This is a Crab Spider which I spotted having its dinner earlier this summer. Apparently quite common in southern England it was the first time in my life I had seen one. This species (Misumena vatia)
is capable of changing colour according to its background. It prefers white or yellow flowers and its body may appear white, yellow or green. The one depicted is a female, which is very much larger than a male. This spider doesn’t make a web but sits camouflaged on flowers ready to pounce on insects which come close, trapping them with its pincer-like front legs, as can be seen here.
Many species in the broad group of Arthropoda, which includes all the insects and all the spiders (arachnida) , may be experienced by humans as both beautiful and fascinating and yet induce dread and repulsion. Even people not afflicted by outright arachnophobia are unlikely to be comfortable with an uninvited spider on their skin. Recent scientific studies have suggested fear of spiders could be primordial, encoded in human DNA for survival reasons.
The behaviour and capabilities of species of both spiders and insects nonetheless have inspired awe and respect in human cultures. Ants and bees have been admired for their industriousness, not to mention the honey from bees; and spiders for their intricate webs. Modern ecological science has come to a full appreciation of the role of many arthropods in plant pollination, and pest control, and so their importance to the human and animal food supply chain. At the same time greater popular awareness of the life-cycles and feeding habits together with the dissemination of detailed close-up images of these creatures have engendered an awe mixed with dread ; a paradoxical combination of both fascinated attraction and disgusted repulsion.
The very existence of such species has caused some people to question how faith in a loving Creator God may be compatible with them ( however beautiful some may appear even at microscopic level), especially given the deleterious effect of some of them on human health. Famously the celebrity atheist Stephen Fry has cited the activity of a parasite which burrows into the human eye as a reason for rejecting belief in God.
This is part of the general question of the problem of horrendous evil in the creation. It is not restricted to the paradoxical combination of both helpful and harmful impacts of animal life on humans. One might also question how it is that thousands of decent, kindly “school-gate mums” and “football dads” in Britain go to work every day to manufacture weaponry which has been detonated in the urban areas of Gaza or Yemen, killing or maiming for life any hapless children standing by. It was professor of medical ethics Jonathan Glover in his book Humanity- a moral history of the twentieth century who starkly highlighted the paradox of a human society which employs its finest minds and directs huge resources both to treating premature babies with infinite care on the one hand, and to bombing foreign cities on the other.
The compatibility of evil, suffering and pain with faith in divine love and mercy is perhaps the most important spiritual issue, if not the most important of any question all humans must face. But it is not simply an intellectual paradox – it is a question of how to live and flourish in the world we have been given. Faith in God is not a solution to the paradoxes the world presents us with, but one possible response, which for many millions of people today and through the ages has been found to be the most truthful, coherent , hopeful and life-enhancing response.