Mouse trap history disagrees with intelligent design (Still under construction!)

by JLD


Advocates of intelligent design (ID) claim that irreducibly complex systems, like mouse traps that do not work if one part is missing, cannot evolve through continuously improving the initial function by slight, successive modifications of precursors.

Historic traps, however, show intermediate designs between ad hoc traps and modern prefabricated traps. This reveals continuous improvement of the initial function of traps through slight, successive modifications of precursors. Therefore the ID claim about mouse traps in particular and irreducibly complex systems in general is false.

In order to defeat ID, however, it must be cut of from its source believe that the Bible did not evolve and can therefore be trusted as authority against evolution. Applying the putative benchmarks of ID, irreducible complexity and specified complexity, to the Bible shows that it fulfils neither. Comparative evidence suggests, instead, that the Bible as well as other scripture evolved through religious adaptation by humans, a process of transmission with variation and selection according to religious beliefs. If this evolutionary origin of scripture was taught, hopefully, no new generation of creationists of whatever mould would arise.


Contrary to claims by advocates of intelligent design (ID), scientists have treated ID like a theory competing with evolution by testing it. The unequivocal result is refutation (e.g., Miller 2004; Carrier 2004; Young and Edis 2004; Lewens 2006; Häggström 2007; Olofsson 2008; Meester 2009). This did not silence ID advocates, because they evade scientific practice.

One evasive tactic is separating macro- from micro-evolution and alleging that laboratory experiments produced micro-evolution but never macro-evolution. Another evasive tactic is demanding complete evolutionary sequences, that is, either a complete fossil record or a complete sequence of intermediate states of an adaptation in extant species. Evasion aside, an empirical test has to start from a disjunction between ID and evolutionary theory and drive the wedge of the scientific method into that crack by deriving different predictions that can be tested (Sober 2007). Michael Behe’s claims about irreducible complexity and mouse traps provide such a disjunction.

A disjunction

Behe (1996) takes the following quote of Darwin (1859, p. 189) as his point of departure:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

While Darwin (1859, p. 190) also warned:

We should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind


Behe (1996, p. 39) throws this caution to the winds and opts for a definition:

By irreducibly complex I mean a single system which is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. (See also Behe 2001, p. 691)

Behe (1996, p. 39) takes this as the organ breaking Darwin’s theory by definition:

An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition non-functional. (See also Behe 2001, p. 695)

A mouse trap serves as an ordinary example of irreducible complexity (Behe 1996, p. 42):

Suppose that while reading one evening, you hear the patter of little feet in the pantry, and you go to the utility drawer to get a mousetrap. Unfortunately, due to the faulty manufacture, the trap is missing one of the parts listed above [Behe lists a wooden platform, metal hammer, spring, sensitive catch, and a metal bar that connects to the catch and holds back the hammer, JLD]. Which part could be missing and still allow you to catch a mouse? If the wooden base were gone, there would be no platform for attaching the other components. If the hammer were gone, the mouse could dance all night on the platform without becoming pinned to the wooden base. If there were no spring, the hammer and platform would jangle loosely, and again the rodent would be unimpeded. If there were no catch or metal holding bar, then the spring would snap the hammer shut as soon as you let go of it; in order to use a trap like that you would have to chase the mouse around holding the trap open. (See also Behe 2004, p. 364; 2007, p. 120)

Behe (1996, p. 43) believes that irreducibly complex systems in general and mouse traps in particular can have no functional precursors and therefore cannot evolve:

To feel the full force of the conclusion that a system is irreducibly complex and therefore has no functional precursors we need to distinguish between a physical precursor and a conceptual precursor. The trap described above is not the only system that can immobilize a mouse. On other occasions my family has used a glue trap. In theory at least, one can use a box propped open with a stick that could be tripped. Or one can simply shoot the mouse with a BB gun. However, these are not physical precursors to the standard mousetrap since they cannot be transformed, step-by-Darwinian-step, into a trap with a base, hammer, spring, catch, and holding bar.

