Fish Fry Part 3 – Anglerfish

Come towards the light...

Come towards the light…

The Anglerfish–one of the most frightening and amazingly weird creatures on earth.

It is also the third fish used by Garner Ted Armstrong as proof that evolution is false (you can read along by downloading the PDF of Some Fishy Tales here). Admittedly, it is rather difficult to see how so many unique features coalesced on one astounding type of marine vertebrate via the mechanics of descent with modification and natural selection. More than 200 species make their homes in habitats as diverse as the shallower areas of the Mediterranean, to the inky frozen recesses of the deep sea.

These lophiiformes share, unequally, several unique traits. The most obvious trait is the angler bit itself, though not all species have the lure in the same location, nor style; some have bioluminescent lures while others do not. The next is the general body form, which includes huge jaws, teeth, and stomach, along with the ability to distend the jaw and stomach in order to swallow prey up to twice their size! Lastly is the bizarre mating habits; some species exhibit an exaggerated sexual dimorphism wherein the female can easily be 40x larger than the male. Differences in size are the smallest oddity, for in many species (though, again, not all) the male is parasitic upon the female; the male, being so small, is nearly unable to acquire food on his own and so must find a female as soon as possible. When he finds her, he bites into her and secretes an enzyme that melts their bodies together! He is then a permanent appendage for the female, subsisting on the nutrients in her bloodstream and being forever available to perform the duties of a

male…

So, yes, terribly strange indeed.

Curiouser and curiouser…

It is also quite strange that a man who can imagine, without difficulty, the Noah’s Ark narrative should have problems imagining natural selection shaping such a fugly thing as an anglerfish.

But let’s think about this a little further…

Back, back in time–billions upon billions of uncounted aeons ago, some bizarre series of accidental mutations occurred whereby some sleek, fast, well-designed fish produced an ugly, huge-headed, elbow-finned, slow-moving fish that looked about as much like a rock, or a clump of moss, as he did a fish.

How this could be possible so stretches one’s imagination that it breaks with a resounding snap…

Wow! He isn’t even trying anymore! In part 1 I already pointed out this man’s general ignorance of what the theory he is attempting to refute actually claims, but at least he appeared to be trying. Perhaps he did try to imagine this from an evolutionary perspective (or his sad lack of understanding of what that entails) and that is why he gave up and surrendered to argument from personal astonishment.

But again, there is ample evidence he possesses a well-developed imagination. Going back to the tale of Noah’s Ark:

How big was the ark? About 450ft long, 75ft wide, and 45ft high, or possibly somewhat larger, but still smaller than the Titanic. Now, how many species are there? Some estimates say upwards of 8.7 million. However, there are at least 1 million. Of course, the vast majority would not have needed to be saved from the water, for they are aquatic creatures, as pointed out here.

Except…were the flood waters fresh water or salt water? Since it came in the form of rain and from underground, I’m guessing it was fresh water. That leaves a bit of a problem for saltwater crocodiles, dolphins, and whales, all of which require both air and saltwater. Of course, this assumes that the newly added freshwater stays in a separate layer above the saltwater; if it instead blends (which is the natural state of things), that leads to catastrophic desalination and the death of most sea life, not to mention the death of most freshwater fish due to being thrown in a global ocean for a year. Hmmm…oops.

One of the sites I referenced earlier talks about “kinds” being different from “species”. I don’t know if “kinds” is like Genera, Family, or what (they don’t know either). What taxonomical classification it corresponds to really does not matter, as we are talking about fish, and whatever the ark may have been, it was not an aquarium. If the “kinds” explanation was on the mind of Garner Ted, it would explain his jumping to the idea of a “sleek, fast fish” giving birth to an “ugly, huge-headed, elbow-finned” fish, for that would be the only way to progress from the limited number of “kinds” to the million or more species around today in the intervening 4300 years.

Yes, Garner Ted has (had) some imagination–not only was the Flood real, and enough animals could fit on the Ark, and rampant speciation could be miracled up, but all the plants–and I mean all the plants–that died were recreated. Well, I assume recreation, for the ark certainly wasn’t large enough to be the first Svalbard. All of that is perfectly within grasping distance, yet one frightfully unusual fish fairly blows his noodle.

Attributes

The fact is, unfortunately, that not enough is known about all the different species of anglerfish to have any kind of evolutionary history written. It is only in 2010 that most of the upwards of 300 species were finally put into a taxonomical “family tree”; a good classification is important so you know who came from who, where, and when. Further, no fossil ancestors have been found, or if they have, they have not been recognized as such. This is how it goes when the creature you wish to learn about lives in such difficult environments.

The Lure

GTA derives much pleasure from ripping apart the evolutionary straw-man he constructed–you can see it in the writing! He has a lot of fun with the “ludicrous” fishing pole growing out of the anglerfish’s head.

