Date: Sat 15 Feb 2003 - 22:00:58 GMT
> Unexpected Evolution of a Fish Out of Water
> By CAROL KAESUK YOON
> It all began on that fateful day when one fish evolved legs. Suddenly
> transformed from a silver swimmer into a bold pioneer, this creature
> stood on the threshold of what would become an explosion of
> evolutionary diversification. But this flowering of forms would be
> played out, not in the muck of primordial seashores, but on
> This is the story of two small, plastic, adhesive plaques and all that
> came forth and multiplied after them: the Jesus fish and the Darwin
> Familiar to drivers everywhere, car fish and their spawn are the
> soldiers in an evolutionary arms race that has given rise to a host of
> strange new creatures and what some say is an entirely new form of
> This menagerie is not only diverse, but highly prolific — and
> profitable. Taxonomists of car fish say that the Darwin fish alone
> reproduces at a rate of some 75,000 new fish a year, worth nearly half
> a million dollars, retail.
> The fish has long been a Christian symbol. Long before there were
> automobiles, legend has it, the fish was scratched in the sand by
> persecuted first-century Christians as a secret sign.
> Different explanations are offered for why the fish became such a
> widespread Christian symbol. One is that the first letters of the
> Greek words for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior," form an acrostic
> that is the Greek word for fish.
> The mists of history may obscure exactly when and where car fish first
> appeared, but in the modern era it is clear that by the 1980's a fish
> drawn simply with two curved lines containing the word "Jesus" had
> colonized numerous cars as a symbol of Christian belief.
> By the late 1980's, however, a new generation had emerged in mutant
> form. At first glance, the new fish appeared the same, until one
> looked closer and saw that the fish said Darwin inside and had two
> feet sticking out from below, apparently trumpeting the car owner's
> belief in evolution.
> The response to the new fish was swift and sure. A Truth fish could
> soon be seen devouring a Darwin fish. Or sometimes a Darwin fish could
> be spotted upside down on a car, its little legs poking into the air,
They forgot to mention the Evolutionists' responses; an Evolution fish screwing a Christian fish, and a Science fish eating one. These and many more can be seen at: http://www.evolvefish.com/fish/emblems.html
> Evolution, whether natural or otherwise, is notoriously difficult to
> stop. Eventually car fish radiation produced the Evolve fish, which is
> a tool-user (holding a wrench), the Gefilte fish, the Hindu fish
> (with an udder), the Pagan fish (ideal for the pagans who insist that
> the fish was stolen from them by the Christians, who are still fuming
> that the Darwin-enthusiasts stole it from them). There is even a
> flaming Satan fish.
> Some say they've spotted a shark that says Lawyer, a Rasta fish
> smoking a pipe and Lutefisk fish (a kind of cod soaked in lye — the
> haggis of Norway) as well as increasingly diverse and enigmatic car
> organisms like dolphins, dead fish, aliens and chili peppers.
> Aliens and hot peppers may not seem to have any direct connection to
> fish, but when it comes to plaques on cars evolution proceeds in leaps
> that are completely unpredictable, perhaps because of the kind of
> selective pressure at work.
> While natural selection drives biological change, the evolution of car
> fish seems to have been driven by ideological one-upsmanship at
> first, and then by market forces and irrepressible silliness. The
> newest species is the Sushi fish, a truly odd symbolic development in
> which the fish actually represents a fish.
> "We finally made one after thousands of people asked for it," said
> Gary Betchan, who is a co-owner of EvolveFISH, a Web site that sells
> an elaborate array of the creatures. "People are always coming up
> with a new twist. If we think we can sell them, we make it."
> Mr. Betchan, whose Web site also offers Nunzilla, a wind-up
> fire-breathing nun and a Wash Away Your Sins soap, says he is pursuing
> the car fish business for more than the money.
> "We are out to change the world," he said. "We want to make it a
> better place."
> So what exactly are people thinking when they stick these things on
> their cars?
> Dr. Tom Lessl may be the only one who knows.
> Dr. Lessl, who studies the use of symbols, is a professor in the
> speech communication department at the University of Georgia. He has
> undertaken a study of car fish, and wore out two pairs of shoes
> walking the nation's parking lots in search of them.
> Every time he found a Darwin fish, he left a survey form on the car.
> "There are two views," he said of the Darwin fish camp. "One group was
> openly hostile to traditional religious beliefs," he said, and the
> other seemed to believe in peaceful symbolic coexistence.
> Dr. Lessl said some Darwin fish owners had so much to say that some
> went well beyond the single page provided for answers to as many as
> three single-spaced typed pages. Some described the fish as a kind of
> defense, a way for persecuted atheists to fight back against the
> onslaught of religion, something like its first use by persecuted
> But, he said, he found many people who said they displayed the Darwin
> fish as a symbol of the harmonious coexistence of Darwinian ideas and
> Dr. Lessl says such marriages of science and religion have been a
> familiar refrain since the days of the Enlightenment, one continuous
> intellectual movement that has led through the writings of Francis
> Bacon in the 17th century on up to plastic fish.
> Not surprisingly, the Darwin fish has stirred controversy around the
> question of the creator, specifically its creator.
> What agreement there is about who created the Darwin fish, a question
> that has been muddled by lawsuits, points to Chris Gilman, president
> of Global Effects Inc., which makes costumes and props for Hollywood.
> Mr. Gilman said he came up with the idea in the early 1980's when he
> was talking with some friends about how to promote evolution the way
> that religion promotes itself.
> "So I said you put feet on the Jesus fish," he said, "and people said,
> `Ha ha, that's funny.' People kept bugging me about making them for
> Eventually, Mr. Gilman had the fish manufactured and handed the whole
> enterprise off to a friend, Daphne Bianchi, president of Evolution
> Design Inc., which trademarked the Darwin fish.
> The rest is evolution.
> Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
> This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
> Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
> For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
> see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
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