Admittedly, mouse traps can be used as spit-ball catapults or tie-clips while lacking the holding bar and sensitive catch (e.g. Miller 2008, p. 53ff). I grant, however, that mouse traps are irreducibly complex regarding their trapping function, in order to test whether this irreducible complexity cannot evolve while the function remains trapping. This fundamental test should end the peekaboo, where evolutionists disprove the irreducible complexity of certain systems and ID advocates just switch to others.

Deriving alternative hypotheses about artefact history

Alternative hypotheses about artefact history can be derived from the above disjunction. Humans invented artefacts and some, like mousetraps, are irreducibly complex. This intelligent design at the level of individual humans, however, does not necessarily entail intelligent design at the super-individual level of history. Understanding whether ID or evolution prevails at the super-human level requires knowledge of the alternative means of origination proposed by ID and evolution.

According to (Behe 1996, p. 39), irreducibly complex systems, including artefacts, cannot originate from physical precursors (see quote above). They are supposed to be ingeniously invented in whole and from scratch. Davis and Kenyon (1993, p. 99-100) claimed this for biological systems in a statement that can be extended to artefacts:

Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact—fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.

While newer editions may speak of sudden emergence instead of intelligent design (Scott and Matzke 2007), explicating the “etc.” in the above quote will necessarily include as distinctive features the fur and mammary glands of mammals, the nests of birds, and the skills of humans for producing artefacts. As human design is a kind of intelligent design, various forms of artefacts should also begin abruptly with their distinctive features already intact.

The alternative derives from evolutionary theory (Sterelny 2006; Mesoudi 2008). Human individuals do not reproduce and vary artefacts blindly but purposeful. While this human teleology assures that cultural transmission is faithful and variants are functional, a functional variant may nevertheless fail to be reproduced, because their human designers lack clairvoyance and no super-human intelligence is involved. The resulting process of variation and selection (e.g., economic) leads to evolutionary patterns of artefact history though the individual human designers are purposeful and the individual artefacts irreducibly complex.

Hence, evolutionist predict patterns of gradual change in artefact history in spite of intelligent human designers working at the individual level. ID is not hierarchical and predicts abrupt origins as soon as intelligence is involved.

Materials & Methods

Taking artefacts as the test case strongly biases the sample in favour of ID, because the individual level is governed by human intelligent design from the outset. This constitutes a rigorous test of evolutionary theory and a mere soft check of ID.

Historical evidence can test the hypothesis that irreducibly complex artefacts could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications of precursors.


Set/release mechanisms and other parts of traps are separately transmitted culture elements (Lagercrantz 1964). Irreducible complexity is unknown in ethnography. The same is true for the philosophy of technology. Gilbert Simondon, for example, shows that lineages of technological invention are independent of user demands (Bontems 2009). Simondon distinguished the physical structure of technical artefacts from their function as their ‘dual nature’ (de Vries 2008). Thus, if a torsion mechanism is applied in ancient traps first and in war catapults later, then this lineage is independent from the user’s perception of traps and catapults as different things.

We can either follow the lineages of physical parts, find them put to very different uses, and therefore deny the concept of irreducible complexity form the start. Or we follow the lineage of a function, but find lateral transfer of parts. It is illegitimate, however, to fix the perspective to functions and deny lateral transfer of parts.

Behe (1996) demands that it be shown how an irreducibly complex function can evolve gradually. Thus, he fixes the perspective to the user’s eye view (in artefacts) or the organism’s eye view (in biological systems). Lateral transfer inevitably results.

If lateral technology transfer causes reticulate phylogeny, artefacts cannot be traced back to one ancestor because their parts have several ancestors. Nevertheless, numerous, successive, slight modifications can be traced through reticulate phylogenies. This is particularly devastating to ID, because its advocates want to replace the image of an evolutionary tree by that of lineages with independent origins and independent historical trajectories. Reticulate phylogeny, however, does not only mean common origins but also interconnected historical trajectories.


