An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of May 20, 2012
written in the woods near Natchez, Mississippi, USA

WHY DO CHIGGERS EXIST?

It took me decades to figure out why Nature created chiggers. Chiggers are those almost-microscopic larvae of red mites that latch onto outdoor people's skin causing itching and scratching. What I finally understood was that chiggers exist because during the evolutionary history of Life on Earth a certain ecological niche arose, so chiggers evolved from other life forms to exploit that niche. It's just our bad luck that part of the chigger's life cycle includes a larval stage that occasionally bites human skin causing itching.

The answer was as simple and obvious as that, yet I needed all those years of wrestling with my cultural programming before I could reach that conclusion and fully accept it. Chiggers aren't here to punish sinners, but because there was a place for them, so they came.

Once I could see why there are chiggers it became apparent that the same thought process could explain the presence of disease organisms: Disease organisms exist because evolving Nature produced ecological niches for them, so organisms arose to exploit those niches -- even if it meant untold misery or death to higher organisms such as humans.

So, for whatever the reason, the Creator's creation includes chiggers and disease organisms because that's the way She, the Creator, "wants" it -- else She wouldn't make things this way. And even if I can't bring myself to say that the Creator "wants" innocent little kids to itch from chiggers and die from disease organisms, I can't escape the conclusion that She is more interested in creating rampaging diversity than in the welfare of individual organisms, even if those individual organisms are innocent little kids.

Believing like this is sobering, not a little scary, and even --if you think about it -- enraging. However, it does have its charms. For one thing, it feels good finally having a belief system whose basic tenets are not contradicted by the evidences of everyday events. Religions provide no convincing explanation for why so often the best and most innocent among us suffer the most. In a reality where chiggers and disease organisms are accepted as having their own rights to exist, it's clear that suffering innocents also must exist.

There's another reason why it feels good to see clearly humanity's true status in a vast, evolving, impersonal Universe: In this world created with so many chiggers, disease organisms and untold numbers of other living things, it's gratifying to realize that we humans have been granted something no other organism on Earth has: We have big brains with which to confront our challenges. Other species may be on the verge of extinction because they are unable to escape behavioral patterns imposed on them by genetic programming, but we humans can rise above our instinctual behaviors -- our urges for wealth, power, dominance, herd-following, unplanned baby-creation -- and confront our challenges rationally, if we want, and if we're really smart enough.

So, that's what chiggers teach us. Facebook Icon