The Miracle of Silk
Your god is God alone, there is no
other deity than Him. He encompasses all things in His knowledge.
(Surah Ta Ha: 98)
Spiders' thread is five times stronger than steel of the
same thickness, and can stretch to four times its own length.
Everybody knows that spiders use silky threads produced from their own
bodies in order to spin webs. But the
stages of production of the thread and its general features are not so
well known. The thread produced by spiders, of a diameter less than one
thousandth of a millimetre, is five times stronger than a steel thread
of the same dimensions. It can, moreover, stretch to four times its own
length. Another striking feature of the silk is that it is very light.
We can demonstrate this with an example. A silk thread stretching around
the whole world would only weigh 320 grams.20
It will be worth having another look at the above technical
details. We cannot just gloss over the fact that the silk is five times
stronger than steel. Because steel, known for being one of the strongest
materials in the world, is an alloy produced in large factories in a series
of processes. Spiders' silk, however, five times stronger than steel,
is not produced in large factories: it is made by an arachnid. Just about
any spider we can see anywhere can produce it. Steel is a heavy material,
for which reason it is difficult to use. It is produced in large furnaces
at high temperatures and is prepared for use by cooling in moulds. In
contrast, spiders' thread is very light. It is produced in the spiders'
own small bodies, not in giant furnaces and moulds.
Another miraculous aspect of spider
thread is that it is very elastic. It is very difficult to find a material
both strong and elastic. For example, steel cables are one of the strongest
materials around. But because they are not elastic like rubber, they slowly
lose their shape. And although rubber cables do not lose their shape,
they are not strong enough to lift heavy weights. On the other hand, as
has been described above, spider silk is five times stronger than steel
wire of the same thickness, and 30 percent more elastic than rubber of
the same thickness.21 To put it in technical
terms, spider thread, from the point of view of its resistance to breaking
and the extent it can stretch before breaking, is a material the like
of which does not exist.
The research into spiders carried out over the last
few decades, and the information resulting from it, has brought with it
several questions. For example, if mankind makes steel and rubber cables
as a result of the knowledge gathered over hundreds of years, then with
what knowledge is spider thread, which is so superior, made? How is it
that mankind cannot fully grasp the formula and put it into operation?
What is it that makes spider silk so superior? The answer is hidden in
the construction of the silk. Research by international chemical manufacturing
companies has only partially determined the make-up of spider thread.
The Make-up of Silk
The "wolf spider" prepares a matchless cocoon for its eggs. The
hard exterior of the cocoon protects the eggs from external dangers.
The inside, padded with silk, provides maximum comfort. The spider
inserts the eggs through a hole in the top of the sack. (Top) Then
it closes up the hole and the eggs enjoy perfect armoured protection.
One species in Oklahoma makes a padded nest for itself. It finds
a leaf and carries it in its mouth. It folds the leaf up and joins
the edges with a special silk. (Side) To guarantee the comfort of
the nest, it lines the inner walls with silk.
The silk spiders make is much stronger than any known
fibres, natural or synthetic. When scientists realised this they began
experimenting to understand in what way spiders make it. The first ones
thought this would be as simple as getting silk from silkworms, but later
it dawned on them they were wrong.
Evolutionary zoologist Fritz Vollrath,
of Aarhus University in Denmark, realised, as a result of his research,
that it would not be possible to make it by taking it directly from spiders.
This being the case, scientists then came up with the idea of "the
production of artificial spider silk" as an alternative. But, before
that, it was necessary for the researchers to find out how the spider
produces the silk. This took quite a few years. The zoologist Vollrath
discovered an important part of the method in his later work. The spiders'
method is remarkably similar to the process used to manufacture industrial
fibers such as nylon: spiders harden their silk by acidifying it. Vollrath
concentrated his work on the garden cross spider known as Araneus diadematus
and examined a duct through which the silk flows before exiting. Before
entering the duct, the silk consists of liquid proteins. In the duct,
specialized cells draw water away from the silk proteins. Hydrogen atoms
taken from the water are pumped into another part of the duct, creating
an acid bath. When the silk proteins make contact with the acid, they
fold and form bridges with one another, hardening the silk.22 But of course the formation of the silk is
not as simple as described here. For silk to emerge, other materials and
sacs of various properties are needed.