Referring to antique traps as surviving specimens in the following only serves to distinguish antique traps from other historical records like paintings, drafts, patents, adverts, etc. It does not imply that they are still in use.

As the perspective is fixed to functions, terms need to distinguish functions irrespective of the historical parts carrying them. It is useless to speak of a wooden platform, for example, if the part carrying that function was not wooden or not a platform in precursors. The general functions of the snap mouse trap in question are striker, set/release mechanism, power source, and framework or base to which the parts can be firmly attached. Behe (1996) used other terms corresponding to parts, functions, or both (metal hammer, sensitive catch, metal bar, spring, wooden platform).

William Chauncey Hooker of Abingdon, Illinois, patented the flat snap trap in 1894 (fig. 4e). It allowed for mass production and has gone through subsequent modifications (Drummond et al. 2002). Hope (1996) inadvertently credited John Mast with this invention, maybe because Mast contributed to its commercial success and patented modifications. Unfortunately, the misbelief in Mast’s priority is transmitted (e.g., Shanks and Joplin 2000). The first mouse trap based on Hooker’s patent was called ‘Out O’ Sight’ by the Animal Trap Company in Abingdon, IL, and has a long history.


Ad hoc traps are built (at least in part) from material found on the spot were they operate. Unfortunately, these traps do not tend to leave long lasting historical records. Ad hoc dead-fall traps are of irreducible simplicity consisting of an errant slab or other heavy object as striker, some sticks arranged to hold it up but to give way on disturbance (set/release mechanism), and bait. In the simplest case the set/release mechanism consists of one stick or other object that also holds the bait.

More sensitive set/release mechanisms consist of several sticks and sometimes also string. A ‘Figure-4’ arrangement of sticks (fig. 1a; 6a), for example, is very widespread. Mascall (1590, p. 76) recorded it as ‘Samson poste for Rattes’. While Mascall’s description and illustration might not be clear enough on its own, Lagercrantz (1984, p. 41) pointed out that ‘Samson post’ was a common name for ‘Figure-4’ traps. If the striker is a log, the base is usually another log and upright posts at both sides prevent the striker from missing the base (fig. 1b). Lagercrantz (1972) reviews the universal occurrence of ad hoc dead-fall traps in different cultures with various strikers and a great variety of set/release mechanisms.

Mouse trap history disagrees with intelligent design (Still under construction!)


Prefabricated dead-fall traps are produced independent of the site and time of operation. Base and striker are often boards. A wooden bar (latch) and a treadle functioned as set/release mechanism (fig. 6b). Leonard Mascall (1590, p. 78) recorded this design as the ‘Square mouce trappe’ (fig. 2a). Illuminations in manuscripts of the fable ‘Mashal ha-Kadmoni’ from 1450-58 also show this design (Roth 1956, plate XIV b, c). Surviving specimens from Tyrol show two variants (fig. 2b): in the left one the upright post holding the string with the latch is relocated towards the front; in the right one it is replaced by two upright posts and an overhead beam forming a frame (see also fig. 6c). An illustration of the Mashal ha-Kadmoni (of 1458) also shows this design (Roth 1956, plate XIV d) and further specimens survived in Scandinavia (Berg 1966, p. 4).


In figure 3a and 6d, the frame also holds a twisted cord powering a wooden rod that presses on the striker. This adds an extra power source. Mascall (1590, p. 81) recorded this design as the ‘Following trappe’, because he called the rod pressing on the upper board the ‘following staffe’. It has become famous as the ‘Mérode mouse trap’, however, because the right wing of the Mérode altarpiece of ca. 1425 (WGA 2009) shows a trap of this kind (Drummond 1997a) sitting on St. Joseph’s workbench. Zupnick’s (1966) curious claim that the item in question is a carpenter’s plane rather than a mouse trap has been disproved beyond doubt (Berg 1966; Eisler and Shapiro 1966; Nickel 1966; Drummond 1997a). A replica made by a carpenter of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, even caught a mouse (Jacob 1966).

