One of the more common objections to Christianity and theism in general has been the so-called "problem of evil." If, as Christians claim, a good, all-loving, all-powerful (omnipotent) God exists, why is there "evil" in the world such as pain, death, horror, murder, rape, etc? If He is both loving and omnipotent He wouldn't allow such things. Given the prevalence of evil in the world, God is either:
1. Impotent and not Omnipotent (unable to do anything about evil);
2. Immoral or even diabolical and not Holy, just or loving (if He can do something, but chooses instead to sit back and watch the carnage), or
3. Non-existant or is simply unaware of what's going on in His creation.
In any case the argument usually goes, god is not something we should concern ourselves with, certainly not rely on. We are apparently on our own and have to make do the best we can.
The problem of evil has been applied to nature and to animals. This has been called "natural evil." Animals are notorious for doing things many humans consider wrong or immoral (evil) if they were done by humans: homosexuality, pedophilia, incest, adultery, stealing, murder, rape, cannibalism, and so forth. If such a God as described by Christians exists, why do His creations do what He is supposedly against in humans? Some creatures (viruses, insects) cause harm to humans and their efforts to feed themselves (crops). Viruses and insects cause and spread deadly diseases. How can this be squared with the traditional concept of God? Why did God create such things to torment humans and other animals?
Darwin used the problem of natural evil in his book, Origin of Species with rhetorical skill. With it, he argued against God creating any living organism (except perhaps the first) and for natural selection acting on variations within species as our creator.  A bacterium, according to Darwin, transformed into human beings after a few million years of natural selection without God's involvement. Thus, according to Darwin, no species was created by God or was in any way "designed" by God (teleology), but was created by natural forces apart from God. Any design apparent to animals were the by-product of natural selection. The name of the game is "survival of the fittest" or the "struggle" to survive and reproduce. Many species survive by eating other animals. It has become a vicious cycle of eat or be eaten. This is hardly reconcilable to the belief in a Loving, Benevolent Deity. If animals were designed, the designer must be malevolent (disteleology).
This argument is still used by Darwinists to argue against the existence of God and for the evolution of species by completely natural (God-less) means. For example, Daniel Dennett in his recent book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea said,
Einstein famously said that the dear God is subtle but not malicious; [neo-Darwinism] turns that observation inside out: Mother Nature is heartless--even vicious--but boundlessly stupid. 
Another writer on evolution in the Encyclopedia Britannica claimed:
Darwin did two things: he showed that evolution was a fact contradicting scriptural legends of creation and that its cause, natural selection, was automatic, with no room for divine guidance or design. Furthermore, if there had been design, it must have been very maleficent to cause all the suffering and pain that befall animals and men. 
This argument is still convincing to many. This of course is a philosophical or even theological argument, not an automatic conclusion to reach from the empirical evidence. In his book, Darwin on Trial (see order form), Phillip Johnson made a similar point. Darwinism, he said, was primarily a deduction of Philosophical Materialism and not a necessary deduction from the empirical evidence. Evolutionists he claimed continually rely on Materialist philosophy and even theological arguments to justify Darwinism as the empirical evidence is actually against the theory. In reviewing Johnson's book for Nature, David Hull of the Philosophy Department at Northwestern University resorted to the "problem of evil" in trying to refute Johnson's book (as opposed to supplying the empirical evidence proving Darwinism). Johnson's book elicited the following classic argument of natural evil and disteleology from Hull:
What kind of God can one infer from the sort of phenomena epitomized by the species on Darwin's Galapagos Islands? The evolutionary process is rife with happenstance, contingency, incredible waste, death, pain and horror.... On current estimates, 95 per cent of the DNA that an organism contains has no function. Certain organic systems are marvels of engineering; others are little more than contraptions. When the eggs that cuckoos lay in the nests of other birds hatch, the cuckoo chick proceeds to push the eggs of its foster parents out of the nest. The queens of a particular species of parasitic ant have only one remarkable adaptation, a serrated appendage which they use to saw off the head of the host queen...
Whatever the God implied by evolutionary theory and the data of natural history may be like, He is not the Protestant God of waste not, want not. He is also not a loving God who cares about his productions. He is not even the awful God portrayed in the book of Job. The God of the Galapagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray. 
The Society's solution
The Golden Age's writers proclaimed a simple solution to natural evil. They taught that God originally created all animals peaceful vegetarians about 20,000 - 30,000 years ago. When originally created, no animal was carnivorous or harmed any other animal. Only after the "Fall" of Man and the Flood did both humans and animals became carnivorous.  Apparently, diseases were unknown to man and animals before the Fall.
During the future Millennium, "nothing shall hurt or destroy." The "lion shall lie down with the lamb" as both will become vegetarians once again, as will all other animals. When, how, and why then did animals become carnivorous, cause and spread disease, and destroy human crops?
