No, this post has nothing to do with the US Navy, who are sometimes known as squids. Nor does it have to do with the repeal of the US military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which became official yesterday, allowing serving men and women to be openly gay. According to the New York Times, the US Marine Corps has been the first out the gate to recruit gays and lesbians. As the Times put it, “Although Marines pride themselves on being the most testosterone-fueled of the services, they also ferociously promote their view of themselves as the best. With the law now changed, the Marines appear determined to prove that they will be better than the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard in recruiting gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.” Which is all to the good, in Mad Padre’s opinion. It’s actually quite gratifying that the USMC is following in the Canadian military’s footsteps in this area. Think of it as military evolution.
Actually, this post is about another NYT story that caught my eye today, about a certain species of deep sea squid, octopoteuthis deletron, which don’t ask their prospective mate’s sex before, well, mating. “Male squid, for example, pay no attention to the sex of other squid. Understandably so. They live alone in the dark, males and females are hard to tell apart, and only occasionally do squids pass in the night. Far better to risk wasting a few million sperm than to miss out on a chance to reproduce.”
Theologically the story is interesting because it led me to think about the doctrine of creation, where, as Karl Barth and others have insisted, good theology starts. Apparently octopoteuthis deletron is one of many species, including of mammals (dolphins and bonobos) that are indifferent as to the gender of their sexual partners. Besides certain and oft-debated biblical warrants, the Christian disapproval of homsexuality is grounded on the belief that it the practice is unnatural, since the revelation of nature, if we accept that nature is God’s handiwork, seems to testify that God created life male and female and intended the sexes to complement one another. The behaviour of this diminutive species of squid, and of other animals mentioned in the NYT article, seems to make that argument a tad blurry.
By the same token, those who use octopoteuthis deletron to argue that there is a natural warrant for same-sex behaviour may find themselves on shaky ground. Dr. Hendrik Hoving, one of the authors of the squid study, “was prepared for attention to the same-sex behavior and was ready for people to conflate squid and human behavior and announce the discovery of gay squid.
He fended off that notion, reiterating that the squid has no discernible sexual orientation, and that a tentacled invertebrate that shoots sperm into its mate’s flesh really has nothing to do with human behavior.”
Another biologist, Dr. Marlene Zuk, is quoted in the NYT piece as saying that same-sex sex in the animal kingdon is a valid evolutionary strategy. “Don’t imagine that squid are stupid, Dr. Zuk said, at least about being squid. “The animal is not making a mistake. It’s not mistaken to deposit sperm with another male,” because somehow, the behavior works, or natural selection would have eradicated the behavior or the squid.
And, she said, “we still have squid.”
So, I’m not sure that the squid story supplies much theological ammunition one way or another. At best, nature can only offer limited insights into the creator’s intentions, as J.S Haldane once quipped when he said that God must be inordinately fond of beetles. If evolution is the outworking of creation, then it will do weird stuff as necessary (and if you think that the squid story is weird, google “traumatic insemination” and be prepared for nightmares). Perhaps all we can conclude from these two stories is that evolution is good for squid … and for militaries.