In another medieval torsion trap, the twisted cord sits at the pivot and the striker is inserted directly into the twisted cord (fig. 3b; 6e). Mascall (1590, p. 71) recorded this design as ‘Dragin trappe for Mice and Rattes’. Master Casper’s woodcut ‘Frau Venus und der Verliebte’ (ca. 1485) shows such a trap in the upper left (high resolution reprint in Nickel 1966, p. 578) and a Mashal ha-Kadmoni illustration of 1450 shows a double version (Roth 1956, plate XIVa). Finally, Lagercrantz (1964) features a great variety of surviving specimens from the Nordic-Baltic region.


A curved but not coiled wire carries the functions of both the striker and the spring (fig. 4a; fig. 6f) in the ‘Dragin trappe with a great wyar’ (Mascall 1590, p. 75). Later variants, called ‘Planchette’ or ‘Assomoir grillagé’, had a wire with coiled ends (fig. 4b). Again, church history provides an early record from 1694 – a picture of a Jesuit, who learned the business of a mouse trap peddling for a secret mission in Sweden (Lagercrantz 1987). Another variant hinged the striker with a wire-bar on a string (fig. 4c). Eventually, a bent wire served as locking bar carrying the functions of both latch and string in surviving Victorian specimens (fig. 4d; 6g).

The spring/striker unit was also retained in L-shaped traps (fig. 4e; fig. 6h). In 1882, Horace Tinker of Meadville, PA, first patented (No. 265,802) one and marketed it as the ‘Little Giant’ (Drummond 2009). In Hooker’s flat ‘Out O’ Sight’ (fig. 4f, fig. 6i) from 1894, spring and striker were still made of one wire. The separation of spring and striker of current flat snap traps was a later modification.


In vertical dead-fall traps (fig. 5a) a wooden block was hoisted up in whole (not just at one side) so that its surface remained parallel to the platform. One such dead-fall sits on St. Joseph’s window sill in the Mérode altarpiece (Berg 1966; WGA 2009). Mascall’s over 30 trap designs also include it (1590, p. 55+72). Production of these body-crushing dead-falls ceased in the nineteenth century (Hornell 1940).

Metal jaws form another side-branch. They demonstrate that traps with separate spring and striker already existed (fig. 5b), when Hooker patented his flat design. Producing coil spring and striker separately and assembling them is more economic and allows for using strikers of harder material. Nevertheless, the separation of coil spring and striker was a later modification to Hooker’s design.

Finally, auto-set traps reduced the risk of bruised fingers considerably because the striker locked automatically when pressed backwards (fig. 5c). Auto-set traps were discontinued despite this advantage (Drummond 2005). (Fig. 5c also shows the current standard of separate coil-spring and striker.)


The most striking convergence to the modern snap mouse traps is the ancient Egyptian clap-net trap for birds from ca. 1550 BCE (fig. 5d). A variety of torsion traps already existed in ancient times ranging from the 6th (2323-2152 BCE) to the 18th (1539-1295 BCE) Egyptian dynasty (Schäfer 1918/19; Lagercrantz 1950). As many of them were used to kill small quarry, deriving a flat snap mouse trap should have been easy.


Some kinds of traps have no striker. Snares, chokers, cage traps, and pitfalls, for example, have different means of catching the quarry. Evidence for lateral technology transfer between these trap kinds is abundant. The following examples concern the power source and the set/release mechanism.

Mascall’s two ‘Dragin’ traps comprise the gap between twisted cord (fig. 3b, fig. 6e) and wire-spring as power source (fig. 4a, fig. 6f). An uncoiled wire-spring was also used in chokers like Mascall’s ‘Spring trappe’ (1590, p. 74). The oldest choker traps and snares from which they derived had flexible poles as springs (Lagercrantz 1966, plate 2a). Once available, wires were an obvious improvement of chokers. Lateral technology transfer from chokers probably transformed torsion traps into wire-spring traps.

