24th May 2021

Despite (or perhaps because of) the stream of good and bad news from here and around the world, despite the glorious mystery of Pentecost, my thoughts these past days have kept returning to the octopus.

It started a couple of weeks ago when I was in the car and happened to turn on Radio 4’s Book of the Week. It was Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by the philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith. In it he tells of his almost accidental discovery of a world very different from our own. While we humans have evolved from the insignificant flat worm to become creatures capable of destroying the planet, octopuses have started from the same point and spent their time sitting on the sea bed happily eating clams. They are startlingly different from us: they have no skeleton, they have blue blood pumped by three hearts, their brains are distributed around their body. Yet they have a startling intelligence which allows for a sense of fun and the ability to communicate with us dangerous humans.

I listened to all five chapters (you can find them here) and was left feeling in complete awe yet again at the wonder and variety of creation. Intelligent life has evolved at least twice just on this planet! How amazing is that? And how should we respond to such generosity?

Nick Parsons