeding on the bodies of other animals, almost invariably members of their own phylum, the Arthropoda.
The most common victims are caterpillars butterfly and moth larvaebut some ichneumons prefer aphids and other attack spiders. Most host are parasitized as larvae, but some adults are attacked, and many tiny ichneumons inject their brood directly into the eggs of their host.
The free-flying females locate an appropriate host and then convert it into a food factory for their own young. Parasitologists speak of ectoparasitism when the uninvited guest lives on the surface of its host, and endoparasitism when the parasite dwells within.
Among endoparasitic ichneumons, adult females pierce the host with their ovipositor and deposit eggs within. The ovipositor, a thin tube extending backward from the wasp's rear end, may be many times as long as the body itself.
Usually, the host is not otherwise inconvenienced for the moment, at least until the eggs hatch and the ichneumon larvae begin their grim work of interior excavation.
Among ectoparasites, however, many females lay their eggs directly upon the host's body. Since an active host would easily dislodge the egg, the ichneumon mother often simultaneously injects a toxin that paralyzes the caterpillar or other victim. The paralyzes may be permanent, and the caterpillar lies, alive but immobile, with the agent of its future destruction secure on its belly.
The egg hatches, the helpless caterpillar twitches, the wasp larvae pierces and begins its grisly feast. As the king's executioner drew out and burned his client's entrails, so does the ichneumon larvae eat fat bodies and digestive organs first, keeping the caterpillar alive by preserving intact the essential heart and central nervous system.
Finally, the larvae completes its work and kills its victim, leaving behind the caterpillar's empty shell.This webpage is for Dr. Wheeler's literature students, and it offers introductory survey information concerning the literature of classical China, classical Rome, classical Greece, the Bible as Literature, medieval literature, Renaissance literature, and genre studies.
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