Another instance of lateral technology transfer probably occurred between torsion snares and other torsion traps (Lagercrantz 1964; 1966). Snares often use bent saplings or flexible poles as their power source and artfully arranged strings as snare. It is likely that the torsion principle has been discovered while arranging strings into snares. If suitable saplings or flexible poles are not at hand, propelling an inflexible pole or bow by a torsion mechanism is an appropriate alternative. Maybe the torsion technology was also laterally transferred from ancient torsion traps (ca. 1550 BCE) or their descendants to medieval dead-fall traps or their precursors.

The set/release mechanism changed from suspended strikers with a treadle (fig. 3b, fig 6e) to hinged strikers with a bait hook (fig 4a, fig 6f). The ‘Dragin’ traps, again, comprise both versions. The second change was from hinging the striker with a string plus latch (fig. 6f) to hinging it with a locking bar (fig. 6g). While the striker of the ‘Planchette’ (fig. 4b) was still hinged with latch on string, that of the ‘Break back’ (fig. 4c) was hinged with a locking bar. In fact, torsion traps with hinged striker, holding bar, and bait hook are known from ancient Egypt (fig. 5d; Schäfer 1918/19). Bait hooks and locking bars were also used in choker traps (Drummond 1997b; 2005, p. 52-54), where they constituted considerable improvements of the earlier set/release mechanism: a thread whose setting was fiddly and that was released by the mouse gnawing it through in order to reach the bait.



Each of the above described designs has been physically embodied, functional, and left historical records. Does the above given evidence support a history of abrupt origins and independent trajectories or one of common descent with modification and trajectories connected through lateral transfer?

A comprehensive account would have to start from an ancient array of traps and trace their reticulate phylogeny towards a modern array. For simplicity, I will trace one likely trajectory from dead-fall to flat snap trap and indicate lateral transfers concerning power source and set/release mechanism.

Figure 6 shows a likely sequence of design changes leading from ad hoc dead-fall traps to Hooker’s flat snap trap. The power source is mere gravity in dead-falls (fig. 6a-c). The twisted cord of the torsion traps added power and speed (fig. 6d+e) allowing for lighter strikers. Exchanging twisted cord plus striker for a bent wire serving both functions (fig. 6f) and coiling its ends yielded traps with spring/striker units whose spring parts were coiled (fig. 6g). Hence, the power source changes three times: mere gravity (dead-falls) ? gravity enhanced by twisted cord (torsion traps) ? wire-spring (‘Dragin trappe with great wyar’) ? coiled wire-springs (any snap trap thereafter).

The torsion power source is very ancient and was already known in ancient Egypt (ca. 1550 BCE). It can therefore have been transferred laterally to dead-falls from a variety of traps. The wire-spring was probably transferred laterally from choker traps, which show a sequence from flexible poles to wires in turn.

Initially, the set/release mechanism was an arrangement of twigs (fig. 6a). The horizontal and vertical bars were replaced by the treadle of prefabricated traps (fig. 6b-e). This treadle was replaced (lateral technology transfer) by a bait hook made of bent wire in the ‘Dragin trappe with great wyar’ (fig. 6f). Bait hooks are common in cage traps again going back to ancient Egypt (Drummond et al. 1990). The wooden latch on a string was also replaced (lateral technology transfer) by a locking bar made of bent wire in the Victorian ‘Break-back’ (fig. 6g). Rearrangements and modifications of these parts lead to flat snap traps (fig. 6h+i). William Hooker and John Mast designed many modifications of the set/release mechanism in their life-time (Drummond et al. 2002). If this or another sequence is true, the function of snap mouse traps improved continuously by slight, successive modifications of precursor systems.


Biologists have understandably concentrated their empirical tests of ID claims on the biological systems in question. They have shown that these biological systems are not irreducibly complex (e.g., Miller 2008). Historians and engineers have traced the history of artefacts in general and provide comprehensive stories for examples like stone tools, fork, pencil, zipper, steam engine, cotton gin, transistor, computer (Basalla 1989; Petroski 1992, 1994; Friedel 1994, 2007; Zinman 2000; Akera and Nebeker 2002; Ceruzzi 2003), even artworks and scientific theories (Simonton 1999).

