Courting Cephalopods

Researchers from Taiwan have uncovered a complex system of communication among oval squid in the East China Sea. This last month from Science Daily:

The animals make use of naturally occurring chromatic components, which are stored within their bodies. They use these to paint their skin with lines, spots and stripes, of varying shades and complexities, to signal their desirability to future lovers and warn off potential foes.

The researchers described this, in the title of their paper, as a “grammar of visual signals.”

How do you get a “grammar of visual signals”? First, you need something to make signals with. Here, the squid write on their own bodies, using chromatic components. In other words, they can create lines, spots, and stripes on their bodies with different colors and shades. How did they get that ability? Science Daily describes this technology as “naturally occurring,” which suggests it’s no big deal, just a “natural” thing. Now I don’t know about you, but I sure can’t write on my body without using my hands, and, to state the obvious, squid don’t have hands. Where did they get this technology? Using nothing more than their brains, these squid can draw on their bodies, and they can change the writing. That’s mind-boggling, fantastic technology. Where did that come from?

You need more to communicate. These signals, these writings, would be useless if other oval squid couldn’t read them. Now not only do squid not have hands, but (I don’t know any squid personally but I’m fairly certain of this) squid do not go to school. They are not taught by their parents or other squid how to make sense of the signals. They just know. They are born with this knowledge, with the complete ability to understand each of the signals, each of the variations of “line, spots and stripes, of varying shades and complexities,” the complete “grammar of visual signals.” How did that happen?

It’s even more complex. The researchers also uncovered “elegant and specific movements that varied depending on the gender and social status.” So the squid somehow can create, and can understand, an “intricate language of patterns, movements and associated behaviors.” Again, the squid are born knowing how to do this, how to create the patterns, how to perform the movements, and what each pattern and movement means.

This system is irreducibly complex. You need both the fantastic technology to write on their bodies, and the knowledge to know what the writings and movements mean. With just the technology, there is no language. Without the knowledge, there is no language. How could they both have “evolved,” in the Darwinian sense, simultaneously? Obviously, they couldn’t have. Darwinian evolution is a process of random mutations, of errors in the code if you will, and natural selection of the best “errors.” How could the “errors” to create the technology have been preserved, if they were totally worthless without the full knowledge of what they mean?

These courting cephalopods, these oval squid of the South China Sea, prove the existence of God. As Lord Kelvin said in 1903, “If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to the belief in God.”

Thanks for reading.