Satan creates insects and disease
Since the natural actions of animals were considered evil by Bible Students, and Jehovah was just and loving, they believed Satan was the source of these evils, as he is all evils. According to Russell and The Golden Age, sometime after the Fall and especially during the "time of the end," Satan and his demons have created numerous insects, animals and diseases to plague man-kind.
Several Golden Age magazine articles I have read recently made statements about Satan creating animals such as insects in a matter-of-fact manner with little or no explanation. For example, in 1923 in an article on insects, C.J. Woodworth, the editor of the magazine made the following comments about the Satanic origin some insects he considered "pests" to Man:
Some people regard the common house-fly as comparatively harmless; but in point of fact it is one of the greatest disease carriers known.... One thing that tends to prove that the fly was originally created by the devil is that it loves every evil thing and hates every good thing. The odors that are most unpleasant to man,... are all pleasing to the fly....
THE mosquito has a bad record. He it is that carries the germs of malaria, yellow fever, [and other diseases].... If you have a disease of any of the above varieties, the mosquito loves to come and bite you and poison you,.... Then he goes off and bites some luckless chap and injects the germs of your disease into him. And if that does not show the disposition of the devil, will you please point out something that does?...
The Japanese beetle is said to be, at this time, our country's worst pest.... Perhaps the devil made this one, too; it looks like his work...
Probably the Lord made some of the useful insects. No doubt the devil made some of the others. The Lord is the better architect... 
It seems that Woodworth believed that Satan created flies, mosquitoes, etc. because they spread diseases or ruined human crops, thus were in some sense evil. No explanation was given as to when Satan created these "pests." I'm sure if he had known about the species of parasitic ant referred to by Hull in his response to Johnson, Woodworth would have deemed it of Satanic origin given its behavior.
In response to this article, a reader who was not sympathetic to these and other Bible Student views wondered if Woodworth was actually being serious in making these statements. He said the following as printed in a later Golden Age:
If these statements are intended facetiously they certainly would have the effect of misleading many readers, who accept them as intended seriously. I doubt if there is any authority, either Scriptural or zoological, for accepting such theories as facts. It is certainly unscientific to suppose that this great class of the arthropoda family sprang separately by diverse creations, certain species being created by the will of the Creator of all things, and others (even of the same entomological order) being separately created by the author of sin.... Your assumption, on the face of it, seems analogous to asserting that light and warmth, daytime and summer, are the works of a good deity; and that darkness and cold, night and winter are works of an evil spirit.... Pastor Russell conceded the likelihood of the process of evolution with respect to the lower forms of life below man. I doubt there is any Scriptural warrant for supposing that Satan participated in the work of material creation; in fact the Gospel of John seems to state otherwise. Pastor Russell explained that only that part of physical life survived the Flood which had escaped corruption by fallen angels. When, then, could noxious insects have been created by the devil? Their fossilized remains are found in the old geologic strata. 
Woodworth responded by saying:
Our argument that Satan is probably the author of some of the pests that mar man's present habitation is based upon a thought suggested by Pastor Russell in THE WATCH TOWER for July 15, 1897...
Woodworth then quoted the following from the article by Russell:
We have every reason to believe that the fallen spirits have learned considerable during the past four thousand years and that they have much wider range of power today. We are inclined to believe that the grasshopper plagues and the multitudinous farmer-pests and the spores and animal life in recent times, may be manifestations of the same power for evil.
Russell was more explicit in claiming Satan was the creator of some animals and insects that are human "pests" in an 1894 Watch Tower. There he said bacteria, worms, "numerous insects" and beetles "that plague the farmers" were at that time being created. Since God is still resting from His work of creation, he claimed Satan was creating these pests, which cause disease and destruction. He also believed that Satan was using "calamities, diseases, plagues, storms, etc." in these last days. According to Russell, the "time of trouble" would be plagued by "storms, hail, drouths, pests, disease-germs and diseases" caused by Satan. 
Thus, starting with C. T. Russell, the Bible Students (now Jehovah's Witnesses) believed that Satan was responsible for many insects, diseases and destructive weather and that these would increase in frequency and severity as the "Time of the End" came to its close in 1914.
They believed that Satan was the "prince of the power of the air" which meant he controlled Earth's weather, thus any "evil" caused by weather was the Devil's doing. On the other hand, both Russell and his successors taught that God did cause some "evil" such as plagues and destruction of cities, etc. as judgements against humans. This included severe weather phenomena. In 1922, The Golden Age magazine stated that since 1874 when Jesus returned invisibly, He was slowly taking over as the new "power of the air" and was thus beginning slowly to control the Earth's weather. During the New World or Golden Age (which at the time was expected to begin in 1925), there would be no storms, earthquakes or blizzards as The Christ (Jesus and the 144,000) would completely control the weather.  Before the Millennium, they believed the weather would gradually improve by getting gradually warmer, the ice caps would melt, and the average tempeture would remain fairly constant, preparing the way for the Millennium.