Concerning mouse traps, however, only just-so stories have been proposed to illustrate how flat snap traps could have developed gradually in principle. Biologist John McDonald provided one ( Cited 2 Feb 2009) and creationist Don Stoner another ( Cited 2 Feb 2009). Against this background, the above evidence on mouse trap history highlights several new aspects.

Intelligent design at the individual level does not prevent gradual change at the historical level. The individual level consists of intelligent designers producing irreducibly complex artefacts. Gradual change nevertheless prevails at the level of history, because these human designers have very limited foresight and processes of transmission with variation and selection occur. That is, ID collapses under the softest empirical check possible, in which the individual level is already governed by intelligent design from the outset.

ID does not follow from irreducible complexity in the first place. Though irreducibly complex systems cannot work if a part carrying a function is taken away they can develop through descent with modification. Therefore, the onus is not on biologists to disprove the irreducible complexity of biological systems.
For example, Hooker’s mouse trap had one part less than current mouse traps. It nevertheless worked because one part carried two functions; one wire formed both coil-spring and striker (fig. 4e). Likewise, dead-falls had two parts less than the ‘Following trappe’ (fig. 3a) but they worked, because the twisted cord and following rod only added an extra power source on the striker of dead-falls.

Besides historical increase of parts, historical reduction can also be illustrated by mouse traps. The ‘Following trappe’ (fig. 3a) had a twisted cord, a following rod, and a striker (three parts). The succeeding ‘Dragin trappe’ (fig. 3b) had twisted cord and striker (two parts), and the ‘Dragin trappe with great wyar’ (fig. 4a) had a wire forming both spring and striker (one part).

The evidence on side branches and convergence reflects many problems of ID that are familiar from a biological context. Firstly, vertical dead-fall traps are no longer produced. ID has no explanation for this ‘extinction’ but only the subterfuge that the Designer’s will is unfathomable. Secondly, Hooker’s patent retained the spring/striker unit, while metal jaws with separate spring and striker already existed. ID cannot explain the retention of inferior design unless it assumes a poor Designer. Thirdly, auto-set traps were discontinued despite their superior design. ID cannot explain neglect of superior design and our living with bruised fingers, unless it assumes a perverted intelligence. Finally, torsion traps from ancient Egypt are highly convergent to flat snap mouse traps. ID has no explanation for this convergence or for the question why flat snap mouse traps have not been derived 3000 years ago.

Another misconception is that jumps in design resulting from lateral technology transfer (see above) cannot be explained by descent with modification. They become particularly cogent evidence for it, once they are recognized as due to clumsy tinkering that has nothing to do with the clairvoyance of ID guidance. Advocates of ID try to replace the historical pattern of an evolutionary tree by the even simpler one of parallel lineages with independent origins and independent development ever since. Against this backdrop the evidence for reticulate phylogeny through lateral transfer becomes even more devastating to ID than mere evidence for an bifurcating tree would be.

Concluding remarks

Given the creationist origins of ID (Scott and Matzke 2007), it will not be defeated as long as it is not cut off from its source. This is the belief that Scripture did not evolve and can therefore be trusted as authority against evolution. According to Dembski (2001, 94), “God, as the author of Scripture, operates from an infinite perspective that incorporates all our finite perspectives.” Johnson (1999) tried to separate ID from this attitude: “To put things on a more rational basis, the first thing that has to be done is to get the Bible out of the discussion.” That way he protected ID from applying its own criteria on its own premise. Doing so, however, cuts ID off of its source believe as shown in the following.

Dembski (2007, 285ff) softened Behe’s criterion allowing for irreducible complexity to hold as long as at least one multi-part subsystem constitutes the irreducible core of the system under study. For Christians, the New Testament is the most crucial multi-part subsystem of the Bible. The Jewish Bible (Tanakh) comprises the books of the Old Testament in a different order, but is entirely lacking the New Testament. The Tanakh nevertheless works as a holy book of a belief system. Moreover, central passages within the New Testament are not part of the oldest manuscripts (e.g., Ehrman 2005, 265). Historically, these texts worked as Christian scripture, but passages that are currently regarded as core were not originally part of it. That is, ID requires irreducible complexity for revealing a Designer and therefore cannot take the Bible as revelation. Irreducible complexity as the benchmark of design cuts ID off of its source.

