I can’t wait any longer! I was introduced to this little critter last year, and I have been obsessed ever since. I spent two days just imagining what I thought it would look like. When a friend said I needed to research this thing, he said–it’s basically a psychedelic clown. Sure enough, when I finally googled this little critter, psychedelic clown was pretty much spot on. So, without further ado, I give you—Mantis Shrimp.

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Why am I unveiling Mantis Shrimp here at A Clear Lens? Two reasons, really: recognizing human limitations and design in species. As a matter of fact, this post is meant to act as an introduction to a series on the amazing complexity in nature. The focus of this post:

There is more to life than what we can, ourselves, reason

I remember hearing a case for God as a child:

Take a deep breath. Your lungs are full of air. You can’t see air, you can’t smell air, you can’t always feel air, but there is no question it is all around you.

This was a silly comparison to a young skeptic; air has mass! In my mind there were a thousand ways air was real and God was not. In my mind, you’d have a better shot of convincing me there was an interstellar tea pot floating in the galaxy somewhere. The problem was: I was only relying on the five senses to understand the world. This isn’t inherently wrong, but the more I think about it, the more I realize this is a rather narrow approach to universal understanding.

Consider the differences between the Mantis Shrimp’s eye and our own. Human eyes work in conjunction with the brain. The rods and cones pick up different aspects of light, send the signal to the brain for interpretation, and voila, this is how you and I see the world. To make this a little cooler, your eyes see in stereovision; two eyes, in close proximity, working together to make one image. Here is a link so you can see stereovision in action—very simple but very cool. The distance between your eyes gives you two angles (for depth) and two sensors (for clarity). Inside each eye are rods (that help to see movement in low light) and cones (that help to see colors in bright light). The human eye has three cones that make a trichromacy. This simply means that every color visible to the human eye is a hue of red, blue, or green. Each color is reflective at a certain wavelength and all colors fall within 400-700nm. Since we see more than three colors, it is important to recognize how closely the innards of our eyes work with our brain to see things we couldn’t see individually. For example, what would the world look like if we could only see red, blue, or green? My guess is it would be pretty drab.

oscyllarus-eye-rlcSo, now that our highly evolved sense of sight is established, let’s examine the Mantis Shrimp’s eye. Compared to the lowly human eye, Mantis Shrimp has (not 3, not 4, not 5 but) 12 to 16 rods! As one YouTube video put it, “Imagine a color you are incapable of seeing. Now do that 9 more times.” It’s not even close. Even more impressive than this color schema range, Mantis Shrimp also possesses stereovision. Unlike us, however, Mantis Shrimp has stereovision…in each eye. What does that mean? According to a professor of Integrative Biology at U.C. Berkeley “Stomatopods [Mantis Shrimp] actually have three different focal points in one eye, three different focal points in the other eye, so it has hexnocular vision to tell how far away things are.”[2] Hexnocular!

Impressive for sure, but wait…there’s more. Mantis Shrimp has some special filters in its eye. These filters allow Mantis Shrimp to filter colors (useful for deep v shallow water navigation), UV light, AND Infrared light. Wait, what? Yes, it’s true. Mantis Shrimp has the ability to see ultra-violet light (light wavelengths below 400nm) and infrared light (light wavelengths above 700nm) which means it can see more colors, better, and different types of light than humans. Believe it or not, Mantis Shrimp can even see polarized light (much like what we have done to our sunglasses—scientifically—purposefully—beneficially). It is going on right now. Impressed yet? Calm down, this is only part 1.

Again, the point of this post is simply to show that there is more to life than what we can, ourselves, reason. And the Mantis Shrimp forces us to appreciate the weight of our human limitations. Try as we might to build computers that will help or reason ourselves into oblivion, we are only able to calculate/understand to a finite point. As Isaac Newton once wrote,

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

We have come a long way since Newton: we can see further into space, we can see further into the cell, and we can better appreciate how intricate and complicated this world is, but we can’t imagine what the Mantis Shrimp sees. Yet, somehow we believe we are capable of all the answers. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves our own reality is all there is. Mantis Shrimp sees it differently, so do I, and so should you.

romans-1-20Somewhere along the way we decided as a collective race that we can figure it all out on our own. For a while we needed God at every turn, but the last turn into scientism, atheism, materialism, naturalism, humanitarianism, seems to exalt the reasoning ability of the mind as the ultimate authority. But the Mantis Shrimp reminds us otherwise. We can’t even begin to appreciate what we can’t see. It’s time to look to the One who created the answers, both clearly and invisibly, so that He may be the only source of the knowledge and wisdom you seek.

[1] Tatooine is synonymous with Jakku #JustSayin

[2] Globetrotter.berkley.edu/people/Caldwell/Caldwell-con6.html

6 COMMENTS

  1. Mantis Shrimp are indeed fascinating. That fascination and the recognition of human limitations are both poorly served by this very explicit God-of-the-gaps argument.

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for replying but I’m not sure I follow. God operating beyond our understanding is not a “God-of-the-gaps” argument like perhaps evolution or planetary understanding may be. In those cases, the idea we don’t know therefore God is indeed a “gap” filled with God. In this case, however, this “gap” is not even a gap like a hole to fill but a boundary marker — beyond our limits (much like you would expect IF God did exist).
      I wrote more on this in my God of the gaps (2 part post) elsewhere in this site if you’re interested.
      Does that make sense? Is there a way you see this different maybe we can both learn from?

      Thanks again for your perspective, it’s how we learn.

  2. Also, I love how you point out the complexity in nature by looking at the mantis shrimp. An amazing design that indeed causes one to think of the Designer!

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