The raw material of spider silk is "keratin,"
a protein that appears as braided, helical strands of amino acid chains.
This material is also found in hair, horn and feathers. The spider obtains
all the raw materials for its silk from a synthesis of the amino acids
it secures by digesting its prey. Spiders also eat and digest their own
webs, thus producing inside their own bodies the material for further
There is an area at the base of the spider's abdomen
where the silk glands are found. Each gland produces different elements.
Different types of silk threads are produced from different combinations
of the elements from these glands. There is a great conformity between
the glands. During the silk production process, specially well-developed
pumps and pressure systems within the spider's body are used. The raw
silk produced is thrown out in the form of fibres by spinnerets (nozzles)
which function like taps. The spider can alter the spray pressure within
these spinnerets as it wishes. This is an especially important feature.
Because in this way the make-up of the molecules which form the raw keratin
is changed. By the use of the control mechanism in the valves the diameter,
resistance and elasticity of the thread can be altered while it is being
produced. Thus the thread can take on the desired physical characteristics
without the need for a change in its chemical composition. If any greater
change to the thread is desired, another gland has to come into operation.
The resulting tiny silk threads with their many features are then set
in the desired way by expert use of the rear legs.
is enough to examine their silk glands to realise that spiders could
not have emerged by coincidence. This picture shows the glands on
the Madagascar spider's (Nephila Madagascariensis) right side. There
are glands on the left side as well. Silk glands 1 and 2 produce
the dry silk the spider holds on to when walking on its web, or
when climbing up and down. The viscid silk is produced in another
gland (3). This basic silk is coated by the adhesive (sticky) glands
(4 and 5). The 6th gland produces the adhesive necessary for sticking
the silk to another surface. The 7th gland produces the raw material
for a special thin silk used to wrap the prey up after it is caught.
The 8th gland produces the silk for the cocoon. 9, 10, and 11 show
the back, central, and front spinnerets (silk nozzles). Spiders
make their silk by means of this peerless system. It is clear that
this system, with its different structures and functions, could
not have come about by coincidences. Spiders were created together
with this system by the Almighty God.
The ratios in which the products of six different glands
are mixed are of the utmost importance. For example, when the sticky thread
is being produced, if that material which gives the sticky quality is
not used in sufficient quantities, it will lose the ability to catch insects.
If it is used in too great quantities, the usability of the web will be
reduced. For the thread to serve its purpose, the products of the other
glands must necessarily be applied at the right level.
The result of these processes being
successfully completed is spider silk, with its properties, all different
from each other, and able to serve different functions. Spider silk is
so strong that Vollrath, the zoologist, describes it in these words: "Spider
silk is stronger and more elastic than Kevlar, and Kevlar is the strongest
And these are not the only special qualities of spider
silks. Unlike Kevlar, a kind of plastic used in the production of bullet-proof
jackets because of its strength, spider silk can be recycled and used
again and again.
| THREADS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE...
The picture above shows the capturing thread of an ecribellate
spider, such as A. diadematus, magnified 100 times. The aqueous
coat which gives the thread its sticky quality is seen here
as minute droplets. In the second picture, magnified 300 times,
are seen rolled threads like cable balls. Surface tension
within each drop causes core fibers to bunch up, creating
a windlass system, shown in its contracted state. Under pressure
the system relaxes and the thread can stretch to a great extent.
|As will be seen from the 200 times magnified picture
below, this dry thread (cribellate spider thread) is
formed by the coming together of hundreds of micro dry
threads. These silks are already sticky without being
coated in any liquid. The stickiness comes about thanks
to the combing operation the spider employs when spinning
its silk. This operation, done through a fine comb located
on the shin of the hind leg, enlarges the threads. This
swelling up can be seen only under 1000 time magnification
and the elecrostatic effect created gives the thread
its trapping quality. It is not possible for these flawless
properties to have come about as the result of coincidences,
as the evolutionists claim. God created the spider,
together with this wonderful system.
