Attitudes about the death of living creatures are wide-ranging. My young earth friends are convinced that all death and bloodshed in the natural world is a result of Adam’s original sin. This belief is based on a questionable interpretation of Rom. 5:12 and I Cor. 15:21. Those who hold such views find them difficult to reconcile with the reality of complex interrelationships in nature, past and present. The beauty of those interrelationships, properly understood, inspires respectful awe, not sorrow.
In order to accept the paradigm of “No Death before the Fall,” it is necessary to reject mountains of scientific evidence that (a) Earth as a solid body is several billion years old; (b) Earth’s first sudden burst of complex life--dozens of phyla--appeared at the “Cambrian Explosion” 540 million years ago; and (c) the complex Cambrian ecosystem was composed of many detailed food chains. In other words, it was based on widespread predation. More explicitly, it was based on the deaths of billions of creatures who gave their own lives to supply nourishment and energy to predators higher up on the food chain. On Planet Earth, the concept of sin was not an issue 540 million years before the creation of Adam.
Let’s consider other conceptual difficulties resulting from adherence to belief in a 6000 year old earth. High in the Canadian Rockies, thousands of feet above sea level, a famous rock formation called the Burgess shale preserves a fossil record of an ancient, predation-based ecosystem. Even the soft parts of those Cambrian creatures are fossilized in stunning detail. Similar rock layers are found in widely scattered locations around the world. Young earth believers assert that tens of thousands of species of Cambrian creatures died and were buried in sediment only after Adam sinned. In addition, they maintain that those fossil-bearing rock layers were elevated thousands of feet above sea level in historic times. Tectonic events of this magnitude would have been associated with earthquakes and other upheavals far beyond the imagination of the most creative science fiction writer. Earth’s geological record does not manifest faults of this degree, nor does recorded human history tell the story of such events.
Some people imagine a perfect world where even animals do not die. Our 2nd Law of Thermodynamics world could not operate this way. The marvelous food chains of our highly integrated ecosystem, past and present, are a signature of a loving Creator who designed our world with purpose and provided for its creatures. This planet may not match our image of a “perfect” world. But we would be better advised to accept God’s own description of His world: God saw all that He had made, and it was very good (Gen. 1:31).