Applying Dembski’s benchmark of design, specified complexity, to scripture yields the same result. Taken from Aquinas, his favourite example of specified complexity is an archer (e.g., Dembski 2007, 9f). If the target is painted around the arrow after the shooting, it is not complex (difficult) and the target not specified independently. If the target is specified before shooting, the event of hitting the target shows specified complexity and must be due to design. This disqualifies all scripture because none has ever been specified independently of the belief in question. Scripture never fell from heaven nor was it washed ashore from outer space. It was specified by believers. Specified complexity and irreducible complexity cut ID off of its source leaving a faithless doctrine that demands revelation in nature but rejects it in scripture.

While limiting discussion to scientific data, critical analysis of scripture shows that its reproduction caused variation through errors, text corruption, mistranslation, duplication, conscious alteration and that selection took place through composition, splicing, pasting, redaction, rhetorical criteria, canonisation, etc. (e.g., Ehrman and Holmes; Beam and Gagos 1997; Friedman 1997; Parker 1997; Barton 2004; Schniedewind 2004; Metzger and Ehrman 2005; Toorn 2007; Rogerson and Lieu 2008, chapters 33-35). Besides internal and external evidence, research applying comparative methods to preserved manuscripts (Reenen and Mulken 1996; Howe et al. 2001a, b – a doublet; Spencer et al. 2002, 2004; Reenen et al. 2004; Robins 2007) proves this cultural evolution of scripture. This discipline’s synonym for lateral transfer is ‘contamination’. If children learn about scripture evolution, hopefully, no new generation of creationists of whatever mould will arise.

Acknowledgements. Thanks to Rick Cicciarelli for a picture and especially to David Drummond for many pictures, reading the manuscript, and suggesting improvements.


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Time table of historical records

Trap kind: ad hoc dead-fall trap
Name: e.g., ‘Figure-4 trap’
Earliest record: —
Source: —

Trap kind: prefabricated dead-fall trap
Name: ‘Square mouce trappe’
Earliest record: spring 1450 in Mashal ha-Kadmoni
Source: Roth (1956, plate XIV b, c)

Trap kind: prefabricated dead-fall with overhead beam
Name: —
Earliest record: ante 1458 (sic) in Mashal ha-Kadmoni
Source: Roth (1956, plate XIV d)

Trap kind: torsion trap with following rod
Name: ‘Following trappe’ or ‘Mérode mouse trap’
Earliest record: ca. 1425, Mérode altarpiece
Source: I have seen the original during an exhibition in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, Feb 2009

Trap kind: torsion trap without following rod
Name: ‘Dragin trappe’
Earliest record: spring 1450 in Mashal ha-Kadmoni
Source: Roth 1956, plate XIV a

Trap kind: spring/striker unit made of wire with uncoiled ends
Name: ‘Dragin trappe with great wyar’
Earliest record: 1590 by Leonard Mascall
Source: Mascall (1590)

Trap kind: wire-spring/striker unit with coiled ends
Name: ‘Planchette’ or ‘Assomoir grillagé’
Earliest record: 1694 by Matthias Tanner
Source: Lagercratz (1987)

Trap kind: wire-spring/striker unit, coiled ends, locking bar
Name: ‘Break Back’
Earliest record: Victorian
Source: Drummond (2005, p. 36)

Trap kind: L-shaped trap with spring/striker unit
Name: ‘Little Giant’
Earleist record: 1882, Horace Tinker’s patent
Source: Drummond (2009, p. 6)

Trap kind: flat snap trap with spring/striker unit
Name: ‘Out O’ Sight’
Earleist record: 1894, William Hooker’s patent
Source: Drummond et al. (2002)

Gotta go off on other chores, will include the figures later.