Every spider produces silks with different properties for different
functions. The spider known as A. diadematus can switch between
silks with varied amino acid compositions. The spider uses abdominal
glands and spigots to produce seven kinds of silk. These threads,
stronger than steel and more elastic than rubber, made of one
of the most perfect materials in the world, are produced in the
spider's body. This is God's art. God is He Who created everything
and Who is Aware of all creation.
1.FLAGELLIFORM GLANCE, 2. AGGREGATE GLAND, 3. CYLINDIRICAL GLAND,
4. MINOR AMPULLATE GLAND, 5. TOUGH OUTER SILK OF EGG SAC, 6. PIRIFORM
GLAND, 7. MAJOR AMPULLATE GLAND, 8. ACINIFORM GLAND, 9. AUXILIARY
SPIRAL, 10. DRAGLINE, 11. STRUCTURAL SILK, 12. CEMENT FOR JOINTS
AND ATTACHMENTS, 13. SOFT INNER SILK OF EGG SAC, AQUEOUS COATING,
15. CORE FIBERS OF CAPTURE SPIRAL
The most important point here is that this most perfect
product in the world, stronger than steel and more elastic than rubber,
is made in the body of the spider. Even the largest textile factories,
the most developed weaving establishments, and chemical laboratories fully
equipped with the latest technology and researching into atoms have been
unable to manufacture anything quite like spider silk. So how did a spider
plan such an incomparable chemical make-up? After having planned it, how
did it identify the source of the raw materials necessary for production
and how did it settle on the six basic ingredients? What measuring equipment
did it use to establish the proportions between them?
There is no doubt that all of this could not have come
about by chance, as the evolutionists maintain. The spider cannot create
a new system within its own body. It is not possible for it first to identify
what it will need and then locate them inside its own body. Such an idea
is far removed from the realms of science and logic.
It is definitely not possible for a system which produces
silks with all their different features to have come about by itself.
Such a claim is simply nonsense.
Of course God, Creator of the heavens and the earth,
also created the spider and this superb system. God it is Who creates
everything flawlessly and Who is aware of all creation.
...He has no partner in the Kingdom. He created
everything and determined it most exactly. (Surat al-Furqan: 2)
The Most Suitable Threads for Their Purpose
It is not widely known that spiders use more than one
type of thread when spinning their webs. Actually, spiders make different
threads in their bodies for different purposes. It is obvious what an
important characteristic this is when we consider spiders' lives. For
it is essential that the threads the spider walks about on, and those
it uses to catch its prey or to wrap it up tightly, should be different
from one another. For example, if the thread which the spider walks about
on were as sticky as that which it uses when hunting its prey, then the
spider would also get stuck in it, and that would lead to its death.
Let us consider an example. All spiders
produce and use a variety of silks, but the orb-weaving Araneid spiders
appear to make the most diverse use of them, and they produce the most
familiar silken structure, the orb-web. These spiders produce at least
seven silks. These are, first, the silk which constitutes the frame and
radii of the orb-web and the dragline upon which the spider lowers itself;
and second, the viscid silk which is used to form the catching spirals
of the orb-web. In addition, the spider produces a glue to coat the spiral
silk;accessory fibres that apparently reinforce the frame and dragline
silks; cocoon silk; a silk to wrap captured prey; and a silk to attach
the frame and dragline silks to the substrate.24
These silks, in the same way as they have different
qualities from the point of view of strength and elasticity, also exhibit
different thicknesses and levels of stickiness. For example, although
the dragline, which plays such a large part in the spider's life, does
not possess the quality of stickiness, it is nevertheless strong and elastic.
It can easily bear weights up to two or three times the weight of the
spider. It is thanks to this silk that the spider, carrying the prey it
has caught, can move safely up and down.
