How The Snake Got Its Venom

Question from Robert:
What would be your reasoning as to how the evolution of venomous snakes could have happened? Obviously, the first snakes did not start off with venom glands in their heads. That means that they were getting along just fine without any venom to kill their prey for hundreds of thousands or millions of years. So why in the world would venom glands evolve inside their heads? That is not ‘natural selection’. Indeed, that is completely unnatural. A creature wants to keep poison out of its body! So why would any creature start to make poison inside its body? That makes no sense at all. And it would potentially be extremely dangerous to that creature.

But just for the sake of argument, let’s say that such a totally bizarre thing occurred. So now what? You have snakes with venom glands in their heads. How in the heck are the snakes supposed to get the venom into their prey? That would be 100% impossible for snakes to do that without hollowed out, syringe-like, very sharp fangs.

That’s a HUGE problem. That means that snakes which somehow evolved venom glands, would then have to evolve syringe like teeth. And there is absolutely no way that could happen because that would require forethought and planning. And it would totally go against the theory of natural selection. Also, by the time that snakes could have strangely evolved syringe like teeth, their venom glands would have already been naturally phased out because those glands would have been totally useless for an extremely long time. But again, just for the sake of argument, let’s say that this second totally bizarre thing occurred. Now snakes would have had to evolve a structure that would connect the venom gland to the syringe like teeth. How could all of these bizarre things happen accidentally? …. or naturally?

Answer by SmartLX:
We don’t have to rely on my reasoning, not when Scientific American has a full article on this exact subject and Wikipedia has a good summary sitting right there. What the heck, here’s the National Geographic article too. These are literally the first three results when you Google “evolution of snake venom” so I guess you didn’t start there.

The first snakes actually did start off with venom glands because the glands first evolved in the ancestors of snakes, four-legged burrowing lizards more similar to the Komodo dragon. The proteins in venom share DNA with compounds that do other jobs. One is saliva, which breaks down organic material for digestion. Immune system proteins, which attack foreign elements in the body, are another. One compound that isn’t mentioned is stomach acid, but this is another dangerous substance that is essential to normal bodily function. We need poisons in our bodies to survive, only they’re poisons we’re able to tolerate because of how they’re produced and contained. Venom evolved many times over throughout the animal and plant kingdoms, because it has lots to build off.

As for delivery systems, of which there are many, you don’t need much of a starting point. Toads secrete poison on their skin and let it sit there, because the only animals they want to poison are those who try to eat them, so any number of bodily glands could have switched their purpose. Spitting cobras squirt venom forward, so what if they started by just plain spitting, or to be more specific, gleeking? With this technique, even humans can shoot liquid a long way from the body straight from a gland. A gland with a naturally effective nozzle like this can slowly evolve into either a weapon that can be aimed or a hard retractable tube that can inject, because every little bit closer it mutates to either one of these makes for more effective hunting and defense, and ultimately a better chance of survival.

With the specifics covered, let’s look at the overall nature of your challenge because it is VERY similar to those that have come before. You point to something remarkable and ask how it could have happened, and implicitly assert your own explanation by elimination after assuming no good answer is forthcoming. A textbook argument from ignorance (a harsh name, sorry, but the official one) and thus an informal fallacy, which is a failure of the premise of an argument to support its conclusion. It fails for several reasons: obviously it’s rebutted if an alternative answer is presented, but even if not it relies on the assumption that if you and I can’t think of a way then it’s impossible. We’d have to be gods ourselves for this to be true. I point out this fallacy whenever it comes in because it is the basis of many of the arguments for God, and every creationist argument. As a result, these arguments are only good for reassuring yourself and those who agree with you, because by themselves they have little power to persuade.

4 thoughts on “How The Snake Got Its Venom”

  1. Hey Smartx. I’m afraid you are s are to think on your own. The writer has a point. And in the beginning you showed there a glimber of hope foe your self. The snake had everything included in its making from when God created it. The snake and many other such organisms leave the Atheist with rltheir mouths wide open, stammering trying to invent another totaly indefensible excuse as to why didn’t we think of this flaw in our retinal before we stuck our foot in our proverbial mouthes.

  2. Please go this website and explain why even the great Steve Hawkins and not a few other proponents of Atheism have remarked that due to the lack, LACK that’s right, LACK of any kind of transitional fossils, it appears that whole species were dumped or placed or created and placed on the earth showing g no signs of evolution. This is paraphrased by me. Please go to this website and correct t me if I got it wrong g in any way

    1. Well, you wrote those in a hurry Gerald.

      Funny how evolutionary biologists, not all of whom are atheists, are still characterised as stammering out desperate explanations after building a huge body of genetic and morphological evidence and documentation on exactly the selected topic. Same with the topic of transitional fossils, despite the known existence of quite a long list, at as a matter of fact.

      I assume “Steve Hawkins” is Richard Dawkins and the quote is #9 in the list of 44 “reasons”. This particular quote is actually #40 on a TalkOrigins list of examples of creationist quote mining. It’s from The Blind Watchmaker, and Dawkins goes on to explicitly state the probable reasons for the gaps in the fossil record, which are consistent with the evolutionary model.

      This led me to wonder about the rest of the material in that article, and fortunately I was able to find a four-part piece on Neurologica explaining exactly what the problems are with all 44 points. (The link goes to part four which links back to the other three.) Let me know if you think any particular points were treated inaccurately.

      Besides all the specifics, though, think about the argument you’re making. Whatever you think these capital-A atheists have said to denounce the evidence for evolution, they remain atheists and evolutionists and make no effort to hide their remarks supposedly discrediting themselves. The simplest explanation for this is that they haven’t actually sabotaged their own side in anything like the way you think they have. You can claim that they’re just holding onto it for fear of their jobs and reputations, but this is literally a conspiracy theory.

  3. Robert, if you truly want to learn something regarding the evolution of a particular trait that some animal has (like venom), please do some honest research ahead of time before asking such a question. The information, as pointed out by LX, is readily available to you in you chose to read it. Just my opinion of course, but there is simply no reason why any adult could not answer that question themselves. Perhaps you read about “irreducible complexity” or some other pseudoscience at a creationist website, or perhaps you were just pondering about modern snakes and realized that you weren’t sure how they became the animals that they are today. Regardless of how you got there, I have no doubt that you are more than capable of researching and answering that question yourself, and it puzzles me why you didn’t.

    The fact of the matter is that there has been such an incredible amount of research done on the evolution of practically every type of structure and ability found in the animal kingdom that you could ask the same type of question about giraffe necks or flowers & bees or anything in between, and the answer is available to you at universities, libraries, research publications, and the internet.

    Are you really curious? Then if you aren’t afraid to ask the question, don’t be afraid to find the answer yourself…

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