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Discovery Magazine 5/1/2000

You Light Up My Life

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

On a bright, sunny day, in the clearest ocean waters, light can filter down to a depth of over three thousand feet. That’s an amazing testament to the power of the Sun. But lots of creatures spend their lives in water that never sees the light of day.

Yet, despite their gloomy surroundings, these denizens of the deep have excellent eyesight. Their huge pupils can open up to collect as much light as possible. They have plenty of extra large, light-sensitive cells or "rods" at the back of their eyes that are perfectly suited for night vision. Finally, the eyes of deep-sea creatures have colored chemicals called pigments. These help the rods pick up the faintest glow of light.

So here’s the question: Why do these creatures need to see so well? If it’s pitch black, then why bother with big pupils and specialized rods and pigments?

Well, it’s not pitch black all the time. If you wait long enough, you’ll see flashes of bioluminescence (BIE-oh-LOO-mah-NES-ents). This is light made by living things. We’re most familiar with fireflies that flash their tails on sultry summer nights. But bioluminescence is found all over the place, from fungi to bacteria to insects and, yes, to many inhabitants of the ocean. In fact, four out every five sea creatures can make light. This includes tiny plants, jellyfish, and the some of the most bizarre creatures you’ll ever see.

Deep-sea creatures make light for all sorts reasons. They use it to communicate, light up the dark, attract prey, attract mates, confuse enemies, and attract enemies of enemies. Some use lighting on their bellies to camouflage themselves against the light above. When a predator looks up, it can’t tell the difference between the fish and the faint glow of sunlight. But this doesn’t work for predators having special yellow lenses over their eyes. These hunters of the twilight zone can tell the difference between sunlight, and the glowing underbelly of their next meal.

According to evolutionists, bioluminescence has evolved thirty separate times. This is hard to believe. How could nature stumble on such a complicated solution just once, let alone thirty times? Not only is it hard to believe, but it’s not even evolution. The theory of evolution says that similarities show common ancestry. But here in the deep ocean we have creatures that make light in similar ways, yet no one—not even an evolutionist—will claim that they all have a common light-making ancestor. This is yet another example where it makes more sense to believe that an intelligent Creator would use similar solutions to a similar problem. Common features mean common design, not common ancestry.

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