Fig. 1: Ad hoc dead-fall traps: a)Mouse trap history disagrees with intelligent design (Still under construction!)
Fig. 2: Prefabricated dead-fall traps: a) Mascall’s ‘Square mouce trap’ (from Drummond 1992, fig. 1f); b) Surviving specimens from Tyrol: left variant with upright post relocated towards front; right variant with upright post replaced by frame (from Gasser 1988, fig. 44).
Fig. 3: Torsion traps: a) Mascall’s ‘Following trappe’ (from Drummond 1992, fig. 2a). A twisted cord with a wooden rod pressed down the upper board. b) Mascall’s ‘Dragin trappe’ (from Drummond 1992, fig. 2b). A twisted cord powered the upper (spiked) board or jaw to shut when the mouse released the latch.
Fig. 4: Traps with spring/striker unit: a) Mascall’s ‘Dragin trappe with great wyar’ (replica from Drummond 2005, fig. 19b). b) Polish ‘Planchette’ (from Lagercrantz 1950, fig. 5). c) French ‘Planchette’ (from Lagercrantz 1950, fig. 4). d) Victorian ‘Break back’ (from Drummond 2008, fig. 12e). e) L-shaped snap trap with one wire forming coil spring and striker (from Drummond 2009, fig. 1). f) Hooker’s ‘Out O’ Sight’ (from Drummond 2005, fig. 23).
Fig. 5: Side-branches and a convergence: a) Vertical dead-fall (from Drummond 2005, fig. 17b). The wooden block is hoisted in whole so that the striking surface remains parallel to the platform. b) Metal jaws ‘Royal No. 1’ has the patent date 1879 cast into the bottom jaw (by courtesy of Rick Cicciarelli: Cited 6 Jan 2009). c) Auto set trap (from Drummond 2005, fig. 24). The striking frame sets automatically on being pulled back and pressed down. d) Reconstruction of an Egyptian clap-net trap of ca. 1550 BCE (from Schäfer 1918/19, fig. 100).
Fig. 6: Trap evolution: a) Outdoor dead-fall trap: base (white) = ground; striker (grey) = slab or log; power source = gravitation; set/release mechanism (black) = 4-shaped arrangement of twigs. b) Indoor dead-fall trap with post (Mascall’s ‘Square mouce trappe’): framework (white) = lower board + upright post; striker (grey) = upper board; power source = gravitation; set/release mechanism (black) = treadle + wooden bar latch + string. c) Indoor dead-fall with overhead beam: framework (white) = lower board + two posts at each side + overhead beam; striker (grey) = as in b; power source = gravitation; set/release mechanism (black) = as in b. d) Following or Mérode mouse trap: framework (white) = as in c; striker (grey) = as in c; power source (chequered) = twisted cord with following rod; set/release mechanism (black) = as in c. e) Dragin trap: framework (white) = see figure 2b; striker (grey) = light and bat shaped upper board with teeth; power source (chequered) = twisted cord; set/release mechanism (black) = as in d. f) Dragin trap with great wyar: framework (white) = see figure 3a; striker + power source (grey) = springy bent wire; set/release mechanism (black) = bent wire replaces treadle and the parts of the mechanism are rearranged. g) Narrow angled snap trap: framework (white) = lower board + upper board + middle board; striker + power source (grey) = bent wire whose ends are coiled; set/release mechanism (black) = bent wire locking bar replaces wooden latch + string, treadle wire changes form. h) L-shaped snap trap: framework (white) = see figure 3c; striker + power source (grey) = as in g; set/release mechanism (black) = parts from g are rearranged. i) Hooker’s ‘Out ‘O’ Sight’: framework (white) = wooden board; striker + power source (grey) = still a unit of one wire with only one end coiled while the other runs through the pivot of the coil; set/release mechanism (black) = metal treadle with catch for locking bar, not shown: wooden bait receptacle fixed on top of the treadle (see fig 3d).

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