As we have seen, in order to live, the spider needs
to be able to produce different types of silk and also to know where to
use each one. For even one of these to be lacking would mean death to
It would not be possible for a spider to survive without
possessing all of these at once. Imagine a spider which spun perfect webs
to wonderful designs but whose webs were not sticky. This would render
the spider's web completely useless. It is not even an option for it to
wait thousands of years for the process of evolution to teach it how to
make sticky webs, because without this knowledge the spider would be dead
within a few days. Or imagine a spider which could produce all kinds of
silk but was unable to make a web. Of course the silks it made would be
of no use at all and again it would die. Even if it was able to produce
all the silks, but not the cocoon silks to protect its eggs; in that case
the spider would die out. As has been demonstrated, spiders have never
had the time to acquire all the characteristics which they possess with
the passing of time as the evolutionists claim.
Not one iota of the features which spiders possess
can have come about in stages as claimed by the theory of evolution. From
the time of the very first spider on Earth, all spiders have had to exist
in complete form. All of these facts are evidence that spiders emerged
at one time, in other words, that they were created by God. By means of
this miracle of creation in the spider, God is showing us His limitless
power and knowledge.
The Elasticity of Silk Threads
The thread shows different features, depending on what
the spider will use it for. For example, the sticky threads are produced
in different glands from the dragline and are thinner and more elastic.
In some situations they can stretch 500-600 percent.
Spiders have a pump-and-valve system that enables them
to make threads. Glandular ducts thicken the substance they exude into
a highly vicious state:a liquid crystal, in which the molecules are organized
in parallel lines. Strong shearing forces applied to the emergent thread
by an extrusion nozzle cause many of the alpha chains to form a stable,
tertiary structure, called a beta-pleated sheet.
These protein crystals are in turn
embedded in a rubberlike matrix composed of amino acid chains that are
not linked into beta-pleated sheets. Instead these helical strands are
tangled up in a state of high entropy. It is precisely this randomness
that lends silk, like rubber, exceptional elasticity. Stretching the thread
pulls the protein strands out of disarray - which they resist - whereas
releasing the thread allows them to contract back into blissful disorder.25
The elasticity of the sticky threads makes it possible
for flying insects to be gradually brought to a stop. In this way the
danger of the web breaking is reduced. The sticky substance used is produced
in another group of glands with different functions. This material is
so adhesive that it is impossible for insects which get caught in the
web to escape.
Spiders' Threads Are Stronger than Steel
Local people use the threads of the Golden orb web spider for
fishing, because its web is very strong. The web's golden colour
deceives bees and insects and draws them into it.
The spider's silk is a scleroprotein
which is emitted from the spinnerets as a liquid. Scleroprotein is a type
of protein that hardens into a tough elastic structure in contact with
the air. Thanks to this protein the silk is extremely strong. So strong
and resilient has spider silk proved that, on the human scale, a web resembling
a fishing net could catch a passanger plane.26
Silk's elasticity is balanced by
its strength. Because it is a composite material, like glass fibers embedded
in a resin, silk is strong. Its crystals and matrix resist breaking. A
stretched thread usually snaps because a crack on the surface cuts into
it like a wedge. Forces acting along the fiber concentrate at the crack
and cause it to rip with increasing speed ever deeper into the material.
Such cracks, however, can travel only if they do not encounter resistance.
The crystals in the rubber matrix of the spider silk provide obstacles
that divert and weaken the rending force.27
For something under tension even minor damage to the
surface can be dangerous. But this risk is avoided by a precautionary
measure in spider thread. While the garden spider spins its silk, it coats
it with a liquid material at the same time, in such a way that any cracks
that might appear on the surface of the silk are avoided. This method,
which spiders have been employing for millions of years, is used in today's
industrial cables, which bear heavy loads and need to be very strong.
The tiny drops on the surface of the thread are seen here.
The descriptions given so far have been technical ones
of an existent miracle of construction. But now we must stop and think.
What is the truth underlying these technical explanations? It is obvious
that the spider is unaware of proteins and the crystal states of the atom.
It also knows nothing about chemistry, physics, or engineering. It is
a creature bereft of the capacity of thought. But as for the features
it possesses, it is impossible for these to be explained by means of chance.
But in that case, who is it who makes all these plans and calculations?
