At the Baltimore Aquarium
From Tea, in comments on ‘Contemplative wonder is doomed, doomed, I tell you’.
I went to the Baltimore aquarium last week, and I saw a most amazing species of fish (whose name I unfortunately don’t remember at all). It took me a while to actually see it: the tank looked like it contained nothing but water and some algae-covered rocks. An employee approached me and asked me if I can see the fish. “No”, I replied. “It’s right here”, he said, pointing his finger at a rock. “Where?” “Right here.” I just couldn’t see it – until I noticed that the rock blinked at me slightly with its big black eye. It was truly amazing – I still couldn’t tell where the rock ended and the fish began, its “skin” looked exactly like the algae leaves that surrounded it. I had to be dragged away from the tank after 15 minutes or so, but I still can’t stop thinking about it. Of course I’ve seen examples of mimicry many times before, but I was usually able to figure out which were the real plants, and which the animals pretending to be plants. But I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. AWEsome.
Now, if someone were to tell you that this fish was created by a guy with considerable talent in making sculptures that look exactly like rocks, that would be hardly awe-worthy, and there would certainly be little left to wonder about. You might be a little more amazed upon being told that this guy can also breathe life into such “sculptures”, but your amazement would vanish as soon as you’d learn that this guy also happens to be omnipotent. There’s nothing very wonder-inspiring about intelligent beings creating things they have always been able to create with ease.
However, learning that this incredible thing happened through the process of natural selection – now, that is truly amazing. That is the reason why I had to be dragged away – it just blows my mind that such stuff comes into being without an omnipotent guy creating them on a whim. Instead, it just slowly evolves from next-to-nothing, and that without any intelligence and omnipotence behind it – and yet, there you go: a fish that looks exactly like a rock. If you ask me, very few things are more awe-inspiring than that. I still can’t fully wrap my mind around it; I keep “wondering” about it. On the other hand, there’s no place left for wonderment when a guy who can create anything happens to create something.