This seems in conflict with their belief that the weather was going to get worse as the time of the end progressed due to Satan's evil schemes. On the one hand they said Satan was the "Prince of the power of the air" and responsible for bad weather and its supposed increase as the end approached. On the other hand Jesus was the new "power of the air" and was beginning to control the weather so that the weather was gradually improving. Any evidence of worsening or improving weather was viewed as a sure sign the Golden Age was at hand.
The Golden Age
The concluding paragraph of Woodworth's 1923 article on insects said the following about insects in the Millennium:
Evidently the subjugation of the 750,000 varieties of insects is going to be a big job; but the One that will supervise the work is fully equal to the task. Probably the Lord made some of the useful insects. No doubt the devil made some of the others. The Lord is the better architect, and victory is sure... 
They believed most insects would be destroyed when the "electrical ring" which was believed to surround the Earth fell, in accord with the Valian or Canopy theory. It appears that in the Golden Age many people will be required to dispose of the dead, electrified insects and subject the remaining insects to the ubiquitous rule of the Pleiadean gods.
Farmer-pests from Hell
Some insects and animals were normally not harmful to man and thus were viewed by the Bible Students as being originally created by God. However, as the time of the end appeared, Satan would use these God created animals to create calamities and havoc for humans, rather than creating totally new species from scratch. Some animals they said were demon controlled or even demon possessed.
For example, in a 1922 Golden Age, Woodworth published an item by A.E. White that said the following:
NOT long ago a farmer told me of a very strange thing. We were talking about a neighbor's hog killing one of my hens. He said: "Did you ever hear of a sheep killing chickens?" I said, "No." Then he said his neighbor had a sheep that would kill and eat a chicken every chance it could catch one. He also told me of a man he knew who had a mule that would kill and eat a chicken. Last week I read of where big frogs caught and killed frying-size chickens in Oklahoma.
Some time ago I read where bees were caught robbing other beehives. I had the same experience. I called a man to look at them. He... said, "They seem to be fighting. Some have their wings eaten about half off..."...the bees soon left.
I believe that the demons are loose, and that surely the time is nearing for the Battle of Armageddon. 
The Society's current position
A brief review of more recent Society publications on the issue of natural evil shows they haven't said much in recent years on the topic. They have mostly addressed the issue of moral evil among humans as a cause of unbelief, and have not discussed natural evil.
References and notes:
1. John Campbell, "Theism, Naturalism and
Persuasive Design: A Rhetorical Analysis of Darwin's Origin."
Available on line as a PDF file at:
2. Darwin's Dangerous Idea, (New York: Simon and Schuster), 1995, p. 15. Quoted in Jeffrey P. Schloss, "Evolutionary Accounts of Altruism & the Problem of Goodness by Design," in Mere Creation, Science, Faith & Intelligent Design, William Dempski, editor, (Dowers Grove, ILL.: InterVarsity Press), 1998, p. 237.
3. G. deBeer, "Evolution," in Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., 7:7-23, 1973-1974. Quoted in Jeffrey P. Schloss, "Evolutionary Accounts of Altruism & the Problem of Goodness by Design," in Mere Creation, p. 237.
4. Philosophical and theological arguments used in defending Darwinism are fairly common in the Darwinist literature. For a discussion of this see, Paul Nelson, "Jettison the Arguments or the Rule? The Place of Darwinist Theological Themata in Evolutionary Reasoning." Available on the internet at: http://www.arn.org/docs/nelson/pn_jettison.htm.
5. David Hull, "The God of the Galapagos," Nature, 352:485-6 (August 8, 1991). William Dempski, a leader in the growing "Intelligent Design" movement said about Hull's review of Johnson's book, "Does it serve the furtherance of academic discourse for Nature, the premier science periodical of Great Britain, to contact David Hull, a philosopher of biology at Northwestern University, and ask him point blank to write a negative review of Johnson's book, as it were commissioning Hull to do a hatchet job (I have this story from David Hull's own lips)?" (William Dempski, "What Every Theologian Should Know about Creation, Evolution, and Design," available on the Access Research web site at: http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_theologn.htm).
6. Miss Lavinia Miner, "Insects and Animals," The Golden Age, March 25, 1925, p. 404.
7. Watch Tower Reprints, vol. 4, pp. 2836, 2837.
8. C.J. Woodworth, "Forms of Insect Life," The Golden Age, Dec. 19, 1923, pp. 163, 164, 167, 168.
9. The Golden Age, Feb. 13, 1924, pp. 314-315.
10. Watch Tower Reprints, vol. 2, p.1685.
11. N.E. Nelson, "A Strange Summer," The Golden Age, December 6, 1922, p. 141.
12. C. J. Woodworth, "Forms of Insect Life," The Golden Age, Dec. 19, 1923, p.168.
13. Miss Lavinia Miner, "Insects and Animals," The Golden Age, March 25, 1925, p. 404, etc.
14. A.E. Hite, "Some Odd Happenings," The Golden Age, November 8, 1922, p. 93.