As we study the spider's web and silk, and its ways of hunting and living,
it is immediately clear that it could not have brought about this flawless
technical operation all by itself.
Any spider we can see at any moment in a hidden corner
or among the plants in a garden is, with its concentration of chemical,
physical and architectural capability, yet another clear proof of God's
art of creation. In this living creature God is revealing to us His limitless
wisdom, His infinite power of creation. It is God Who inspires everything
the spider does. God announces this truth in the Qur'an:
Everything in the heavens and the earth glorifies
God. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. The kingdom of the heavens and
the earth belongs to Him. He gives life and causes death. He has power
over all things. (Surat al-Hadid: 1-2)
The Garden Spider's Amazing Web-Spinning Techniques
Garden spiders use a strut to strengthen
their nests. In its web the spider stabilises the outermost spiral thread
with 4 to 6 holding points and suspends it vertically to catch insects
in flight. Apart from this, spiders fix a weight on to the lower half
of the outermost spiral thread from another short thread in such a way
as to make it taut. This weight, which makes the web strong and swings
in the air, may be a small stone, or a piece of wood, or a snail shell.
Scientists have observed that when they gently lift the weight hanging
from the web without releasing it and stopping it swinging, the spider
waiting in its nest immediately emerges and checks it. Then the spider
shortens the thread in order to let the weight swing free again. The results
of these observations have established that all this is done by the spider
with the aim of strengthening the web.28
The Most Pitiless Trap in the World
Prey caught in a spider's web can do little about it.
The trap is prepared so expertly that, as the victim struggles, the web
loses elasticity and grips the prey even tighter. As a little time passes
and the victim becomes completely powerless, the web grows stronger and
tauter than before. In this way the spider, watching the creature's hopeless
struggle from a corner somewhere, can easily kill the trapped prey, which
is now exhausted.
one would expect when a victim gets stuck in a web is that, as the insect
struggles, the web is pulled out of shape and the creature escapes from
the trap. But exactly the opposite happens and the web grows stronger,
completely immobilising the insect. How can a web increase in strength
as the victim caught in it struggles?
The answer to this emerges when we
examine the structure of the web. The spider's capturing threads take
on a new form due to the moisture of the air. The change happens like
this. The garden spider's spiral threads are formed by the coming together
of two liquid-covered fibres. This adhesive liquid is produced in a different
gland from those which produce the basic fibres. The silk threads which
emerge from the spider's spinning glands are continuously coated in a
film of this sticky material. The source of the adhesive nature of this
material is the glycoproteins it contains. Furthermore, it consists of
80 percent of that economic material, water.29
As the sticky liquid comes into contact with the water
in the air it separates into tiny drops which attach themselves to the
thread like little beads. Contracting and stretching the sticky thread
in rapid succession wind and unwind the core fibres inside the droplets.
Thus, the entire system of core fibers and coating is always under tension,
keeping the sticky thread taut. Energy applied by buffeting winds or blundering
insects is not absorbed by the silk itself but by the entire system.
The core fibers do their share of
the work as well. Plasticized and therefore essentially like reinforced
rubber, they benefit directly from the fact that entropic elasticity is
temperature dependent. Because the kinetic energy of the prey is largely
converted into heat, the thread warms up. The heating increases entropy,
and consequently the core fibers grow stronger. The absorbed energy of
the prey actually strengthens the capturing thread and does so only because
of the spider's clever trick of applying aqueous coating.30
On account of these features the spider's web is the most pitiless trap
One may wonder whether these features are present or
not in other silken threads. What would happen if that were the case?
For example what would happen if load-bearing threads had the same stretching
capacity? Of course it would be quite difficult for the spider to carry
itself or its prey. In fact, the load-bearing silks, which make up the
skeleton of the web, in contrast to the catching threads, are coated in
another substance which protects them from water, because it is not necessary
for the load-bearing threads to be as elastic as the adhesive ones.
As has been seen, the spider makes coatings of different
substances for silks of various functions and construction as and when
necessary. Right, so how does the spider know about the coatings' different
physical and chemical effects? To maintain that the spider was trained,
or came by them by experience or coincidence flies in the face of intelligence
and common sense.
