This article is from
Creation 28(2):56, March 2006

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Off the menu …

Given we’re told this is a dog-eat-dog and fish-eat-fish world, there’s something strange going on here


Photo by Gary Bell, oceanwideimages.com cleaner shrimp

Carnivorous fish such as the Oriental sweetlip and the coral rock cod normally feed voraciously upon shrimps and smaller fish. But these photographs show them placidly allowing cleaner wrasse and cleaner shrimp1 to crawl around tongue, gill chamber and vicious-looking teeth—and the cleaners don’t seem to be at all reticent to enter the ‘jaws of death’. And when the wrasse and shrimp have finished picking off parasites, the large fish let the cleaners go again without eating them.

The ‘cleaning symbiosis’ benefits both species,2,3 but evolutionary mutation/selection can’t explain how it arose.4,5 Nobel laureate Albert Szent-Györgi summed up the evolutionary puzzle presented by such symbiotic relationships (he was actually referring to a much simpler relationship between a young herring gull and its parent): ‘All this had to be developed simultaneously [like the cleaner entering the big fish’s mouth at the same time the big fish suspends his ‘normal’ (post-Fall)6 habit of eating small fish], which as a mutation has the probability of zero. I am unable to approach this problem without supposing an innate drive in matter to perfect itself.’7

Photo by Gary Bell, oceanwideimages.com cleaner wrasse

Szent-Györgi then goes on to coin the term ‘syntropy’—meaning some impersonal creative force needed to explain the ‘innate drive’ he mentioned.

So, if a brilliant Nobel prize-winning scientist, merely from observations of nature itself, has suggested there is some kind of unseen creative force, is it not reasonable to conclude from our observation of order in nature the existence of a Creator God?

References and notes

  1. Younger readers might remember that the animated movies Finding Nemo and Shark Tale respectively featured the cleaner shrimp and cleaner wrasse as the characters ‘Jacques’ and ‘Oscar’. Return to text.
  2. The ‘cleaners’ get to feed on the parasites, while the ‘clients’ get clean—ungroomed fish can suffer more than a four-fold increase in parasitic gnathiid isopods (which are microscopic crustaceans) within 12 hours. Grutter, A.S., Cleaner fish really do clean, Nature 398(6729):672–673, 1999. Return to text.
  3. Whitfield, J., Fish that go to the cleaners, Nature 421(6922):493, 2003. Return to text.
  4. Hammerstein, P. and Hoekstra, R.F., Mutualism on the move, Nature 376(6536):121–122, 1995. Return to text
  5. Grutter, A.S., Cleaner fish use tactile dancing behavior as a preconflict management strategy, Current Biology 14(12):1080–1083, 2004. Return to text.
  6. Originally, animals were created vegetarian (Genesis 1:30). Return to text.
  7. Szent-Györgi, A., Drive in living matter to perfect itself, Synthesis 1 1(1):14–26, 1977; cited by Parker, G., Nature’s challenge to evolutionary theory, www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=146, 20 September 2005. Return to text.