It is funny watching him fairly shit upon God’s Perfect Creation time and again! It is an “ugly, lumpy, slow” thing with a “ludicrous fishing pole” growing out of its head! What happened to GTA’s near poetic exhortation to see the “love, warmth, and humor” of God in his creation that he was going on about in regards to the Archer fish? If we are expected to learn about God by observing his creation, then…I imagine he was in some dark times, maybe just after his favorite golden boy Lucifer rebelled; he was sitting around listening to some deep Mötley Crüe, fashioning demon fish to work out his pain and grief…

But anyway…back in the real world, the lure of the anglerfish, formed of the first three spines of a dorsal fin, is a marvelous thing! The esca, the bit on the end that glows in some species, derives its bioluminescence from a symbiotic relationship with bioluminescent bacteria. Of course, if God created them, why the extra complexity? Why not just make the esca auto-bioluminescent, like all of these lovely, glow-y things.

Male Dwarfism, Sexual Parasitism, and other Nastiness

Odder than the esca, and just as frightening as the toothy visage, is the sex. I do believe the mating habits in some species of anglerfish take the terms kinky, bondage, and dominatrix to an entirely new, and perhaps even virtuoso, level.

In some species (again, not all, and to varying degrees in several), scattered through 5 of the 11 families of ceratoids, the male is, as previously mentioned, rather tiny. He has no lure and is simply too small to catch much food that he might bump into accidentally (being without its namesake angling device, after-all). It must find a female before it starves. In some fewer species, still, the digestive system of the male will simply dissolve at a certain point, whether he has found a mate or not.

Kinky...

Kinky…

The lucky male angler eventually finds what he is looking for. Huzzah, a giant female! The male bites in (some like it rough, no?) and produces an enzyme that melts their bodies down to the blood streams; he is then a permanent parasite, feeding off the female, while the female becomes, in essence, a self-fertilizing hermaphrodite. Usually, in these cases, the “lucky” male continues to disintegrate, losing his brain, heart, and digestive system–becoming nothing but a pair of fishy harbls.

As one of the linked-to articles says, not enough is known about this strange behavior to tell from whence it came. However, in an analogous situation, a study of barnacles has found that male dwarfism increases in the otherwise largely hermaphroditic community as their numbers in a region decrease. The rationale is that it aids survival of the species for a tiny male to mature quickly than to take the time to grow up into a fully hermaphroditic individual. But, of course, genes for randomly producing dwarf males on rare occasion must be present in these creatures for natural selection to act upon low population-density situations. So it is with the Angler fish; they exist at a very low population-density (it being very rare to encounter one another), thus male parasitism is advantageous–you might not meet another mate in your lifetime!

But again, how this came to be is still a mystery.

They See the Wonders of God in the Deep

Some might claim that not knowing equals “cannot explain it because it is too fantastic to have evolved”. That, of course, is a false dichotomy and God of the Gaps reasoning.

Garner Ted (nobody ever just calls him Garner…) keeps asking us to “just think about it”. It is all too amazing to have evolved and it should be easy to see the hand of the creator (of course the one and only creator that he happens to believe in–not any of the dozens of others that have been believed in over the centuries).

So, yes, let’s think about it. Here we have, in effect, a self-propelled giant mouth and stomach with a lure–sometimes glowing. A lure is pure deception. And glowing–why that is the very definition of a dazzling enticement that leads you to your grave. Does that sound like the God the WCG taught? Does that sound like the God that any denomination of Christianity teaches? I mean, the very nature of the predator-prey relationship should be called into question if “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain“, if “the lion shall lie down with the lamb…and eat straw like the ox” and if “I change not” but am “the same yesterday, today, and forever” and that unchanging God is love and not the author of confusion. Sure, you could argue that lions hunting gazelle are doing a service by weeding out the old, sick, and genetically subpar…though that does sound a little like natural selection. But what about this ambush predator with its lovely light? Is it weeding out the stupid fish? If so, then God deserves a Darwin Award for the Angler fish!

Weeding out the stupid ones...

Weeding out the stupid ones…

And why would God create 300 different species of these things (or enough varied Originals to come up with 300 species now)? Why would some mate “normally”, while other species could choose semi-parasitic attachment for varying durations, while still others had no choice but that the male dissolve into nothing but a set of testicles for the female’s convenience? If the bible teaches us anything, it is that god favors a Patriarchy.

In short, Garner Ted (and other creationists) had better hope that their god did not create these wondrous monstrosities, otherwise everything they think they know about him is a lie.

These are the kinds of questions that should be on the minds of COG ministers who try to teach “7 Proofs that Evolution Is False” (as I heard at PYC one summer). In the meantime, scientists will continue to observe the world around them and try to make sense out of what they see–coming up with ideas like Evolution along the way.

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