At this point just a little thought is sufficient to
find the true answer. In order for the spider to be able to plan all this,
it would first have to learn all the molecular structures, and the chemical
mechanisms which cause the liquid to solidify as we have described above.
Then after learning all this, it would then have to decide to go into
production. After reaching that decision it would then have to bring about
certain changes within its own body and set up the systems to make all
This, of course, is an imaginary scenario. As we have
seen, the perfect planning of the spider's body and its purposeful behaviour
cannot be explained by any event in nature or any other force. That the
spider was unable to do all of this for itself is a fact that any intelligent
person can see. It is not possible, therefore to explain the spiders'
purposeful behaviour and physical structure by changes over time or any
other evolutionary process.
All living creatures in nature have characteristics
similar to, or even more detailed, than those of the spider. Observing
any one of them will suffice to confirm the obvious planning in these
living creatures. The existence of a force which governs all of them is
quite clear. Their physical planning, or else their behaviour prove that
these living things were made by a creator, in other words, by God. It
is enough to use our intelligence to see this. God, the Lord of all the
worlds has announced this fact to mankind with His verse, '(He
is) The Lord of the East and the West and everything between them. If
only you used your intellect.' (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 28)
The Spider's Silk and the Defence Industry
A material's strength and elasticity are of great importance
in the industrial sector. Strength widens the field in which it can be
used, and elasticity increases the ease with which it can be applied.
From the point of view of strength and elasticity, spider thread is the
most perfect material in the world. For this reason researchers greatly
increased their studies of spider silk in the last quarter of the 20th
century. As a result of these they have been able to produce by chemical
means only something resembling spider silk but of much poorer quality.
In short, modern technology, despite all its resources and research, has
been unable to produce a thread with qualities equivalent to that which
the spider makes.
Spider thread is a protein principally consisting of
the amino acids glycine, alanine, serine and tyrosine. The Du Pont company
has produced various synthetic fibres by unearthing the chemical formula
of the silk and determining the order in which the molecules which make
it up lie. Every giant molecule in this synthetic polymer is made up of
thousands of molecular chains of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen
atoms. This product, known as "Kevlar," today produced artificially,
is the most developed of organic fibres. With their strength and elasticity,
Kevlar synthetic fibres come closest to the physical characteristics of
Kevlar is used in car seat-belts and in various items
of protective clothing. It is an important product also used to large
degree in the aircraft and shipping industry as an external material,
in the production of fibre-optic and electro-mechanical cables, in the
rope and cable industry, and in various sports implements.
Kevlar fibres are made from "poly-paraphenylene
terephthalamide." This fibre, consisting of long molecular chains,
is suitable for bending and using as a thread thanks to its construction.
Its properties of durability and lightness have led to this material being
used in many areas of industry.
One of the most important fields in which Kevlar has
been utilized in this century has been the defence industry. Bullet-proof
vests, which used to be made from steel, are now made from fabrics woven
from Kevlar fibres, which look no different from ordinary cloth. Kevlar,
thanks to its shock-absorbing properties, reduces the bullet's force of
impact. This is a most important discovery from the technological point
of view, as well as being a most useful one. Yet despite these excellent
properties, Kevlar fibres' shock-absorbing properties are only one-third
of those of spider silk.
There are important conclusions and warnings here for
anyone who considers the fact that scientific research centres with the
most up-to-date technology have only been able to produce a less-developed
imitation of the silk the spider produces. This contrast is one of the
proofs that it was God who made living creatures with His matchless creative
The Place of Spider Silk in Peoples' Lives
During research into the chemistry of spider silk,
threads are drawn from spiders by special machines. In this way it is
possible to obtain 320 metres of silk a day from each animal (about 3
milligrams) without harming it.
Medical science is another field where the threads
produced in this way are used, or rather where the spider is of service
to mankind. Pharmacologists at Wyoming University in the USA use the threads
from the Nephila spider as threads in some very sensitive operations,
such as on tendons and joints.